ON ENTERING Parliament, the great Nye Bevan wrote: “The first thing a new working-class MP should bear in mind is that these were not his ancestors.
His forebears had no part in the past, the accumulated dust of which now muffles his own footfalls. His forefathers were tending sheep or ploughing the land, or serving the statesmen whose names he sees written on the walls around him, or whose portraits look down upon him in the long corridors.
It is not the past of his people that extends in colourful pageantry before his eyes.
They were shut out from all this; were forbidden to take part in the dramatic scenes depicted in these frescoes.
In him his people are there for the first time.”
A former miner from the Valleys, Nye’s stirring words remind us of our community’s unique heritage. I quote him in full to draw attention to two very different portraits we will see this summer of our Valleys.
The first picture is of our young people on A-level results day. For 17 years I taught at Ebbw Vale College. I confess this time is just as tense for us as for students and parents. Each grade is a portrait of hard work and commitment of all the community that has supported them.
From here, many will set forth to universities, others will take on apprenticeships or take to jobs enriched from a fine education.
Above all it is an occasion to celebrate the best of our young people. The second picture is from a new constructed reality show The Valleys like The Only Way is Essex.
MTV describes how contestants will be “plucked from the tranquillity of Valley life” and “given the opportunity to leave their hamlets and change their lives in the city of Cardiff”.
I welcome any opportunity to share our proud communal identity but I fear this scripted and edited show will present a distorted viewpoint to the world that cheapens our rich history.
That’s why I am delighted to support the campaign The Valleys are Here.
It offers an authentic picture, revealing the everyday humanity, passion and beauty that make up life in our Valleys.
It is these personal experiences that Nye drew upon to create the National Health Service and construct social housing.
By sharing his portrait of life in the Valleys, Nye enriched our whole society. Like him, our young people deserve the opportunity to speak for themselves.
I wish them all the best.