Adam Price opens Plaid Cymru's national campaign launch. Read his address here:
It’s great to be here in this great stadium, of this great club, in this great capital of this great nation.
If you hadn’t picked up on it already, I’m feeling great. (and no this isn’t my Donald Trump impression!)
I’m having a great week.
Some of us in life are late developers. I certainly am.
But finally this week I announced that I am getting hitched.
And I can let you into a secret, it’s not to a Liberal Democrat.
But this for me proves the truth of that adage which my mother always try to drum into my recalcitrant mind – all things come to those who wait.
You know, the last time I launched a Plaid Cymru election campaign was 2007.
I remember it well. No-one believed me when I said in a few short months we would be in government for the first time in our history.
I said it. I believed it. Not many others did - 82 years in opposition has got to be some kind of record, right - but we did it.
As it happens we did it for Wales, not for ourselves or for our party.
We put country before career, Senedd before Salary, principle before power.
In Government we took second place, so we could put Wales first.
But in 2016 putting Wales first means we must elect a new First Minister.
A First Minister not content to see Wales last, slipping further and further behind in the three key facets of life, education, health, the economy, how we learn, how we live, how we earn.
A few weeks ago my car got stuck in the mud at the side of the road opposite Wright’s Emporium in Llanarthne.
A gang of us tried to heave it out in reverse. We carried on pushing for over half an hour, but just got mired deeper and deeper into the mud.
We were stuck and we’d be there still if a woman hadn’t come out of the pub and calmly suggested, pointing to the fresh green grass of the verge in front of the car, the car that was indeed front-wheel drive, that we drove it forward, not back.
We’re stuck as a nation too. We’re slipping backwards. While there are plenty of men slinging mud in their ever deepening trenches, there is one woman whose message to us is simple: it’s time to drive Wales forward.
My message to you maybe a little more oblique. Keep a diary over the next few weeks, because this will be a watershed in Welsh history more momentous than 2007.
600 years since the death of Glyndwr. 50 since Gwynfor’s election. It’s not a bad year for Wales to have its spring.
I admit I’m an optimist. But so were we as a nation once. I was born into a council house, went to a comp, survived on free school meals, never had a car or a holiday growing up. I’m fairly typical of many in my generation.
But the one thing we did have was hope, the fervent foundation of self-belief in which we were all brought up, that the future would be better than the past, that through a combination of individual application and collective effort we could improve our own lot and the lives of others.
And the thing that makes me angry – and forgive me if I do sometimes get angry – the thing that brought me back into politics is the extinguishing of that hope, the sense of resignation, that the state our people are in is the sum total of our reasonable expectations for life – that shorter lives, lower wages, fewer qualifications is an accident of birth, not a cancer we can cure together.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.
There is a better way. A new Welsh way. A new way forward together.
A way to be well, to be well-educated, to be wealthier – modest ambitions for most countries, but for Wales these are aspirations that can only be met with a radical break with the present - where voting in the same people with the same policies will deliver the same predictable results – and reconnection with a past when we were a nation of innovation, full of energy and new ideas, from comprehensive education, to a people’s university, from publicly-funded healthcare to the first industrial estate built in the Valleys by a refugee that the Daily Mail didn’t want here.
Today, sadly, the birthplace of the NHS has the lowest number of doctors per head of population among the four countries of the UK and the fourth lowest overall in Europe.
With the average wait for a hip operation in Wales at just under 200 days, you have to go all the way to Estonia to find anywhere that’s worse.
We have the lowest five-year survival rates for prostate, colon and breast cancer in the whole of western Europe. After Bulgaria we are the worst place in the entire continent for survival from cancer of the lung.
But don’t be depressed. Angry yes, but dispirited no.
Because we can choose a new Welsh way. We can find a way forward together. We can take three steps in May towards a Wales that is well.
We can diagnose cancer, that terrible disease that has ended so many lives early, within 28 days through a trio of new specialist treatment centres.
We can bring Wales up to decent levels of medical coverage by investing in 1000 additional new doctors and 5000 more nurses. We can inspire young doctors to want to work here with an exciting sense of a national mission. We can turn Wales into a global test-bed for new ideas to solve our biggest challenges. Research-driven, mission-oriented, at the cutting edge of healthcare innovation, patient-powered and digitally delivered.
We can end the historic divide between cure and care which is part of the reason for our epidemic of long waiting times that is causing so much pain to so many. The ideas are out there. Lord Carter, a Labour peer, has proposed the English NHS builds patient hotels, where those delayed in being discharged from hospital to social care can be looked after safely but more cost-effectively, releasing badly needed hospital beds.
We built the first one in Britain. Over twenty years ago. It’s in the First Minister’s constituency. Its’ been hugely successful. With a Plaid-led government we’ll finally get round to building some more.
Wales, a country once synonymous with educational excellence, has seen our country fall behind, from pre-school to prifysgol.
We need a new way forward, a cradle to career national education service every bit as vital as our dearly loved NHS.
It’s twelve years since Labour first promised to introduce universal childcare. It’s time to get on and do it.
One of the cases I studied during my long sabbatical across the water was the Perry Preschool Project in Michigan in the 1960s.
It showed that children who received extra support with learning early on developed better in practically every way. They earned higher degrees, got better jobs, were healthier, and less likely to get into trouble. It cost $15,000 per child but as the Nobel laureate economist James Heckman proved, it paid back over 15 times that for each child over the following four decades. That’s a return of 10% per annum, better even than the property market, casino banking or the stock exchange – and in this case the benefit is felt by all of us, not just a few.
I’m sure we’ll be asked many times in the course of the campaign how much the policies cost. And so we should be. Every one of them is costed in minute detail. And we’ll be publishing a full financial schedule verified externally for the very first time because the currency of politics is credibility.
But the question should also be turned round: not can we afford these policies, but can we afford not to make these investments in the wellbeing of future generations?
It’s over a decade since we adopted aspects of the world’s most successful education system, Finland, through the Foundation phase. As in so many other areas we failed to follow through. Crucial to Finland’s success was turning teaching into a Masters-level profession, that attracted the brightest and the best, so much so, that as once the case in so many of our communities, the most ambitious of children there mention teaching as their chosen career in the same breath as lawyer, engineer or doctor. That’s the step change we need for education in Wales. To make teaching on a par with the professions.
We’ve had initiative, after initiative and now we are going to have a 100m pounds worth more. But it’s teachers that teach, not 800 educational bureaucrats in a Welsh Government bunker who would be in special measures if they ever got inspected by Estyn.
So, if you want to know the biggest priorities of our government: then, to coin a phrase, it’s teaching, teaching, teaching. Because the minds of our young are our most valuable resource. We will create a new professional grade, a Premium Teacher, unique to Wales, to attract and retain the best in teaching profession– with every teacher in Wales and every school 100% premium-grade by the end of the decade.
Premium teachers will get a 10% pay rise – the biggest single year increase for anyone in the public sector in the last two decades apart from politicians. In case of the political class most people would say this was money for nothing; but in the classes that matter, those of our children, we will offer teachers a simple quid pro quo. We will promise five years of financial stability and a decade of certainty in the curriculum to allow teachers to do what they do best: teach. But in return we want Wales to return to being among the best, in the top 10 in Europe in PISA’s five tests. PISA isn’t perfect but you cannot fix what you cannot measure.
Our brain gain policy you will already be familiar with – exactly the kind of innovative policy that hits multiple targets all at once, closing the funding gap for our universities – and our FE colleges starved of support under Labour – but also attracting and retaining our most precious resource, our people, to drive our nation forward. Far from setting limits on our young people’s ambitions, we will also, for the very first time, be offering financial support for those enrolling overseas – so Welsh students can graduate not just from Trinity College Oxford or Cambridge, but the Sorbonne and Heidelberg and Trinity College Dublin. And yes, when they graduate we want to share in the knowledge and the skill and invest it together for Wales. What nation, what parent does not want its sons and daughters home. (I wanted to reference Jonathan Davies returning to the Scarlets from Clermont Auvergne at this point– but I realise it’s the wrong stadium, wrong region, wrong ball.)
In a packed keynote speech some weeks ago Rhun ap Iorwerth did a brilliant job of introducing our visionary economic policies.
A WDA for the 21st century - A National Infrastructure Commission for Wales that will undertake the biggest programme of investment since the beginning of devolution, and the biggest business rate reduction ever for the small business backbone of our economy.
That last policy, of course – like our new treatments fund, universal childcare, and 50,000 additional apprenticeships – have been appropriated by another political party. It wasn’t just the paper that Labour’s pledge card was printed on that was recycled it seems, it was the policies too.
But we’re only too glad to help. In this party we have more than enough ideas to spare. And even with four of our nine steps stolen, we are still five steps ahead of Labour.
But it’s not just the ‘what’ that matters in politics, it’s the how, not just the policies you deliver, but the means by which you deliver them.
The Labour Party sees its role as to do things FOR the people of Wales – often with the best of intentions – but locked in the mindset that the Welsh Labour Government is the solution to all our problems, when as any objective observer will be forced to conclude it is all too often the source.
The Conservatives over the years have done things TO Wales – which many of us can never forgive.
There are so many prepositions that come to mind in the case of UKIP, but, as some of its own candidates, are belatedly concluding, AGAINST Wales seems to sum it up.
For Plaid, the phrase that comes most immediately to mind, is OF Wales. But much more important than that even is WITH.
These are our ideas for a new way forward. But we know that we don’t have all the answers, we don’t have all the expertise, the knowledge and the skill we need to turn our nation around. But we know who does. It’s you in this room, and all of those outside in every valley and village, every city, every town.
A Collective Intelligence that’s currently wasted, but will express soon enough – that enough is enough, that it’s time for a new way, a new woman, a New Wales.