Posts Tagged ‘Llandudno’

It’s been a hectic day at Welsh Labour’s annual conference here in Llandudno. I’m not claiming this blogpost as comprehensive coverage of it, but it should give you a flavour of what it’s been like here.

By the way, Twitter comes into its own at occasions like this and that’s certainly been true today. Take this as a shameless invitation for you to follow me if you don’t already – my account name is adrianmasters84.

The big name of the day was party leader Ed Miliband who came to tell Welsh delegates to campaign for a Yes vote in the Assembly powers referendum (a message which wouldn’t have necessarily been welcomed here in the past but was this time  – with some exceptions) and to do all they could to win a majority for Labour in the Assembly election.

Interviewing Ed Miliband on Llandudno prom

But he said they should use May’s election to ‘send a message’ to David Cameron’s UK government – a message that has been announced loudly and clearly at this conference. I asked Mr Miliband if that didn’t undermine Welsh Labour’s attempts to fight the Assembly election on its own records. The election can be about both, he said but expect some criticism of that approach from the other parties in Cardiff Bay, particularly Plaid Cymru.

Ed Miliband’s speech was well-received in the hall and one or two senior politicians told me they thought he showed much improvement.

There was a little criticism of his decision to devote a portion of his speech to attack what he said was the UK Government’s plan to privatise large chunks of the NHS.

In particular his line that the plans amounted to taking the ‘N’ out of ‘NHS’ caused some consternation. “I thought we’d already done that with devolution,’ one delegate said to me.

That criticism of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley certainly made one person sit up: Andrew Lansley himself.

So incensed was he by the claims coming from Mr Miliband and in particular the location – talking about the English NHS in Wales – that he decided to take action. Since he was spending time on Anglesey it wasn’t much hardship to hop in the car to Llandudno.

He certainly made an impact – amongst journalists and politicians that I spoke to, none of us can recall as similar occasion when a Cabinet member, a Secretary of State, has turned up at the venue of another party’s conference to put their point of view.

A surprise appearance by Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at Labour's Welsh conference, Llandudno

In one of many jibes at the Labour leader, Mr Lansley told me he’s often staying with family in Wales. “I’m in North Wales more often than Ed Miliband,” he said.

We’d been so surprised by the call to say that the Health Secretary would like to meet us on the prom that we half-expected it to turn out to be a Labour stunt.

On the way we were scanning the distance to see if we could spot him. ‘There he is,’ I said – ‘Tall man, white haired. Oh no that’s Paul Murphy.’

When I told Mr Murphy this later he confessed he’d spotted the Health Secretary on the other side of the road and, stopping in his tracks, said to his assistant, ‘That looks like Andrew Lansley. It can’t be. Why would Andrew Lansley be in Llandudno?’


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Live in Llandudno at lunchtime

Thanks to Twitter, while I was waffling on at lunchtime, a young freelance journalist named Andrew Stuart came along and snapped these rather nice photos. I hope he won’t mind me uploading them.

Live in Llandudno. Photo by Andrew Stuart

Live in Llandudno II. Photo by Andrew Stuart

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I’m writing this as I sit in the bay window of my hotel in Llandudno. I’m here for Welsh Labour’s annual conference which it’s fair to say is an important one for the party at a UK level as well as here in Wales.

View of Llandudno prom from my hotel.

As a sign of just how important, UK leader, Ed Miliband, has already arrived here this afternoon. He’ll be at a rally for a referendum Yes vote tonight and will be making a speech to the conference tomorrow.

It’s important to him because he needs Labour to do well in Wales on May 5th to show that the long climb back from last year’s General Election defeat is well underway.

Of course, doing well in May is important in itself to Welsh Labour which believes it’s capable of winning an outright majority of seats.

So Llandudno is Labour’s launchpad. By the end of the weekend we’ll know what the party will promise voters during the campaign.

Already this week, it’s unveiled pledges to make it easier for working people to see their GPs and funding for work placements.

There’s been another pledge today to create 500 extra community support officers.

Add in a further two promises which are expected over the course of the weekend and we’ll know what Welsh Labour’s Big Five are. It’s not yet clear whether or not these will appear on a pledge card, but you get the picture.

What won’t be discussed, publicly at least is what happens AFTER the election. As I mentioned, Labour’s leaders believe they can win a majority of seat in the next Assembly.

Where they differ amongst themselves is what having that majority would allow them to do when it comes to forming a government, either alone or with another party.

I’ve been given directly contradictory views. On the one hand, there are those who think a coalition would be necessary if Labour were to win 29 or 30 seats and desirable even if it were to win 31 seats. These are the people who think the arrangement with Plaid Cymru has worked well, delivering stable, strong and leftish government of the sort they’d like to see again.

But there are others who think Labour should seek to govern alone, certainly with 31, but also if it has 30, 29 or even 28 seats. This is the school of thought that also believes that, if Labour finds itself in need of a coalition partner, it should talk to the Liberal Democrats first.

One insider told me that party members would accept another coalition with Plaid only if it were ‘absolutely necessary’ and expressed the feeling that some Labour AMs were attracted to a voluntary arrangement because a large majority in the Assembly chamber would make life easier and ‘nobody said governing should be easy.’

An interesting divergence of opinion in private then, but I wonder how much we’ll see expressed in public here in Llandudno.

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