“We have delivered for the people of Wales for nineteen years, and now we need a Labour Government in London to help us create a society where there is fairness, justice and opportunity.”
Thank you Conference.
Intro – thanks – Jeremy, Chris Rees, Carolyn Harris, Louise, Trades Unions (Andy).
Conference, in a little under six months, we will be leaving the European Union.
And there is no other place to start than with this issue I cannot escape.
The dreaded B word.
It has turned the younger generation against older people.
People inside this party cannot even agree.
It has turned families against one another. Even my own.
But, there’s no going back now.
The world has moved on since 2016 and I’m here to tell you that … the beard is staying.
Ok, now that’s out of the way… the other B word.
Brexit is quite rightly the dominant issue of the day.
The looming prospect of a catastrophic No Deal outcome is down to one thing: the paralysis and incompetence of this Tory Government.
The Chequers White Paper might have been a viable starting position for negotiations if it had been launched two years ago, before Theresa May sent the Article 50 letter. Not with only weeks of negotiating time left.
If Brexit leaves the country poorer, and more divided, it is clear where the blame where it belongs. First, the Brexiteers who said it would all be easy – ‘the easiest negotiation ever’ remember? And, second a Government which has failed this country monumentally.
It is time for them to go!
Wales cannot afford a No Deal Brexit.
It would mean a new wave of industrial carnage, with a real risk to advanced manufacturing. It is my first duty as First Minister to do whatever I can to protect Wales from that prospect.
I must prepare our country for every outcome.
That is why today I am announcing a further £6million support through our new EU Transition Fund for workers at Ford, Toyota & Airbus in Wales.
Giving Welsh workers the new skills they need to prepare for an uncertain future. That is a Welsh Labour Government in action – Brexit, or no Brexit – we’ll put our economy first and the needs of our workers, first.
So, yes Brexit is the dominant issue of the day – but it is not the only issue of the day.
Nye Bevan’s idea of Socialism as the language of priorities is something I mentioned in my first Conference speech as leader, and I want to return to that idea today.
Conference, this will be my last address to you as leader of Welsh Labour, and First Minister of Wales.
I am deeply grateful for the support you have shown me, and the Welsh Labour party in that time.
For too long now, we have been left alone to fly the red flag for Labour.
We need Labour back in power in Westminster, and in Scotland too.
Because, only in power can you change the world for the better.
Even in the hardest times we have shown in Wales what it means to have a Government that understands the state has a role to care, not just administer.
As leader I’ve contended with a decade of austerity budgets from the Tories.
It is time for a Labour Government in Westminster, so we can put a stop to this grim drumbeat of austerity.
• To halt the grotesque advance of Universal Credit.
• To reignite our compassion for asylum seekers and refugees.
• To halt the growing inequality between boardroom and shop floor.
• To resurrect fair play and a fair deal for all our communities.
Conference, a Labour Government to remind people what Britain is for.
Even through the toughest times, we in Welsh Labour have found a way to keep that flame alive.
We are delivering for our communities in Wales.
And that’s the prize that power offers.
• We ended the internal market in the Welsh NHS – ensuring a health service that is fit for purpose and true to Bevan’s ideals;
• We scrapped the Right to Buy – ensuring that housing stock for those who need it most is protected for generations to come;
• We stood with our brothers and sisters in the Trades Union movement to defend Wales against Tory attacks on workers with our own radical Welsh laws;
• We intervened to save our steel industry and protect thousands of jobs in the face of international turmoil and indifference from the Tories in London;
• Some of you will remember marching with the Junior Doctors. Well, that didn’t happen in Wales, because there were no strikes in Wales – because we respect our doctors and all of our NHS staff.
• And that is why tomorrow, the Welsh Labour Government will give doctors and dentists the pay rise they deserve – at a level above that offered in England.
Because we do things differently.
And we do things differently because in Wales Labour governs.
And there is more…
• Unemployment in Wales is lower now than London thanks to a Welsh Labour Government that shares the aspirations of our citizens and invests in them.
• Right across Wales we are building new schools, supporting students through university and delivering this year record top results for our A-level students.
• We are World leaders for sustainability and recycling – Labour values delivered and held up as an example around the globe.
• We are building a world-class railway for the future. Investing millions on new trains, improved stations, and more frequent services. And working with our trades unions, we guarantee a guard on every train.
• A transport revolution designed in Wales, rooted in Labour values and built in Wales – for Wales. Built for Wales – not for profit.
Only Labour can make these changes – because only Labour wants to make these changes, and I want Jeremy in number 10 so people right across the UK can see these changes too.
But, to do that I make this plea to you. To better the country, we must first better ourselves.
The world is changing. Politics is changing. The Labour Party is changing. But, I’ve got news for you. It always has, and it always will.
We talk about the dumbing down of politics as if the idea just occurred to us.
And yet, American writer, Neil Postman was writing about Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business back in 1985.
He worried back then that with an actor as a President, it symbolised that Entertainment had taken over the world. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a B-movie actor any day of the week, even a Republican, over the reality TV star that currently inhabits the White House.
Many of the challenges we face today, have been faced before.
The medium may be different. For Neil Postman it was all about TV, today it is more about social media and politics by Whatsapp.
Some things do not change.
Some things should not change.
Take for example, the value we have always placed on decency and civility.
The basic moral code by which you can measure any nation. Any community, any religion. Any political party.
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”
It is a moral code that defines Judaism, Christianity, Humanism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism.
Conference, it is a code that has been missing in the way we talk to one another lately, and I want us to bring that back.
You may disagree with your MP, AM, your local trade union rep. You may be uncomfortable with the latest idea from the Fabians, the Co-op Party, Momentum, or Progress. But, these concerns are not special. These differences are not sacred. This is not what defines us. These are small, and petty distractions.
There is a Maori saying, Toku toa, he toa rangatira, my bravery is inherited from the chiefs who came before me. I stand tall on the shoulders of giants.
This is a party built on the shoulders of giants. And where we are today is made possible by the foundations built by our proud history and the proud history of all working people.
So, change the party, yes. Change our policies, yes.
But we cannot lose our values.
And we cannot disrespect the people – from every walk of life – who gave up so much of their lives, to bring us all here today. In touching distance of another UK Labour Government.
We can show the country we can lead, by first showing the courage to unite and work alongside colleagues with whom we disagree.
It must be right that we treat one another with respect.
Nowhere have I seen the need for more action, and more respect than in relation to gender inequality.
The Me Too movement highlighted to me that even the ground-breaking steps we had taken – in particular in relation to our Violence Against Women legislation – were just those. Steps. We need leaps forward on this agenda, and we need them today.
And so today, I can announce my Government is no longer willing to wait for the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women and girls. A level of legal protection that everyone in Europe should expect, and a level of protection that is afforded to 33 countries already.
Through the policy choices we have made The Welsh Government fully complies with that Convention and today we ratify that Convention in the names of the women and girls in Wales, and demand that the UK Government does the same.
We want to make Wales the safest place for women anywhere in Europe.
And I am convinced that we rely too much on volunteers and the third sector to provide refuges for victims of domestic violence.
And the availability of support for victims of rape and sexual assault is too varied.
A woman’s safety – and that of her family – can never be a post-code lottery.
There must be an ever greater role for Government in creating a truly national network of support. That is, I believe, the next challenge ahead of us.
Conference, the fight for equality isn’t won, there are those that will fight back against every step forward that we take.
In the next two weeks the contest to become the next Welsh Labour leader will begin. It is a contest in which I will play no part. But it is a contest, as Jeremy has said, which deserves the widest and most diverse choice possible.
I have always stated that it would be wrong, utterly wrong in 2018, to have such a contest without a woman on the ballot paper, and therefore – if necessary – I will lend my nomination to make sure that happens.
Those that describe this as tokenism will do so from a position of privilege and wilful ignorance.
100 years on the plea of the Suffragettes for deeds for not words is alive, and as electric, and as vital as ever. Equality is not job done. It is a work in progress.
And so it is for us as a Labour Party. We are here only to pass the party, and the country, on to our successors in better shape than we found it.
I am proud of what we have achieved together.
We have delivered for the people of Wales for nineteen years, and now we need a Labour Government in London to help us create a society where there is fairness, justice and opportunity.
I won’t be First Minister but I’ll be with you in that battle, behind my Parliamentary colleagues in the next General Election and my Assembly colleagues in 2021.
Thank you for all your support, and now let’s finish the job.