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Welsh Lib Dems plan their comeback after near wipeout

The Welsh Liberal Democrats chose Jane Dodds as their new leader last November Credit: ITV News Cymru Wales

After a series of poor election results that have left the Welsh Liberal Democrats with one AM and no MPs, Jane Dodds, who became their leader last November, will set out today how she thinks the party can rebuild its support.

As well as making the traditional leader's speech, she will urge the Welsh Lib Dems' spring conference in Cardiff to adopt a programme called "A Liberal Wales", which sets out the issues on which she thinks the party can win back public support. It's modelled on the 1942 Beveridge Report, which had a huge influence on social policy after the Second World War.

75 years ago, we – our country – made a promise.

It was a promise that each and every one of us would have the opportunity to get on in life; to be healthy, to be well educated, to have a place to call home, and that there would be a safety net for when the going got tough.

We made a promise that we would eliminate five ‘giant evils’ that were holding people back, keeping people poor and shutting people out.These were Want, Squalor, Ignorance, Disease and Idleness. Far from having disappeared, the challenges facing society in 1942 have only changed.

Many aspects of Beveridge’s diagnoses and solutions have stood the test of time. But the world Beveridge knew is, in many ways, unrecognisable. We need to be ready to think, as he did, about new challenges and new solutions. We need new ideas that will be relevant for the next 75 years.

In 1942 the Beveridge Report considered social security and public services. In a rapidly changing economy with economic stagnation, we must combine social liberalism and economic liberalism.

We need an economy that offers opportunity to all. A resilient, green and sustainable economy which offers everyone the security of well-paid job, that gives each and every one of us the freedom to create and grasp opportunity, to take risks, and to succeed. An economy to sustain opportunity, quality public services, fairness and freedom for every individual.

We should aspire to create an economy that empowers Wales and its people. A society in which power is held in the hands of people and communities to lead and shape change. We must challenge the power of vested interests, whether in our democracy, our economy, or power structures in our society and reject an imbalance of power in our society. We need a society in which power is for everyone, and the powerful are held to account.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds

She will argue that not only are each of Beveridge's five "giant evils" still with us but that there is now a sixth -loneliness and isolation.

  • Nearly 1 in 4 people in Wales are living in poverty, including 200,000 children - 60% of those in homes with parents who work.
  • A 15 year gap in healthy life expectancy between those living in the most and least deprived areas of Wales -and 800,000 people in Wales living with a long-term illness.
  • Rough sleeping up by 30%, with 42% of the poorest households spending over a third of their income on housing and 9,000 people waiting more than 5 years for social housing.
  • Around 26,000 children at risk of leaving primary school unable to read well.
  • Wales’ Gross Vale Added per head is only 73% of the UK average, with Wales’ unemployment rate 0.6% above the UK average at 4.9%.
  • Half a million people in Wales report feeling lonely, affecting physical and mental health.

Jane Dodds will commit the Welsh Liberal Democrats to setting out a plan to tackle all six evils and build what she calls a "socially liberal Wales that creates opportunity, unlocks talent, harnesses entrepreneurialism, and creates a strong, inclusive economy".