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Fears of ‘stitch-up’ in selection of Welsh Labour general election candidate

15 May 2023 5 minute read
Beth Winter and Gerald Jones

Martin Shipton

A major row has broken out within Welsh Labour after its ruling body voted to impose an accelerated timescale on a selection contest between two sitting MPs to see which of them will be the party’s general election candidate in a new merged constituency.

Currently Beth Winter is the MP for Cynon Valley, while Gerald Jones represents Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

But under boundary changes that will reduce the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32, the seats are effectively being merged into a new constituency called Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon.

At an extraordinary meeting of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee on Saturday, its members narrowly voted to impose a curtailed selection process under which the campaign will last for just 16 days and there will be no in-person hustings meetings at which the two MPs can state their case and respond to grassroots members’ questions. There will also be no automatic right for members to vote by post, with the preferred method of voting being online.

Ms Winter is the only Labour MP from Wales who belongs to the left wing Socialist Campaign Group and her supporters believe the decision to impose a shortened selection process amounts to a stitch-up designed to install Mr Jones, a Shadow Wales Office Minister, in the new seat.

Amendments

It is understood that Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford backed amendments that would have extended the contest to 28 days and allowed for an in-person hustings meeting. The amendments, moved by the trade union Unison, did not pass.

The call for a 28-day contest was narrowly defeated while the vote requiring an in-person hustings was tied at 13 votes each. The chair refused to use his casting vote and the amendment therefore fell.

Mr Drakeford spoke saying he wanted as many members to be part of the process as possible, which is why he backed the amendments.

After the meeting Ms Winter posted a statement on social media which said: “I will be fighting to win Labour’s selection for the new Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon seat and expect to be the party’s candidate at the general election. But I regret that the Welsh Labour Executive has restricted the rights of party members. This is undemocratic.

“There will be no branch nominations, no affiliate nominations, no in-person hustings to attend, meet candidates and vote at, and the process must be completed within such a short time. The process agreed tramples on the rights of members in Merthyr and Cynon to take part in an inclusive and collective decision-making process.

“I have serious concerns about the legitimacy and fairness of this process and am therefore considering all options open to me at this stage.

“The party’s online voting tool has faced criticism for a lack of transparency in selections elsewhere, so I expect an independent online ballot provider to be used. In addition, the option of postal votes is a must for all members, as is the opportunity to participate in in-person hustings.

“I am standing on a platform of a socialist vision for the Valleys, to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and end in-work poverty, tax the rich to fund our public services and bring rail, water, energy and mail back into the public sector, as well as tackling the climate emergency. I will be a voice for our Valleys.”

No urgency

A Welsh Labour source who supports Ms Winter told us: “There is no urgency to select a new candidate. The boundary changes haven’t even been approved by Parliament yet. It was previously thought that the selection process would go ahead after October. Following the recent local election results in England, there’s even less likelihood of an early general election, which will probably take place in autumn 2024.

“There’s no doubt that rushing the selection through is designed to favour Gerald Jones. Beth has not had the opportunity to meet party members from Merthyr, of whom we understand there are slightly more than in Cynon. Members from all parts of the new constituency should be able to make an informed choice, having had a chance to meet both candidates and question them.”

Another party source who was at the meeting on Saturday which approved the curtailed selection process said: “The arguments put forward by those proposing the new process were very weak. They were claiming it was important to make a selection quickly to avoid divisions in the party. In fact, pushing this undemocratic process through has in itself created more division. The reality is that they want to oust a hardworking left-wing MP who supports radical policies.”

Hustings

Amendments put forward by the trade union Unison called for a 28-day contest and an in-person hustings with a one member-one vote ballot. The call for a 28-day contest was narrowly defeated while the vote requiring an in-person hustings was tied at 13 votes each. The chair refused to use a casting vote and the amendment therefore fell.

Mr Drakeford spoke saying he wanted as many members to be part of the process as possible, which is why he backed the amendment.

Former UK Labour deputy leader John McDonnell tweeted: “Full support for @BethWinterMP, one of the hardest working MPs I’ve ever met. Imposing an unprecedented selection process that will restrict the rights of party members to participate & on such a tight timetable,not allowing for in-person hustings meetings is clearly unacceptable.”

Cllr Anthony Hunt, the leader of Torfaen council and chair of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee, has been invited to comment.


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George Thomas
George Thomas
10 months ago

“But under boundary changes that will reduce the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32”

This is still so extraordinary to me. Deny us HS2 devolution so our rail system suffers from underinvestment, watch employers move out, watch workers follow them and then reduce our voice in Westminster due to smaller populations.

Anyway, regarding topic at hand, it shouldn’t matter what policies each candidate has, both should be allowed to speak to as many members as possible over reasonable time frame to make it an informed choice.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
10 months ago

Internal manoeuvrings to prevent a socialist being selected as a labour candidate – now there’s a surprise! Must have only happened about a hundred times before in Labour’s recent history lol. Just why any socialist in Wales would be a member of Starmer’s tory-lite labour party is one of the great mysteries? (Almost as inexplicable as people who purport to support Welsh indy belonging to a party in Wales led by Mark ‘i love the Union’ Drakeford)

Last edited 10 months ago by Leigh Richards
George Thomas
George Thomas
10 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Presumably on hope that it’s better to be in tent, even if next to the door, rather than on the outside.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
10 months ago

So the purge of the left continues, I can really see Labour grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory in next years GE

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
10 months ago

I don’t know what the fuss is about. Is the “Socialist Campaign Group” in favour of independence or a bland, colourless workers dream state?
Anyway, so far as Westminster and Welsh MPs are concerned, when I was in school 32 times nothing was nothing,

Phil
Phil
10 months ago

…and they accuse Rees-Mogg of gerrymandering?

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