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Former First Minister regrets lack of female candidates for Welsh Labour leadership election

22 Dec 2023 5 minute read
The former First Minister Carwyn Jones. Picture by The National Assembly (CC BY 2.0).

Luke James

Former First Minister Carwyn Jones says Welsh Labour cannot accept another all male leadership contest.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gethin and Education Minister Jeremy Miles will be the only names on the ballot paper in the election of Mark Drakeford’s successor as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister.

When Labour members receive their ballot papers next February, it will be the first time since Rhodri Morgan’s coronation in 2000 that they will not have the option of voting for a woman leader.

In an interview with Nation.Cymru this week, Jones said: “I do regret the fact that we don’t have a female candidate.

“Clearly that’s not something that can be allowed to continue in the years to come and I think that’s something we need to reflect on as a party.”

Jones replaced Morgan in 2009 after coming through a three-way contest which included former Business Minister Edwina Hart, who came second ahead of former Education Minister Huw Lewis.

And, when he stood down in 2018, current Health Minister Eluned Morgan was on the ballot paper alongside Drakeford and Gething.

Encouragement

Morgan and Delyn MS Hannah Blythyn said they had received encouragement from within the party to stand for the vacancy created by Drakeford’s retirement but decided not to put their names forward.

Morgan said her “unwavering focus” was on steering the NHS through the winter, while Blythyn said “in politics as in life, timing is everything.” Morgan has backed Gething while Blythyn is supporting Miles.

The two men contesting the Labour leadership this time were both given their first experience in government by Jones, leaving the former First Minister with a difficult choice.

“I’m undecided at the moment,” Jones said when asked who he would be backing. “They both have their different qualities and I’m looking forward to seeing how they perform in the hustings.”

The question of which candidate would provide ‘clear red water’ between Cardiff and Westminster was prominent when Jones stood to be Welsh Labour leader in 2009.

With Labour expected to regain power at the next UK general election, it is a theme which is expected to feature again in this campaign.

Constructive discussions

But Mr Jones believes “times have changed” and that the next Welsh Labour leader “would be looking forward to being able to have a constructive discussion with the Prime Minister in London.”

“That would enable the funding for public services to come through that’s been needed for years,” he said.

Although Jones said immediate priority for an incoming Labour government at Westminster will be to “stabilise” the economy and public services, he was clear Keir Starmer should show there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I think the immediate priority will be that we deal with the scarcity of funding that is coming from Whitehall,” said the former Bridgend MS. “The situation is awful and it’s very difficult for Mark and his colleagues.

“At the moment it’s very, very difficult and inevitably over the next few years there will be an emphasis on legislation, because there’s no cost to legislation particularly, rather than on looking at increasing spending commitments because the money isn’t there.

“I would like to see an incoming Labour government in Whitehall to at least show that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Spending cuts

The budget for 2024-25 announced by the Welsh Government this week included spending cuts across most departments as a result of a funding fall of £1.3 billion in real terms compared to the last budget.

One of the most contentious funding issues has been the UK Government’s decision to designate the HS2 rail scheme an England and Wales project, denying Wales an estimated £2 billion worth of consequential funding under the Barnett system.

Finance minister Rebecca Evans told the Senedd this week that Wales had “already lost £260 million in [Barnett] consequentials that should rightfully have come to Wales, and there’s no indication at the moment that the UK Government has any intention of providing that.”

Jones, who was part of Labour’s Brown Commission on the future of the UK, said the controversy showed the need for constitutional reform under the next Labour government.

“There will have to be constitutional change,” he said. “The is far too centralised still, particularly in England. What we absolutely need is a funding framework that’s transparent and isn’t capricious.

“Because what the Treasury have tended to do in the past few years is to invent reasons not to give Wales money when they give Scotland money, such as with HS2, or the £2.5 billion plus they’re happy to throw at Northern Ireland to pay for public services that should attract a Barnett consequential.

“Except they won’t do that and there’s no way of being able to challenge that decision. It’s that kind of transparency that’s needed in the future to make sure there’s a sense of fairness across the UK which isn’t there at the moment.”


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Steffan ap Huw
Steffan ap Huw
5 months ago

And how exactly do they intend to enforce not allowing such a situation to continue?

  1. Force a female to stand
  2. Postpone/cancel any election until a female candidate appears
  3. Have 50% of the male candidates identify as women, at least for the duration of the election

On a less facetious note: it was reported that the potential female candidates declined to stand, for fear of negative pressure/harassment. If that is the case, then that is truly concerning (if said pressure was due to their being female).

blc
blc
5 months ago
Reply to  Steffan ap Huw

Sadly the threat of harassment and abuse is more than just a threat, it’s been repeatedly demonstrated to be a reality. I can totally understand why anyone, man or woman, would decline to stand when faced with that. Things like gender or minority quotas for candidates are always a highly contentious issue, and there isn’t a simple answer. A better solution is to address the reasons that people decline to stand, but that’s a long and hard process with no real finish line. When the leader of the opposition on the Senedd is happy to make misogynistic remarks about Senedd… Read more »

anon
anon
5 months ago

i suspect it’s easier to work out why there are o woman candidates if you’re a woman in politics. a report by Plaid Cymru , rugby, football all show deep seated sexism and misogyny in our country. Coupled with the ‘trans women are women’ mantra that all parties except the conservatives spout then it’s easy to see what the problem is. Steffan ap Huw – point 3 is Mark Drakesford position. Let’s hope with a change of leadership we get a change of position on this nonsense. vote for reality.

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago

Big problem for all political parties, even Tories, who spend so much time trying to dodge an imaginary bullet – gender equality, orientation, race, religion etc. Real problem is the lack of well rounded talent, male or female. So many grey men and equally dull women to choose from.

Richard H
Richard H
5 months ago

Carwyn’s support for Deryn is (of course) legendary.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
5 months ago

I would have thought that he should be praising Eluned Morgan for putting aside ambition to oversee the nhs.
I’m no fan, but i respect her for this – Carwyn should too.

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Isn’t it possible that she knows the NHS mess is beyond her so the entirety of the “Wales mess” is one she has to forego, and let some other sucker inherit it?

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