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Opinion

Welsh Labour is a party that operates with impunity, running an internal leadership election in a shocking way

02 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Vaughan Gething . Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

The exposure of the latest shoddy stitch-up in the Welsh Labour leadership contest has further tarnished the party’s reputation in a way that could not have been envisaged when Mark Drakeford gave notice on December 13 that he was standing down as party leader and First Minister.

It takes an extreme kind of brazen behaviour to devise a voting system that blatantly discriminates in favour of one candidate and against the other.

Members of trade unions and other organisations that are affiliated to the Labour Party constitute more than 80% of the electorate in the leadership contest. At the same time as receiving a digital link to vote, they were sent a series of links to union websites.

If they were members of a union that had nominated Vaughan Gething, a click on the relevant link would take them to a web page that told them to vote for him. If, however, they belonged to a union that was backing Jeremy Miles, clicking on the link would take them to a generic web page with no information about which candidate the union had nominated.

In doing so it is clear that those who run Welsh Labour have lost whatever moral compass they had and simply don’t care that they have brought the party whose virtuous values they purport to uphold into utter disrepute.

Dictatorship

A tactic of this kind is what one would expect of a totalitarian dictatorship, not of a political party that claims to be grounded in democratic principles. Such conduct would not be tolerated in the smallest children’s playgroup committee, but is apparently acceptable in a body through which Wales’ next leader is being elected.

What makes it even worse is that it comes after other revelations relating to the leadership election that had already called its legitimacy into question. Mr Gething’s team has used every procedural trick open to them to secure for him an unfair advantage. Not one of the so-called Big Six unions asked their members which of the two candidates they wanted to nominate for the party leadership. This was a deliberate omission by a clique that was determined to see Mr Gething elected.

Those of us who were around 25 years ago and witnessed the stitch-up that saw Alun Michael installed as Welsh Labour leader instead of Rhodri Morgan have inevitably experienced flashbacks from that time. We never imagined it would happen again. This time, of course, there was another element to the union element of the stitch-up: the disqualification on spurious grounds of Mr Miles from the possibility of securing the Unite nomination when it looked as if he was persuading the union’s political committee to back him.

Dishonest

Changing the rules of the game to achieve the desired result come what may is another dishonest tactic used by political fixers when sufficiently strong safeguards aren’t in place. Making sure their candidate had nominations from the Big Six meant that Mr Gething alone had access to the affiliated members, with Mr Miles unable to send promotional material to them because their contact details weren’t available to him.

On the Richter scale of seismic shocks, the appalling revelation that Mr Gething accepted donations totalling £200,000 from a group whose main director had received two suspended jail sentences for dumping toxic sludge on the iconic Gwent Levels went higher – especially given that Mark Drakeford himself had helped preserve them by rejecting planning permission for the M4 relief road. What on earth did David Neal, the convicted director, expect from Mr Gething in return for his massive donations?

Unsurprisingly Mr Neal has taken a vow of silence and won’t say. Neither has Mr Gething been candid about how two donations of £100,000 each from the polluter’s group came about. What we do know is that the group owes a lot of money to the Development Bank of Wales, for which Mr Gething as Economy Minister has ministerial responsibility, and that his group is seeking planning permission for a giant solar plant near its existing recycling premises in Mr Gething’s constituency.

Public perception

Mr Gething and the Welsh Government can insist as much as they like that he doesn’t have personal responsibility for the allocation of funds by the Development Bank and that he won’t be in a position to grant planning permission himself, but the public perception is terrible.

Mr Gething has long had a reputation for disliking scrutiny and avoiding it when he can. The notorious footage of him responding aggressively to an ITV Wales reporter when asked a question he didn’t want to answer, and then walking away in the Senedd, gives a flavour of his arrogance. It continues to be reposted regularly on social media channels.

What’s awful is that Mr Gething has failed to show a shred of remorse in relation to any of these concerns. When the Unite committee stitch-up came to light, he failed to address the exclusion of Mr Miles and thanked the union for backing him. His response to questions about the dodgy donations is to insist that they have been properly declared and then to avoid any further discussion about it.

Sadly this stonewalling approach appears contagious, because politicians who back him also seem to have taken a vow of silence. Newport West MS Jayne Bryant has been a strong campaigner against criminal polluters on the Gwent Levels, but when I wanted to talk to her about Mr Gething’s acceptance of £200k from one of the criminals concerned, she didn’t return my calls. Equally I got no response when I left a message for Rhondda MP Sir Chris Bryant, who is normally content to wax lyrical about the ethical shortcomings of Tory MPs.

I also had nothing back from Welsh Labour when I contacted the party’s press office on Thursday to seek comment about the preferential treatment given to Mr Gething when union affiliate members were signposted to information about which candidate their union had nominated.

Impunity

Welsh Labour is a party that operates with impunity, running an internal leadership election in a shocking way that wouldn’t be tolerated in the running of a general election.

Despite all the revelations in recent weeks that demonstrate political corruption of an egregious kind, Mr Gething remains the favourite to win, partly because of the consequences of the stitch-ups and partly because news of the £200k donation came out days after voting began.

If he does win, we’ve learned enough to know how he will seek to govern. But the result will not be quietly accepted within the party and beyond it. The futures of Welsh Labour, devolution and Wales itself will all be on the line.


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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

The blatant attempts by the managers of Welsh labour to fix this contest in favour of Vaughan Gething means that if (as expected) he becomes Welsh labour leader and Wales first minister he will have zero credibility and (sorry to say) zero respect with the Welsh public

Last edited 1 month ago by Leigh Richards
Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

If Gething had any moral fibre he would withdraw from the leadership contest. He has brought the Labour Party into disrepute in many ways not least the acceptance of a £200,00 donation he from a convicted criminal guilty of dumping toxic waste on our land.
Anyone but Gething for me

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees
1 month ago

These branch office shenanigans must be more widely exposed and used to challenge the leadership in HQ. Is Labour a party committed to fairness and democratic principles, or does it endorse dodgy donations and rigged votes? The British electorate needs to know, let alone us in Cymru. Is there not now a strong case to be made that the result of this election could be invalid?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

Apart from the current behaviour of Mr Gething, I suggest that the rapid back-peddling by Starmer away from everything he claimed to stand for when he put his name forward for leadership of the party should tell you all you need to know. Democracy is an inconvenience to these people.

Sadly the only people who gain from this sort of thing are the likes of Galloway and Farage.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Welsh Labour act like a monarchy. Their leaders ascend to power rather than being elected by the people they allegedly represent. Born to rule. Wales is theirs to do with whatever it may. How long can Welsh Labour continue to argue a vote for us is change , a fresh new start , and that they stand up for Wales interests when they merely manage Welsh poverty and expectations knowing all too well they are powerless to act because Whitehall hold our purse strings, levers & powers of state. It’s a perpetual circle we can never exit due to a… Read more »

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
1 month ago

It’s difficult to believe – fortunately – that Vaughan Gething, if elected, will survive much longer than Alun Michael did.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

A generation of Welsh Labour, it can’t be healthy for our country to be so riddled with them and now they are spreading around the World…

A Tory production sold as a Welsh Labour initiative launched in Glamorgan Cricket Club to coincide with our misappropriated Saint David’s Day, and we thought Starmer was pulling the strings, huh!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
Rob
Rob
1 month ago

It’s up to Labour who the Labour leader is. If we in Cymru don’t like it, don’t vote for labour.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago

All points Plaid Cymru should be ramming home to the Welsh electorate over the next few years. I’m reminded of Leanne Wood’s comment wrt the Labour vote in south Wales. “It is a soft vote.” I would say to any Labour member, who shares in Plaid’s values of a prosperous Welsh Democratic State, who must be disgusted with their own party, that they can find a new political home in Plaid Cymru. Help us become the Government Wales needs and boot these shysters out of power.

Rob jones
Rob jones
1 month ago

As people are now realising they are a dictatorship and care nothing for the electorate it is a money party for Welsh labour

Maesglas
Maesglas
1 month ago

Gething, like his puppet master Starmer, has nothing to offer Wales. I’m still waiting to hear one good idea from either of them. They need to focus on solving problems for people rather than stitch-ups and spin. Labour is a party whose culture is inward-looking rather than thinking about how best to serve the voters.

Will Jones
Will Jones
1 month ago

If they followed Plaid’s rules Eluned Rees would win

Will Jones
Will Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Jones

Eluned Morgan!

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Labour in Wales or Wales Labour or Welsh Labour – even they no not who they are ? Lib Dem Federal or Lib Dem Wales/ Cymru – those few left are not sure who they are – indeed who they were… ? Plaid Cymru – loyal welsh concience of Labour or the great ideas party or the unity grouping of cultural nationalists and valleys socialists and communuty actavists? The Tories – pro language unioniists like Glyn Davies, Susey Davies, Nick Bourne, Johnathan Morgan or Johnathan Davies perhaps or the likes of ARTD or David Davies etc ? The Greens in… Read more »

Marc Evans
Marc Evans
1 month ago

A small white cloud the size of a bony, arthritic fist emerged from the Vatican[delete and insert:] Millbank Tower chimney the moment it was unsubtley made known Gethin had been anointed at a private audience with Starmer and then, even less graciously, the dove-white comb-over of Saint Kinnock was nodded in his direction. Gething speaks their language of secret deals and brings his own wardrobe of carpets ready to be rolled out to accommodate panloads of dirt and compromise. He’s a cap-doffing Unionist whereas Miles is seen as a dodgy-shifty-Welsh speaker, which must mean he’s a nash-pleasing Indie heretic. Whoever… Read more »

Peter Howell
Peter Howell
1 month ago

It just goes on and on. If only the blinkered voters could open their eyes and see what’s happening to our country. We look at other countries with wealthy dictators and poorly run services and say “why do they put up with it”. I think we know.

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