In full: Jane Dodds’ speech to Welsh Lib Dem Conference

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds has given her keynote speech to the party’s Spring Conference.

Here it is in full:

Gynhadledd… Gynhadledd ddiolch i chi bawb am ddod heddiw. Dyma fy nhrydedd gynhadledd fel arweinydd ac mae’r angerdd a’r brwdfrydedd sydd gennym yn ein plaid wedi creu cymaint o argraff arnaf.

Conference thank you for all coming today. This is my third Conference since becoming your leader and I am still so impressed with the passion and enthusiasm we have within our party.

So, what is going on?  Let’s take ourselves back to that strange broadcast from Theresa May 2 weeks ago.

In the past few months we’ve seen increasing instability, a lack of political leadership and the national embarrassment that is this government’s handling of Brexit.

And while Brexit dominates every debate, every storyline, just spare a moment’s thought for the issues that have been ignored. Poverty rising, money for our public services cut and climate change forgotten.

Conference, have we ever seen a Westminster Government that’s more of a mess and a shambles than the one we have today?

I say Wales demands better.

 

This cannot be the kind of world we want our children to grow up in.

Around the world we are seeing the rise of right-wing populism, intolerance and the politics of fear and division. From Trump in the US, to Bolsonaro in Brazil to Orban in Hungary, we live in dangerous times.

Here in UK, we’ve seen the rise and, much more pleasantly, the fall of UKIP.

Every day we’re seeing the effects of the Brexit vote.

A vote that has been tainted even more by the Vote Leave campaign’s decision to withdraw its appeal against fines for breaking electoral laws.

In the near 3 years since the referendum, we’ve seen a Conservative Prime Minister who has put her own party first at every stage – not our country. Her real masters have become the ERG and the DUP.

Only in the last week have we seen her reach out across the political divide for the first time – and only then because there was no choice.

In the Conservative Party, a party that took Britain into the Europe and into the single market, we’re seeing good, honest, pro-European MPs like Dominic Grieve and Nick Boles labelled as traitors and facing votes of no confidence.

All while Jeremy Corbyn continues to ignore most of his members and voters by consistently failing to oppose what is clearly a Brexit that will hurt our economy, our future and frankly the most vulnerable in our society.

In all this I say thank goodness for the Liberal Democrats.

It was Tim Farron that showed great courage after that referendum and first put forward the idea of a People’s Vote.

It was Vince Cable that took this fight forward and put the Liberal Democrats at the heart of a movement of millions to give the people the final say on the deal.

Conference, there is an alternative to right wing populism, to the politics of fear and to Brexit. It is the Liberal Democrats and liberals around the world.

Now is OUR time to demand better and take a stand.

We demand a People’s Vote and we will not waver in our stand.

 

No-one can be scared in to silence and made to feel they cannot stand up for their beliefs

I stand here before you as a product my upbringing in a Welsh speaking family Wrexham. I learned from my parents the value of public service, the importance of giving back to the community and of course, the value of a good education.

It’s that education that enabled me to become a social worker and I’m proud that I’ve been able to spend the last 27 year helping to protect vulnerable children at home and abroad.

The thing that links my politics and my work life is tackling injustice. And in today’s world, sadly we don’t have to go far to find it.

Around my home in Powys, I visit foodbanks and find people driven there by the injustice and failing of the Westminster government’s universal credit scheme.

I talk to young people that are being driven out of the areas they grew up in because there’s no jobs and no affordable housing.

I meet long standing residents that have lost important community facilities such as Post Offices, shops or banks and seen public transport links to towns arbitrarily removed.

Every week I talk to farmers that are living in fear of a no deal Brexit and what it will do to their livelihoods.

As Liberal Democrats, it’s our job to stand up against injustices like these.

It’s our job to give a real voice to the powerless.

To stand up against authority that’s failing the people in their most basic needs.

Conference we demand better.

 

Let me talk to you on an issue that’s close to my heart – climate change.

I don’t need to tell you the dangers of climate change, nor should I have to be stood here making the case for tackling it.

Yet sadly there are still many people out there who fail to grasp the severity of the issue.

Climate change is not a can you can kick down the road. We need to act now and act fast before we cause further irreversible damage to our planet.

Green politics needs to be embraced in everything we say and do.

It’s not just about our economy.

It’s about the way we live,

It’s about the way we learn.

It’s about how we travel.

 

Wales is the only nation in the UK with green in our flag. Let’s make Wales a standard bearer for putting green in the heart of the way we live.

I applaud the way communities in Wales are all taking up the climate change challenge. Carmarthenshire and Gwynedd County Councils, along with numerous Town Councils across Wales, have declared a Climate Emergency.

Because it is a crisis

Because it is an emergency

AND WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – IT IS NOT TOO LATE

 

Wales has already sought to create a green economy with the Swansea Tidal Lagoon at its heart. Conference I will never apologise for continuing to talk about and fight for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.

But it isn’t Wales that is standing in the way, it is Westminster, where the Conservative Government is blocking the investment needed to make the tidal lagoon happen.

It is the vital first step in making Wales a world leader in green renewable energy and, if successful, could spark a whole wave of new Lagoons right across Wales.

We need to be embracing this and embracing other new technologies to diversify our energy supply, create new well-paid jobs for the future and move away from damaging fossil fuels.

 

Conference, we must invest in tackling climate change now.  Because if we don’t, it will be much more damaging for all of us in the long run.

We have 12 years before the damage we have done is irreversible.

Aiming to be Carbon neutral by 2050 simply doesn’t go far enough.

If we’re serious about putting a stop to climate change, we need to commit to diversifying our energy production, investing in green technologies and eliminating the usage of damaging fossil fuels.

We need to move away from the polluting ways of the past and move towards a new sustainable future.

 

Now yesterday, I visited the UK’s first “energy positive’ house at Cenin in Bridgend. For every £100 spent on electricity, its aim is to generate £175 in electricity exports.

This is a great example of new innovative ways we can harness new technologies cut down on our carbon footprint.

Wales is leading the way in cutting edge low carbon supply storage and I want us to make more of that fact.

Conference in a few years’ time conference I want the motor engine to look as out of date as the steam train.

I want us to launch a new Welsh Green Tech Fund. A package of investments aimed at supporting these new technologies and funding further green energy projects.

These include requiring solar panels on all new houses we build, promoting the rapid roll-out of affordable electric cars, including wireless charging, replication of the Minesto project in Holyhead – the world’s first low-flow tidal stream project, which I visited in December.

Young people are ready and willing to take up the green challenge. Young people like the pupils from Ysgol y Bannau Primary in Brecon – who made their own placards and went out to protest against climate change.

These children really inspire me. I applaud them, and school children across Wales who are standing up to make their voice heard on the future of our planet. They can teach the grey, complacent Conservatives a thing or two.

 

Now what really opened my eyes to the real danger plastic pollution poses to our planet was a little documentary you may have heard of… Blue Planet.

This documentary brought this issue into the spotlight and into mainstream thinking. It broke my heart to see the huge damage done to animals, their habitats and our oceans by waste.

It has inspired a whole generation of people, the Blue Planet Generation, to really step up and act.

Across the UK people are demanding action to tackle the menace of plastic pollution. Let us promote a bottle return scheme, so every plastic has a value if returned for recycling. This will hugely cut down on the number simply thrown away.

 

If we do not act soon, it may be too late and I for one am committed to fighting to protecting our planet.

As we’ve seen with the motions we’ve debated today, solutions are possible.

A tax on Carbon, with the proceeds going to fund further green projects and public health initiatives, is just one of them.

 

People across Wales are crying out for change, real change which they can feel and experience.

We’ve been so lucky to be able to be make change happen in one sphere at least, thanks to Kirsty Williams. As Education Minister she’s been doing amazing work to overhaul the education system in our country, so it’s fit for the 21st century.

Let us look at what her record of achievement has been:

  1. There has been yet more expansion of the Pupil Premium, a signature Welsh Liberal Democrat policy that is extending opportunity for our most disadvantaged children.

 

  1. We’ve seen progress in our drive to reduce infant class sizes, backed with a £36million fund to help make this happen.

 

  1. And she has published a white paper outlining the first ever made in Wales legislative proposals for the school curriculum. These proposals include changes to make Relationship & Sexual Education that will make it inclusive of all genders and all sexualities, something that – as we can see from England – cannot be taken for granted.

 

Now that is what I call a record of achievement, diolch Kirsty.

 

Now ponder this, if we can do all that just with one Assembly Member, imagine what a difference we could be making with more.

That is my target, to ensure we return a strong team of Welsh Liberal Democrats to the Senedd to lead the change and drive our progressive agenda forward.

We have already selected two of our regional champions   – for South Wales West, Sheila Kingston-Jones will be leading our list and for South Wales Central, Rodney Berman.

Let’s do all we can to support them and the other Welsh Assembly candidates as they are selected, because

we have,

we can and

we will continue to make a difference

 

But Conference, if we want to do that, we need to do things differently. We need to change the way we approach politics, the way we talk, and the way we campaign.

I want us to truly change the way things work. We need to offer a fresh vision for Wales. A positive vision of the kind of society we want our children to grow up in.

A liberal vision of an open, welcoming and forward-looking Wales that we can all be proud of.

A vision of hope to defeat the politics of fear and division.

 

Let me talk about how we do just that. It starts by offering a People’s Vote with an option to Remain in the European Union.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg.

We need to tackle the root causes that led to the Brexit vote in the first place. That starts with taking real action to lift people out of poverty in our country.

First, we will campaign to abolish the Conservative Government’s universal credit scheme. It started with good intentions, but there’s no doubt it’s failed and it’s hurting those it was supposed to help. We will work to secure a better benefits system that protects the poorest and provides support to those in low income jobs.

Conference let us stop the war on the poor and give people hope again.

Second, we will deliver a green revolution in Wales. We will fight to overturn the Conservative Government’s disgraceful decision to abandon the Swansea tidal lagoon scheme. We will take action to tackle climate change and get the plastic out of our seas and oceans. We will create a Green Tech fund to create green jobs in Wales.

Together we can stop climate change.

Finally, we will build more affordable homes. It is a national shame that children are driven out of their own areas because of the lack of affordable homes. We will work with communities across Wales to build these homes.

Our children demand it and we must deliver.

 

Conference, we live in troubled and dangerous times. There’s a temptation for us all to turn off the TV, radio and even Facebook to hide away from the daily bad news stories.

The people I meet around Powys are often saddened by the way things are going, but they have not given up hope.

They are positively searching for it.

Conference, the Liberal Democrats offer real hope and real change to the people of Wales.

We offer a fresh vision of a positive, open and vibrant country where the people are free to make their own choices – with Government their servant, not their master.

Free to never be lonely, surrounded by strong communities there to support people when they need it.

Free to live in dignity with enough money to live on, buying food for families and that food banks disappear

Free to live in an environment that is sustainable, healthy, positive and hopeful.

Together, we can change Wales for the better.

Together, we can champion our communities and tackle the injustices we face.

Together, we can and will make a freer, fairer, greener and more liberal Wales.

Conference thank you, Diolch yn fawr iawn.

 

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37 Comments

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Apr '19 - 9:57pm

    I am one of those being talked about. I ignore the news and don’t buy a paper anymore. I tore up my polling card (I’m glad my Dad isn’t alive to see it). Have the Libdems looked for a compromise to heal our nation ? Or a No Brexit surrender stance and the complete and total thwarting of those who voted Leave? I am a Remainer but also a democrat and wanted a healed nation not a torn apart one. A compromise was wanted and the LibDems only demanded unconditional surrender of the Leave camp.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Apr '19 - 5:56am

    Wrong, Innocent Bystander. All we want is to see whether the leave-camp is still the majority.

  • Well that’s Newport West airbrushed out of history and the steam railway enthusiasts vote gone.

  • Innocent Bystander 7th Apr '19 - 8:04am

    Arnold,
    Quite. You would be just as happy with all this anger and hate as long as the referendum was +1 to your side.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Apr ’19 – 5:56am……………Wrong, Innocent Bystander. All we want is to see whether the leave-camp is still the majority………..

    So, as a party, LibDem MPs should vote against a unilateral revoking of article 50 until another referendum is held?

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Apr '19 - 9:43am

    I believe that a survey undertaken by the Independent newspaper should give one pause for thought when one starts to believe that a ‘People’s Vote’ will be less confused tha the votes made by our parliamentarians.

    ‘Brexit: Majority of public now back Final Say referendum amid chaos in Westminster, poll shows’.

    This is especially so when the evidence shows that the way people vote is influenced by how the questions are posed.

  • That survey in the Independent was carried out by a reputable polling company, BMG, and is not just an ad hoc survey of readers. It shows quite a strong swing towards a referendum.

    Good speech Jane.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Apr '19 - 10:56am

    @ David Raw,

    The Newport West by-election.

    As Professor Sir John Curtice has said, UKIP managed to achieve approx 8.6% with the tories losing votes to UKIP.

    He also points out that there was no spectacular increase for the parties who are arguing for a second referendum and trying to reverse Brexit.

  • Without the Tommy Robinson connection I think UKIP would have done much better in Newport West. In the Euro’s the new Brexit party with Farage won’t have that baggage.

  • David Becket 7th Apr '19 - 12:02pm

    A leaders speech, that went way beyond Brexit. Maybe we should elect our national leader from outside the Westminster MPs

  • Newport West by-election turnout was just 37% (67.5% in 2017). BBC Wales vox pop in Newport bus station the next day: first person said ‘what by-election?’; second said they’d heard about it on the radio that morning.
    Lib Dems’ Ryan Jones was selected just a month before the poll. He got 1,088 votes (4.6%). Compared to 2017’s candidate who got 976 votes (2.2%).

    I’m not sure you can take anything much from a day when about 20,000 people who voted in 2017 didn’t bother. Possibly because the weather was dreadful.

  • Cassie 7th Apr ’19 – 2:58pm………….I’m not sure you can take anything much from a day when about 20,000 people who voted in 2017 didn’t bother. Possibly because the weather was dreadful…………

    UKip voters turned out OK. Maybe, their commitment was greater than for this party? If so, then the future looks even bleaker than the present.

  • 2,023 people didn’t just vote for Ukip, they voted for Neil Hamilton. That is depressing.
    Look back, though, and in 2015, Ukip got 12.3% (6,134 votes). This time, it was 8.6%.

    Not counting Labour or the Tories:
    4,076 voted for pro-EU parties (split between 4)
    2,774 voted for anti-EU parties (split between 5).

  • Why does the Welsh speech finish after one paragraph?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Apr '19 - 6:50pm

    Arnold Kiel

    Wrong, Innocent Bystander. All we want is to see whether the leave-camp is still the majority.

    Wrong, Arnold Kiel.

    What we need to make clear is that actually there never was a real majority for Leave. The reason for that is that whatever version of Leave is proposed, a majority say that they would rather stay in the EU than to have that happen.

    It certainly was the case that the sort of deal that Norway has with the EU was mentioned in the referendum, and some people encouraged to vote Leave on the basis that a similar sort of deal could be made by the UK. These people would not support a no-deal leave.

    On the other hand, some say that the sort of deal that Norway has means that the EU is still in control as it is setting the details that Norway has to keep to. Those saying this say they would rathe stay in the EU than have a deal which means we are still under EU control, but no longer have a direct say in EU rules that we have as a member.

    Theresa May came up with a compromise, somewhere in between this, and both hard and soft Brexiteers rejected that.

    We who opposed Leave should keep out of it, because if we jump in and try and force a soft Brexit, the hard Brexiteers will blame us for it and say we have stopped people getting what they want, and they’ll blame us when it doesn’t provide a miraculous wonder-world that they want to give the impression that hard Brexit will give.

    So, you Leavers, it was up to you to come up with what it really meant, or at least a version you would all agree to, you had plenty of time to do that, and you have been unable to do it.

    As for all you who voted Leave because you are people who are unhappy about how our country has gone since it has been pushed down the free market path by Margaret Thatcher and every government since, and you said “We’ll vote Leave and then the politicians will listen to us”, well have those leading figures of Leave, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and the like listened to you and championed you? Are they they the politicians wanting to reverse Thatcherism?

    Oh, sorry, you don’t want us to ask you that, you just want to give power to the likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg. I happen to have noticed what they actually want is to push the UK even further down the path you thought voting Leave would stop. But you don’t want to be given the chance to say “No, that’s not what we want”.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Apr '19 - 10:43pm

    Yes, not so imminent bystander, no surrender is exactly what I want. We must not vote for any deal which we know would leave the people of the UK worse off than being in the EU.
    We were not in favour of Brexit and we are still not in favour of Brexit. Democracy is not a single event, it’s a process and people have the right to change their minds. It is perfectly democratic to seek to overturn a decision of one doesn’t agree with. The process is called democracy and it involves political campaigning for what one believes in.
    After all, we had a a second EU referendum because the no side in the first one didn’t like the result and campaigned to change it.

  • Peter Martin 7th Apr '19 - 10:54pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    “So, you Leavers, it was up to you to come up with what it really meant”

    And how do we do that? I’d suggest, ideally, a STV whereby we list the leave options in order of preference? But there’s the not so little matter of how we know who’s entitled to vote as a leaver.

    Remainers have a similar problem of what Remain really means. There are those remainers who want as many opt-outs and rebates as possible. Half hearted remainers like the idea of the EU providing there’s not too much EU. Then there are others who are more enthusiastic and want the UK to be a part of the ‘Grand Vision’.

    So what do you really mean?

  • @Peter Martin – Remainers have a similar problem of what Remain really means.
    Err no, you’ve been drinking too much of the Brexiteer cool-aid. Remain meant and means status quo; everything else is future and open to negotiation, however, if it involves any further transfer of sovereignty, all the Westminster parties and Parliament has already agreed a referendum will be required.

    So I think you can see that whilst Remain supporters may have different ideas of the future direction of the UK’s involvement, all were clear about where the UK would be immediately after the 2016 referendum. This is in total contrast to those who promoted Leave who had no clear idea of about where the UK would be immediately after the referendum and still have no clear idea or agreed consensus.

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Apr '19 - 4:24am

    Matthew Huntbach,

    I completely agree. You don’t have to convince me that the referendum was an illegal, mendacious, deceptive, undemocratic, and therefore invalid propaganda coup, and that the Art. 50 notification should simply be revoked. Too many, however, including Innocent Bystander, believe that this was somehow “democratic” and must therefore be “respected”. A confirmatory referendum is therefore my compromise proposal to see this criminal nonsense off.

    Roland,

    I have a different proposal: no more referenda, but an honest dialogue between UK Governments and voters about the costs and benefits of further EU integration. The habit of agreeing in Brussels and complaining in London must stop. European integration is indispensable, and can be sold by competent and honest politicians. Otherwise, they must have the guts to veto it (and explain their incapability to take Britons with them to their European friends).

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Apr '19 - 8:03am

    Mick Taylor,
    Then “No surrender” must be the equally grim aim of your opponents. And both of you must fight until the bitter end with no quarter asked or given until Britain lies in the dust and its people divided by bitterness and hate.
    This is indeed the angry generation. Full of self righteousness and certainty that all other views are not just wrong but should be disallowed and expunged.

  • Peter Martin 8th Apr '19 - 8:52am

    @ Roland,

    “…….if it involves any further transfer of sovereignty, all the Westminster parties and Parliament has already agreed a referendum will be required.”

    We’ve heard this one before! If we do end up staying in the EU, I would expect that one lesson the establishment will have learned from the events of the last few years is:
    No More Referendums!

    “….all were clear about where the UK would be immediately after the 2016 referendum”

    This is true. By the same logic, we also know where we are immediately we board a train at station. In my experience, I’d say it’s always a good idea to firstly take a look at where it’s going.

  • Peter Martin 8th Apr '19 - 9:03am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “After all, we had a a second EU referendum….”

    Just on a point of information: The EU didn’t exist, and was getting on from 20 years away from doing so, when we first joined the EEC in 1972 and had the first referendum in 1975.

  • Peter Watson 8th Apr '19 - 9:09am

    @Roland “Remain meant and means status quo … if it involves any further transfer of sovereignty, all the Westminster parties and Parliament has already agreed a referendum will be required.”
    Strictly speaking, didn’t Remain in 2016 mean Cameron’s deal rather than the status quo it would mean now (not sure that there is a huge difference though!)? Also, I believe that the Act of Parliament requiring a referendum before any transfer of sovereignty to the EU was repealed so there is no longer such a provision.
    On the latter point, it is striking that in 2015 the Lib Dem manifesto was still calling for any such referendum to be on the big question of In/Out instead of just the particular transfer of powers. I guess the moral is “Be careful what you wish for”!

  • innocent Bystander
    I don’t really see much actual evidence of a nation at war with itself. What I do see is a lot of tub thumping claims to that effect and lots of angry articles in the press, but out in the day to day world I just people doing their jobs or going to the shops or whatever. It’s hyperbole, mostly driven , but not exclusively, by the more desperate elements of pro EU camp trying to stir things up.

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Apr '19 - 9:59am

    Glenn, my daughter in law has only spoken to her mother half a dozen times since the old dear voted leave. Last Christmas they met at a pub for Christmas lunch because they refused to set foot in each other’s houses. All because of Brexit. We go to a social club where Brexit is not discussed any more and the two groups don’t socialise with each other as if there is accidental mention of politics a furious row will follow.
    That’s the day to day world, like it or not.

  • David Raw 8th Apr ’19 – 9:56am………..GONE FISHING ?…..Andrew Neil hammers Lib Dems after candidate fails to attend Newport West count due to ‘long-standing commitment’ inews.co.uk 2 days ago………….

    I gather the clip has gone viral and found to be a great joke. For those in this party who complain that they are ignored by the media this might be an sad example of what happens when they are not ignored.

  • Innocent Bystander
    Anecdote is not evidence. My argument is that the divisions are no more pronounced than they have ever been. If you went into a pub in some parts of the country and said you voted tory or in another labour you would be met by a similar response. And why is do you use patronizing language like “old dear? Are you1970s comedian or do older women simply become “old dears” to you when you don’t like their political choices?

  • chris moore 8th Apr '19 - 11:14am

    There was little effort put into Newport West.

    The party is concentrating its limited resources on Brecon and Radnor.

    To my mind, that’s right.

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Apr '19 - 11:35am

    Glen, then you have no evidence either. The term “old dear” is gentle and affectionate and she is a nice old soul (as I try to be). Or is the word “soul” no longer acceptable.? Is “old” OK? Maybe temporally challenged would do? Well, like me, she is at one end of the life span spectrum. The wrong end.
    Your vision of a nation at peace with itself and quietly debating Brexit with jocular good humour and fellowship is frankly bizarre. But that is my own opinion, of course, formed solely from my own experiences.
    I accept every voter’s choice as being valid. I call them neither traitors or racists but these are the insults being exchanged and I much regret it and wish decent politicians would search for common ground rather than outright victory at all costs.

  • I never said the nation is at peace with itself. I said the division are no different than they’ve ever been and they are being hyped, mainly, by the pro-EU lobby. You’re adding things I never said to make an argument I wasn’t making.
    And I don’t buy the old dear excuse either. I think you are being patronising and dismissive. I associate the phrase with that sort of Basil Fawlty disdain for older women. IMO there is nothing affectionate about it. I wouldn’t refer to my mum as “the old dear” and if I did she would blow a fuse at me, quite rightly so.

  • chris moore 8th Apr '19 - 1:09pm

    @David Raw

    David Raw 8th Apr ’19 – 11:57am
    @ chris moore “The party is concentrating its limited resources on Brecon and Radnor.
    To my mind, that’s right.”
    You don’t even know there’s going to be a by-election in Brecon & Radnor yet – but apparently occupying armchairs are the favourite place for your ‘limited resources’.

    David, I’m trying to understand the bit about limited resources “occupying armchairs”, but no success so far.

  • chris moore 8th Apr '19 - 1:14pm

    Ah, I get it. You mean members – limited resources – who might have been out campaigning in Newport spent the time lolling in armchairs?

    Or is it me who was’ lolling in an armchair with my “limited resources” = small brain??

    And hence too thick to understand your Delphic utterance.

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