This was the first WEC meeting of 2022, following several extraordinary meetings at the end of 2021. The meeting welcomed new members in Jo Stevens (who has taken over from Nia Griffith as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales); Karen Loughlin from Unison; and Stephen Williams from the Musicians’ Union (the latter two of whom had been elected in the union section following the departure of Amber Courtney and Gary Johnston from the WEC). The meeting also welcomed Jo McIntyre, who will shortly be taking over as Welsh Labour General Secretary (having worked for the party in Wales as an organiser between 2015 and 2017 and subsequently for the party at its London HQ).
The meeting then received a report from Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader; Mark provided an update on the Omicron outbreak and ongoing situation with the pandemic, as well as details of the recent budget settlement, the agreement with Plaid Cymru, his reflections on Tory disarray in Westminster and plans ahead of the forthcoming local government elections, where Welsh Labour now appears to be in a strong position. He answered questions on mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers (which the Welsh Government opposes for ethical and practical reasons) and on the local government budget settlement, for which he had been praised by one of the council reps.
The WEC then considered the matter of the planned in-person physical conference for March 2022, whereby it was required to decide between going ahead with a physical conference or opting for an online alternative. Following Mark’s advice to the effect that the public health situation now appears sufficiently stable, the WEC agreed to hold the physical conference as planned in Llandudno, with the caveat that, should there be any unexpected developments, the party would endeavour to organise a ‘slimmed-down’ conference with party units, affiliates, observers and exhibitors prevailed upon to reduce their attendance in order to facilitate greater social distancing. It was also confirmed that CLPs and affiliates are required to submit new motions, delegates and nominations for this conference, rather than those submitted for November ‘rolling over’.
We then considered two papers (prepared by Acting General Secretary David Costa) on the Welsh Labour Democracy Review, with a view to presenting some rule changes to the March conference for agreement.
The first paper presented four key areas considered uncontroversial that could be agreed by the WEC to present to conference, as follows:
- To delay any decision around the reselection of MPs and MSs until such time as the relevant rules are or are not devolved to the Welsh party (in the case of the former) and until the outcome of Senedd electoral reform is known (in the case of the latter);
- To retain the current structure of CLP organisation until such time as the outcome of Senedd electoral reform and UK parliamentary boundary reviews are known;
- To allow Welsh Labour Conference to consider motions on non-devolved matters where they relate to Wales;
- To remove references to MEPs in the rulebook and update any references to the Assembly and AMs to reflect their change of name.
All of these elements were agreed without contention and so will be presented to the March conference.
David Costa then summarised the five key areas of the second paper, stating that there was too much inconsistency in responses from party units and affiliates to agree definite changes without further discussion and detailed work on rule amendments, as follows: the policy-making process; the leadership and deputy leadership nomination procedures; the electoral composition of the WEC; affiliation fees and Welsh Labour Conference.
Mark Drakeford proposed that a recall conference be held (with June suggested as a likely date) to consider further rule changes; he particularly singled out widening the nomination franchise for leadership and deputy leadership candidates and electing more WEC members through a One Member One Vote (OMOV) system as areas where the WEC could make statements of principle today, on the proviso that further detailed papers would return to a future WEC meeting ahead of the recall conference. Darren agreed with this proposal and argued that those proposals should state clearly that party units and affiliates should be able to nominate candidates in future leadership and deputy leadership elections and that there should be specific proposals regarding the election via OMOV of the BAME and Women’s seats, and the councillor seats, on the WEC, as well as a new seat elected via OMOV of a disabled members’ representative.
It was therefore agreed to present the uncontroversial rule changes to the March conference and then to hold a follow-up recall conference, most likely in June, and to present that conference with the suggested approach on those two areas of agreement above.
There then followed the report from Acting Welsh Labour General Secretary David Costa, his last report in that capacity before his forthcoming retirement. David provided a staffing update and answered questions around the ongoing issues with access to membership data following the widely reported data breach and plans ahead of this spring’s local government elections. Costa was thanked by several WEC members, including Darren, for his work and contribution to the party and the wider movement.
The final agenda items were the usual series of written reports from the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales (Jo Stevens MP); the Welsh Labour Deputy Leader (Carolyn Harris MP); the leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (Cllr Andrew Morgan); and the representative of the Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioners (Jeff Cuthbert). Jo Stevens was asked by CLP representative for Mid and West Wales, Ivan Monckton, about the contrast between the reception of the defecting Tory MP with the continued suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Parliamentary Labour Party, to which she responded that the party needed to be able to win over Tory supporters in order to win the next election and that the resolution of Jeremy’s case is in his own hands. Darren asked Jeff about the plans for training for police officers with unacceptable views in light of the tragedy of Sarah Everard’s death as well as the ongoing issues around the deaths of Mohammad Hassan and Mouyed Bashir and the campaign for justice for Christopher Kapessa. Jeff acknowledged the concerns but said that he was unable to comment on some of these issues pending the outcome of IOPC investigations.
The meeting concluded with confirmation of the minutes and reconfirmed thanks for all departing Welsh Labour staff members.
The meeting closed after just after an hour; one more meeting of the current WEC will be held on 5 March, before Welsh Labour Conference the week after in Llandudno. Darren is seeking re-election to the WEC to continue to represent CLPs and ordinary members in South Wales Central (ballots will shortly be issued to eligible members). Sophie is not seeking re-election; she would like to thank the CLPs and members in the region for their support over the last two years.