Senedd election: Labour pledges energy revolution for Wales

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image captionMark Drakeford says Wales is "so lucky" to have the natural resources for renewable energy

Labour will put Wales "at the forefront of the global energy revolution" if the party wins the Senedd election in May, the party's Welsh leader has pledged.

First Minister Mark Drakeford says Wales can use "wind, water and wave" to create "the jobs of the future".

In a pre-recorded speech to Welsh Labour's virtual spring conference, he also called for a "more powerful devolution settlement".

Mr Drakeford wants "home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom".

Leader of Welsh Labour and first minister since December 2018, Mr Drakeford has already said he does not intend to serve a full term if he is reappointed after the election.

In his recorded address on Friday - shared publicly on social media - he said a Labour government would put the "urgent need" to tackle climate change "at the heart of everything we do".

"We are so lucky, in our country, to have all the natural resources we need to put Wales at the forefront of the global energy revolution which the world will need," Mr Drakeford said.

"Wind, water and wave - the next Welsh Labour Government will make those assets work to create the jobs of the future and, in doing so, make our contribution to securing the future of our beautiful but fragile planet."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMark Drakeford wants Wales to "break down barriers, not build them up" in terms of the UK's future

In response to a growing debate around Wales' future in the UK, Mr Drakeford said: "We need a more powerful devolution settlement, one in which we secure home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom - internationalist, not nationalist; outward facing, not inward looking."

With an apparent nod to the independence movement, he said: "Yes for Wales, of course - that's what I have been throughout my whole life - but yes to a Wales that takes ownership of its own destiny alongside working people in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland who share our progressive values.

"Yes to a Wales which has the confidence of knowing that we are at our best when we break down barriers, not build them up, where we create our future alongside others, not despite or against them."

On Friday, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales his party's manifesto would be both ambitious and credible.

"I'll be focusing on health because we will have to rebuild our health service post pandemic," he said.

"I'll be talking about jobs, particularly jobs for our young people, because this is an economic crisis as well as a health crisis.

"And I'll be talking about justice as well, so that we come out of all of this in a way that is fairer."

Mr Drakeford said he was "absolutely determined there will be no lost generation in Wales".

He added that if Labour wins the election he would remain as first minister for "beyond two years".

"When I first stood as a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party... I said then that I expected to serve for around five years," he told Radio Wales Breakfast.

"So, if we are fortunate enough to win the confidence of Welsh people again... I will be the first minister in the full sense of that word.

"That's the plan that I had in the beginning - that's the plan I intend to stick to."

Labour has been in government in Wales since devolution began in 1999, forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2000 and Plaid Cymru in 2007.

The party won 29 of the 60 seats in the 2016 Senedd election and governs with the support of Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams and independent member Lord Elis-Thomas.

Labour lost six Welsh seats to the Conservatives at the last UK general election in 2019.

The Senedd election is due to take place on 6 May, although a law has been passed in light of the pandemic to allow a delay of up to six months if two-thirds of members think it necessary for safety or other reasons.

In this speech Mark Drakeford is trying to address some of the big issues in the forthcoming election.

Firstly, the "it's time for a change" argument that will be made by Labour's opponents - the party has been in power in Wales for 20 plus years.

So he says it's only his team who have been "tested in the fire of experience" of governing through the Covid pandemic, which is "far from over".

Secondly independence, which has risen up the political agenda recently.

He uses the phrase "Yes for Wales" to tell left-wing voters thinking of turning to Plaid or the Greens that he wants to get more powers for Welsh devolution ("home rule") but he balances that by referencing traditional socialist concerns about working class solidarity across the UK.

And finally, he turns his fire power on the Conservative government in Westminster, presenting Welsh Labour as a bulwark against "inequality and austerity".

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