Hefin David: Why I’m voting Vaughan Gething for Welsh Labour leader
Hefin David – MS for Caerphilly
It’s common to feel a sense of optimism as a year ends and a new one begins. But that hope needs to be founded in a realistic chance of change for the better. I feel that same optimism now as we choose, for only the fifth time, a new First Minister of our country.
Our next national leader needs to be someone tested in the fiercest heat. They must understand the challenges faced by those most marginalised in our society. They must look outwards with an ambitious plan for the future of communities across Wales and have the drive to make that prospect a reality.
And they must be ready to fight a must-win general election and work in partnership with a future UK Labour government to Wales’ benefit.
That’s why I back Vaughan Gething as our next leader. He knows what it takes to face those challenges and succeed.
Vaughan has already made progress on that promise, having secured the UK party’s commitment to re-patriate levelling up funds to Wales. As leader of our nation, he will immediately use the money for the expansion of apprenticeships.
Vaughan will strengthen and renew our devolution settlement, taking the people of Wales with him as he does so. Keir Starmer has already pledged that his incoming government will devolve more economic power than ever before. Vaughan has the formidable talent and credibility needed to make the most of that opportunity.
The value of experience can never be understated. During the toughest two years of the pandemic, Vaughan was there as Health Minister, alongside Mark Drakeford, leading our nation through the biggest crisis we have seen in our lifetimes. And he held fast to our Welsh Labour values all the way.
I recall preparing for my own constituency Facebook Live sessions during that time. People wanted answers. Vaughan was always on hand to ensure I had the latest information.
I particularly remember a local health and beauty business contacting me about restrictions to close contact that prevented them offering a core service when other very similar services were allowed. It was Vaughan who answered the call and made sure the rules were clarified immediately, that very afternoon.
It’s a small example but his actions made a big difference to that business and others like them.
And all the while, Vaughan had other pressures to contend with, including supporting his Mum who was vulnerable due to Covid. As a colleague, I’ve always found Vaughan to be supportive and understanding of the challenges we can all sometimes face, both personally and professionally.
In recent times, the current Welsh Labour Government has been attacked by opponents for not listening enough to the public. While those attacks are politically motivated and largely without foundation, Vaughan has the ability to renew our bond with the people of Wales.
We must show clearly that being politicians means we are members of our communities. Vaughan is rooted in his constituency as I am in mine. We must use those close links to build policy with communities, for communities.
I am delighted for example that Vaughan will introduce community-led changes to the 20mph policy. We need an immediate review that will allow residents themselves to identify exactly where certain speeds aren’t working.
Thirteen long years of Conservative UK Government have seen the biggest fall in living standards in our history. In Government here in Wales, Vaughan has worked in lockstep with the trade union movement to protect livelihoods across the country. And he’s worked closely with his successor as Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, to defend the Welsh NHS budget from the worst of the onslaught.
No storm lasts forever and we will see blue skies again. When that time comes, a Welsh Labour Government led by Vaughan Gething will have ensured that resilient public services will be ready for the rebuilding of our economy, in partnership with a UK Labour Government.
There’s a great photo of Vaughan celebrating the result the night Wales voted Yes to devolution. How many people would have expected that a young black activist from that image could go on to become First Minister?
The feeling on the historic day we said Yes for Wales will always stay with me.
As we mark 25 years since the Government of Wales Act, devolution faces fresh Tory attacks.
— Vaughan Gething (@vaughangething) July 31, 2023
Vaughan’s election would see Wales have its first Black leader. It matters that the people who run our government reflect the growing diversity of our country. We should be proud to say that.
Vaughan has the values and vision to deliver in the job and lead a devolved Wales into a new era. Most importantly, he has the experience. I will do all I can to see him elected as our First Minister.
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