I will give all I have for Steffan’s sake

Article by Delyth Jewell AM that first appeared in the Western Mail on 12/2/19

It has been an honour for me to take my seat this week in the National Assembly as Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East.  Over the coming weeks and months, I’m looking forward to getting to know constituents from across the region, and travelling around this beautiful, bustling corner of our country.  I was born in Caerphilly Miners Hospital, I grew up in Ystrad Mynach, and I went to school in Bargoed.  I now live in Quakers Yard, so I’m south east through and through.

Many of you will know that I have taken the seat in the most tragic of circumstances, with the death of my friend and colleague, Steffan Lewis.  In the coming weeks, whilst I seek to forge a path for myself in the new role, I’ll be thinking of Steffan often.  He has left a tremendous legacy.

I first met Steffan when we were both working for Plaid Cymru, he in Cardiff, and I in Westminster.  When Steffan came to visit our office, he had a way of setting the room alight with his passionate ideas, his tenacity, and his enthusiastic smile.  He challenged us to be more radical, and he was a pleasure to be around. 

Later, during the 2016 election campaign, Steffan and I walked the length and breadth of the south east together, from the steep streets of Merthyr to the towns of Monmouthshire, from Tredegar to Bedwas, and from the Usk valley to the hills of Dowlais and Aberfan.  We spent hours meeting the people who live in our valleys, our cities and our villages, and he spoke often of his young family and his hopes for the future.

Steffan was so proud to come from the land of Dic Penderyn, John Frost’s Newport Chartists, S.O. Davies, and the late, great Phil Williams, that it’s clear to me that his impact, too, will be felt long after his passing.  Our valleys and towns’ futures will forever owe a debt to Steffan’s legacy, of that I am certain.  The phrase is often used that “we are standing on the shoulders of giants”.  In Steffan’s case, I know that he is now amongst those other giants from our remarkable region, and the greatest gift we could ask of them is that they’ll let us stand on their mighty shoulders.

Many times over the past few weeks, I’ve thought about the words that President Lyndon Johnson said to the United States Congress in his first State of the Union address after President Kennedy was assassinated: -

“All I have, I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.” 

I have felt these words to be incredibly apt to my situation, too.  In saying this, I don’t mean to suggest that I’m not grateful for coming to the seat, nor indeed that I feel a lack of determination to do the best I can for the people of South Wales East.  Nothing could be further from the truth: I am ready and eager to work hard to help the people I’ve been elected to represent.  But that fact notwithstanding, President Johnson’s words speak to me on a fundamental level, because of the sadness I still feel about Steffan’s loss.  These words have brought about a determination in me, too: in order to honour his memory, I know I must give “all I have” for Steffan’s sake.

He was a giant of a man, but a gentle man too, and a friend even more.  It was my dream that we could have represented the south east together in our national Assembly.  That was, tragically, never to be, but there’s another set of words that have been ringing in my ears, and those are from perhaps Ireland’s greatest poet, W.B. Yeats.  He said that “in dreams begin responsibilities.”  I know now that I have a responsibility, not just to my constituents and party, but also to Steffan, to honour his memory in everything I do.

You can watch Delyth's tribute to Steffan in her maiden speech in the Senedd here: https://www.facebook.com/delythjewellAM/videos/610081639440887/

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