Wales politics

Labour conference: Wales showing an alternative - Jones

Labour will not sit back and let the tide of the world's economy wash over Wales, First Minister Carwyn Jones has told the party conference.

He said the Welsh Government would make a difference to people's lives.

Welsh Labour was showing there was an alternative to the UK coalition government, he said.

He also attacked the "mess" being made of the NHS in England, pledging that Wales' free prescriptions were safe under Labour.

He said Labour in the rest of the UK could replicate Labour's success of May's Welsh assembly election, which left the party with half the 60 seats in the Senedd.

The result sent a message across these islands, Mr Jones told the conference in Liverpool.

"A message that despite the outcome of the last general election, Labour is back in the saddle - setting out an alternative vision to people right across the UK."

He attacked the austerity drive and economic policies of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in Westminster as "laissez faire".

'Difficult times'

Although the world economy was in a difficult state, he said: "That does not mean we can just sit back and let the tide wash over us. Far from it.

"In Wales, whilst we don't have all the economic levers at our disposal, we can still make a difference to people's lives.

"Unlike the Tories, we will not fail in our duty to help our people during difficult times."

Labour's programme for government, which he will present to the assembly on Tuesday, will be based on five pledges from Labour's campaign for May's election, he told delegates in Liverpool.

There would be more apprenticeships, better access to GPs at evenings and weekends, more funding for schools, 500 more police community support offices and more free childcare and health visits.

Mr Jones hailed the vote in favour of direct law-making powers at March's referendum. "This is the year that Wales truly came of age," he said.

Mr Jones's speech was rescheduled because of Monday morning's Wales v Namibia Rugby World Cup match

Earlier, influential backbench Assembly Member Mark Drakeford said May's assembly election showed public opinion was shifting in Labour's favour.

With the coalition in Westminster and a Scottish National Party administration in Scotland, Wales is now the only area of the UK where Labour is in government.

Mr Drakeford, who was an adviser to former First Minister Rhodri Morgan and succeeded him as the AM for Cardiff West, said: "The interest in what is going on in Wales will be greater in Liverpool this week than it has been at any time in the last decade."

The gains made by Labour at May's assembly election showed "that sentiment is flowing back towards Labour," Mr Drakeford said.

"So I think from a Welsh Labour point of view, what we think our election did was to show - not only for Wales, but for elsewhere too - that the political centre of gravity is moving back in Labour's direction."

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