I had some great conversations today with members in Pentwyn and Llanederyn about education. There was some important feedback on driving up standards in schools, but the focus was not exclusively on children’s education. Instead I spent more time discussing the need for more and better access to adult education and lifelong learning in Wales.
I couldn’t agree more. We need to look at education policy as far broader than schools. Revolutionising the provision of adult education should be a central part of our national mission as we respond to the economic challenges approaching Wales.
There are potentially some quick wins. The lockdown has allowed online learning to become a more accepted and respected educational medium. With the right regulatory framework, quality control and incentives from Welsh Government, that familiarity with learning at home or at a work place could instigate a boom in online training that could rapidly accelerate adult learning take-up in Wales. We need to grasp that opportunity.
Alongside that should be an improvement in affordability of study. Thanks to the work of Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams Wales has one of the most generous and progressive post-graduate support packages. However we need to go further to improve affordability and access. It is likely that the costs of delivery of all teaching could fall as a result of greater numbers participating in online provision. That saving should be passed on to learners to increase access to courses, and Welsh Government should ensure that universities and colleges are funded appropriately to innovate in ways that drive down the costs of participation in learning.
But there is one measure that would, in my opinion, drive greater take-up of adult learning more than any other: a switch to a 4 day week. This is a profound shift in the way our economy functions, but it has the potential to revolutionise work and change our society for the better. As the number of jobs required in our economy potentially reduces as a result of COVID (and more fundamentally driven by automation and AI) we need to consider how we might better share the work around more evenly.
Crucially, a 4-day week would open up time in the week for people to devote to education and training to upskill for future economic changes. Or the time might be devoted to caring responsibilities or other priorities or passions.
A 4-day week is a profoundly liberal idea that puts more power back in the hands of people to shape their own lives. For that reason it is a radical change that I would welcome. But specifically in the context of turning Wales into a society that fully embraces lifelong learning, members were unanimous today that providing additional time in the week would be the most significant incentive to take up further training or learning. We need to champion the idea now more urgently than ever.
Let’s make a difference; let’s make time for learning by championing a 4-day week.
Parts of Cardiff have undergone a transformation in response to the COVID crisis. The promotion of active travel options through introducing safe cycle lanes and pedestrianisation is very welcome.
However speaking to residents and traders it’s clear that the changes to our city present challenges in terms of maintaining footfall and ensuring the new layouts and removal of parking work for everyone:
In Roath, the balance is also challenging. On Wellfield Road a very exciting scheme that had been promoted as improving cycle and pedestrian safety has been substantially undermined by poor communication with traders and weak enforcement. Local people are doing a fantastic job supporting businesses but without social distancing and with such proximity to traffic it’s not clear whether the current layout is safe or sustainable:
Nevertheless, there are some positives. I heard from members in Cathays today how much they welcome and support the continued roll-out of properly safe cycle lanes. I share their enthusiasm.
However the new funding for cycle safe infrastructure from Welsh Government – a meagre £38m for the entire nation – is completely inadequate to deliver the extensive network of improvements required to allow people to feel safe on a bike in our city. To put this in perspective this is the same budget as is proposed for one road scheme currently being considered in Cardiff.
If selected I would prioritise securing long-term capital funding to deliver a programme of investment in a proper network of cycle lanes.
Let’s make a difference: let’s make our roads safe for cyclists.
To make a difference to people’s lives in Cardiff, we have to win.
To win again we cannot offer more of the same.
To win again we must listen and learn.
During this campaign for selection, I will be touring our wonderful communities on a nextbike, speaking to people about the issues that matter to them.
Only by reaching out to people, listening to what they have to say and offering fresh ideas that are meaningful to everyday life will we win the trust of voters in Cardiff Central again.
One of the proudest moments of my life was singing the Olympic Anthem at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony. Being part of that event was a great privilege as it showcased the modern, outward-looking, engaged, thoughtful and successful nation that we are. A bright future lay ahead.
The political failures that followed 2012 have been eclipsed by the monumental challenge we now face to rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic.
I have no doubt we can do it. But let’s use this opportunity to reform and reshape our economy and society so that it addresses the challenge of climate change, break down the vested interests and put power back in the hands of citizens.
We need meaningful economic and constitutional reform in our country. Radical change is required to put citizens and communities back at the heart of wealth-creation and decision-making. If we can achieve that aim, I believe we can heal the divisions that have opened up in our communities and move forward to a more balanced and stable prosperity.
An exciting future seemed possible – even likely – on that evening in London in 2012. It is the job of politicians to listen to how we can recapture that narrative of unity, deliver on that promise, and I intend to make it a central part of my mission.
Can we Lib Dems sometimes be too focused on the detail and forget to show our passion? Can we be too captured by the pursuit of a logical answer and forget to show our rage?
I will admit that I expected Remain to win the EU Referendum in 2016. I was convinced that the economic arguments for greater trade, investment and jobs within the EU would prevail over the emotional calls for sovereignty and control that the Leave side put forward. I got it very wrong.
Waking on 24th June 2016 and hearing the result, I felt the pain in my heart not my head.
This made me realise instantly how we had simply failed to adequately express the emotional reasons why we believe in EU membership – the feeling of solidarity I have with people from across the UK and across the continent; the ability to enrich our communities by sharing freedoms with those people; and it is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that the UK and EU brings to problem-solving across borders.
From then on I have always believed that we must become better at communicating our values with passion. We must be able to make our case on emotional grounds.
We believe passionately in making a difference to our communities. However to win the trust of our communities to make that difference to their lives we must argue our case from the heart, from our values and from our experience and beliefs, and leave the economic forecasts for the spreadsheet junkies.
I can remember my first science project when I started comprehensive school in 1991. It was to look at the way carbon dioxide caused the greenhouse effect. I was no scientist (and am still not!) but the simple explanation of the insulating effect of CO2 and the resultant global warming made sense. The more I thought about it the more illogical it seemed that we would voluntarily drive our species (and every other species on the planet) towards trying to survive in a hotter and hotter planet. It seemed obvious to me that this should be something everyone would be trying to sort out.
I qualified as a solicitor in London in 2006, and realising I was now one of the people who had the responsibility to use my skills to find solutions, I started working in renewable energy in 2008. Since then I have spent a decade working in different technologies within the clean tech and renewable energy sector, from innovative energy storage companies to large utilities delivering enormous offshore wind farms. I moved out of the legal team in 2016 to work on the commercial and project management aspects of offshore wind projects for the company that has delivered a third of all of Wales’ renewable energy.
My passion for taking action on climate goes beyond my profession. I have been campaigning for more investment in environmental technology and a green new deal since the noughties – my wife and I travelled to Copenhagen by train to protest at the Climate Summit in 2009.
In recent years I have been inspired by the achievements of campaign groups, NGOs and the renewables industry itself in raising the profile of the climate emergency, and promoting the need to act faster and more effectively to avert temperature increases of 1.5 degrees. I’ve been particularly inspired by Greta Thunberg whose peaceful protest, eloquence and bravery has created a new generation of activists who will ensure that we keep up the fight for rapid climate action. I was a part of the Liberal Democrat working group devising the party’s most recent policies intending that once in government, we can deliver exactly that.
As a citizen, activist or candidate protection of the environment and combating climate change will always be at the front and centre of my mission.