My name is Darren Williams and I am one of six Constituency Party representatives elected by party members to Labour’s National Executive Committee, alongside Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Rhea Wolfson and Pete Willsman.
I have been an active Labour party member for twenty-seven years, working in every election for the return of Labour candidates. For most of my time in the party, I have been a branch officer and a member of the GMC. I have been a constituency delegate to numerous conferences and represented Welsh CLPs on the National Policy Forum for five years. I have also recently been elected to the Welsh Executive Committee, having previously served on that body in 1997-98. I was elected for South Wales Central alongside Christine Newman, and we will produce joint reports where applicable. For three years, I worked at the National Assembly for Wales as a researcher and press officer for Carwyn Jones AM and John Griffiths AM. And since December 2013, I have been a Cardiff city and county councillor.
I have been an active trade unionist throughout my working life and, since 2005 I have worked full-time for the civil service union, PCS, which has been at the forefront of the battle with the coalition and Tory government over their attacks on public services, jobs and working conditions. In 2013-14, I was the union’s acting Wales Secretary and, in that capacity, sat on the Wales TUC General Council. I am a member of the GMB.
What I stand for
I have been a committed socialist all my adult life and joined Labour in order to work for the creation of a more equal, democratic and sustainable society. At a minimum, I want to see public services provided by the public sector, a more progressive taxation system and government intervention to create jobs and get the economy back on its feet. I want reform of the irresponsible financial sector and the reversal of attacks on our social security system. I believe that most Labour members, supporters and voters share similar aspirations. In the ‘New Labour’ period, however, the party leadership in Westminster departed drastically from authentic Labour values and beliefs, placing undue faith in markets and the private sector and neglecting our historic commitment to equality, while also embroiling us in two disastrous foreign wars. Our defeat at the last general election ushered in a government that has imposed the deepest cuts in living memory, attacked the foundations of our welfare state and set back any prospect of sustainable economic recovery.
It is vital that Labour now present a clear political alternative, which could win the confidence and support of all those who oppose Tory ‘austerity’. The party has recently adopted some positive policy commitments – such as a freeze on energy prices, abolition of the bedroom tax and reintroduction of the 50% top tax rate – but it could and should go a lot further. The frequent timidity of our policy pronouncements reflects the lack of democratic accountability within the party since the late 1990s, with conferences sidelined and policies drawn up by spin doctors and focus groups. Despite some welcome innovations like the Your Britain website, my experience on the NPF has confirmed my fears that ordinary party members continue to be denied any meaningful influence over policy-making. This has to be addressed.
I am the secretary of Welsh Labour Grassroots, the network of left and centre-left party members in Wales, and have the support of other like-minded groups in the wider party.
Learning from devolution
Since the current method of electing the NEC was introduced in the late 1990s, there has never been a CLP representative from Wales and Scotland has had only intermittent representation. Until I stood for the first time two years ago, there had never even been a Welsh candidate on the ballot-paper. Yet, after fifteen years of democratic devolution, there is much that the wider party could learn from the experience in Scotland and Wales.
In particular: Welsh Labour has remained in office in the National Assembly since 1999 by pursuing its own ‘clear red water’ agenda, rather than following the market-based policies implemented in England. It has maintained an integrated, publicly-run NHS and a cohesive, comprehensive education system and introduced free prescriptions, free school breakfasts and free bus travel for pensioners and the disabled. I will promote these policies as a model for the national party to follow.
A voice for ordinary members
As an advocate of greater openness and accountability in the party, I will practise what I preach by circulating written reports to all CLPs on NEC meetings and other relevant developments and addressing any GMC or similar body to which I may be invited, as I have already done in my time on the National Policy Forum. I will also take up issues that CLPs may want to raise with the NEC.