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Concerns raised as Welsh Labour selects candidate with no local connections to stand at general election

04 May 2023 6 minute read
Henry Tufnell with Labour leader Keir Starmer

Martin Shipton

Concerns have been expressed about how a member of a prominent landowning family in England came to be selected as a Welsh Labour general election candidate.

Henry Tufnell will stand in the new seat of Mid and South Pembrokeshire after surprisingly defeating two well-known women who have stood in the area before.

The assumption had been that former MEP and current Cardiff councillor Jackie Jones and Philippa Thompson, a former aide to the now Health Minister Eluned Morgan, would battle it out for the nomination, but Mr Tufnell beat them both.

Some were also surprised that long-serving local councillor Tom Tudor and the prominent journalist and author Paul Mason failed to make the shortlist.

Last autumn Mr Tufnell announced that he wanted to stand in the Essex seat of Colchester, but didn’t make the long list.

More recently he has been spending time at a second home owned by his mother near St Davids, from where he ran his campaign to be selected.

A local Labour source confirmed the accuracy of a tweet made by political journalist Michael Crick on his Twitter account Tomorrow’s MPs: “Mid & South Pembrokeshire. I hear of unhappiness at how unknown outsider Henry Tufnell won this selection against two well-known local contenders. One source writes of ‘lost laptop, missing postal votes, wrong membership list sent out & 167 members out of 500 voted’.”

Our party source said: “It’s true that a laptop with data about the local membership went missing, that a large number of postal votes were sent out but not returned, that old membership lists that didn’t take account of the changing boundary were issued originally and that little more than a third of the local membership voted.

“It’s possible there will be a formal complaint to the party about how the selection was handled, although I don’t think one has been made yet.”

Second home

The source added: “Henry Tufnell has only been on the scene for a short period of time, has no local connection apart from the fact that his mother Rosina Jane Tufnell, who in 2021 was the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, owns a second home in the constituency, and comes from a family that has a big landed estate in Gloucestershire with a manor house and a number of farms and houses on it. It certainly seems an unlikely background for a would-be Labour MP.”

In fact Mr Tufnell’s father Mark Tufnell is the current President of the Country Land and Business Association – until recently known as the Country Landowners’ Association – which represents the wealthiest of farmers and members of the landed gentry.

Mark Tufnell owns Calmsden Farms, a 2,000-acre estate in the Cotswolds, one of the most expensive agricultural areas in England.

Henry Tufnell qualified as a barrister in September 2020 and joined chambers in London.

He no longer practises as a barrister.

In a short biography on his campaign website he states: “I have been coming to Pembrokeshire since I was a small child with my mum, who was born in Pontypridd and grew up in south Wales. I am originally from a farming family and I am now based outside St Davids.

“Professionally I trained and practised as a barrister before leaving to work as an organiser at a grassroots trade union.”

Trade Union

Mr Tufnell, who is 30 years of age, has been working for a union that is not affiliated to the TUC or the Labour Party called the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers’ Union, which was launched in 2016. From a statement on its website, it appears that it was founded by some disgruntled members of the much bigger unions Unite and Unison, both of which are affiliated to the TUC and the Labour Party.

In June 2021 Mr Tufnell married his fiancee, Poppy Elisabeth Charlotte Reed Rimington-Pounder, in All Saints Church, North Cerney, Gloucestershire. The wedding was announced in the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph.

When we contacted Mr Tufnell via his campaign website, he sent us a message stating: “Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, I am unavailable to speak over the phone at the moment but if you send me a list of questions then I will respond in writing.”

We sent him these questions:

“Clearly some people have concerns about the process that resulted in your selection. Do you share such worries or are you satisfied that there are no grounds for concern? Were you surprised by the low turnout of local party members?

“Some were also surprised that you, as an outsider, won. What do you attribute your success to?

“How high would you rate your chances of winning the seat at the general election?

“You come from a very wealthy background – your family owns an estate in Gloucestershire and he is the President of the CLA, an organisation not known for its ideological closeness to the Labour Party. With such a background, do you think you are able to empathise with the concerns of ordinary people in a cost-of-living crisis?

“It’s been suggested that your association with the constituency comes from the fact that your mother owns a second home there. Is that right?

“You weren’t a practising barrister for long. Why not?

“You have been working for a union – is that in a voluntary capacity (I notice from its website that it has been recruiting volunteer organisers)?

“The union concerned is not affiliated to the TUC, and seems to have been formed following some arguments involving Unite and Unison. How much do you know about that, and how did you come to work for it?

“How has undertaking such work broadened your outlook?

“How are you supporting yourself financially?

“You tried to get selected in Colchester, but didn’t make it to the long list. What went wrong there?”

Mr Tufnell did not respond, despite a reminder in which we encouraged him to be candid.

Boundary changes

The new Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat is being created following boundary changes from parts of the existing constituencies Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire. His most likely Conservative opponent will be the current Preseli Pembrokeshire MP and former Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb.

On current polling figures, it has been projected as a Labour gain.

Plaid Cymru councillor Michael Williams from Tenby in the new constituency said: “The local Labour Party must be bereft of talent if they have to pick somebody like this as their Westminster candidate.

“He has nothing in common with the people of Pembrokeshire or Wales and only went for selection here because he couldn’t get selected for a seat in Essex.

“Between 1992 and 2010 we were represented by Labour’s Nick Ainger, who was a hardworking local MP. Many people will be deeply disappointed at the selection of this new candidate.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
9 months ago

Labour, a Saesneg party for the Saesneg establishment.

russell
russell
9 months ago

The party’s leader is a knight of the realm FFS!

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
9 months ago

Good work, Ships!
I wonder if Plaid can grab enough of his votes, and allow Crabb to sneak back in?!?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
9 months ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

I’m from Pembrokeshire originally and I can tell you this will go down like a lead balloon. Labour have already lost this seat to the tories and the election hasn’t even been called yet.

Unfortunately the Labour voters are too stupid to show their contempt for Labour for doing this and won’t switch their vote to Plaid.

DAVID JONES
DAVID JONES
8 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

There is one here who will NOT vote Labour this time round. If Plaid can put up a local, they will get my vote – Labour certainly wont.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
9 months ago

Not sure what the all fuss is about. The Labour Party in Wales is a unionist party, as long as Mr Tufnell is British it isn’t a problem for them. Labour are full of sycophantic, cap doffers so a wealthy land owner is right up their street.

Last edited 9 months ago by Cwm Rhondda
Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
9 months ago

Toris coch unoliaethol yw’r blaid lafur. Cyfalaf cyn cymunedau. Pres cyn lles. Croes ar gefn Cymru ers canrif.

Iago Prydderch
Iago Prydderch
9 months ago

The Labour Party, along with the Conservatives, have always shown contempt for Wales and always will. Since the electing of the Scottish Keir Hardie the Welsh working class keep voting for this British political party in the mistaken belief that it works in their interest. When are they going to learn that there is no difference between Labour and the Conservatives!

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Iago Prydderch

Correct Iago, the purge & the lurch to the right by the UK labour party continuous apace under Starmer, as said previously, Tories with red rosette’s. Sunak gets by on he’s not Boris or truss, Starmer gets by on he’s not tory in the two party chumocracy that is Westminster. Starmer is obviously trying to appeal to the “red wall” voters lost to Labour at the last election & disaffected Tory voters in the shires by pandering to their centrist right wing leanings. A fly in his ointment would be a socialist leaning Cymru ( even though Cymru returns a… Read more »

Riki
Riki
9 months ago
Reply to  Iago Prydderch

English political party! British (Britons) culturally and historically means the Welsh. People in Wales still fail to realise how you gain independence from the UK. You remember who you are and explain to anyone and everyone how the English are national frauds who are playing pretend. They are Anglo, so Germanic! It is WE who are British.

Erisian
Erisian
9 months ago

If Welsh Labour is to do it’s best for Wales it’s high time they split from English Labour. This is an insult. Our constituencies are not in Starmers gift.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
9 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

Welsh Labour is an oxymoron.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
9 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

I wrote a letter to Welsh Labour and got a reply from Newcastle in England.

The people of Wales should concentrate their vote at the Westminster general elections for PLAID CYMRU.

George Bodley
George Bodley
9 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

Exactly welsh labour are different to little englander labour those differences were obvious when Rhodri morgan was first minister he took no crap from english labour and thats how it should be .I remember when English labour parachuted their little englander into Blaiana Gwent he had his arse handed to him and labour lost to an independent they (little englander labour )never learn.

David Lloyd Owen
David Lloyd Owen
9 months ago

He is a bit bashful about his background. His grandfather, Carleton John Richard Tufnell,went to Eton and Trinity, Cantab. One can read more about him and his family on a web site called “The Peerage”. It turns out that Henry went to Radley and Brown, the former is opne of England’s leading public schools (fees currently £44,550 per year) the latter being an Ivy-League college. Its good to know that Labour is parachuting the right kind of chap for South Pembroksha.

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago

It would be dangerous in the extreme to reject people just because of the school they went to or where there family have come from.

I don’t think this is the issue. I think it’s that the vote didn’t seem to happen properly, that they don’t seem to have any local connection and they haven’t explained why they can relate to local people or what they want to do for local people when choices become difficult.

Jo Jones
Jo Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  George Thomas

I’m sure there are plenty of quite acceptable candidates from the local area, with good educational and working backgrounds who have excelled despite not being recipients of private education who are more representative of the constituency.

I’m sure with the ongoing legal aid crisis, the Reed Rimington-Pounder Tufnells can find better ways of serving the nation with their undoubted gifts.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
9 months ago

You ain’t no socialist, bruv!

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
9 months ago

Don’t worry bois, Labour will lead us to independence.
How far right do Labour have to go before the idiots who vote for them wake up?

Last edited 9 months ago by The Original Mark
David Charles pearn
David Charles pearn
9 months ago

Let’s hope and pray they do

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago

I know there is a lot of anger but can we at least ask the following question: If number of MP’s representing Wales is shrinking, due to boundary changes, and people without local connection are standing, what happens to Wales? I don’t care about them being wealthy really or who they’re married to. What are their values? Why do they think they can speak for Wales effectively? If it comes down to competing interests between where they’re representing and where they’re born, what would they do? For example HS2 being devolved costs UK tax payers but is significant for Welsh… Read more »

David Charles pearn
David Charles pearn
9 months ago

This is another reason I will never vote labour again.

Riki
Riki
9 months ago

Easy way to stop this from happening, it happens by being a grown up country and having a hard border which will require the English to have work visas. Like every other self respecting nation. People who aren’t residents or natives should not be allowed to stand in any government position! And people wonder why Wales is suffering with so much Stockholm syndrome, why do we allow people from England to interfere with our future?!

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago
Reply to  Riki

A hard border between England and Wales is an extreme form of independence and Wales isn’t prepared for it in any way.

Independence is better served by EU sort of open border, at least in the short to medium term.

George Bodley
George Bodley
9 months ago
Reply to  George Thomas

If Wales was to rejoin the EU that opinion would be academic ,No EU member would tolerate an open border to be exploited by a non member.

Jo Jones
Jo Jones
9 months ago

Radley College, Brown University – real man of the valleys isn’t he lol

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago
Reply to  Jo Jones

Are people born in the valleys incapable of going to Oxbridge or the international equivalent?

I’m not sure “Valley’s born can’t get into a good school” is the statement you want to be making.

Jo Jones
Jo Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  George Thomas

That isn’t the statement I’m making and only someone willfully dense would think that it was.

He wasn’t born in valleys, he isn’t from Wales and he has a tenuous connection to the local community. That is a fact.

I really don’t hold the pipelines of Oxbridge or international equivalents in the same high regard as you do I’m afraid, and support MP’s chosen by local members rather than parachuted in to come from a variety of educational and work backgrounds.

Owain S
Owain S
9 months ago
Reply to  Jo Jones

You say you ‘support MP’s chosen by local members’ – well that’s exactly whats happened here! Hes been democratically elected in a free and fair process. We can resent the parties/unions etc that chose to endorse him over local candidates, but fact of the matter is he was nevertheless chosen over other candidates by local constituents.

George Bodley
George Bodley
9 months ago
Reply to  Jo Jones

Good response

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
9 months ago

Is Keir Starmer for real???

That could have been a winnable seat for them. Why irritate the locals?

Again, he has disrespected Wales.

Andy Williams
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

He doesn’t know where Wales is? Probably confused with the word Whales

The original mark
The original mark
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

The local politicos were possibly too left wing for starmers taste,

Andy Williams
9 months ago

Election after election, we vote for this shower. Welsh politics what a mess, Welsh Labour been in power in Cardiff Bay, for too long, do we vote in the Toxic Party? (Tories) I don’t think so, what’s left Plaid, enough said.

Owain S
Owain S
9 months ago

I’m not voting labour at this election for a host of reasons. But where my MP comes from, who his dad is, what his girlfriend’s full name is, and what school he was sent to, would never ever be one of those reasons. I just don’t see why any of it is relevant – surely the most important thing is what he believes in (continued union) not who he is. One question that I would be interested in seeing reader’s responses to, is whether they would prefer Tufnell over the current MP, Stephen Crabb, who has the complete opposite background… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago

Bit of a gift for Crabb this one. Are Plaid strong enough to take advantage and mop up votes ? Not likely!

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