Josh James, Chair of Welsh Labour Students, welcomed us to Cardiff for #LSCouncil16 at the end of December with the following speech:
Annywl Pawb, croeso yr Gymru ac croeso yr Caerdydd.
To you all, welcome to Wales, and welcome to Cardiff.
When we think of the Labour Party’s heartlands, we often think of the great cities of Northern England, or the progressive boroughs of London. But in fact the Labour Party was born in places like this in South Wales, before Cardiff was even a city, a connection between Labour and Wales that dates back to the very start of our movement.
Although Keir Hardie was born in Scotland, for the majority of his time in Parliament he represented the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil here in South Wales; one of the two first Labour victories in 1900. And when Ramsay Macdonald became the first ever Labour Prime-Minister in 1924, he did so representing the South Wales seat of Aberavon.
More recently, many of you may have shed a tear over the story of the small mining community of Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley, Powys. When the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners helped raise money for them during the miner’s strike, and in a show of support, the Welsh Miners marched with the LGBT community in London in 1985.
Since devolution in 1999 we have always had a Labour Government in Wales, protecting Labour values in our NHS, maintaining free prescriptions for all. And in education we don’t have grammar schools, and we are retaining student grants, EMA, and launching the Diamond Review which proposes a HE funding structure that puts students first. Protecting jobs by investing in our infrastructure, owning our own successful international airport and operating schemes like Jobs Growth Wales which funds employers who want to grow their business to take on unemployed young people looking for work. We look out for families by continuing funding for FlyingStart the Welsh equivalent to SureStart. And in Wales we are tackling homelessness by starting to build social housing, and we’ve already suspended the Right-To-Buy in most Local Authorities.
As it happens, the mining communities of South Wales are perhaps the most loyal heartlands the Labour Party has, in 2015 25 of the 40 seats in Wales stayed red. And earlier this year, whilst the BBC was reporting a “historic third term” for the SNP in Scotland, in Wales I was one of the Welsh Labour organisers celebrating the far more astounding 5th consecutive victory for the Welsh Labour Party in our National Assembly.
Just last month, Welsh Labour Students had its Conference in Swansea, where I was re-elected as the Chair of Welsh Labour Students. The event was a cost accessible two-day event at just £5 per student and we sold over 60 tickets. And next February, after our second democratic event of the year, I hope to see our organisation of Labour Student clubs in Wales spearhead the campaign to end letting agent fees here as they have done in Scotland.
You might not have known all this when you crossed the River Severn into Wales this weekend, but here in Wales we have shown what Labour values can do! Welsh Labour has a strong distinct message of consistently standing up for communities that need us, and a record of investing in ordinary people.
So thank you for being here in Wales this great nation this weekend, and before you go home tomorrow evening, let’s remember to learn from each other as Labour Students. To share best practice, ideas, and values. Let’s stand united for the people who need us, because none of us can survive much more of the Tories in Westminster. Because we are not just the future, we are here now, and in Wales we are still winning for Labour, winning for young people and students. Council, it is our job to replicate these wins across the entirety of the UK, for those struggling to survive, and to bring Labour values into our education systems, our NHS and our workplaces.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy your time here in Cardiff.