A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011

John Griffiths, Labour Member for Newport East, Counsel General & legislative programme leader, sets out the challenges which lie ahead for the Welsh Assembly.

John Griffiths is the Assembly Member for Newport East and sits in the Welsh Cabinet as Counsel General and Leader of the Legislative Programme

The year 2011 will be a momentous year in Welsh politics. January will see campaigning in earnest for the March 3 referendum on greater powers for the Welsh Assembly, and after that it will be full steam ahead to the next Assembly elections at the beginning of May.

Progressive politics will be greatly aided by a decisive referendum ‘yes’ vote bestowing full law making powers, enabling a more distinctive Welsh agenda – badly needed as we face the grim prospect of a Lib/Con coalition in Westminster.

The Assembly elections offer the opportunity of Welsh Labour advancing from our current position, leading a coalition government with Plaid Cymru, to an overall  majority.

Our prospects are greatly assisted by the UK situation. Wales is very likely to want a greater ability to shape her own affairs and a strong Labour administration in the face of the Tory/Lib Dem assault upon us. The savage ideologically driven cuts to the public sector and welfare benefits will particularly impact our jobs, services and wealth given our relatively weak position and private sector.

Not only do Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and co. show no sign of understanding these issues but they add insult to injury by returning to Tory colonialism with a Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, representing an English home counties constituency. Add in a series of decisions not to proceed with major infrastructure projects and substantial financial concessions to Scotland and Northern Ireland with nothing for Wales.

The Assembly has been all about progressive politics. We have brought power down to our people with huge gains in opening up the process of government. Typically, around half the AMs have been women putting us at the very forefront of gender equality. Government in Wales has been based upon equality of opportunity and outcome and sustainable development.

On public service delivery we remain committed to the public sector building partnerships and networks, rather than pursuing privatisation and competition. Capital projects use public money not PFI.  In education, the new Foundation Phase for 3 – 7 year olds involves learning through structured play in a major departure for the UK.

Welsh students, in contrast to their English counterparts, will continue to receive the Education Maintenance Allowance and will not pay the higher Tuition Fees universities will be able to levy in the future.

We are proudly internationalist with community to community links with Sub-Saharan Africa numbering many more than our share of the UK population would suggest. The coming year will present major challenges to the progressive agenda which has been taken forward with healthily rising budgets. Now we have to deal with swingeing cuts.

In setting our budget for next year we were determined to safeguard the progressive agenda. The easier option of across the board cuts was rejected in favour of the hard task of detailed examination and prioritisation to protect the vulnerable. Much valued universal benefits such as free bus travel for the over 60’s and disabled people and free prescriptions will be retained.

Education, front line health services and social services will be protected. And we are determined to do all we can to prevent another lost generation of young people unable to get work as they come out of school or college.

It is a very worrying time. The UK government’s regressive agenda will hit our country hard. But we are clear that in pointing out the effects of these policies it is not about victimhood. The Welsh Assembly government has its own responsibilities. We will continue to show energy and ideas.

Our first Mmnister, Carwyn Jones is the UK’s senior elected Labour politician. He has made a strong start and one year on from his election his approval ratings are impressive. Our challenges now are to further democratise Wales with a resounding ‘yes’ vote in the March referendum. And to then win an overall majority in the Assembly elections and use those new powers to continue building a progressive social justice country.

In demonstrating that socialist policies can win power and transform our communities we will be helping to provide a route map back to power for Labour across the UK.

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22 Responses to “A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011”

  1. Raven

    A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: Government in Wales has been based upon equality of opportunity and outco… http://bit.ly/e599nz

  2. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  3. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  4. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  5. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  6. Éoin Clarke

    Given that Wales was assumed into what we refer to as Britain, long before scotland was, their pysche is much less independant minded than say Scotland. Thus, the gradual accrual of new powers is always a tentative process for the Welsh. Their is significant familial overlaps between wales & England, and I think a significant majority of Wales would like to see the UK link maintained. The balance has to be between assuring them of their place in the UK but simultaneously persuading them to take on new responsibilities. If it could be sold as a question of localism, as opposed to a question of national identity it would fare better, than allowing Plaid to make it something of a stepping stone to an independant republic.

    Good luck with the campaign.

  7. Éoin Clarke

    excuse my their/there faux pas 🙁

  8. Yerjoking

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Considering how the Tories achieved a 5% swing in Wales at the General Election – the largest number of votes at the European’s last year (where the Labour vote fell by over 12%) I think a dose of reality may be helpful for the author of this silly article.

    The fact is that regardless of any election results in Wales, the big picture is in Westminster and as long as the useless dithering Ed Miliband is leader, against the wishes of Labour MP’s, the party is doomed.

    As for the Welsh Secretary coming from England perhaps now people in Wales (where I have lived now for over 15 years) will realise how offensive it was to have the unelected Gordon Brown, coming from Scotland forced on the English. Except his MP’s forced the English and Welsh to have tuition fees they themselves were exempt from.

    Labour has a long hard road back to government but silly articles like this serve only to remind people how out of touch the party still is.

    I know it’s Christmas but may I suggest the author drinks a little less of the mulled wine before he turns his computer on…

  10. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  11. Westgate Hotel

    Perhaps John Griffiths could explain to the Welsh areas that are in the top 11 unemployment black spots in the UK the benefits of devolved government. The recent PISA results are also the worst in the UK.Let’s hope for the sake of Welsh kids that the Foundation Phase experiment works. Perhaps he could also explain how education is being protected when it is clear from the draft budgets of many Welsh local authorities that school budgets are being cut. How a yes vote will somehow “democratise Wales” is also baffling given that 20 of the proposed legislators are effectively elected by small party cliques on a closed list rather than by the voter. I could give you the names of the 4 regional AMs for my area after the May election now. None of them will be Labour even though Labour will poll thousands of votes. It really is a long time since I’ve read such waffle. Finally John Griffiths argues that the new powers will allow Labour to build a more “progressive social justice country” but he doesn’t mention one new law which would be passed to achieve this laudable aim. I wonder why and what an indictment of the last UK Labour government

  12. Luke Gilchrist

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011 http://bit.ly/ffbAcg

  13. Éoin Clarke

    Anon E Mouse,

    I politely disagree.

    Euro 2009 was a protest vote at the height of expenses. Also, the people of Wales Split Ticket Vote. IT means that UK events do not necessarily dictate their Assembly elections… Reds have a good record at working constructively with Plaid, and their is every indication [YG Monthly ITV polls] that Labour is on the cresp of acheiving a very narrow majoirty.

    Of course, we do not have very long to wait [about 19 weeks] to know for sure… But you would be a brave man to write off red’s chances in the elections just yet..

  14. Éoin Clarke

    Anon E mouse,

    Forgive my Achieving and there and majority [dyslexia]

  15. Mr. Sensible

    I don’t agree with the break up of the union, however I hope that these new powers are accepted.

    And Mr Mouse I’m afraid we’ve heard that one before.

  16. UNISON Cymru/Wales

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011: http://bit.ly/f3lQNz

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – Indeed you have heard it before. I made the same complaints over Gordon Brown and I was right then. Now we no longer have a Labour government.

    Same applies. If Ed Miliband is the Labour leader they will never be elected in this country. As far as Prime Ministers go Ed Miliband would be worse than Gordon Brown. He’s useless and to affect peoples lives one needs to be in power not opposition. With this clown Labour will always be in opposition.

    The fact you can’t see why (and I don’t believe you can’t) shows how out of touch you and other Labour supporters are.

    Not all though:http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/12/21/the-left-is-losing-its-marbles/

    Ditch Miliband. Reform the party and you may be electable…

  18. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011 http://bit.ly/ffbAcg

  19. ben jones

    because any article featuring the phrase 'Tory colonialism' in reference to wales deserves to be widely read http://bit.ly/ffbAcg

  20. Simon Mapp

    Left Foot Forward: A progessive agenda for Wales in 2011 http://bit.ly/dKR1XT

  21. Robert

    JG is right to remind all progressive-minded people that we do still have a strongly progressive administration in Wales. I would also add that the Cardiff coalition works because both the Parties that form it have enough common ground which includes a genuine commitment to public services, and a resolute determination to protect and not punish people on lower or middle incomes. The imaginative and fair response on tuition fees, and educational maintenance allowance are achievements of which Labour should be particularly proud here in Wales. We have after all given a practical and affordable answer to the ConDems who said (and absurdly keep repeating) that TINA to their swingeing, ideological cuts in higher education. Personally while I want to see Labour win a deserved majority in the Assembly, I would also like to see continued co-operation with Plaid because this means we govern on a platform of having a clear and coherent voters’ majority in Wales for progressive polices. This will be important in countering an increasingly divided and unrepresentative Westminster coalition.

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