Robin Millar’s ‘New Conservative’ agenda would be a disaster for Bangor Aberconwy
Catrin Wager, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Candidate for Arfon
On Monday, a new political pressure group launched in Westminster, causing a bit of a flurry in political circles. Calling themselves the ‘New Conservatives’, this group of 25 MPs stand firmly to the right of the political barometer, aiming to put pressure on Sunak on issues such as immigration, law and order and what they perceive as the threat of ‘woke’ ideals. Among this cabal sits Robin Millar, current MP for Aberconwy, and Conservative candidate for the new Bangor Aberconwy seat.
The New Conservatives launched with a rallying cry – to get tough on immigration, echoing Rishi’s promise to ‘Stop the Boats’. But these guys want to take it further. And they claim to have a plan. Most striking of the New Conservatives 12-point plan, is the call to scrap Health and Care Visas for migrant workers, ignoring the reason that visa is offered in the first place – the desperate need to fill health and care vacancies.
The New Conservatives claim that scrapping this will cut the numbers of new visas issued by 117,000. But let’s flip that claim on its head. Could cutting the Health and Care Visa therefore lead to 117,00 fewer health and care workers?
You don’t have to be in need of care yourself to know that the care industry is in crisis. Local authorities and the private sector are actively trying to recruit new staff, with Cyngor Gwynedd’s aptly named ‘SOS Daretocare’ campaign suggesting the true depth of the problem. As Christina McAnea, general secretary of UNISON stated, the UK Government has “done nothing to solve the growing crisis in care. Now a group of its MPs want ministers to make things a whole lot worse.”
Across Wales it is anticipated an extra 20,000 care workers need to be recruited by 2030 to meet the growing demands of an ageing population. The population of the current constituency of Aberconwy is older than the national average, with around 34.9% of residents aged over 60, compared to a UK average of 24.3%. Surprising therefore that the MP of this constituency would call for a reduction in a workforce that is already chronically understaffed. Diolch Mr Millar.
Another own goal in this in terms of Mr Millar’s new potential seat, is the call the New Conservatives have made for UK university places to be restricted to only the ‘brightest’ students. Now I’m in no position to comment on the academic capabilities of international students in Bangor (and I don’t want to either), neither do I have insight into the business model of Bangor University. But it is reported that 1 in 5 students at UK universities now come from overseas, and that the significant fees these students pay (between £10,000-£38,000 a year) are a fundamental income stream for UK universities.
Given that in some areas of Bangor over 20% of the population was born outside of the UK, much higher than the Gwynedd average, it wouldn’t be incongruous to assume that Bangor has its fair share of international students. Neither is it too much of a leap of the imagination to assume that international students provide a valuable income stream for Bangor University, as well as contributing to the wider local economy as international students tend to do. What effect would Mr Millar’s 12-point plan have on Bangor University? And what effect would it have on Bangor itself? A city where a wonderful mix of internationalism and distinct Welsh character make it truly special.
Education, health and social care are amongst the biggest employers in the area. And with the health and social care sector already facing staffing shortages, and the majority of UK universities facing financial difficulties due to the disastrous effects of Brexit, the impact of the New Conservatives 12-Point Plan on Bangor Aberconwy would be disastrous.
So, I’m left perplexed as to why Millar would align himself to the New Conservatives. Is it an attempt to win the hearts and minds of this vast new area? If so, it demonstrates a distinct lack of awareness of the major economic drivers in the Western part of the seat, and the demographics needs of the current Aberconwy constituency.
I’m left wondering if this plan is based on nothing more than pure xenophobia, and fear mongering. If so, for the sake our residents, and our communities, I sincerely hope the good people of Bangor Aberconwy see this plan for what it is, and say ‘Dim Diolch’ to Mr Millar, and his band of cronies.
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