Welsh Conservatives. Working for a "truly bilingual Wales"?
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Oct 3 10:13:57 UTC 2006
Bourne: Welsh Conservatives. Winning in 2007
"Mae'n blesser mawr i siarad yma heddiw. It is a great pleasure to speak
here today. With just over six months until the Welsh Assembly election,
this is Rhodri Morgan's nightmare. Blair won't go quietly. Brown is
thwarted. The Welsh Conservatives are breathing down his neck. And Mike
German is on the phone. Next May cannot come soon enough. Poised to
overtake Plaid Cymru in votes and seats, we are Labour's main challengers
in Wales. While Labour is in disarray, Welsh Conservative support is
gathering pace. And that's because we are changing. We are offering
something different. David Cameron has been at the forefront of that
change and I would like to thank him for all his support to us in Wales.
He is an inspirational Leader and is doing an outstanding job.
Our shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan has also been
first-class a big thank you to her. But, as ever, it is the party members
on the ground who are owed our greatest gratitude. Thank you to every
member here today and back in Wales who is working tirelessly for the
party. You are the ones who are ensuring that change is being made across
Wales. You are showing how Welsh Conservatives are serious about tackling
the challenges in our communities. Labour is divided. Welsh Labour MPs
have led the charge for the Prime Minister's resignation defeat in Blaenau
Gwent gave them a signal loud and clear and the party is bracing itself
for more losses in the Assembly election. Unsurprisingly, there is no more
talk of the dynamic partnership between Labour in Westminster and Wales.
No more talk of how Rhodri works well with Tony. Blair is seen as an
electoral liability and Welsh Labour will be keener than ever to remind us
of clear red water. We know Rhodri wants Blair out and Brown in - surely
it is only a matter of time before Rhodri is up in Fife with a gift for
the Brown baby. But it'll take more than that. Whether he likes it or not
Rhodri Morgan is defending his own record. And he's got a lot to answer
for. His government has brought us longer waiting lists, bloated
bureaucracy, soaring council tax and a stifled economy. The development of
choice in public services has been rejected outright; the pursuit of
doctrinaire socialism has jeopardised progress.
Labour has lost the trust of the Welsh public and broken manifesto
commitments on hospital waiting lists, free home care for the disabled and
free school breakfasts. Naturally we will get the predictable election
sweeteners and the gimmicky headlines from Welsh Labour over the next few
months but so be it. What Welsh Conservatives are offering is meaningful
and lasting. We have been working hard on our manifesto. The vast bulk of
that time has been spent talking to interest groups, schools, unions,
businesses, charities and party members about the direction of our policy
can I thank you for your part in this. We are in the final stages of
refining those ideas and look forward to campaigning on them.
Our manifesto will be an exciting and coherent platform for government.
Focussing on good local services, a first class NHS, an excellent
education system, a strong economy and a sustainable environment. The
possibilities for primary powers mean we have even more tools at our
disposal to offer the Welsh people significant policy differences and we
will make the most of the new Government of Wales Act, whatever its
shortcomings and imperfections. Encouraging localism recognises that local
people best understand local problems. In Wales, to an even greater extent
than England, we have seen Labour suffocate public services with red tape
and a 'government knows best' mentality.
An explosion in the number of people employed in central administration,
with diktats and initiatives flowing from Cathays Park in Cardiff, often
leave our public services overwhelmed and unresponsive and through no
fault of hardworking staff. I want to do away with all that. I believe the
devolution of power to local people - to teachers and parents, health
professionals and patients - will transform communities. Flexibility over
the curriculum will give teachers the freedom to inspire our children.
Encouraging local links between schools and businesses will open exciting
vocational training opportunities. Schools will have greater control to
instil a disciplined learning environment.
Parents can choose the school that best suits their child's needs. In
health too, the focus must be on the needs of the patient, the family and
the community not on the bureaucratic grind of central government. With a
Welsh Conservative government, the crucial role of local GP surgeries will
be enhanced. NHS walk-in centres will help frontline services. Local
people will have a say over the future of their hospitals. The voluntary
sector will be given an elevated role. When things go wrong it is often
voluntary groups that pick up the pieces. Volunteers who step in to help
with drug addicts, cases of alcohol abuse and domestic violence are truly
And this is an area where I believe much more can be done. We can learn
more from the experience of voluntary organisations and offer more
support. The Labour Welsh Assembly government has paid lip service to the
role of social enterprises often voluntary or non-profit making - but has
failed to realise their full potential. Dwr Cymru Welsh Water does
excellent work in educational centres across the country; SIREN in Brecon
works with ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed making furniture from
recycled timber making a real and positive difference to the surrounding
area. But there are many more social enterprise ideas that need
encouragement. Welsh Conservatives will help local people build the social
economy to create a better local environment and a stronger community.
For all aspects of the Welsh economy, the dampening effect of Labour's
bureaucratic and befuddled thinking is the obstacle to prosperity. We will
liberate small and medium sized businesses from the heavy handedness of
state interference, enabling them to breathe life into our towns and
villages it is only then that we can begin to truly tackle the deprivation
that haunts too many parts of Wales and hope to close the gap between
Wales and the rest of the UK. Grasping the nettle of a lack of affordable
housing will also ensure a long term future for our communities. I want to
see much more support for child care, so that families are more able to
juggle work with home life. This will feature strongly in our manifesto.
I want poverty rooted out in rural areas as well as our towns and cities.
We need to learn the lessons of the mistakes made with Objective One and
build on positive examples of economic policies in Ireland and elsewhere.
We need to play to our strengths. Tourism is one of those strengths and
for good reason. The Welsh landscape is breathtaking. There is nothing I
enjoy more than walking in the Cambrian Mountains, on the Pembrokeshire
Coastal Path or in the Brecon Beacons and the beauty of the Welsh
countryside is close to my heart. People travel the world to enjoy our
mountains and valleys, for a piece of our Celtic charm. Surely this is
Tackling climate change means taking tough decisions looking seriously at
alternative energy sources and our future security. Green steps are
something that government and individuals need to do together. Recycling
means less waste. Improving public transport means leaving our cars at
home. Cutting down on food miles means local farmers benefit. Less
landfill. Less pollution. Environmental benefits. Health benefits.
Economic benefits. It's a political no-brainer. Aside from our
environment, one of the other things that makes Wales so special is our
cultural identity. World renowned for our age-old love of song, rugby and
language, Welsh culture is also growing in new ways with exciting film
ventures, innovative dance productions and the development of adventure
Wales has a new confidence and Welsh Conservatives intend to build on
that. We have a rich and fascinating heritage worthy of a National Records
Office at home in Wales, not in Kew in London. Welsh artists deserve their
own National Art Gallery, so do we all. And we need to review the Welsh
Language Act to ensure that we are making proper headway towards a truly
bilingual Wales. This means not only improving Welsh medium education and
the use of Welsh in business but also protecting both Welsh and English
Welsh Conservatives have a clear vision for Wales which is head and
shoulders above anything from the other parties. Plaid Cymru have been
writing to Santa Claus early this year with their wish list. The credit
card nationalists are giving away money without a second thought to how
they would fund their policies in the long term. Outdated, outflanked and
out of favour, Plaid wants to create a Wales more befitting of the 1950s
than the twenty-first century, Wales without technicolour. Meanwhile, the
Lib Dems have thrown in the towel before the election, hoping that their
old Labour lovers will take them back again.
Vote Lib Dem get Labour. Jenny Willott is in charge of back-room
operations for the Lib Dem Assembly election campaign. As Mike German puts
it, she will be "making sure our candidates are saying the same things at
the same time". She really must have the hardest job in Welsh politics.
Over the past year, we have seen defections from Labour, Plaid and the Lib
Dems to the Welsh Conservatives. There will be more. There was a
collective sigh of relief in Wales last week when Rhodri Morgan said that
he might not be First Minister this time next year.
His plans for retirement in 2009 are in shreds, thank goodness - a
dithering and tired leadership inspires no one. Wales will be better off
without the bungling incompetence of the Clown Prince of Wales. Peter Hain
is worried too. The Secretary of State for Wales has promised a bare
knuckle fight to stop the Conservatives. He knows all about bare knuckle
fights after all he had two trying to stop Rhodri Morgan becoming First
Minister - he's not got the stamina for the full twelve rounds. So it's up
to us. Change is never easy but the results make it worth it. I've had to
make some tough decisions over the past year or so. I've had to take some
political risks. But they have paid off.
And now Welsh Conservatives are in the best shape for a generation. I
passionately believe that Welsh Conservatives have the vision and policies
to make Wales a better place to live. And I would like to thank you all
for your support while those changes have taken place but we cannot
standstill. Welsh Conservatives have reached a watershed. A defining
moment. The gains we have made in 2003 and our progress since then has
simply put the building blocks in place, important but not enough.
Now we need to step it up another gear. Turn our message up a notch. Raise
our game still higher. We are the only alternative to a tired and lost
Labour government. For some time in the Assembly it has been abundantly
clear - it's us or it's them. No other party makes the grade. The only
credible alternative; the only centre-right vision for Wales; the only
choice. The policies we have for the next election mean a bright and
exciting future for Wales. Localism. Choice. Strong public services.
Bilingualism. A thriving economy. A sustainable environment. It's
straightforward. In six months, if we keep working hard, keep listening,
and keep changing, the Welsh political landscape will be different. Welsh
Conservatives will take Wales in a new direction."
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