AN Ammanford woman will be standing for election for Welsh Labour in the next general election with the aim of making sure the Carmarthenshire community is given the best chance.

Martha O’Neill wants to make sure that people in the Ammanford and surrounding areas are remembered as she believes that they – like many areas across Wales – are often forgotten about by the Tories in power in Westminster.

Martha grew up in a single parent family in Ammanford after her dad died when she was 10. This spurred her to get into politics to make sure that future generations have the kind of benefits of growing up under a Labour government.

“I was talking to some people last week about the importance of things like the education maintenance allowance, which for me, growing up in Wales, allowed me to buy the books that got me into university and really kind of gave me the tools, I think, to thrive.

“And the security also that the welfare state had provided for my mum and me and my brother, who was only six when my dad passed away, I think was a really big motivator for me in terms of wanting to make sure other people are given the best chances.

“And also growing up in Ammanford, which is somewhere that feels occasionally forgotten about, particularly by the Tories in now, I’m just very keen to breathe some new life into ex-industrial areas and into our rural communities as well, because they are left behind in lots of different ways and ignored.

“I don’t think it’s fair and I think it’s probably that sense of fairness and justice as a young person, after my dad’s passing, that kind of drew me towards Labour politics especially.”

Martha studied politics at Trinity College in Cambridge after being awarded a scholarship which she found to be an eye-opener, being surrounded “by a level of privilege which I’d never seen before. Ans I encountered lots of very entitled, conservative minded men who really did feel as if it felt like they thought it was their rite of passage to go from private school to Cambridge.

“And as a result, I don’t think they quite knew what to do with me because, you know, I was willing to debate with them and willing to engage with them as a Welsh speaking girl from Ammanford. So that was quite an eye opener for me, I think, in terms of realising that if they thought they were good enough and haven’t questioned why they’re going into politics, why should I have my own self-doubt? So that was quite a big motivator for me.”

South Wales Guardian: Martha is already out canvassing across Carmarthenshire.Martha is already out canvassing across Carmarthenshire. (Image: Martha O'Neil)

Martha specialised in Welsh Labour history at university and if elected as the MP for the new Carmarthenshire seat, wants to make sure that the state works for Welsh people and that Welsh people feel represented in Parliament. After university, she spent time working for Dogs Trust and as a civil servant and has experience working with policies.

“I think, despite being quite young, I bring a lot of interesting policy experience and also a drive to do good. And that get up and go that I’m hoping people will see can lead to real change. So I’m feeling excited at the prospect of firstly running and if things go my way, and it’ll be a lot of work to go my way, looking forward to delivering that change for people in Carmarthenshire because I think we deserve it.”

At present it is not known when the general election will be called but it is set to be sometime in 2024. However, this has not stopped Martha and her team from beginning her campaign by getting out and about across Carmarthenshire to speak to residents, explaining her plans as a candidate and finding out about the issued closest to the hearts of the residents.

“When I’m out knocking doors, the biggest issue without exception is the cost-of-living crisis and a feeling that the Tories are not really a functioning government at the moment. And what I want to do when I’m in Parliament is raise those concerns around the cost-of-living crisis. How can we get the local Carmarthenshire economy working for ordinary people? So whether that’s driving investment, bringing jobs, and also, crucially, making sure that local people have the skills they need to access these new areas of investment that Carmarthenshire is really ripe to benefit from. So, there are advances in green technologies and new forms of industry that I think Carmarthenshire could really benefit from. But the only way that we can make sure that we benefit from it is if we have the skills.”

She is also passionate about ensuring that people have access to clean energy and good quality built homes.

Speaking on the levelling up project run by the UK Government, Martha said: “Levelling up hasn’t had a big levelling up effect in Wales at all. In fact, I would call levelling up just doing the government’s job. That’s what the government should be doing the whole time.”

Martha highlighted the fact that there is a need for change and this has been evident in her conversations with people across the county. She said that they are in agreement that change is needed and the Tory government is not working them. She said that so far, she has had very positive interactions when canvassing.

“When you’re out on the doorstep, people like the fact that we’re speaking Welsh. But there’s also a feeling, I would say that after Plaid came into power in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr back in 2001, and you ask people, has that really benefitted you yet? Have you felt the benefits of that? And people don’t really know how. People aren’t so sure.

“So again when I say that there is this feeling about needing change locally, I think there is an acceptance that actually we can look to Welsh Labour to provide that alternative for us, especially if we have Welsh Labour in the Senedd and Labour in Westminster, there will be more of an ability to work hand in glove to deliver the changes that Wales needs as a whole.

“So to be honest it’s been very positive and I’m very proud to be Welsh and I’m going into politics partly because of my want for Wales to be better represented.”