Tom Watson's Speech to Welsh Labour Annual Conference

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson's speech to Welsh Labour Annual Conference 2016. 

Tom Watson speech – Winning in Wales 

Check against delivery 

Thank you for that warm welcome. It’s wonderful to be back in Wales. 

I spent a lot of time here last year in the run up to the General Election. I campaigned in Llanelli alongside our fantastic shadow Welsh secretary Nia Griffith. 

Nia always ensure Wales’ voice is heard loudly and clearly Westminster, along with every member of the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. 

I also visited Carmarthen, where our candidate Calum Higgins fought so hard against Plaid Cymru. 

I was in Cardiff to campaign for Jo Stevens and Mari Williams. I was delighted when Jo was elected and, like all of us, I was desperately upset to see Mari lose. She was and is a great candidate.

And the same is true of Liz Evans, who lost so narrowly in Gower. Liz – we are all proud of you. 

I was back in Cardiff over the summer during the deputy leadership campaign. In fact, I seem to remember tweeting the name of the pub I was in one evening and asking if anyone fancied a pint. You might not be surprised to hear that quite a few party members from Cardiff Central turned up. 

And since I was elected deputy leader I’ve been back to north Wales too. I visited Wrexham and Rhyl in November and I enjoyed a wild night at my good friend Mark Tami’s fundraiser in Alyn and Deeside.  

So believe me when I tell you that the hospitality of the Welsh people is something I always appreciate and enjoy. 

I have fond memories of campaigning in the General Election. But we didn’t get the result we wanted and I know we are all struggling to come to terms with that.

But let me tell you why I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic because under our leader Jeremy Corby we are an anti-austerity party with a clear message to voters:  we are implacably opposed to Tory cuts that are an ideological choice not an economic necessity. 

I’m optimistic because I travel up and down the country every month and I meet our passionate and proud Labour members, many of whom have joined our great party since last summer. 

I am optimistic when I see the energy and enthusiasm of those new members at first hand. And I’m optimistic whenever I visit Wales. 

Because Carwyn Jones is a great Welsh Labour leader who is delivering Labour policies and Labour values in Wales against a backdrop of Tory cuts.  

Carwyn, you’ve led your party and your country with spirit, skill and determination through the very toughest of economic times. 

Welsh under Labour is firing on all cylinders and I can prove it.

You’ve already knocked England out of the Rugby World Cup, and the way Gareth Bale is playing, the Welsh football team could knock England out of Europe as well. 

That’s if David Cameron doesn’t do it first on behalf of the whole of the UK as a result of his political gymnastics in Brussels.  

I want to pay tribute to some people who I haven’t already mentioned, starting with our Labour candidates at the last election and our former MPs. 

To Chris Ruane, who served the people of Clwyd so effectively for nearly twenty years. 

Thank you to Huw Irranca-Davies, who will be leaving Parliament shortly. I know you will serve the Labour Party well in the Welsh Assembly as the AM for Cardiff Bay. 

And I’d like to congratulate all our Assembly Members, who have delivered Labour policies in Wales since 1999. That’s a record to be proud of. 

Thank you in particular to those who are standing down in May after many years of service to your party and your country.  

Thank you also to Derek Vaughan MEP, who has done such a superb job championing Wales in Europe; Councillor Bob Wellington, our WLGA Labour Group leader - and all of the Labour councillors the length and breadth of Wales who work so tirelessly in their communities.

I also want to thank Andy Richards, Regional Secretary of my union Unite, for chairing the Welsh Executive Committee so skillfully at a time when far-reaching reform is taking place within our party, both nationally and here in Wales.

And finally, congratulations to Donna Hutton, our incoming chair. We have a big year head Donna so good luck. You have our best wishes.  

Our best wishes also go out to every Labour candidate who is fighting in May – including our Police and Crime Commissioner candidates and Chris Elmore, the next Welsh Labour MP for Ogmore. 

Members, activists, trade unionists, candidates and elected representatives, you are all proving, once again, that Welsh Labour is truly a campaigning force to be reckoned with. 

That’s why I’m optimistic. Make no mistake – we have a fight on our hands in May. But it’s a fight we can win. 

We can win by pointing to our record of achievement in Wales. 

Free prescriptions, support for students and young people. And that ground breaking ‘Jobs Growth Wales’ initiative. The most successful job creation programme in Western Europe - delivered by Welsh Labour after the Tories axed the Future Jobs Fund, at a time when the government’s only offer to yet another generation of young people in Wales was a stark one: ‘prepare to be left on the scrapheap’.

Welsh Labour didn’t leave those young people to face the consequences of a global recession alone. We reached out to help them. 

And that is Labour at its best. 

A Welsh Labour government also helped the hundreds of Welsh workers with disabilities that were left without jobs when the Tory/Lib Dem government took the decision to close Remploy sites across the UK. What a shameful decision that was. 

The Welsh Labour government helped agricultural workers too by securing a 6% pay rise in the teeth of ferocious opposition from the Tories, who took us all the way to the Supreme Court in an attempt to block it  – and lost. 

And we must never let the Tories forget that it is a Welsh Labour government that delivered record investment in the Welsh NHS - an NHS that is true to the principles of its founder Aneurin Bevan. 

A health service in Wales that is treating more people than ever before. 

An NHS in Wales that employs more frontline staff than at any time since devolution, and where spending on health and social services combined is now £172 per person more than it is in England - despite the huge cuts handed down from Westminster.

It’s an NHS in Wales with 6000 more nurses and 1000 more consultants since devolution; where the number of GPs in Wales has risen by 12%; 

And where cancer patients are more likely to see a consultant within the target time than they are in England. 

Conference, Welsh Labour is delivering on the NHS.

It appalls me that David Cameron is so quick to deride and denigrate a Welsh NHS that puts patients first.  

Look at the English NHS under Tory control. A disastrous reorganisation; junior doctors on strike; and an arrogant and aloof health secretary who refuses to sit down and negotiate in a spirit of compromise because that’s just not the Tory way.   

I don’t know why anyone is surprised Because that’s what happens whenever the NHS is run by the Tories. It’s the same every single time. 

And that’s why the NHS is only safe under Labour. 

Conference, Welsh Labour is also delivering on the economy. Employment is up. Growth is up. Inward investment is at record levels, 

We are making significant investment in apprenticeships, skills and superfast broadband to enable Wales to compete in a rapidly changing world

And on education too we are showing the difference a Labour Government can do.

Protecting Welsh students from the rising tuition fees we’ve seen in England and keeping the Education Maintenance Allowance that was scrapped by the Tories and Lib Dems.  

Increasing spending on schools in Wales year on year - despite cut after Tory cut to the Assembly’s budget;

And maintaining a relentless focus on standards that’s delivered record results at GCSE and at A-Level, with the number of young people in Wales getting 5 good GCSEs or more at an all-time high. 

And policies like the Welsh pupil deprivation grant, which mean millions more are being invested in the young people of Wales who need it most. That’s why the performance of the Welsh pupils who receive Free School Meal is rising and the attainment gap is closing at every key stage of education.

Conference, in Wales you have continued to unravel that shameful tie between low attainment and poverty that blights the life chances of too many young people in Britain.

We also have a Welsh Labour government that understands the benefits membership of the EU brings to Welsh working people and Welsh consumers – and isn’t afraid to make the case strongly and unapologetically. 

Once again, the contrast with the Tories could not be starker. 

Cameron’s approach is the antithesis of statesmanship.  

It would be funny if it wasn’t so damaging. 

The Tories could end up destroying themselves over Europe. 

While our opponents squabble we need to say disciplined. We are speaking with one voice, united around six election pledges that place the concerns of families, communities and businesses at the heart of everything we do. 

Free childcare for working parents.

Tax cuts for all small business in Wales. 

A new treatment fund for life-threatening illnesses. 

An extra £100m to improve school standards. 

Doubling the capital limit for those going in to residential care. 

And 10,000 quality apprenticeships for all ages. 

 They are pledges that will appeal to the Welsh people. 

 But it is only because Welsh Labour under Carwyn’s leadership has delivered on its promises so consistently in the past that those pledges resonate so powerfully now. 

It is Welsh Labour under Carwyn that has the ideas, the energy and the integrity to keep on delivering for Wales. 

The belief at the heart of our May manifesto is this: if we find the right solutions to the challenges the modern world throws at us, and meet them together, we can and will improve the lives of everyone.  

It is a message of hope and optimism. 

Compare that message to the Tories’ own record. 

The Tories have stripped a billion pounds from your  budget in Wales. They would savagely cut spending in Welsh schools. They would cause havoc in the Welsh NHS. 

And the Tories are impotent when it comes to protecting our steel industry, unable and unwilling to take steps on behalf of the many thousands of people it employs. They are powerless because they won’t ask for EU support ahead of the EU referendum because they know it will expose their own internal divisions. 

Can imagine not asking for help for our steel industry because you don’t want to annoy the eurosceptics in your party? 

You can’t trust the Tories to protect the British steel industry. Their commitment to the dogma of the market is more important to them than taking a pragmatic approach to saving jobs.  

I’ve seen what the Tories are doing over the border. 

They have removed local government money from the areas where the need is greatest and handed it to the Tory shires in order to spare the blushes of Conservative councillors and MPs. It’s deeply cynical.  

They hand taxpayers’ money to the lawyers defending their bedroom tax in the courts when they could use it instead to help the very people who are affected by that tax. 

You should take pride that here in Wales the Welsh Labour Government has protected Wales from the worst excesses of David Cameron and George Osborne. 

But it has done so much more than that. You are building a better, stronger nation based on the core principles of our movement - those basic values of decency, of fairness and of social justice - forged and shaped right here in Wales over a century and more.

 That doesn’t mean there isn’t hard work ahead. 

But we have the right manifesto. And we have the members, the motivation and the organisation to make a difference on May 5th. 

I’m proud of what our party has achieved in Wales. 

I’m proud of Carwyn – a great leader. 

And I’m proud of you – for being part of the great movement of Labour. 

 


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