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Row as Labour imposes general election candidate with no Welsh connection

31 May 2024 4 minute read
Torsten Bell. Image The Resolution Foundation

Martin Shipton

A row has erupted after the chief executive of a London-based think tank was made the general election candidate for a safe Labour seat in Wales.

Torsten Bell runs the Resolution Foundation, which researches issues relating to poverty. A panel appointed by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) has decided that he will be the party’s candidate in Swansea West on July 4.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the seat’s incumbent MP Geraint Davies would not be standing for re-election because complaints alleging that he had sexually harassed a number of women remained unresolved. In line with an election timetable decided by the NEC, the choice of a new candidate for Swansea West was taken out of the hands of the local constituency Labour party (CLP) and delegated to the NEC panel.

Rob Stewart

A Welsh Labour insider told us that Swansea council leader Rob Stewart was seen as the obvious local choice for the candidacy.

The insider told us: “There’s little doubt that Rob would have been the choice of the CLP if they had been making the decision. He’s widely respected as one of the best local government leaders in Wales, and when Geraint was suspended because of the allegations he was facing it was assumed Rob would be the automatic choice to be the new candidate and MP.”

However, NationCymru has been told there were moves behind the scenes to install Huw David, until recently the leader of Bridgend council, as the Swansea West candidate. That, however, came to nothing, and it later emerged that Mr Bell had been chosen.

Anger

The decision has been greeted with anger by some party members. Labour activist Estelle Hart, whose mother Edwina Hart is a former Welsh Government Economy Minister, expressed her disgust on the social media channel X, stating: “If what I’m hearing about Swansea West and the imposition of a candidate whose connection to Wales, let alone Swansea, seems to be can [he] point to it on a map, the party can actually f*** off for this election”.

Mr Bell’s Wikipedia entry contains nothing to suggest he has any connection to Wales. It states: “Torsten Bell (b. 1982) is the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, an economic think tank. He was appointed in 2015, having been Ed Miliband’s head of policy and a Treasury civil servant who became special adviser to [former Labour Chancellor] Alistair Darling.

Bell’s parents are Clem Henricson, a policy analyst and activist, and Bill Bell, an academic and children’s rights advocate. His twin brother, Olaf, is a civil servant. Bell has been associated with the coordination of policy developments for the Labour Party. He has received recognition across various factions within the party for his attention to detail.

“Bell writes regularly about poverty and inequality in the United Kingdom,about the North–South divide in England and the levelling-up policy of the British government. He described the September 2022 United Kingdom mini-budget [delivered by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng during the brief period Liz Truss was Prime Minister] as ‘the biggest unforced economic policy error of my lifetime’.

“In November 2022, Bell was appointed Honorary Professor at the UCL [University College London] Policy Lab. In September 2023, Bell was named as the 10th most powerful left wing figure in the UK by the New Statesman.”

‘Asset’

A Labour source said: “Some people will complain about the selection of a candidate with no real connection to Wales, but so far as the NEC is concerned Swansea West is a safe Labour seat and they can slot in a new candidate who they believe will be an asset to the parliamentary party, as well as being loyal, of course.

“The rules of the party give the NEC the power to select candidates when a seat becomes free close to a general election. In fact, one of the most important duties of the NEC is to ensure there is a Labour candidate in every seat in Britain.”

Asked whether Mr Bell has any connection with Swansea or Wales, the Labour source who tipped us off about his selection said: “Not that I am aware of. He is very impressive.”

In 2019 Mr Davies had a majority of 8,116 over the second-placed Tory candidate. The seat has been in Labour hands since 1964.

The NEC will also be choosing a new candidate for Cardiff West, whose long serving MP Kevin Brennan says he decided over the Bank Holiday weekend not to seek re-election.


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
6 days ago

Nothing new here I remember when Peter Hain was slotted into Neath in about 1990 when there were plenty of local candidates.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 days ago

It stinks of the Alun Michael imposition all over again. This seems to be the direction of travel now which is why, like Michael to Morgan and the establishment of ‘clear red water’ between UK and Welsh Labour, we need Gething out and a clear red water First Minister in with Independence at least in mind and preferably actively considered. If this does not happen, Cymru is a sitting duck awaiting the ideological shotgun of the Tories upon their return. Welsh Labour MUST protect our country from that.

Gareth
Gareth
6 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Wasnt it Labour who gave us the inferior devolution settlement, compared to what was given to Scotland and N Ireland, and even Manchester and London, and also Labour MP ‘s who oppose devolution of policing and justice, even though several independent reports have recommended it. Labour MP’s also supported the HS2 Eng/ Wal bill. We have a long wait ahead if we are to rely on a unionist party to put our interests first, I am sorry to say.

Welshman28
Welshman28
6 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

It was Labour who gave the inferior devolution settlement but they won’t talk about that now .

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
5 days ago
Reply to  Welshman28

Why not?

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
29 minutes ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

There can never be “clear red water” between UK and Welsh Labour, so long as “Welsh” Labour remains a part of UK Labour and “Welsh” Labour politicians put party before country. We don’t need the Tories back in power to await the “ideological” shotgun. UK Labour are also willing to pull the trigger which is why they are dealing with the situation by imposing a “compliant” First Minister. Good sign is that people in Wales are beginning to wake up but sadly, most people (including those complaining) will still vote for Bell. Perhaps best leave Gething where he is and… Read more »

Last edited 27 minutes ago by SundanceKid
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 days ago

Clark of Kent is going to be taught a lesson if he is not careful…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Let’s hope Rhun picked up a few teaching skills from his mother…

Nia James
Nia James
6 days ago

Labour is showing the electorate on a daily basis that they cannot be trusted. This candidate will become Viceroy for Swansea West and will lap up instructions from his London masters and mistresses. A shameful decision.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
23 minutes ago
Reply to  Nia James

Yes he will. And that’s exactly why he is there. The Labour “insider” says he is there because he is seen as an “asset” to parliamentary interests and is expected to remain “loyal”. Why do people think Labour are much different to the Tories? As the election approaches, the true colours are coming out.

Alun
Alun
6 days ago

Swansea West resident and they’ve genuinely lost my vote.

James William Soares Jones
James William Soares Jones
6 days ago

Not very respectful of Cymru as a nation. Mr. Bell should announce his new Welsh residency.

Another Richard
Another Richard
6 days ago

The BBC reported over a year ago that Geraint Davies would not be standing again. It seems remarkably slack of the Swansea West CLP not to have chosen a successor, given that an election this year has always been on the cards. They really have only themselves to blame that a candidate has now been imposed.

Martyn Young
Martyn Young
6 days ago

I don’t think they could select a new candidate until Geraint Davies officially stood down. It sounds like discussions were had within the local party to prepare for this but as Davies announced his decision not to stand only this week the rules state the NEC decides the candidate.

Erisian
Erisian
6 days ago

This is what you get when you have the Labour Party in Wales instead of the Welsh Labour Party you deserve.

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
6 days ago
Reply to  Erisian

I’d be happy for there to be a Labour Party in an independent Wales.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 days ago

If people don’t like him they can change the habits of a lifetime and boot him back up the M4 !

Riki
Riki
6 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Well that’s it – we shouldn’t have to! The UK isn’t a democracy and isn’t a country. Why oh why do the people of wales play their games, when we are at a clear disadvantage!

Frank
Frank
6 days ago

Is there a government representative or someone who is standing in the forthcoming election who is not connected to any dodgy business? It appears that dirt is constantly being dug up on a daily basis. Don’t forget we are expected to go out and vote for these people to represent us!!! Sorry, but I for one will not be wasting my time doing so. Until someone can prove themselves to me as being squeaky clean and genuinely concerned for my welfare I will give it a miss. However, having said that, if such a person really exists and is elected… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Don’t the freshers have ‘meet your sponsor/owner’ sessions on day one…

Blegywryd
Blegywryd
6 days ago

This is a foretaste of what will happen when the closed party list system comes into force. Selection of all Labour and Conservative Candidates will be entirely subject to diktat from the party hierarchies in London.

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
6 days ago

How can any Labour member complain? They know what their party is: an organised hypocrisy..

Adrian
Adrian
6 days ago

We in Neath have the good Welsh woman Christina Rees – well I say that, but I don’t think anyone’s seen or heard from her in about five years.

Davy jones
Davy jones
6 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

They suspended her to clear the way for Carolyn Harris

Alun
Alun
6 days ago

Job for life

Karl
Karl
6 days ago

Another iwn goal. To go with the dozens this year. Is Starmer a man who likes to lush the limits until ready to burst. His Tory red party is hard to even think to vote for already

CapM
CapM
6 days ago

A Labour source said “He is very impressive.”

Not impressive enough to be chosen as a Labour candidate for any constituency in England even with Labour 20 points ahead of the Tories in the polls.

Ali Morris
Ali Morris
6 days ago

As a Swansea West resident am utterly disgusted at what’s happened, but let’s be honest , I’m not surprised. Labour will not get my vote (and looking at the rest of the candidate list noone will). Labour in Wales, especially under Drakeford’s leadership has ruined the country and tried to make it into the wokest country in Europe. Instead we’re a laughing stock. Until the people of Wales stop doing what they’ve always done – voting for this lot of racketeerers and grifters, then nothing will ever change.

Gareth W
Gareth W
6 days ago

While I agree that imposing people with no link to an area isn’t a good idea, I have to say I’ve always been impressed with Torsten Bell when I’ve heard him in the media on behalf of the Resolution Foundation.

If elected (and that’s hardly in question) Torsten Bell is a future cabinet minister. He will represent Swansea West well and will make local party members proud. Give him a chance, I say.

CapM
CapM
6 days ago
Reply to  Gareth W

He will make the Labour party proud and so they and have gifted him a job for life in a safe Labour seat in Cymru. His part of the deal is to always put the Labour party first. Which will closely be linked to the advancement of his own political career. His constituents in Swansea West will come a distant third. The best interests of Cymru will be of no concern to him unless it’s to work against them to bolster the Labour party and it’s version of British nationalism. I say he’s already been given a chance, a golden… Read more »

Riki
Riki
6 days ago
Reply to  Gareth W

No imposed governors thank you. We aren’t a colony! We aren’t a Province! We are Cymru and will not allow for foreigners to have a say in our future.

Gareth W
Gareth W
6 days ago
Reply to  Riki

He’s got more going on upstairs than Rob Stewart, the local party’s choice, from what I know of them both. Don’t we want the best and the brightest representatives in parliament?

Riki
Riki
6 days ago

And they wonder why “our” politicians aren’t independent leaning. Because they are not our politicians. The UK surely has to be the least democratic nation on earth. Oh wait, it isn’t a Nation, nor democratic!

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
17 minutes ago
Reply to  Riki

We have plenty of Labour politicians in Wales, many of whom are being side stepped to make way for people like Bell. Problem is, they clearly don’t feel strongly enough about it to make a stand. While they’ll complain online, they’ll no doubt turn up in their droves to vote for him.

Welshman28
Welshman28
6 days ago

A Labour source said: “Some people will complain about the selection of a candidate with no real connection to Wales, but so far as the NEC is concerned Swansea West is a safe Labour seat and they can slot in a new candidate who they believe will be an asset to the parliamentary party, as well as being loyal, of course. From this statement clear prove Labour don’t give a dam about the people in the constituency , they want him in Parliament to work for them and the people of Swansea West can shut up and be grateful .… Read more »

Siw
Siw
6 days ago

Really pleased that its not Rob Stewart and I didn’t have to abandon the Labour Party. When I’ve heard Torsten Bell speak in the media he talks sense and seems intelligent and principled. Am sure he will get to know Swansea and its residents. How well did it go with previous MP that he had a link to Wales?

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 days ago

If the members of the local labour parties of Gorllewin Abertawe and Gorllewin Caerdydd had any dignity, decency and principles they would go on campaign strike, do absolutely nothing to promote these imposed candidates and stand up for genuine democracy!

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
6 days ago

Both Labour and Tories treat Wales as unimportant a side show also the B B C has treated Wales as second class people B B C Question Time leading up to the election that horrible Women Fionna Bruce announced last night the forthcoming locations leading up to the Election in Edinburgh she had the cheek to say it will be in Chester just over the Border from Wales with Plaid represented disgusting i find it

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
6 days ago

‘A Labour source said: Some people will complain about the selection of a candidate with no real connection to Wales, but so far as the NEC is concerned Swansea West is a safe Labour seat and they can slot in a new candidate who they believe will be an asset to the parliamentary party, as well as being loyal, of course’. This is the problem, and why some are pushing for the closed list system. Who needs to know the candidate when the party knows that the voter will go to the ballot box see a red rose and vote… Read more »

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