Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Working together to tackle litter

Column published in Llanelli Herald on 3rd November 2017

It’s said that the two red lines which run the length of Westminster’s debating chamber are exactly two sword-lengths apart, to prevent spontaneous duels breaking out between opposing frontbench MPs. The physically-drawn ‘battle’ lines must act as a constant reminder of the need for a ‘them’ and ‘us’ approach. And sometimes it shows - the circus that is Prime Minster’s Questions lacks any genuine debate, and is all the poorer for it.

As a new politician - only elected for the first time last year - I find this perpetually combative approach limiting. True, there are big differences between the ideologies of the main parties and - personally - I’d only ever want to stand for election on a Labour ticket. But there are a number of times when politicians from different political backgrounds agree, and too often a stubborn allegiance to party politics can get in the way of working together and achieving change.

So, since standing for election I’ve tried to do things a little differently. I’ve tried not to get drawn into making personal attacks on people who choose to stand for a different party at the ballot box. And where there are common problems to tackle, or ideas to explore, I’ve attempted to work across political lines.

For example, I was delighted to see the unanimous backing of Councillors from across Carmarthenshire for the Swansea Bay Metro idea. And I’ve invited every member of the Council to join the business event I’m holding in December, that will explore the potential for this innovative public transport scheme in our area.

I’ve also set up a joint litter taskforce with the Plaid-led Carmarthenshire Council. An issue we both wanted to address, in which we recognised that we’d achieve more working together. At the latest meeting - held every three months - we’ve agreed to work together on big campaign to tackle the issue of dog fouling. And there are a number of other initiatives in the pipeline that wouldn’t be possible if we hadn’t taken this collaborative approach.

Working across political divisions doesn’t always work. It’s a difficult juggling act working in tandem on some issues, whilst retaining critical independence on others. I haven't hesitated to criticise the council on the lack of consultation on Park Howard or on bulldozing Llanerch field, for example. And sometimes I find myself sat round the table with people whose decisions I’ve publicly criticised the week before - or who’ve publicly criticised me. Which isn’t easy. But it’s much more reflective of the real world where sometimes we all have to put aside personal differences and just get on with the job.

Politics too often drives us to focus on the divides between us instead of the things we have in common; I stood for election wanting to try and do things a little differently. Perhaps I’m naive, and perhaps my fingers will be burnt in the end, but I think it’s worth a shot.

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