Kirsty Williams AM: why I want to lead the Welsh Liberal Democrats

I am incredibly proud that the Welsh Liberal Democrats are on the verge of electing the first female party leader in Wales. It is a significant point in Welsh political history, and one that will follow a decade of immense change in how our country is governed.

I have had the privilege of being involved in that change, from the referendum campaign and the National Assembly Advisory group through to the rough and tumble of three election victories in Brecon and Radnorshire. That process of change is not about to stop and I want the Welsh Liberal Democrats to be at the front of it.

But whilst the political establishment might have changed many of the issues facing Wales remain the same. We sit at the bottom of too many league tables that measure prosperity and economic activity. Child poverty levels remain stubbornly high whilst educational attainment for too many remains unacceptably low. Many of our communities have failed to recover from previous recessions let alone the one we face now.

I want to show the people of Wales that we are a party that is on their side, a party that resists at every turn the centralising tendencies of the current Assembly Government. We recognise that individual communities and not Cardiff Bay often know how to best solve the problems they face, if only politicians would stop talking and start listening. Wales may be a small nation, but even here one size does not fit all.

We must build on the platform left by Mike German, one that has seen real success in recent Westminster and County Council elections. However we must also be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that we can and must do better at the Assembly level and ensure that the Liberal Democrat flag is flown all over Wales.

Our goal must be to be back in government, but back in government from a position of strength which means being able to gain credit for our actions and to build political momentum, something that we failed to do during the last coalition. Six Assembly seats cannot be the limit of our ambitions. If we are to move forward we have to take the fight to the other parties both in the Senedd and out onto the streets.

I passionately believe that the values of the Liberal Democrats – of non-conformity, freedom, fairness, community and internationalism – are values shared by a majority of the people of Wales. However too few people make the connection between those values and what we stand for as a political force.

We must create a new narrative that resonates with voters. We must play to our strength of localism but combine it with a new sense of professionalism in our organisation and activity. We have prided ourselves on campaigning abilities but many parties now copy those techniques so we must keep ahead of the game.

The next few years will be crucial. We must build on the success of the Councils we lead. We must ensure we speak for the whole of Wales, at our best we do, but sometimes we can be perceived as being a collection of local parties. There must be no no-go areas for us. We also have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the debates and campaigns that others can’t or won’t take on. A great place to start would be the one that finally settles the constitutional settlement for our country.

In the few short weeks since I announced my intention to stand for the leadership the size of the challenge to take us to the next level of electoral success has become apparent. We must refresh our political strategy, establish new mechanisms, draw more people and expertise into the party’s policy making processes. We need to create a new focus in communicating with our members across Wales and become a far more outward looking organisation.

It will require a vision to succeed and a passion for conviction politics. I believe I can bring all of these qualities to the leadership of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

* Kirsty Williams is the Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh Assembly for Brecon and Radnorshire, and a contender to be the party’s next leader in Wales in succession to Mike German AM. You can find her campaign website at www.kirsty4leader.co.uk

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election and Wales.
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