Leader of the Welsh Green Party, Jake Griffiths – full speech
Croeso cynnes i Gaerdydd ac i Gymru – a warm welcome to Cardiff and Wales.
And it’s an exciting time in Wales, next week we will be voting in a referendum to finally give the Assembly the tools it needs to serve the people of Wales without having unnecessary and lengthy discussions with Westminster. I’ve been out campaigning for this and am hoping for a thumping ‘yes’ vote on Thursday. Devolution has allowed Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to push ahead on issues such as the smoking ban as well as finding a different path to the one of cuts and privatisation of pubic services being followed by the Tory/Lib Dem Government in Westminster.
On the same day as the referendum we also have a local Council by-election in the Riverside area of Cardiff, just over the bridge from here, and I’m hopeful of a good result, best of luck to our candidate Yvan Maurel.
But it’s the 5th May that we’re most excited about, where we have the chance to elect our first ever Assembly Members if there is just a small increase in our vote. I’m hoping to be part of a strengthened Welsh Assembly to fight against the dangerous and unnecessary spending cuts imposed by Westminster, and argue for the alternative, investment in new jobs and the low-carbon economy that will keep tax revenues up and benefit payments down.
Here in Wales the Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition has been in power for nearly four years and it is worth taking stock on a few issues. You have all heard the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about the Emperor’s New Clothes – if you are told something enough times you will start to think it’s true even if reality is somewhat different!
Well, let me tell you that Labour and Plaid Cymru are standing here in front of us, all but naked, and it is not a pretty sight! Whether it is the building of a modern sustainable economy across Wales, a school education that provides for all, creating a fairer society free from poverty, or the development of clean low-carbon energy – the cloth, rather than being some fine patchwork welsh brethyn is looking threadbare, ragged and all but missing. You know how the story ends with a boy calling out, well the Wales Green Party is calling out “The Emperors have no clothes.”
Where Wales once powered the world we must once again become the engine room of the Green Economy. Assembly Coalition policies have left Wales poorly placed to withstand the forthcoming cuts in public expenditure and to develop the low-carbon economy so urgently needed to tackle the threat of climate change. There has been a lack of strategic long term vision, we’ve seen a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ approach to jobs, the environment, and building a fairer society.
Many have quite rightly been shocked by the recent announcement that Wales has fallen further behind in worldwide PISA educational tests in reading, maths and science – spending in Wales is now £604 per pupil less than in England. While clearly there are areas for improvement in the education system – such as the staff pupil ratio and ensuring a higher percentage of government funding actually reaches the schools – the evidence points to relative poverty and social deprivation being the key to lower educational attainment levels.
Wales continues, after four years of Labour/Plaid Coalition, to have some of the UK’s worst areas of deprivation with unemployment levels of 25 to 30%. Children, whose families can’t even afford to heat their homes, are unlikely to do well at school. Last week we heard that 25% of children in Wales now live in fuel poverty, up from 15% in 2004. This situation is only going to worsen as fossil fuel prices continue to increase as peak oil nears and demand from developing countries, such as India and China, increases.
In Wales we have not used the planning system to prepare for a sustainable future leaving us poorly placed to withstand the continuing increase in oil prices. Residential and commercial developments have been badly designed failing to incorporate public transport, cycling or walking provision, forcing people into increasingly expensive car-dependency. Until the economic downturn the Lib Dem/Plaid Council here in Cardiff continued to support a huge out of town business/retail park at Junction 33 of the M4.
Multinationals and supermarkets have been favoured at the expense of local businesses and shops sucking money out of communities – about a mile from here in Canton there were already two Tesco stores when a third Tesco subsidiary opened just a stones throw away threatening the existence of local butchers and corner shops.
You have to question the judgement of the Labour/Plaid coalition. It was only a few months ago they were supporting a £14 billion PFI funded military training academy here in South Wales with financial backing from the international arms manufacturer Raytheon. If it had been given the go-ahead how soon before we would have been protesting in South Wales about military atrocities committed around the world by foreign governments or private security firms trained just 20 miles from here. This week we have seen the unedifying pictures of David Cameron leading an arms trade delegation around the middle east while protestors fight for their freedom and lives in Bahrain and Libya.
The support for a new nuclear power station on Anglesey by the Plaid Cymru and Labour leaders, Ieuan Wyn Jones and Carwyn Jones, is another example of not thinking about the future. It looks like the height of political opportunism as they battle over the Assembly and Parliamentary seats on the island. Aside from concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste and possible accidents, in the current economic climate investment money is in short supply and every pound spent on nuclear is a pound lost to developing clean renewable energy.
At a time when we should be encouraging people out of planes and on to public transport the Plaid Leader has increased public funding for the Anglesey to Cardiff air link, which is his journey to work, to £120,000 while the very popular Wrexham and Shropshire railway service to London was forced to close.
Wales, with the support of the Welsh Assembly, has stood out as a beacon in the fight to stop the spread of GM food with thousands of agricultural jobs dependent on the organic GM-free certification in Wales and across the UK, however we have heard this week that a Plaid Cymru Minister in the Assembly is now ‘open’ to the use of GM in Wales.
The Ffôs y Fran mine near Merthyr Tydful was opened with some of the slackest control measures for open cast mines. Merthyr already has some of the most deprived communities and poor health in Wales and the mine was agreed just 35 meters from people’s homes. If this was not enough there are plans for huge waste incinerators in Merthyr and Cardiff – the Merthyr incinerator alone could consume all the waste produced in homes in Wales – threatening recycling targets, increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
We must tackle bovine TB and support our farmers, the mainstay of Welsh rural communities and language, but the badger cull proposed by the Assembly is not the answer when a vaccination programme is available.
Let’s be clear, sitting on the fence or keeping quiet over these issues is equivalent to giving your support.
Green politics has always been about long term thinking, and never has this been more relevant, when the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government is taking the axe to public services in the name of short term reductions in the deficit. With more people out of work as a result of deep cuts, Government coffers will have less tax revenue and will be paying more in benefits and, just as in Ireland, the deficit could in fact become bigger in the long term as a result. The last thing we want is more people, without work for longer. Many communities in Wales have not recovered from the excesses of the last Tory Government, we all remember Norman Tebbit’s “on your bike” speech in the 1980’s. This week he told the people of Merthyr they should move out of their communities to find jobs. It’s been 30 years since his first comments, and all the Tories can come up with is the same old rhetoric that has so decimated our communities in the past.
I’m not prepared to stand by while this Government’s policies lay ruin to the heart of Wales. If elected as one of the first Greens to the Assembly in May, I will stand up for public services, I will argue for the approach Wales desperately needs, not a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ attitude to jobs, public services and the environment but sensible policies that will ensure our long term well-being.
We need to ensure a lasting economic renewal through development of the low carbon economy. An army of workers, 50,000 we estimate, could be employed to help plug our leaky homes, install renewable energy systems and develop public transport infrastructure. The irony of having fallen so far behind many other countries in moving towards a low-carbon economy is we can avoid their mistakes and adopt their best practice quickly if the political will is there.
We must work with local businesses to develop an economic strategy that grows local businesses. We must provide a support service to businesses that does not change from one year to the next, that helps local businesses secure public sector contracts here in Wales.
We want to keep jobs in the rural economy, supporting small shops by reigning in the power of supermarkets, and protecting rural schools, the hub of the community in places like Gwynedd and Ceredigion.
For all the faults of the Labour/Plaid Government we are proud that Wales is able to resist the most savage attempts to dismantle the welfare state and the values it embodies – the NHS remains broadly in line with the vision Nye Bevan had, we have no state subsidised academies or ‘free schools’ that reinforce class divisions.
We must build a broad coalition of other political parties, trade unions and community organisations to defend the welfare state against the ideologically based attacks by the ConDem government. I support our public services and will work in the Assembly to ensure they continue to serve the public, not the interests of private profit. Following the record of Liberal Demcrats in supporting cuts in public expenditure and services, and the Conservatives newly-announced privatisation programme would you trust the Welsh Liberal Democrats not to do likewise if elected here?!
This is why it is so crucial that Wales votes ‘Yes’ on March 3, so that laws affecting Wales are made in Wales, and will strengthen our ability to take a different course to the Tory/Lib Dem attacks on our livelihoods and the callous values they embody.
I know how people are feeling now that the Tories are back in power, I cut my political teeth campaigning against Thatcher and I know many people who have been unhappy with Labour in the past will now be considering them again. But we know they haven’t really changed, Ed Milliband provides hollow opposition to the Government’s policies whilst right here in South Wales a Labour Council, Rhondda Cynon Taf is threatening its workers with thousands of compulsory redundancies unless its mostly modestly-paid staff accept cuts in allowances and other schemes which will hit their pay significantly, without negotiation. We stand side by side with the staff at RCT in their fight to defend their jobs and livelihoods.
Greens have been elected to every level of Government, apart from the Welsh Assembly, and where they have been we can see the difference they make. In Scotland, securing millions of pounds for grassroots climate change organizations, in London, getting through scores of green measures and ensuring they remain top of the agenda, whoever is mayor. Greens on Councils across the UK have been putting solar panels on people’s roofs, implementing free insulation programmes and lots more.
Since the first Assembly elections in 1999 the Green Vote has increased at each election when a proportional voting system has been used – in 2009 we received 6.4% of the vote in South Wales Central – just 7% is needed and we are there. Greens have a vision for a fair and sustainable Wales which will appeal to many who feel let down after voting Liberal Democrat at the last general election only to end up with a Tory government and Labour voters who feel their 2nd vote is wasted because they will never be able to elect more Assembly members from the regional list. Conference, at this May’s elections we have our best ever chance to elect our first Greens to the Welsh Assembly.
History tells us that we must look beyond conventional thinking to tackle the problems of tomorrow not yesterday. That’s why on May the 5th we must convince those who have hesitated in the past that the Green Party is party for the future and that we are well placed to make history – this is our moment!
In May last year Caroline made history by becoming our first Green MP. Lets make history again! – 2nd Vote Green for Wales on May 5th.
Byth ers yr etholiadau Cynulliad cyntaf ym 1999 mae’r bleidlais I’r Blaid Werdd wedi cynyddu ymhob etholiad ble defnyddir system bleidleisio gyfrannol – yn 2009 fe dderbynion ni 6.4% o’r bleidlais yn etholaeth Canol De Cymru. Dim ond 7% o’r bleidlais sydd ei angen i ethol y Gwyrddion cyntaf I’r Cynulliad.
Mae gan y Blaid Werdd weledigaeth o Gymru deg a chynaladwy fydd yn apelio at nifer fawr o bobl sydd wedi eu siomi wedi iddyn nhw bleidleisio I’r Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol yn yr Etholiad Gyffredinol – pwy feddylia y bydden nhw’n creu clymblaid gyda’r Toriaid?! Bydd yn apelio hefyd at bleidleiswyr Llafur sydd yn ofni y bydd eu hail bleidlais yn wastraff oherwydd na fyddan nhw yn gallu ethol mwy o aelodau Cynulliad o’r rhestr rhanbarthol.
Mae’n rhaid I ni sicrhau adfywiad economaidd parhaol drwy greu swyddi ag economi carbon-isel a thwy warchod y sector gyhoeddus a’r wladwriaeth les.
Yn etholiadau mis Mai eleni, bydd gennon ni y cyfle gorau erioed i ethol Gwyrddion i’r Cynulliad. Llynedd fe greodd Caroline hanes pan gafodd ei hethol fel Aelod Seneddol – y cyntaf erioed I’r Blaid Werdd.
Creuwch hanes eto! Rhowch eich ail bleidlais I’r Blaid Werdd ar Fai y 5ed, er mwyn amddiffyn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yng Nghymru.