This isn’t just about leadership, it is about unity – Carwyn Jones’ speech at Welsh Labour’s election launch

This is the full speech by Carwyn Jones, Welsh Labour leader and first minister, at the launch of the Welsh Labour general election campaign today.

Good morning friends and colleagues – thank you to Gladys, Lexy, Ruba and Saeed for their words this morning.

What a special set of stories you’ve given us today. Thank you for your hard work and I look forward to hearing more about your work in the coming months and years.

So, welcome to Labour-run Cardiff.

For those of you unfamiliar with the local geography, this authority neighbours Labour-run Newport. And Labour-run Caerphilly, and Labour-run Rhondda Cynon Taff.

I welcome colleagues from all those authorities and further afield this morning.

Today, we are here to talk about the general election campaign, but we should begin by reflecting a little on what happened last week.

Welsh Labour, our party, can be rightly proud of our efforts in another backs-to-the wall election.

We always knew that retaining seats and councils would be tough after such a stellar year in 2012.

We did suffer some reversals – and we will learn from that, as we always do.

Think about Brendan Toomey in Merthyr Tydfil, he lost his seat – many people would have been raw from experience, and I would have understood if he wanted to lash out.

But, what did he message me the morning after when I commiserated with him?

“Thanks Boss, I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to anything I can in any capacity for Welsh Labour.”

That tells you everything you need to know about Brendan, and about this party.

When it would have been easier for Brendan and the Labour-led Merthyr council to pick a fight with Welsh Government – when they went into Special Measures on education – he didn’t choose that road.

Merthyr council worked with us, and now schools, like Bishop Hedley, are being singled in the national media for praise – because of the improvement journey they’re on.

You want to know the secret to our success over the years – look at those examples of how to react to difficulty.

That is leadership – it doesn’t always get the rewards it deserves.

But, it is that sort of long standing commitment and attitude that meant we once again we defied the polls, and the pundits and out-performed expectations.

In Tory target areas like Flintshire, Newport and Swansea – we repelled their advances.

Swansea increased the Labour majority – what a result that was.

And we did it by working together.

Because this isn’t just about leadership – it is about unity.

We in Welsh Labour – councillors, MPs and AMs – we are united, and we are working together for Wales.

What this party can achieve, in campaigns – and more importantly, in Government, knows no bounds – when we stand together, united.

That is how we must now approach the next five weeks.

There is no time to rest, we must be back out on the doorstep and be prepared to work even harder, to do the extra call sheet, to knock the extra street.

You know the Tories’ explanation for why they didn’t make the predicted breakthroughs last week?

“It was just local elections” they said – “and Welsh Labour are well-known for having good local campaigns.”

Well, we make no apology for that.

But, if you think we are taking the foot off the pedal for the next few weeks, you’ve got another thing coming.

Christina Rees, our energetic Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, is leading by example. Her 40-seat tour will show again that Welsh Labour is a party for the whole of Wales.

Chris is doing so much to drive this campaign, and to bring people together – if there was a physical embodiment of what Standing up for Wales means, Chris is it.

And, as Welsh Labour leader I will be doing everything I can to support our fantastic set of candidates.

I know I speak for my cabinet colleagues and the whole Assembly group – we are with you all the way, and will be with you through the next few weeks, and after that too.

Because we know, for us in Welsh Government, and for the whole of Wales, it is absolutely essential that we return as many Welsh Labour MPs as we can.

North Wales rail electrification – who put that on the agenda?

Who will keep that front and centre in the House of Commons? Welsh Labour MPs, that’s who.

The Tories have done nothing. They will do nothing.

We need Welsh Labour MPs fighting for vital infrastructure for our country.

Who has brought the issue of Women’s Pensions Inequality to the attention of the whole country?

Welsh Labour MPs, working with Labour colleagues right across Britain.

The Tories have done nothing. They will do nothing.

We need Welsh Labour MPs fighting for pensions justice and equality.

Who was it who brought the issue of child burial fees to the fore? An issue that speaks to who we want to be as a country.

It was Carolyn Harris, supported by her superb Westminster colleagues.

And now in Wales, our Government has committed to covering that cost in the future.

The Tories have done nothing. They will do nothing.

We need Welsh Labour MPs fighting for families and putting compassion back into our politics.

Something else to remind ourselves about – think back to this time last year, and the fate of the steel industry in the balance.

It was Welsh Labour MPs, the Welsh Government and our colleagues in the trades unions who worked tirelessly to Save our Steel.

There was all the work in the public eye – but behind the scenes so much more.

The Welsh Labour team in Westminster and in the Assembly fighting shoulder to shoulder to keep those steel jobs in Wales.

Jess Morden, Paul Flynn, Stephen Kinnock, Nia and Mark Tami never let up – champions for their communities, champions for the industry.

And now steel has a future in Wales once again.

This is what we can do together. Standing up for Wales.

Only this morning, because Welsh Labour is Government in Wales, we have been able to announce plans to create a world-leading technology cluster in Newport that is expected to create more than 2000 jobs.

The state of the art facility is the first project to be supported by the £1.2bn City Deal – a partnership that so many Welsh Labour council leaders, and Andrew Morgan in particular, were instrumental in delivering.

Today’s major investment puts Wales at the cutting edge of this exciting technology, which has the ability to change the way we live.

This is great news for Wales – and the first of many new exciting projects set to make a real difference to our economy.

But, we can do so much more with more Welsh Labour MPs in Westminster, with Labour in Government.

And that is why I am delighted to unveil our pledges to the people of Wales today.

First, we promise to protect living standards and create better jobs closer to home.

A Labour Government in Westminster will introduce a real Living Wage of £10 per hour and invest in infrastructure, skills and new technology.

That will build on the vital work we’ve done already in Wales…

  • NHS Wales is a Living Wage employer.
  • 150,000 jobs supported in the last Assembly.
  • At least 100,000 new all-age apprenticeships in Wales over the next four years.
  • Unemployment has fallen faster in Wales that across the rest of the UK.

Second, we will defend our NHS and protect social care

We know that with a Labour Government in Westminster there will be more resources for Wales, and more stability in the NHS and social care.

We won’t see the scandal of stripping money away from social services in order to balance the books.

With Labour in Westminster, we can work together across borders to give the NHS a bright future – unlike the Tories who lie about healthcare in Wales, smearing the hardworking staff and dragging politics into the gutter.

  • Ambulance response times are the best in the UK
  • Spending is higher on the NHS and social care in Wales
  • Delayed Transfers of Care are low and getting lower – in England they’re high and getting higher
  • We have world class cardiology treatment a stone’s throw from us here today
  • Do not let the Tories trashtalk our NHS, we’ll stand up for our doctors and nurses

Third, we give all children the opportunity to achieve

We are committed to protecting Free School Breakfasts and we are going to invest an additional £100m to further improve school standards in Wales over this Assembly term. Again this builds on our record.

  • GCSE results have never been higher in Wales – more children than ever getting a passport to success.
  • We have cut the attainment gap for the poorest pupils at every key stage. That happens in Wales, but not in Tory-run England, because we are making different choices.
  • There will be no grammar schools or Free Schools in Wales, because we want every school to be a great school – a Fair Deal for all our children.
  • We haven’t scrapped our schools building programme as the Tories have in England, in fact we are committing £2bn to our schools estate in the coming years.

Fourth, we will put more bobbies on the beat to make our neighbourhoods safer.

We know that community safety is one of the country’s top priorities, and so a Labour Government would deliver 853 new police officers in our communities.

That builds on our decision to continue to fund 500 Community Support Officers across Wales – a step we took five years ago to stop the impact of Tory cuts.

A Labour Government will also give stronger rights for victims, again building on the innovative work we are doing here on crime prevention and tackling Domestic Violence.

Fifth, we are going to provide more affordable homes to rent and buy

In this Assembly we have committed to deliver 20,000 more affordable homes – and we know that with a Labour Government in Westminster genuinely committed to house-building, we can go past this target, and do more still.

  • Ending the Right-to-Buy in Wales
  • Bringing empty properties back into use
  • Introducing new homelessness legislation

We are putting roofs over people’s heads in communities across Wales.

Another Tory Government in Westminster, committed to cuts, will be a disaster for housing. We can’t let that happen.

These are the pledges we will be taking to the doorsteps in the coming days. These are things people care about – good, secure work – a safe place to live.

Good schools, and hospitals.

The Tories, we know are desperate to make this an election about anything else – about Brexit for example. Which is deeply ironic given the absolute disaster they’ve made of that so far.

It is another reason we need Welsh Labour MPs in Westminster, to make Brexit work for Wales – we know the Tories won’t do that.

But, this is not the Brexit election. That was the referendum last year. A result I respect.

This election must be about the seven years of Tory failure.

Of broken promises.

Think about the things they have sacrificed on the altar of austerity.

Funding for disabled families.

They’ve made justice something people have to pay for.

They won’t raise military spending when the world has never been more dangerous.

And so I commend Nia Griffith’s pledge – our Defence spokesperson – to get that spend to a level that the country and our armed forces deserve.

Tories talk a good game on security abroad and at home, but their record is hopeless.

That is why we had to step in with Community Support Officers. That is why we’re committed to more policing.

And what about finance?

Their budgets are full of flip flops and hidden costs – no fair deal for working families, but a great deal if you’re so rich you don’t have to work.

Just think about this.

The tax and benefit changes which came in last month will mean that the poorest third of households will be worse off.

Worse off. The poorest third of the country.

How can that be right?

Is that the sort of Britain we want to live in?

And have all these cuts got the economy working again?

Have they balanced the books and are we giving the businesses of this country the confidence they need from Westminster? No.

The Tories have made this country meaner, poorer, smaller.

It is time to fight back. To send them a message.

To send them a massive headache – and you know how we can do that best?

It is by sending a battalion of Welsh Labour MPs back to Westminster to fight for our communities.

For the causes that matter.

Look at the talent available we have in our candidates – we have to get them back in, to get the country back on track.

Last week people all over the country had their chance to vote for all parties and none on local issues.

June 8 will be different.

The Liberals have already said they can’t win. Plaid obviously cannot win, nor can they have an impact in Westminster.

It is only Labour that can take on the Tories.

Only we can frustrate them. Only we can take a message of fairness and hope to the floor of the House of Commons.

So, to everyone across Wales who believes in a Fair Deal…

For everyone who cannot bear the idea of the Tories walking all over Wales…

It is time to give your support to your local Welsh Labour candidate.

We can do this, with your support.

Welsh Labour is united to halt the Tories in their tracks, and put fairness and decency back into Government in Westminster.

With your support, we can fulfill that promise – and we will Stand up for Wales.

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