Labour conference to highlight 'Welsh alternative'

Carwyn Jones speaking to last year's Labour conference
Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones will speak to the conference tomorrow Photo: Welsh Labour

Delegates arrive at Labour's annual conference in Manchester for a week in which the party will try to show that it's accepted the reasons why it lost the 2010 UK election and will begin to set out what it would do differently if elected in 2015.

That's why Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said an incoming Labour UK Government would effectively rip up every budget and start again from scratch.

But it's also why you can expect Labour leaders to point to decisions taken by Welsh Labour in government here in Wales as proof that its values can and do work if given chance.

Partly that's recognition that Wales is the only level of government which Labour is in control of. There have certainly been reports that the leadership want Carwyn Jones to play a bigger role in the party's UK fightback.

However, while this praise for the 'Welsh way' has become increasingly frequent since Labour lost power at Westminster, it's not become correspondingly clear exactly which bits of the Welsh way would be translated into UK policies. Would Prime Minister Ed Miliband for instance drop tuition fees to the Welsh level, abolish prescription charges or prohibit the use of the private sector in the NHS?

What could also prove to be awkward is a major policy shift undertaken by the Scottish Labour leader, Johan Lamont who's begun publicly attacking universal free benefits in Scotland such as free prescriptions.

Welsh Conservatives are helpfully drawing attention to this difference of opinion.

Johann Lamont is absolutely right to question free prescriptions for the wealthy and I urge her to convince her Welsh Labour colleagues.

There is a clear split in Labour thinking here and it is the Scots that have got it right in supporting Scottish and Welsh Conservative policy.

– Darren Millar AM, Shadow Minister for Health and Social Services

There'll be no sign of any differences when delegates from Wales host their annual Welsh Night tonight.

It'll have to be an early night though for Carwyn Jones who speaks to the conference at 9.30 tomorrow (Monday).

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith addresses delegates on Tuesday morning. He's expected to explain further why he thinks the lessons Labour needs to learn from Wales is how to harness patriotism.