Vaughan Gething campaign launch speech: ‘A first Black European leader would show we can all realise our potential’

Vaughan Gething

This is a copy of Vaughan Gething’s speech as written for delivery at a campaign event this morning in Newport. You can read a transcript of a recent speech by his Welsh Labour leadership contest rival Jeremy Miles here.

Bore da bawb. I want to thank everyone for coming here today, especially to Jayne and to Mike for those incredible introductions.

I was delighted to have received the support of Usdaw over the weekend, a union I have worked closely with for many years. They join Community as the two unions to have declared their support in this contest so far – both of whom I’m honoured to be nominated by. Thank you Mike.

And Jayne, your support, along with that of Newport’s incredible MPs, Ruth and Jess, is a real honour. The work you all do, with colleagues across the city, has kept the red flag flying over this Chartist city – despite the Tories throwing huge resources at Newport over a number of years.

Combining that radical tradition with Welsh Labour’s practical progressive values, Newport’s continued Labour successes is a benchmark for our party nationally.

There is no doubt that the Chartists would be in their element over these next twelve months. 2024 is set to be the year in which the greatest number of people in human history will take part in democratic elections.

More than four billion people across the globe will cast their votes. From India to the United States; Indonesia to Mexico; Taiwan to Pakistan. More than half of humanity will take their hopes to the ballot box.

Yet never in my lifetime have democratic values felt under such strain. Across the world, the forces of populism and reaction pose ever newer and ever more dangerous threats. Standing not in solidarity. Standing not for cooperation or the resolution of shared challenges. Standing for nobody’s future, but their own.

We have an opportunity to put a stop to that – in this country at least. Because in 2024 we will be a part of this battle.

We must create a bond of trust between people and power

We, too, will cast our ballots here in Wales in the UK General Election in the year to come. We too will face those same culture warriors and their forces of division.

Our task, I believe, is to prevent the victory of division and hate – by building bridges, by listening, by recreating a bond of trust between people and power.

We must use the year ahead – and beyond – to renew the positive case for progressive politics. To remind people, that only through coming together, can we achieve for the many.

That is why my campaign banner in this leadership election reads as it does. For Wales, For Labour, For you. Dros Gymru, Dros Lafur, Drosoch chi.

‘For’ – ‘Dros’ is perhaps the most important word in that banner. Because whatever else I say or do in this election – win, or lose – I choose to make a stand for positivity. For our future.

To stand for a set of ideas and policy innovations that are rooted in Welsh Labour values. To stand for a leadership grounded not in bitterness, resentment or the fruitless search for a past that never was, but a leadership based on hope.

To advance the case for human rights, for solidarity and for a commitment to playing a collective, international role in addressing the challenges we face in our lives and in our communities.

My five priorities

That is what I set out today. Five priorities that positively set out that case ‘For’ our future:

  • For a Healthy Nation
  • For a Place Called Home
  • For Green Jobs
  • For Ambitious Futures
  • And For a Stronger Wales

Five priorities that will define my campaign and my leadership as we take Wales forward in the critical months and years ahead.

For a healthy nation, a new Welsh Health Covenant, making sure that our NHS will be safe in public hands. Ready to meet the challenges of both mental and physical health.

With my leadership, NHS services will never be sold off and “per head” Health and Social Care funding will never fall below that of England.

Based on Bevan’s principles, a commitment to set out a new partnership between our NHS, patients, unions and local government to meet the challenges we face across health and social care.

For a Place Called Home, a commitment that the government I lead will put the renewal of our communities at the heart of its programme.

With my leadership, a commitment that across Wales we will invest in the homes, the infrastructure and the transport networks that make and shape the places we live in.

I will prioritise speeding up the planning process for social housing, deliver modern methods of construction and help to meet the climate change challenge.

Based on our Welsh values of cooperation, a commitment that together with local government we will use the tools of social partnership to tackle the shared challenges we face.

For green jobs, we will meet the net zero challenge and deliver a just transition. Our steel sector could and should have a strong future. I will not agree to transfer Welsh workers jobs and emissions overseas. We will build on established strengths in manufacturing, semiconductors and the growing tech sector.

Based on our shared values, we will work with a UK Labour government, with business and trade union partners to drive new, innovation-led growth.

This is a high stakes moment for Wales, but I’m hopeful for what’s to come. I want Wales to rise to the challenge and be at the very forefront of the green revolution that will shape our future.

That is why I am committed to a new National Manufacturing Institute for Wales. That is why I am committed to new clean growth hubs. That is why I am committed to Gwaith Teg – a new fair work fund for Wales.

I am determined that renewable energy from Wales will deliver more well-paid jobs for Wales.

I will reinforce the importance of place in our economic future. I will support local businesses and continue to grow the cooperative economy to build and retain wealth in our communities. To help lift people out of poverty.

For an Ambitious Future, a personal commitment that I will put the weight of the office of First Minister behind the drive for higher standards in our schools and colleges. With the return of former EU funds and powers I will restore the national apprenticeship programme broken up by the Tories.

We will strive to give every young person the very best start in life regardless of background, income or circumstance.

I will renew our focus on the first 1000 days in a child’s life. Supporting and empowering parents whilst we invest in and expand childcare.

Building a Wales where no future begins with a childhood blighted by poverty.

Based on our values, a commitment that at every age and stage of life, there is the opportunity for good work, quality training and respect.

For a stronger Wales, my government will always make the case for the powers Wales needs to get the job done.

In the 90s I campaigned for devolution for Wales. In 2011 I campaigned for more devolution for Wales. And during the pandemic, with Mark I pushed what devolution could deliver for Wales, with the rest of the UK often following our lead.

And in the future, I will move more power out of Cardiff and into the hands of people – to get the job done. That includes beefing up the role of the Minister for North Wales.

Leading during Covid was the hardest professional challenge I’ve faced

But, under my leadership, we won’t just look inwards. We will renew our presence on the international stage. We will seek out new partners in trade and industry.

Based on our common values, my government will not shy away from tackling the climate crisis. We will meet our obligations to support those fleeing injustice, hate and war abroad.

And I want to see a thriving future for Cymraeg in our communities. ‘Dwi’n dysgu Cymraeg. As you may know, I’m learning Welsh, and it would be a positive signal for so many people across our country i gael dysgwr fel Prif Weinidog.

Taken together, I believe these priorities meet the challenges that Welsh Labour members should demand of a future leader. They are rooted in our values and our history. And they will deliver a brighter, better, fairer Wales in the future.

It is about vision and values, working together. It is my experience, my values, and my vision that – I hope – makes me the best person to lead our party and our nation.

I am the candidate who has been tested in the eye of the storm. Working alongside Mark, leading Wales through the pandemic was the hardest challenge of my professional life.

The pressure was unrelenting. There was a focus on devolution like never before. There was a focus on Wales like never before. There was a focus on leadership like never before.

I went through it as we all did. I stepped up to meet the demands of the time. I did that whilst shopping for my mother who needed more support. I did that whilst being a husband and a father to my own young family. Home schooling wasn’t just for other people – it was for us too.

My values were tested too. At one point we were asked to join Dido Harding’s new test and trace service. There was real pressure for Wales to join. I chose to trust my values.

I am proud to say that I rejected Matt Hancock’s advances. I chose a public service answer – and we delivered. Better results at nearly half the price.

I never had to sack Serco because I never hired them. Values in action in the toughest of times.

On my watch there were no crony contracts, no VIP lanes, no Michelle Mone scandal and no drunken parties in our Welsh Government office. I have been tested and I can be trusted to lead Wales from day one.

Racism saw my dad’s job offer withdrawn

But I do also accept and fully understand the historic significance of what my victory would mean. Many of you, and others in our party and movement, have known me for a long time. As a trade unionist, an activist, a councillor, a Member of the Senedd, and a Minister.

I’ve nearly always seen myself as a politician who is Black. But on occasion, I know that I need to be a Black politician. If I win this contest, I will be the first Black leader of any nation in Europe.

Our nation: Wales. I know exactly what that would mean for young Black boys and girls across Wales – to see someone who looks like them in the highest office.

It would mean more than that too. It would mean that everyone in Wales – whatever their background – could see further proof that their potential can be realised here in Wales. I know what it is like to face adversity, to have your place in your community questioned.

This has not been a simple journey. I am a Welshman born in Zambia. My mother was a chicken farmer who met my father, a Welsh vet, when he was working in Zambia.

When my parents moved to Britain in 1976 my Dad applied for work and was offered a job as a vet not far from here near Abergavenny. However, once my father turned up with his Black family alongside him, the offer was withdrawn. He returned the cheque for his travel expenses.

It hurt him when he told us later in life what had happened. My father eventually found work in Dorset. We were literally the only Black children in the village. I chose to come back to the land of my father – hen wlad fy nhad.

I moved to Aberystwyth for University. I was the first Black President of NUS Wales. I became a trade union lawyer, a shop steward and a local councillor. I was the first Black President of Wales TUC.

The objective evidence is very clear. Black people often struggle to progress and often have to work harder than their peers. Indeed, when I was a trade union lawyer, I won claims for workers who faced exactly that barrier on the basis of their race.

And today, when the news reports are run about the things I am saying to you now, the usual pattern will emerge. Abuse on social media. Racist tropes disguised with polite language.

People questioning my motives, even my nationality. Whilst others question why I’m “playing the race card”. Or saying we shouldn’t be talking about “identity politics.”

To those people I say – it is very easy not to care about identity when your own identity has never once been questioned or held you back.

And that brings me to a question asked by one of Newport’s most famous sons, my friend Richard Parks – who I am delighted is joining us here today. You may know him for his feats on the rugby pitch here or as an extreme athlete and TV presenter.

Richard is also a deep thinker about our nation – and in his recent documentary he asked the question: “Can I be Black and Welsh?” My answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes”.

Not least because of the values, courage and campaigning of so many people who have come before us. The people whose shoulders we stand upon.

But, it remains a difficult question for too many. It is far from job done. I make no apology for keeping equality at the heart of what we do. Of what I will do.

The belief that we can be better if we work with each other reinforces why I joined the Labour Party. I recognised that our world and our country were not fair.

The Labour Party then – when Neil Kinnock was leader – was the party for social justice. It still is today. It’s why I joined a trade union – to be part of something collective and organised that protects and empowers the individual. I didn’t just join – I was an activist, a shop steward.

The belief in and commitment to social justice is what motivates me each day to do my job. It’s why I’m standing in this election.

This is about how can communicate optimism

This is a contest about the future. Our future. About how our party is led into the future. Who can stand up to the pressure. Who can lead the general election campaign here in Wales. Who can communicate a sense of optimism and energy for our future that brings the people of Wales with us.

I believe that I can. I believe that together we can write a better future for Wales. I ask for your trust and your support to lead. Dros Gymru. Dros Lafur. Drosoch chi. For Wales. For Labour. For you.

Diolch o galon i chi gyd. Thank you very much everyone.

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