Wales Is a More Equal Society but It Is Not Equal Enough - That's Why I Came into Politics, Says Jane; Education Chief Lays out Her Stall for Possible Bid to Be First Minister

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

Wales Is a More Equal Society but It Is Not Equal Enough - That's Why I Came into Politics, Says Jane; Education Chief Lays out Her Stall for Possible Bid to Be First Minister


Byline: David Williamson

EDUCATION Minister Jane Hutt has laid out a vision of how Labour in Wales can fight inequality and win the trust of the electorate ahead of Westminster and Assembly elections.

In a move that will be widely interpreted as setting out her leadership ambitions, the Vale of Glamorgan AM has given a rare interview highlighting the pressing need to narrow the gap between the nation's haves and have-nots.

Despite remaining tight-lipped about her intentions, Ms Hutt is increasingly seen as a contender to succeed Rhodri Morgan as First Minister if, as expected, he announces his retirement in the autumn.

Spelling out her priorities for Government, she told the Western Mail that combating inequality in the poorest parts of Wales is a key goal which can win support across the nation.

She is no stranger to intense election battles, keeping her seat in 2007 by a victory margin of just 83 votes.

But she is convinced that people in better-off parts of Wales will be prepared to support a party which will target resources on the most-deprived areas.

She said: "It shouldn't be the case young people and adults have a lower skill level in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil than they do in Monmouthshire. People don't want to see big disparities. They want to see fairness. Politically, that's where we've got to deliver."

During the summer she has been reading The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

She said: "That's my manifesto.

Wales is a more equal society but it is not equal enough. That's why I came into politics, and was privileged to get involved in Government, to try and deliver a more equal society."

She considers the University of the Heads of the Valleys initiative "critical" towards this goal.

Ms Hutt is also an avowed supporter of landmark policies such as free bus travel for pensioners.

She believes concern that other parties could scrap such initiatives will bolster Labour at the polls and dissuade people from supporting rivals because it is "time for a change".

She said: "We must also have a debate about policy direction and be confident and show what the dividing lines are when it comes to the political crunch."

Ms Hutt also wants to find ways of giving people greater influence over public services, saying: "We talk a lot about partnership but actually engaging people in making decisions, sharing a bit of our power, is the real test. I just believe very strongly that is where you can get the best policies and decisions and Government. …

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