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Friday, August 20, 2004


Free Radical, the in-house magazine for the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, has just published an interview with me that was done on-line some months ago:

When and why did you join the Liberals/SDP? Which one was it? How old were you?

I first got involved with the Liberals in 1974 at the age of 14 when I canvassed and leafletted in the General Election in what is now the Wirral South Constituency. I had been politicised by the winter of discontent and my dislike of both Heath and the Labour Party. I felt that instinctively I was a Liberal and was encouraged in that by some of my teachers. I did not join the Liberals until 1980 at the age of 20 when I was at Swansea University. I had become interested in politics again through student activism and because of the devolution referendum of the year before.

Were you ever involved in the Party's youth wing?

Not mainstream. I used to attend Young Liberal caucuses at Federal Conference and went to a couple of training events. There was no youth wing as such in Wales at that time. Obviously I was involved with the student Liberal Society at University.

Do you do anything to recruit young members and/or encourage them to become active? What would you say to any young members reading this who aren't active in the Party?

I actively recruit members at every opportunity and seek to get them involved. I have always encouraged young people to stand for elective office. I pushed Kirsty Williams into getting involved at a National level before she became the AM for Brecon and Radnor in her twenties. I also encouraged and supported two women in their twenties to stand for the Assembly last year. One has subsequently become a Councillor.

As a Councillor of twenty years standing I am acutely aware that when I was elected at the age of 24 I was the youngest Councillor on Swansea City. Before June 10th I was still the second youngest. I am pleased that this is no longer the case and that we have a lot of younger Liberal Democrats serving as Councillors now. To those who are still thinking about getting active in the Party I would say do it. It can be fun, interesting and stimulating. It can also be hard work, frustrating and boring. But if you believe in achieving change then you have to work for it and sometimes that means standing for office and doing it yourself.

What made you decide to stand as an AM? What did you do before you got elected?

Before I was an AM I was a civil servant working in the Land Registry and a long-standing Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor. I had no ambitions to be an MP but I could see the difference that the Assembly could make and wanted to be part of that. I felt that I could make a difference so I took the opportunity when it was presented to me.

Where do you think the Party will be in ten years?

I do not know. I have been in the Party long enough to know that things do not always work out how we want them. Our stock can go down as well as up, to coin a phrase. What I do know is that the growth and success we are getting now is solidly based and that the signs are very encouraging for more.

What are your main political interests?

Housing, Education and Local Government.

What are your interests outside of politics?

Very few but I like films and music. I like to read when I have time but only seem to be able to do this on holiday nowadays.

When and why did you start blogging? What do you feel you've gained from it?

As the Assembly was meant to be at the cutting edge of e-democracy I felt obliged to start a website shortly after I was elected. I used to do a weekly on-line diary but this died a death due to lack of time during the 2003 elections. When I was re-elected I was anxious to restart something so as to maintain interest in the website and allow me to get a two way dialogue with my electorate and others. I was vaguely aware of weblogs and so I started one of those, adapting it as I read others. The weblog is only one part of a much bigger site containing details about my press releases, speeches, articles and other documents. It also contains pages for youth and students and business as well as contact points to join the party and policy items. My biggest gain therefore is to give people a reason to come back to visit the website though I also enjoy the opportunity to share my views with others and listen to theirs - www.peter-black.net.

What's your taste in music like?

I have a very wide taste in music though essentially I am into rock music. In my car at the moment I have rock and roll collections, the Darkness, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Catatonia, Bowie, Blondie, Madonna, Elton John and All Saints to name but a few.

What was the last gig you went to?

In the last few months I have seen the Libertines in Bristol, Keane in Cardiff and the Charlatans in Newport. I have tickets to see Hope of the States in Cardiff in July and the Reading Festival in August.

Do you play an instrument?

No I have no musical ability whatsoever.

If you could introduce or repeal one law/piece of legislation right now what would it be?

At this moment in time I would abolish all fees for HE and reintroduce meaningful grants.

Which Lib Dem policy do you disagree with most?

I have huge problems with the policy on euthanasia which was passed at the last Conference.

Who's your biggest inspiration?

I have never really been into heroes. I have always considered that politics is about policy and getting things done. I cannot therefore honestly put my finger on the name of anybody who stands out more than another in their influence on me.

Are you supporting England in Euro 2004 or hoping they get knocked out?

I am supporting England. I was born in England and although I consider myself Welsh now I will support the next best thing if Wales are not available.

Ali Goldsworthy: What was the reaction in the Assembly chamber when you had your hair cut, can you show us a before and after shot?

You can read the reaction on my blog. People are so shallow sometimes. It was like being back in the school playground.

Jez Brown: Would you ever let Changing Rooms style Room B.3.12?

If they could find a more compact way of storing files then why not?

Will Howells: Do you prefer being a councillor or being an AM?

They have different attractions. It really depends on my mood but I very much enjoy being a full-time politician.

Tom Paul: Would you put yourself forward for a Welsh Assembly version of Big Brother?

Given that all the Assembly's proceedings are televised anyway it sometimes seems like Big Brother there anyway - but without the nudity, which is a blessing!

Adam Killeya: How much wood could a woodchuck cut if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

I have never been a supporter of block voting.

Jonathan Monroe: What is your view on the number of Welsh Liberal Democrat Councils working with the Conservatives and how does this affect your positioning at Assembly level?

It is very much horses for courses. We were in partnership with Labour for a time in the Assembly and in opposition at a UK level and locally. We coped by being clear to define our activities and policies accordingly. I believe that people like to see parties working together for the common good. In that regard I am happy to work with members of other mainstream parties if we have common goals and can agree on policy issues. That should not affect our work at a Welsh or a UK level as different considerations will apply there.

Dan Hilton: Do you honestly believe that your taste in ties helps deliver any Liberal Democratic policy? Can you explain your need to be both a councillor and an AM?

I have never understood this obsession with my ties. They are not meant to form part of a package in promoting Liberal Democrat policy. They are an expression of my taste and that is all. Too many people want to package politicians and sell them like soap powder. I prefer to be an individual and let people judge me on my views and my actions. Anyway we have far too many grey politicians, a bit of colour hurts nobody.

I do not understand either the problem of being an AM and a Councillor. I am representing people at different levels. Before I was an AM I was a civil servant and a Councillor. Being a Councillor is not a full time job. It has always involved people who have other jobs in the real world and that is healthy. Councils need to reflect all of the community. I want to stay a Councillor because I am rooted in my own community and believe that I still have a lot to offer them at this level.

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