Jones says Labour's 'self-inflicted damage' must stop

Carwyn Jones and Jeremy Corbyn on an election campaign visit Photo: PA, Benjamin Wright

Ahead of his speech to Labour's conference in Liverpool, Carwyn Jones has urged his party to stop 'the self-inflicted damage' and focus on ending uncertainty for people as Britain leaves the EU.

The First Minister has written an article for the Sunday Times giving his views on 'a weird period of politics' and urging Labour members to end the infighting that's caused so much bitterness during the leadership election campaign.

Those divisions remain, however, despite Jeremy Corbyn's overwhelming re-election with more than 60% of the votes cast.

In a change to the practice of previous years, Carwyn Jones will deliver his speech, still officially called 'the Welsh Report' in Labour conference jargon, alone and not alongside the Shadow Welsh Secretary.

Labour sources say that's to reflect the greater autonomy gained by Welsh Labour in long-awaited rule changes.

The Shadow Welsh Secretary, Paul Flynn, will still speak to the conference but in his capacity as Shadow Leader of the House.

You can read the text of Carwyn Jones' article in the Sunday Times below:

What a weird period of politics we find ourselves navigating. Everything has changed, and everything stays the same. The country has voted to leave the European Union, and yet we remain members – potentially for two years, perhaps more. The Labour Party has had another leadership contest, been through seismic internal tussles, only to come back to the starting point – the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Others will disagree, but I think this is a leadership contest we had to have. Things had reached a crisis point and there needed to be a release, a reassessment and a chance to move on. Jeremy’s second win gives us all some certainty in uncertain times. Every Labour Party member now has a responsibility to show our best selves to the rest of the country.

The battle for the soul of post-Brexit Britain won’t be won by a paranoid political movement more concerned with rooting out ‘traitors’ than it is with the economy, security and happiness of our country. The booing, the hissing, the name-calling, the trolling, the threats… It has to stop. In what world are we living in, when the Labour Party has to commission a report into anti-Semitism in our own party? In the last Welsh Labour Government, between 2011 and 2016, two of the highest profile Ministers were Edwina Hart and Huw Lewis – the two people who stood against me for the leadership in 2009. In the Welsh Labour group of AMs there are diverse political views, but we know we’d rather debate these from a position of power, than on the opposition benches. There needs to be recognition now that no battle of ideas can ever be truly won, that challenge and difference can be channelled into a successful and united party. It needs some give and take. Just as those of us who campaigned for Remain will be awarded no prizes for sulking post-Brexit, those who challenged Jeremy will be awarded no prizes for sulking after this weekend. It is time to get on with it. The debates shouldn’t stop, the self-inflicted damage really should.

We need to remember that Labour is actually a party of Government right now in 2016; in Wales and in London – and in councils across the country. And making that a reality again in Scotland and in Westminster has to be our first, our only order of business in the Labour Party. That mission will be strengthened, I believe, by the decision of Labour’s National Executive Committee to grant the Welsh and Scottish parties greater autonomy and a greater level of involvement at a UK level. At last year’s Conference in Brighton, Kezia Dugdale and I sat down to discuss the need for these changes, and it would be an important step forward for both Welsh and Scottish parties to see these proposals supported by this year’s Conference delegates. Change, not for change’s sakes, but to help us win and retain power.

In Wales last week we presented our Programme of Government, Taking Wales Forward. The reality of winning power means we could present a vision to the country that includes 100,000 new all-age apprenticeships in Wales and a childcare offer that will improve families’ lives across the country. It means we can end the right-to-buy; it means we can embed digital skills in our classrooms and it means we can ignore the grotesque and iniquitous sideshow of grammar school re-introduction. It means we didn’t have to worry about whether to join the Junior Doctor picket lines, because we didn’t have any in Wales – there wasn’t a strike, because we took different decisions based on Labour values. Being in power means something else too – it gives you the opportunity, in fact it demands you to reach out. We don’t enjoy a majority in the National Assembly - a fact often lost on London’s political media – we’ve never actually had a majority despite forming all governments in 17 years of Welsh devolution. So, reaching out to pass budgets, legislation and to develop policy is nothing new for our party in Wales. At the outset of this Government I was clear once again that I do not regard the Welsh Labour Party as the sole possessor of political wisdom in Wales. Next week there’s the first meeting of our external advisory group on Brexit. Sitting around that table, in addition to people from business, academia and civic life, will be representatives of Welsh Labour, the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and yes, UKIP too.

The country is at a crossroads. Labour voices are needed in the debate about what Britain wants to be, now more than ever before. It is clear that their unlikely win has left Brexiteers simply stunned about what to do next – when challenged about their vision for the future they simply snap “We won, and don’t forget it.” Well, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t butter any bread in homes and businesses stalked by uncertainty of our economic future. We cannot re-fight the referendum, but we can and indeed must fight for a Labour vision of what the future should look like.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister

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