JOYCE WATSON AM’S ‘POLITICALLY SPEAKING’ COLUMN

August is traditionally a slow news month, the height of silly season when funny and frivolous stories bulk out the headlines. But the news is relentless these days, too often for the wrong reasons. At the Assembly, there’s nothing silly about Gareth Bennett being elected leader of Ukip. He has achieved the position by being offensive about minorities. He claims his critics stifle free speech, that his opinions are common sense. Nonsense. He can say what he likes, within the law, and it is often nonsense, like the bizarre claim that extending transgender rights would lead to the ‘implosion’ of society. When an elected representative uses their privileged position to attack minorities and disseminate false information, though, it is dangerous and must be challenged.

For example, Gareth Bennet made a video accusing me of wasting public money by not using a train ticket that had been paid for by the Assembly. It wasn’t true. That is not opinion, it is fact. I referred the case to the Standards Commissioner and Gareth Bennett was ordered to delete the video and issue a public apology. I can stick up for myself but we should all stick up for vulnerable communities when people in power attack them for political gain. As health secretary Vaughan Gething tweeted:

“There is a temptation to laugh at this but it really isn’t funny. A deeply offensive man but not amusing in the slightest. He is however the clear choice of UKIP members. That tells you all you need to know.” Hear, hear!

Not all the news is discouraging, though. I read a fascinating report this week about how the exceptionally dry weather has revealed archaeological sites across the UK, millennia of hidden human history. The aerial photographs show ancient farms, burial mounds and neolithic monuments not visible on the ground. Even when it is visible, however, we can overlook our ancient heritage. That is why this summer Cadw has launched a new booklet for visitors: ‘Cestyll y Tywysogion a’r Arglwyddi / The Castles of the Lords and Princes of Wales’. With the remains of up to 500 earthworks and stone castles in Wales, there is lots to explore and (re)discover including: Dolforwyn Castle near Newtown; Domen Castle in Welshpool; Rhayader Castle; Sycharth motte and bailey, Llansilin; and Powis Castle. For more information, visit: http://cadw.gov.wales/splash?orig=/daysout/maps-and-itineraries/the-castles-of-the-lords-princes-of-wales/

So make the most of summer and immerse yourself in Welsh history, if only to forget the news for a day or two (except the County Times, of course!).