Sunday, 12 June 2016

My personal take on the EU referendum

Published in the Llanelli Herald on 10th June 2016



The claims and counterclaims of each side in the EU referendum campaign are bewildering.

Leaving the European Union will cause our economy will crash. Or, leaving the European Union will free us to grow faster and produce more jobs. Which one are we to believe?

Within the next three weeks we are being asked to make the biggest decision for a generation, and we’re being fed a diet of fear - by both sides.

I’ll be voting to Remain in the EU because it provides hope for a better future.

For me this is not a decision about short-term benefits. In fact it is a very personal decision based on the sacrifices of previous generations, and my hopes for my children’s generation.

70 years ago my grandfather leapt from planes into machine gun fire to help secure a bridge in Arnhem. I witnessed the scars this brave man bore from what he witnessed in the Netherlands, and across the deserts of North Africa, fighting for our freedom so that me and my children don’t have to do the same.

His generation faced the hell of two World Wars within 50 years of each other - both with their origins in conflict between European States. After that war the European Union was created to stop this happening again. By binding the economies of these former enemies together we have had 70 years of peace and prosperity.

We now take this for granted, but we really shouldn’t. Bringing dozens of countries together - and keeping them together - has been the outstanding achievement of the post-war generation. And it has everyday benefits - easy travel and study across the continent; rights in the workplace from safety to maternity benefits; and vastly improved environmental conditions - from blue flag beaches to cleaner air.

We hear a lot in this referendum about ‘sovereignty’, and about EU bureaucrats telling us what to do. But the real story is that by being part of this super-alliance we have opted to share decisions with our neighbours to secure shared benefits. In an unstable world this is a smart thing to do. None of this is inevitable, and it could quickly unravel if we left the EU.

The idea that by leaving we can keep the best bits of EU membership and opt-out of the disadvantages is a reckless fantasy. What’s more it leaves us under-equipped to deal with the threats we face.

The big challenges over the next 70 years we’ll face as a continent are climate change, terrorism and mass migration (which will worsen as climate change makes many areas uninhabitable). All of these threats are too big for one country to tackle alone. We need to pull together, to pool the risk and share the benefits. That’s what the European Union was designed to do, and for all its flaws, continues to do.

And that’s why I’ll be voting to Remain on June 23rd.


Lee Waters is the Welsh Labour AM for the Llanelli constituency

Friday, 20 May 2016

Time to get serious

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on May 20th

Two weeks after the elections and Wales, at last, has a First Minister and a Cabinet.

With 29 of the 60 seats in the Senedd Welsh Labour are by far the largest party, but we don’t have a majority of seats. Nor did we have the majority of votes cast.


We all need to acknowledge that Wales has entered a new phase of multi-party politics. There are now five parties represented in the Assembly, and the style of politics that operated 50 years ago when two major parties dominated will no longer work in an environment where loyalties are fractured.

I’m sorry that Plaid Cymru seem to be adopting such an aggressive posture in the Senedd. Firstly they tried to use their 12 AMs to launch an audacious power-grab in the Assembly - linking up with right-wing parties they swore in the campaign they’d steer clear of.  And this week, despite taking part in talks which allowed us to form a Government, refused to settle on a long-term arrangement to bring stability to the Government of Wales.

I hope we can take some of the aggression out of the debate. I’m all in favour of Government based on consensus.  I’m really encouraged that there is a progressive majority in the Assembly - 42 of the 60 members represent parties of the centre and left and should be able to broadly agree on the main issues.

Labour of course have a part to play in that.  We had a terrific result in the circumstances, had it not been for the unexpected loss of the Rhondda we’d still have 30 seats - and nobody predicted that.

But it could easily have been different. In our delight at winning 29 seats it would be foolish to airbrush the fact that we had just 35% of the vote. Of course that it is partly a function of the new five-party scene, but nonetheless it stands as a warning not to take anything for granted.

The story of Scottish Labour is a chilling one. We can avoid their fate, and can still be the dominant party in Welsh politics, but we can’t be the dominating party - that’s the cultural shift we need to absorb. People don’t want that type of politics anymore.

So, let's switch the focus back on to what unites us, rather than what divides us. The people of Llanelli, and Wales, deserve nothing less.

Lee Waters is the Assembly Member for the Llanelli Constituency

Thursday, 5 May 2016

We can do better than this

Speech delivered at the declaration of the Llanelli constituency on May 6th 2016





I was born and raised in this constituency, and I cannot tell you how proud I am to have been chosen by the people of my community to represent them in our National Assembly. I promise to do my very best, and to be true to myself.

I’ve had some incredibly frustrating conversations over the last six months on the doorsteps of this constituency. Too many people have given up. Too many people want to talk about what we’ve lost in the last 30 years, and not enough want to set their minds to what we can do about it in the next 30 years. That’s what I want to try and change.

I don’t have a magic wand. But I do have an intolerance for mediocrity. We can do better. But only if we demand more of ourselves. And only if we work together.

I know there is genius in this constituency, and there is passion. Let’s harness it. Lets come together and focus on what we can agree on, not on what we disagree on.

I must thank the returning officer, and all the people who have made today and tonight possible - including, of course,the police. We, rightly, take democracy for granted, but it is an extraordinary thing. And it relies on people standing up to be counted. I’d like to pay tribute to my fellow candidates. Standing for election is tough. But we have all given the people of Llanelli a choice. And we can be proud of that.

I’d like to pay particular tribute to Helen Mary Jones. She had represented the Llanelli constituency over many years. I said at the start of the campaign I like and respect her and I'm pleased to say at the end of the campaign I can say the same and I look forward to joining her in the campaign to keep Wales within the European Union.

I thought long and hard before standing. I only did it because I believe that unless people who feel that Wales can be better, stand up and be counted, we’ll never do better.

But I hesitated because I’m conscious of the impact that this all consuming mission has on those around you. My family is more important to me than politics. I have kept them away from the campaign but I am only able to stand here because of their support. Behind the scenes my 7 year old daugher has stuffed envelopes; my 11 year old son has encouraged me, and my mother has been my most energetic campaigner from the beginning.

My greatest support though has come from my wife. She has supported me throughout, and has given me the strength to keep going. She loves me and wants me to do my bit. And my greatest thanks tonight go to her.

I owe enormous thanks to the volunteers of the Llanelli Labour Party. We have run an energetic, passionate campaign, which has demonstrated beyond doubt that it can never be said again that Labour takes Llanelli for granted.

There are too many volunteers to mention - but every one of them has my heartfelt gratitude. My particular thanks must go to my agent, Chris Beer, and to Nia Griffith. Llanelli has an incredibly hard working,and dedicated MP and I’ve been lucky to have her by my side over the last six months.

I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of Keith Davies who has been a dedicated AM for Llanelli over the last 5 years. And I’d like to thank him for his personal support. And to our other former AM Cathryn Thomas who has been a frequent campaigning companion, and source of much wisdom and encouragement.

The next 5 years will be vital ones for Wales. And, I hope, the beginning of a better era for Llanelli.

Whatever the results from the rest of our country in the next few hours, it is clear that all members of our National Assembly must co-operate for the good of the people we have been elected tonight to represent.

Let us embrace that challenge with enthusiasm, not reluctance. There is more that unites us than divides us, so let us find a unity of purpose. And work, Together for Wales.



Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A fresh voice for Llanelli

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on April 22nd




In the final week of the campaign minds will focus on what’s at stake in this election.

I’ve been very clear throughout that I’m not standing because I think everything is ok, I’m standing because I’m convinced we can do better and I want to do my bit to help.

I’m not a party hack. I’ve been ITV’s Chief Political Correspondent for Wales and now run the leading independent policy institute, the IWA. I have a mind of my own and I will not hesitate to speak up, or speak out, to fight for the whole of the Llanelli constituency.

Our National Assembly reaches adulthood next year - it will have been in existence for 18 years. And it is time for a new generation of people to energise the Assembly.

My priority will be to develop a long-term economic plan for the Llanelli constituency. In the thousands of conversations I’ve been having over recent months I’ve been struck by the despondency that has set in - too many people are resigned to decline. But we don’t need. to be. We have huge advantages in this area, and great people - so let's plan for a better future.

I will bring people together to set a vision for the type of economy we want in Llanelli in 30 years time and then work across party divides for the good of the area I’m from.

And Welsh Labour’s manifesto offers practical policies to help families too.

If we are successful we will deliver the most ambitious childcare offer in the UK. This will mean 30 free hours of childcare for working parents - covering 48 weeks worth of care for 3 and 4 year olds.

We will fund 100,000 extra apprentices by the end of the next Assembly. These won’t just be for young people but for all ages.

We’ll also help people who are worried about their hard earned savings being eaten away by care home fees. We will double the capital limit they will be allowed to keep on the sale of their home should they need to go into care.

We will give a tax-break to small businesses in Wales using our new powers on business rates. This new scheme will benefit over three quarters of business premises in Wales. Half of all eligible businesses will pay no business rates at all.

And finally, we will develop a New Treatment Fund in Wales to ensure that people suffering life-threatening conditions can have access to the latest medicine and treatment.

Taken together they amount to an ambitious plan for the next 5 years. And with fresh blood in the Assembly we will deliver this, and more.



Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli

Monday, 25 April 2016

More images of the campaign

More terrific images from Natasha Hirst of the campaign in Llanelli













All images Copyright Natasha Hirst

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Llanelli needs a plan

This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 22nd April 2016


Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months to our steel industry there is no doubt that the Llanelli constituency needs a long-term economic plan.

In my day job running Wales’ most respected think-tank I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of our economy. After a 100 years of decline there’s a lot to be done. But there is much we can do, and we can lead the way here in Llanelli.

Firstly, we need to focus on our existing strengths. Llanelli born Professor Karel Williams - now a leading light at the highly-respected Manchester Business School - has done a lot of work on what he calls the ‘foundational economy’. He thinks we should be making the most out things that may seem everyday, but have potential to really help the local economy if developed in the right way. He suggests three areas: food production, energy production and the care sector.

Around 40% of the workforce in both private and public is employed in these sectors providing goods and services that are taken for granted. It is not generally seen as a glamorous part of the economy and so not enough attention is paid to how we can maximise its impact. This is where we need to start.

We also need to look to the future. Sir Terry Mathews, the man behind the Celtic Manor in Newport, has set out an excellent framework for the wider Swansea Bay region based on attracting the next wave of growth industries.  The revolution in medical technology through gene research offers huge opportunities for medicines adapted personally to each of us, and the idea of a cutting edge research centre at Delta Lakes as part of a ‘wellness centre’ is part of that.

He also points to the potential of Big Data and cloud-based IT for our regional economy - all big future growth areas..

We’re lucky Carwyn Jones asked Terry Mathews to get involved with the Swansea Bay City Region. Let's make the most of it, and draw on his work for the Llanelli constituency in particular.

There’s lots of research and goodwill we can draw on, and great talent within our area to bring together to work out a way of rebuilding our economy over the next 20 years.

That’s what I want to focus on. Llanelli needs a plan -and that will be my priority if I’m elected on May 5th


Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Llanelli needs a plan


This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 13th April 2016

If Port Talbot steelworks is forced to close the ripple effects will be huge.

The Prime Minister must surely step in and save the British steel industry, which is essential not only for jobs but our defence industry and wider economy too. After all the annual cost of bailing out Tata steel would be £122 billion less than the 2008 banking bailout.

Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months there is no doubt that the Llanelli constituency needs a long-term economic plan.

In my day job running Wales’ most respected think-tank I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of our economy. After a 100 years of decline there’s a lot to be done. But there is much we can do, and we can lead the way here in Llanelli.

Terry Mathews, the man behind the Celtic Manor in Newport, has set out an excellent framework for the wider Swansea Bay region based on attracting the next wave of growth industries.  The revolution in medical technology through gene research offers huge opportunities for medicines adapted personally to each of us, and the idea of a cutting edge research centre at Delta Lakes as part of a ‘wellness centre’ is part of that.

In addition to that we need to focus on our existing strengths. Llanelli born Professor Karel Williams - now a leading light at the highly-respected Manchester Business School - has done a lot of work on what he calls the ‘foundational economy’. He thinks we should be making the most out things that may seem everyday, but have potential to really help the local economy if developed in the right way. He suggests three areas: food production, energy production and the care sector.

There’s lots of research and goodwill we can draw on, and great talent within our area to bring together to work out a way of rebuilding our economy over the next 20 years.

That’s what I want to focus on. Llanelli needs a plan -and that will be my priority if I’m elected on May 5th