Wales politics

Welsh Labour faces 'toughest election' since devolution

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Media captionCarwyn Jones says Welsh Labour has the 'ideas, energy and passion' to win again

Welsh Labour faces its toughest election since devolution began in 1999, Carwyn Jones has said.

The first minister told his party conference in Llandudno he was willing to take difficult decisions and take the flak that comes with them.

Mr Jones is seeking another term in office to complete a "decade of delivery" that started in 2011.

He said voters faced a choice between keeping him as first minister or Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Mr Jones, first minister since 2009, outlined the party's six key pledges for May's assembly election campaign.

He also repeated a promise that Labour would not increase income taxes if the assembly gets the powers necessary.

Having led the Welsh government - either alone or in coalition - for 17 years, Labour's record will come under scrutiny at the election.

But Mr Jones hailed achievements in education, health and the economy under his party.

Labour could not afford "distractions" and must keep its sights set on "the fact that this election is a straight fight between Labour and the Tories," he said.

"We need to be very clear in our own minds about the challenge ahead of us in May.

"This will be our toughest ever assembly election campaign."

After months of infighting in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, Mr Jones said Labour needed to "pull together, and work together, and campaign together".

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn praises Welsh Labour for showing the way to a better country

Welsh Labour chairman Andy Richards said he has had "fierce words" with party colleagues to maintain discipline.

Reacting for the Welsh Conservatives, Mr Davies said: "Carwyn Jones's term in office can only be categorised as an abject failure and he would've been sacked years ago if he worked for a private sector firm."

Earlier, Mr Corbyn told the conference Welsh Labour had made a "massive difference" during its 17 years in power.

He said Wales enjoyed good industrial relations, where ministers had not "picked a fight" with junior doctors who had gone on strike in England over new contracts.

Analysis by Daniel Davies, BBC Wales political correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn got the de rigueur standing ovation for a conference speech that credited the Welsh government as an "inspiration" to Labour in the rest of Britain.

And if any party members are not thrilled by his leadership, the message to them is clear: Bite your tongues, at least until after May's election.

Welsh Labour chairman Andy Richards said he had been exchanging some "fierce words" with party colleagues (in private) about the need for discipline and unity in the run-up to the election.

In his speech, Carwyn Jones said Labour needed to "pull together" to win.

That message has particular resonance for Labour after the damaging rows that have gripped the party since Mr Corbyn was elected leader.

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