Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Christina Rees addresses Welsh Labour Conference 2018
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Christina Rees addresses Welsh Labour Conference 2018

Christina Rees MP speech to Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno, Saturday 21st April 2018

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I am proud to be amongst the first to congratulate Carolyn Harris on her election as Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.

I know that she will work tirelessly to take Welsh Labour’s message out into our communities. I look forward to working alongside her in the days and weeks to come as we defend those communities from Tory attacks on public services.

This Tory Government is determined to make Wales a poorer country, a more unequal country – a country with a weaker voice in a diminished United Kingdom. And it’s our job to stop them.

I want, also, to pay tribute to Julie Morgan who throughout this election has carried herself with great dignity in a powerful campaign – and has shown what great strength-in-depth we have amongst Welsh Labour women who are ready to take on leadership roles in every aspect of Welsh Labour’s essential work.

This Deputy Leadership contest has shown our party at its very best – with thousands of members taking part across the length and breadth of the country.

This contest has also taken us another important step forward in the struggle to secure an equal voice for women within our movement, within Welsh politics and across Welsh society as a whole.

Even now, in 2018, the one-hundreth anniversary of women first gaining the vote, there is still a huge job of work to do to secure that truly equal voice for women.

In all of those 100 years, only 19 women have been elected to parliament in Wales, compared to 267 men.

17 of those 19 women were Welsh Labour women – and I’m proud of that. If we’d left this struggle to the other parties we would still be stuck in the Dark Ages. If we’d relied on the Tories we would not even have begun. Not a single female Tory has ever represented a Welsh Constituency.

Yes, I’m proud of the road Welsh Labour has travelled – but anyone can see that it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

Because this is not simply about numbers and arithmetic. This is about voices. Human voices.

How can we, or any party, represent the truth, voice the truth – if half of humanity’s voice is not heard, loud and clear, as it should be. Heard Everywhere. And that includes parliament.

Just nineteen women in one hundred years.

  • So don’t tell me that’s about ‘the best candidate for the job’.

Just nineteen women in one hundred years.

  • So don’t tell me that all-womens’ shortlists are not needed.

Just nineteen women in one hundred years.

  • So don’t tell me that we can’t do better than that for the sake of our daughters and our granddaughters.

In her campaign Carolyn said that she had ‘a voice that’s not afraid to speak up and speak out’

Wales needs voices like that now more than ever. All of them. Speaking out together. Women and men, politicians and members, trade unionists and co-operators. Wales needs those voices more than it has ever done.

And why?  Because the Tory ideology of austerity – the shrinking and starving of public services to complete Thatcher’s dream of the smallest possible state – corrodes the very idea of a decent society.

Decent schools, decent health, decent social care – it’s all under attack. And while Carwyn and the Welsh Labour team in the Assembly fight to protect Wales from the worst, we still need those Welsh Labour voices to take the fight to the Tories out there in every community.

Here’s just one example of the many ways in which Carwyn and the Welsh Labour team in the Assembly protect Wales – in this case Wales’ schools – from the Tory compulsion to run down the public sector – or failing that, to enable their rich friends to leech off public money.

The Times Educational Supplement recently reported that more than 1 in 5 executives in Academy Trust schools in England is paid over £200,000 a year. The highest paid CEO – Sir Dan Moynihan of the Harris Federation – rakes in £425,000.

That’s money – public money- that should be spent on the education of pupils in England, being siphoned off into the bank accounts of fat-cat executives.

Imagine the governors of your local school pocketing the entire budget for a school term and then walking away.  In Wales they would be prosecuted. Jailed even. But in Tory England top ‘executives’ get not just to walk away with that public money, they get congratulated by the government for their spirit of ‘free enterprise’.

Thanks to Carwyn and Welsh Labour, there are no Academy Trusts in Wales. No ‘Free Schools’ impoverishing their comprehensive neighbours. No grammar schools walling off middle class kids from the rest.

We’ll have none of that nonsense here in Wales – in Wales, money for schools is spent on the pupils and not on fat-cat pay – thanks to Welsh Labour.

The Tory betrayal of Wales, their inability ever to prioritise Wales’ needs – goes back generations and it’s happening again, right now.

False promises on rail electrification – for North Wales, and for Swansea. A betrayal of Wales.

We’re still waiting, still calling, for the UK government to step up and back the North Wales Growth Deal. They’re still dithering. Another betrayal of Wales.

Tory prevarication on the Swansea Bay Lagoon project. A betrayal of Wales.

You know -that single project in Swansea Bay has the potential to transform the future of energy generation in Wales for good. It would send a powerful message of confidence in a modern, high – tech future for Welsh industry. Welsh Labour embraces that future.

The Welsh Labour government has stepped up with a real commitment to making it happen. And the UK Tory government has said? – well, nothing at all. Another betrayal of Wales? We shall see.

Welsh Labour embraces new opportunities for Wales, but we also embrace the responsibility we have to our existing industries.

But the Tories botched Brexit negotiations have been a Horror Show.

They’ve provided nothing but uncertainty for Welsh industry, Welsh businesses and the hundreds of thousands of Welsh workers whose jobs depend on frictionless trade with our European partners.

Davies dithers, Boris blusters and Teresa trades in gobbledegook as the livelihoods of millions hang in the balance.

Just what are they saying to the Welsh agricultural industry, with its dependence on EU exports?

What are they saying to the Welsh automotive industry with its reliance on just-in-time deliveries from the EU?

What are they saying to the Welsh aerospace industry that has always been pan-European and cannot profitably trade in any other way?

What are they saying?

They huff and puff about ‘red lines’ that they abandon within hours. They wave blue passports in our faces and expect us to be impressed. They run around in ever decreasing circles, and like Corporal Jones they shout ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’.

It would be funny if it were not so serious.

Never in the field of peace-time politics has so much been dependent, for so many, on such a useless crew.

I said from this platform last year that this Tory government ‘has no plan’. And on Brexit, that’s true. For the NHS that’s true. For Wales, that’s true.

But I’ve spotted one Tory plan in the twelve months since I stood here last. And it’s this:to keep the Tory Party in power – at any cost.

That’s it. Nothing else. Just power.

And there is the crucial difference. Between us and the Tory Party.

I look around this hall and I see hundreds of familiar faces. People I know and respect because of their commitment to the things that matter.

I see my Westminster colleagues who battle the Tories on the floor of the House of Commons and serve their constituents every day. And I want to thank, particularly, my magnificent Shadow Welsh Team, Chris Ruane and Tonia Antoniazzi for all their support.

I see our Assembly members who showcase a Labour alternative here in Wales, protecting public services.

I see Labour councillors who stand on the front line in our communities, trade unionistswho fight for their members, so many of whom struggle on low pay.

I see our talented Party Staff, led by our General Secretary, Louise Magee, working every day to deliver our message and our best-ever organisation on the ground.

And I see our party members – who campaign on the doorstep in all weathers because of their commitment to the things that matter.

That’s why we can turn to the voters at the next election with our heads held high and ask them to vote for the things that really matter to them – a decently funded Health Service, schools that spend their money on our children, not on spivs. A relationship with Europe that puts jobs and investment first.

Wales needs Welsh Labour and Welsh Labour needs you. Now more than ever. Let’s keep up the fight.

Thank you, conference.

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