Jane Dodds: Lib Dems offer hope and optimism to Wales

Welsh Liberal Democrats have been gathering in Cardiff this weekend for their first Spring Conference since Jane Dodds was elected leader.

She used her first keynote speech to showcase how Liberal Democrats could offer hope to those who are struggling, as the South Wales Argus reports:

While she didn’t shy away from the party’s recent troubles, saying “There’s no denying we’ve had a difficult few years”, Ms Dodds added: “While the wounds of the last few years are still visible, we are still fighting.”

And she said one of the party’s top priorities must be to battle homelessness and poverty.

“As the nasty party in Westminster doggedly pursue deeper cuts in public finances, we see vulnerable people scraping by to survive, without access to public services, with no hope for their future,” she said.

“We need to give them that hope.”

On Brexit, she said: “We have to be clear in our opposition to this government’s disastrous handling of the biggest decision our country has faced in a generation.

“And, that whether we like it or not, Wales voted to leave the EU.

“But, and it’s a big but, it was not on the basis that we would leave under any circumstances.”

Concluding, she said: “We need to make sure we have the ideas in place that address the needs of communities and people living in Wales, and we have to translate these ideas into winning votes.

Her speech won praise from Willie Rennie:

Jane has had a fair bit of media coverage over the weekend. The BBC highlighted a debate on loneliness, a subject close to Jane’s heart:

On Friday, the she visited Age Connects in Cardiff, which provides services for older people.

“Loneliness is a serious issue, with half a million people across Wales reporting feeling lonely,” Ms Dodds said.
“No-one should be forced to feel isolated and alone.”

Ms Dodds said the party was in “listening mode” and wanted to start a conversation on the issue.

She said it was not just older people who were affected.

“It is people who are single parents, people who have mental health difficulties (and) people who have experienced some kind of isolation away from their families.

“We’ve got a number of things playing in here which has left us with this issue – families are more socially mobile and therefore are moving away. We’ve seen cuts in services, particularly things like day centres for older people. We’ve seen mental health service cuts.”

Willie was there to talk about the F word – federalism. He said:

The joint ministerial committees have barely met and when they have, too often UK ministers and their devolved counterparts just use it as an opportunity to grandstand in the press. The devolved administrations haven’t been involved in shaping the withdrawal position.

The heart of the debate is how we have a UK-wide framework for devolved powers which is sensible for everyone involved.

“I think the answer is federalism; devolved administrations coming together to agree common frameworks. Most countries in the world do it and they can’t understand why the UK seems so incapable of undertaking modern, common-sense governance.

It is in the interests of all, including the UK Government, to agree a formal mechanism to agree common approaches and to resolve disagreements. It isn’t sustainable for the UK Government to impose its will on everyone else every time there is a genuine disagreement. We need a structure that gives every legislature its place in the decision making.

The key to federalism is that the different administrations all may have different priorities and nuances within a framework. But they all have an eye and a care for the success of the whole.

UK policy is weaker when it fails to promote joint action. It’s time we took common sense steps to improve governance across the UK. That starts with putting some meat on the bones of joint ministerial committees and ensuring that legislatures have an enhanced role in scrutinising and pressing for measures that boost every part of the UK.

If you want to see more from the Conference, BBC Parliament has a Highlights programme which will be on at 3pm this afternoon and thereafter on the iPlayer.

Jane Dodds and Willie Rennie are on BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme from 8 am.

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  • Some good points made in the speech. I’d like to see the party focus on infrastructure, transport, and the economy in Wales as well though. The South Wales Metro and the M4 relief road are things we really need to get behind.

    One point on the list of conference motions though – the Welsh Young Liberals really deemed ‘access to waterways’ to be one of the most pressing issues for them in Wales?!

  • The current WAG response to homelessness is largely moving in the right direction and speaking about loneliness while only touching upon social mobility moving young family members away doesn’t seem to address the prevailing issue.

    Infrastructure (greater transport links between north and south, east and west), education (tying into Kirsty William’s work in the WAG) and a greater say for Cymru on UK level (moving away from Westminster imposition) would be my choice.

    Definitely something’s to work on but also a base to work from.

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