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Concern about ‘parachuted candidate’ in Welsh Labour seat

28 May 2024 5 minute read
Kevin Brennan MP for Cardiff West

Martin Shipton

Members of one of the most left-wing constituency Labour parties in Wales are concerned that they could have a general election candidate from the right of the party parachuted onto them.

On Monday evening Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who has held the seat since 2001, announced that he would not be standing in the general election after all.

He recently had an operation for prostate cancer and said that over the Bank Holiday weekend he had decided to pull out from the election.

Because he announced his decision to step down after 5pm on Monday, decisions about the selection of his successor now lie not with members of the Cardiff West party, but with Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

Safe Labour seats

A Labour Party insider told NationCymru: “At least six Labour MPs have announced late that they will not be standing in the general election after all, one of whom is Kevin Brennan. They are all in safe Labour seats. It may be that they have been offered peerages in return for freeing up their seats so that someone favoured by the party’s leadership can get into the Commons without facing an uncertain selection process.

“This has happened before in Wales. In 1997 Roy Hughes, the MP for Newport East, stood down very late and was afterwards given a peerage. His seat was taken by Alan Howarth, who had previously been the Tory MP for Stratford-upon-Avon. Mr Howarth defected to Labour in advance of the general election, which turned out to be a landslide for the party under Tony Blair. Mr Howarth went on to be Minister for the Arts and later a Labour peer.

“Under Labour Party rules, once a set deadline has passed in advance of a general election, it’s the NEC that has responsibility for selecting new candidates. The normal candidate selection procedure is shelved, and the candidate will be chosen by a tiny number of people, with the great majority of ordinary members excluded from the process.

“With the election having been called last week, the timescale is obviously tight. Being offered a peerage can be tempting to someone who isn’t entirely sure that they want to do another five years as an MP, Keir Starmer has ruled out implementing House of Lords reform in Labour’s first term, so offering peerages remains an option if you want to free up seats for the people you want to have in the Commons.”

Cardiff West

A member of Cardiff West constituency Labour party, who did not wish to be named, said: “It is very frustrating that Cardiff West members will not decide who their general election candidate is. The local party has been one of the most left wing in Wales for at least 10 or 15 years. There have been times over the years when we’ve had policy disagreements with Kevin, but generally speaking we’ve had a pretty good relationship with him, partly because of his personal charm.

“Following the timing of his announcement that he won’t be standing in the general election, there’s a lot of concern that the local party will have a right wing candidate imposed on it. Constituency selections are devolved by the NEC to the party’s Welsh Executive Council (WEC), which is controlled by the right. Quite a few party members have already given up on Labour since Starmer was elected and rowed back from policies he had previously agreed with.

“That will only get worse if a right winger is chosen. It seems there will be a panel of five to select the new candidate, with three from the WEC and two from Cardiff West. Obviously that means power is being taken away from local party members, and there is serious concern that we may have a right winger imposed on us. If that happens, I can envisage serious problems in the future.”

Nomination

Party members interested in putting their names forward for the Cardiff West nomination were asked to apply by noon on Tuesday (May 28). There is a lot of speculation about who might be slotted into Cardiff West, where Mr Brennan had a majority of 10,986 over the second placed Tory candidate at the last general election in 2019.

“A name that has been mentioned as a possibility is that of Nathan Yeowell, who worked as a researcher for Mr Brennan for two years when he was first elected to Westminster in 2001. Mr Yeowell went on to run Progressive Britain (formerly Progress), a think tank and pressure group for those on the right of the Labour Party.

“He is a friend and former boss of Morgan McSweeney, Keir Starmer’s top aide and campaign manager. Mr Yeowell is currently a councillor in Torfaen. He told NationCymru he had not applied for the Cardiff West nomination.

We sent a message to Mr Brennan, but he did not respond.


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Richard
Richard
16 days ago

Alan is a Labour Peer not as above where he apoears as a “ Tory Peer “. Then on the centre right of the Tory Party when an MP he befriended Labours Estelle Morris MP.

With loss through death of several “ Welsh “ labour Peers this topping up method allows leaders favourites to be planted in safe seats.

In Wales our new party list system of loyal hacks will provide the same back door out of sight outcome

John Ellis
John Ellis
16 days ago

Surely questionable, at the very least, for Mr Brennan to have waited until this very late date to announce his decision to stand down and not seek re-election.

Because prior to the announcement of the general election, the Cardiff West Labour party would have been entitled to select their own preferred candidate to replace him; but now that Parliament has been prorogued, I understand that Labour party rules allow party HQ in London to impose their own choice of candidate.

If I’m wrong about that, maybe some kind and knowledgeable person will enlighten me?

hdavies15
hdavies15
15 days ago
Reply to  John Ellis

Seems like the local party activists have been blindsided either by H.Q, or Brennan, or both. Also the rules as they stand are always going to work against local choice. This urge to centralise everything within parties is a nasty anti democratic trend.

John Ellis
John Ellis
15 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

That’s how it looks on the face of it, for sure.

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