Sunday, 19 February 2012

Peter Hain's Speech to Welsh Labour Conference 2012

Paul – as you retire, a big thank you for all you have done for the Party and for public sector workers across Wales.

Cardiff – what a great city.

And – never forget – transformed into this wonderful capital of Wales by Labour.

Before 1997, Cardiff was a very different place, suffering a hangover, like the rest of Britain, from 18 long years of Tory damage and neglect.

People now almost take the transformation of Cardiff for granted – like so much achieved by our Labour Government.

Before 1997: no magnificent Cardiff Bay.

No regenerated City Centre.

No iconic new Assembly building….

No Assembly! No Wales Millennium Centre – a world class hub for our arts.

And no world-class Millennium stadium to cheer on our world-beating rugby team, and the next 6-nation champions.

England – bring it on!

Cardiff 2012: a big Labour success story because we were in power – delivering Labour investment from Westminster and dynamic Labour leadership in the City.

And – in just a couple of months from now, the chance for Cardiff to lift-off again – to escape Lib Dem stagnation and incompetence – by electing a Labour-led Cardiff Council.

Conference – give a big round of applause for Labour’s Team Cardiff standing up for this city, and working flat out to win in May.

And not just Cardiff, but two other great Welsh cities – Swansea, Wales’ Premiership city…..with a great football team.
Newport: another testament to past Labour achievement.

Swansea and Newport – two Labour teams campaigning hard to win in May.

So that Labour’s David Philips and Bob Bright can become leaders of their cities and help both protect their communities against the savage cuts of this Tory-led Government and stand up for Swansea and Newport.

In North Wales – in Flintshire and Wrexham, our teams led by Aaron Shotton and Neil Rogers are up against a wave of so-called Independent candidates.

Independents with no manifesto, no plan and no clue – many of them closet Tories: they just knew they’d never get elected in North East Wales with a blue rosette on.

We need Labour councillors to do all they can to protect our local communities from the Tory Government’s cuts and stand up for Flintshire and Wrexham.

And I tell you –so-called Independent councillors can’t do that.

Local Labour teams are campaigning tirelessly across Wales.

Ably assisted by Dave Hagendyk, an inspiration in Welsh Labour's Head Office.

A big thank you Dave.

With a dedicated Welsh Labour staff team: Huw Price, Martin Eaglestone, Michelle Perfect, Louise Magee, Luke Holland, Jo Galazka, Lauren Allpress, Mary Williams, Sarah Murphy. Thank you too for a fantastic job winning for Labour in 2011. I’m confident we can repeat that with storming victories in wards right across Wales in 2012.

Thanks also for all the volunteer Party stewards who make this conference possible led by the wonderful Lynne Glazer.

Special thanks to our comrades in the trade union movement.

When families of the four miners so tragically killed last September most needed help, who came to their side? The South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.

Wayne Thomas, thank you.

And thank you, one and all, for the incredible £1 million we raised in the Appeal Fund.

When terrified Muslim communities faced attacks from the evil BNP and the Welsh Defence League, who came to their side to fight fascism and racism? Unite the trade union.

Andy Richards, thank you.

When nurses and teaching assistants and cleaners and carers faced sickening attacks on their pensions by Iain Duncan Smith, who came to their side to their side? Unison. Paul O’Shea, thank you again.

When workers across the country face government cuts from George Osborne, who came to their side? The GMB.

Allan Garley, thank you.

And all the best in your retirement. Conference, another fine servant of the movement.

When the Royal Mail is privatized and cut by Vince Cable, who defended local communities?

The CWU. Gary Watkins, thank you.

When shop workers are bullied and abused, who stands up for them? Usdaw.

Nick Ireland, thank you.

When workers face danger on construction sites, who protects them? UCATT.

Nick Blundell, thank you.

And to all our other affiliated trade unions – Community, ASLEF, the Musicians, BECTU, the Bakers Union, NACODS, TSSA – we say: a hundred years ago, you formed the Labour Party.

We still need you, the country still needs you.

Isn’t it hypocritical how William Hague applauds trade unions struggling against injustice in Iraq or Libya or Egypt or Burma, but denigrates trade unions in Britain?

Last year in Llandudno, I warned that the Tory-led Government’s callous and unfair cuts were beginning to bite.

There is no doubting the pain that people right across Wales are now feeling.

To add insult to injury, even by their own dubious standards, the Tories’ cuts are not working.

The economy is flat-lining.

There is a jobs and growth crisis in Wales and right across Britain and this Government, so obsessed with cutting, has no idea what to do about it.

As the UK Government does more and more damage, the job of the Welsh Government becomes harder, and one man consistently rises to the challenge – our First Minister Carwyn Jones, showing every day the Labour alternative to the right wing Westminster agenda.

Last year I urged you to go that extra mile, do that additional leaflet round, knock-up that extra street.

So that we could kick the Nationalists out of Government in Wales and isn’t it wonderful, Carwyn, that you were able to do just that!

Our Labour Ministers in the Assembly are putting David Cameron Nick Clegg, George Osborne and the rest of them to shame.

Jane Hutt: fighting for fairer funding for Wales – not advocating regional pay.

Why should a Welsh nurse or teacher doing exactly the same job be paid less than an English one? It's a downright insult.

Lesley Griffiths: improving our NHS – not privatising it.

Leighton Andrews: keeping student fees low and demanding rising school standards – not throwing education to the free market.

Edwina Hart: championing business, protecting jobs – not stifling growth.

Huw Lewis: building more homes – not kicking people out on to the streets.

Carl Sargeant: ensuring local government delivers high quality services – not turning town halls into centres for managing private contracts on cut budgets.

John Griffiths: serious sustainable government – not green stunts and gimmicks quickly abandoned.

Carwyn and his team of Ministers: every hour of every day, showing the rest of Britain that there is a better way – a Labour way.

Social justice, democracy, equality, fairness, caring, solidarity, freedom – Welsh Labour values.

Never will we allow individual greed to triumph over our Labour values.

Never will we put bankers’ bonuses ahead of hardworking people and hardworking businesses.

But it’s not been an easy two years in Opposition for Labour in Westminster.

In fact, it’s been really tough.

Opposition always is – frustrating too.

Holding the Tories to account across Government every day, our Welsh MPs on the front bench do a terrific job: Wayne David, Chris Bryant, David Hanson, Owen Smith, Ian Lucas, Kevin Brennan, Glenys Kinnock, Mark Tami, Chris Ruane.

My Shadow Wales Team – Nia Griffith, Susan Jones, Jessica Morden and Anita Gale – all strong Welsh Labour women doing a great job too.

Mind you – spare us some sympathy: it's not much cop Shadowing a Secretary of State who doesn’t seem to do anything for Wales: she’s been too busy elsewhere, stopping trains, building tunnels and selling houses in her Buckinghamshire constituency.

She’s not a Welsh Secretary, she’s an anti-Welsh Secretary!

But it's what she, her fellow Tories and their Lib Dem helpers, are doing to the most vulnerable in Wales that makes me really, really angry.

Their brass-neck on benefit reform is unbelievable.

First, sensational stories about benefit cheats: like one "disabled" claimant caught running a marathon, another water-skiing in a foreign resort. As if these exceptions were the norm, when official government figures show disability fraud is just 0.5 per cent.

Then they exploit screaming headlines in the tabloids to make benefit cuts – savage cuts.

Most disabled children will lose £27 a week, and families with two disabled children will lose twice as much.

More than 40 per cent of disabled children already live below the poverty line, as their mothers can't work and have extra childcare costs.

Or take the parents with three severely autistic children who cannot work because they have to be fulltime carers.

They will lose £53 weekly.

To make matters even worse, they don't know yet whether the new housing benefit rules will allow them to stay in their four bed home rented for £181 weekly because these rules only entitle them to a 3 bedroom house.

The mother feels totally betrayed by her MP, a Tory Cabinet Minister, for whom she voted after he promised her on her doorstep that David Cameron would never cut support for disabled children like hers.

25,000 young carers looking after disabled parents will lose £70 a week.

Disabled ex-soldiers face misery.

Even cancer sufferers face deep cuts.

Many with MS, motor neurone and other chronic diseases will lose Employment and Support Allowance.

In six weeks time on 1 April, 280,000 disabled people, both young and old, will have their benefits cut.

Disability Living allowance will be cut by a fifth.

That means no funds for transport or day centre fees, just as council social services are withdrawn.

But that's not all: this is only half the sum the Government has pledged to cut from disability benefits.

People on DLA will also have regular new tests by their GP's and by outside assessors, costing a staggering extra £675m to administer.

Instead of paying private companies administrative fees, why not spend that money on vulnerable disabled citizens?

And all the while they are making life tougher for our most helpless families, the Tories and Lib Dems are still at it – peddling their Big Deceit.

‘Today's public sector deficit was caused by excess Labour spending.

Too much Labour borrowing led to too much national debt.

So the cuts are all Labour’s fault.’

All Tory / LibDem lies.

Never let them get away with it.

Remind everyone of the truth about Labour’s economic record.


If Labour spending was 'out of control' why did George Osborne in September 2007 commit a Tory government to matching Labour's public spending plans for the next three years, up to 2010?

The truth is, before the global financial crisis, public spending under Labour took a smaller share of national income in Britain than in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway or Sweden.


Until the global banking crisis British government debt was low – below that of France, Germany, America or Japan.

It was 6 per cent lower than when we took office from the Tories in 1997.

Ten years of steady economic growth under Labour allowed us to pay down debt by the equivalent of £90 billion today, saving taxpayers some £3 billion a year in interest payments.

We did fix the roof while the sun was shining.


Between 1997 and 2007 annual Labour borrowing averaged only one third of annual borrowing by the Thatcher and John Major governments.

Where we went wrong was not in spending or borrowing too much.

With every other government, we failed to spot that a fast-growing, unregulated banking sector plunged us all into a catastrophic crisis, and the threat of a world depression worse even than the 1930s.

Until governments, led by Labour in Britain, injected some 7 trillion dollars of guarantees to save banks from collapse and 3 trillion dollars into stimulating their economies.

Mind-boggling amounts to halt the worst banking collapse in history.

And only governments – not a market free for all – could have saved the world from total catastrophe.

It was the bank bailouts, the global recession, and Labour's subsequent spending and investment to stop a slide into slump, which caused British government borrowing to soar.

Our public accounts are not in deficit today because Labour recruited too many nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers, or raised UK employment to record levels.

The deficit was caused by the recession brought on by the banking crisis, and it won't be put right until we get the economy growing again.

A fragile but real recovery with Labour has given way to a faltering one, maybe even a return to recession under the Tory-Lib Dems.

Due to the Tory-tax rises and savage cuts, the economy flat-lined last year.

Even by their own standards, the Tory plans just are just not working.

Unemployment is rocketing, especially among young people.

The promised rise in private sector jobs is failing abysmally to offset huge job losses in the public sector.

Instead of clearing the deficit by 2015 as he pledged, Osborne now expects to borrow £158 billion more than he previously planned.

Last year he and Cameron claimed that cutting the deficit quickly would boost investor confidence and trigger economic expansion.

Instead, as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls predicted, precisely the opposite happened.

People lost jobs and started getting benefits instead of paying taxes. Worried citizens deferred major purchases and cut down on their regular spending.

Everyone now expects things to get worse before they get better – if they ever get better under these bankrupt Government policies.

The Tories used to blame the unions for all Britain's ills.

But, with prices rising five times faster than pay, they need a new excuse for their failure.

First they blamed the weather, then the troubled euro zone.

But the truth is that Osborne has cut much, much deeper than the euro zone governments. Small wonder he squeezed the life out of Britain's recovery.

That’s why we are demanding the very reverse. In next month's Budget, we are suggesting today that the Government should cut income tax by 3p, or raise the income tax threshold to above £10,000, or increase tax credits for working people.

Without that boost, by the time of the next election in 2015, the economic situation is going to be even worse than we feared this time last year. Who knows just how bad things will get?

This means that for an incoming Labour government, some of the things we had hoped to be able to do will just have to wait.

Getting the economy back onto the growth track must be Labour's top priority for Wales and for Britain.

Under Labour g growth will create jobs and eliminate most of the deficit, providing time to begin reversing some of the savage cuts.

But I will make one confession.

Your Labour government in which I proudly served made lots of cuts.


We cut hospital waiting lists, and cut school class sizes.

We cut dole queues in job centres, cut delays in treatment centres, and cut waiting lists in children's centres.

We cut child poverty through child benefit, in-work poverty through the working tax credit, and pensioner poverty through the pension credit.

We cut waits for places in care homes.

We cut crime.

We didn't get everything right, but we switched from spending on failure, to investing in Britain's future success.

In saying Government must cut spending, cut regulations, cut support, the Tories are just repeating the calamitous mistakes of the 1930s.

Successful economies depend on governments to block attempts to rig markets by cartels that gang up on consumers.

They need governments to fight fraud and tackle corporate crime.

They need governments to provide an educated and healthy workforce and the infrastructure without which markets cannot function – essential road, rail, energy and communications networks.

Remember John Redwood – that old Welsh favourite.

Tories like him oppose active government.

They want it out of the way.

Cameron and Osborne see competition as the answer to every question.

They want to deregulate all markets, outsource all public services to private suppliers, turn the NHS into a free-for-all, and cut as much as they possibly can – except they cannot bring themselves to cut poor old Cheryl Gillan....Yet.

But, despite their right wing dogma, even these Tories must know that markets often fail.

Capitalism has proved incapable of providing fair and efficient health services through market forces.

The USA spends nearly twice as much as Britain does on health yet leaves millions without any health insurance whatsoever.

US health costs are stratospherically high but its coverage is pitifully low.

Labour wants a mixed economy in which government plays a vital part.

Not a passive role just to stem the suicidal tendencies of the system.

Not a government that provides only a threadbare safety net for millions cast aside by a competitive system, worshipping only winners, the strong and the lucky.

Labour wants an active role for government to promote opportunity and security for all – underpinning the dynamism of the economy through active industrial and innovation policies, spreading the benefits of technological breakthroughs by regional and skills policies, sharing the gains fairly throughout society in its tax and spending policies.

The next general election in 2015 seems a long way away but it will come round a lot sooner than you think.

Under Ed Miliband’s leadership not only did we win the Welsh Assembly elections last year, we made great gains in English councils and have won every single parliamentary by-election with big swings from the Tories and other parties toward us.

We are now over 10 per cent up in the polls from our second worst election defeat ever.

And, yes of course, the Tories will continue attacking our Leader Ed Miliband – like they did every other Labour Leader in our Party’s history.

But they will fail – just as their desperate "demon eyes" campaign failed to stop another young up and coming Labour leader from becoming Prime Minister in 1997.

That worked out well for them, didn’t it!

Ed has set the right course, and we are beginning to win the argument – on bankers bonuses, on the squeezed middle, on the scandal of young people thrown on the scrap heap.

We’ve bounced back. Today’s poll shows us on 41 per cent with a clear lead over the Tories.

But our challenge is immense, we need to defy recent electoral history and become a one-term opposition.

And one thing we know for sure is this Tory-Lib Dem coalition won’t give up without a fight.

So we need to be up for that fight.

We need to change our party so we are at the cutting edge of campaigning and organizing.

At Annual Conference last year in Liverpool we overwhelmingly passed a series of bold reforms.

For the first time recognising the role of registered supporters in our rule book.

I want Welsh Labour to be at the forefront of community campaigning and recruiting thousands of supporters, building a movement and not just an election machine.

In that great cause, can I also thank Derek Vaughan, doing a big job for Wales in Europe. (By the way, Derek’s another fine product of the Neath Labour political factory.)

Can I add a personal note.

An outsider to Wales who has become an insider, I was proud first to be chosen by Neath Labour Party and to be elected as Neath’s MP in 1991.

I was also privileged to serve for 12 years as a Labour government and Cabinet Minister, including as Labour Secretary of State for Wales - now a mere Shadow of my former self.

But none of this would have been possible without all of you, our members, activists and trade unionists - the life blood of the party.

Without you, AMs, Councillors and MPs like me would be nothing, would never have the opportunity to serve.

I also want to thank the people of Wales for giving me, my parents, and my four Welsh-born grandchildren, such a warm and wonderful home.

Diolch y fawr i chi geed.

My personal thanks to my wife Elizabeth, my family and my parents.

My Dad once told me when I was 15: 'If political change was easy, it would have been achieved a long time ago. Stick there for the long haul.'

So I close with another quote from the American worker-poet and trade union activist Sarah Garland Gunning.

They could have been be a motto for my parents as they struggled and sacrificed under the old apartheid South Africa.

I hope they become a watchword for future generations of Party members.

She said:

"Really, friends, it doesn't matter

Whether you are black or white.

The only way you'll ever change things

Is to fight and fight and fight".

Keep up the fight, keep campaigning, keep faith in our Labour values and our great movement - and we will win.