By Julie Morgan
Julie Morgan was the Labour MP for Cardiff North from 1997-2010 and is now seeking the nomination to be the candidate for Cardiff North in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2011.
Of course, in Wales, we’ve always seen things differently and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly Government has introduced many independent and distinctive policies, such as free prescriptions, free parking in hospitals, free entry to many of our cultural sites and free school breakfasts for children.
In small nations perhaps, it is easier to get consensus and there are fewer vested interests (headquarters of Welsh organisations are often in England). And Wales has a flatter social structure – fewer middle class people – and, of course, a strong radical tradition. It, like Scotland, has a history of forward-thinking.
Edinburgh is a glorious city in autumn – sunny, but cold – and it was lovely to walk on the highways and byways I’ve read about in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books. On my travels, I passed many advertisements for literary tours and would love to go on one of those some other time.
The SNP conference was taking place in Perth whilst I was in Scotland and so there was a lot of Alex Salmond on the television. Labour is 10 per cent ahead of the SNP in Scotland and it was good to meet the Labour leader, Iain Grey.
The Conservatives only have one MP in Scotland, David Mundell. I met Claudia Beamish, the woman Labour candidate who stood against him – I think she probably felt worse than me about the election result.
It was interesting to talk about the experiences of the last General Election. Having been burned by fire because I’d lost the seat I’d held for 13 years by just 194 votes, I was struck by the different way that the Scots appear to have looked at the election campaign.
I was told quite clearly that Gordon Brown was a great asset in Scotland. In fact, in his own constituency of Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath, he received 64.5 per cent of the vote and increased his majority by almost 5,000. He was clearly seen as a saviour because of his intervention over the banks.
Edinburgh is such a major banking centre. Walking round the squares off Princes Street and seeing the grand bank facades makes you realise how important banking is to Scotland.
Edinburgh is also, of course, the home to Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland and it was quite clear that he and the banking sector were held responsible for the economic woes of the country – certainly not Gordon Brown.
Taxi drivers were all keen to tell me that Fred Goodwin had just bought a new house and that although they believed that he should be allowed to live in peace (his old house was vandalised), they were adamant that he was the villain here, not Gordon Brown.
On the doorsteps in Cardiff North during the General Election campaign, so many people said to me, ‘We want to vote for you, Julie, but we don’t want to vote for Gordon Brown’. I’m sure that in the long-term, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling will be seen as having stopped the collapse of our financial system. History will treat them kindly, I think.
Let’s face it – this was a worldwide recession and if you are going to blame anybody, blame the banks.