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Conference Round Up: Welsh Labour

newsdirect's Head of Monitoring Liz Smith gives her verdict on this weekend's conference.

In perhaps a foreshadowing of months to come, this weekend saw UK Ministers positioning themselves on the EU Referendum shortly after the 23rd June date was confirmed, whilst Llandudno saw Labour delegates gather to instead focus on the Welsh Assembly elections.

It was an upbeat, well-attended (if windy weathered!) gathering, with over 800 delegates there. Many were excited to see new Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, beating the drum for a continuing Welsh Labour government in Wales. Opposition parties are keen to label the party as ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour’ which Welsh Ministers may be trying to get away from; members on the other hand seemed delighted to embrace his direction.

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, was given a warm introduction by his wife which set the stage for two new announcements: an integrated transport system for north Wales, so as not to be outshone by the continued promises for a South Wales Metro, and a pledge to not increase income tax. This may be a slight reversal, as policy documents have previously highlighted the importance of tax for funding sustainable and good quality public services. But with other parties pledging tax cuts, this was a common sense move. Both promises were electorally strategic.

Carwyn Jones also repeated a phrase reminiscent of Ed Miliband; that Welsh Labour was not afraid to “stand up to vested interests”. But the most touted looming vested interest was the UK Government. Nearly every speech by prominent Ministers and Shadow Ministers contrasted the Assembly’s approach with the UK Government’s imposition of cuts. It’s not surprising in a time when governments are preparing themselves for a potential Supreme Court battle of the Trade Union Bill, and a bodged Wales Bill is re-written due to resounding disdain, but a key weakness appears to be positioning themselves as ‘better than the Tories’ rather than setting out a positive and optimistic vision of their own.

A careful balance needed to be trodden of defending Welsh Labour’s record, whilst also bringing forward new ideas to give people a reason to vote for them in May. ‘A Decade of Delivery’ risks sounding complacent and asking voters to reinforce the status quo; Carwyn Jones’ mission for the next few months will be to make them sound like both a safe pair of hands but also a force for improving Wales over the next 5 years.

Interested in a bespoke report from party conference, tailored to your organisation's priorities? Team NDW will be reporting from Plaid, Ukip and the Welsh Conservatives over the coming weeks. Contact us on 029 2009 0693 for more information. 

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