Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference open thread #1 – introduction and policing debate

I shall just start by saying that I love this auditorium. It’s a lecture theatre so I am sitting up the back with my laptop on an actual desk, not precariously balanced on my lap.

I should also mention that this is a Conference which has smashed all its budget projections. There are a healthy complement of stalls from external exhibitors, 6 fringe meetings today and a healthy attendance of over 250 members.

Eluned Parrott AM opened Conference with a speech outlining how the Liberal Democrats would strengthen communities and transform the economy by “ditching the Thatcherite mantra” and levelling the playing field, investing in infrastructure to maximise inclusion and minimise isolation.

She said:

17 years since the Welsh Assembly was founded is the Welsh economy in a better place? No. There’s been 17 years of managed inertia. In the good years whilst the rest of the UK economy grew, Wales was left behind. In the bad years, Wales has been hit hardest by recession.

It makes me furious to watch a government that has at times just scratched around for someone else to blame.

On Steel I have watched the warning signs of this industry in trouble not for months but for years. I have stood up in the chamber and asked the minister to do something about it; to cut business rates on heavy machinery, to demand the highest standards in our procurement policy, to make sure that no grey market imports are ever used in our government’s contracts. This isn’t abstract – this is to protect livelihoods and communities, and I’ve heard back time after time is, ‘we’ll think about it’. And no, I know that the Labour Government can’t do everything. But since when was that an excuse to do nothing?

To properly close that wealth gap, and close it for good, we need a plan. To build sustainable growth through resolving our structural problems.

We need to end the kind of chocolate box politics which offers a shiny new name for the same hackneyed old ideas.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats call for a new direction: a long term, internationalist, economic plan which fixes the foundations, brings balanced growth to our economy, and allows our deeply rooted industries and enterprises to grow and develop.
“There is only one party that is on the side of small businesses. One party on the side of entrepreneurs. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party that have the policies which will build sustainable growth, across Wales. Our communities cannot afford 5 more years of Labour inertia.

Policing Debate

Richard Church, an old friend from the East Midlands who has now moved to Wales says he’s the first man to speak at this Conference which, after the rally and Lynne speaking at the dinner, is very true.

He is speaking in the debate on Policing in Wales. Richard is standing to be a Police and Crime Commissioner, a post he says he wants to see the end of because it concentrates power too much. Power, he says, is like much, better spread about as thinly as possible.

Where is it all going to end, he asks, as Theresa May suggests PCCs could run schools and Labour’s Alun Michael wants to run the fire service too.

Public involvement in police decision making is negligible as one person seeks to direct policing in a vast area with no respect for needs of individual communities.

We know just locking people up doesn’t work, nor does criminalising people for drug possession.

We are fighting these PCC elections not because we want the power but because we want to break up the power of these offices and restore it to local communities.

Jade Smith tells a very alarming tale of a postcode lottery in policing services. In her former home she was bullied and harassed by her neighbours because of her disability. However the Police did nothing to help her. In contrast, when she moved to Cardiff and suffered a break-in, the Police could not have done more for her.

And now for a new experience for me. Aled Roberts AM speaks in Welsh and we can listen to a simultaneous translation.

Mark Cole talks about the huge costs of running PCC offices and compares that with the cuts in front-line crime prevention strategies. This, by the way, is his 50th Conference, which is very disconcerting given that most of us think he’s only 21.

IR Cymru’s Gurleen Kaur gives a short but very important speech highlighting the distrust between young people, particular in BAME communities and the police and how this needs to remedied.

I shall continue coverage in the next open thread, covering the manifesto debate.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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