Carwyn Jones' 'big claims that deserve a closer look'

Carwyn Jones

There were no shortages of jokes, historical references and old-fashioned Tory-bashing from Carwyn Jones in Llandudno.

But beyond the rhetorical flourishes, what did we learn?

He had some extra money to play with thanks to Philip Hammond's budget: So £20m went on social care, there will be more Wi-fi on trains and there was the abolition of children's funeral costs in support of the campaign by the Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris at Westminster.

The emotive appeal of the latter clearly had the biggest impact in the conference hall.

The creation of a fair pay commission was heavily trailed in advance but the speech contained few details.

'Focus on quality'

In a sense what is more significant is what it tells us about the Welsh Government's approach to the economy over the next few years.

The thinking is because the unemployment rate is so low in Wales, the focus now has to be less on quantity and more on quality.

It is also a response to the Leave vote in Wales as senior figures in the party believe the main reason for the failure of Remain was to do with job insecurity and low pay.

Carwyn Jones also made some big claims which deserve a closer look.

In a bullish section on the NHS, he said waiting times were going down.

In some areas this may be the case but there has been no broad-based substantial reduction in waits, and the latest figures reveal that waiting times in the Welsh NHS continue to lag behind the health service in England in most of the key categories for treatment and diagnosis.

There was also a touch of bravado about the claim that the Welsh Government had saved the Welsh steel industry.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Has Cardiff Bay helped the steel industry?

It obviously went down well with the Labour rank and file in Llandudno, but in reality the continued operation of Port Talbot has more to do with changes to the pension system and the internal politics of Tata in India than noises from Cardiff Bay.

Having said all that, this was the most relaxed I have seen Carwyn Jones make his big set-piece speech of the year to Labour in Wales.

He has just turned 50 and still dodges the question about how long he plans to stay in the job.

On today's reckoning, he does not look like he is going anywhere, particularly as he believes Brexit has just introduced an entirely new element to the job.

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