Abolish don’t want to scrap the Senedd ‘gravy train’ – they want a first class ticket
Ifan Morgan Jones
The most telling answer by Abolish the Assembly leader Richard Suchorzewski at last night’s debate was when he was asked whether he would take a salary if he was elected a Senedd member.
The man purportedly campaigning to do away with the ‘gravy train’ confirmed that, of course, he would be taking the £68,000 pay packet:
“I would be giving up my alternative employment, then yes, I do think it’s right to earn it provided you do the work,” he said.
This is a very revealing response because it shows that he thinks that there is a job to do as a Senedd Member and that it is one that comes with responsibilities commensurate with their pay.
Whatever he may say about the Senedd being a waste of taxpayers’ money and in need of scrapping, he’s more than happy to avail himself of the considerable salary at the taxpayers’ expense for doing this apparent non-job.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If he had the courage of his convictions he could do as Sinn Féin do at Westminster and adopt an Abstentionist approach – standing for election but refusing to take his seat or a salary.
He would make a much more powerful point than he would sitting around the Senedd with no influence for five years, and wouldn’t even have to give up the day job.
There is even precedent for refusing a salary within the Senedd itself – former Leanne Wood MS refused the extra £23,000 pay when she became Plaid Cymru leader.
The reality however is that the Abolish cause is ultimately just a way, not for doing away with the Senedd, but for getting into it.
The party is one of many that are very keen to decry the ‘bay bubble’ but seem absolutely desperate to find ways into it and, once in, to stay there for as long as possible.
Another Abolish candidate, current MS Mark Reckless, had no link with Wales before losing his seat as an MP. Since being elected to represent UKIP on the Senedd regional list he has gone from part of the Conservative group to an independent to the Brexit Party to Abolish – an impressive game of musical chairs with one eye, no doubt, on which comfy seat would still be in the Senedd on May 6.
UKIP, who similarly promise to ‘Scrap the Senedd’, are another great example of this phenomenon at work. ‘Fed up with politicians? Vote to put them out of the job!’ the party’s leaflet says.
The party’s top candidate? Neil Hamilton, who has been a Senedd member these past five years, and before that an MP for 14 years, including a stint as an Under Secretary of State in John Major’s Government.
This man has quite literally been a career politician since before I was born. He lives in a £1.4m manor house in Wiltshire. The voice of the people against the establishment, he is not.
While opposing the Senedd on the basis that it is a waste of money, while eating or fully intending to eat from exactly that same trough, their political stance is completely hypocritical. The people of Wales would do well not to fall for it.
The best way of stopping the ‘gravy train’ at the Senedd is not to vote for these so-called ‘populist’ parties who are simply desperate to bag themselves a seat in first class.