Carwyn Jones – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, to the 2010 Labour Party conference.

Chair, Conference.

I am delighted to bring you greetings from Wales – where Labour is still in Government!

Chair, I come here to Manchester today to bring good news about Welsh Labour – about the reasons we have to be optimistic about the future of our party and how we are looking ahead with relish to the Assembly elections next May.

But first, Conference, let me start with a word about the person who for most of the last decade, had addressed this Conference as Welsh Labour Leader – Rhodri Morgan.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to Rhodri for his part in not just making devolution the overwhelming success it has become in Wales – but also for his role as the Leader of Welsh Labour throughout those years. Rhodri – thank you!

Conference, it is twelve months ago – almost to the day – since we started the campaign to elect a successor to Rhodri.

As with the UK Leadership contest, the Welsh Labour Leadership election breathed new life into our Party in Wales.

Hundreds upon hundreds of members came to the hustings meetings to talk about the direction in which we needed to travel.

Irrespective of the result, to see the Labour Party back to its democratic roots – debating, challenging and enthusing – was a great spectacle to witness once again.

I was proud, Conference, and humbled, to have been chosen by party members the length and breadth of Wales, to be their Leader.

I promised then to be a Leader for the whole of Wales and our task now is to take the battle to our opponents across the whole of Wales.

To do that, we need to build on the General Election result – not the finest moment in Labour’s long and proud history in Wales – but a million miles from the ‘meltdown’ our opponents so foolishly expected and so rashly predicted, beforehand.

Today, I would also like to pay a tribute to my colleague Peter Hain and the role he played in that election.

Peter – you did us proud.

Conference, as the first Prime Minister or First Minister in Britain to have gone to a Comprehensive school, today I look forward to welcoming Ed to that select ‘club’ in 2015.

Ed congratulations on being elected the new Leader of our party. I am looking forward to working with you in the future.

Incidentally Ed – when you came to Cardiff during the campaign, you publicly proposed that the Leaders of the Welsh and Scottish parties should have ex-officio seats on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

Both Iain Gray and I, wholeheartedly support you in this.

It’s long overdue that our party structure reflects the variou s devolution settlements that exist within the UK.

Next May, Welsh voters will go to the polls to elect their fourth Assembly.

Yes, we will have a serious fight on our hands. Yes, we are taking absolutely nothing for granted.

But I can tell you Conference, we are determined to win – not just for Labour but for Wales as a whole – and especially for those people who depend on us for fair play. Or, as we say in Welsh – “chwarae teg”.

Let’s not forget that it was Labour that had the vision to let the people of Wales find their voice, when we held our referendum to set up the Assembly thirteen years ago.

Far from destabilising the relationship between Wales, Scotland and England, I believe devolution has actually strengthened those bonds.

Labour has remained at the head of Government in Wales throughout the lifetime of the Assembly – and yes we are going for a record fourth term too!

We continue to deliver for the people of Wales on a daily basis in health and education, on the environment and on our economy.

My appeal to you today is to come to Wales for the election in spring next year and help us ensure we keep Wales for Labour and we keep Labour for Wales.

Conference, these are tough times. But it’s in such times this party of ours, proves its credentials and offers leadership.

Aneurin Bevan once told this conference that “the language of priorities is the religion of socialism”.

Well, we have always spoken the language of priorities in Cardiff Bay.

And that’s why we will seek to protect the people’s priorities in frontline public services from the ravages of ConDem excesses.

In short Chair – we do it differently in Wales.

We do it our way – and we make no apologies for that.

In Wales, we are proud to remain true to our principles on such things as comprehensive education.

We are proud that the NHS in Wales is a market-free NHS.

We are proud that we have free prescriptions for all.

We are proud that we have free hospital parking.

We are proud that we will keep our free bus travel for our pensioners.

We are proud that during the darkest days of the recession, we intervened with wage subsidies for those companies in greatest danger to keep 10,000 workers in jobs.

Workers who remain employed to this day.

These are the things we do differently. These are things that make us proud.

But Conference, there are areas that are not in our control. Areas that we will need our MPs – our Labour MPs – to speak up for on our behalf.

We need that voice in London to say loud and clear that when everyone’s focus should be on saving jobs and creating growth and re-stimulating the UK economy, all the Lib Dems and the Tories want to do, is change the way we vote and gerrymander constituencies to get rid of hard-working Welsh Labour MPs .

Colleagues, we will fight this all the way.

Labour must be proud of what we have delivered for Wales.

We have built a more confident Wales.

And this confidence will be no better typified than next week, when we will be the focus of global sporting attention, when we host the Ryder Cup in Newport.

But without the imagination and determination of a Labour Government in Cardiff Bay, this event would never have happened: and without devolution – we would never have had the confidence to have even contemplated hosting it.

This is the spirit that encapsulates our modern Wales. This is the spirit that binds the people to our party.

Next year, we will reach out and offer hope and vision – based on our values of decency, of social justice, of tolerance and mutual respect.

Conference, as you know, Labour in Wales was founded on such a vision.

In a year from now, I hope to report that we have secured a majority Labour Government in Wales – and with your help – we will!

Welsh Labour is now re-discovering its voice. We are re-stating our radicalism and we are re-connecting with our people.

I want us to win back Wales, ward by ward and street by street – in the north, in the West, in the Valleys, in the Vales, on the borders to the East and in the cities to the South.

We will fight back. We will fight to win.

Because Conference, we’re proud to be Welsh. We’re proud, to be British. But above all , Conference, we’re proud to be Labour.

Thank you.