‘Fighting for Wales in Westminster’ Liz Saville Roberts’ Conference speech
Everything Liz Saville Roberts said in her speech to Conference
Conference, friends, faithful.
I half expected them to show the game. I've kept my phone at my side, and I can tell you that we've reached half time and the score is 17 for Wales, and 7 for Georgia. So, good to go.
For me, it is of course a pleasure to be able to return to Aberystwyth, where I was 18 years old, arriving here, arriving at the college here where I learned Welsh, and I was on the threshold of a very exciting time of university life .
And today, we are here on the threshold of an exciting, if difficult, time for Wales.
Friends, it is of course a matter of time until we know the date for the general election in Westminster.
It is therefore time to claim fairness for Wales. It is time for us to be ambitious.
It is also time for us - members and friends of Plaid Cymru - to get on and campaign.
And I think after the conference, we know we have great candidates to support:
We of course have Llinos Medi in Ynys Môn.
We have Catrin Wager in Bangor Aberconwy.
Becca Martin in Wrexham.
I must say, I am proud to list the names of women because we are going to return more women I hope, more than ever.
But of course - without forgetting where we are today.
Wales is lucky to have a 'Lake' for every type of game: Dewi, conquering the rugby field, and Ben, the political powerhouse who takes the battle to Westminster.
Yes, we’re all looking forward to re-electing Ben Lake as the first MP for Ceredigion Preseli.
And I think of course, from the conference, we just remind ourselves that we have so much talent in Plaid Cymru. All working as a team under the leadership of Rhun ap Iorwerth to deliver fairness and ambition for Wales.
After 13 years and I don’t know if I have the fingers to count prime ministers, the Tories have not only left us in a state of chaos but in a permanent cost of inequality crisis.
Flung from Johnson’s frying pan into the fire of Truss, we’ve been left with sky-high mortgages, rents and bills.
Now, Sunak scuttles from one culture war to the next in the hope of distracting us from the damage that he and his party have been unleashing year after year after year for the last 13 and more years.
Welcome to the disunited kingdom in 2023, where refugees and LGBT+ people are the target of vile, manipulated hatred by the party of government.
Transphobia and xenophobia are completely normalised – driven by weak politicians, y dynion gwymon ‘na, the weak politicians who stand for nothing.
Conference – let us say it loudly.
Wales rejects Suella Braverman’s demonisation of refugees and LGBT+ people.
Let us let that message go back to Westminster.
Wales rejects the politics of division and discrimination.
Suella – you do not speak for Wales.
And there will be people, perhaps a number of them, who believe in the blunt hammer of the red vote as the alternative to the cruelty of the Tories.
But Keir Starmer’s Labour is set to do what they’ve done time and time again: take Welsh voters for granted, bank the support and walk away whistling to the high life in London.
With the gap between Mark Drakeford and Keir Starmer widening, Labour MPs - who should be representing Wales’s interests - ignore or pour scorn on the views of their Welsh Labour fellow travellers in the Senedd, who increasingly follow Plaid Cymru’s lead.
Take the devolution of policing and justice. Plaid Cymru and Mark Drakeford are on the same page. But the First Minister’s London bosses and Labour MPs in Westminster are protesting passionately for hoarding powers in Westminster – despite all of the evidence of the social damage and waste of resources it’s causing.
Plaid Cymru – and only Plaid Cymru – flies the flag for Wales in Westminster.
We don’t think it’s fair that the people of Wales are struggling through the cost-of-living crisis while our voices are being muted in Westminster. Fewer MPs, take back power: 20% loss of MPs in Westminster.
Proportional representation is another. Plaid Cymru is delivering a stronger, fairer Senedd through cooperation with the Welsh Government. But what of Labour MPs from Wales? They fall in line with Keir Starmer’s so called “longstanding view against proportional representation” – despite the Labour leader campaigning on a PR ticket in 2020.
Now, I tabled a motion two weeks ago congratulating the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru for bringing forward a radical set of measures to strengthen Welsh democracy in stark contrast to Westminster’s archaic model. I encouraged Welsh MPs – Tory AND Labour to sign.
Only three Welsh MPs signed.
I think you know their names.
Conference – Plaid Cymru and Plaid Cymru ONLY stands up for Wales in Westminster.
So, a question of course - we’ll be going out and we’ll be facing people, and we know that there’s a Westminster election looming on the horizon.
So people, some people, will ask us around the time of a General Election – why vote Plaid? You’ll never be in government in Westminster. That’s not even what you say you want to do.
So let me tell you.
Having a Plaid Cymru MP means more than just a bum on the green seats in Westminster. It means having a representative of your community fighting for your interests, and not those of the London-based parties.
It means delivering real changes on the ground.
Some recent – real, solid, pragmatic - examples:
Ben Lake successfully convinced the Treasury to commit to energy support for off-grid families last winter, after Whitehall gave no consideration to rural communities previously. A real difference to those families’ lives.
Hywel Williams’ scrutiny of post-Brexit trade routes led to the Government implementing a ‘green lane’ for goods travelling from Wales to the north of Ireland through Holyhead. Again, a real, tangible difference to our economy.
And I’m proud to have successfully supported many communities across Dwyfor Meirionnydd to access better broadband. Communities that would otherwise sadly be overlooked and forgotten by both London and Cardiff Bay.
And this work doesn’t always grab headlines, but it improves the conditions of people’s lives in our communities. That and the day-to-day work with constituents on personal injustices, the fight to keep local services within reach as the austerity agenda eats into public budgets.
We earn our keep, and we are seen in our communities.
Imagine what we could achieve with more community champions.
Labour and Tory MPs may claim to do the same. But the difference is that Plaid Cymru is alert to the risks of Westminster distraction, of forgetting those who honoured us with their trust to send us as their representatives.
An extraordinary figure: 90 per cent of Welsh Labour MPs currently enjoy shadow ministerial posts. They have willingly, wilfully, had their hands tied by their own party and chosen to close their mouths which should always be speaking out in the interests of their community and their constituents, and of Wales. They’ll all be gunning for a cushy post in a Keir Starmer government. Career before country.
Those MPs’ focus will be on advancing the interests of the next Labour government – not on delivering for communities.
Labour in the Senedd have lambasted the Tories on HS2
What will they say when Keir Starmer too hoards our owed billions of pounds?
We know they’ll make excuses. Because for Labour – party comes before country.
Actions speak louder than words.
Plaid Cymru will always take action for Wales, and we will always put our country first.
The past week has been chaotic for the Tories, to say the least.
HS2 – a Westminster farce from beginning to end – with the only certainty throughout being that Wales is shafted.
Plaid Cymru MPs were the only Welsh MPs to vote against the HS2 legislation back in 2013. While other MPs swallowed the Westminster spin that it would deliver improvements for Welsh passengers, Plaid Cymru withheld our support unless and until we received fair funding.
We weren’t fooled then.
And we won’t fall for Westminster spin now.
Welsh infrastructure has been starved of funding for decades. An empty promise of electrification in north Wales isn’t going to cut it now. No plan, no strategy, no timescale.
Plaid Cymru will accept nothing less - NOTHING less - than full compensation for rail spend in England.
Let’s end the great rail betrayal for good. Let’s demand the £2bn and more that we’re ALREADY owed from HS2 and replace our broken funding formula for good.
This is a matter of fairness for Wales. But it’s also about ambition.
And that’s important. That’s really important - because otherwise we just fall into the negativity trap of British politics.
Ambition for our economy and ambition our communities.
London politicians simply don’t get what life is like in Wales.
Many communities in Wales simply don’t have the option not to use their cars.
To get to work, they have to afford to keep more than one car – the cost of that, just to get to work.
Lifeline bus services are being cancelled.
Bwcabws – so crucial to people here in Ceredigion – is being scrapped with nothing to replace it.
God forbid you try and depend on a train to get you to work.
So how can we expect our local economies to thrive when so many can’t even travel into town to do their shopping? How can we expect people to shift away from using polluting vehicles when there are no other options?
That’s what drives Plaid Cymru’s fight for those billions in compensation funding. We in Wales need decent transport services too.
So let me tell you one thing – Plaid Cymru will not rest until Wales gets what we’re owed.
Plaid Cymru is AMBITIOUS for Wales’s future.
Wales has a historic opportunity to harness our green energy potential and invest profits in our communities.
Westminster is holding us back.
The assets of the Crown Estate in Wales – including all the seabed out to 12 miles – they were valued at over a staggering £850m last year.
And what do we have to show for it?
There is extreme poverty in some of our coastal towns. Along the north Wales coast, you can see the vast Gwynt y Mor offshore windfarm from the shore – from the very coast, from the railway line. But the wealth generated goes straight to the UK Treasury with a cut for the Royal Family along the way.
The Crown Estate, of course, has been devolved to Scotland since 2017.
Profits from renewable energy generated on the Scottish seabed goes straight to the Scottish Government, for the benefit of the people of Scotland. And they can choose how to design how that is developed, and how that in turn can affect and support other industries and economic growth within their communities.
So, the same message: if it’s good enough for Scotland, why is it not good enough for Wales?
Our friends in the SNP are making good use of these powers. Scottish ministers increasing community ownership of large estates while Wales is denied the powers to do exactly the same.
Devolving the Crown Estate represents a funding stream that could bring investment into our communities.
Cheaper bills, energy security, carbon neutral communities – that’s what Plaid Cymru’s about.
Conference – let’s harness our potential.
Let’s bring that more than £850 million pounds worth of offshore wind and tidal stream potential under Welsh control.
Welsh natural resources for the benefit of Welsh communities.
But sadly, Westminster is going in the other direction.
Rishi Sunak is cutting green schemes and increasing our reliance on fossil fuels during a climate emergency.
Meanwhile, Labour fails to commit to the £28 billion in green investments. It's clear that neither the London parties will not make the bold commitments necessary to combat climate change and create a sustainable future for Wales.
Plaid Cymru on the other hand, is of course delivering for Wales.
Ynni Cymru, a national community energy company, is being set up in Ynys Mon.
We understand that renewable energy not only helps combat climate change but also creates jobs and fosters economic growth in our communities.
That’s delivery. Not empty promises.
Plaid Cymru in action.
Well conference, it must be said that Plaid Cymru is working hard for Wales. While Sunak is making all kinds of promises to save his skin, while Starmer is changing his mind with the wind to win the votes of frustrated Conservatives, let's stay true to our vision in Cardiff and in London.
As Plaid Cymru members of parliament, we work hard to echo the needs of the people of Wales.
It's not just us either: I know that the staff, members and friends of Plaid Cymru all work tirelessly to support our principles of fairness, and of an ambitious future for Wales.
Now, we need to work harder than ever. With larger constituencies and fewer MPs, we are facing a challenging time. We need to work together to ensure that voters both new and familiar see that a vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote for fairness, a vote for ambition, and a vote for Wales.
As Huw Thomas told the Welsh rugby team earlier on today: be ruthless, be clinical, be focused.
Let's get out there, knock on those doors. For fairness, ambition, and for Wales. Fairness, ambition: Wales.
Thank you very much, conference.