Column – 28th June 2017

We’ve learnt this week the price the Prime Minister has been prepared to pay Northern Ireland’s DUP to prop up her minority Westminster government: £1 billion. Her Defence Secretary has said that this doesn’t mean austerity is over despite this huge sum of money appearing seemingly from thin air, the “Magic Money Tree”. In fact it’s come from us, the tax payers. So why no similar money for Wales, for Scotland where there’s also a need for more investment in our public services, our hospitals, our schools. The NHS and education are devolved to the Welsh Government but the money available to Labour in Wales is kept short by the Tories in London. That isn’t fair.

That’s why it was important that the First Minister called an Urgent Debate on this in the National Assembly on Tuesday. As Carwyn Jones said this deal has caused concern, not just amongst AMs but also the general public in Wales. We’ve seen widespread dissatisfaction that today you can have cash for votes. The Tories’ agreement with the DUP will drive a wedge between our country and our Celtic cousins, a fact I severely lament.

We still have to face the challenge of Brexit too. Last weekend saw a great turn-out near Hay-on-Wye when I brought together academics and politicians from different political parties to debate the way forward for Wales and the UK as we leave the EU. We were joined by Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and  Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford, looking at how to secure the best future for Wales and what Brexit might mean for the nation, particularly given the recent election result. There were some fascinating discussions from issues as varied as removing red tape, to women and Brexit, to fake news and the future of democracy.

I spoke to people at Llanelli market beforehand and they were incredibly clear that they voted to leave and they expect to see this carried through. That’s a message I’ve heard loud and clear from people right across Mid and West Wales. It’s up to Labour now to hold the UK government to account so this is done in a way that meets people’s concerns. Part of this will be to make sure we have a Brexit that puts jobs and the economy first. The recent election showed that’s what people rightly worry about. Neither they nor I have the confidence that the Tories can deliver on that on their own.