The shadow cabinet is doing a joint cabinet meeting with the Welsh Labour government for the first time. Photo: Getty
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The Tories belittle Wales, but Labour is learning from it

The Welsh economy is bucking generational trends and leading the UK out of recession.

Two recent moments sum up the modern Tory party’s attitude to Wales. The first was at their spring conference in Llangollen, when the Prime Minster stooped snake-belly low to describe Offa’s Dyke as ‘a line between life and death’ in the most disgraceful episode of his character assassination of the Welsh NHS. The second, rather less serious but no less telling, occurred in Committee Room 10 just a month ago, when the Tories decided the PM’s special dispensation for pubs to open late during the World Cup should only benefit England, even though the licensing laws and the football leagues extends to everyone in Wales - and support for Roy’s boys to most of us, despite Brazil being a bit of a rocky road.
 
Both instances reflect a Tory party that has abandoned its historic ambition to represent and speak for the whole of the UK. Instead, they now sees our national and regional borders as mere political dividing lines to be leveraged, in their new mission of retaining power, however shrunken the mandate. Labour, by contrast, with our roots and representation in every corner of these isles, remains the only true One Nation party. Our ambition to serve not just England, but Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too, remains undimmed.
 
That is why Labour’s Shadow Cabinet gathers today in Wales in a historic joint meeting with our colleagues in the Welsh Labour Government, to learn from them in Opposition and to plan with them how we might work side-by-side in Government. Our focus will be on the economy of Wales, its challenges and its successes. Because, despite the grinding, politically-motivated negativity of the Tories towards Wales, the Welsh economy is bucking generational trends and leading the UK out of recession.
 
On exports and investment from overseas, under Labour leadership, Wales is outstripping the rest of Britain, save for the soar-away South East. And on tackling youth unemployment, the scourge of so many of our communities, Wales is second to none, with the number of 16 and 17 year olds out of work down almost 14% last year, against a UK wide average of just a 1.6% fall. That unprecedented performance can clearly be traced to Welsh investment in trade and industry, as well as in our young people.
 
Unlike in England, Labour didn’t scrap the Future Jobs Fund in Wales, we enhanced it as Jobs Growth Wales, a true partnership between public and private sector to get our young people into work. And this month we will see that scheme reach another landmark, as its 10,000th young person looks set to join the workforce in Wales. Every part of Britain should be sharing that commitment to invest in our young people, competing over which areas can offer them the best opportunities, just as countries like Germany do to such great effect.

Our joint meeting today is being held on the test-bed floor of GE aviation, a world leading manufacturing firm that overhauls jet engines and invest millions in young Welsh apprentices.  These apprenticeships are much sought after - and little wonder as they change the lives of young people in my constituency. Offering them skills, experience and a decent wage – in short, hope for the future. 

These examples of decent employment opportunities and a government that works on the side of ordinary young people shouldn’t be the exception.  Young people in every part of the UK should feel like they have the opportunity to get on and a sense of hope. That’s why the offer of meaningful work through Jobs Growth Wales is such a powerful message that the Labour Government in Wales gets it and genuinely cares.

England can learn from Wales on how to get our young people back into training and the security of decent work. Instead, the Tories maintain their trend of solely mentioning Wales to smear and score cheap, party-political points. This type of divide and rule politics – that they are so fond of – only weakens the bonds that unite people across Britain, whichever party is in power at Westminster, and rebounds on those politicians who practice it.

In contrast, the Labour Party will approach the next election with a brighter vision for a united Britain.  Optimistic for the future - especially for our young people, bold about supporting them to not just meet the challenges of the 21st century workplace, but surpass them. I’m proud that Jobs Growth Wales has given hope to so many thousands of young people in Wales, but I won’t be satisfied until we can deliver something similar across the whole of our country.

Owen Smith is a Labour leadership candidate and MP for Pontypridd. 

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.