TWENTY-five years ago this month, a group of new MPs from South Wales travelled up to London, having been elected for the first time in the 1987 general election.
That fresh-faced bunch included Rhodri Morgan, Alun Michael, Paul Flynn and myself.
We were quickly labelled the ‘M4 Group’ and bundled into an office together.
Some desks were much tidier than others, but we shared one story that was common to all our constituencies: that of the grind and hopelessness of unemployment in 1980s Wales.
To this day, I still remember my first local surgery. I spoke with one young man in tears because he couldn’t find a job. He was not lazy – he wanted to work.
Yet he had experienced months of hopelessness – queuing up at the Job Centre, being told there was nothing.
Surviving on dole money, having his enthusiasm and ambition sucked away. Many of the ‘traditional’ employers have left our valley in the years since, but newer jobs came in and for a while, such stories became rare. Yet they are now back with a vengeance.
In one surgery this year, I spoke to a young woman who had applied for over a hundred jobs without success.
She was bright, enthusiastic and willing to learn – yet she was repeatedly told that a lack of experience counted against her. But how could she gain experience without a job? I found the frustration immense; it must be crushing.
Yet there are hundreds like her across Gwent.
These are the people suffering because of the lack of growth in our economy – from the lack of a strategy to create jobs.
In any recession, the young suffer more than most.
But if we let a recession turn into a long-term slump, we risk creating a lost generation of young people whose whole lives are crushed by a lack of hope.
Human rights are often banded about in an inaccurate way. Yet one of the most basic human rights is the right to work.
The Welsh Assembly is doing its bit with the Future Jobs Fund to help our young people get a foot on the employment ladder. It is high time David Cameron and George Osborne played their part.
I hope Argus readers enjoy this new feature from your MPs.
I recognise that politicians aren’t the most popular people. Yet while we don’t agree about everything and have different ways of doing our jobs, I believe that as Gwent MPs, we all share a genuine desire to serve the public and stand up for our constituents.
Scepticism about those in power is not unhealthy – no-one should expect what they do or say to be blindly accepted.
But cynicism is quite different, and is a destructive force that I hope this column can help put right.