We can’t have a Drakeford coronation – there must be other candidates

Mark Drakeford AM. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Calum Higgins

It’s been a rough few months for Welsh Labour and it feels like major change is on the horizon as we seek a new leader and presumed First Minister for Wales.

Although there is still much to go through and the inquiries into the death of Carl Sargeant are far from over, this change in leadership gives the party a chance to reinvigorate and look to the future.

It also has the potential to be the opposite: A coronation of the only declared candidate, a longstanding member of the Cabinet, and respected politician, to carry on as before (with a few minor tweaks).

Before going any further I want to make it clear that this is not about being anti-Drakeford, but suggesting he and other candidates have an opportunity to set out their stall and get that all important mandate from the party membership.

A leadership election in politics is as much about the process as it is about the outcome.

It’s as much about ‘how’ someone wins and the perceptions that creates going forward as it is about the result itself.

That’s why Welsh Labour, from the top to the grassroots, must get this leadership election right.

The first thing: This is for the leadership of a country, and not a battle for control between factions in the Labour Party.

The party cannot be so self-indulgent that it picks the leader of a country on the basis of its own internal factional battles and then expect the electorate to take it well come election time.

This is how Theresa May and look how that turned out.

More than one candidate

There must be more than one candidate.

We can’t have a coronation of Mark Drakeford, no matter how competent and likeable he is.

There are several issues with a coronation and Welsh Labour should look at the precedents that have been set.

Coronations run the risk of ending with a bounce in the polls followed by an inevitable slump and kicking from the electorate when they get their say (e.g Gordon Brown, and again Theresa May).

Many labour members disliked the lack of mandate May had when elected PM by the Conservative MPs in Westminster.

Welsh Labour now need to deal with that same issue by at least putting their next leader through the scrutiny of a leadership battle where they can set out their stall for change.

There are plenty of qualified people who could be nominated and would provide fresh ideas for the party going forward if given the chance to articulate them to the membership.

There is room for at least three candidates to be nominated and provide members with a real menu to choose from.

Challenge and scrutiny makes politics better, and if Drakeford is the best candidate then I would expect this to be something he would welcome and use as an opportunity to set out his vision for Wales.

A Woman on the ballot

At least one candidate must be a woman.

Welsh Labour has the best record of all the parties in the Assembly when it comes to equal representation.

It has taken difficult decisions to take positive action when needed and a higher number and percentage of women Assembly Members have been elected as Labour AMs than any other party.

There is a wealth of experience in Labour Assembly group, including long standing women politicians, and it would be a travesty for that to be ignored because no woman made the ballot.

The clear front runner here is Eluned Morgan who could make the ballot if enough Assembly Members thought this was important enough.

One Member One Vote

Finally, there has been much debate about the use of OMOV for the next leadership election.

I am generally a supporter of OMOV but want to see the detail of a proposal and an assurance that affiliated members will still get a vote on an OMOV basis.

But this is academic. There won’t be any need for OMOV if there’s only one candidate.

Campaigners on favour of OMOV have pointed out that AMs and MPs have a vote that outweighs a labour member vote, and this undermines democracy.

At this rate Labour Members won’t get a vote at all and the only votes cast will be by the nominating Assembly Members of the Labour Group; this is the least democratic of outcomes possible for the party membership.

Debate

This is an opportunity for Welsh Labour to talk about its record in Government and how to move forward.

It’s an opportunity for someone to be a critical friend of current leadership and outline the kind of renewal we need after being in government for so long.

It’s time for the debate we’ve needed for a long time to finally get going.

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