The following interview was actually for an assignment (I’m a final year Journalism student at Cardiff University). It’s with Julie Morgan, who is currently Labour’s candidate for Cardiff North for the Welsh Assembly elections.
The interview is written as a magazine feature, so please excuse the cheese.
Exploring the person behind the politics: Katie Murdoch chats to Cardiff’s local politician, activist and mother, Julie Morgan.
Sitting in former MP Julie Morgan’s cosy office, it is clear to see how well-respected she still is by the local people as they come in asking for her advice on various issues.
A passionate defender of the community, Julie, 66, attributes her longstanding enthusiasm in political activism to her mother. “She was a single parent and always fought to give me the best possible upbringing. She worked in Ely Hospital looking after disabled children and always stood up for the underdog.” Smiling as she speaks, it’s clear that Julie speaks about her mother with visible pride.
Before her career in politics, Julie had studied English at King’s College London, later becoming a social worker with Barry Social Services. She accredits her social work for helping her realise that she wanted to support people on a wider scale. “I felt that I could help people through social work, or try going into politics and do it perhaps to a greater degree.”
She notes how difficult it was then, and still is today, for women to break into jobs in politics and other high-power professions. “We have plenty of strong and very capable women and minorities who want these jobs, but there are still very obvious problems within organisations that make it very difficult for them.” She speaks about her own experience of standing for council in Cardiff and being confronted by discrimination, with people questioning her capability of having a job in politics and managing a family.
When asked how she did balance working in parliament with her home life during the 13 years she was an MP, she replies “It was actually more difficult looking after my mother than my children, who were grown up by the time I won the seat in Cardiff North.” She continues that her mother had become very disabled in her final years and needed a lot of carers throughout the day. “It was like managing a small business from London, which I found very tough, I felt very guilty that I couldn’t be there for her more.”
In last year’s general election Julie lost her seat to Conservative Party candidate Jonathan Evans. “It was a really sad moment after 13 years of serving Cardiff North, but I was expected to lose by a lot more than the 194 votes, considering the national result.” The hardest part of losing was making two employees and friends redundant she says sincerely, “they had worked hard even out of their office hours knocking doors and rallying support, I felt awful that I had to let them go.”
Julie’s currently campaigning to become Cardiff North’s Welsh Assembly Member in May’s elections, but when she has more time to herself she and her husband, former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, enjoy staying in their caravan in West Wales and swimming in the sea, “it’s incredibly relaxing and enjoyable in the summer” she says, smiling warmly.