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Jane Dodds on the Welsh Lib Dems vision of hope and optimism to tackle today’s giant evils

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds set the party in Wales a mission at their Conference at the weekend. She wants them to find ideas to tackle the issues that provide the modern equivalent of Beveridge’s giant evils. Here’s her speech proposing the motion that kicks the process off.

Conference, I’m excited to begin the process today of shaping our vision for our party and for Wales. One thing I made clear during my campaign to become leader of our party was that I wanted to re-capture not only our radical, Liberal roots, but the idea that politics should offer hope.

That’s what I want us to do.

I want to rekindle the optimism and the hope that politics once offered by setting out an aspirational vision of the Wales we want to see.

I want us to start a conversation about what it is we want to achieve – a story and an ethos that will help us in shaping stand-out signature policies for the elections ahead of us.

In truth, much of my vision is informed by the vision of another Liberal a little over 75 years ago.

In 1942 William Beveridge published his report, a report that captured imaginations and transformed society. Dryly titled the ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services report,’ Beveridge’s work went on to transform British society and establish the welfare state as we know it.

It was a promise of a better, brighter future.

It was a promise that each and every one of us would have the opportunity to get on in life; to be healthy, to be well educated, to have a place to call home, and that there would be a safety net for when the going got tough.

Beveridge identified 5 giant evils: squalor, want, disease, ignorance and idleness.

Far from having disappeared, the challenges facing society in 1942 have only changed.

We no longer simply talk of a poverty  – or want – of “physical efficiency” – the minimum amount to simply feed ourselves; we talk about the number of households and children living in working poverty, turning to foodbanks, with opportunity out of reach.

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In Full: Sal Brinton’s speech to Welsh Conference – Welsh Lib Dems are here to stay and here to win

Sal Brinton seems to spend April each year in perpetual motion, travelling around the country lending support to election campaigns. She is so good at boosting morale on the ground. In between the campaigning, she went to Welsh Conference this weekend and will be in Aviemore for Scottish Conference next weekend.

In her keynote speech in Cardiff, she praised Kirsty Williams’ work as Education Secretary, improving things for the poorest children and young adults. She spoke highly of Jane Dodds, highlighting her life’s work of fighting for the oppressed and vulnerable and her passion to make life better for them.

She talked about how the Lords would do their best to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill, her frustration that Parliament was not getting to tackle other issues.

She had a message of hope for a party which has had a tough few years, highlighting the by-election wins that show that we are back in the game.

Here’s her speech in full:

I want to start with the overnight news that Theresa May has ordered air strikes on Syria. I absolutely agree with Vince’s call last week that she could and should have recalled Parliament, to seek a mandate from the representatives of the British people, and hear the debate both for and against.

Liberal Democrats stood ready to assess the evidence and objectives for any action and, if it were properly planned and justified, to support a military response.

At this moment our thoughts are with British and allied troops. But the Government’s decision fatally undermines the integrity of this mission. It shows a weak UK Government putting short term political expediency before democracy and in so doing further diminishing the standing of Britain in the world.

It is fantastic to be back in Wales, and to see you, our Welsh members so upbeat and positive. There’s no denying that here in Wales you have been through a rough time – perhaps even more than the rest of us across the UK. But it is important that we celebrate your spirit, determination and commitment to fighting back, and I’m convinced you’ve also achieved an enormous amount, despite the challenges.

Here in Wales we are in Government – the only place in an Assembly or Parliament in the UK where we are able to enact liberal policies, through the fantastic work of our Welsh Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams.

Kirsty is leading our national mission of education reform to give our young people the best start in life by reducing the attainment gap and raising standards across our schools, wherever in Wales they are.

From cutting infant class sizes and investing more money in raising the aspirations of our least well-off children, to delivering a fair funding arrangements for university students and Wales’ universities – Kirsty is proving the Welsh Liberal Democrats to be the party with the ideas and drive to get things done. She remains a real inspiration to me, and I know, to many of you too!

And I know that Kirsty would be the first to say that so many of you have been working immensely hard over the last two years to revive our Party’s fortunes in Wales, and we are now on the brink of a fantastic opportunity.

And I absolutely agree with her!

Here in Wales, your next Assembly elections coming up in 2021. Now that may seem far away, but look at the electoral fortunes of UKIP. That flash in the pan party has plummeted in support. Just two years after the last assembly elections, they are a spent force, and they’re not coming back. They are fielding so few candidates, that they aren’t entitled to a parliamentary party broadcast, only contesting just over 10% of the seats up for election and not even bothering to stand in many of the seats they currently hold.

Meanwhile we have a Tory Party which is still – forty years on, still riven by the EU. I mean, who ever thought that ‘Having your cake and eating it’ was ever a serious proposition from senior cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson and David Davis. But they both prattle away about it, as if it is realistic and possible. More damagingly, let’s be generous here and call it self deceit, rather than deliberate, is lurching the UK towards a hard Brexit disaster, whilst they sing loudly with their fingers in their ears and with blindfolds on.

But it isn’t just the Tories – there are the splits in the Labour Party, perhaps best typified by the Welsh Leader completely at odds with its Westminster Leader, and plagued by internal rifts, and even the nationalists Plaid Cymru riven with factionalism, unsure about what Wales’ future holds.

That Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’ seems to be with us in abundance!

Contrast that to our Welsh Liberal Democrat vision for Wales:

a Wales proud of its heritage,

* Committed and optimistic for the future,

* committed to our young people,

* committed to maintaining our international ties both within Europe and beyond.

All of us are united around that vision. All of us are committed to a revival in this, the land of liberalism. We aren’t looking back to the grand old days of Lloyd George (although his Liberal heritage of care for our land and care for our people still lies at the heart of our values).

We are confidently looking forward: striving to make a better future for Wales, a more Liberal future for Wales.

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In full: Jane Dodds’ Leader’s Speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference

Here is Jane Dodds’ keynote speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference this weekend. She said that the Welsh Lib Dems had an aspirational, optimistic vision for Wales. She went on to praise Kirsty Williams, the party’s Education Secretary. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader kept calling her the best education secretary in Britain.

Jane talked movingly about the impact of poverty and homelessness and outlined what the Lib Dems were all about:

The party of the progressive and pragmatic that offers an exciting and inspiring vision.

The Party of Ideas, taking forward meaningful policies that speak to people’s everyday concerns.

The Party of the Green Agenda, committed to protecting our environment, cleaning up the air we breathe, and harnessing the power of our environment.

The true party of equality, fairness and freedom and with a vision of a Wales that offers everyone a place to call home, free from discrimination and intolerance in all its forms.

Here’s the whole thing:

Cynhadledd, conference

Thank you all for being here this weekend as we look to the future and the role we want our party to play in creating a hopeful and successful Wales.

It’s been great to see so many old friends, but also to welcome so many new members to our family – croeso.

My Leadership

Conference, it is an honour and a privilege to be delivering my first speech as leader of our party. I feel very humbled and am grateful for your support.

There’s no denying that we’ve had a difficult few years and have a fight ahead of us.

I’ve spent a lot of time since the election visiting local parties, speaking to members, and attending events right across the country

what strikes me is that whilst the wounds of the last few years are still visible, we’re fighting.

Let me be clear –

we may be reduced in numbers in Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but the Welsh Liberal Democrats haven’t gone anywhere,

we are not going anywhere.

We are a team, working together with a shared mission of putting Welsh Liberal Democrats back at the heart of Welsh politics.

Vision 

But,

we have much to do.

Starting with who we are and what we stand for.

Earlier today we voted to move forward with a project to engage members, the public, frontline staff and experts in setting out a hopeful, optimistic, and aspirational vision for Wales.

A Wales that gives people the opportunity to get up on their feet, and to get on in life.

A Wales that gives us each the freedom, the opportunity, and the security to shape our own destiny,

to take risks, and to achieve our potential.

A Wales that has a strong, resilient, and inclusive economy which harnesses individual potential, creates opportunity, and offers each of us a decent standard of living

A Wales where we celebrate the value of our communities, our diversity, our heritage, our culture and our Welsh Language.

And a Wales that is compassionate and caring– the open and tolerant Wales we know.

To do that we need Welsh Liberal Democrats back at the heart of Welsh politics.

Because Wales needs us.

Challenges facing Wales 

Education

Just look at what we’ve achieved with just one Welsh Liberal Democrat in government.

  • A fair and effective student finance system – the first in Europe to provide equivalent support for part-time and post-graduate learners.
  • Wales’ first ever rural schools strategy
  • Investing more than £350m in helping our children get ahead.
  • Building 20,000 new affordable homes.
  • Improving mental health services in our schools.
  • £40m for a small grants scheme for farmers.

This is real politics.

Meaningful change – creating opportunities for our children and young people.

Kirsty has shown what the Liberal Democrats mean when we talk about everyone having the opportunity to get ahead, and have a fair chance of having a seat at the table.

Thank you, Kirsty.

The challenges facing us in realising our vision of a fair Wales, where people have the opportunity to succeed in life are huge.

Don’t underestimate that – or how much harder it will be to realise that vision in the years ahead.

So I want to spend some time talking about those challenges and our priorities –

Homelessness

Rising homelessness.

Young people, people who have mental health difficulties, users of alcohol and drugs, girls and women who are open to exploitation and sexual abuse.  And over the last 4 years in the UK, at least 230 homeless people have died on our streets.

And 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.

Conference, we need to give them that hope. Starting with urgent hostel places with no strings attached.

Give them the hope of owning their own home by building 20,000 new affordable homes across Wales;

Introducing the Rent to Own scheme to make it easier to get on the housing ladder,

or introducing the Housing First model so people feel safer when they fall on hard times.

These are Welsh Lib Dem ideas in action, changing people’s lives.

Work and jobs

Access to well-paid work is crucial to ensuring that we all have the freedom to grasp opportunity, to shape our own destiny, and achieve our potential.

The challenges of technology and a vulnerable economy, makes it even harder to ensure that we can all enjoy work that gives us the opportunity to live fair and free lives.

But we can either embrace the future, or bury our heads in the sand.

We can either be bold, be brave, look at new ideas and harness technology to create an innovative and sustainable economy – or we can shirk our responsibility to future generations.

There are projects quite literally on our doorstep ready to go – if only the Conservative Government had the same aspiration as us.

The Swansea Tidal Lagoon should have been given the go-ahead long ago.

Let’s imagine this.

A network of tidal lagoons in Cardiff,

Newport

and Colwyn Bay

powering our nation, creating well-paid jobs, harnessing our environment and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

For us, conference, it’s a no brainer.

Jobs, a tourist attraction, green energy provision and a badge that says “we are innovative, positive and open for business”.

We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again –

the Tories cannot be trusted to protect our environment,

to create opportunity for our communities,

and they have abandoned their right to call themselves the party of business.

It is us, the Welsh Liberal Democrats that have the aspiration and drive to create a sustainable economy that creates opportunity for all.

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Jane Dodds’ New Year Message: Welsh Liberal Democrats are fighting back

Dymuniadau Gorau i chi gyd dros y Blwyddyn Newydd/ Best Wishes to you all for the New Year.

2018 will be the year of the Welsh Liberal Democrat fight back, with renewed energy in our activists, key policies which will change the lives of Welsh people, and a focus on winning seats.

We want to see a Wales that has social justice as its backbone – rethinking a punitive benefits system which wages war on the poor.  We want to see a Wales that looks out to Europe – leaving the EU would be a disaster for Welsh farmers and businesses.  We want to see a Wales that  welcomes refugees – building on its proud history of internationalism.  We want to see a Wales that has a health system that is fair – English people have waiting times for planned operations that is half that of Welsh people.  We want to see an economic plan for Wales that will breathe new life into its urban and rural areas – promoting innovation in green industries.  

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Reprise: What Jane Dodds wants for the Welsh Liberal Democrats

This is a re-run of the article Jane Dodds wrote for us during the Welsh Lib Dems’ leadership campaign, setting out her hopes for the party.

I have to start by saying that I am not that happy to be standing against Liz Evans, a colleague for whom I have enormous respect.  My only comfort is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will have a Welsh speaking woman from mid-Wales as their next leader.

I believe that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the talent, the drive, the enthusiasm and the ambition to start winning again, but we need to rebuild the party.  We need more members, more councillors and to win seats in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 and in the next Parliamentary elections.  The Welsh party needs to work with the Federal Party to forge a relationship that helps us to transform ourselves.  And Wales needs the Welsh Liberal Democrats to offer real, meaningful, and Liberal solutions to the deep seated inequalities people face.

Progress has been too slow.  As a social worker, I have seen at first hand the inequalities in our society and the hardship suffered by people as they face a lack of good quality homes and a paucity of well-paid and full time employment. People in Wales have health services which are well below the standards in England, and we need improved access to mental health provision.  We need to sustain our support to our Education Cabinet Secretary in Kirsty Williams as she continues to deliver progressive policies to improve educational standards for Welsh children.

We need an economic plan that breathes life back in to Wales, and to put green policies and renewable energy developments at the forefront of our strategy. We need to be an outward looking Wales – welcoming refugees and helping those in need, as well as joining Vince and all other Liberal Democrats in challenging Brexit.  

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Jane Dodds is the new leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

Congratulations to Jane Dodds on her election today as Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. She won 53.15 of the vote over Ceredigion’s Liz Evans.

Jane tweeted:

Jane told the County Times:

It is an honour to have been elected as the next leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats – to focus my energy on bringing like minded people together to rebuild our party and to re-establish the Welsh Liberal Democrats as the radical, progressive force of Welsh politics.

“I’d like to thank Liz Evans for running an excellent campaign and giving members a vital opportunity to discuss our next steps as a party.

I”’d also like to pay tribute to Mark Williams and Kirsty Williams for their unwavering commitment to our party.

“Wales needs the Welsh Liberal Democrats now more than ever.

Wales needs the progressive, pragmatic, and reforming voice of Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Assembly and in Westminster to give us an exit from Brexit, a fresh look on creating more and better paid jobs, protecting our environment, and delivering on Kirsty Williams’ education reforms.

“We have been down, but we aren’t out, and I’m confident of what lies ahead for my party.”

Good wishes have been coming in:

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Where next for the Liberal Democrats in Wales?

 

The 2017 General Election was a strange one for the Liberal Democrats. Up in seats, down in votes, another leader now out the door. The state of the party in Wales, however, is less questionable. We are in a bad place. Losing our remaining MP in Ceredigion, losing ground in other seats, hammered into third in Cardiff Central.

The party has been in decline for some years now and, unlike in England and Scotland, where seeds of recovery are more evident, here in Wales things don’t seem to be getting any better. Decline is not inevitable, but neither is our continued existence. It is all very well saying liberal values are needed now more than ever (they are!), but the question is how do we make them relevant to the people of Wales and what do we need to do in Wales to have any chance of regrouping.

Firstly, we have to resist the temptation to become a party that only talks about local things. The challenge between promoting a national liberal vision and community politics has been a question for decades (one Jo Grimond wrestled with, in fact). But there is nothing particularly liberal about working hard locally. From canvassing in multiple recent elections there can be no doubt that people respect our hard work on the local scene. However, when it comes to a national election they vote differently. We must make sure we are consistently promoting a liberal vision at a national level, alongside local work, or we will not rebuild.

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