“Friends and Comrades, it is an honour to have been invited to speak at this Welsh Labour Grassroots event tonight.
I will begin by paying tribute to WLG members across North Wales – without your support I would not be standing here now as a Member of the Senedd.
The left here in Wales has proven time and time again that when we organise, we can win. Under the leadership of Mark Drakeford, we have seen the difference a socialist government can make to the lives of working people up and down this land.
As Welsh Labour’s first ever North Wales regional Member of the Senedd, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to Llandudno in the heart of our beautiful region.
Welsh socialism isn’t just southern-flavoured, my region of North Wales has a strong and long-running radical, socialist tradition.
In 19th century Mold, when English mine owners tried to cut wages and enforce a ban on the Welsh language at the Leeswood Green Colliery, the workers went on strike. This was in 1864, 7 years before unions were even legalised in Britain. Upon returning to the mine, their protests were dismissed by the owners – the North Walian miners responded by putting the mine manager into a coal cart with a one-way ticket back to England stuffed in his coat pocket.
For their efforts, they were met with brutal suppression. Some of the miners were arrested and charged, which led to a riot in Mold as the miners, their families and the North Walian working-class came together to stand up to the vested interests of the elite. Soldiers opened fire on the crowds, killing four and injuring many more.
At the turn of the 20th century, members of the newly formed North Wales Quarrymen’s Union working at the Penrhyn slate quarry in Bethesda went on strike for 3 years after the quarry management told the workers that trade union contributions would no longer be collected. The Great Penrhyn Quarry Strike, as it became known, caught the imagination of a nation. Support for the striking miners poured in from across Britain, with three Welsh choirs touring the nation to raise money for workers and a gift of a two-and-a-half tonne Christmas pudding being sent all the way from Ashton-under-Lyne.
Albeit often stories of great struggle, the battles of those who came before us show us that when we fight for what we know to be right in our hearts, we can bring the country along with us.
It is the spirit of the miners in Mold and the quarrymen in Bethesda which we channel when, today, we call for an end to the exploitation of workers, a Living Wage for all and strong trade union representation.
In 1937, Tom Jones, also known as Twm Sbaen, a collier from Rhosllanerchrugog near Wrexham, joined the International Brigade and travelled to Spain to stand alongside those fighting Franco’s fascist coup. Tom served in the anti-tank battalion. In 1938, he was wounded and captured at the battle of Erbo, being sentenced to death. Tom spent two years in the notorious and infamous jails in Zaragoza and Burgos before being released in 1940.
He returned home to a life of left activism in the Communist and Labour party’s, going on to become a founding member of the Wales Trade Union Congress. Tom continued to work tirelessly on behalf of the working class and against the fascist menace.
Tom’s example inspires us today as we stand proud with our red flag, proud of our working-class unity, our beliefs and our principles and steadfast in our commitment to oppose fascism, wherever it rears its ugly head.
And we saw this commitment in action just a few weeks ago, when our friend and comrade Mick Antoniw travelled to Ukraine as part of a trade union and socialist delegation to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukranian working class in their opposition to imperialism.
Here in North Wales, we stand on the shoulders of giants and we must remember their battles as we organise and fight for socialism today.
It is a privilege to stand here alongside comrades whose role it is to continue that radical socialist tradition here in Wales. Today, under the leadership of Mark Drakeford, the left leads the Government of our nation. The path ahead for the left is not easy, but our previous victories must provide us with the resolve to continue organising for socialism in Wales.
And our next, immediate, battle is an important one. In the next few months, the left has the opportunity here in Wales to send a formidable and principled socialist to speak on our behalf on the Labour Party National Executive Committee.
As a loyal member of the Socialist Campaign Group, Lynne Jones voted against the war in Iraq, consistently opposed draconian anti-terror legislation and was speaking out for the rights of the trans community decades before the vast majority of politicians were even taking notice. Lynne has consistently proven in her record in the House of Commons to have been on the right side of history.
It is now the job of all of us in this room to make sure that Lynne’s voice is at the NEC table.
As the left, we don’t fight for these seats for the sake of it, we fight to make real change.
Whilst fossil-fuel companies continue to make eye-watering profits off the destruction of our environment; we fight for a Green New Deal. As more and more people are trapped in the private rented sector, paying off their landlord’s mortgage instead of their own; we fight for housing for all. In the face of austerity, we oppose the flogging of state assets through privatisation; we fight for world-class, green public transport and a truly ‘National’ Health Service.
We can win these battles and that these battles exist show that our work is not yet done – a new future is ours to win – but as we know, to win that future, it will take organising, organising and more organising.
Comrades, it is an honour to stand with you, our red flag held aloft, in our quest for that brighter future!
Solidarity. Thank you. Diolch.”