Cast your minds back to April this year at the Welsh Labour conference. The motion from Clwyd South Labour Party (also North East Wales Unite Community) and endorsed & supported by Wrexham Labour Party, to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (SWILG aka WILG) (CLICK HERE) was passed, handing Welsh Labour their biggest ever defeat. Democracy had spoken. Or so we thought. Seven months on and we are still waiting to hear if democracy has spoken. Thanks to the tireless efforts of campaign leader Nathan Lee Davies (CLICK HERE) and the rest of the campaigners, there is no danger of this being overlooked or forgotten. It’s way too important for that.
It was very encouraging to see two of the three candidates to replace Carwyn Jones as leader of Welsh Labour, and therefore probably the new First Minister in Wales, listen to what Nathan & the campaign had to say. Those candidates are Mark Drakeford & Eluned Morgan. A disclaimer in that Mark Drakeford has been officially endorsed and supported in a democratic vote, by Clwyd South Labour party. Mark has met several times with Nathan and the campaigners and has always listened, been balanced and respectful. So it was very encouraging to read this recent article from the BBC (CLICK HERE). Indeed, Nathan praised Mark Drakeford for this (note, this quote was before Nathan was aware Eluned Morgan had said pledged her support in a similar way), when he said:
“I/we are very encouraged to see how Mark Drakeford is obviously acknowledging the evidence that is out there, and that we have presented. Mark has been good enough to meet with us several times and I have always found him to be principled, respectful and supportive. We got our motion to save WILG passed with almost no opposition at Welsh Labour conference and we have yet to hear from WAG (the Welsh Assembly Government) about this; Mark has consistently spoken of putting members, people & democracy at the heart of how he would lead the party. He is very much of the mindset of Jeremy Corbyn, and his encouraging words should give all voters hope that like Corbyn, not all politicians are the same.
“There are those who truly do want to represent The People. We totally accept the limitations placed on Wales’ budget due to Conservative austerity, but it is very refreshing to hear such a high-ranking Minister who is willing to listen to the cold facts and respond by adapting to reality, and focusing on not letting the most vulnerable people in Wales suffer unnecessarily. We Labour members and WILG (Welsh Independent Living Grant) campaigners have respectfully criticised Welsh Labour on this issue, and so I think Mark Drakeford deserves immense credit for this, and if this is indeed a sign of how Welsh Labour will be going forward, while we absolutely do not take anything for granted, it does appear to bode well for the future. Once again we would like to thank Mark Drakeford for being both pragmatic and compassionate, and for listening to the obvious concerns and plentiful evidence.”
While of course we all understand that the purely ideological, economically incompetent & unnecessary austerity has been passed on to the Senedd from the CONservative ‘government’ in Westminster, campaigners have respectfully pointed out the most vulnerable 1,300 people in Wales, those receiving the WILG grant, should not be the ones bearing the brunt of this.
Indeed, thanks to plenty of FOIs (Freedom Of Information requests), evidence from England where Labour campaigned & voted AGAINST doing what is planned in Wales (with the English equivalent), with Scotland & Northern Ireland keeping their equivalent based on evidence, with the UN, several Welsh MPs, Julie Morgan AM and several others AMs, Unite the Union, the official Labour Party Disability Group passing a motion at their conference to save WILG, Welsh Labour Grassroots/Momentum, the support of UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn & Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who has written to the Welsh government about this, the Labour party membership and CLP (Constituency Labour Party) support across Wales, Wrexham FC, Ken Loach & other celebrities etc, it seems obvious what should happen.
Also, as Paul Martin reported for the BBC on last week’s Wales Live programme (CLICK HERE-available for another 24 days from 2nd November 18), we can see the current roll-out to the new system is not working. Already there are very worrying problems. So, as there is basically no opposition, bar, seemingly, a handful of people in the Senedd, this should be a no-brainer for Welsh Labour. While the comments of Mark Drakeford (and Eluned Morgan) re WILG are encouraging, it is worrying to us all to see the recent feedback given to John Pring in his excellent article for the Disability News Service (CLICK HERE). You can read this article by CLICKING HERE.
So, where do we stand? That is of course the million pound question. The signs from and support given by Mark Drakeford (and Eluned Morgan) are promising. The team responsible in government, not so. Moving forward, if we are to be taken seriously as a member-driven, democratic party then, of course, WILG must be saved and the re-introduction of a ‘Tripartite’ (the Welsh government, Local Authority & WILG recipient) monitoring/connected system must happen. The evidence is clearly there. The internal & external support (there is cross-party consensus on this) is clearly there. In fact, we have, aside of those quoted in John Pring’s article, yet to come across any one who is against the campaign or desired outcome!
Nathan Lee Davies and the campaigners have gone about this the correct way, very respectfully while frustratingly, through the correct channels. They have and do give all their free time to campaigning, supporting & defending (where needed) Welsh Labour. A quote we have used before from Nathan perhaps sums up why this is so essential; what is hardly an unreasonable request that justice is done. Nathan has a very serious condition called Friedreich’s Ataxia (CLICK HERE). The average life expectancy is 35. Nathan is 41. We agree with Nathan when he says:
“I appeal to Huw Irranca-Davies to listen to everyone within and outside Welsh Labour; we are all saying the same thing. I do not want to be using what precious time I have left fighting against the hierarchy of the party I love and campaign for. But I will if I have to. Please don’t make me.”
For more information about the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant campaign and details of why this is so important, please CLICK HERE.
In solidarity and with thanks to all who have contributed, supported, fought alongside us and continue to do so. We will never give in.
Clwyd South Labour Party.