This is the letter I wrote for Progress magazine. You can read the original online here.
It is a difficult time at present, with uncertainty about the country’s future following the European Union referendum, and uncertainty about our party’s leadership at a United Kingdom level. These are some of the lessons I have learned from governing in Wales where we still have a Labour government.
First, leadership matters. In Wales, we have made good choices with our leaders. Opinion polling – and election results – have consistently shown that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones have an enduring popularity with the Welsh public. The contrast with opposition leaders has been positive. After 17 years of Welsh Labour government, our first minister is still rated more highly than the Conservative leader. The UK picture affects us too. We are not insulated from the successes or difficulties surrounding the UK leadership. The leader of the UK party has been a factor at each assembly election, despite our attempts to emphasise that the people of Wales are voting for their local assembly member and for the first minister of Wales.
Second, political loyalties are not as fixed as they once were. Nobody should take support for granted, and this includes traditional Labour voters. In Wales we have seen a shift in our support, with challenges in north-west and west Wales where we no longer hold constituencies. We do not just face challenges from the Tories and Plaid Cymru, either. The demise of the Liberal Democrats may not be permanent and we cannot simply wait for the United Kingdom Independence party to fade away. The way we behave as ministers and within our communities matters. We have to be proactive campaigners. This sounds simple, but it does not always happen.
Third, being in government is hard – but being opposition is much worse.
I cannot recall making a perfect choice in government – but there are always choices to make. You can never please everyone, and there are very few decisions that do not have some flaws. However, we should never give up on being in government for a purpose. Governing means compromise. But all the compromise necessary to lead Wales is so much better than being in opposition. The point and purpose of our party is to make a difference by using the transformative power of government. Social justice does not get delivered by protesting against the government of the day. Social justice gets delivered by being the government of the day.
Fourth, the past matters – but the future matters even more. We have a very long track record to defend in government and we should stand up for our record – as well as acknowledging where we have changed our mind. The facts have changed over time and so we should change too to meet our objectives. We need to spend more time talking about the future and what we will do. Fighting the Tories, and highlighting the damage done by the UK government is essential, but we also need to be positive about our own choices. We need to set out consistently how having a Welsh Labour government has been and remains beneficial in making Wales a fairer and more prosperous country than it would have been without us.
This is the letter I wrote for Progress magazine. You can read the original online here. It is a difficult time at present, with uncertainty about the country’s future...
Vaughan Gething AM today attended a family fun day at the National Museum Cardiff to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition for the works of Quentin Blake. The cartoonist is most famous for illustrating a majority of books written by Cardiff born Roald Dahl. The exhibition contained early sketches and plans going right through to final products to show how the illustrations evolved. The exhibition also includes many previously unreleased works.
The exhibition at National Museum Cardiff is supported by Welsh Government and forms part the Roald Dahl 100 Wales celebrations taking place throughout 2016. The exhibition opened today and will run until the 20th of November.
Vaughan Gething AM today attended a family fun day at the National Museum Cardiff to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition for the works of Quentin Blake. The...
I last wrote this column on the day of the UK’s referendum on European Union membership. I asked residents to vote to remain in the EU. Despite Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan voting in relatively large numbers to remain, the rest of the country felt differently. As a result, the UK will be leaving.
It gives me no pleasure to say that the risks I – and many others – warned of are starting to appear. The remain campaign now looks less ‘Project Fear’ and more ‘Project Fact’. The Bank of England has recently said that the risks of Brexit are starting to ‘crystallise’. It is attempting to take pre-emptive action to avoid these consequences, but a full escape is unlikely.
One of the most shocking reactions following the referendum has been how it’s galvanised some of the most unsavoury behaviours in our society. The great majority of people who campaigned and voted for Brexit are decent people who I simply disagree with. However it is hard to ignore the nasty tone and dog whistle politics that came through much of the headline and local campaigning.
UKIP’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster of long lines of non-European refugees escaping war encapsulated this message. There is thoroughly depressing evidence of rising intolerance on our streets. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence confirm that hate crimes on our streets have shot up in the wake of the referendum. It is the responsibility of everyone – Leave or Remain voters – to send a clear message. The UK has not endorsed intolerance and it is not acceptable in this country.
Many have suffered from buyer’s remorse in the wake of the referendum result. The morning news the day after the vote was littered with vox pops of voters who said they hadn’t expected the UK to actually vote to leave and were merely registering a protest vote. Others said they hadn’t believed that the risks were real and were surprised to wake up to a plunging pound and stock market. These feelings are understandable. Too many political campaigns now rely on negativity and it should be no surprise that voters have become wary to these warnings. The apprehensive reaction to the Remain campaign’s warnings is unsurprising. What is not forgivable, however, is the way the leaders of the Brexit campaign have started to jump ship. The individual with perhaps the greatest buyer’s remorse from the Brexit vote is Boris Johnson. Nigel Farage too has left the scene. He announced that whilst the UK struggles to avoid recession, he will be treating himself with an early retirement.
There are some who have remained in public life who have questions to answer, too. The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, promised before the referendum that Wales would have all of its European funding replaced at a British level. The ballot papers were barely counted before he reneged on this pledge, being discarded along with the Leave campaign's £350 million a week extra for the NHS promise.
The referendum result has shown how the presence of uncertainty can induce nationwide anxiety and be a damaging influence. But not always. The glorious uncertainty of sport has yet again provided a welcome celebration of achievement in these last few weeks. We still talk about the achievements of the Welsh football team in the 1958 World Cup. We have not reached a major tournament since. To be in the European Championships was a great achievement in itself. Topping the group was a cause for national celebration. But to reach the final four, with company as illustrious as Germany, France, and Portugal, is another level altogether. Despite the disappointing result against Portugal, the team has done the whole country proud. With all that is happening around us, the timing couldn’t have been better.
I last wrote this column on the day of the UK’s referendum on European Union membership. I asked residents to vote to remain in the EU. Despite Cardiff and...