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Matching values

Betsan Powys | 21:09 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

In the bar of the Mountain Ash Bowling Club tonight Ieuan Wyn Jones was talking about values.

"This election" said the Plaid leader "will be about vah-lues", the Swansea Valley vowels retained by this Gog coming out strong. "We can all string together the policies we think will be attractive but what are the values that underpin them? Our values are your values."

He talked about social justice, about fairness, about a fairly funded Wales. Plaid would hone in on the Foundation Phase, making sure the way early years education is delivered actually works, on vocational skills and increasing Wales' share of Research and Development money. There was a pledge to protect health spending, to strive to give the Assembly the tools to do the job and of course, the pledge to give every pensioner a "Living Pension - a pension you can live on".

Values? More like "irresponsible, uncosted fantasy politics of the worst order" said Labour; "half baked plans, your sums just don't add up" said the Lib Dems; "fantasy economics which gives false hope to pensioners" said the Conservatives.

"And for those of you who've just watched the item on the news" - former Plaid AM Pauline Jarman took to the stage and to the warpath - "and who think our pledge to increase pensions is pie in the sky, tell that to the slate quarrymen of Gwynedd ... tell that to the lady who was not for turning until our very own Gwynfor Evans secured a Welsh fourth channel ... Plaid Cymru and the SNP will certainly strike a good deal for Wales and Scotland".

Tell that to the pensioners playing bowls next door?

The huge indoor green was busy with an inter-club match. "What's going on in there then?" asked one of the players, a pensioner who saw my notepad and wondered if I was taking orders for tea. "Plaid putting up our pensions? But they haven't got a cat's chance in 'eck of winning! Nonsense."

"Pensions - that's not devolved is it?" asked another. No, this was a Plaid pledge tied to the Westminster election, the General Election. "Oh, forget that then. Mind you my company pension's been frozen. I need every penny coming our way. It's the sort of thing I want to see."

"To be honest I'm edging towards voting Conservative" said one on-looker. He was fed-up with mothers on benefits whose teenage daughters were pushing prams and arguing over milk vouchers in the shop, pubs full of people on benefits complaining that the council wasn't doing enough to clear the snow. "Get out there and do it yourself I wanted to say". He liked the noises David Cameron was making on marriage and responsibility. A 30% increase in pensions? He turned and looked at the audience next door. "Is that what they're promising? Yes, well ..."

"We're Labour all the way here" said a young man on his way in to watch the match, oblivious to the blatant pitch for his vote going on next door. Having laid claim to the legacy of Keir Hardie this morning, tonight it was S.O.Davies' turn. He was born down the road in Abercwmboi, the local Plaid candidate reminded us. He's buried in the Maes yr Arian cemetery overlooking Mountain Ash, or as Dafydd Trystan Davies put it, "overlooking us approvingly I'm sure".

The pitch to valleys Labour voters? Plaid understands people's despair and lack of faith in politicians. Plaid could be the vehicle to rekindle their faith in politics. Disillusioned Labour voters in the valleys don't have to abandon the values on which their communities were built but hey, why not renew their vows with politics ... with Plaid?

Next door the bowls matches were in full swing. "You've got to hit the jack you see or it doesn't count, even if it you do get it into the ditch" - the rules of bowling spelled out by the fed-up-Conservative leaning onlooker.

"Let me tell you who we need. Guy Fawkes, that's who" - the reality of a still angry, disillusioned electorate spelled out by his friend. "A rise in pensions? Pah. It won't add up to anything. Guy Fawkes, that's who we'd support!".


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