Monday, 22 February 2016

Time to think ahead

Speech delivered to Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno on 20th February 2016

Its been 20 years since I last spoke at a Labour Party conference, and the time has gone quickly. Our job, as a movement for change, is to think ahead another 20 years about the type of society we want to create - and to spend every moment, bend every decision, towards achieving that vision. 2036 will be here before we know it.

Everyone here who spends their weekends knocking doors, listening to voters, will know that people are increasingly jaded and cynical. In Llanelli, like many of our communities, there is a sense of resignation. That 100 years of economic decline will not be arrested.

By being in Government in Wales we are demonstrating every day that politics does make a difference; that Labour values put into action can improve people’s lives.

There’s no tax of sickness in Wales. We don’t pay the £8.20 prescription charge that people who are ill in England have to - that’s a Welsh Labour choice, and we’ll make it again if we are re-elected.

Young people from backgrounds like mine get £30 a week to help them stay on in school - because Welsh Labour has made the choice to keep the Educational Maintenance Allowance, and we’ll do it again if we are re-elected.

15,000 young people have been helped into good quality employment in the last 4 years because of our Jobs Growth Wales programme. It enabled me to take somebody on, and I saw for myself the confidence it built, and the skills it allowed young people who otherwise would have been faced with unemployment, to gain.

That’s what Labour values looks like in practice. That’s the story we’ve got to tell.

We have a record, but people care about the future.  What kind of Wales are we creating?

Our party is about giving people a ladder out of the circumstances they’ve inherited. Not an escalator, where they get carried along - but a ladder they can climb.

This weekend, on the doorstep, we can counter the resignation with hope - six pledges for strivers.

For those struggling to make ends meet - free childcare for 3 & 4 year-olds. That’ll make a big difference for today’s generation of young parents who keep being told they will worse off than their parents generation.

For those who’ve worked hard but whose company has hit hard times, the offer of a fresh start. A quality apprenticeship, no longer just for school leavers, but for all-ages.

And for those whose life savings face being eaten away by the cost of social care in old age - a doubling of the amount they can keep from the sale of their home should they need to go into care.
Effectively a tax-cut of £26,000 - rewarding responsibility.

And rewarding entrepreneurship too with a tax-break for small businesses - the life-blood of the Welsh economy.

That’s what we’re using our new powers for - not tax-raising, as the cynics said, but tax-cutting for those working hard.

Cynics like labels to dismiss change-makers. To tell our inner doubting voices that it’ll never get better. We are proving them wrong, and must keep proving them wrong. We are the Party that wants to change society. And we must keep focused on the future.

Running out of ideas? We’re just getting started.

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