Wefan Gymraeg

Jane Dodds’ Leader address to Welsh Lib Dem Spring Conference

Whether you weren't able to make it to our Spring Conference this year or just loved it so much you want to read it again, you can read Jane's speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference here.

Gynhadledd... Gynhadledd ddiolch i chi bawb am ddod heddiw. Dyma fy nhrydedd gynhadledd fel arweinydd ac mae'r angerdd a'r brwdfrydedd sydd gennym yn ein plaid wedi creu cymaint o argraff arnaf.

Conference thank you for all coming today. This is my third Conference since becoming your leader and I am still so impressed with the passion and enthusiasm we have within our party.

So, what is going on?  Let’s take ourselves back to that strange broadcast from Theresa May 2 weeks ago. 

In the past few months we’ve seen increasing instability, a lack of political leadership and the national embarrassment that is this government’s handling of Brexit.

And while Brexit dominates every debate, every storyline, just spare a moment’s thought for the issues that have been ignored. Poverty rising, money for our public services cut and climate change forgotten.

Conference, have we ever seen a Westminster Government that’s more of a mess and a shambles than the one we have today?

I say Wales demands better.

 

This cannot be the kind of world we want our children to grow up in.

Around the world we are seeing the rise of right-wing populism, intolerance and the politics of fear and division. From Trump in the US, to Bolsonaro in Brazil to Orban in Hungary, we live in dangerous times.

Here in UK, we’ve seen the rise and, much more pleasantly, the fall of UKIP.

Every day we’re seeing the effects of the Brexit vote.

A vote that has been tainted even more by the Vote Leave campaign’s decision to withdraw its appeal against fines for breaking electoral laws.

In the near 3 years since the referendum, we’ve seen a Conservative Prime Minister who has put her own party first at every stage – not our country. Her real masters have become the ERG and the DUP.

Only in the last week have we seen her reach out across the political divide for the first time – and only then because there was no choice.

In the Conservative Party, a party that took Britain into the Europe and into the single market, we’re seeing good, honest, pro-European MPs like Dominic Grieve and Nick Boles labelled as traitors and facing votes of no confidence.

All while Jeremy Corbyn continues to ignore most of his members and voters by consistently failing to oppose what is clearly a Brexit that will hurt our economy, our future and frankly the most vulnerable in our society.

 

In all this I say thank goodness for the Liberal Democrats.

It was Tim Farron that showed great courage after that referendum and first put forward the idea of a People’s Vote.

It was Vince Cable that took this fight forward and put the Liberal Democrats at the heart of a movement of millions to give the people the final say on the deal.

Conference, there is an alternative to right wing populism, to the politics of fear and to Brexit. It is the Liberal Democrats and liberals around the world.

Now is OUR time to demand better and take a stand.

We demand a People’s Vote and we will not waver in our stand.

 

No-one can be scared in to silence and made to feel they cannot stand up for their beliefs

I stand here before you as a product my upbringing in a Welsh speaking family Wrexham. I learned from my parents the value of public service, the importance of giving back to the community and of course, the value of a good education.

It’s that education that enabled me to become a social worker and I’m proud that I’ve been able to spend the last 27 year helping to protect vulnerable children at home and abroad.

The thing that links my politics and my work life is tackling injustice. And in today’s world, sadly we don’t have to go far to find it.

Around my home in Powys, I visit foodbanks and find people driven there by the injustice and failing of the Westminster government’s universal credit scheme.

I talk to young people that are being driven out of the areas they grew up in because there’s no jobs and no affordable housing.

I meet long standing residents that have lost important community facilities such as Post Offices, shops or banks and seen public transport links to towns arbitrarily removed.

Every week I talk to farmers that are living in fear of a no deal Brexit and what it will do to their livelihoods.

As Liberal Democrats, it’s our job to stand up against injustices like these.

It’s our job to give a real voice to the powerless.

To stand up against authority that’s failing the people in their most basic needs.

Conference we demand better.

 

Let me talk to you on an issue that’s close to my heart – climate change.

I don’t need to tell you the dangers of climate change, nor should I have to be stood here making the case for tackling it.

Yet sadly there are still many people out there who fail to grasp the severity of the issue.

Climate change is not a can you can kick down the road. We need to act now and act fast before we cause further irreversible damage to our planet.

Green politics needs to be embraced in everything we say and do.

It’s not just about our economy. 

It’s about the way we live,

 It’s about the way we learn.

It’s about how we travel.

 

Wales is the only nation in the UK with green in our flag. Let’s make Wales a standard bearer for putting green in the heart of the way we live.

I applaud the way communities in Wales are all taking up the climate change challenge. Carmarthenshire and Gwynedd County Councils, along with numerous Town Councils across Wales, have declared a Climate Emergency.

Because it is a crisis

Because it is an emergency

And we can do something about it, it is not too late

 

Wales has already sought to create a green economy with the Swansea Tidal Lagoon at its heart. Conference I will never apologise for continuing to talk about and fight for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.

But it isn’t Wales that is standing in the way, it is Westminster, where the Conservative Government is blocking the investment needed to make the tidal lagoon happen.

It is the vital first step in making Wales a world leader in green renewable energy and, if successful, could spark a whole wave of new Lagoons right across Wales.

We need to be embracing this and embracing other new technologies to diversify our energy supply, create new well-paid jobs for the future and move away from damaging fossil fuels.

 

Conference, we must invest in tackling climate change now.  Because if we don’t, it will be much more damaging for all of us in the long run.

We have 12 years before the damage we have done is irreversible.

Aiming to be Carbon neutral by 2050 simply doesn’t go far enough.

If we’re serious about putting a stop to climate change, we need to commit to diversifying our energy production, investing in green technologies and eliminating the usage of damaging fossil fuels.

We need to move away from the polluting ways of the past and move towards a new sustainable future.

 

Now yesterday, I visited the UK’s first “energy positive’ house at Cenin in Bridgend, run by Cardiff University. For every £100 spent on electricity, its aim is to generate £175 in electricity exports.

This is a great example of new innovative ways we can harness new technologies cut down on our carbon footprint.

Wales is leading the way in cutting edge low carbon supply storage and I want us to make more of that fact.

Conference in a few years’ time conference I want the motor engine to look as out of date as the steam train.

I want us to launch a new Welsh Green Tech Fund. A package of investments aimed at supporting these new technologies and funding further green energy projects.

These include requiring solar panels on all new houses we build, promoting the rapid roll-out of affordable electric cars, including wireless charging, replication of the Minesto project in Holyhead – the world’s first low-flow tidal stream project, which I visited in December.

Young people are ready and willing to take up the green challenge. Young people like the pupils from Ysgol y Bannau Primary in Brecon – who made their own placards and went out to protest against climate change.

These children really inspire me. I applaud them, and school children across Wales who are standing up to make their voice heard on the future of our planet. They can teach the grey, complacent Conservatives a thing or two.

 

Now what really opened my eyes to the real danger plastic pollution poses to our planet was a little documentary you may have heard of… Blue Planet.

This documentary brought this issue into the spotlight and into mainstream thinking. It broke my heart to see the huge damage done to animals, their habitats and our oceans by waste.

It has inspired a whole generation of people, the Blue Planet Generation, to really step up and act.

Across the UK people are demanding action to tackle the menace of plastic pollution. Let us promote a bottle return scheme, so every plastic has a value if returned for recycling. This will hugely cut down on the number simply thrown away.

 

If we do not act soon, it may be too late and I for one am committed to fighting to protecting our planet.

As we’ve seen with the motions we’ve debated today, solutions are possible.

A tax on Carbon, with the proceeds going to fund further green projects and public health initiatives, is just one of them.

 

People across Wales are crying out for change, real change which they can feel and experience.

We’ve been so lucky to be able to be make change happen in one sphere at least, thanks to Kirsty Williams. As Education Minister she’s been doing amazing work to overhaul the education system in our country, so it’s fit for the 21st century.

Let us look at what her record of achievement has been: 

  1. There has been yet more expansion of the Pupil Premium, a signature Welsh Liberal Democrat policy that is extending opportunity for our most disadvantaged children.

 

  1. We’ve seen progress in our drive to reduce infant class sizes, backed with a £36million fund to help make this happen.

 

  1. And she has published a white paper outlining the first ever made in Wales legislative proposals for the school curriculum. These proposals include changes to make Relationship & Sexual Education that will make it inclusive of all genders and all sexualities, something that – as we can see from England – cannot be taken for granted.

 

Now that is what I call a record of achievement, diolch Kirsty.

 

Now ponder this, if we can do all that just with one Assembly Member, imagine what a difference we could be making with more.

That is my target, to ensure we return a strong team of Welsh Liberal Democrats to the Senedd to lead the change and drive our progressive agenda forward. 

We have already selected two of our regional champions   – for South Wales West, Sheila Kingston-Jones will be leading our list and for South Wales Central, Rodney Berman. 

Let’s do all we can to support them and the other Welsh Assembly candidates as they are selected, because

we have,

we can and

we will continue to make a difference

 

But Conference, if we want to do that, we need to do things differently. We need to change the way we approach politics, the way we talk, and the way we campaign.

I want us to truly change the way things work. We need to offer a fresh vision for Wales. A positive vision of the kind of society we want our children to grow up in.

A liberal vision of an open, welcoming and forward-looking Wales that we can all be proud of.

A vision of hope to defeat the politics of fear and division.

 

Let me talk about how we do just that. It starts by offering a People’s Vote with an option to Remain in the European Union.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg.

We need to tackle the root causes that led to the Brexit vote in the first place. That starts with taking real action to lift people out of poverty in our country.

First, we will campaign to abolish the Conservative Government’s universal credit scheme. It started with good intentions, but there’s no doubt it’s failed and it’s hurting those it was supposed to help. We will work to secure a better benefits system that protects the poorest and provides support to those in low income jobs.

Conference let us stop the war on the poor and give people hope again.

Second, we will deliver a green revolution in Wales. We will fight to overturn the Conservative Government’s disgraceful decision to abandon the Swansea tidal lagoon scheme. We will take action to tackle climate change and get the plastic out of our seas and oceans. We will create a Green Tech fund to create green jobs in Wales.

Together we can stop climate change.

Finally, we will build more affordable homes. It is a national shame that children are driven out of their own areas because of the lack of affordable homes. We will work with communities across Wales to build these homes.

Our children demand it and we must deliver.

 

Conference, we live in troubled and dangerous times. There’s a temptation for us all to turn off the TV, radio and even Facebook to hide away from the daily bad news stories.

The people I meet around Powys are often saddened by the way things are going, but they have not given up hope.

They are positively searching for it.

Conference, the Liberal Democrats offer real hope and real change to the people of Wales.

We offer a fresh vision of a positive, open and vibrant country where the people are free to make their own choices – with Government their servant, not their master.

Free to never be lonely, surrounded by strong communities there to support people when they need it.

Free to live in dignity with enough money to live on, buying food for families and that food banks disappear

Free to live in an environment that is sustainable, healthy, positive and hopeful.

Together, we can change Wales for the better.

Together, we can champion our communities and tackle the injustices we face.

Together, we can and will make a freer, fairer, greener and more liberal Wales.

Conference thank you, Diolch yn fawr iawn.

 

 

 

 

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