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Labour Party members in iconic Welsh seat ‘feel marginalised and disenfranchised’

13 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Nick Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent. Photo Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

Martin Shipton

Labour members in arguably the most totemic constituency in Wales have said they feel marginalised and disenfranchised by the party since they passed a motion of no confidence in their local MP.

The Blaenau Gwent seat was known as Ebbw Vale when it was represented by Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health in the post-war Labour government who founded the NHS.

After Bevan died in 1960 it was represented by Michael Foot for 32 years. Foot was a prominent left-wing intellectual who led the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.

Disarray

Yet despite its proud history, Blaenau Gwent Constituency Labour Party (CLP) is now in some disarray, not having met since October 2023 when at its final meeting before boundary changes members passed a motion of no confidence in MP Nick Smith.

Nation.Cymru was sent the minutes of the meeting where the motion was passed. They stated: “The motion was moved and seconded and the Chair opened the floor for discussion. Some members expressed a sense of conflict that they agreed with the motion and the strength of feeling amongst members but also felt that the priority needed to be getting the Tories out.

“There was a general feeling of a lack of confidence in the MP’s acknowledgement and representation of members’ views. Comments made included members saying they didn’t feel they could knock doors for the MP and that the CLP needed a candidate that it could get behind in the election. A member read out a communication from the MP sending apologies to the meeting as he was campaigning in Tamworth [where a Parliamentary by-election was due to take place]. A vote on the motion of no confidence was taken. Some 16 members voted in favour, six against and there were three abstentions.”

‘Photo opportunities’

A longstanding member of Blaenau Gwent CLP, who did not wish to be named, told us at the time: “People on the left in the local party have been unhappy with Nick Smith for a long time, but now he has opponents on the right who are against him too. He doesn’t seem to be interested in the views of ordinary members and a lot of his local activity seems to be geared to photo opportunities. There’s unhappiness that he has been reselected automatically for the expanded seat of Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney.”

Mr Smith has been the local MP since 2010. The motion was passed weeks after he was promoted to the opposition front bench as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

A number of members of Blaenau Gwent CLP have contacted us to express their unhappiness that the local party has not been functioning properly for months.

One told us: “There hasn’t been a meeting since October, when the motion of no confidence in Nick Smith was passed. That was the last meeting of the old Blaenau Gwent party before it expanded because of the boundary changes [under which the number of MPs representing Wales is going down from 40 to 32].

“Blaenau Gwent is taking in the Rhymney part of the Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney seat represented by Gerald Jones. There’s a transition team managing the merger, but the membership of it was imposed by Welsh Labour. It excluded the Chair of Blaenau Gwent CLP, but includes Tyrone Powell, who is Gerald Jones’ partner and is from the Rhymney part of the new seat.

“It’s been a bit of a stitch-up and because meetings haven’t been called we’ve been marginalised from the party. Until meetings are held we can’t nominate members of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee or for the party leadership. There’s a widespread view that Nick Smith and Welsh Labour have engineered this situation. Tyrone Powell is effectively running the show, but the members have been excluded.”

Rankles

Another member of the local party said: “It still rankles that Nick Smith was reselected automatically as the parliamentary candidate for the general election. Many of the members weren’t able to take part in the decision because it was said that their branches weren’t functioning as they should. But meetings could have been organised.”

Asked why Tyrone Powell was able to exert so much power, another member of the local party said: “Because he is backed by Welsh Labour. The whole thing has been an utter disaster.”

Welsh Labour referred us to UK Labour, a spokeswoman for which said: “There are significant changes to Welsh CLPs with a 25% reduction in seats, this has created significant organisational challenges to every constituency party. Transitional processes were put in place as CLPs set up the necessary structures to facilitate fully functioning, democratic local parties. Transitional officers are temporary, appointed by the NEC. MPs have no role in this process.”

A Welsh Labour source said the composition of the transition team had been decided by a number of factors, including gender balance.

Mr Smith was invited to comment but did not respond to our message.


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Count yourself lucky. We ended up losing our labour MP for a Tory one that ran sugar daddy websites and crashed cars into telegraph poles.

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Oh dear, I do hope the telegraph poles are OK

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

A nomination being stitched up and a candidate effectively imposed on a unhappy local membership – about the norm for the labour party in Wales.

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Never mind the members, how do the constituents feel?
Let’s keep our eyes on the ultimate purpose.

Poppy G
Poppy G
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Someone here is being dishonest, you’d think Martin Shipton would understand politics better.
All Labour CLP’s voted to reselect or not reselect their current MPs last summer.
Nick Smith was reselected through a democratic vote. No one was “automatically reselected”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Poppy G
Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

This looks like the sort of stitch up engineered by keir starmer and david evans that has been happening over the border.

Poppy G
Poppy G
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

The CLP had their say last summer and reselected him through a vote. It’s only a stitch up in the same way that Trump was stitched up. Basically “we didn’t like the result and now we’re going to lie about it in the hope of over-turning democracy.”

Pop
Pop
1 month ago

He was reselected by the CLP last summer, same as every other Labour candidate.
This is a load of grousing by a small handful of Corbynista clowns.
Shame on you for becoming their PR firm Martin.
This is now the THIRD story you’ve run attacking Nick Smith in recent weeks including one on Israel. Agenda much?

Last edited 1 month ago by Pop

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