Andrew Davies AM: Let's take the fight to Labour in Wales
Andrew RT Davies is Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly. Follow Andrew on Twitter.
Welsh Conservatives are today gathering in Swansea for the Welsh party conference, a city where things are happening.
The recent electrification announcement was the biggest rail infrastructure investment in Wales in 150 years. Journey times to London’s Paddington Station will be cut by over 20 minutes and South Wales and the Valleys will have investment fit for the 21st Century. A superb achievement by colleagues in Westminster.
Swansea is also a city in sporting celebration. Just a few weeks ago, Swansea City won the League Cup and continue to play in the highest league in the world. But as the party gathers in Swansea’s Liberty Stadium – the first party ever to do so – we meet at a time of great challenge for the party and for the country. Wales remains the poorest region of the UK. Our health and education systems continue to decline at the hands of a tired, lazy Labour Government who think they have a divine right to rule.
The challenges are there, the focus of the Welsh Conservatives must surely be to offer the alternative. Change is never an easy aspiration, but we are ready for the fight and we’re taking the fight to Labour. My conference speech is about families, it’s about a real plan for the Welsh economy and about a real challenge for our party.
For too long, our brightest and best have left Wales because they don’t see it as the country of aspiration that we do. Over 30% of our graduates leave almost as soon as they’ve finished their degrees. The average age of a first time buyer in Wales is 36.
So I’m announcing our action plan.
Firstly a Welsh housing plan that looks at creative ways of using shared equity and right to buy to get people the homes they want. This bold plan compliments our proposals to revitalise the Welsh High Street, unveiled last October and most recently our plan to improve access to finance for small business.
I’m also proud to be announcing a Commission which will report in the autumn with our plan for childcare. This Commission will be set up by my Shadow Education Minister, Angela Burns and will work with industry and the professions to see what they think. To listen to the realities and come up with a plan that works.
But as we gather, we do so at a time of uncertainty. Our economy is not where we would like and our challenges remain as grave as they probably ever have. We also face a fight in Scotland. The unity of our United Kingdom is being challenged and we’ve got to fight to keep it together. I’m proud to be joined today by Ruth Davidson, my friend and colleague who is leading the charge.
There can be little doubt that devolution has changed the nature of the United Kingdom. For our party, there can be little escaping the fact that devolution hasn’t been the easiest of issues for the Welsh Conservatives. I believe that the party has reached its Clause IV moment – there can be no escaping the fact that devolution is with us and can’t simply be put back into the hypothetical bottle. There is a difference between criticising what Labour are doing in Wales and criticising devolution. Let us not oppose devolution because of what is being carried out in its name – let’s oppose Labour!
I believe that we can do Conservative things with devolution, that for Wales and for Welsh policy making, Welsh Conservatives can lead the way and we are doing. I want Welsh Conservatives to leave Swansea focussed on the task in hand: facing our challenges head on, delivering for Wales and breaking the yolk of Labour’s divine right to rule in Wales.