Welsh Labour MP calls for inquiry into ‘unfair’ process that led to her deselection
The process used by Welsh Labour to select its Westminster candidate for the new seat of Merthyr Tydfil & Aberdare was unfair, undemocratic and discriminatory, according to a sitting MP who was narrowly defeated in the contest.
Beth Winter, currently the MP for Cynon Valley, has now called on Labour to commission an independent review into the process, which she believes may have been designed to favour Gerald Jones, the MP for Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney.
The two seats are effectively being merged as part of a widespread shake-up following a reduction in the number of Westminster seats in Wales from 40 to 32.
At the selection contest in June, Mr Jones beat Ms Winter by 231 votes to 215.
But in a 21-page dossier put together with the help of her lawyer, Ms Winter alleges that information and explanations were withheld from her “at every stage’ of the process, which was “pushed through” in an unusually short timeframe, and at a peak holiday period, for “reasons that remain unclear”.
Ms Winter also claims that voters were disenfranchised by extremely tight deadlines, an “inexplicable” freeze date beyond which no new party members could vote in the selection, a “complete lack of clarity” and in some cases because they did not have email addresses.
The left winger, who is the only Welsh MP who belongs to the Socialist Campaign Group alleges that the process indirectly discriminated against older members by creating a two-tier system: “those who could vote online and those who could not.” Ms Winter said this also affected people’s ability to engage in the hustings, at which she and Mr Jones sought to persuade local party members to back them..
Ms Winter says that in her view, Mr Jones used Labour Party resources in support of his campaign, and that procedural guidance issued by the party was not adhered to.
The Cynon Valley MP also raised concerns about the opaque nature of the controversial Anonyvoter software used by the party and says that she had requested that independent tellers should be permitted to access Anonyvoter. This request was rejected.
Writing to the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) ahead of its September meeting, Ms Winter said that in her view, the process “was not inclusive, fair or democratic” and that “this leads to feelings of a lack of trust and confidence in Labour Party procedures.”
She continued: “In order to restore some trust in the party, I am of the firm belief that an independent review of the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon is now essential.”
It is understood that the WEC discussed the report last Saturday, but Ms Winter said that “to date I have received no official information from the WEC on the outcome of that meeting. In my correspondence with the WEC I made it clear that I was requesting an independent review of the selection process, but unofficially I have been advised that the WEC has decided to defer any decision on that request and have, instead, asked that officers who were closely involved in the selection process consider my report and the questions raised by it before any decision on an independent review is made”
Ms Winter added: “This makes little sense if the WEC seriously wishes to build trust in the party, and it begs the question of what they are afraid of if they do not agree to an independent review.”
In her dossier, Ms Winter poses 27 questions to Welsh Labour:
* Why was the decision taken to run the selection before the boundary review process was complete?
* Did the procedure approved by the WEC on the 13th May apply to all selections in Wales?
* Prior to the selection, why were my emails about the selection not responded to?
* Why was the decision taken to run the selection prior to the new CLP (Constituency Labour Party) being constituted?
* Why wasn’t a selection committee formed of local CLP reps from the two constituencies to enable democratically elected oversight?
* Why was the decision taken that there should be no in-person voting?
* What consideration was given to ensuring compliance with the Equalities Act and that digitally excluded members were not discriminated against?
* Why was the decision taken that hustings would be online-only?
* What was the rationale for such an unusually short selection process?
* Why did members and candidates not receive any prior notice of the selection process and the reason for it?
* Why did the WEC originally agree to a procedure which prevented anybody voting by postal-proxy from being able to watch the hustings before voting?
* Why were trades unions excluded from this process?
* Why was the freeze date January 1 2023, over five months before the selection?
* Does the WEC consider it acceptable that I did not receive advance notice of the start date and only found out on Tuesday May 16 that the process had already started?
* Why was email notification not sent out to all members at the start of the process?
* Why did members not receive any prior notice of the selection process and the reason for it?
* Why was the process rushed through over a half-term and bank holiday when there was ample time for a longer process?
* How many additional codes were generated in Anonyvoter during this process?
* Will the WEC agree that Anonyvoter should not be used in future selections until there is an independent review of the software’s reliability.
* Why was Mr Jones permitted to use Labour Party resources in support of his campaign?
* Why was there a failure to adhere to the WEC procedural guidance (including during the count)?
* Please can candidates be sent the “marked register” detailing who has voted online, as held on the Anonyvoter software?
* Why is the information promised to us at the count being withheld?
* Will the party confirm that I will be offered an alternative seat in accordance with Section A.6 of the WEC Procedure as above?
* Why are selection processes so different in each case?
* Why are Labour members in other constituencies entitled to vote in person but not in Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare?
* Will the WEC commission an independent review of the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil & Aberdare?
Ms Winter cites repeated instances where she sent emails to party officials but didn’t get a reply.
We asked Welsh Labour to comment, but the party did not respond to our message.
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