Liberal Democrats

Read the highlights of Jane Dodds' speech to conference

Jane Dodds, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, addressed conference today. Read the highlights of her speech now:

By Liberal Democrats, Sep 17, 2018 7:09

Jane opened with...

We have a positive, ambitious and optimistic vision for a freer, fairer, and liberal Wales which values the individual and will give everyone the opportunity to live a life free from poverty and want.

We are the only party offering a united message in Wales, the only party not beset by internal squabbles and, crucially, the only party united on Brexit.

She condemned the divisive identity politics rife in Wales today...

I am proud to be Welsh, but I’m equally proud to be British, European and a citizen of the world, despite what Theresa May might think.

Too much of our politics attempts to divide our identities, as if having more than one identity is a betrayal of all of them.

Welsh Liberal Democrats always have and will always will reject this rhetoric and stand up for those who accept identity is more complex than one or the other.

She continued to stand up for international co-operation...

We must continue to promote co-operation and resist any attempts to divide us, however well-intentioned they may seem.

This is why we will resist any attempts to create an independent Wales - isolated from the rest of the UK, why we will continue to resist Brexit - knowing it would isolate us from our European neighbours.

I want to see a liberal Wales at the heart of a UK that plays a leading role in the EU and which is respected on the world stage.

Jane then moved on to Brexit, with sharp words for the Conservatives...

Brexit is continuing to be even more chaotic and damaging than we feared;  it’s taking longer, costing us more and looks likely to end in no deal at all. 

Theresa May’s grand “Chequers agreement” created a supposed middle ground between the demands of Remainers and Brexiteers but has been rejected by both. Even the EU has ruled out the plan yet still we have a Prime Minister committed to an unworkable plan

...and Labour...

Never have we had an opposition which has failed to oppose the Government as much as this one. They’ve had their chance to stand up to the Conservatives and stand up for the majority of the country who want to have the final say on the deal. 

Almost 70% of Labour voters want to stop Brexit, yet these voters continued to be ignored and taken for granted by Labour.

...and Plaid...

Their  position on Brexit has been disappointingly unclear. In their 2016 Manifesto they supported Brexit, on the grounds of ‘respecting the referendum result.’ 

Then during the General Election debate last year, when our very own Mark Williams called for the people to be given the final say on Brexit, Plaid Cymru and Leanne Wood objected. 

She warned of the damage Brexit will do to Wales...

The scale of the damage Brexit will do to Wales becomes ever clearer week-by-week. Government estimates show a no deal Brexit cause the Welsh economy to shrink by almost 10% compared to if we remained in the EU.

Businesses including Airbus in North Wales and Ford have also warned of the devastating effects of a hard Brexit on jobs and the Welsh economy. No responsible Government can continue to ignore these warnings, no responsible politician can dismiss these warnings as ‘Project Fear’ just because they’re not what they want to hear.

Jane called Remain-backing MPs to stand up for their constituents...

Every MP in Wales who backed remain in the referendum, regardless of their party affiliation, should have the courage to stand up in support of our call to give the people the final say, and for them to have the opportunity to choose to Exit from Brexit.

We are only party in Wales standing firmly against Brexit, the only party united in our commitment to an exit from Brexit.

She expressed her concern over levels of homelessness in Wales...

It’s just not acceptable that we have homeless people dying on our streets and that the number of people sleeping rough continues to climb higher.

What happened to the welfare state? To the social contract? The agreement that we work hard, pay our taxes and in return the state gives us a helping hand if we fall on hard times. When did we decide that we were happy for working families to have to rely on foodbanks to survive?

We need to recreate a welfare state that protects people from poverty, that guarantees our citizens a basic standard of living and helps people get back on their feet.

She paid tribute to Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Lib Dem Cabinet Secretary for Education...

Kirsty is doing an awesome job delivering Wales’ national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that we can all be proud of.

She is expanding the Welsh Pupil Premium, reducing Infant Class Sizes, introducing Wales’ first rural schools’ strategy, introducing inclusive and comprehensive Relationship and Sexual Education and reforming the Welsh student finance system to be the most generous in the UK. Talk about impressive work – thank you Kirsty!

Jane called for a greener economy...

For too long the Welsh economy has lagged behind the rest of the UK in productivity and failed to create the wealth needed to lift people out of poverty. But is this really surprising when we are denied key investment and opportunities?

There is huge potential to build an innovative green economy that provides clean, affordable and reliable energy for generations to come. However, the UK Government neglected this fact yet again and cancelled the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project.

The project would have made Wales a world leader in renewable energy and created thousands of skilled jobs. How is that fair? 

I’m proud to say the Welsh Liberal Democrats have long supported the Lagoon and will continue to do so until it is built.

She called for greater reform in our NHS...

The creation of the NHS in Wales  made immense progress in increasing life expectancy and providing quality healthcare to all regardless of their means. However, there is more to be done. We must address the health inequalities existing across Wales which means your wealth or location can impact the quality of care you receive.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have already taken a major step in improving the lives of our health and social care system by passing the Nurse Staffing Act in the last Assembly. Through this ground-breaking legislation every ward in Wales must now have a safe number of nurses on it. The legislation is already improving staff morale and patient safety by giving nurses the time to care for patients properly.

It’s essential we improve the working conditions of our hard-working, compassionate and talented healthcare staff and make it a place people want to work.

That is why I strongly believe we should establish an independent commission to create a long-term and clinically led plan for the Welsh NHS. Let’s stop the NHS being used as a political football and have it run by professionals who know what needs to be done.

Jane called the Government to do more about loneliness...

With half a million people across Wales feeling lonely, it is right to call it an epidemic. Loneliness has devastating effects on the mental health of those it affects, and we must work harder to tackle it.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party highlighting the issue of loneliness in Wales – calling for a Loneliness Tsar. Meaningful human connections are one of the most valuable things in life, yet for a substantial proportion of our population this happens far too little.

She renewed our commitment to standing in support of people who are trans...

As Charles Kennedy once said, “I jump on injustices, not bandwagons” and this is something I take to heart. That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats marched at Pride Cymru this year in support of the Trans community, who are facing discrimination rarely seen in modern Britain.

Major news outlets constantly try to call their identities and existence into question. I’m proud we’re standing with our Trans brothers and sisters against such bigotry and I will not rest until everyone in Wales is free to live their lives free from hate, discrimination and conformity.

...and finished off with a recommitment to our values.

Wales can do better and we demand better. We demand an open, internationalist Wales, we demand a Wales that supports its most vulnerable citizens, we demand a Wales free from discrimination and bigotry.

But most importantly we demand a Wales that gives everyone the opportunity to fulfil their potential and choose their own destiny; we demand a free, fair and Liberal Wales.

Thank you very much.

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