Ambition is Critical

It was July 2009, and I had just graduated. On a day that my friends and I were celebrating, there was also a sense of unease.

The country was still in recession, unemployment was rising and our prospects for finding employment was rapidly diminishing.

You know what...let me rewind a little bit and go back to 2001.


I was in Swansea College, my parents marriage was rapidly falling apart, and I was too much in love with spending time with friends than actually doing any work in college.

Unsurprisingly, it all went wrong and I quickly ended up having to drop out of college. For the next few years I did a few odd jobs here and there - my time in the Castle Hotel in Neath was probably the one I had the longest, but other jobs included time at a call centre and a construction site. However for most of the next few years I spent unemployed, living with my mother.

I'm not going to lie, there were some dark times in these years. I remember going to bed many, many times thinking that I'd ruined my life, destroyed any chance of a normal life, and that maybe things would be better for everyone if I didn't wake up in the morning.

Going from where I was to getting into university wasn't easy (and I doubted myself every step of the way) but being in uni helped me to build my confidence, helped me realise that things were no where near as bad as I'd feared, and that maybe there were things I could do.

After all that, to suddenly look as though I was heading back to a prolonged period of unemployment, fear and uncertainty, was terrifying.

As it turns out, it wasn't that long before I found work, albeit a seasonal contract at HMV in Swansea. Though as soon as Christmas was over, so was my contract. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months. No matter how many job applications I filled in, no matter how many interviews I had, nothing seemed to work out. I signed onto job seekers allowance and dreaded visits to the Job Centre. My advisors either looked at me with pity or suspicion, only a few times did I feel supported. Looking around at others there, I could see the feeling of hopelessness and frustration.

I was already getting politically engaged and involved at this time, mostly as a consequence of seeing what was going on across the UK and many other countries. It was at this time that my mother suggested that I go back to university to do a Masters degree in Politics. She offered to pay my tuition fees. I knew it was not something she could really afford, but I knew that I couldn't afford to not take this opportunity. 

This time in university wasn't anything like my first time - no amazing group of friends like those on my undergraduate degree - but this just made me focus on getting my work done and nothing more.

After the year doing my Masters, I started to get a better idea of what I was interested in, and that's why I decided to write my dissertation on the social and economic regeneration of communities.

I begun to see politics as a means of helping people. It could be a vehicle for bringing people together to tackle the challenges we face in common.

Over the years that followed - the time volunteering in my community, holding office as a councillor, and even the jobs I held at Swansea University, the Co-operative Group, and Age Cymru - allowed me to better define and refine my beliefs. It gave me an opportunity to see what worked, what didn't work,and what I felt was missing.

Through it all, there were lots of people who had faith in me. They backed me when I had no faith in myself and no ambition. I was fortunate to have that unwavering support.

Far too many across our communities are more talented and deserving than me, but will never get the opportunity to realise their potential. 

That's what changed me.

Look, I'm not going to say I'm not ambitious - you don't put yourself forward for election without ambition! But, I believe I'm ambitious for our communities and our country. I want to be that voice for all those who, like me, felt invisible, forgotten, useless and worthless, and to constantly be the one saying that we can do better.

That's why I want to see welfare devolved to Wales, so that we can create a fairer, more empowering and person centred welfare system. I firmly believe that our welfare system should be focused on potential, not punishment as it is now. I want to see a more ambitious economic strategy, based on community focused schools, continuous education and skills development, greater local and cooperative ownership, and the utilisation of public procurement to build up local businesses, jobs and communities. 

Take a look around our communities and you'll see challenges, yes, but you'll also see people with talent, dedication, and passion.  You'll see groups, organisations and businesses working hard every day to make a difference. I want to support them, raise their voice, and ensure our politics once more works with people, for them.

If I become the first MP for Neath and Swansea East, this will be my mission.

Showing 2 reactions

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  • Rusty Wilson
    commented 2024-01-10 10:35:29 +0000
    Please don’t ever forget the lessons.
  • Andrew Jenkins
    published this page in Latest News 2024-01-08 20:36:18 +0000

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