By Neil McEvoy, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Sport and Tourism and Assembly Member for South Wales Central.
Bore da. Gynhadledd, dw i’n falch iawn i fod yma heddiw fel aeolod Cynulliad Plaid Cymru Canol De Cymru. It really is a pleasure to be here as the Assembly Member for South Wales Central. I’ll be even prouder after the next election, when I’ll be here as the AM for Cardiff West.
Just 5 years ago winning a seat in Cardiff seemed an impossible dream, but last May more than 10,000 people in Cardiff West voted for me to be their AM. Plaid Cymru actually received more votes than Labour on the second vote. It didn’t make many headlines but Plaid Cymru coming ahead of Labour in a Cardiff constituency in a national vote is unprecedented. In the constituency, we are just 1,000 votes behind and I’m sure if the election happened again today we’d win it.
Just imagine how that’s going to feel. Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales holding an Assembly seat in our capital for the first time.
Where we campaign in a certain way, the days of just turning up and weighing the Labour vote are over. I’m not sure if there is a Labour Party any more. They don’t even know who they are; a right wing Blairite Red Tory Party or Comrade Corbyn’s UK Nationalists ?
Where were the biggest swings in May? Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda, Cardiff West. All from Labour to Plaid. All areas so badly let down. All Labour’s so-called heartlands. Well these are Wales’s heartlands and we are the Party of Wales. The strategic aim of Plaid therefore needs to be simple; we will replace Labour as the Party of Government in Wales.
I’ve been busy since being elected, spending most of my time outside the Senedd walking the streets of South Wales Central, knocking on doors, talking to people, fighting injustices and getting results for my constituents. I was in Barry on Thursday with Plaid activists, fighting yet another incinerator.
I have also been busy shining a light on the lobbyists.
The Labour Party and their First Minister oppose regulating their friends in the lobbying industry. Does cash for access exist in Cardiff Bay? Of course it does.
And guess what, Labour Ministers refuse to disclose their diaries. They refuse to let the public know who they meet and why. This is a recipe for corruption.
On Wednesday, I held a short debate in the Senedd to call for a register of lobbyists and I’m going to keep campaigning until we get one. We need to protect our party and our Welsh democracy from corporate interests. Lobbyists sell their services to the highest bidder. People like the British Soft Drinks Association, who will do whatever it takes to stop legislation that would reduce the amount of sugar that children consume; or the building companies who want to destroy our green lungs in our Capital City and who refuse to build north of Pontypridd in my regional constituency.
We need to bring lobbying out into the open. The public has a right to know who is being paid to influence what decision. With a £16 billion budget, Wales needs transparency. Regulation should be introduced without delay.
I hope our whole party is able to fully get behind our Clean Up Cardiff Bay Campaign, because this Party also needs to look at its relationship with commercial lobbyists.
It’s fair to say that I’ve had a few run ins now with the First Minister over the Local Development Plan in Cardiff. For those who don’t know, Labour took over the Council in 2012 stating that they did not want to build on Cardiff’s green fields. Some of their leaflets even had children stood in the fields that were under threat, holding Labour signs. They accused us of being liars.
But, of course, as I knew they would, within months of being elected Labour announced plans to build tens of thousands of houses in the countryside surrounding Cardiff. Those same fields, where they so cynically stood those children, will be bulldozed to make way for the new sprawling suburbs that they assured us they had no intention of building.
Traffic is already terrible. Queues go on for miles everyday. Whilst Labour politicians talk in the Assembly about reducing air pollution, their political decisions will ensure that the lungs of our families will be filled with poisonous fumes. Virtually no extra public transport is being provided.
Every consultation they’ve ever held has shown that people don’t want this. We have even held local referenda, with thousands voting, 98% opposed to the concrete and Carmageddon. Labour refuses to listen.
But this isn’t happening across the whole of Cardiff. In the richer northern suburbs. Labour started campaigning for a green belt to stop any building on the green fields there. So it’s green belt for the wealthier areas but green destruction for Pentebane, Fairwater, Ely and Caerau.
Where are the Corbynistas challenging this? Here’s an example of environmental vandalism being inflicted on disadvantaged communities to make huge profits for housing developers, employing lobbyists by the way. Where is the so called champion of the Environment, Labour appointed Well Being and Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe?
In the Senedd, the only response I get to my questions from the First Minister on the LDP is outright rudeness. He’s told me I live in a land of fantasy, he’s called me a coward and he’s said that my statements in the Senedd are not worthy of a response.
But he’s the one living in a fantasy land. He won’t admit that he stated on the record to a journalist that his party would implement their LDP, meaning tens of thousands of houses Cardiff on Cardiff’s green field sites. This has been confirmed by the journalist by the way, even though Carwyn Jones still denies it. His Government Press Office is a bit confused also, because they say he did say it, but as Leader of the Labour Group and not First Minister! Carwyn Jones may not think that my statements in the Senedd are worthy of a response but he’ll get a response in May, when his party is thrown out of City Government in Cardiff.
And the thing is, Labour aren’t just doing this in Cardiff. In Bodelwyddan… Wrexham… They tried to do it in Caerphilly but our Plaid Cymru activists there, including the unstoppable Lindsay Whittle, got the plans thrown out.
This is a huge issue.
Our communities are not here to be steamrollered over by some Planning Inspectorate in Birmingham. They don’t care about our history, our culture, our way of life. They have no concern that the quiet, rural villages of St Fagans, Creigiau and Pentyrch, are about to become part of a massive housing estate, all built on green fields.
And the housing developers certainly don’t care about us or our way of life. The new developments: Churchlands… Cardiff Pointe… with an “E” on the end for no apparent reason. This is Cardiff, the Capital of Wales. We’re not some corporate cash cow. We’re the largest collection of Welsh people living together there’s ever been in history and our city has to reflect that.
Conference, a Cardiff Plaid Cymru Council will use Section 68 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and will vote to tell the Welsh Assembly to revoke Cardiff’s unwanted Local Development Plan. We will protect our City.
This is easily the worst Welsh government in history. The evidence is all around us.
Just a few weeks ago I was exposing Labour’s incompetence in the media. They sold two shops in Pontypridd and lost £1 million. £1 million just gone… on two shops; how many play centres is that? How many youth centres? Nurses and doctors?
And land in Rhoose, which was sold by the Welsh Government for £3 million and then sold by the person who bought it for £10.5 million. That’s another £7.5 million lost.
But the real jewel in the crown of Labour’s incompetence was the Lisvane Land Deal. Land there was sold for just £1.8 million, when it was worth over £40 million. That’s right conference, Labour lost £39 million of our money on just one land deal. Now, when £39 million is lost someone should be going to jail. You’d at least expect someone to lose their job. But nothing; just another day at the office for dodgy Welsh Labour.
Business support too is being totally squandered. Kancoat. A business just next to Edwina Hart’s former constituency, where the money was signed off by, you’ve guessed it, Edwina Hart. Did she declare an interest? Of course not. £3.4 million lost on a company which described as having a “weak” business case. But that doesn’t stop Labour.
Whistle-blowers are coming to me all the time and the stories I hear amount to a scandal. Who needs a strong business plan when a nod, a wink and knowing the right Labour people is all that really matters?
This isn’t want we signed up for. Devolution was meant to be about Wales being governed better, for the people of Wales, not for Red Tory aristocrats.
But there are those who think that this Labour government is so bad that we need to go into coalition with them. And let me tell you that Labour want that coalition. There are even a small minority in Plaid who think that we have to take one for the team and do what’s right for Wales.
The simple truth is that what is right for Wales is ending Labour rule. We need to spend the next four and a half years grinding them down. Challenging them at every opportunity.
The way to move Wales forward is by moving Labour out of the way. Conference, if our Compact with Labour is so good, let’s have a vote on it through a special conference. Labour broke the Compact by voting against bringing in an Autism Act. That should have been game over. We should have absolutely nothing to do with that party.
The public want robust opposition and that is what we should give them. When we challenged Labour and tied the vote to be First Minister, our support went up in the opinion polls, but we immediately backed down and our level of support also went back down. Let’s take a serious look at where we find ourselves. In May, we had an unpopular UK Conservative Government, a Liberal Democrat Party which had imploded and a Corbynite UK Labour Party in freefall, yet we only had good results in a handful of seats. If we go into coalition with Labour we will lose support and will never have the power to really change Wales.
We’re not a pressure group. We don’t exist to move money around in Labour’s budget. We need to take over the reins of power in this country. We need a Plaid Cymru Government and a Plaid Cymru First Minister in charge of the thousands of Welsh civil servants who will fully implement our manifesto.
Our Welsh democracy needs recognisable difference and we need clear green water between a corrupt, stagnant Welsh Labour and us the Party of Wales. Wales needs a real opposition and that Conference can only come from us.
Diolch yn fawr, thank you very much.