“It is a real honour and privilege to have been invited to speak at this event this evening. The Socialist Campaign Group provides hope for members and workers across the UK at a time when the living standards of our communities continue to come under attack from the cosy neoliberal consensus which dominates in Westminster.
Nowhere is this clearer at the moment than in relation to energy companies coining it in and posting outrageous profits whilst families have to decide whether to heat or eat. The difference between neoliberalism and socialism here is abundantly clear: whilst publicly-owned energy companies in France were capping rises at 2%, the UK’s privatised energy companies were increasing prices by a truly eye-watering 54%.
The response at UK-level has been predictably timid and servile to the interests of private profit. Here in Wales, the Welsh Government has recognized the immediate threat posed by these hikes whilst also putting plans in place to secure long-term renewable energy security.
Our government has insisted on promoting the role of public ownership in the energy sector, calling for foreign-owned multinational companies to have less control of Welsh energy projects. We recognise how popular public ownership is and we know full well why it’s so popular; because it works.
Plans for a publicly owned Welsh energy company could not only help to reduce the burden of high bills on the Welsh public, but it is also an absolute necessity in tackling climate change. Just a few months ago off the North Wales coast, 80,000 litres oil was spewed into the sea – exactly 26 years after the Sea Empress oil spill had wrought environmental havoc on our Welsh coast.
The timing simply reinforced what we all know to be true: we must end our reliance on fossil fuels. The private sector cannot and will not deliver this. That is why it is so encouraging for socialists across the UK to see the Welsh Government recognising the problems and providing progressive, ambitious solutions.
I’d also like to talk about the housing market, which is totally out of control. Houses are viewed as financial investments and assets, instead of a home which puts a roof over somebody’s head. The rapid and unsustainable growth of a class of buy-to-let landlords since the 1980s has undone much of the progress in the conditions of tenants, as well as driving an explosion in house prices.
This increase in prices then translates to extreme hikes in rents. People who, 40 years ago, would have either bought a home or lived in a secure and affordable council house, are forced into a private sector that works for profiteers, not ordinary people.
That is why rent controls are now essential – again in Wales, our government’s willingness to embrace bold solutions is shown in their commitment to explore the implementation of controlling rents across the country.
Rent controls should be designed to protect tenants, but they should also discourage the sort of rampant landlordism which is a stain spreading across the UK housing market. A home should be a human right, not an asset which is subordinated to the whims of market forces and the pursuit of profit.
On these issues and on those mentioned by my comrades this evening, the left in Wales has proven time and time again that when we organise, we can achieve radical socialist solutions. Under the leadership of Mark Drakeford, we’ve seen first-hand the difference that a progressive socialist government can make to the lives of working people across the country.
But we must not rest on our laurels. There is no time to waste in creating the prosperous and green future that our country deserves. We must continue to stand up and occupy every space with our values – in our streets, in our communities and in our workplaces. Because whether its rent controls or whether its public ownership, we will have to face down the interests of capital who will do everything in their power to nullify, weaken and water down our proposals.
If you need inspiration; just look at how far we have come. In 2017, we came within inches of electing a truly transformative socialist government in the UK. Today, the left leads the government of Wales and is putting socialism into action.
We have shown that we can win these battles, so let’s continue to organise and work together across the United Kingdom to ensure that we win the battles of the future as well.
Thank you very much, solidarity, diolch!”