Labour council says two candidates need to ‘come clean’ about their political allegiances
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
The Labour Party in Swansea has queried the political allegiance of two candidates in the forthcoming council elections, and claimed the Conservatives appeared to be “in disarray”.
Labour cited a leaflet about Gordon Walker, who is standing for re-election as in Independent in Clydach, in which he encourages electors to vote for a “dream team” comprising him, Brigitte Rowlands and Matthew Bailey.
The leaflet did not say anything about the other two’s political allegiances. Mrs Rowlands is currently a Conservative councillor representing the adjacent Mawr ward, which is merging with Clydach and two other constituencies.
Mr Bailey is a Clydach community councillor who has very recently switched from the Tories to Independent.
Swansea Labour leader Rob Stewart said Mrs Rowlands and Mr Bailey needed to “come clean” about their affiliation after having appeared on Conservative election materials. He alleged they had either “jumped ship because of the devastating Tory cost of living crisis and party gate scandal” or were trying to “hoodwink” voters.
Labour candidates for the Clydach seat, Wez Morgan, Sue Powell and Dylan Williams, said “the local Tories appear to be in disarray” and claimed people “know these (two) candidates are committed right-wing Tories”.
Mrs Rowlands, who is standing as a Conservative candidate for Clydach, said Labour had made a “very inaccurate” assumption which was misleading to the public.
She said Mr Walker had contacted her about her election plans and said he would really like to work with her if they both got elected.
“I said, ‘Great yes,’ and he said he would tell his supporters – and that’s basically it,” said Mrs Rowlands.
She said she hadn’t taken any notice of the fact that Mr Walker’s leaflet didn’t mention she was a Conservative.
“I am not that politically-minded – it really does not matter to me,” she said. “I don’t see the harm in it. My big thing is to represent the people I’m meant to represent. That’s how I have always been.”
Mr Bailey posted a message on Facebook on March 19 to say he would be standing as an Independent candidate for Clydach. On March 24 he published a longer post about his decision. He said he had been a Conservative party member for two years and had sent out leaflets last November stating this.
Mr Bailey said the forthcoming rise in National Insurance rates and the get-togethers in Westminster during the Covid pandemic were “hard pills to swallow” and had prompted him to have a change of heart.
‘Promises of hot air’
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service said that he was disappointed but not surprised by Labour’s comments, and that he felt being a prospective Independent councillor would remove politics from the role and help ensure he put the people of Clydach first.
Mr Bailey also claimed the Labour candidates had “miraculously appeared” a couple of months before the May 5 election with “promises of hot air”.
Earlier this month, council leader Mr Stewart urged councillors and candidates to abide by the Welsh Local Government Association’s fair pledge campaign. Abuse and threats should not be tolerated, he said, and campaigning should be positive based on merit rather than personal attacks and smears.
Mrs Rowlands said she felt the comments by Mr Stewart about the leaflet had “torn up” the fair campaign pledge.
Clydach will have three councillors for the next five years instead of the current two following a review of ward boundaries in Swansea by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Mr Walker about the leaflet but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.
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