9 October 2017
Speech in full:
Bore da, dwi'n Grenville Ham, Leader of the Wales Green Party.
What have we been up to in Wales? It has been a busy year. We had our county council elections in May and we fielded the most candidates ever. In Powys, where I’m from, we fielded more candidates than Plaid or Labour, and we broke through with our first county councillor, giving the outstanding Emily Durrant a platform to show how much we can bring to the table in local politics. And also in Powys we had a half dozen second places too, proving that we’re not far away from connected, active Greens in our communities being voted in.
But in the same way that Our Welsh Assembly election campaign from last year became dominated by the referendum (and resulted in 7 UKIP assembly members and their toxic brand of politics) the local elections took a back seat in the media’s eyes when the general election was called, and despite there being a much more crowded political landscape in Wales, the dialogue became all about Labour and the Conservatives.
Within a thirteen-month period we had Welsh assembly elections, community councils, town councils, county councils, the snap general election, and a referendum thrown into the mix. It has been relentless. I’ve personally stood in five elections. I did win one, so it’s not all bad.
So we’ve had a very busy period, and even though we started from a low level, we have made clear gains. I’m so proud of all of our candidates and members across Wales for the huge effort they've put in. But we are acutely aware that this is only the beginning and that the challenge ahead is huge. It may mean that in the coming years, us in the Wales Green Party will need to take ourselves to new and exciting directions.
And we have to keep going, because, honestly, it seems that Wales is going nowhere at the moment.
Westminster, as ever, serves Wales poorly – it is insulting in fact. Cancelling the long-promised electrification of trains is just one recent example, but the continuing saga of the Tidal lagoon sums it up well. Tories are still refusing to give it the go ahead, which I personally find very strange, because they always seem to love seeing investments located offshore.
We see Hinkley, Nuclear Power, Trident, HS2 as massive expenses, massive public liabilities, that can never help Wales, they only drain the financial resources from our communities that need schools, hospitals and the other essentials for life.
Labour are in power here, and Carwyn Jones, is not Jeremy Corbyn. I know many have been enthused by the moves in Labour over the last couple of years, but Labour have run Wales for almost generation, and I’m not seeing the step in the right direction that many outside Wales do. With Welsh Labour we haven’t seen any particularly big steps, and it’s not necessarily in the right direction.
We’ve seen no inroads in poverty, education, health or housing. Those in power in Wales have no ideas. Just this week the Welsh government announced a new funding package for mental health support for young people to much fanfare, but beyond the spin, you have the real story, like found out when I met a support worker for children with mental health issues earlier this week, who had found out that their entire team have been made redundant. We have a mental health crisis in Wales, but all that our elected representatives seem to do is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
No party in Wales is addressing seriously the problems of climate change, inequality and an economy propped up by personal debt. Welsh policies still push for more growth, encouraging people to spend money they haven’t got, on things they don’t need, to impress people they probably don’t even like.
And this ineptitude in Welsh politics is made even worse by the fact that we have some of the most forward-looking legislation in the world, such as the Wellbeing and Future Generations Act. This groundbreaking legislation can deliver a truly sustainable society, but instead we see efforts focused on spending a billion pounds on a new motorway through the Gwent levels, an area of outstanding ecological value. Or the decision to allow 300,000 tonnes of sediment from the grounds of Hinkley to be dumped in Cardiff Bay. These decisions are as frustrating as they are insulting.
Which is why for us, our eyes are fixed firmly on 2021, our next Welsh Assembly elections. With the expanded powers of the Welsh Assembly, we can start to have serious discussions about tax, the nature of work and how our economy should function.
And we really need to get people to be serious about abating the impacts of climate change and the opportunities this brings.
For Wales this means working hand in hand with our agricultural sector. As I say to our farmers all the time – “we can't nail climate change, green tech or our food system without you”.
In Wales, we need a Green new deal to deliver serious spending on infrastructure, social housing of highest standards, 21st century green energy networks, massive improvements to public transport. All of this comes under the remit of the Welsh government and we need to be at that table.
We see the biggest opportunity for Wales being the effort to combat climate change.
With our abundant natural resources Wales really should offer the blueprint for a clean energy future. With a network of tidal lagoons in the South and the North, supplemented with utilising redundant deep mines as the pumped storage technology to bridge the energy gap each day, Wales could be laying down a blueprint for tech to be exported across the world. And the fact this storage tech would be located in former coal mining communities will also create significant employment in our areas of highest social deprivation and joblessness, helping to solve an intergenerational poverty issue.
Energy is going to be central to the future economy in Wales. With abundant, cheap and clean energy we can solve a lot of our other problems. Without it, were not going to be able to solve many problems at all.
We have the resources and technologies to build this new economy, we have many of the legislative tools already here in Wales, and you can see glimmers of this new economy beginning to emerge. The challenge for Wales is to build that economy in the time that we have available, and I don't think we have a lot of time.
We want to show how the Next Industrial Revolution is supposed to look – And showing that when this all comes on line huge follies like Hinckley C are going to look as redundant as a canal when the railways came to town.
For Wales, these are not technical issues, these are leadership issues.
Diolch yn Fawr, thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoy the rest of conference.