Thursday, 28 October 2010

Labour Must Begin The Fightback In Wales

As we watch painfully whilst our MPs in Westminster sit on the wrong side of the chamber it is easy to think that our party is unable to act. As Osborne, Cameron and the patsies swing their axe through the public finances, our MPs watch in helpless disgust and it is hard to imagine how we can begin our fightback when we look at this scene.

But there is hope. Take a short trip from Westminster, through the West Country and toward the longest river in the country. It will cost you at least £5.50, but as the Severn Bridge becomes Pont Hafren you enter a land where Labour can be reinvigorated again. Travel from the dry, cold ash of Westminster into Wales and you will discover the warm, glowing embers of our party. Far from dead, in Wales we must begin to launch our fightback.

Carwyn Jones, the recently(ish) elected First Minister, is more than prepared to take up the fight to the Conservative government in Westminster. A new, fresh face after the incredible service of Rhodri Morgan, Jones is clearly not fearful of taking Westminster on as his recent reaction to the proposal to close the passport office in Newport shows.

And just this week Welsh Labour chose its new General Secretary. In David Hagendyk, the party in Wales has appointed a young, progressive General Secretary who cares deeply about Wales, her communities and the party's role within them.

And despite the party's dire failure to elect any Welsh MPs to the Shadow Cabinet in Westminster, the Labour benches are littered with Welsh MPs ready and able to take on the Conservative government for every penny they intend to divert from Wales.

Peter Hain will doubtless continue to be a strong voice at the front bench against the English Welsh Secretary.

Huw Irranca-Davies wasted absolutely no time getting stuck into the terrible decision to appoint an English MP as Welsh Secretary. And not only that, but a succinct attack on the lack of air time the said "Welsh" Secretary will get in the Cabinet Committee meetings of this government. He also holds quite an important position considering the potential areas of economic development in Wales. As a Shadow Energy and Climate Minister, it will be part of his job to ensure the government delivers new green industries into Wales. It's not like the Tories will necessarily know where exactly he means though; so Huw may need to provide the likes of Jeremy Hunt with directions. Irranca-Davies is also of a rare breed: a politician with a decent website.

Then there are committed community MPs such as new boy Nick Smith in Blaenau Gwent. Keir was in the area not so long ago to watch David Miliband give the annual speech in his name. Upon speaking to some of the locals, it was clear that Mr. Smith is highly respected in the area and his involvement in the community shows Labour is far from powerless on those streets where Bevan once walked. His participation in the successful "Turn On The Lights" campaign is one example of such action.

Newport East MP Jessica Morden is another seemingly intent on making sure the new government do not leave Wales in the wilderness.

The list goes on: from seasoned veterans like Alun Michael to the newly elected Susan Jones. We've even got the youngest councillor in Wales, with 19-year-old Luke Bouchard recently elected in Treherbert following a 10% swing from Plaid.

And, in true Welsh tradition, a poet! Chris Bryant's poem however, has a very serious point that should not be missed.

Far from navel-gazing, the party in Wales is looking outward and trying to find ways to bring our communities together and engage more people than just the same, committed members who turn out for us in whatever the volatile Welsh elements throw in front of them. Keir has wind of an event in Cardiff as soon as this weekend where members will be discussing how they engage with the people in our communities.

As Keir has commented countless times before, Wales is directly in the firing line of this government. We all know what they are doing is wrong, but we must be clear about one thing. As Mr. Miliband noted in the aforementioned speech, this government is "weak in principle, but sure of purpose."

"Weak in principle, but sure of purpose"

Combined with this, and another thing Keir has pointed out before, is the fact that the public, for now, are going along with these cuts. Some initial signs are good. Polling for next year's Assembly elections shows Labour up 10 percentage points from 2007 and hitting 40%, with Plaid next on 23%. UK polling is also showing Labour creeping up on the Conservatives and even taking the lead with some pollsters.

But we need more. To fight back, Labour cannot look inward, it must use what power it has and it must get back into the communities throughout this country to reignite the flames from the embers left over after May's election and build more of that power.

And that must start in Wales.


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