This was the first meeting of 2021 and the last meeting to be held before the planned Senedd elections on 6 May. The meeting was calmer in tone than the last one; the Chair began the meeting by acknowledging that he had received concerns regarding the tone of previous meetings and asked members to remain comradely at all times. The chat function was also disabled.
One of the other CLP reps – our good friend and comrade, Ivan Monckton – was unable to attend this meeting because he has been administratively suspended since December, apparently over an incident that is alleged to have taken place at the previous WEC meeting, although he has not been officially told that this is the case. It is a matter of serious concern that he is still in this situation and is unable to perform his duties in representing members.
At the start of the meeting, there were some procedural clarifications regarding the youth seats on the committee and it was agreed to invite Carwyn Jones to attend WEC meetings as an observer, given his role on the NEC.
The first main item was the Leader’s Report, where Mark focussed on the continuing response to the pandemic, particularly the progress of the vaccination programme and the cautious lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks. Mark took questions relating to local government and the vaccine rollout for different groups. Darren asked a question regarding the current situation in the party, with numerous suspensions and suppression of debate, and the resulting demoralisation; the Chair sought to rule the question out of order, but Mark did respond that he felt that, as a general principle, members should be able to debate matters freely but that members should adopt a patient approach to change in the party and that the current priority should be the Senedd election campaign.
Louise Magee, Welsh Labour General Secretary, provided another full report on election planning, including the challenges presented and mitigation of those challenges, the role of phone canvassing and online campaigning in targeting different voter groups and encouraging the public to take up postal votes.
A paper was then presented with a list of the candidates selected for the Senedd seats, with the candidates for the remaining two seats to be announced imminently. Questions were raised regarding individual candidates’ support for Welsh independence; it was clarified that the party does not have a codified position on this topic but that all Senedd candidates would be required to stand on the manifesto document.
The development of this manifesto document was then discussed, with agreement reached on a committee to oversee the drawing up of the shorter, public-facing version of the final policy document that had been through the party’s policy process and in which there had been unprecedented engagement and suggested amendments. It was confirmed that Ministers and Special Advisors would make themselves available to cohorts of WEC members for further discussion on the proposed manifesto.
The General Secretary had provided a written report in advance of the meeting, supplementing this with membership figures for Wales, following a request from Darren at the previous meeting; the membership currently remained above 24,000, although there had been more resignations than new joiners in the previous quarter and a large additional number going through the lapsing process
There followed the usual series of reports from different elected representatives, all of whom had provided written reports in advance of the meeting but supplemented these with relevant updates. Nia Griffith as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales highlighted discussions with Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds on coal tip remediation; WLGA Leader Andrew Morgan discussed mental health and social care challenges following the pandemic and Deputy Leader Carolyn Harris proposed that the WEC write a letter to the family of former MP Hywel Francis following his sad death, which was agreed.
The WEC noted correspondence from the Chief Whip regarding Senedd Member Alun Davies, who had been disciplined by the Senedd Labour Group following the well-publicised incident also involving 3 Tory MSs at Christmas in apparent breach of the Covid regulations.
The WEC will not now meet until after the Senedd elections, provided these do go ahead in May.