This was a fairly short meeting; there had apparently been complaints that the previous meeting had lasted too long and so the officers had decided to only allow for a couple of hours for the meeting itself and the AGM.
This meant that we did not receive the usual reports; instead, the only report on the agenda was that of Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour Leader. We then received written reports from others and were asked to email them directly with any questions.
Mark had also produced a written report, focussed on the Welsh Government’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. He had recently attended the first meeting a Wales-wide Health and Safety forum involving trade union members and detailed the current plans to lift some of the lockdown restrictions, including extended households, reopening some tourist facilities and allowing cafes, bars and pubs to open in outside areas. The Chair thanked Mark for the Welsh Government’s continued cautious and careful approach to the crisis.
Mark took questions on antibody testing, the UK Government’s announcement on funding for theatres, the airline industry and plans for recovery post-Covid.
The meeting then moved to the substantive item of debate: the regional list candidate re-selection process for Mid and West Wales. This item had been raised and discussed at the previous meeting but a decision delayed until this meeting.
We were presented with two options: the first would have meant that the two sitting MSs would be automatically reselected as the top two candidates on the list of four places. This would have meant that members in the 8 CLPs in the region would have had no say in whether they wanted those two candidates to continue to represent them and would only have been able to vote on places three and four on the list, which we are unlikely to win.
The second option was to allow a trigger ballot; this means that the members in the 8 CLPs would have been able to vote on whether they wanted one, both or neither of the incumbents to continue to represent them. We, along with the majority of CLP representatives, the two youth representatives and the representatives from Unite, Unison and BFAWU, were in favour of this option; to do otherwise would have disenfranchised and disillusioned members in those areas, as we believe that they should be allowed the basic democratic right to have a say in who represents them.
This option would be facilitated through the use of online meetings and voting; the NEC had agreed, the week before, that all CLPs would be given access to Microsoft Teams and an online voting platform to make nominations for the forthcoming NEC elections, and the Welsh party would be able to make use of this to carry out the regional list trigger ballots. The timeframe proposed in the officers’ paper for Option 2 was also conservative; CLP rep Christine Hardacre pointed out several areas where it could be shortened to allow for a faster process, including allowing CLPs to meet in August, which under normal custom and practice doesn’t happen, because members would be enjoying their summer holidays, but would clearly be less of an issue under the current unusual circumstances.
We listened carefully to the opposing arguments, some of which seemed more credible than others. Arguments included that to take the time to do this was an indulgence (‘internal party wrangling’ and ‘messing around’ were phrases used) because we should be focussing on the return of a Labour Government rather than facilitating internal democracy. We were told that allowing August meetings was in itself exclusionary and that to hold meetings online would disenfranchise members (despite the fact that the NEC had agreed to allow both of these things on a UK-wide scale for NEC nominations). We were also told that the MSs in question were hard-working and popular with voters; we did not disagree with this, but that argument would mean that any sitting elected representative, once originally chosen, should never again need to face their fellow members and ask for their continued support, a stance with which we fundamentally disagree. It is also the case that the record of the incumbents should hold them in good stead with members when they face the trigger ballots; members will be able to judge for themselves whether their representatives are hard-working and continue to represent their interests.
There were a series of initial votes before the main vote. These initial votes shortened the timeframe originally proposed (to allow for selection of constituency candidates in the seats that Labour does not hold to be completed sooner than proposed and to allow CLPs to meet in August) and to allow for postal ballots for members unable to attend online meetings.
The vote was then taken and Option 2 (to allow trigger ballots to go ahead) was agreed by 16 votes to 11.
Louise Magee gave a short report as General Secretary. She thanked those WEC members who had been participating in the shortlisting process for the regional list candidates, which was nearly completed. She stated that the party would re-run the ballot to fill the vacant WEC seat representing the socialist societies. She then thanked Bridie Sedgebeer, who was stepping down as Chair, for her hard work.
The 3 WEC officer places at the AGM were uncontested: Nick Ireland (USDAW), who was previously Vice-Chair, became Chair; Philippa Marsden (Unite) became Vice-Chair and Jennifer Smith (GMB) continued as Treasurer. While we were pleased to see Philippa become an officer, this does now mean that all three officer positions are held by trade union delegates and it is to be hoped that the officer group will become more diverse next year.