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Carwyn Jones speech aims to heal party divisions

Credit: PA/ Gareth Fuller

When he speaks to Welsh Labour's conference in Llandudno later, Carwyn Jones is expected to announce two pledges that it's hoped will heal divisions within his party as well as appeal to the wider public.

Labour members will also find out who will become their first deputy leader when the results of an election will be revealed.

The way that election has been run, though, will be the focus of a protest expected to be held outside the conference by members who claim they should have more say.

There's been speculation too that Carwyn Jones will give some indication of when he plans to step down as Welsh Labour leader or face internal tension from those who fear his leadership has become paralysed by the fallout from the death of Carl Sargeant.

Help for student nurses

The First Minister is expected to announce that the Welsh Government's bursary scheme which offers up to £4,000 to those wanting to become student nurses will be extended for another year.

In his speech he's expected to say:

I am delighted to announce today that we will commit to extending the NHS Bursary Scheme for students starting their studies in September next year.

The Tory choice in England to saddle our student nurses, midwives and therapists with a mountain of debt has been a disaster of their own making. I am proud that here in Wales we have kept the NHS bursary, and by confirming the scheme for another year we will continue to attract the best, and support them to stay here in Wales.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister
Credit: ITV News, Adrian Masters

It won't be enough to stop campaigners who think ordinary Labour members should have more say in the way the party is run from protesting today but Carwyn Jones will make an announcement aimed at reaching out to them.

The first Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour will be unveiled today following a contest between the Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and the Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan.

But the election has been overshadowed by an argument about the way the new post is being chosen, using the party's traditional electoral college rather than the one member one vote system.

It could cause major problems for Welsh Labour leaders if the result doesn't closely match the view of grassroots members.

In his speech Carwyn Jones will announce a democracy review to run alongside a similar process that the UK party is undertaking that would examine how Welsh Labour makes important decisions.

He's expected to say:

Over the last few years our membership has risen significantly. In 2016 and in 2017 there was no doubting the sheer number of people who came out and helped us – many for the first time – to campaign for Labour Governments in Wales and Westminster.

That passion, that energy gives me great hope for the future of our party. But we cannot take the position we are in for granted.

In government we have reformed our public services to make them fit for the demands and the expectations that people have today, not twenty years ago. In the same way, we must look at the way our party works. Look at how we make policy, at how we organise and how we conduct our internal elections including leadership and deputy leadership elections.

We have always put fairness at the heart of what we do so, Conference, we will have a review into how the party works. Welsh Labour's Democracy Review will complement our engagement with the current UK Labour process, and will report to Conference next year - and Conference will have the final decision. We do this so that we can have absolute confidence that our structures are fair, open and befitting of the mass membership organisation we have become.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister

That might encourage the newly-empowered and increasingly vocal membership of the Labour party.

It might not make any difference to the way the next Welsh Labour leader is chosen though if Carwyn Jones' current political difficulties intensify and he's forced to step down sooner than he planned.

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