Extraordinary WEC Meeting, Saturday 20 November (Joint report with Sophie Williams)

This was an ‘extraordinary’ meeting, called at short notice to consider two issues: the draft agreement struck by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru; and the procedural guidelines to be applied to the reselection process for sitting Labour MPs. In the event, however, there was time only to deal with the first of these.
Mark Drakeford presented the ‘Co-operation Agreement’, which had emerged from several weeks of negotiations, and urged the WEC to support it. He explained that the choice was not between having an agreement of this kind or doing without an agreement altogether; it was between a long-term agreement like this, which could provide political stability for the duration of the Senedd term and enable Labour to get its programme through, or ad hoc agreements with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis. He said that the content of the agreement was entirely in keeping with Labour’s principles, whatever claims might be made to suggest that they were principally Plaid policies.
The agreement included moves to establish rent controls; the extension of free school meals to all primary school pupils; childcare for all two-year-olds; creation of a National Care Service; limits on second home ownership; a replacement for council tax; the creation of a publicly-owned construction company and an energy company; changes to the Senedd’s size and electoral system, including a statutory guarantee of gender balance; and measures to promote the Welsh language.  
There was a wide-ranging discussion of the merits of the agreement, with most WEC members accepting that it was necessary to provide political stability for Wales but several voicing specific reservations. Some members were concerned about the absence of any reference to key principles like women’s rights and partnership with trade unions but Mark pointed out that Welsh Labour remained committed to everything included in its original Programme for Government and that he had sought to limit the present agreement to matters that had arisen from the talks with Plaid. He also said that, as the party of government, Labour would have no difficulty claiming its rightful share of credit for the policies in the agreement. 
Darren praised the progressive policies in the agreement like rent controls, free school meals and the public energy company but said that some of the commitments were rather vague and further detail on things like the proposal to replace council tax would be welcome. He also said that a commitment to reform the Senedd’s electoral system seemed to predetermine the outcome of Labour’s current consultation on this issue. Mark replied that the replacement of council tax would be a very complex and time-consuming initiative and that the wording on potential reform of Senedd elections was consistent with the scope of Labour’s consultation, although the preference was for a move towards greater proportionality.   
Ultimately, the WEC overwhelmingly endorsed the agreement and the meeting was then closed, as Mark and a couple of others had to leave for another event; we were told that a second extraordinary meeting would have to be arranged to deal with the reselections issue.