Welsh Labour leadership ‘stitch-up’ row
Allegations of a stitch-up have been made after Wales’ second biggest trade union decided to nominate Vaughan Gething in the Welsh Labour leadership election.
Both Mr Gething, the Economy Minister, and his rival Jeremy Miles, the Education Minister, were interviewed by the Welsh political committee of Unite the Union.
But before a vote took place to see which of the pair would get Unite’s nomination, Mr Miles was declared ineligible because he had never been a lay official of the union.
Those present were told this was a new rule that had recently been added to Unite’s rulebook.
An email from a trade union insider sent to Nation.Cymru said: “A Unite Stitch Up 25 years into devolution… will they ever learn! Are Labour members experiencing a repeat of the Alun Michael stitch up against Rhodri [Morgan]?
“Unite announced yesterday that they were supporting Vaughan Gething for Welsh Labour leader.
A few facts about the Unite Wales Labour Party Liaison Committee meeting where the nomination took place:
* No direct vote on either candidate took place.
* At the direction of Regional Secretary Peter Hughes one candidate was ruled out on the basis of a “new” rule.
* No members on the committee were privy to this rule as the 2023 Unite Rulebook has not been published.
* There was a feeling amongst members of the committee that the said new rule which saw a preference given to supporting people who had been Unite reps did not apply in the case of a supporting nomination procedure. (Plus neither candidate has ever been a Unite rep).
“A few other key facts: Fearing a stitch up Jeremy Miles was accompanied at the nomination meeting by prominent trade unionists [Counsel General] Mick Antoniw and [Deputy Social Partnership Minister] Hannah Blythyn. The political officer Mary Williams is currently covering both the Wales and London roles.
“Questions that need answering:
* Why didn’t a vote take place?
* Why is Regional Secretary Peter Hughes apparently so desperate for Vaughan Gething to get the Unite nomination?
* Why has Sharon Graham [Unite’s General Secretary] agreed to go along with a Starmer stitch up? Just a little bit of history repeating …”
A supporter of Mr Miles told Nation.Cymru: “My understanding is that support for Jeremy was running two to one in his favour based on the feedback. It was only then that this new rule was spoken about. I’m guessing that if Vaughan had had the numbers, nothing would have been said, but this was the fallback position.
“The fact that they interviewed both candidates and the political committee met seems a farce if they’re saying one candidate is ineligible. They seem to be using an internal Unite rule that someone can’t stand for office unless they have been a shop steward [a lay union official], despite Jeremy being a member for years and doing union work in the past as a lawyer.
“The whole thing stinks of a cooked-up back-room deal. This is the worst of politics.
“If Jeremy loses fairly, I’d accept that, but this doesn’t seem fair at all. And this isn’t just fixing in a political party. The winner of the election will be the First Minister of Wales. This is no way to treat the residents of Wales, let alone other politicians.”
In 1998 Alun Michael and Rhodri Morgan were the two candidates to lead Welsh Labour in advance of the first election of the National Assembly for Wales – now the Senedd – in May 1999. At the time the leader was elected by an electoral college made up of three sections: grassroots party members; MPs and Assembly candidates; and trade unions and other affiliated groups.
While Mr Morgan had a clear lead among grassroots members, most trade unions backed Mr Michael. Usually the decision on which candidate to vote for was taken by a relatively small trade union committee. Unite – known at the time by its old name, the Transport and General Workers’ Union – backed Mr Michael, helping to secure him a narrow victory.
Mr Michael became the first leader of the Assembly with the title First Secretary. In February 2000 Mr Morgan succeeded him after being ousted in a row over EU funding for Wales.
The current row is different to the one in 1998 in that Welsh Labour’s leader is no longer elected by an electoral college but on the basis of one member one vote. Mr Gething and Mr Miles were both seeking Unite’s nomination in the hope that it would improve their chances of getting votes from union members.
Unite the Union has been asked to comment.
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