Welsh Labour group leader in Carmarthenshire suspended by party
The leader of Carmarthenshire County Council’s opposition Labour group has been suspended by the party, partly for sending a text message in which he wrongly implied that Deputy Transport Minister Lee Waters had two “second homes” that he didn’t live in.
Sources have told us that other allegations against Rob James relate to downloading residents’ names and addresses from a Labour database in his capacity as an employee of Swansea West MP Geraint Davies, himself currently suspended from the party.
Last September a party selection meeting called to pick a general election candidate for the new seat of Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen was abandoned in chaos after Labour officials removed Cllr James – regarded as the frontrunner – from the shortlist. Ballot papers had already been sent out with his name on them.
He was told by Welsh Labour officials that he was disqualified from the process because of the text message he had sent several months earlier that he had no recollection of.
The text message referred to Mr Waters, the MS for Llanelli, and had been sent around the time earlier in 2023 when Carmarthenshire councillors were debating the issue of second homes.
Cllr James was accused of having texted a message to a Plaid Cymru councillor suggesting they could have some fun by claiming that Mr Waters had two homes in Llanelli and didn’t live in either of them.
It is understood Cllr James had forgotten sending the message, which he is said to have claimed was meant facetiously. At the time he was removed from the selection process, party officials took the view that allowing him to remain would risk reputational damage for the party.
A screenshot of the text message is understood to be in the possession of party officials.
Weeks later the selection process resumed and former UK Government policy adviser Martha O’Neil was chosen as the general election candidate.
A party source told us that Cllr James was informed of his suspension last Thursday. As well as the text message incident, he is alleged to have acted inappropriately by accessing names and addresses on the electoral register from the Labour Party’s database.
Cllr James did not wish to comment.
A party source sympathetic to Cllr James told us: “The allegations against Rob are ridiculous. He was removed unfairly from the candidate selection process for sending a facetious text message and now it’s being used against him to get him kicked out of the party.
“Accessing the party database has been a routine part of his job working for Geraint Thomas, who the party is also out to get. The names and addresses Rob accessed from the party database could have been obtained from Swansea council – the full electoral register is available to MPs and their staff. It was simply a question of getting hold of names and addresses to contact constituents about issues like cycleways.
“Suspending someone from the party for this is outrageous.”
The Labour Party has been asked to comment about Cllr James’ suspension, but has not done so. The process of investigating a disciplinary complaint against a member of the party is regarded as confidential, and details are not generally released before an outcome, which can take many months or even longer.
As a result of his suspension, Cllr James can no longer lead the party group on Carmarthenshire County Council. The group will have to elect a new leader.
Geraint Davies, who employs Cllr James, was suspended for alleged sexual harassment in June 2023. It has been reported that two women have submitted formal complaints to the Labour Party, one of whom is a sitting Labour MP.
A former parliamentary staffer also made fresh allegations about Mr Davies to Sky News, saying he had made “inappropriate advances” towards her.
The “advances” when she was working as a young researcher in the early 2000s allegedly included “sexual comments and inappropriate touching” – and that he only stopped after she threatened to tell someone.
A Labour source said: “Swansea West is a safe Labour seat and there is a sense that this has dragged on. Rob Stewart, the leader of Swansea council, has been spoken of as a potential replacement for Geraint Davies.
“Under party rules, if this remains unresolved until the general election, the National Executive Committee would be in a good position to impose a candidate of its choice on the constituency.”
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