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An interview with Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary Candidate for Llanelli, Mari Arthur

You’ve been out and about today in Tycroes and I guess some other areas in recent days. What’s the response been to your canvassing on the doorstep?

It’s been really positive actually. It’s been a different experience than two years ago. So we are having, some people who obviously want to leave, voting for the Brexit parties and a lot of other people are saying that they’ve realised more than ever that they need a voice representing Wales in Westminster, so we’re getting a lot of people interested that haven’t come to us before.

Are the leave people giving you a frosty reception on the doorstep?

We haven’t had that yet. We’ve had a lot of people saying, we’re Brexit here. So it’s not, we don’t want to hear about your education, your health plans for Wales, we’re just straight forward. We want to leave. The ones that are coming out saying that they’re Brexit are just coming out with that first.

The remainers have got a choice though. they have the Conservatives and they’ve got the Brexit party?

The leavers. Yes.  They do have a choice. We’re actually getting a lot of people saying that they have voted labour in the past, but they’re not going to be voting labour this time. And those are the ones who are coming over to us. They’re not saying it’s because of Brexit. Some of them are saying it’s because of Corbyn (Jeremy). Some of them are saying that nothing’s changed over recent years. The Brexit ones aren’t having the conversation with us. So the ones we’re having the conversation with us the Plaid supporters and the labour voters that are coming over to us for the first time.

Plaid Cymru candidate Mari Arthur: Looking to do better at the 2019 General Election

You came in behind the Conservatives last time. Are you a little more optimistic this time?

I am, because I think that obviously we’re the party for remain in Llanelli and I think the people from all parties that want to vote remain will be looking at a Plaid Cymru vote this time as well as obviously the Plaid Cymru supporters.  I think it’s going to be a different election than last time.

Adam Price has pinned his flag firmly to the mast of Welsh Nationalism, sovereignty for Wales, possibly the break up of the union. Do you think that Wales is strong enough to go it alone in Europe?

I think everyone in is clear that we’re the party of every person in Wales, wherever you’re from, whatever language you speak, if you live in Wales, then we’re the party for you. We’re the only party headquartered in Wales looking after the interest of Wales and no other country. And I think for me, which is why I’m in Plaid Cymru, I’m really interested in getting more powers in Wales for the people in Wales to vote on Welsh issues in Wales. And then to work closely with other nations. We need a good working relationship with England, Scotland, Ireland.

My background is in China and the middle East. And we need to work with other countries. We need to work with our partner countries, with other countries to make Wales a thriving nation. So nobody’s being inward looking in Wales. We’re being outward looking. And that’s the reaction I think at the moment. Brexit is much more inward looking. We’re looking at let’s make Britain great again. And that’s just looking at Britain, Britain on its own in the rest of the world. What Wales are trying to do is look outward and say that in Wales, we need more powers in Wales for our own decision making and to to keep money in Wales.

Why can’t Plaid Cymru just come clean and say it as it is, that they want out of the union, Welsh Nationalism and independence for Wales with the whole of Wales speaking Welsh?

Well, I don’t see it as Welsh nationalism in the negative sense of the word. It’s Wales in Europe. It’s Wales in the rest of the world. We want to welcome people into Wales and we want to work with the rest of the world.

Have Plaid considered what would happen really in depth should we remain in Europe and split away from the union, have those discussions taking place?

So Plaid have always wanted independence when we’re at the stage for independence. The first issue is to remain in Europe and then Adam Price has set up a commission to look at how we could become an independent nation. Nobody’s going to break away until things are in place. For me, I think it is eminently possible with our natural resources here in Wales. We’ve touched on it before two years ago. I think we’ve got enough facilities in Wales to make money in Wales that we can keep in the country as opposed to it draining out. We can keep in country as opposed to with draining out. We can’t make decisions on wind and solar in Wales because that level is decided by Westminster and they put a stop on a lot of those decisions on a lot of those things happening in Wales. So for me, if we can have more decision making powers on how we use our natural resources in Wales, it brings in an income but also it brings in an industry so we could have a renewable energy industry in Wales. We could have jobs creating the wind turbines or solar farms. Then we harness all the profit from those natural resources as well. The other thing for me is making Wales a living wage nation. So in my day job I run the living wage for Wales and I’d like to see more employers giving the real living wage to their staff because nobody should work and live in poverty. We need to have workers in work earning enough money to get themselves out of poverty and then that way they have more money in their pocket. They spend that money locally and local economies will grow as well. There are a few simple things we can do to start building up a stronger economy and Wales.

Putting Brexit aside what are the issues people are discussing on the doorstep, drugs, police, crime, health, education?

All of them. Everybody is still talking about all of those issues. I think health is the most dominant topic. I think there’s a lot of health in the media at the moment. Both main parties are  in a fight over the NHS publicly. And I think more people are talking about health than anything else.

We’ve had the Welsh assembly now for almost 20 years.  You’ve all been there, Plaid and Labour  and yet we’re in this position. We are one of the countries with the highest levels of child poverty in Europe. You’ve all had a long time as politicians. Why should we trust you? Why should we believe in you anymore to deliver the most basic of things. For a pensioner in Pontyates to get the bus, to get to the doctor’s surgery for an appointment and see an actual doctor, to have the children going to school fed with a free meal? So many things that affect so many people. The little things. How are you going to address those?

I agree. I think the people of Wales are being let down. I think the Welsh government isn’t working for us. It’s been 20 years now. It’s been a labour led in one way or another for those 20 years. I think that does breed complacency. That’s why a change is always good. We’ve never had a Plaid led government in Wales yet, although I think we will next time. That’s when I think you’ll see a lot of those changes for the people of Wales coming through. We don’t need to kowtow to our parent party in London. We can make decisions that are right for the people in Wales.

Taking Llanelli in general as a town, you’ve looked around, you’ve come down today. What’s your general overview of the town and the state It’s in? A lot of people in Llanelli are feeling that we’re were ignored here.

Well, I’m from from Trimsaran, so I know the problems. I own a house in and I, I grew up in Trimsaran and I’ve worked in different places throughout my life, but I’ve always come back to Trimsaran and I live there now. But for me the main issues for Llanelli, you’re looking at the drug problem in different areas of which does impact on the rest of the constituency. There has been a big drive by the police and crime commissioner to tackle that. It is being successful in tackling some of the problems. County Lines are moving as fast as we’re tackling some of those problems. I think we need to ramp that up. So for me, the reason I’m interested in standing in Westminster and not in the assembly is because we need to devolve policing to Wales. We need to protect some of the areas that we have got developed, but we need to develop more powers to Wales so we can make more decisions for Llanelli locally.

So if we break away from the union as Plaid would like to go independent, sovereignty for Wales, would we still have MP’s in parliament or would there be no need for that? Would we just have the Welsh Assembly, self-governing? Would it be called the Welsh assembly? What would happen? I think a lot of people are unsure as to how this is made up. what is Plaid’s self government, how does it work?

Well, I think the Welsh assembly is key for a lot of decisions in Wales at the moment. Not everything is devolved to the Welsh Assembly, but a lot of the day to day as you know the NHS, education, transport, a lot of different powers are in the Welsh assembly today. What I would like to see is more in the Welsh assembly. So it might be a step change where we have MP’s in Westminster defending those rights. I’d always like us to have a close political and business relationship with all of the nations in the UK. We need that.  All of us need it in the UK when nobody’s talking about breaking away, we need more powers in Wales, but we need to be working closely with businesses and government in England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. So for me, having more powers in the Welsh assembly is where we’re trying to get to.

Plaid  as we’ve said earlier, were way behind the Conservatives at the last election. Do you think Nia Griffith is going to suffer as a result of labour’s dilly-dallying on Brexit or a combination of the issues? How do you see the swing taking place because it’s gonna have to be an enormous swing for Plaid to get elected in Llanelli. So how are you going to achieve that?

I think that Plaid have always done pretty well in Llanelli for the assembly. We’ve been in power, in and out. It’s been labour – Plaid for a number of years. For Westminster it’s always been labour. But I think even last time a lot of people were saying ‘We need to change, but my father voted labour’. or  ‘I can’t not vote labour’. This time it is different. This time People are saying, ‘We’re ready to vote for Plaid now’ or  ‘I wouldn’t vote for Brexit, I’m fed up of labour so we are thinking about voting Plaid for the first time’. I think that the labour party here will suffer because of their position on Brexit. The Brexiteers will choose between two parties. They’ve got the Tories or the Brexit party in Llanelli to choose from. Labour haven’t got a stance on Brexit yet. They have said that they would put their own version of it to the EU and then they’d come back and put that to a people’s vote, but they haven’t said which way they would campaign even if they would campaign for their own proposal. It’s confused and I think people don’t know where the labour position is.

In a few brief words then, why should people vote for Mari Arthur?

I’m from Llanelli. I care about Llanelli. I know what we need to do to make things better here and we’re a party in Wales for Wales. We’re the only party that has headquarters in Wales and  do not have to kowtow to a parent body in England.

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