The meeting began by the chair allowing Andy Richards, the regional secretary of Unite to raise a matter that had not been included on the agenda, to a packed meeting. What followed, shocked me. What I witnessed was an act of un-comradely behaviour, that was intended to humiliate and intimidate Darren Williams. DW then left the room. Although the chair invited him to remain in the meeting he did refuse to allow comments on what took place to be raised.
Report of the Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister
Carwyn Jones announced that he had sacked Carl Sargeant because of certain sexual harassment allegations and that the matter had been referred to Louise Magee, the Welsh Labour general secretary, to deal with. The Committee members’ attention was drawn to the availability of copies of the Labour Party’s Sexual Harassment Policy document.
The topic of Brexit was raised and how the Tories were in a weak negotiating position with our EU partners. CJ was very concerned with the threat that the Tories seem keen to reclaim Wales’s devolved powers. He has made it clear to the Westminster Government, that the Welsh Government will not support their ‘Brexit Bill’. He suspects that we could get a hard Brexit deal, which would be bad for Wales. He gave the example of loss of jobs at our ports, where Welsh shipping/trade could easily be transferred to Ireland.
On a more encouraging note, relations with the PLP and AMs were good and he found Jeremy Corbyn very supportive.
Fran Griffiths suggested that we send our good wishes to Jane Hutt, who has returned to the back benches, after her long service in cabinet. That was heartily agreed.
Report of the Shadow Welsh Secretary
Christina Rees has an injured foot resulting from a fall but she praised her team for their support. The members are Chris Ruane, Tonia Antionazzi and Jess Morden and they are working closely with their Welsh PLP colleagues and Welsh Government. For example, they have tabled a series of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill and pressing the Tories on the spending commitment for Wales. CR hopes to be back in Westminster by the end of the month and being involved in more ‘Welsh Labour Listens’ joint events with Welsh Ministers and their British Shadow colleagues.
Meetings of the Party Development Board
Members were presented with a summary sheet of the responses to the consultation on the election procedures for the Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour. This document was marked confidential because it had the results of the survey. I don’t agree that such information on i.e. how CLPs, MPs AMs and affiliates voted needed to be treated as confidential, after all we are all party members. It was at this point, I took the opportunity to raise the matter of the incident at the beginning of the meeting. I explained that I found it unpleasant and uncalled for and should have been dealt with as a private matter. I then asked that my comments be added to the minutes.
Q1 A clear majority of both CLPs and affiliates felt that the period for supporting nominations should be retained.
Q2 19 of the 27 CLPs supported OMOV in a single section while 5 of the 6 affiliates supported OMOV in an electoral college. Despite the clear majority in favour of OMOV, it was decided to keep the electoral college. It was at this point that I asked the members how had the results been arrived at and what electoral procedures had been adopted by the various groups within the party. I explained that, as chair of SEA Cymru, we had e-mailed to our members, the relevant document and asked for their comments, plus we discussed this matter at our Autumn Meeting. Yet as a member of a LP socialist society, I had not been asked for my opinion by the WEC Socialist Society rep. I further pointed out that at last night Cardiff West CLP GC Meeting and at a recent Women’s Forum Meeting that I attended, a number of Unite and Unison members who were present, conferred that they had not been consulted on the matter. I also pointed out that our AM had not been consulted or the other AM as far as he was aware. Our MP confirmed that he had not attended the recent Welsh PLP Meeting when this matter was discussed. He did confirm that he supported OMOV and that the Welsh PLP was not a decision-making body. Finally, I reminded the members that the LP in England and Scotland had both adopted the OMOV system for their future leadership elections.
What followed was a series of defensive excuses which I found frustrating because it means that the opinion of the ‘foot soldiers’ of the LP have been ignored.
Q3 A clear majority of CLPs and affiliates felt that Registered Supporters should not be part of the electorate for the election of the Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.
Q4 Again a clear majority of CLPs and Affiliates were in favour of a special conference to be called in the event of a leadership challenge.
Q5 There was a majority in favour of the job description for the Deputy Leader, with the following additions a) Build capacity, especially in constituencies without Labour constituency representation
- b) Work with Welsh Labour representatives in local government.
- c) Have a role on the Policy Committee and in the development of the Welsh Labour Manifesto.
Q6 The majority of CLPs and affiliates agreed that eligibility for Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour and not a Deputy First Minister should be extended to AMs, MPs and County/County Borough Council Group Leaders and in this case, it must be a woman. The election for this post will be processed asap i.e. early next year so that a Deputy Leader is in place by the time of next year’s Welsh Labour Conference.
Q7 The outcome is that any candidate for Leader would require support from at least 20% of the National Assembly Labour Group i.e. 6 AMs, while candidates for Deputy Leader would require support from 20% of all WPLP, AMs and MEP and require at least three nominations from each of the WPLP and NALG.
Appeal Process for All Women Shortlists /AWS
At the last WEC Meeting it was agreed that there would not be a consultation with CLPs on the Future on AWS, but that there would be an appeal process. However, subsequent advice from the Governance & Legal Unit was that an appeal to the same body that made the original decision would not stand up in a Court of Law.
Consultations with the six priority CLPs (Arfon, Aberconwy, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan, Clwyd West and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) have already taken place so their selections would not be affected. Agreement was made that at least three of the six majority seats (those mostly in Mid and West Wales) be deemed AWS (without consultation or appeal); that all Labour held retirement seats be deemed AWS (without consultation or appeal) and that Clwyd West be allowed to select from an AWS, as per its request.
General Secretary’s Report
Louise explained in more detail the LP’s procedure for dealing with sexual harassment cases and reassured members that support was available for all victims. She was pleased to report that the Welsh Labour Office now has 3 additional members of staff. One will be a policy Officer Alex Bevan, who will replace Martin Eaglestone and starts work in December. We will have a Local Government Officer, which is a new post, and a Digital Officer. A progress report was given on selection, how delegates found the national conference and Welsh Night enjoyable, a huge programme of training was being organised along with ‘meet the Front Bench’ events throughout Wales, plus a LP dinner evening, the production of a Welsh Labour leaflet aimed at university students in hand, the launching of the e-mail Weekly Welsh Labour Updates seems well received. On the question of the forthcoming Welsh Labour Women’s Conference in Cardiff on 11/11/17, I raised the question, why was the LP insisting that a small community group entitled National Abortion Rights, who wish to display their ‘Safe and Legal’ Exhibition at conference, were expected to pay a fee of £200 for simply putting up a display board and handing out a few leaflets. The secretary explained that the LP had to charge in order to earn money for its survival and that she could not show favouritism to a group even though many LP women are members because the group was not affiliated to the LP. I also raised the concern about the venue, Cornerstone, Charles Street, Cardiff. Attractive though the venue is, they believe it belongs to the RC Church and in view of its anti-gay and anti-women rights stance, they consider it an unsuitable venue for a LP women’s conference. The secretary agreed to investigate, although the booking of Cornerstone for this year had been confirmed.
Derek Vaughan MEP was absent so no EU Update Report was given
Welsh Labour Government Association [WLGA]
Cllr Debbie Wilcox felt that the massive delays in the rolling out of the Tory Universal Credit in Wales, was causing misery to clients and undue pressure on LGs. WLGA have written to the Minister of Work and Pensions about the situation because they feel the Tories are ignoring the problems of poverty that they have created and asked that the programme be delayed.
On the question of LG finance, it was noted that Mark Drakeford had been very helpful but the Tory cuts to public services had resulted in a surge in poverty and a high demand for child protection. It raises a very serious question on how do we fund public services and maintain sustainability. Westminster have got to fund public sector pay rises because local councils have not got the funds to do so.
Election onto the Welsh Policy Forum; six women have been elected
Electoral Reform a summary of response was circulated and amendment to comment [LP4] amendment 4, was accepted about the question of marginal seats and a Labour council losing its majority. A more flexible time scale need to be considered but agreed only one salary be allowed to a AM who is also a councillor.