Andrew RT Davies AM is the Welsh Conservative Leader and Assembly Member for South Wales Central.
Here at conference the party faithful are celebrating May’s sensational election result – and rightly so. I couldn’t be prouder of the efforts of our loyal grassroots activists, and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this wonderful Conservative team.
But once the dust has settled – and let’s face it, you all deserve a pint or two for your efforts – it’s time to reflect on the challenge that lies ahead; with elections in Wales, Scotland, and London fast approaching us.
Politicians like to say that each and every election is the ‘most important in a generation’ and I won’t buck that trend today. In little over 200 days the Welsh public has an opportunity to put an end to 17 years of uninterrupted, miserable Labour rule.
The Prime Minister has stressed the importance of delivery, and with good reason. Whilst the Scottish referendum has prompted passionate discussion about the future of our union, there can be a tendency to obsess over niche constitutional issues which might exercise people in the bubble – but not necessarily your everyday voter.
In Wales, the people I speak to on the doorstep want to know how we would fix their struggling health service; what we will do to drive up Welsh education standards; and how we would boost the Welsh economy and ensure that Wales is open for business.
If delivery is the Prime Minister’s watchword then Welsh Labour has failed by any measure.
Wales is a nation brim full of opportunity and enterprise, and under the right leadership that potential could be unlocked. But let’s be clear, this isn’t a Welsh Government appealing to the electorate for more time to finish the work they’ve started – Carwyn Jones’ Labour party has been in power in Wales since 1999.
They have run out of ideas, run out of steam, and it’s time we ran them out of Wales before the damage is irreversible.
Next year’s Welsh General Election is going to be fought on the bread and butter issues that matter to hardworking people, and I will be calling Labour out on their failure to deliver for Wales.
With responsibility for health, education and much of economic policy having long been devolved to the Welsh Government, it’s our duty to expose Labour’s record in Wales.
We’ve never agreed with Welsh Labour’s devastating NHS budget cuts, and we would protect health spending – just like it’s protected elsewhere in the UK.
Whilst the Welsh education system has been outperformed by the rest of the UK year after year, we’d reverse it’s decline under Labour – funding schools directly and delivering more resources to the frontline where they’re most needed.
And where Labour has built a Welsh economy whose foundations are public sector employment and European funding, we would unleash our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit – improving access to finance, reviving the Welsh high street, and cutting business rates for small firms.
Friends and colleagues, we cannot afford to underestimate the challenge that lies ahead. But if we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in we can bring an end to a lost generation of Labour rule in Wales.
Like everyone here in Manchester this week I went into politics to make a difference, and I’m committed to helping communities and supporting aspiration. Our belief in freedom and fairness empowers working families, releasing people from Labour’s nannying and enabling them to take more control of their own lives.
That’s the kind of government Wales needs, not five more years of Labour, and in May we have an opportunity to make the whole UK a Labour-free zone!
My aim in next year’s election is simple – I want to be First Minister. I firmly believe that we can make a real difference to Welsh communities and May 2016 is the chance for a fresh start. A new Wales.
It’s going to be hard work, sure, but if this conference has taught us anything it’s that the hard work is worth the reward!