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Welsh Labour leadership ‘stitch-up’ row

26 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Left: Vaughan Gething – Right: Jeremy Miles

Martin Shipton

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.

Rulebook

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 …”

Fallback position

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.”

Electoral college

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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Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
28 days ago

Been a union member since I was 17 this is disgraceful it brings unions into disrepute all union members affiliated to labour in Wales should have a vote

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
28 days ago

You can’t stop me I’m part of the union…

I was in the Transport and Gentleman’s for years…

Annibendod
Annibendod
27 days ago

Any pro-indy progressive giving Labour their vote is wasting said vote. As for any such person being a member of that toxic organisation – what on earth are you doing? Decent progressive folk who aspire to a democratic Welsh State should campaign for Plaid Cymru. Everything else aids and abets this infernal Union. Why help the New Conservatives along? We need change not more of this toxic Labour party. We see the same rotten behaviour in Llanelli. Nothing progressive about Labour.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
27 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

But sadly Plaid can’t tell us even how they’d run a p**s-up in a brewery, and have always had serious credibility issues in the vital area of SE Wales. If Plaid had anything about them and got themselves organised long ago they’d have conquered at community and local authority level where they are strongest, and then used that critical mass to take things further to Senedd and Westminster governments, the long slog approach that did so well for the LibDems in the 1990s in Cardiff Central where for some years they represented the constituency pretty much at all levels of… Read more »

Dewi
Dewi
27 days ago

Gething seems to have all the main unions and most of the MPs.

Miles seems to have most of the MSs and Council Leaders.

Machine politics again.

If he does win he’ll have the Corbyn problem of a group he’s meant to lead where the majority didn’t want him

John Brooks
John Brooks
27 days ago

Supporting nominations be they from CLPs or Trades Unions are irrelevant. Both are on the ballot paper do the only thing that counts is the membership vote.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
27 days ago
Reply to  John Brooks

That means that the ordinary citizen and taxpayer in Wales will not have the opportunity to choose who leads our country.

Only a small electorate – not unlike the Tories i.e. Liz Truss?

Dewi Evans
Dewi Evans
27 days ago

Same old Labour Party.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
27 days ago

A classic piece of trade union bureaucracy sleight of hand the arch fixer Ernest bevin would have been proud of – and a grim echo of the shameful shenanigans which saw Alun Michael elected Welsh labour leader (ahead of Rhodri Morgan) 25 years ago. It’s also a reminder that in a quarter of a century nothing’s really changed in so called ‘welsh labour’ – leadership elections are still being fixed and the party in Wales is still little more than a branch office of the party hq in London.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
27 days ago

This is a (Welsh labour) party that is forcing through changes to the Senedd electoral system into the ‘party list’ version of PR that will put all candidate selections in the hands of party managers. Plaid Cymru has always supported the Single Transferable Voting system of PR that will enable to rank all candidates in order of choice. (To their credit so have the Green party and Liberal democrats). One can only come to the conclusion that UK labour (and Tories alike) don’t trust the ordinary voter to make their own decisions. Both Conservatives and the Labour parties intend to… Read more »

P Wills
P Wills
22 days ago

If Gething was worthy he’d have succeeded the first time. The backing of Hughes’ Unite? Pretty meaningless amongst it’s members, in my experience. They hold little credibility.

Gething has been at the forefront of the current dismal ‘gang’ and offered very little presence. Time for a fresh name to, at least, shake the tree up.

Labour has to be very careful how it moves forward on this…..there’s a general election ahead, this will play into opposition hands!

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