AM warns Welsh Labour – ‘no time for com­pla­cency’

Western Mail - - NEWS - Labour could lose the 2021 Assem­bly elec­tion Vot­ers across Wales Labour is com­pla­cent Labour needs to re­new think Labour needs to be in power to DAVID WIL­LIAMSON Po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor david.wil­liamson@waleson­line.co.uk achieve change Labour can win a host of s

IS JEREMY Miles plan­ning to jump into the Welsh Labour lead­er­ship elec­tion? The Coun­sel Gen­eral and Neath AM has given his party a stark warn­ing that peo­ple see it as “com­pla­cent” and it could lose power at the next Assem­bly elec­tion.

In a speech in honour of Aneurin Be­van, he sets out both a vi­sion of how things could go wrong for the party that has held power in Wales since 1999 and a se­ries of ideas for how Labour can ad­dress the new chal­lenges fac­ing peo­ple to­day. His call for Labour to give Wales a vi­sion of “jus­tice and as­pi­ra­tion” is just what you might ex­pect to hear from a con­tender on the cam­paign trail.

Mr Miles said his speech was not about a lead­er­ship bid and he stressed that he had not made “any de­ci­sions”. He said he hoped the party will have a de­bate about ideas and not just the “run­ners and rid­ers”. But Mr Miles has been con­sid­ered an AM to watch since he joined the Assem­bly in 2016 and his pro­mo­tion to Coun­sel Gen­eral con­firmed his stand­ing as a ris­ing tal­ent. His speech will only in­ten­sify spec­u­la­tion that he may want to play an even big­ger role at the heart of Welsh pol­i­tics.

Here are 10 of his key mes­sages: ■

Labour has been in power in Wales since the found­ing of the Assem­bly in 1999. For a brief mo­ment in 2007 it looked as if the Con­ser­va­tives, Plaid Cymru and the Lib­eral Democrats were on the verge of form­ing a coali­tion – but this came to naught, with Plaid join­ing Labour in govern­ment.

How­ever, Mr Miles warns Labour that its grip on power may not con­tinue, say­ing: “[Even] here in Wales, af­ter al­most 20 years in govern­ment, it’s not in­evitable that we’ll keep win­ning elec­tions.”

He warns that an im­age of com­pla­cency has driven away vot­ers across Wales, say­ing: “[We] must do much more than we are do­ing to re­con­nect with those vot­ers in the west, in the north and even in the south Wales Val­leys who see us as the es­tab­lish­ment party, com­pla­cent in our elec­toral suc­cess, and lack­ing a vi­sion they can re­late to.”

He says: “When you have been in power for so long, it is a chal­lenge to re­new. It gets harder to be cre­ative. Ev­ery change of di­rec­tion is a risk. But we are not in pol­i­tics to de­fend a legacy, we are not in pol­i­tics just for ef­fec­tive de­liv­ery and to meet our tar­gets. We are all in pol­i­tics to change things, to shake things up, to chal­lenge things.”

At a time when di­vi­sions be­tween the left and the right in the UK party are glar­ingly ob­vi­ous, Mr Miles fo­cuses at­ten­tion on the goal of tak­ing power. He ar­gues Be­van’s les­son to the party is “how to marry ide­al­ism with power”.

He says: “Be­van’s en­dur­ing legacy for us as a party is the les­son in how to marry ide­al­ism with power. We came into pol­i­tics be­cause we are ide­al­ists. But we need to be in power to change our coun­try.”

He ar­gues that “if we are go­ing to stay in power, we must chal­lenge our­selves – and re­cap­ture our hunger for rad­i­cal change”.

The AM sets out big am­bi­tions and has a se­ries of seats in his sights. He wants to win back Rhondda, where Leanne Wood ousted Labour’s Leighton An­drews in 2016. Mr Miles also wants to take Car­marthen West and South Pem­brokeshire and Pre­seli Pem­brokeshire – seats that Labour has held in the past – from the Con­ser­va­tives.

And he hopes to snatch Ar­fon from Plaid Cymru.

Tak­ing Pre­seli Pem­brokeshire would be a par­tic­u­lar prize. It is held by new in­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Paul Davies, and in West­min­ster it is rep­re­sented by former Welsh Sec­re­tary Stephen Crabb.

As the party marks 70 years of the NHS, Mr Miles wants to see pas­sions soar.

He says: “Mark­ing this an­niver­sary should chal­lenge us all to re­dis­cover Be­van’s anger and pas­sion and to bring about the change that Nye – in all his bloody-minded, sin­gle-minded rad­i­cal­ism –, would be fight­ing for to­day.

“Be­van’s legacy is that we are not pow­er­less to shape so­ci­ety.”

Mr Miles uses his speech to cham­pion the ideal of equal­ity.

He says: “We talk a lot to­day about so­cial mo­bil­ity, about mer­i­toc­racy, about di­ver­sity. All of which have their place, of course, but if we are hon­est they are a sub­sti­tute for what should be our larger goal – gen­uine equal­ity of the sort that Nye fought for. They’re an ad­mis­sion that the real goal – a so­ci­ety where ev­ery­one gen­uinely has an equal chance – is nowhere near. If you like, they’re a marker of an in­di­vid­ual suc­ceed­ing against the odds – but our real goal is to change the odds.” ■

Lay­ing out his vi­sion for the dif­fer­ence ed­u­ca­tion can make to peo­ple’s lives, he says: “Some of you will have heard me call for Wales to be­come a ‘sec­ond chance na­tion.’ A uni­ver­sal right to life­long learn­ing would give ev­ery ci­ti­zen the chance to re­boot their ca­reer at any stage in life, know­ing that as we move in and out of dif­fer­ent types of work, re­quir­ing new – maybe dig­i­tal – skills which we may not yet have, the state is en­sur­ing that we have the sup­port we need along that path.”

Not­ing the pres­sures on fam­ily bud­gets, he says: “As in­come from work be­comes more and more un­cer­tain for more and more peo­ple, it should be in­cum­bent on the state to do all it can to drive down the cost of ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of ev­ery­day life, [such as] en­ergy, trans­port and even broad­band, whose crip­pling costs bur­den so many peo­ple to­day. Let us have not-for-profit providers in each of th­ese, of­fer­ing an own­er­ship stake for each per­son in Wales, be­long­ing to us all, and de­liv­er­ing – cheaply – the ba­sics that none of us should have to worry about.”

He says: “The Na­tional Health Ser­vice wasn’t about catch­ing up with other coun­tries – it was about lead­ing the way. And tech­nol­ogy can help us to break out of a cy­cle of try­ing to catch up, and to imag­ine what we can do to get ahead, to leapfrog. Be­van’s chal­lenge to us to­day is, yes, how we can trans­form his NHS through tech­nol­ogy, but more than this, to im­prove all pub­lic ser­vices and cru­cially – through tech­nol­ogy – to make sure they don’t be­come the pre­serve of the few in an age of aus­ter­ity.”

> Jeremy Miles

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