I’ve decided to start a blog. I have for most of the last few years avoided these things, often taking an unnecessarily antagonistic view of both blogs and their authors. This may be an opportunity for those people to enjoy their revenge.
In doing so I recognise that this a potentially perilous venture. The late Conservative MP, Julian Critchley, once wrote that all which is required of a backbencher is silent service. He would probably have regarded a few short words to either open a fete or to pull the raffle as being a necessary evil but would certainly have taken a very dim view of the social media that dominates and shapes much of our political debate today. His view that all speeches should be mercifully short is something that comes to mind whenever I get to my feet in the chamber.
So what has changed my mind?
It is often suggested that independence in thought, or worse, in deed, is something that is frowned upon and discouraged. To go further and start a blog would be a vanity too far. This has not been my experience. I have found a welcome for, and sometimes even a thirst for, fresh ideas and vigorous debate. The Labour Leadership election saw over 600 people gather in Cardiff City Hall for the best part of three hours over lunchtime on a Sunday with no lunch on offer. And we all enjoyed it. Wales is a country full of very talkative people but with very few public spaces where we can speak with each other. For us, Twitter and Facebook and the rest of the social media, have together played a relatively more important role in helping to create a wider and more democratic national conversation by filling a space that remains dominated by more traditional media in other countries.
And that’s why I hope that this space can be used to share ideas and to contribute to the debate about the future of our country. Clearly there will be a focus on my work in Blaenau Gwent and in Cardiff Bay. However I hope that it will not be limited either in terms of geography or in terms of topic. I hope to range across all those subjects where I have an interest or which cross my horizon from time to time. As our thoughts begin to turn towards next May and the next Assembly election I believe that there will be a greater wish and desire to explore and debate new and fresh ideas for Wales. I hope that in some small way I may be able to contribute towards that richer discussion and that more varied debate.
This blog will not be updated daily but I do hope to be able to do so on a regular basis during the week. I also hope that in writing this regular column I will be able to do so without the (unhappy but probably inevitable) screaming headline that I disagree with a minister or the government and the intensive and forensic search of syntax and vocabulary to identify any potential “split” or unintended criticism. Such things diminish and undermine a wider debate of substance.
But let me also say this. It is not my intention to be deliberately provocative but neither is it my intention to use either weasel words or a deliberate ambiguity in an attempt to obscure a clearly-signed meaning. My thoughts will clearly be shaped by my experience in representing Blaenau Gwent and as someone who will campaigning hard for the re-election of the current Welsh Government. I believe that both the best interests of Blaenau Gwent and the re-election of the Government are served by the active discussion of radical ideas and the shaping of a new agenda for Welsh Labour.
With these few words I welcome anyone who wishes to read on to do so. I thank you for your interest. And I do hope not to either bore you or cause unnecessary distress.
So it is with these thoughts that I offer these short articles. I started by quoting Julian Critchley and I will end by noting his dictum that the only safe pleasure for a politician is a bag of boiled sweets. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned.