Aaron Norton – Gwlad – Wrexham
We have invited all candidates to take part in our democratic exercise across North Wales – we hope this candidate takes part shortly!
All views on this page are from the candidate unedited.
We first asked them to tell us a little about who they are, any political history, about their political leanings and what skills you have to be a top level politician in Wales?
1 – Aside from Covid and Covid recovery, what do you feel is the top issue for this constituency in the forthcoming parliament term, and briefly explain how you would like to see your desired outcome achieved ?
Wrexham is a very fine town to live in, and I’m proud of it, but the town centre has been struggling for years and the impact of Covid has made that far worse. Often this is because of very poor planning decisions that were made in the 1990s when the council was Labour dominated. It’s vital that the town’s new MS works closely with the Welsh Government and the County Borough Council to ensure that thoughtful development of the town centre takes place, and in many cases this will involve the conversion of commercial buildings into residential use in a sensitive and sympathetic way.
2 – What is your plan for helping residents and businesses in your constituency in the coming years to recover from the pandemic?
There is a limit to what top-down, government driven economic planning can achieve: Gwlad is a party that believes very strongly in free markets and that there comes a point when government, having established the broad conditions for economic growth (efficient legal system, access to capital for businesses etc.), should take a step back and let businesses themselves drive the recovery.
3 – The pandemic has highlighted to many for the first time the powers that the Senedd have under devolution. How has the pandemic changed your views of devolution?
Even now, the Welsh Government has exercised only a fraction of the powers that they have been granted under the Wales Act 2017. I’ve been pleased to see the increase in people’s consciousness of the reality of Welsh devolution, but I long to see devolved powers used to an even greater extent to make Wales better. Sadly there’s little prospect of a Unionist party such as Labour or the Conservatives doing that.
4 – What would you have done differently on the Welsh covid response?
While clearly some amount of locking-down has been necessary to suppress the virus, I would have wanted to see an impact assessment made at an early stage in order to understand better the harms done by lockdown, as well as the benefits. I expect the result of doing so would have been a more targeted lockdown, enabling many more businesses to have continued trading and lessening the damage done to the economy.
5 – Would you support legislation to hold an independence referendum for Wales? How would you vote in such a referendum and why?
Yes, but not immediately. I want to see Wales become an independent nation, but I fear that a ‘snap’ referendum would result in people choosing to remain in the UK because 20-plus years of Labour mismanagement has undermined their confidence in Wales’s own government. I want to see the Welsh government prove that it can use its existing powers to improve life in Wales for its people: and only then move towards increasing those powers with full independence.
6 – What actions would you take, or support, as a MS to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
The benefits of bilingualism are proven beyond doubt, with some of the best education systems in the world being found in countries such as Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands where children are taught in their national language while being encouraged to be fluent in English as well. I’d want to see Welsh-medium education become the norm, even in a border town like Wrexham, with people being encouraged to use the language in everyday life as well.
7 – What does “climate emergency” mean to you, and why?
Wales is a small country, and even if we cut our carbon footprint to zero overnight any large Chinese city would wipe out the benefit in a short time. In Gwlad generally, we’re more concerned about what the climate can do to Wales than what Wales can do to the climate. We support investment in renewable energy, especially hydro and offshore wave & wind, but we will not prioritise this over maintaining a healthy economy with adequate transport links and reasonable energy prices.
8 – There can be a perception that politicians are too “South Wales focused” and can see a north south divide. Do you think this is the case, and realistically if elected which of your North Wales specific goals do you think you can deliver?
Gwlad policy is to follow a ‘South Africa’ model with the different functions of government –legislative, judicial and executive – physically located in different parts of the country. In particular we would move the Senedd itself to North Wales, using existing Welsh Government buildings in Llandudno Junction, while leaving the judicial and financial functions in Cardiff and moving the Executive to existing Welsh Government buildings in Aberystwyth. This would lay to rest the often-cited concerns about one part of Wales dominating the others.
9 – What are your views on a LGBTQ+ plan for Wales?
As a party we believe very strongly in inclusivity – the idea that everyone in Wales, regardless of their background or beliefs, should be equal before the law and be able to participate fully in national life. We also believe very strongly in freedom, including freedom of speech. While we’re determined to stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, we’re concerned that some LGBTQ+ advocates – who may or may not be LGBTQ+ themselves – promote a very strong form of LGBTQ+ policy that places these rights far above others, such as women’s rights to women-only spaces or Christians’ rights to articulate orthodox Christian beliefs. This is unacceptable, and we want to see a sense of proportion restored that balances everyone’s interests fairly.
10 – Children and young people have missed almost a full year of regular education – what are your plans to make sure that children who have missed out on academic and social experiences are not left at a disadvantage in the next few years?
This is a difficult question; with reference to my earlier answer about balancing lockdown with an understanding of the harms caused by it, I think many schools were closed for longer than they needed to be and support for home-learning was too inconsistent. There is no ‘magic bullet’ to make things right again overnight, besides doing what we’d urge anyway to raise education standards across the board. The Welsh Labour government has been spending on average £500 per year per pupil less on education than the rest of the UK, and this must be addressed.
11 – Local services such as libraries, leisure centres and community centres have been badly affected in recent years due to lack of funding – how would you support local authorities?
Local government has seen heavy funding cuts since 2010, as the result of the Cameron government’s attempt to cut the UK’s deficit without affecting ‘ring-fenced’ spending areas such as the NHS. Gwlad believes in devolving as much power as possible to the lowest level possible, including giving local councils the power to raise additional revenues through property taxes if that’s what local voters choose to do.
12 – How would you resolve issues at the local health board that are emerging from special measures?
I welcome the fact that Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has been able to emerge from special measures, but the underlying failures are symptoms of the top-heavy and over-centralised way in which the Welsh public sector is run more generally. While Gwlad is committed to the NHS and the principle of free healthcare at the point of need, we’d like to learn more lessons from other European countries where state-financed healthcare is delivered by much less monolithic organisations.
13 – What are you planning to do to help those who are finding it hard to find work?
Difficulty in finding work arises from two sources: lack of employment opportunities in the immediate area, and difficulty in commuting to employment opportunities further away. Incidentally, the latter point also makes it difficult for some companies to recruit staff in the area.
Gwlad’s approach is to do the opposite of what the Labour government have been doing for the last 20 years – which clearly hasn’t worked. We shall improve infrastructure and make Wales an easier place to do business, stop seeking to micro-manage the Welsh economy, and stop subsidising firms from outside Wales to bring in low-paid and insecure jobs which perpetuate the structural weaknesses of our economy.
14 – A lack of bus services, a poor road network, a need for more active travel and an improved train service are some of the more contentious issues in the area. If elected what would you campaign for and deliver for your constituency?
I’m in favour of upgrading the Wrexham-Bidston line and seeing direct trains to Liverpool introduced, and I’d like to see the Wrexham to Chester rail line restored to two tracks. It’s also very important that we improve road links to South Wales, and this would be a high priority for a Gwlad-led government.
15 – You categorically rule out, under any circumstances, voting for a Welsh Labour First Minister. Does that rule out a general Labour coalition with a different First Minister, and with recognition coalitions are a ‘norm’ why this firm line on that specific role?
The fact that the Labour Party has dominated Welsh politics to such an extent, with a Labour First Minister having been in place for over 20 years, is unhealthy. It undermines trust in democracy: in fact it motivates those who want to abolish Welsh democracy altogether, since they see no other way of breaking Labour’s grip. We in Gwlad see it as one of the biggest betrayals in recent Welsh history that Plaid Cymru, on having the opportunity to join a ‘rainbow coalition’ in 2007 which would have excluded Labour from power, chose instead to prop them up.
Nevertheless we realise that in the real world, sometimes it’s necessary to work alongside your opponents in order to get things done in the national interest. That’s why we’ve been very specific – we don’t rule out working with Labour or any other party, where by doing so we can promote our own objectives: but we think that having yet another Labour First Minister would be hugely damaging for Welsh democracy and indeed for the Welsh economy.
16 – Residency controls to ‘stem the flow of retirees’ from England into Wales is mentioned in your manifesto, how big an issue do you feel that is?
It is a very big issue; current Welsh government policy, with a much lower ‘savings threshold’ for the provision of free social care than in England but no accompanying residency controls, positively incentivises the movement of English retirees into Wales. This drives up house prices in our coastal communities beyond the reach of local people, places a heavy strain on Welsh health services, and contributes to the headline ‘fiscal deficit’ that discourages people from believing that Welsh independence really is viable.
We don’t want to drive retired English people out of Wales – far from it – but we want to see the Westminster government retain the responsibility of paying for English retirees in Wales, just as they already do for retirees in, say, Spain or Portugal.
17 – How would universal basic income, or ‘Citizens Income’ be paid for, and can you give an overview of the costing for roll out in Wales?
We’re committed to a Citizens Income, but in practice it cannot possibly work unless it’s accompanied by a Flat Tax – where everyone pays the same rate of all their income from whatever source, and their Citizens income, which they’d receive even if they were in work, would act as a rebate for any extra tax they’d have to pay out.
Our modelling shows that, if both were introduced alongside each other, then the scheme would be cost-neutral: most people would see no significant change to their net income, and it would neither increase net public spending nor cause inflation. But it would be a lot simpler to administer than the current system, and remove many of the disincentives that the long-term unemployed currently experience when wanting to seek work.
18 – If you change political allegiance from what you are currently seeking election for (eg. resigning from, or joining another party or group) will you trigger a by-election? If not, why not?
I’m standing as both a Constituency candidate and on the list. Constituency votes are for the candidate, while List votes are for the party. If I’m elected as a List candidate and change parties, there should be a by-election: if I’m elected as a Constituency candidate and do the same, then there should not.
19 – At the time of writing where has the top three sources of funding for your campaign come from, and are there any funding sources you feel would be relevant to voters to know about?
Gwlad is a grass-roots party made of individuals who love their country. 100% of their funding comes from members’ contributions or from well-publicised crowdfunding campaigns. There is no ‘dark money’ or anonymous donors funding us.
20 – In a few lines to wrap this up, why are you the best candidate compared to your competitors?
I am a Wrexham man through and through: I love this town. I’m a Welshman through and through: I love this country. I believe that Gwlad is the party that, more than any other, has the policies that can help Wales, and Wrexham, to succeed.
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