Sir Keir Starmer says Labour General Election win would be 'game-changer' for people in Wales

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says it would be a "game-changer" for people in Wales if a Labour UK Government was to work alongside the Labour-run Welsh Government

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has launched his party's General Election campaign in Wales, where he pledged that a Labour General Election win would be a "game-changer" for people in Wales.

The UK Labour leader launched his party’s “doorstep offer” to Welsh voters during an event in Abergavenny with Welsh Labour leader Vaughan Gething - who he backed ahead of a Conservative-tabled confidence vote in the Senedd next week - and shadow Wales secretary Jo Stevens.

Pledging "six steps to change Wales", Sir Keir promised to work with the Welsh Government to cut NHS waiting times, deliver economic stability, crack down on anti-social behaviour, set up a publicly-owned clean power company and recruit new teachers in key subjects. Labour said it will raise money to cut NHS waits by cutting down on tax avoidance.

Health and education, among other areas, are devolved to the Labour-run Welsh Government.

Asked by ITV Cymru Wales why he was making pledges over devolved matters, Sir Keir said: "They're the pledges here in Wales, and obviously it's for the first minister to decide how he wants to implement those first steps.

"What we're demonstrating today is really important for Wales: I'm not here to tell the first minister what to do. Of course not.

"But what I am saying is I'll work with the first minister if I'm privileged enough to be elected as prime minister. What a game-changer for Wales that will be, because what you'll have - and this is the material difference - is a government in Westminster that wants to work with the government here.

"At the moment, what you've got is conflict, and that isn't helping the people of Wales."

The Labour leader joked that the Prime Minister “thought he was laying a careful trap” by calling a July election, but that “he didn’t catch us, he caught himself in his own ambush”.

He told supporters: "Rishi Sunak has finally called a General Election, he's given us our chance to take our case to the country.

"I don't know about you but I feel like Wales has been waiting for this General Election for a very, very long time.

"Now is the time for change: change and hope for a better future, with that sense of national renewal."

Asked whether he was embarrassed by Labour’s performance in Wales, the party leader told BBC Wales: “I’m very proud of what’s happening here in Wales.”

He added: “What you’ve had up until now is a government in Westminster that wants to starve the cash coming into Wales, wants to create conflict and division instead of working with Wales.

“What a game-changer it would be if the first minister and the prime minister can work together.”

Sir Keir also pledged to “fight for the future of steel in Wales”.

Labour has previously called for a jobs guarantee for workers in Port Talbot, where Tata is planning to shut down blast furnaces.

In his Monmouthshire speech, Sir Keir said: “I’ve been there, I’ve looked them in the eyes and I’ve told those workers I will fight for every single job that they have there and for the future of steel in Wales. We must fight”.

He earlier accused the Conservative Government of being “too divided to take our country and our industries forward”.

Sir Keir's visit came a day after it was confirmed that Mr Gething will face a Conservative-tabled confidence vote in the Senedd following the collapse of a co-operation deal with Plaid Cymru earlier this month.

The collapse of the deal followed a series of rows involving Mr Gething, who became first minister in March and now faces a confidence vote on Wednesday, 5 June.

Appearing after a speech from Mr Gething at the campaign event in Abergavenny, Sir Keir thanked him for his “leadership here in Wales”, saying: “It’s been really good to work with you so far in my position as leader of the opposition. I’m really looking forward to a new partnership where we can both deliver together for Wales. Thank you Vaughan.”

Sir Keir dismissed the effort to oust Mr Gething as “game-playing” by the Welsh Conservatives.

Speaking to reporters in Monmouthshire, Sir Keir said: “This is the Tories just playing games.

“Instead of focusing on the challenges of Wales and saying ‘how can we play our part in taking Wales forward and delivering for working people’, they want the game-playing of a no-confidence vote.

“That’s the oldest trick in the book, and it’s game-playing, it’s diversionary tactics.

“What Vaughan Gething is absolutely focused on is delivering for Wales.”

Mr Gething also accused the Conservatives of playing political games as he helped launch Labour’s campaign in Wales.

He made no direct reference to his own troubles but said the Conservatives had a record of “treating politics as a game” rather than “a route to opportunity hope and security”.

Welsh Labour leader Vaughan Gething said a UK Government led by Sir Keir Starmer offers "an opportunity for two Labour governments to work together for Wales and Britain."

He said: “We can though, today, allow ourselves to imagine a new Wales, no longer held back by 14 years of Tory economic vandalism.”

Sir Keir added that it was “absolutely clear” that Mr Gething had broken no rules in accepting a £200,000 donation from a company owned by a convicted criminal.

He told GB News: “I think it’s absolutely clear that no rules were broken and Vaughan Gething has answered all the questions that are put to him.

“The argument that I’m putting forward this morning is what a game changer it would be if we were able to elect in a Westminster Labour government that would work with the Welsh Labour government delivering for people across Wales, because up until now there’s been conflict.

“So I’ve been working with Vaughan as leader of the opposition, I want to be able to work with him as prime minister because that will absolutely turbo-boost the work that we can do delivering for Wales.”

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Labour has been in power in Wales since devolution in 1999, sometimes on its own and sometimes with the support of the Liberal Democrats or Plaid Cymru.

Mr Gething took over as first minister on March 20 after his predecessor, Mark Drakeford, retired following six years in office.

But his tenure has so far proved rocky, with concerns being raised about donations to his leadership campaign and his decision to sack Senedd member Hannah Blythyn from his government, accusing her of leaking messages to the media.

Before Thursday’s campaign event, Mr Gething said the General Election is an opportunity to “unleash Wales’s full potential… with two Labour governments working in partnership, ending the churlish Tory war on devolution and backing a stronger Welsh economy”.

Welsh Conservative leader and Senedd member Andrew RT Davies said Sir Keir’s decision to campaign with Mr Gething was “a reflection of their equally poor judgment” and “should worry us all”.

He said: “Keir Starmer calls Labour in Wales his ‘blueprint’ for government, which should stand as a stark warning for what a Labour-run UK government would look like.

“After 25 years, the Labour Welsh Government’s record speaks for itself and includes the lowest employment, smallest pay packets, steepest decline in education standards and the longest waiting lists in the UK – which have just hit a new record as waits in Conservative-run England fall.”

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville-Roberts said: “Keir Starmer and Vaughan Gething are behaving as if the last 25 years never happened.

“Labour have been in charge of health and education in Wales for a quarter of a century, yet here they are pretending that they are the party of change.

“They talk of unleashing Wales’ potential but in reality, their record shows that they have no interest whatsoever in doing so.

“There is no mention in these pledges of giving Wales the billions it is owed from HS2 funding, of introducing a new fair funding model for Wales based on need not population, nor of the devolution of powers our economy sorely needs.

“The people of Wales will see through this cynical rehash of UK Labour pledges which don’t represent what’s best for our nation.

“Anyone who believes in real fairness and ambition for Wales can back a positive alternative on 4 July by voting for Plaid Cymru.”

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Senedd member Jane Dodds said "Labour cannot pretend that they haven't been in charge of healthcare in Wales since 1999.

"Wales has the longest waiting lists on record, people cannot see a GP or NHS dentist and long-promised reforms to social care haven't materialised."

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