I stood in the first election for the Senedd in May 1999, as candidate for the United Socialists in Merthyr and Rhymney. There was one major problem : we didn't actually exist!
The group I was a member of were the Welsh Socialist Alliance, destined, of course , to become a major political force till it was hi-jacked by the SWP. We couldn't register under that name, so had to invent one. I stood for a fictional party : fitting for a story-writer.
I stood against Alun Cox of Plaid Cymru, who even called himself a 'Welsh Socialist' in one official election poster and Labour's Huw Lewis, who has since been something of an absentee landlord (living in Penarth most of the time and sending his children to school there).
Lewis was a rabid Blairite then, so the recent support of so-called leftie Jon Cruddas seems amazing. At one meeting, he accused me of 'living in cloud-cuckooland', but maybe that's closer to Merthyr than his residence. What has happened since - with Blair and Brown backing big business and the City and exacerbating the recession - makes my cuckooland a severe dose of reality to Lewis's monetarist advocacies.
Looking back, I hardly campaigned from street to street and took little time off work. Retrospectively, I should have put much more into it. Of my 580 votes, I often wonder how many mistook me for my namesake (who also lives in Heolgerrig), a former Labour activist.
At the count, I delivered a brief speech calling for a Welsh Socialist Republic and was clapped by Plaid Cymru supporters. I wouldn't shake Lewis's hand afterwards. He has done so little for Merthyr. He has failed to campaign for an arts centre, preferring to call for a single theatre ( which never materialized). He has failed to fight against the scourge of opencast mining.
Ludicrously, now he's joined the race for First Minister, the media suggest he is leftwing. His complete failure to oppose the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan (in fact, an apologist for the first one) was inexcusable. He has never advocated any genuine socialist solutions such as a nationalised Welsh railway network or been prominent in opposition to the selling off of social housing. In short, his left-of-centre posturing is sheer spin, like Alan Johnson at the Labour Conference evoking the ideas of Nye Bevan.
Under Rhodri Morgan, there's no doubt the Senedd has enacted policies superior to those in England : on free prescriptions, student fees, abolition of SAT's and school league tables to name some. However, we have not moved nearer a parliament with greater powers and there hasn't been a leftwing thrust based on ideals : where is the drive towards co-operatives, to get rid of fee-paying schools, to give Welsh equal status in all sectors, or to ensure the NHS serves everyone equally and cannot be by-passed by those who can pay?
This is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago when Rhodri was at the height of his bungliness; two years back, for instance, he suggested that global warming might not be such a bad thing and when asked about Iraq on Question Time, he refused to give a view saying he had 'not looked at the issues'.
RHODRI IS A TREE-ALIEN
Rhodri Morgan really is
a Doctor Who tree-alien!
It's no accident
he was mistaken for one
when trying to enter the BBC.
How else do you account
for his mysterious absence
when war was declared on Iraq -
'I wasn't there!' he whined.
Well, now I can disclose
he was on his own planet
in immortal combat with a Time-Lord.
How else do you account
for his speech lauding
the benefits of global warming,
when his own constituency
could be covered in coral reefs?
And all those late or missing appointments
with Lizzy Windsor or to commemorate
the veterans : he was far away
in another galaxy trying to learn the words
of the Vulcan national anthem
(it's not the first time we've been run by an alien).