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Source: Labour List UK

Labour’s Mark Drakeford is expected to declare he will “stand up for Wales” while warning the Welsh people that there are tough months ahead for the devolved nation amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

In his keynote address to the online Welsh Labour Together conference later today, the First Minister will tell party members that his government is “taking the actions to get us through the coming winter months”.

The Welsh Labour leader is expected to say that the “sacrifices are not at an end” and will pledge to use the powers available to his administration in the “assertive and confident way that devolution in Wales allows”.

Drakeford will say: “These last seven months have been the most difficult many of us have known. Some of us have lost loved ones. We’ve been separated from family and friends. We’ve had to adapt the way we live, work and travel.

“Unfortunately, those sacrifices are not at an end. As recent weeks have demonstrated, the virus never went away and is now spreading fast once again.

“It has been necessary in the last week for us to introduce new restrictions to halt the spread of the virus and protect our NHS. Steps none of us welcome – but have had to take in order to keep the people of Wales safe through the coming winter.

“What gives me confidence that we can get through these next, difficult, few months is that we have shown in Wales what can be achieved when we work together.

“Shown that when we put our Labour values into practical action we can support one another, even these toughest of times. Values of cooperation not competition. Looking out for one another, not divided against each other.”

The Welsh government announced earlier this week that Wales will go into a national “time-limited firebreak” lockdown on Friday, describing the measure as a “short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time”.

The lockdown will cover a two-week period, which Drakeford said was the shortest that the devolved government could make it. He explained that it is designed to be “sharp and deep to have the maximum impact on the virus”.

He is expected to say today that the Welsh government is now “taking the actions to get us through the coming winter months”, ensuring that the NHS is prepared and building extra capacity into the track and trace system.

Drakeford will tell the conference: “The months ahead look tougher than the months behind us because we are all tired and wish the virus would go away. Sadly, we know, that is not going to happen.

“But we can get through this if we continue to work together and recognise the enormous strength that we draw from our public services, especially our NHS.”

The Welsh government clashed with the Westminster Tory administration earlier this month after Downing Street ignored requests from the First Minister to limit people travelling to Wales and other areas in the UK from Covid hotspots in England.

Drakeford told listeners in a recent LBC radio interview that he was “genuinely baffled” by the Prime Minister’s refusal to put in place the measures, which he argued would have “reinforced the sense of acting together across the UK”.

The dispute between the First Minister and Boris Johnson was followed by Drakeford’s announcement of the firebreak measure earlier this week, unveiled with a package of support including £300m in an enhanced ‘economic resilience fund’.

His speech forms part of the a programme of online events arranged after the usual party gathering was cancelled due to the pandemic. Drakeford launched the Welsh Labour Together conference last week in a Q&A with members.

MIL OSI United Kingdom