Sparing the spin...

WITH National Assembly elections approaching, and parties printing their leaflets, a fascinating glimpse of polls past arrived in my post.
It was the 1951 election address of a previous Labour MP for Cardiff West, George Thomas, which a colleague had found in a second hand bookshop.

In some ways, it is so different from today's glossy handouts. This was before the age of widespread television, and post war rationing lingered on.

The leaflet explained that, due to the paper shortage, George was sending only one election address to each family.

Today's election leaflets often have an endorsement from members of the public, but how many modern politicians would include a photograph and endorsement from their mother? "I see in our house his determination to do his best for all," wrote Mrs Thomas. She went on to say how she enjoyed being with George at all the street teas in Cardiff West.

But in many ways, the themes of George's election leaflet are the same as today.
He boasts of the achievement by the 1945-51 Labour Government of full employment. We, too, live in a period when joblessness is at its lowest for decades.

He promises better educational opportunities, to improve the quality of housing, keep down the cost of living and look after older people.

It seems strange that there is no mention of the National Health Service, which we now regard as the crowning achievement of the 1945-51 Labour Government.

Perhaps this was due to the bitter arguments in the Labour Government at the time over introducing prescription charges, which had led to the resignation of Aneurin Bevan.

Ironically, this week Rhodri Morgan announced his plan to abolish the prescription charges which the Labour Chancellor Hugh Gaitskell brought in all those years ago to help pay for increased military spending. Ironic, too, that the other big theme of George's leaflet was peace.

"It was only the patient yet firm behaviour of the British Labour Government that prevented the outbreak of world war early this year when MacArthur wanted to attack China," wrote George about the Korean War.

There is nothing new about international arguments on how best to deal with rogue states.

Fifty years later, Korea is still partitioned, British troops are again in action with Americans, and Labour politicians worry about how to restrain the more gung-ho' approach of the American leadership.

George Thomas won his election, of course. He comfortably defeated his Conservative opponent, city councillor Lincoln Hallinan.

He served another 32 years, eventually becoming Speaker at the House of Commons.
In 1951, 82.6 per cent of the electorate voted.

Wouldn't it be nice if that were one tradition we could revive in the National Assembly elections on May 1?