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Welsh Labour sponsors social media post that puts parachuted candidate in the wrong seat

11 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Torsten Bell campaigning in Swansea

Martin Shipton

A Welsh Labour social media post that placed one of its “parachuted” candidates in the wrong constituency has been seen as a symbol of how the party’s hierarchy has become disconnected from local communities.

The post shows a picture of Swansea West candidate Torsten Bell with a Welsh flag in the background and a caption which reads: “Britain needs change – and Torsten Bell is proud to be your candidate for Swansea East ready to deliver it. If you want change, vote Labour on Thursday 4 July.”

At the top of the post is an imprint which states: “Welsh Labour. Sponsored. Paid for by Welsh Labour.”

Welsh Labour’s sponsored tweet

The post was sent to Nation.Cymru by a former Welsh Labour councillor who attended his first party meeting nearly 60 years ago.

The ex-councillor wrote: “Someone doesn’t know the geography of Swansea, lolololol!”

North Hill

When it was pointed out that Mr Bell had posted a message following a canvassing session which referred to the Swansea district of Townhill – or possibly Mayhill – as “North Hill”, the ex-councillor wrote: “Unbelievable. The party is being run by idiots who are also devoid of any principles or integrity. I’m so depressed I’m even thinking of putting a ‘None of the Above’ on my ballot paper.

“I went to my first Labour Party meeting with my father almost 60 years ago. I don’t know what he would make of these people.

“It’s noticeable that rank and file members appear to be absent from campaigning and canvassing events. Appears to be mainly elected members and branch or CLP [constituency Labour party] officials. The party should be concerned at that fact.

“I think Starmer will be in trouble within 2-3 years because they will be afraid to bring about the meaningful change the country requires. They are too timid in terms of their ambition for the country. We will be in big trouble in Wales when the Senedd elections come around, especially if Vaughan Gething is still First Minister.”

Mr Bell runs the London-based Resolution Foundation think tank, which researches issues relating to poverty. A panel appointed by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) decided that he will be the party’s candidate in Swansea West on July 4.

Delegated

Days before it was confirmed that Geraint Davies, who had been the seat’s Labour MP since 2010, would not be standing for re-election because complaints alleging that he had sexually harassed a number of women remained unresolved. In line with an election timetable decided by the NEC, the choice of a new candidate for Swansea West was taken out of the hands of the local constituency Labour party (CLP) and delegated to the NEC panel.

A similar scenario took place when long-serving Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election hours after a deadline passed which meant that local party members would not be able to vote on his successor. The NEC-appointed panel chose the Labour Party’s external director of legal affairs Alex Barros-Curtis as Cardiff West’s new candidate.

As previously reported by Nation.Cymru, he was a director of companies set up to run the Labour leadership campaigns of Owen Smith in 2016 and Keir Starmer in 2020. He also drove a legal action against former Labour Party staffers from the Jeremy Corbyn era who were accused of leaking an internal party report that told how right-wing Labour officials undermined Mr Corbyn when he was leader.

The legal action was dropped last week, with Labour having to pay its own costs running to millions of pounds.

It has been reported that a number of Labour MPs were offered peerages to step down late so candidates favoured by the Starmer leadership team could be slotted into safe seats without a meaningful contest.

Public disapproval

Meanwhile, despite opinion polls in Wales that show strong public disapproval of Mr Gething’s decision to accept donations totalling £200,000 from a businessman convicted of environmental crimes – with his approval rating lower than that of Rishi Sunak – Labour figures continue to back him, despite the vote of no confidence passed in him at the Senedd last week when two Labour MSs did not vote for him.

Nation.Cymru was contacted by a member of the GMB union who said: “I wanted to let you know in confidence that some staff and members are very unhappy with the GMB union’s statement – posted on social media – in support of Vaughan Gething.

The statement was drafted by the GMB’s political officer Tom Hoyles, who is the new Wales TUC President. I don’t think the political committee was consulted before it was posted.”

Mr Hoyles confirmed that the political committee as a whole was not consulted, because of the time it would have taken to call a meeting. He told us: “The decision to put out the statement was agreed by the chair and vice chair. The union’s policy is to support Vaughan Gething.”

He sent us a statement which quoted him saying: “GMB members know that when Labour wins, workers win.

“These gimmicks used by the Tories [holding a vote of no confidence at the Senedd] is a desperate measure to distract from the £15m they’ve taken from Frank Hester, a man with a track record of making racist comments.

“The choice at the election is clear, either five more years of Tory rule or a Labour UK Government led by Keir Starmer working with our First Minister Vaughan Gething.”

Other Welsh Labour figures, including David Llewellyn Davies, who was Mark Drakeford’s closest adviser, have criticised those calling the vote of no confidence in Mr Gething a gimmick for undermining Welsh democracy and the integrity of the Senedd.

The GMB source who contacted us originally said: “Not sure who the vice chair [of the union’s political committee] is. But Chris Binding is the chair. He and Tom are best mates and Vaughan Gething’s biggest fans.”

Mr Binding’s profile on X, formerly Twitter, carries a picture of Mr Hoyles, Mr Binding and Mr Gething, showing all of them grinning.

Our GMB source said: “Hardly a shock the chair approved!”


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Riki
Riki
10 hours ago

Wales is a comedy show! And a Tragedy. Why are so hell bent on being such a laughing stock?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
7 hours ago
Reply to  Riki

Can you post that again please, only coherently this time.

Tah.

Riki
Riki
7 hours ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

You can’t understand good English!? Oh wait, that’s an oxymoron. Ah i see, I missed a “WE”. Thanks lol! Would have thought having an IQ higher than 70 would have been enough to grasp what was being expressed. Thanks for helping make my point.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
6 hours ago
Reply to  Riki

It’s not good English (although I take your point about ‘good English’ being an oxymoron): “Why are so hell bent on being such a laughing stock?”

And what point are you making exactly? It’s not just Welsh Labour (if there is such a thing) that parachutes candidates into constituencies, ALL the political parties do it all over the UK.

In fact, Rishi Sunak is p!ssing off Tory members by parachuting his allies into safe Tory seats: Tory fury as Sunak allies ‘parachuted’ into winnable seats | The Independent

Rob
Rob
7 hours ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

June doing her best
Well done.

Grunter Swansea
Grunter Swansea
2 hours ago
Reply to  Rob

Are you referring to ‘June’ as in month, or ‘June’ as in Cockett Swansea?

Rob
Rob
47 minutes ago

Cocket.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 hours ago

Are you thinking of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline by any chance Riki…because that leads to Floyd’s Cymbaline on the soundtrack for the film ‘More’; their best work !…otherwise this is ‘Much Ado About Nothing’…

Alun
Alun
7 hours ago

North Hill is a place in Swansea, it is in Castle Ward. The photo you’ve used is in Townhill but looking on Torsten Bells socials he was outside the Farmers Arms on North Hill Road, Sunday evening. Don’t think the guy got anything wrong there at all. Think some edits and an apology is in order…

Grunter Swansea
Grunter Swansea
1 hour ago
Reply to  Alun

Well he trounced Rob Stewart. Was that a good or bad thing for Swansea? Valid opinions welcome. The whipped muffled Bells are not ringing.

Rick Bull
Rick Bull
5 hours ago

On one hand it flies in the face of representative democracy to have someone who doesn’t know the area represent it. On the other hand, if this guy is going to lead Labour’s economic development strategy to really level up the UK economy, perhaps having him based in Swansea could useful.

Alun
Alun
4 hours ago
Reply to  Rick Bull

Having had a look at Torsten’s socials and the local Labour Party promoting him, he clearly knows he is standing in Swansea West and seems to be getting around to meet a lot of people – which can only be a good thing going forward. This advert looks like it’s been done centrally by Welsh Labour and is therefore their mistake. I assume he never saw it go out and it was all done from Cardiff. Think Welsh Labour should comment and apologise to the candidate and the local members…

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 minute ago

First Welsh Labour embraced the idea of England dumping irradiated mud from Hinckley Point off the South Wales coast , and now this. They sponsor another toxic product parachuted in from England to stand in the upcoming General Election not only against wishes of local party members but then place him in the wrong constituency. Why am I not surprised? 🙄

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