‘It’s the bold proposals from Welsh Labour and of course under the leadership of Mark Drakeford … don’t be afraid to stand on those bold policies that actually once they are delivered prove they can they solve people’s problems.’Jack Sargeant AM/MS
‘It’s the bold proposals from Welsh Labour and of course under the leadership of Mark Drakeford .. don’t be afraid to stand on those bold policies that actually once they are delivered prove they can they solve people’s problems.’
That was the argument from Welsh Senedd Member Jack Sargeant when I interviewed him over Zoom this week.
The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs recently held a discussion on Learning the lessons from Welsh Labour, chaired by Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter, following their success at local elections and the success of the 2021 Senedd elections.
So as part of the Arise Festival I interviewed one of the Senedd’s youngest Members, Jack Sargeant, the Labour member for Alyn and Deesside.
Sargeant was first elected in 2018, as a 24 year old, then the youngest Senedd member and although his father was a Senedd member, he makes much of his personal work experience being outside of politics. In our discussion he said, ‘I started out as an apprentice engineer in a local firm in Alyn & Deesside. We’re heavily built on manufacturing so it’s a standard route for many if you like in my area. I went into research and development engineering so it’s not typical of a politician the usually very often lawyers or political advisors.’
I asked him how Welsh Labour had maintained itself in Government in Wales since 1999, when he was only five years old, with it’s best ever results in 2021, and he said, it was down to, ‘standing up for the people of Wales on that bold manifesto’ and what Rhodri Morgan used to call, the ‘clear red water’ in Wales.
He was keen to connect the boldness of the offer which inspired voters with delivering in Government, and demonstrating that faith was worth it and would deliver voter trust, when he said, ‘I’m very optimistic and I think we will continue to win in Wales. It’s because of that boldness and we have to protect that in Wales moving forward and obviously always have that ability to deliver for the people of Wales.’
Asked if Labour elsewhere in the UK, at Westminster and in Holyrood, could learn from Welsh Labour, Sargeant pointed to Mark Drakeford and suggested other Labour figures could learn from him, saying, ‘there’s one individual really who if there’s anyone to learn from it’s the First Minister, he’s been around since 1999, he was Rhodri Morgan’s advisor. We’ve talked about the success of Welsh Labour as a whole just look at where we’ve gone now, these are policies coming out under Mark’s leadership, so why not talk to Mark?’ And he added, ‘we should also look at where Labour is in power, such as Manchester, the administration under Andy Burnham.’
He also suggested that the relationship formed with Plaid Cymru, through the formal Cooperation Agreement, demonstrated, ‘we want to deliver an agenda, which we both probably believe in and we’ve come to that agreement [and] that’s grown-up politics.’
Looking at the bold policies, he said the Programme for Government, based on the manifesto in the [Senedd] election, is all about helping residents of Wales have a better life and have better life chances and identified a number of stand out policies. He said, the Social Partnership Bill ‘that’s all about working more closely with our trade union colleagues to instill that fairness at work.’
He also identified taking over the Transport for Wales train service and eyed, ‘the re-regulation of the buses’ and plans, ‘to bring buses back under public control’, saying, ‘I don’t have to go on too much about how Thatcher and the Conservatives in the 80s ruined the industry’ and that, ‘We’ve seen examples of this happening now under Andy Burnham in Manchester, and I think Steve Rotheram in Liverpool is looking at doing something similar.’
And on council house building he said, ‘we scrapped the Right to Buy’ and the need to deliver, ‘the social housing stock for the people’s needs right across our nation.’
He also highlighted a ‘personal favourite’, which is the basic income trial for care leavers which ‘was a campaign I fought really hard for in the previous Senedd. I led a debate calling for a trial until we got the support of most members from across different parties.’ He then ‘campaigned for that to be in our manifesto. It was and now we see it being delivered in the Programme for Government and 500 care leavers are going to have a real chance they wouldn’t have had if we didn’t take forward this trial.’ The pilot will offer 500 people £1,600 a month and will be evaluated with discussions about using it to help transition from heavy industries to new green jobs.
Turning to the cost of living crisis he was clear, ‘it is a Conservative cost of living crisis and the government in Westminster doing nothing to support residents in my constituency and places across the United Kingdom and we are doing what we can with the cost of living payments’ but he added, ‘but Wales is significantly underfunded. I don’t think there’s appetite from Westminster to fund us properly
He also praised recent trade union actions, saying, ‘both RMT and CWU have shown the power of the trade union movement and where we see that I always say you know the best way to protect your living standards and family living standards is join a trade union.’
In a reference to the different approaches of Keir Starmer and Mark Drakeford to supporting industrial action, he also said, ‘I will be back on the picket line and fully supportive of elected members being there. I think it’s a role we should play.’
And on the Conservative leadership election, he said, ‘I dont tend to keep a close look on Conservative leaders – but when i’ve seen and read stuff online and speaking to other individuals. I don’t think one contender who’s in the final four now or any of the eleven or however many actually mentioned how they’re going to support the devolved administrations in terms of funding and the future relationship Scotland and Northern Ireland and of course Wales.’
He also contrasted Welsh Government’s record on covid spending with Westminster and said, ‘we’ve seen throughout Covid where Test and Trace programme we ran that significantly better by using public sector wokers whilst Conservative Party we’re wasting a lot of money on my providing contracts to their mates … if they don’t want to do it properly – then give the money to Welsh Government and im sure we’ll implement and support those people.’
Wrapping up the discussion, it was notable he said, ‘What I should say is we don’t have all the ideas and it is in discussions with like-minded people when we do get those range of ideas.’
Welsh Labour is full of ideas. So watch out for Jack Sargeant. And keep joining Arise Festival events to share those ideas.
- You can follow Jack Sargeant on @JackSargeantAM.