I thought I should put up the full text of my remarks which seemed to get an unexpected amount of coverage in the Western Mail and Daily Post last week. What I said was:
Only Labour is fighting seriously in every area of Wales. But because of the breadth of our challenge, we need policies that work for all areas of Wales.
We must avoid the siren voices who want us to follow false choices. It is not a choice between following London’s lead or being different in Wales for the sake of it. It is not a choice between winning aspirational voters or getting the core vote out. It is not a choice between social justice issues and quality of life issues. It is not a choice between winning in Welsh-speaking Wales and winning in Tory-Labour marginals like here in Clwyd West.
Rather it is the challenge of setting out a broad appeal which chimes with the realities voters recognise. In tough times, people know there have to be tough choices. They understand how corporate greed has brought about the credit crunch. They believe in limits to corporate power to prevent irresponsible lending to those who cannot afford it. They know that unregulated markets undermine security for all of us.
As The Times’s former Economics Editor Anatole Kaletsky warned on Tuesday, we cannot go on living
in a world of naive market fundamentalism, where politicians and mediaIt is precisely because I spent half my working life running businesses in the private sector that I am more sceptical about markets than many in New Labour ever were. Markets have their place – but market naivety is an irrational approach for socialists. The herd instinct of the market can distort economic policy judgements and investment decisions.
commentators assume that the market is always right, despite the copious
evidence that markets are often very wrong indeed.
You only have to look at the construction sector to see how wrong markets can be. Irresponsible lending fuelled high property prices, a short-term sense of personal wealth, and irrational investment in get-rich-quick buy-to-let schemes.
The result was dramatic falls in the share prices of construction companies, many having crippling debts, and properties which in some places builders cannot sell at vastly reduced prices.
It will be public sector regeneration, construction and development schemes that will carry the construction sector through in Wales in the immediate future.
People are not stupid. They can see how corporate greed has got us into this mess. We need to restore some passion to our appeal. People see how decisions taken in other parts of the world affect their quality of life and the pound in their pocket. They want us to be on their side and take action against the short-term rip-off merchants. This is an issue that unites core Labour voters and those who want us to persuade them to vote Labour. It unites those who call themselves working class and those who call themselves middle class. In Labour language, it’s about fairness, about responsibility, and about social solidarity.
Welsh Labour’s response to the May elections has to be political as well as organisational.
We know we have to restore a campaigning edge to Welsh Labour. But we need to restore a political edge as well. We announced an Economy Commission in February to develop new ideas for the future. It is understandable that election pressures have meant it has been on hold since February. But that Commission now needs to be convened and to start taking evidence.
Trade unionists had a key part to play in developing Labour policies. Some people think that trades unions are only interested in bread-and-butter wage packet issues. The reality is that trades unions are actively concerned about quality of life issues and social justice issues. Trade unionists are actively involved in leading debates on childcare, environmental issues, and public health. Trade unionists are actively involved in their communities and understand the concerns people have about the quality of their local schools and local services and their concerns about the safety of their communities.
Renewal in office is a challenge for any government, but it can be done. We’ve achieved a lot, but crowing about our achievements won’t win us future elections. People want to hear about what we are going to do, not what we’ve done. The country has changed so much in eleven years. Welsh Labour needs new policies, new ideas and new thinking. We need to focus on the future.
Labour can only win the next election by being on the side of hard working and aspiring individuals and families.