Welsh Labour MP defends move to change leadership election rules amid bitter row
A Welsh Labour MP had defended a move to change the party’s leadership election rules amid a bitter internal battle.
Chris Bryant, who represents Rhondda, argued that the current system has created “so many wrangles” and led to Plaid Cymru supporters voting in Labour leadership elections.
But Welsh Government minister Hannah Blythyn, has branded the move to change the rules as “backwards” and “self-indulgent”.
LabourList has reported that party insiders who are supportive of Keir Starmer’s leadership are making the case for changing the internal election rules ahead of the upcoming party conference.
According to the article, they see this as an opportunity to “limit” the power of supporters of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Under current rules the vote of every party member carries equal weight in a leadership election. The system is called One Member One Vote (OMOV). This is also the system that is used in Welsh Labour leadership elections.
But it is being proposed that UK Labour return to the Electoral College. This would see leaders being elected via a college: one third MPs, one third affiliates, one third members.
Critics of this system argue that it is anti-democratic because the votes of ordinary party members carry less weight than that of MPs, and because it gives the unions and party affiliates more power.
Chris Bryant told BBC show Politics Live: “What I know from my own constituency in the Rhondda is whilst it felt like a really good idea to enable anybody to come in and pay three pounds and be able to vote for the leadership of the Labour Party, it ended up with so many wrangles because we had people who had always said previously that they were going to vote Plaid in every general election and suddenly choosing the Leader of the Labour Party.
When asked if it was wise to push for this change ahead of the party conference he replied: “Yes I think it is, and I think you know, the last thing that I want is years and years and years of wrangling about rules of the Labour Party and so I think sometimes you do actually have to be decisive as a leader.
“You have to say: ‘This is what I want to do. This is what I think is in the best interests of the party and in the end what’s in the best interest of the nation’ because as Keir says in the pamphlet he’s produced he doesn’t accept and I don’t accept either this idea that you’re either in favour of principles or you’re in favour of power.
“The whole point is that you try to put your principles into practice through gaining power.”
Hannah Blythyn, who is the MS for Delyn, said: “A backwards, self-indulgent step regurgitating old and outdated arguments. Surely the focus should be on the very real challenges facing workers, communities and the economy as we recover from the pandemic?
Former Welsh Government minister and MS for Blaenau Gwent Alun Davies has also slammed the move: “Just to say that I completely oppose any return to the discredited electoral college. One member. One vote.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has also come out clearly against the plan, which she described as “unfair, undemocratic and a backwards step for our party” and urged them to “publicly make clear that they do not support this proposal”.