Wales Important contribution to Labour
Great pleasure to be here. – to be with the great Welsh wing of Team Labour.
This is my first time at Welsh conference being here as your new Deputy Leader
It is a great privilege to be here with you in the footsteps of and in the shadow of so many political giants from Wales.
Over the decades Labour in Wales has been a huge part of our history and our striving for a fairer and more prosperous country.
You have contributed many leaders. Including my dear friend and the best prime minister Britain never had -Neil Kinnock.
And Welsh Labour has played its part in our last 10 years in the government – including not just many labour MPs and Ministers but also Cabinet ministers, Peter Hain to whom I want to pay tribute and who will remain a progressive force in our politics, and now Paul Murphy.
And I’d like to pay tribute to Rhodri Morgan as our first Minister in Wales – You belong to Wales Rhodri, but all of Labour is proud of your leadership and how you speak up for all that is best for Labour and for Wales. Thanks you.
Importance of Welsh Labour Women
And I want to pay a special tribute to Welsh Labour women. To the members of the Rhondda women’s forum – Women like the Labour women who introduced themselves to me as C'Philly girl power. Whether its my friends and colleagues in the PLP – who I so respect and admire – like Julie, Betty and Anne. Whether it’s the leading trade unions women and your organisers – like Anita Gale. And now the new generation of welsh labour women like Sian, Nia, Jessica and Madelaine who speak up for welsh women so boldly in Westminster. And all the women in the Welsh Assembly who follow in the pioneering footsteps of their older sisters go forward in the new assembly and go on to break new ground. This new generation of welsh women will take up the challenges of the future – making Labour in Wales a balanced team of women and men working for women and men in your local communities.
And they make sure that Labour puts a family focus at the heart of our concerns.
And so it is a pleasure and a privilege for me to work alongside my sisters in Wales.
And to be here with all of you at this conference – a conference which comes at an important time.
Proud of our past and confident of the future
It is an important time because after 10 years in government – and with our new leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
We should be proud of our past and confident of the future.
Proud of our record but clear about the way ahead.
So we are proud of our record in tackling low pay. The minimum wage has done more than anything to tackle poverty pay. And our tax credits have helped families who work hard but don’t want to have to work all hours to make ends meet. Our commitment to end child poverty has seen 60,000 welsh children lifted out of poverty – but the gap between rich and poor is wide. So we will do more.
We are proud of that commitment to back up families has seen us ensure that there are more nursery places and a right to request flexible work. But we will do more now, for young people with a huge expansion in youth services. And we will extend the right to request flexible work to all parents with children – rather than just those with a child up to age 6 at present. But for many it is still a struggle to hold down a job, bring up children and also care for older relatives. So we will do more.
We are proud that Our commitment to everyone having the greatest opportunity has seen massive investment into schools with more teachers, smaller classes and better qualifications and fewer failing schools.
But the gap between the best and the worst remains too wide. So we will do more.
We are proud that our commitment to everyone having work has seen more jobs in the economy and hundreds of thousands of vacancies. And the new deal has seen youth unemployment fall and more lone parents working.
But there are still too many children being brought up in households where no-one works. So we will do more.
Our commitment to a strong and stable economy is because we know it is the poorest who suffers first and who suffer most when the economy shrinks. So Labour in Government and labour in the Assembly, working together have kept the economy strong and stable. And as international financial turbulence ripples round the world we will take no risks with economic stability and we will strengthen the economy so we can weather the international storms.
Our commitment to equality has seen us have twice as many women MPs as all the other parties put together. And across England and Wales we have more black and Asian local councillors than all the other parties put together. But we believe in equal representation – in local representation which understands and reflects the local community - so we must do more. And later on this year we will have a new Equality Bill as part of a legislative package which will ensure that we use transparency, public procurement and enforcement mean further progress on equality.
Challenges for the future.
Its an important time because we face new challenges for the future. And I would identify four challenges for us in the Labour party.
• how we compete isucessfully n an international globalised economy while making our society more fair and equal?
• how we can ensure that when the stay at home mother becomes the working mother, and the stay at home daughter becomes the working daughter that there is still enough time to bring up the children and care for older relatives?
• how we can benefit from the hard work of migrants without migrants being exploited and making people at work feel insecure?.
• how we can ensure that our democracy stays strong when so many - particularly young people - are turning away from politics?
Just as we faced up to and tackled the old problems of recession, unemployment and under funded health services, so we will face up to and tackle the new challenges.
So our path for the future is clear – to have a strong economy and for families to be able to prosper in a fair society.
Important council elections.
And it is an important time for us all to be here because of the Council elections. And I know that you are all working hard and working together in the important council elections to come in May.
Our local councillors are vital for the work you do in your local communities and the work you do in your Labour groups – but our local councillors are also vital as part of Labour’s team which strengthens us in our Westminster and Welsh Assembly seats.
And our campaigning in the council elections is a chance that we must seize to build up the party membership. For many years the party membership had been falling. But that fall has stopped now and steadied. We need to start increasing it back up again. We specially need to build our young members – our new £1 rate for young members gives us the chance to do that now.
And the council elections – not just here in Wales but across England and in London too, give us a chance to expose the falseness and shallowness of the Tories.
We can expose the duplicity and opportunism of the Tories. The same old nasty party - though they pretend they have changed.
The only thing that is consistent about Cameron is his inconsistency. His preparedness to say one thing one moment and exactly the opposite the next.
So he says they’ll be no more Punch and Judy at Prime Ministers Questions and then just uses it for personal attacks on Gordon Brown.
So he says he is against national standards in health care and the next moment he’s denouncing what he calls a post-code lottery.
So he takes paternity leave when his child is born – but votes against it when we bring in a law that extends it to all fathers.
He says he’s concerned about Women – and on that I believe him. But he’s the sort of man who’s only interested in women for one thing – their votes!
I’d like to conclude by thanking you for listening to me at this party conference and giving you a pledge that as your deputy leader I will always listen to you in the party.
With our strong history, with our strong principles, with our new leader and working as a strong team - we can have confidence in a strong future for Labour and for Wales.