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Labour official who misused online system to promote Vaughan Gething is employed by MP Chris Bryant

27 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Vaughan Gething with Labour supporters at Cardiff University after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader. Photo Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

A local Labour activist who defied instructions not to use a party communications system to promote the leadership candidacy of Vaughan Gething is an employee of Rhondda MP Sir Chris Bryant, it has emerged.

Nation.Cymru has reported how the Organise system was meant to be neutral, but how it was misused to assist Mr Gething’s campaign.

Local Labour parties are able to use Organise to contact their members, but it was made clear to those controlling the messages at a local level that they were not to use it to support Mr Gething or his rival Jeremy Miles during the Welsh Labour leadership election campaign.

Nation.Cymru was sent a message distributed to all users across Welsh Labour’s Organise network on March 12, just two days before the deadline to vote.

Inappropriate use

With the content heading “Inappropriate use of Labour Party Systems”, the message stated: “We would like to remind all Organise users that the use of Labour Party systems to promote a leadership candidate or send emails on behalf of campaign teams is strictly prohibited. Any use of this nature will be seen as a serious breach of your use of Organise and will result in your account being suspended and possibly further action. Thanks, Welsh Labour.”

We were also sent a message distributed via Organise to members of the Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare Constituency Labour Party (the new seat’s actual title is Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon) on January 7.

It read: “Dear [named member], Vaughan Gething will be meeting Labour members in Merthyr as part of his leadership campaign, focusing on his policy pledges and vision for his leadership.
“It will be at 6.30pm on Saturday, January 13th and will be finished by 8.00pm. It will be held at: Redhouse Cymru, Old Town Hall, High St, Merthyr Tydfil, CF47 8AE.

“Please email [email protected] to confirm your attendance. Kind regards, Matthew Rees, Secretary for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare CLP.”

We have established that Mr Rees is employed by Sir Chris – a member of Sir Keir Starmer’s front bench as Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital – at his constituency office in Tonypandy.

Message

We phoned Mr Rees at the office, but he wouldn’t take our call. A colleague working in Sir Chris’s office gave us an email address for Mr Rees. We sent him this message: “We tried to call you yesterday in Chris Bryant’s office, where you work, but you wouldn’t come to the phone. We are now contacting you at the email address given to us by one of your colleagues in Chris’s office.

“Can you explain why in your capacity as the CLP Secretary in Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare (sic) you used the Labour Party communication tool Organise to promote a meeting for Vaughan Gething during the Welsh Labour leadership campaign? Organise Users were, it seems, told explicitly that Organise should not be used to promote the candidacy of one or other of the candidates.

“Did you send out via Organise any other material promoting Vaughan Gething, and if so what?

“Has any action been taken against you by Welsh Labour as a result of your actions in this context?”

Mr Rees did not respond.

A grassroots Welsh Labour member who did not wish to be identified said: “As an employee of a senior MP, Matthew Rees has no excuse not to be fully aware of the rules. The misuse of Organise appears to be another example of the way in which the odds were stacked against Jeremy Miles. The party establishment seems to have been determined to give Vaughan Gething an unfair advantage. It was certainly no level playing field.

Welsh Labour

Welsh Labour has not responded to questions we have sent to its press office about the misuse of Organise.

We have received no response from Welsh Labour.

During the leadership campaign – and separate to the scandal relating to the £200k donation given to Mr Gething by a convicted criminal – there was concern over the fact that Mr Gething had privileged access to union affiliated voters belonging to the so-called “Big Six” unions whose political committees decided to nominate him.

In one instance, when it appeared that Mr Miles was going to win the Unite nomination, the union’s “Regional Secretary” Peter Hughes intervened, misquoting a union rule, to ensure the nomination went to Mr Gething.

Organise is not the only Labour Party communications tool that has been misused. Scotland Yard’s cybercrime unit is investigating voter fraud allegations involving the use of election software called Anonyvoter by party officials during selection contests.

The investigation focuses on Croydon East Constituency Labour Party in London. Anonyvoter, which allows Labour Party officials to alter party member contact details for example, was also used in last year’s selection contest between two sitting MPs for the right to represent the new seat of Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon. Left winger Beth Winter lost narrowly to Gerald Jones.

Some Welsh Labour members were also surprised during the recent leadership campaign to receive campaign material from both candidates – and from former Labour leader Lord Neil Kinnock – emanating from email addresses apparently linked to the independent electoral services company that was running the election.

One party member told us: “I was very surprised to receive a message from Neil Kinnock using an email address linked to Civica Election Services. I’ve also learnt that not every party member received such a message from him. It all seems very murky to me.”


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HarrisR
HarrisR
13 days ago

A critic once described jazz as “the sound of surprise”. The corrupt sound of the Welsh Labour machine in action down through the decades to date is “no surprise”.

Why vote
Why vote
13 days ago

Bet this will be classed as an error or mistake or accident, and no further action taken, is this how the labour party now operates ignore any rules and do as they please. Should be dismissed and never employed in any position in the labour party again.

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
12 days ago
Reply to  Why vote

When you’re ordered to do something, who’s more to blame, the soldier for carrying out the command or the officer for issuing it?

Maesglas
Maesglas
13 days ago

Bryant’s sanctimonious manner in the UK Parliament tells us so much about how Starmer’s Labour will govern if given the chance. Hypocrites.

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
12 days ago
Reply to  Maesglas

Whilst not a member of English Labour or Welsh Labour any more, it strikes me that the Party is not awake enough to see that this kind of behaviour goes down very badly with the electorate. What I had hoped to see was that when Mr Gethin won the election he would have stepped up to the plate and said “I have reflected on the £200k issue and have decided that I should have returned it. I have now arranged for that to happen. Given what the Tory Party are doing with their tainted donations I think we need to… Read more »

A Evans
A Evans
11 days ago

And the Senedd corruption continues!

John Dakin
John Dakin
7 days ago

Bryant is as bent as a corkscrew – a good bed mate for Gething !

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