Every week at PMQs David Cameron never fails to sneer, attack and denounce the Labour led government in Wales. Like a petulant child who is secretly rather envious of the kid next door, he resorts to petty point scoring and frantic finger pointing whenever his envy spills over for the exciting initiatives going on in Wales.
Bereft of ideas, the ConDems look on as spectators at a Welsh Labour administration that is delivering;even though currently being shackled by a Westminster imposed budget. So how are socialist Wales doing things differently and what are our successes?
Whilst the Tories swept in and destroyed the aspiration and further education of our poorest children aged 16-18, Wales defiantly stood up for our children and retained Education Maintenance Allowance. The £30 pw allowance pays for books, travel and lunches and is a lifeline for children whose families are existing below the breadline. It will be interesting to see in the next few years the difference between England and Wales in the numbers of children from the poorest families who are staying on at 6th form or college, and the numbers who drop out due to unaffordability.
Going to the opposite age range, Wales has the Flying Start scheme for under 4s in the most deprived communities of Wales. A package of support including more input from Health Visitors, parenting classes, early language development and play skills and part time childcare has resulted in £180m of funding from 2007- present. The results are impressive and are changing lives. 76% of children were fully immunised at age 4 and 82% of children in the Flying Start areas reached or exceeded their developmental norms at the benchmark age 2. Investment from birth is reaping dividends.
One of the jewels in Welsh Labours crown is our envious scheme of Universal Free Prescriptions. Whatever age you are and however chronic a condition you have free medicine is there when you need it. My own son aged 22 was ill recently and was worried about work as he is agency employed on a zero hours contract. A free antibiotic prescription got him back on his feet quickly and a swift return to work. No worrying about the affordability of medicine. My husband suffers from chronic asthma and is a lifelong condition. He is eternally grateful for the free prescription service here in Wales. Indeed many of our friends living just over the border in places like Chester and Hereford are rushing to sign up with GP practices in Wales. It is not as costly an exercise as many critics suggest as it is a fraction of the health budget in Wales, yet has such positive outcomes.
Jobs Growth Wales is a shining example of offering young people a 6 month work experience but paying them the minimum wage while they are doing it. A total opposite to the sapping pointless workfare the Tories in England support wholeheartedly. Such is the success rate that 82% of young people taking up a work placement then go on to secure a sustainable job after the initial 6 month period. An exceeded target of 13,000 people in jobs in the first 3 years of the scheme is testament to its success. A complete stark contrast to the crippling youth unemployment in England with no hope on the horizon as one thing the Tories destroy is hope for young peoples futures.
Wales is incredibly rural and our rural areas have suffered more than most with freak weather conditions and seasonal, casual work. The Agricultural Wages Board was abolished by the ComDems in England in October 2013. It was responsible for setting the minimum rates of pay for agricultural workers, terms of employment and often rents on tied cottages etc. Wages were always higher than the minimum wage. Wales decided to challenge the Westminster government and were successful in the Supreme Court in summer 2014 to set up a new Welsh Agricultural Wages Board. 14,000 far workers will benefit and be kept out of rural wages poverty, unlike farm workers in England. Holiday and sickness pay will now also be protected here in Wales, unlike England. In fact unlike England, Wales values the skills of our agricultural sector workers and will always fight to defend them.
Even on issues like Healthy Living Wales takes the lead. Banning smoking in cars where children are
present, and the Future Generations Bill are on the agenda here. The Wales we want by 2050 is
A "healthier, happier, more equal, prosperous more bilingual economy with a resilient environment."
Future development and discussions on this way forward are being held in early 2015. Wales does not stand still. It plans ahead.
Carwyn Jones leads from the front in Wales, and I include him on our list of Welsh successes. I urge you to watch First Ministers Questions in the Sennedd on the Parliamemt channel on TV. Whilst the Tory leader, Andrew R T Davies continually flusters, Carwyn uses his considerable intellect and wit to shoot him down in flames every time. Carwyn Jones is Labours Socialist Statesman. Instrumental in bringing new business and world class sports events like the Ryder Cup in golf and Ashes Test Matches in cricket to Wales, Carwyn is a big name on the international scene. He has been successful at promoting Welsh businesses in the USA also. He is now passionately campaigning for more devolved powers for Wales, so we can unchain ourselves from the shadow of the ConDems in
My family are proud and frankly relieved to live in Wales while the coalition wreak havoc in England. My son has just applied for EMA, my husbands asthma means we don't have to bankrupt ourselves to pay for a long term health condition, my youngest disabled son had excellent early years speech and language therapy for his autism. Whilst my grandfather was from Tonypandy in South Wales, my mother from Bridgend; I live on the Coast in N Wales, I will never forget my grandfathers stories of grinding poverty before Clement Attlee came to power. In modern day times I am delighted that a socialist Wales under devolution wants more devolved power, so we can set our own rules, use our compassion to look after our most vulnerable Welsh citizens and not be at the mercy of the nasty party in England.
It's time socialists in Wales shouted much more loudly about our successes and on going future plans when faced by Westminster arrogance. Like a modern day Cromwell, Cameron rules over his vision of England in tyranny, where the people are pushed noses to the grindstone in hard low paid work, and leisure and fun are things to be derided. I am proud to live in Wales; proud to be a Welsh socialist.