Sunday, 19 February 2012

Carwyn Jones' Speech to Welsh Labour Conference 2012

Chair, conference – thank you very much for that welcome.

Cadeirydd, cynhadledd - diolch yn fawr iawn am y croeso.

In welcoming everyone to Cardiff, can I just say that's its clear that there's a tremendous buzz around conference this weekend.

Since we met last February at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, it has been an extraordinary year, so that buzz is understandable.

It’s been an extraordinary year – not just for this party, but for Wales as a whole.

Twelve months ago, we stood on the verge of holding a referendum to have more law-making powers for our Assembly.

Twelve months ago – simultaneously in fact - we were preparing for the Assembly election that would immediately follow that referendum.

And we can be proud of what we achieved in both!

Firstly, the referendum.

When you think back to 1997 when the ‘Yes’ vote squeaked home, the margin of victory last March bore no comparison to that previous vote.

It showed clearly, how far Wales has travelled in 12 relatively short years.

From the first faltering steps of the early days of devolution, Wales not only gave a massive thumbs up to having its own Assembly.

It also embraced overwhelmingly - across this land - the principle of having our very own fully-fledged legislature.

Wales said loud and clear that it wanted an Assembly that can make its own laws - in the interest of ALL the people of our country,
that we now have the confidence to make our own decisions.

What a difference in just over a decade.

As I said on the day of the referendum result – it was the day that an old nation came of age and, you know, as a Party, we shouldn't underplay what we achieved last March.

This Party played a central role in securing that ‘Yes’ vote - as did our friends in the Welsh trades union movement.

We can all be proud of what we achieved!

And no sooner had the polls closed last March, than we were straight into the Assembly election campaign.

I think it’s fair to say that the 'Yes' vote in the referendum gave a huge boost to our morale and it was a true springboard for what we would achieve over the coming days and weeks.

The elections to the Assembly on the 5th May last year, gave our Party the best EVER result since devolution in 1999.

Colleagues, there can be no greater achievement for a political party than to secure the support and the endorsement of the people.

There can be no greater honour for this party than to serve the Welsh people; to be entrusted with their hopes, their aspirations and their ambitions.

The people of Wales put their trust in us – and colleagues, I pledge again today - we will not let them down.

As you know, elections are not won on just words and promises.

It takes great organisation and campaigning skills to make the difference.

For a start, we had a team of superb candidates who took our vision to the doorsteps of Wales with real gusto – many of whom now find themselves as Assembly Members.

Well done all of you!

Back at the 'ranch' in Transport House, we had a fantastic team led by our General Secretary, Dave Hagendyk and his staff.

I would like to say a special thanks to Dave and his team this afternoon.

Can I also thank Paul O’Shea for his work over the last twelve months as Chair and his contribution to the Party and to UNISON.

Thank you Paul.

But there was another reason why we won last May.

Our manifesto.

Our manifesto for last year's Assembly election was the most comprehensive set of policies and ideas EVER put before the people of Wales, by ANY political party.

Twelve months ago when we met in Llandudno, I made some promises to you.

Promises about our Welsh Labour values, about our principles – about what we stand for as members of this great Party of ours.

I spoke of how we wouldn’t accept another lost generation of young people who would have no work.

I spoke of how, unlike the Tories in England, we would defend our NHS.

I spoke of how we would make our communities safer.

And I spoke of how we would invest in the future for our children.

The offer we made to our people at that conference was that if they placed their trust in us on Polling Day – we would repay them by standing up for Wales.

I am proud to say, that’s precisely what we are doing on a daily basis for the people of this country.

Conference, we now need to take that momentum and vision into the next fight ahead of us – the local elections in a couple of months time.

As we continue to stand up for Wales in both the Assembly and at Westminster, Thursday, 3rd May will give us the opportunity to re-state that pledge at a local level - on your local council, in your local ward, and in your own communities.

I know from meeting councillors from those authorities that we now run and those we currently don't, that there is a real desire to take Welsh Labour's vision to the doorsteps over the coming weeks.

We are not complacent. We have to go out and fight for EVERY SINGLE VOTE.

But the spirit and the enthusiasm I am witnessing right across Wales is infectious and in my experience, unprecedented. We have a great chance to do well in May.

Today, I would like to thank Peter Hain for chairing the strategy group that is the 'engine room' of our council election campaign.

Peter - you're doing a great job! Thank you!

Now colleagues, we have always prided ourselves on being a compassionate Party.

So, let’s collectively dig deep both financially and emotionally this weekend - and spare a thought for our 'friends' in the Welsh Tory Party.

As you know, it's been a less than auspicious start to 2012 for the Tories and especially for their new Leader in Wales.

Cheryl Gillan, we are told, finds him “irritating”.

We also hear that his group in the Assembly are now briefing against him.

Then, out of the blue - if you pardon the pun – came that news that they had cancelled their annual conference in Llandudno due to lack of funds.

Nothing tugs my heart strings more, than seeing a bunch of hard-up Tories being forced to cancel their weekend by the seaside.

So, to show Welsh Labour's generosity of spirit, do you think we should start an appeal to help save the Welsh Tories?!

Giving is easy comrades.

Just remember to make your cheques out to.......

Lord Michael Aschroft.

We might laugh, but we know in reality, there is nothing remotely funny about the Tory Party – whether they are in London or here in Wales.

Their approach in dealing with the economic downturn means the UK now has the highest unemployment for 17 years.

Presumably, ‘a price worth paying’ again.

They’re decimating the NHS in England – opening it up to profit-making private firms – despite the groundswell of opposition from the very doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to ensure a quality service, free at the point of delivery.

They are intent on imposing savage cuts on public services - cuts which will destroy peoples’ services, their jobs and their lives.

And now the Tories' latest stunt.

They want to impose regional pay settlements on Wales.

Well, conference, we all know where that road leads.

It leads to pay cuts for Welsh workers.

Well I have a message for the Tory / Lib Dem coalition.

A simple message – we will fight your plans to destroy people’s livelihoods!

There is one thing you can say about the Tories however - they are consistent.

Wanting to cut the benefits of 7,000 cancer sufferers is consistent with the Tory Party we all remember.

Because let's be under no illusion conference.

The 'nasty party' aren't back.

The 'nasty party' never went away!

And what of the Conservative leader in the Assembly, Andrew RT Davies?

It hasn't taken us long to work out that when Cheryl says - “Andrew jump!”, he doesn't ask “Why?”

He asks “How high?”

On every occasion, instead of speaking up for the people of Wales, the Welsh Tory Leader just rolls over and does as he's told.

So what about Plaid Cymru?

By common consent, they are in a deep trough of their own making.

Is it any surprise that they are now the third party in Welsh politics?

In the May elections, voters came home to Labour because they identified with our promise to Stand up for Wales.

Perhaps in the past we have been too reticent to remind people that Labour IS the only true party of Wales, well no more.

Things have changed.

Since last year's election Plaid has put on the mantle of a protest group – it's where they began after all.

They're in their comfort zone when they're waving placards.

But Plaid voters surely expect and deserve better.

During difficult times, with difficult decisions to be made, they want leadership from their politicians - not protest.

You can't negotiate a fair deal for Wales with a placard in your hand.

You don't get investment in big projects armed with a megaphone.

You do it through leadership, through persuasion, through making Wales' case robustly and clearly.

In their recent internal review, Plaid themselves recognised they had lost ground to us because we are seen as the ‘Welsh’ party, whilst Plaid Cymru was seen as the ‘Welsh speaking’ party.

Well, I would rather stick to the facts.

No other party has a better record on the Welsh language than Labour - and I believe its time for us to do more to remind people of that.

Whilst Plaid Cymru wrestle with the frivolous notion of creating an English name for themselves, we have established Wales' first ever Welsh Language Commissioner.

And next month the Welsh Labour Government will launch a new Welsh Language Strategy – bolder and more forward thinking than anything that has come before.

It will be a strategy that recognises that for many families, Welsh is no longer simply the language of the hearth, but the language of the social network too.

Welsh Labour - standing up for the language and our communities the length and breadth of our country.

So today, I say this to those people who aren’t card carrying members of Plaid Cymru, but have supported them in the past.

If you believe in Wales, if you believe that together we can build an even stronger nation, take our own decisions and forge a path best suited to our people – then Welsh Labour IS YOUR party.

If you voted Plaid, believing them when they said they’d speak up for Wales – only to find them refusing to rule out a coalition deal with Tories, then Welsh Labour IS YOUR party.

If you believe that quality Welsh jobs, good education in Welsh schools and ensuring we have vibrant communities in Wales are more important than constitutional navel-gazing, then Welsh Labour IS YOUR party.

If you voted Plaid, but know, as I do, that independence is bad for Wales, then Welsh Labour IS YOUR party.

Os ydych chi’n credu mewn Cymru, os ydych chi’n credu taw trwyddo gweithio gyda’n gilydd gallwn adeiladu cenedl gryfach, cymryd penderfyniadau ein hun a chreu llwybr i‘r dyfodol I’n pobl- Llafur Cymru YW EICH plaid.

Os gefnogoch chi Plaid Cymru, ar ol credu nhw pan ddywedon nhw y byddan nhw’n sefyll cornel Cymru, dim ond I glywed nhw’n dweud y byddan nhw’n barod I weithio gyda’r Toriaid- Llafur Cymru YW EICH plaid.

Os ydych chi’n credu bod swyddi o ansawdd, addysg da mewn ysgolion Cymru a sicrhau cymunedau bywiog yng Nghymru yn bwysicach na siarad trwy’r amser am y cyfansoddiad-Llafur Cymru YW EICH plaid

Os gefnogoch chi Plaid Cymru, ond chi’n gwybod, fel ‘dw I yn, y byddai annibyniaeth yn wael I Gymru, Llafur Cymru YW EICH plaid.

What about the Lib Dems?

It's interesting to see them scurrying around the Senedd jumping on every passing bandwagon at the moment, acting holier than thou.

They're desperately trying to clean up their act.

They're desperately trying to detoxify themselves ahead of the May elections.

If you listen hard conference you can actually hear the fear filling the corridors of Cardiff City Hall and the Guildhalls in Wrexham and Swansea.

But it's far too late for them to reverse the damage of the last two years.

The political reality is that they've propped up the 'nasty party' and they are about to suffer the electoral consequences at a local level.

Despite their attempts to distance themselves from the Tories, the people of Wales are far too savvy to be conned by the next ‘Focus’ leaflet that drops though the letterbox.

Their betrayal has been exposed.

The Lib Dems are as guilty and as responsible as the Tories for wanting to cut the benefits of the most vulnerable people in Wales.

The Lib Dems are as guilty and as responsible as the Tories for the closure of Newport Passport Office.

The Lib Dems are as guilty and as responsible as the Tories for the closure of the Swansea Coastguard station.

The Lib Dems are as guilty and as responsible as the Tories for not having already delivered on rail electrification to Swansea.

The fact is BOTH the Tories and the Lib Dems have let Wales down.

And on Thursday, 3rd May they’ll BOTH get their comeuppance!

You know, last May we won a fourth term because we showed people that we have the ideas, the vision and the drive to create a better Wales for them and their families.

We pledged we would show there IS an alternative to the destructive path being followed by the ConDems over the border.

That unlike the unholy alliance of Cameron and Clegg, Welsh Labour would stand up for the people of Wales and the services they depend on.

This wasn’t just rhetoric or down to dogma.

We can show there IS another way.

Let’s take the examples of our health service and the economy.

Conference, we all know and we cherish the bonds between this Party and our national health service.

The fact is that no other political party would have had the vision, nor the will to create it.

Over the course of the last 66 years, the NHS has seen many changes.

Indeed, one of the strengths of the NHS as we know it, has been its ability to adapt and modernise.

Satisfaction levels for the NHS are so high because it delivers for the here and now, not for twenty or thirty years ago.

That's one reason why it holds such a unique place in the hearts of people everywhere.

But staying relevant and modern is only one part of the equation when it comes to explaining the longevity of our health service.

There is another part of the equation which is equally as important, yet too often overlooked.

I am talking about the NHS staff - the dedication of the porters, the nurses, the cleaners, the physios, the cooks, the doctors and all the other professions – all playing their part in ensuring the best care possible is delivered to patients.

It is THEIR dedication that makes the NHS happen. They are what keep the NHS going.

And that's why we salute them all today!

Yet in the face of the efforts of those dedicated staff, in the face of massive public concern, in the face of rumblings of discontent within the Cabinet even, the ConDems are relentlessly bulldozing ahead with their plans for NHS reforms in England.

Let me state for the avoidance of doubt, that I strongly believe in accessible, high quality, citizen-centred services for all – not choice for the few. Publicly funded, publicly provided and free at the point of delivery.

We want to see good GP services right across Wales with improved access for working people.

We are ensuring better care for patients in their communities.

We want world class centres of excellence for specialised services such as cancer, stroke or heart attack.

We are putting improving the health of our nation and PREVENTING illness at the heart of what we do.

We insist that our elderly are treated with dignity within the NHS in Wales.

Unlike the Tories, we will not dismantle the NHS.

Unlike the Tories, we will not privatise the NHS.

Conference – today we make the pledge to the people of Wales.

The forces of marketisation and privatisation of the NHS will stop at the border.

But let’s be clear – we know we have challenges of our own in Wales, when it comes to health.

If the NHS in Wales is to continue receiving the support of patients and the public alike, then it has to continue changing and improving.

And that change must be informed by our NHS professionals – the very people who know how to deliver safe, high quality treatment as close to where people live as possible.

They are the people making life and death decisions – the ones who 'carry the can' professionally when things go awry.

It is those people we must listen to when it comes to delivering safe and improved healthcare across Wales.

Er mwyn cadw cefnogaeth y cyhoedd mae rhaid I’r GIG barhau I newid. Dylai’r newidiadau hyn gael eu harwain gan y bobl brofessiynol sydd yn gwneud penderfyniadau hollbwysig ynghlyn a gofal pobl pob dydd.

Beth wi eisiau yw gwasanaethau ardderchog a saff sydd mor agos I bobl a sy’n bosib

Conference, we hear the quite shameless political opportunism of some of our opponents at the moment - trying to whip people up into a fervour about what local health boards might or might not do when no decisions have actually been made.

If ever we needed proof that we are taking the NHS in the right direction here in Wales, we only have to look at what is currently happening in England.

And if that’s not enough, take the word of the 8 out of 10 Welsh GPs who according to the BMA, say they would much rather be working here in Wales than in England.

The reason?

Simply that 82% of Doctors who responded to the BMA backed moves by successive Welsh governments to remove competition by abolishing the internal market from the NHS.

I think the Chair of BMA Wales got it right when he said:

“Doctors in Wales remain loyal to the principles set out for the NHS by Aneurin Bevan.”

He went on:

“Consecutive Welsh Governments have diminished the role of the private sector from the NHS, and the purchaser/provider split no longer operates. This was the right decision for doctors, and the right decision for patients.”

What the Tories and their Lib Dem accomplices are doing to the NHS in England is ideologically driven.

Why can't they find within themselves the humility to say - “We got it wrong”?

The more I read about the Tories' wretched Health and Social Care Bill, the more it reminds me of the famous Monty Python dead-parrot sketch.

Any day now, I half expect Andrew Lansley to pop-up on the news and declare:

“This Bill is not dead – it's just pining for the fjords!”

Colleagues, we can be proud that we are showing there is an alternative to what the Tories and the Lib Dems have to offer when it comes to health.

The NHS - made by Labour and safe with Labour!

Conference, when it comes to the economy and the jobs market, we know people are facing tough times on so many different levels.

In Wales, we don’t possess all the economic levers that control our economy - however since we formed the Welsh Labour Government last May, we have taken decisive steps to help shore-up the Welsh economy against the downturn.

From day one, I asked every Minister in my Cabinet to see what projects could be brought forward to help support the Welsh economy at this crucial juncture.

I'm proud to say action we have taken is not just about the 'here and now' - but in many instances, the initiatives we have set in train will help Wales in the years to come too.

Actions like:

Our £55 million package to support business growth in Wales - vital in creating opportunities for new entrepreneurs.

Our £30m Skills Growth Wales scheme – which will support the creation of 3000 jobs and ensure that the businesses and the workers in Wales who are best placed to grow our economy, will get the support they need.

Our £39 million package to stimulate the economy - giving resources for the Young Recruits Programme - as well as major investment in our schools and social housing.

And that’s in addition to bringing forward £90 million of capital funding for projects across the country, along with £170m of investment in road improvements over the next three years.

And why have we made these decisions?

Why have we acted so quickly to develop new programmes and fund major building projects in Wales?

Conference, I will tell you why – it is because of the membership cards in our pockets.

It is because we are Labour and we remain true to Labour values.

And our values demand that when faced with the big challenges in society, we meet those challenges head on.

In the whole history of British politics there has never been a Labour Government that has looked upon inequality, and injustice and at the broken lives of the worst off and thought – “let the market sort that out”.

That remains the great dividing line in British politics – and that is the great dividing line in the Assembly too.

Between our Welsh Labour Government on the side of the people – and the Opposition parties on the sidelines making plenty of noise, but with no ideas of their own.

But we will not be derailed by their attacks, because they are hollow - and listening to them would mean a replication of the handwringing we see now in Westminster.

Conference, where WE see wrongs in our society WE will intervene to protect the vulnerable.

Where our economy is weak or stumbles, we will support our businesses and our workers to help stimulate growth.

And we do these things without apology because unlike the Conservatives who believe that politics is a game of chance, we believe in Government as a force for good.

We promised last May to stand up for the people of Wales against the worst excesses of this Tory Government - and that is just what we are doing.

Welsh Labour. Standing up for Wales.

Conference, when I spoke to you in Llandudno last year and I told you we would take action to prevent another lost generation of young Welsh people, I meant it.

Since devolution fewer young people leave school without qualifications.

More go on into Further and Higher Education.

More of our young people are now fulfilling their potential.

Fewer are being told ‘you can’t do this – aim lower’.

But we know there is much more to do.

That is why when I became Leader I made education a priority.

I promised then, we’d deliver millions extra for our schools in Wales – and we’ve done it!

We promised too, that we would fill the void left behind by the Tory decision to break their promise and axe the Future Jobs Fund.

We have done that through the creation of the Jobs Growth Wales programme - £75million a year to give 4000 young people a chance to succeed.

An out and out Welsh Labour designed, made-in-Wales solution to the mess the Tories left behind.

Conference, never forget that that is FOUR THOUSAND young people, who the Tories would have abandoned, but who we will help.

Now, too often people hear the term “Sustainable Development” and think of the environmental agenda – as if it’s something that is optional.

Well I tell you now, it is time to unlearn that way of thinking because these are the watch words that will underpin ALL the decisions this Government makes in office – and the economy is central to that.

That means our economic approach will not just be about weathering the current storm, though that remains a priority – but our daily decisions will be made in line with delivering a sustainable economy that delivers for our children, a legacy that will outlive all of us.

That is what I mean by ambition, not to govern for today, but for tomorrow as well.

That is why we have a renewed focus on education and schools standards.

That is why we are not interested in the siren calls of regional pay, lower corporation tax and the “race to the bottom” that that will undoubtedly involve.

No, it means instead a stronger focus on supporting:

The skills base of those in work and seeking work:

Our indigenous small businesses;

Our infrastructure; and

Our anchor companies

These are the building blocks of a sustainable Welsh economy and this is where our Welsh Labour Government will target our efforts.

Welsh Labour. Standing up for Wales. Standing up for the people of Wales.

Showing that there IS another way to protect our people during these difficult times.

Conference, Labour in Wales is in a unique position.

We’re able to show colleagues in other parts of the UK that with ideas, a vision and a determination to protect our most vulnerable, Labour can win.

We’re able to prove to the public in other parts of the UK that Labour is still fighting for them and still defending them. Labour is on their side.

Because of devolution, we can let people compare the Welsh Labour way – of fairness and social justice, and a more progressive way – to that of the approach of the Tories and Lib Dems at Westminster.

We must not squander this moment – we must seize for all its worth.

Welsh Labour in Government must not be just about managing the country. It has to be about offering an alternative vision for ordinary people.

Those people who lie awake at night worrying about their jobs - not about independence.

Those who want a better health service to care for their families – not a privately run free-for-all.

Those who want a better education for their children – not an obsession with so-called free schools.

Every week, in the Senedd we hear the Welsh Tory obsession with what's happening in England.

Every week, in the Senedd we hear the Plaid Cymru obsession with what's happening in Scotland.

Well conference – I'm going to let you into a little secret today.

You know what I'm obsessed about?

Wales - and the welfare of the Welsh people!

So colleagues, lets take that message to the doorstep in the coming weeks.

Our promise is that this party will offer inspiration, dedication and perspiration to protect our people.

Colleagues, lets go out and win for Wales, win for Britain and deliver a fair, prosperous future for our children.

They deserve nothing less.

Diolch yn fawr.