‘Politically Speaking’ Joyce Watson AM’s County Times column

It’s going to be a tough campaign, no doubt, but I firmly believe we can pull together over the coming weeks and achieve an historic victory. But enough about the Lions tour, we have a general election to fight.

I am looking forward to campaigning with Labour’s excellent candidates for Montgomeryshire and Brecon and Radnorshire, Iwan Jones and Dan Lodge. Together we will be asking the people of Powys to not give Theresa May a blank cheque, to not allow the Tories to ride roughshod over Wales.

As First Minister Carwyn Jones said this week, at the Welsh Labour campaign launch, this election is about the Conservative’s record in office over the past seven years, and about what sort of country we want to build over the next five years.

The Tory record? Mismanagement, underfunding and privatisation of health and social services, culminating in the junior doctors’ strike in England (there was no strike in Wales) and, we recently learned, nurses being forced to use food banks. Not just nurses: more than a million food parcels were handed out to people in crisis last year. Theresa May says there are “many complex reasons why people go to food banks”. No there aren’t – they can’t afford to eat. Lots of jobs have become precarious, under this government’s ‘flexible’ economic policies. Wages have stagnated. Private debt continues to grow. Housing, for too many people, is unaffordable or unavailable. In education, schools in England are facing the most significant financial pressure since the mid-1990s, forced to find £3bn of savings by 2020. Meanwhile, the Tories want to build new grammar schools.

The Welsh Labour Government has other priorities, investing in health and social services, education and housing. But as an Assembly Member, I have seen first-hand the impact of the Conservative’s brutal cuts to the Welsh and local government budgets.

And then there is Brexit. In last week’s ‘Politically Speaking’ column Chris Davies MP said the Tories “need a mandate to push ahead with our exit from the European Union”. Nonsense. The referendum was last year – Labour respects the result. I was a Remainer, like Theresa May, but her rigid and reckless approach to the negotiations, her flag-waving posturing, whilst it might cheer her own backbenches, is putting the economy at risk. There’s a reason why our currency is 15% down since the referendum: international financial markets have no confidence in this government’s ability to deliver a good Brexit. Labour will focus on keeping access to the single market.

Critically, for the second time under this government, the future of our United Kingdom is at risk, with calls for another Scottish independence referendum and new uncertainty in Northern Ireland. Strong and stable? I can’t remember a time when our country has been weaker internationally, less stable at home and more uncertain about the future; it’s time for change.