Friday, 29 January 2010

In God We Trust

Son and Daughter of the American Revolution

Inquiry highlights

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, says: "It's chilling that Tony Blair failed to show an ounce of regret for a war that killed hundreds of British troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians."

Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs were prime movers in calling for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war.
Guardian reporter Steve Adams interviews MP Adam Price

    WHEN Adam Price walks away from Westminster next spring he will turn his back on one of the most tumultuous periods Parliament has witnessed since the Second World War.
    The Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr will have spent nine years among the grand, the great and the not so good of British politics and played an often central role in some of the key moments which have defined a generation – not bad for an Amman Valley miner’s son.
    “If anyone had told me when I was elected in 2001 that we would be going to war in five or six months and would remain at war for the rest of the decade, I would never have believed them,” said the 41-year-old.
    While the Bush-Blair invasion of Afghanistan may have welcomed Mr Price into the world of national and international politics, it was the 2003 war in Iraq which catapulted him into the spotlight.
    In 2004, Mr Price became the first person for more than 150 years to attempt to have a serving Prime Minister prosecuted.
    The impeachment process, while doomed to inevitable failure, brought unprecedented and – in the eyes of the Government – unwelcome attention on the reasons why Britain had gone to war.
    Never before had anyone questioned so keenly how and why the grave decision to send in the troops had been made Mr Price said: “We were lied to about the war and when we started the impeachment campaign things had gone quiet on Iraq.
    “But people were still dying there and no one was asking why.
    “People kept asking why we were doing it, but here we are, a few years down the line and an inquiry has been set up, so it was worth it.”
    A thorn in Blair’s side Even before the attempted impeachment, Price had earned himself a reputation as a thorn in the establishment’s side when he exposed Blair’s links with Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal in what would become the first of numerous scandals over political party donations.
    However, despite grabbing more than his fair share of headlines, it is interesting to hear that as he nears the end of his Westminster career, Mr Price’s personal triumphs were practical rather than sensational.
    “The thing I am most proud of is the work that we did with the Allied Steel and Wire pension fund,” he said.
    While pension funds are unlikely to set pulses racing among those not directly affected, Mr Price and his team changed the lives of 120,000 workers and their families by forcing the Government to pay out when the ASW scheme went belly up.
    “There were many workers, including 3,000 steelworkers from Cardiff, who lost their pensions after contributing for 40 years,” he said.
    “These people had been working in backbreaking jobs and had lost everything through no fault of their own.
    “I found a European directive that had not been implemented by the Government which forced them to set up a scheme to repay the pensions these people had lost.
    “If I do nothing else ever again in politics, I know that I can have a pint of Guinness with a few guys in Cardiff who know what we achieved.
    “I felt the impeachment was a democratic duty, but in terms of an emotional impact on me, fighting for justice for working people was something that moved me because I had been there myself as a kid in the miners’ strike when there was no money in the house.”
    While his ability to make things better for ordinary working people has clearly been a source of great pride for the former Amman Valley School pupil, the trappings of power associated with a seat in the Commons have sat uneasily on his shoulders. I can’t stand the place “I will not miss Westminster for one second,” he said. “I cannot stand the place.
    “I mean no disrespect and I was very proud to be an MP.
    “Being chosen as representative of the people is a fantastic honour for a native son of Tycroes, but I won’t miss the politics of Westminster.
    “I do not like the House of Commons.
    “The culture of the place is deeply regressive and reactionary.
    “It is a fundamentally unhealthy place where people wearing tights open doors for you.
    “After a while it affects you and a part of your brain when you are being treated like a petty prince.
    “MPs don’t walk, they swagger.
    “You begin to lose your accent and start to knock off your own rough edges.
    “I found that the working class boy from Ammanford was beginning to disappear.
    “I will be having a cold shower after I hand in my pass.”
    Looking back on his career, it is clear Mr Price – despite his reservations of the institution itself – views his time at Westminster as the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr with great pride.
    Mavericks needed “There is a particular privilege in representing the area that you are from because you have a connection with the people you represent,” he said.
    “These are the people you went to school with and it has been an honour to serve them.
    “I am very, very proud of what we have done.
    “People have called me a maverick, but isn’t that what politics needs?
    “To have people who will say things regardless of the political consequences.
    “Whether people have agreed or disagreed with me, I think the people I have represented have appreciated the fact that I was someone willing to take on the powers-that-be.”
    Few believe that when Mr Price stands down at the next election he will disappear from the political landscape of Wales.
    He said: “When I first stood for election I said I would commit to two terms and so I have been consistent, I didn’t ever envisage a 25-year career in London.
    “I always knew that I wanted to come home to Wales.
    My heart is in Wales “I had a job to do at Westminster and I hope that people will accept that I have done it to the best of my ability, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was time to do something different and my heart is here in Wales.
    “I always wanted to come back to the Assembly at some point and if I go into politics again in the future then it will be there.
    “I want to come back and contribute in some way to transforming our country.
    “The only way we are going to crack the enduring problems of poverty and disadvantage is to achieve prosperity and that is something I am going to devote the next phase of my life to.”
    Rather than seeing a return to the land of his fathers and a possible seat at the Assembly as an easy option, Price sees the move as a step up the political ladder.
    A cruel punishment “We in Wales send people down to London, but as a nationalist I think it is a most cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.
    “Many Assembly members view going to Westminster as promotion to the Premiership, but that is not healthy. It should be the other way around.
    “In Westminster they hold the shield to protect Wales, but it is at the Assembly where things actually get done in real terms – after all, if you cannot change a nation with 16 or 17 billion pounds then forget about it.
    “The Assembly should be the pinnacle of all Welsh people’s political ambitions.”
    Already viewed by many as the heir apparent to the Plaid leadership, Mr Price shifts awkwardly at the possibly of becoming a leader in the nationalist movement.
    He said: “Once you start to believe your own propaganda, you are finished.
    “When you lose self doubt you start to believe too much in yourself and your mission.
    “That’s when terrible things happen.
    The real heroes “The real heroes are the people you meet every day - the firemen, the ambulancemen, the paramedics.
    “What they do in one morning beats everything I have done in my entire political life and although it may sound trite, that is humbling.
    “There is a line in Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo when one character says ‘pity the land without heroes’, and Galileo turns and says ‘no, pity the land that needs them.’ “That would be my message – don’t put your faith in heroes because they always have feet of clay. They always get it wrong or disappoint.
    “There is a tendency, especially in small countries, to put our faith in heroes because it is an excuse not to put our faith in ourselves.”
    Whatever faults Adam Price may have, a lack of faith – in himself, his politics and in Wales – is not one of them.

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