Welsh Labour ‘will be a party in crisis if Vaughan Gething wins because of a stitch-up’
Welsh Labour will become a party in crisis if Vaughan Gething is elected leader as a result of a union “stitch-up”, it has been claimed.
A senior party source who spoke to Nation.Cymru on condition that they are not identified claimed that while Mr Gething’s rival Jeremy Miles was “well ahead” among party members, there was a possibility that votes cast by members of affiliated trade unions could swing the result Mr Gething’s way.
According to Welsh Labour leadership election rules, such union members have as much of a right to vote as members of the party itself.
We were the first media outlet to reveal that Mr Miles had been disqualified from receiving Unite the Union’s endorsement because of the dubious use of a recently introduced union rule.
Both candidates had already spoken to members of Unite’s Welsh political committee when the union’s “regional secretary” Peter Hughes intervened and said that Mr Miles was ineligible for the nomination because he had never been a union lay official. Mr Gething was then endorsed by default.
It later emerged that Mr Gething had only joined Unite in recent months and that the recently introduced rule did not appear to apply to the leadership election, but to would-be first-time candidates for the Senedd and other parliaments.
Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham has not responded to Mr Miles’ attempt to contact her to discuss the matter. Mr Miles’ team believes Mr Hughes only intervened when it appeared the committee was likely to back him.
Five other big trade unions have also nominated Mr Gething for the leadership without balloting their members – Unison, the GMB, the Communication Workers’ Union, Community and Usdaw.
A senior Welsh Labour source told us: “The election system we have is absolutely corrupt and none of this should be happening. It’s no way to elect a national leader.
“There are less than 20,000 members of the Labour Party in Wales and more than 100,000 members of affiliated trade unions. While Jeremy Miles is clearly ahead amongst party members, Vaughan Gething has a huge advantage as a result of securing the union nominations.
“The unions are bombarding their members with material that promotes Vaughan while Jeremy doesn’t have access to the unions’ membership details and therefore can’t make direct contact with the majority of people entitled to vote in the leadership election.”
The party insider said that Mr Gething’s team was using the strategy that gave their candidate the best chance of winning: “They know that the majority of Welsh Labour members won’t vote for Vaughan Gething, so they’re concentrating their efforts on winning the union vote. They’re hoping that union members will follow the recommendation of their union and vote for Vaughan.
“If they do so in sufficient numbers, he will win. In many cases they are people who are only affiliated members of the Labour Party because they haven’t got round to signing a form to opt out. These are people who are never going to go to a hustings meeting to observe the two candidates in action or ask them questions. And that’s how Vaughan’s team likes it.
“It would be an absolute disaster for the Labour Party and for Wales if someone who didn’t have majority support among party members became the leader and First Minister. It will take us back to the time when Alun Michael beat Rhodri Morgan in a stitched-up election because Tony Blair wanted his man in charge.”
TUC general secretary
The senior party source also pointed out that Mr Gething had been keen to publicise the fact that former TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady had endorsed him. The source said: “Frances O’Grady has no connection with Wales. She’s never lived or worked here. So why was Vaughan determined to get her backing?
“If he wins, he’ll go along with Keir Starmer in everything. When Labour takes power at Westminster after the general election, Vaughan won’t be prepared to challenge Starmer. People know he’ll be as unquestioningly supportive to Starmer as Andrew RT Davies [the Welsh Conservative Senedd group leader] is to whoever happens to be running the Tory party in London at the time.
“This isn’t what the Labour Senedd group wants and explains why the majority are backing Jeremy Miles. And it’s why there will be a major crisis in the party if Vaughan wins and tries to change the policy direction.”
The source said that while the number of nominations from constituency parties were similar between Mr Miles and Mr Gething, Mr Miles was tending to win votes by a big margin. The source added: “In some of the local parties won by Vaughan, there were people at meetings who normally weren’t seen. In a couple of seats the original nomination for Jeremy was overturned for procedural reasons – in Caerphilly the calling notice for the meeting was sent out five hours late, and at the re-run meeting Vaughan’s supporters made sure they got enough members along to swing the vote.”
Yet despite what they saw as the inherent unfairness of the election system, the source insisted that Mr Miles could still win.
“He’s picking up a lot of support among local parties. Those of us who support him hope that the message will get across to union members that they don’t have to vote for Vaughan just because their union tells them to.”
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