First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said there is growing “disappointment” that Labour’s successes in Wales have not been matched in the rest of the country, as he urged the party’s conference to focus on winning power.
Speaking from the main stage at the conference in Liverpool, Mr Drakeford warned his fellow party members that when Labour does not win power it is letting people down.
He also used his speech to champion the use of proportional representation.
Whether the party should support changing the voting system has been a source of debate at the conference. The issue is due to be put to a vote on Monday afternoon, but party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “not a priority” for him while focused on getting into power.
The central reason for our party's existence, the reason why our members do all those things we ask of them ... is this, we exist to seek and to win political power
Despite using the speech to celebrate 100 years of Labour winning Welsh elections, Mr Drakeford warned: “The celebration is very powerfully accompanied by a growing sense of disappointment and disillusion, because in the 100 years during which (Wales) has voted time and time again for Labour, only a third of those years has resulted in a Labour government at Westminster.”
He added: “The central reason for our party’s existence, the reason why our members do all those things we ask of them … is this, we exist to seek and to win political power.
“Now we do that, not as an end in itself, but because only in that way can we change for the better the lives of those who rely on the Labour Party, rely on our party to fashion that better future for us all.
“And conference, we can do better, whether that’s through a Welsh Labour Government or a Labour mayor, or a Labour council, we show every day the difference that Labour can make.
“And when we don’t do it, when we don’t win power on their behalf, let’s be clear, we let those people down.
“We can carry on winning our own elections in Wales and doing all the things which only we can do, but without a Labour government at Westminster the story can never be complete.”
He also told the conference hall that the politics of proportional representation in Wales recognises that “no party has a monopoly on good or progressive ideas”, and that in Wales the party has never governed alone.
Criticising the Conservative Government, he said: “How has it come to this? A country in which the rich are rewarded while a cruel and casual kick is aimed at those families struggling by on bare-bones universal credit.”
“Today a fearful United Kingdom looks on in dismay and disbelief at the wreckage caused being caused by a government which they had no hand in creating,” he said.