At Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference this weekend Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds set out her vision for a fair, free and Liberal Wales. Jane was speaking on a debate on the Welsh Liberal Democrat Policy Paper A Liberal Wales, which passed conference with an overwhelming majority.
Conference, I’m excited to begin the process today of shaping our vision for our party and for Wales. One thing I made clear during my campaign to become leader of our party was that I wanted to re-capture not only our radical, Liberal roots, but the idea that politics should offer hope.
That’s what I want us to do.
I want to rekindle the optimism and the hope that politics once offered by setting out an aspirational vision of the Wales we want to see.
I want us to start a conversation about what it is we want to achieve – a story and an ethos that will help us in shaping stand-out signature policies for the elections ahead of us.
In truth, much of my vision is informed by the vision of another Liberal a little over 75 years ago.
In 1942 William Beveridge published his report, a report that captured imaginations and transformed society. Dryly titled the ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services report,’ Beveridge’s work went on to transform British society and establish the welfare state as we know it.
It was a promise of a better, brighter future.
It was a promise that each and every one of us would have the opportunity to get on in life; to be healthy, to be well educated, to have a place to call home, and that there would be a safety net for when the going got tough.
Beveridge identified 5 giant evils: squalor, want, disease, ignorance and idleness.
Far from having disappeared, the challenges facing society in 1942 have only changed.
We no longer simply talk of a poverty - or want - of “physical efficiency” – the minimum amount to simply feed ourselves; we talk about the number of households and children living in working poverty, turning to foodbanks, with opportunity out of reach.
We no longer talk about housing – or squalor – as simply inhabitable, over-crowded housing; we talk increasingly about affordability, and a minimum standard unimaginable in 1942.
Education – Beveridge’s ignorance - no longer describes children leaving school without any qualifications at all; we talk instead of children achieving good qualifications, the impact of poverty on outcomes, and raising standards.
Our discussions on health and social care – or disease – focus on access to services and treatment, waiting times, and healthy life expectancy; not infectious diseases and accidents being the primary cause of death without access to healthcare.
Idleness – or what we would call opportunity – now describes access to well paid, secure work, and opportunity to play a full part in our society and our economy.
We also now have a sixth giant evil of loneliness, which limits opportunity, impacts on our health, and leads to a less free life.
We need an economy and society that offers opportunity and hope to all.
A Wales of hope and of optimism.
Not a Wales that pitches us against ‘others’, that does itself down, or limits the aspirations of our citizens.
I want us to talk about a hopeful vision of a Liberal society.
A fair and free society where nobody is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
Where opportunity and power is for everyone, and where no one is held back by their upbringing.
Where people have the power to shape their own destiny, where anyone who struggles gets a helping hand.
Conference, this paper is intended to start a discussion, and to shape how we develop policy, so we can offer meaningful solutions to the challenges people face every single day.
It is meant to articulate what we mean by a society where nobody is enslaved by poverty, ignorance of conformity - a vision which is incredibly aspirational.
We will talk to members, supporters, the public, frontline staff and experts to hear the issues that matter to them. We will combine their thoughts and ideas with our own creativity and Liberalism to create effective, Liberal solutions to the challenges facing Wales.
With your help, we’ll spend the next three years producing the bold, liberal ideas needed to create the Wales we want to see. Ideas that will stand the test of time, and offer hope for the future.
I look forward to hearing your ideas for how we realise our vision, and hope that all members will take this opportunity to help set out a radical liberal offer to the people of Wales.
Thank you conference.