WEC Meeting 26 November 2020 (Joint Report with Sophie Williams)

There was a very packed agenda for this meeting, which eventually ran for three hours. The first item was the report from Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour Leader; he focussed on current Covid restrictions and the plans for the Christmas period, highlighting the arrival at a four-nation response around Christmas. He also discussed the Chancellor’s announcement on the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which had been bad news for public sector workers and those dependent on Universal Credit and which had made virtually no mention of Wales. Mark then answered questions on different aspects of the Covid response (including more detail around the Christmas restrictions and the plans in place for pregnant women) as well as our response as a party to the burgeoning Yes Cymru movement. 

The report from the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Nia Griffith, was formally accepted without discussion, as she needed to leave the meeting early. 

The next item was a substantial presentation from Louise Magee, Welsh Labour General Secretary, on the party’s plans ahead of the 2021 Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections. This focussed particularly on digital campaigning alongside leafleting, as well as media exposure and fundraising. Louise highlighted particular data analysis focussed on key target groups and encouraged members to make use of the Dialogue online phone bank and to encourage CLPs and branches to take part. She reported that 5 new regional organisers and 1 community organiser had been employed to help with the campaigning. She then took various questions on different aspects on the digital campaign, as well as one from Ivan Monckton, CLP representative for Mid and West Wales, who asked about member engagement at a time when there is widespread demoralisation because CLPs and branches are having their freedom of discussion on key topics restricted (although this point wasn’t directly answered). 

We were then asked to agree a proposal that had not been communicated to us in advance, and for which there was no accompanying paper clearly outlining the plan. Louise stated that the WEC officers had discussed what procedure should be put in place if a complaint is made against any selected candidate standing for either the constituency or the list seats for the Senedd (and presumably any of the 4 PCC candidates, although this was not made clear). It was stated that there was no agreed procedure currently in place, and therefore the officers were recommending that they would consider any complaint first to decide if it had merit, then if it had merit they would interview the candidate, and then would make a recommendation to the Party Development Board (the executive of the WEC). Several CLP representatives, along with colleagues from Unison, challenged this suggested procedure, highlighting the lack of natural justice involved in such a process and arguing that it should have been presented as a written paper to the WEC in advance of the meeting. A vote was then taken on whether to accept this proposal in principle, with the proviso that officers would write a paper explaining the proposed process and circulate this to WEC members, and that WEC members would be able to feed in their comments; the vote was tied, so the Chair used his casting vote to agree that it should go forward.  

The next paper was on the implications of the local government boundary review proposals, which could potentially come into force in time for the 2022 elections. David Costa, Deputy General Secretary, outlined the current status of Local Campaign Fora across Wales and the progress made towards training events and panel selections ahead of the ward selections of their candidates (likely to start in summer 2021 in some areas). He then outlined the respective impacts of the latest Boundary Commission proposals on different local government areas, and reiterated that we don’t currently know when or if these proposals will definitely be implemented, nor do we know exactly when the decision will take place (the proposals are currently with Welsh Government for consideration, but the constraints on Senedd time due to the pandemic may affect this). The main proposal of the paper was to agree that the definition of a sitting councillor should match that used for MPs when they’re affected by boundary changes, which states that a sitting councillor should be considered as such if the new proposals encompass 40% of the old ward area. This proposal was agreed, although there was some discussion around the politics of the boundary review proposals in some local government areas. 

The most substantial agenda item focussed on reports (one prepared by David Costa and the other by Christine Hardacre and Ivan Monckton, the two CLP representatives for Mid and West Wales) on the process involved in the trigger ballots for the sitting MSs in the Mid and West Wales region over the summer; this was not to question the outcome but rather to discuss any issues in the process identified by the eight CLPs in the region. Dave introduced his paper, highlighting that it focussed on lessons learned during the process; Christine then introduced her and Ivan’s paper and was in the process of covering the points raised thoroughly when several WEC members (not CLP representatives) said that she was taking up too much speaking time and that the next speaker should be called. A vote was taken on this and was narrowly won, so Christine was unable to finish her contribution, while further contributions were taken from other members. At the end of the discussion both papers were noted rather than voted on, so any recommendations presented by either paper were not specifically adopted for future processes (should the need arise to run such a largely online process again). 

We were then presented with another item for which no paper had been circulated in advance. Louise stated that it was impossible to run a physical conference in February 2021 due the pandemic and therefore asked the WEC to agree to postpone the conference until the following autumn. Several CLP reps, supported by Unison and the Co-operative Party, asked what this would mean for the policy-making process ahead of the manifesto for the May 2021 Senedd elections. A previous paper had been agreed by the WEC that said that, in the event of conference not taking place, CLPs and affiliates would be asked to suggest amendments to the final version of the draft policy document and that the Welsh Joint Policy Committee (the executive of the wider Welsh Policy Forum) would consider those amendments. Several WEC members argued that this earlier decision should be revisited – it had been taken at a time when we did not know for sure how things would pan out – and that an online policy-making event should be convened to allow as much member and affiliate input as possible into the manifesto. The Chair was advised by officers that the WEC had the power only to change the date of conference and not to comment on its format; furthermore, the rules only permitted a conference of the format used by physical conference, so an online version would need to replicate this exactly and that the technology did not exist to permit us to do so (elements such as hand or card votes were specifically highlighted). The Chair therefore ruled the proposal for an online policy-making event out of order. The WEC was then asked to vote on whether it wished to postpone conference to autumn 2021, and this was carried. 

The final substantial agenda item was an update on the Welsh Labour Democracy Review. Had conference gone ahead, the WEC would have been asked to agree a document to go to conference, containing a progress report on the work that had been done on the Review before the snap general election and the Coronavirus intervened, along with a small number of proposals for relatively uncontroversial rule changes. Instead, in view of the postponement of conference, we were asked to agree that an updated version of the document would be circulated to CLPs and affiliates for further consultation. There were elements of the document that CLP reps would have wished to question, but did not do so as it would go out for further consultation and the WEC would discuss these points at a later meeting. 

There were then a series of written reports from the General Secretary, the Deputy Leader, the Leader of the WLGA and the PCCs’ rep. Sophie asked for an updated overall membership figure for Wales and was told that the WEC was not permitted to have this information as it is the property of the NEC. Darren pointed out that NEC members had regularly been given membership figures for the party as a whole, which they had been allowed to report, and that the WEC’s role in relation to organisation, campaigning and engaging members meant that it needed to be kept abreast of trends in Welsh party membership levels; he therefore asked Louise to request permission to pass on such information, which she agreed to do.

Under correspondence, an email from Sophie, with the support of other CLP representatives, was read out setting out the role of a CLP rep on the WEC for the information of other WEC members, particularly highlighting the fact that CLP reps do not have direct access to members’ details and can only communicate with CLP secretaries, which the WEC officers had discussed and agreed (this had been sent in response to a comment at the previous meeting that CLP reps were not making sufficiently sure that they were speaking for the membership as a whole). 

Overall, this was a very long and at times fractious meeting, not helped by the use made by certain WEC members of the Zoom chat function to post critical comments of other WEC members. 

WEC Report 17 September 2020 (Joint report with Sophie Williams)

This was the third Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) meeting to take place via Zoom; the General Secretary reported that she had met with the WEC officers to agree dates for forthcoming WEC meetings, with one to take place virtually on 26 November and one potentially to take place physically on 16 January, subject to the situation at that point. The Chair welcomed new member Ashley Lister, who had joined the WEC representing the socialist societies. 

The first item was the Leader’s report; Mark gave a long and detailed report, focussing on the current situation re Covid-19 and local lockdowns in South East Wales, unemployment and the Welsh Government’s attempts to put pressure on the UK Government to further extend the furlough scheme (potentially in targeted sectors) and the UK Government’s proposed Internal Market Bill, which was a direct attack on devolution and which the Labour Party at a UK level would fight in the House of Lords. Mark took questions on the communications around the Internal Market Bill; Covid testing capacity; job retention schemes; and the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill, currently going through the Senedd, which is seeking to extend the notice period for no-fault evictions from two months to six. 

The WEC then appointed members to its various sub-committees, with all those who had applied being added to the Local Government and Organisation sub-committees and all WEC members added to the Appeals Panel. There were then contested elections to the body’s Party Development Board, to which Darren was one of 3 CLP reps elected (along with Alyson Pugh from South Wales West and Kate Thomas from South Wales East). 

The main item meriting detailed discussion was a paper on Senedd selections; the WEC was asked to agree a series of measures associated with conducting selections for the remaining Senedd seats that Labour does not currently hold (the selections for Bridgend and Rhondda having now been completed). The WEC agreed that selections should be conducted via an online hustings meeting, with postal ballots available for those genuinely unable to attend. The WEC also agreed to continue to uphold the principle of All Women Shortlists (AWS), with several members underlining the need not to concede the principle on this issue, therefore one of the remaining seats to be selected would be an AWS. 

In her report as General Secretary, Louise Magee highlighted the need to focus on Senedd campaigning and that, while it was hoped that we would be able to physically hold a conference in Llandudno in February, this would be kept under review. Several members commented on the need for the party to develop a robust fundraising strategy. Louise stated that the Welsh Labour Women’s and BAME committees would be able to meet and hold AGMs only once AGMs for branches and CLPs were able to take place. She also agreed to report back to a future WEC on the progress regarding the Welsh Labour Party Democracy Review, which had stalled due to Covid-19. She was also asked about the progress towards development of a manifesto and reported that the Welsh Joint Policy Committee would meet on 26 September to finalise the most recent policy papers and begin preparations for presentation and discussion at Welsh Labour Conference.

The two CLP WEC representatives from Mid and West Wales, Ivan Monckton and Christine Hardacre, asked that an item be added to the agenda for the November WEC meeting to allow the CLPs in the region to detail their experiences of the recent trigger ballot process for the list candidates in that region; the General Secretary agreed to add this to the agenda. 

The WEC then received a series of written reports from the Deputy Leader; the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales; the Welsh Local Government Association representative, Cllr Andrew Morgan; and the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner representative, Jeff Cuthbert. 

Two final points were made towards the end of the meeting. Firstly, Ivan Monckton, one of the CLP reps for Mid and West Wales, expressed concerns that the majority of the WEC papers had been received late in the evening before the meeting, and one (from the Deputy Leader) only a few hours before the meeting began. The General Secretary stated that they were dealing with some vacancies and staff illness but would endeavour to ensure that the papers were circulated well in advance of the meetings in future. The Deputy Leader stated that she had not had time to compile her report earlier, partly because she does not have paid staff to support her Deputy Leader position. 

Secondly, Tonia Antoniazzi MP raised concerns regarding the representativeness of the views expressed by CLP representatives on the WEC. 9 of the 10 CLP representatives (led by Sophie) have written to the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary to respond to this issue raised. CLP WEC representatives are elected through an OMOV ballot of all eligible voters in their region. Once on the WEC, we, as good practice rather than a written rule, produce reports for members, which are for the most part distributed to members through CLP secretaries (although this is inconsistent in places). We would also attend CLPs or branches where asked to do so. However, CLP reps do not have access to membership lists or any other means of directly communicating with members; we imagine that this is due to GDPR concerns. We would be delighted to have our reports shared more widely and would very much relish the opportunity to speak to members directly to seek their views so that we can better represent their interests on the WEC, in whatever ways this can be facilitated. 

WEC Meeting 6 July 2020 (Joint report with Sophie Williams)

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. 

NEC Meeting Tuesday 19 May 2020

After a couple of special meetings called to discuss the party’s response to the leaked report, we finally held the first full NEC meeting under Keir Starmer’s leadership. Although this meeting was not due to discuss the appointment of a new General Secretary, following the sad departure of Jennie Formby, the long-listing for this post by NEC officers had taken place that morning and the Chair, Andi Fox, began by expressing her disappointment that the names of the 9 candidates who had been successful at this first stage had immediately been leaked to the media. 

The Chair also informed us that Carol Sewell, the NEC BAME rep, who had been scheduled to join the NEC officers in conducting the shortlisting for the General Secretary post, was now unable to take part and the Chair therefore proposed that one of the CLP reps, Huda Elmi, take Carol’s place. This opened up a lengthy discussion where various NEC members sought not only to propose alternative candidates to Huda but also to reopen the question on the number and composition of the shortlisting panel. When the Chair quite rightly ruled that such proposals of the latter kind were out of order, she had to contend with some disgraceful barracking and general rudeness from certain NEC members. Following a vote, it was eventually decided that Shabana Mahmood MP should take Carol’s place. 

Keir then gave his first report as leader, concentrating mainly on how he had been holding the Tory government to account on its failures in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, particularly in relation to testing and PPE, as well as the disturbingly high death toll within care homes. Keir also voiced the widespread concerns about Boris Johnson’s speech in which he had begun to relax the lockdown restrictions in England without apparently having given this adequate thought beforehand. The Immigration Bill was another cause for concern, given the government’s appalling treatment of NHS and care workers from other countries. Finally, Keir talked about the outreach work that the party was doing in communities where people had turned away from Labour in 2019 and cited in particular online public meetings held with people in the north of England and in Wales. 

In questions on the leader’s report, concerns were raised over a number of issues, including the membership of the panel investigating the leaked report, the apparent shift in the party’s position in relation to Kashmir, the rather cautious stance taken over rent relief for tenants in the private rental sector and the hostility voiced towards the teaching unions by certain Labour figures. Mick Antoniw MS also highlighted the different approaches being taken by the four national governments within the UK over Covid-19 and the need for Labour to factor this experience into its thinking on constitutional reform. Keir responded that the inquiry panel had been agreed by the whole NEC (although it was subsequently pointed out that we hadn’t had the opportunity to research the proposed members beforehand). He also said that his letter on Kashmir followed closely the line taken in a similar letter from Ian Lavery MP under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and reassured the NEC that the party would take a strong line on any human rights abuses; NEC members highlighted the alarming deterioration of the situation in recent months and the importance of the party clearly condemning the actions of the Indian government. On rent, Keir said that the taxpayer would have to pick up the bill if tenants were relieved of the responsibility to pay. He offered support for the position of the teaching unions and said that schools should only be reopening when it was safe to do so. Keir also acknowledged Mick Antoniw’s point about devolution and said that he was in constant contact with the Welsh and Scottish Labour leaderships. 

Angela Rayner then gave her first report as Deputy Leader and began by paying tribute to the work of Jennie Formby. She said that she was working with the trade unions in their efforts to boost membership, a campaign that had been inadvertently boosted by Boris Johnson’s flagrant disregard for the interests of workers. Angela made a few comments about the enquiry into the leaked report, saying in particular that the standards expected of staff needed to be absolutely clear in the future and that she hoped and expected that the issue of the misuse of finances in relation to parliamentary seats was properly examined, along with the other matters that had come to light. She acknowledged that there had been some differences recently on a number of issues such as those about which Keir had been asked, but she hoped that consensus could be reached on these matters without any return to factionalism. She also highlighted the importance of the party investing sufficient resources in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections in particular, given the high stakes involved. 

We then moved on to consider a number of papers on pressing matters arising from the Covid-19 crisis and the need for the party to adjust our plans accordingly. There was a wide-ranging paper entitled ‘Local and Regional Democracy in Lockdown.’ The first part of this looked forward to the council, mayoral and devolved parliamentary elections due to take place in 2021 and set out a timetable and revised arrangements for the selection of candidates. Much of what was proposed was sensible and pragmatic, but there were concerns about the potential implications for democracy of one or two of the proposals. A couple of amendments were agreed that improved on the original proposal; the first of these allowed for party branches to continue to conduct local government selection shortlisting in England (rather than this being taken over by the LCF assessment team and branch officers) and a second amendment deleted a proposal that the transition from LCFs to Local Government Committees should be ‘paused’. 

The second part of the paper dealt with internal party elections for various sections of the NEC along with auditors, the CAC, NCC and the Young Labour National Committee. A choice was presented, whereby either CLPs could be allowed to make nominations using an electronic platform; or CLP Executive Committees would make nominations; or, finally, all internal elections would be deferred, pending a further decision on appropriate timescales. In the end, the third of these options was overwhelmingly agreed, but it was agreed to hold a further NEC meeting in June, which would consider a new paper with further detailed options as to the timetabling of the elections. It was also agreed that English regional party conferences (scheduled for autumn 2020) would be postponed until the following year and that, in the absence of the normal workings of the National Policy Forum, the party’s policy and research unit would produce guidelines to support CLPs in engaging with the NPF process via electronic platforms. Mick Antoniw proposed that this be done with due regard to devolution, given that around half of the policy content of NPF papers now relates to matters that are devolved, and this was agreed. 

We then turned to a separate paper on annual conference and women’s conference; the options were either to plan for a full conference to go ahead, which would have required the procedures to be varied to allow CLPs to elect delegates using an online voting platform; or for conference to be postponed and replaced with an online policy event in the summer, which would not fulfil the constitutional function of the normal conference. Given the practical difficulties of organising a physical conference involving social distancing measures, even if it were possible for a mass meeting of this kind to go ahead at all, it was unanimously agreed to postpone conference. 

The only other substantial business was to fill some gaps in the party’s policy commissions and to take a report on local government from Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of the LGA, who highlighted the close working between the Shadow Cabinet and Labour’s leadership within the LGA and the growing financial pressure on councils and the need for this to be addressed. 

Under AOB, there was an attempt to reopen the agreed procedures for conducting the remainder of the General Secretary appointment, which unfortunately saw some of the same bad behaviour from certain NEC members as had been witnessed at the start of the meeting. I understand that strong representations have been made since the meeting about this and hope that we will see a more comradely and respectful attitude towards the Chair, in particular, in future meetings. 

WEC Meeting 21 May 2020 (Joint Report with Sophie Williams)

This was an extraordinary meeting, the first to be held virtually, primarily to discuss important business involving various internal selections. The first meeting of the new WEC should have been the AGM; however, the rules state that the AGM should be held after conference, which had not taken place due to Covid-19, and the party does not currently have the technology to facilitate secret ballots (needed to elect the WEC officers). Given that conference was not due to take place until October 2020 (the WEC later agreed to cancel the conference, as discussed later) and the NEC had agreed to invest in the necessary technology, it was agreed that the next meeting of the WEC would be the AGM. 

The meeting began with a series of reports from elected representatives, firstly from Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford, which centred on the Covid-19 pandemic and the way in which the Welsh Government, supported by health boards and local authorities, had mobilised in response, reflecting the Welsh social partnership model. He discussed the current situation in care homes and the ‘fits and starts’ relationship with the UK Government. He had had regular discussions with Keir Starmer since he became Labour leader, and had attended a virtual meeting of the Shadow Cabinet. Mark reiterated that the Welsh Government would continue to take a careful and cautious approach to easing restrictions, in line with their ‘traffic light’ model. He also detailed survey results that indicated the Welsh population’s overwhelmingly positive response to the way in which the Welsh Government had handled the crisis. Mark answered questions on the care home situation, the ‘r’ number and the panel of experts established to advise on recovery measures. He was also asked whether the £500 payments given to 64,000 social care workers in Wales would be extended to other frontline staff, such as cooks and cleaners, in the sector- the Welsh Government would look to do so in the autumn if funding is available. 

The leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, Cllr Andrew Morgan, made some comments to supplement his written report, highlighting the cooperation between the Welsh Government and local authorities, for example on PPE provision and the forthcoming test and trace service, in contrast to the relationships in England. The Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Nia Griffith, paid tribute to her predecessor, Christina Rees, and discussed the party’s response to the Tories at Westminster and the difficulties of effectively challenging the government in opposition. She was followed by a short report from the Deputy Leader, Carolyn Harris, who outlined the party’s plan to campaign to ensure that the £500 payment to social care workers was tax-free. 

The first substantive paper was received only a short time before the meeting, due to changes having been made following the NEC meeting two days prior. This paper detailed the plans for choosing regional list candidates for all five regions ahead of the 2021 Senedd elections and it was reported that there had been a good response to the call for party members to join the panel of approved candidates. The plan remained to try to tie the ballot to the forthcoming NEC ballot; however, the NEC had yet to agree a final timetable for those elections, so the party may need to hold a separate ballot. The proposed timetable in the paper, which sought to have candidates in place by October 2020 to allow for the remaining constituency selections in the autumn, was agreed, as was the proposal to allow BAME applicants only to apply for more than one region. It was confirmed that the shortlisting procedure would seek to shortlist 5 men and 5 women, with an additional BAME place if no BAME applicants were initially shortlisted. The proposal to hold only one hustings meeting per region, held by Welsh Labour, was not agreed; instead, CLPs or groups of CLPs would be allowed to hold virtual hustings meetings provided all eligible candidates were invited and that the meeting was cleared by Welsh Labour before taking place. 

The next paper was the most controversial and provoked a heated debate. It argued that, due to Covid-19, the two sitting Senedd Members in Mid & West Wales, should be automatically re-selected as the top two candidates on the regional list for the 2021 elections, instead of facing a trigger ballot. We, alongside the majority of the other CLP reps, particularly Christine Hardacre and Ivan Monckton (the two CLP reps for the region in question) and other comrades, opposed this, as it would be entirely anti-democratic and prevent the eight CLPs in that region from being able to decide their candidates for those elections. After a prolonged debate, Mark Drakeford proposed that a decision on this paper be delayed until a future WEC meeting, which was agreed. We will continue to campaign on this issue prior to the next WEC meeting in the hopes of successfully opposing it. 

Two further papers (one on the proposed selection procedure for the Senedd candidate for the Rhondda constituency and one on the proposed process for the Welsh Policy Forum ahead of the 2021 conference and Senedd manifesto) were agreed without amendment. The main proposal in the Rhondda paper was for a postal ballot of all members in the constituency, as the coronavirus had prevented a selection meeting from taking place. Similarly, the policy forum paper presented fallback proposals following the cancellation of a Welsh Policy Forum meeting in June; these plans involved either a rescheduled WPF meeting in November or, failing that, policy papers being considered at Welsh conference in February 2021.

Welsh Labour now publish WEC papers on the party website for members only. 

The final items were reports from the General Secretary, Louise Magee and from Jeff Cuthbert, Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent. Louise proposed that, given the ongoing crisis, Welsh Labour conference should not take place in October, and that the next conference would be the 2021 conference ahead of the May Senedd elections, which was agreed. She outlined plans for candidate development and training programmes. Darren raised a point regarding the vacancy on the WEC for one the two seats representing the Co-op Party and socialist societies. We had been told that this seat would remain unfilled until the rescheduled Welsh conference, as there had been a tied vote in the postal ballot conducted among the socialist societies. In view of the cancellation of conference, Louise agreed to revisit this issue. Jeff had circulated a written report and discussed the cooperation between the Welsh Government and Welsh police forces in the current crisis. 

Special NEC Meetings, 23rd April and 1st May 2020

The first scheduled NEC meeting that Keir Starmer would have attended following his election as party leader would have been on 19th May 2020. The leak of the internal report on the party’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints, however, resulted in a couple of special meetings being called. 

Keir and Angela Rayner had already announced that there would be an investigation into the substance of the leaked report, as well as the circumstances of its production and release into the public domain. The contents of the report had already been widely reported by the media and there had been widespread outrage among party members over revelations that senior party officials had apparently conspired against Jeremy Corbyn, undermining Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign and impeding efforts to deal with anti-Semitism complaints.

Along with all of my fellow NEC members, I received hundreds of emails expressing shock and revulsion at these revelations, and demanding that the party take robust action to address the behaviour sighted in the report and restore the confidence of party members. 

Shortly before the meeting on 23rd April, the NEC received draft terms of reference for the investigation from Keir. This document was not especially contentious, rightly acknowledging the concerns that many party members have felt on reading about the leaked report, and setting out the basis for an investigation to be overseen by a panel of four independent members. The proposed terms of reference fell into three categories: first, the truth or otherwise of the main allegations in the report; second, the circumstances under which it had been commissioned and written and those in which it was leaked; and finally, the structure, culture and practices of the party. 

The meeting on 23rd April was convened solely to discuss these terms of reference. There was also a brief report from Jennie Formby, General Secretary, in which she explained that the document had originally been intended for the party’s lawyers in the context of the EHRC investigation into complaints about anti-Semitism in the party. Jennie also detailed the action that she had taken since the leak, including contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office, launching an immediate internal investigation into the data breach and contacting all those named in the report. 

Keir said in presenting his draft terms of reference that he was sorry to be attending his first meeting under such circumstances and that it was necessary for the party to undertake such an inward-looking responsibility at a time of national crisis. 

A series of amendments to the terms of reference had been submitted, most from the left of the party, and these were discussed in turn. The general thrust of most of these amendments was to emphasise the importance of investigating the substance of the report as opposed to the lesser matters of how it come to be written and how it had been leaked. This focus reflected the concerns of the many members who had contacted us and sought to avoid an undue preoccupation with identifying the source of the leak. One of the MPs on the NEC suggested that anyone suspected of having been responsible for the leak should be suspended, but thankfully this suggestion was not adopted. Unfortunately, most of the amendments were defeated, reflecting the weakness of the left following the leadership and NEC by-elections. Those that were accepted acknowledged the legitimate concerns about relations between party staff and the membership, reinforced the fact that any chance to party structures would fall outside the scope of the investigation and finally highlighted the fact that an apparent racist and sexist culture within party offices had been one of the most alarming aspects of the report. 

The second special meeting on 1st May was called in order to seek agreement from the NEC for the people whom Keir Starmer wanted to appoint to the investigation panel. The NEC had not received these names in advance of the meeting and there had therefore been no opportunity to look into the record of the people involved. The nominee for chair was Martin Forde QC, a prominent black barrister who had provided advice on the Windrush compensation scheme. The other proposed members were Lord Larry Whitty (former Labour General Secretary and a member of the House of Lords since 1996), Baroness Debbie Wilcox (former leader of Newport Council and of the Welsh Local Government Association) and finally Baroness Ruth Lister (a well-known social policy academic and also a Labour peer). 

Keir said that he had considered asking Lord Alf Dubs (former Labour MP for Battersea and more recently a Labour peer) to join the panel, but considered that Alf’s strong support for Keir’s leadership campaign might cause his independence to be called into question. Jon Lansman argued, however, that it was a matter of concern that there were no Jewish members proposed for a panel whose subject matter would partially centre on the party’s response to anti-Semitism complaints and suggested that Lord Dubs be added as a fifth member. This was put to the vote and I was among those who supported the proposal, but it was narrowly lost. I also supported the suggestion that Andy Kerr, from the CWU and Chair of the NEC Organisation Committee, should serve as an NEC liaison with the panel, but unfortunately this again was defeated. 

There was some discussion about the members of the panel and about the process; Larry Whitty was probably seen as the most controversial choice during the meeting itself, due to his involvement in some of the factional struggles within the party during the late 1980s and early 1990s, although even some on the left felt that he was a figure whose judgement should be respected and it was pointed out that he had been removed as General Secretary under Tony Blair. All four nominees were overwhelmingly endorsed by the NEC, although some of us abstained at some cases. I voted to accept Debbie Wilcox, having worked with her on the Welsh Executive Committee and considered her to be independently-minded, but I have subsequently been concerned to see some of her tweets, which endorse strong criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and suggest a sympathy for right-wing factions within the party. 

During both meetings, some of us raised the question of administrative suspensions of those alleged in the leaked report to have been guilty of wrongdoing; one of the main concerns of those party members who had written to use was that no action was being taken against former and current officials who appeared to have engaged in very troubling conduct, yet many ordinary party members had been suspended pending investigation of often lesser offences. While there were no guarantees offered of action in this respect, Keir said that the progress of the investigation should not impede any disciplinary action against particular individuals and Jennie confirmed that the Governance and Legal Unit was examining the evidence to consider whether any action might be necessary. 

WEC Meeting 25 January 2020 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

There had been a long gap since the previous WEC meeting as a result of the General Election and our assessment of the latter took up most of the time of this meeting. Wayne David MP was present in his capacity as chair of the election campaign committee for Wales and it was also the first meeting for Cllr. Andrew Morgan, who had succeeded Cllr. Debbie Wilcox as Leader of the WLGA following her elevation to the House of Lords.

In his Leader’s report, Mark Drakeford said that his government was undertaking the most ambitious legislative programme ever attempted in the final year of an Assembly term. This included measures to protect tenants in the private rental sector, rights for people in residential care, radical proposals for education, measures to tackle agricultural pollution, plans to re-regulate the bus industry, new powers for local government and a new social partnership bill. The Welsh Government’s budget included extra money for the health service, a real-terms increase in funding for local government and money for climate change. Welsh Labour was now also preparing in earnest for the Assembly elections the following year. 

In the ensuing discussion, council representatives thanked Mark for the extra funding being made available, while noting the continuing challenges that they faced. Christine registered her concerns about reports of the schools funding formula in England and Mark confirmed that the Welsh formula was completely different, being driven by people, deprivation and rurality.

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Christina Rees, talked about Johnson’s Withdrawal Bill, which was even worse than Theresa May’s having removed any protection for workers’ rights. Labour had opposed but lost the vote. The Queen’s Speech debate was now underway- the opposition had put down an amendment on health and social care to try to secure decent funding but this had also been lost. The House of Lords had won five victories on Tory legislation including the Alf Dubs amendment on reuniting refugee children with their families, but the Commons had rejected it and the Lords had decided not to ‘play ping-pong’.

In her Deputy Leader’s report, Carolyn Harris expressed her sadness at the loss of the Labour MPs who had lost their seats. She thanked Welsh Labour staff for their hard work and said that we would need to work hard to win back the electorate and that the PCC election campaign would be important in this regard. She thanked Mark and the Welsh team for giving some protection for Wales. She also highlighted her role as co-chair of the Keir Starmer leadership campaign. 

There followed the General Election de-brief, which included a detailed written paper. Mark began by summarising the results and putting them in context. The outcome had been deeply disappointing, especially for those people who had invested their hopes in a Labour government. We needed a hard-eyed look at the reasons for our defeat, which included the impact of a winter election, Brexit and the divided views on Jeremy Corbyn. Looking at the historical record, there was a fairly consistent trend for Labour’s vote in Wales to be ten points ahead of its UK vote in a good election, and seven points ahead when the party did less well, and this election had been no exception to this rule. The coalition supporting the party now included especially young people, graduates, BAME communities and public sector workers. This was different from in the past. The difference between the outcomes in North East Wales and South Wales was mainly due to the relative size of the party’s previous majorities. Mark was working with David Hanson and Chris Ruane to get their perspective on what had happened on the ground. Mark added, however, that the results should not give rise to a council of despair, as people were depending on Labour to pick ourselves up and move forward. We had still secured 41% of the vote in Wales and run a strong campaign on the ground. There had been robust support from the trade unions and from party staff as well, and a new leader would help to persuade people to give Labour another chance. 

The General Secretary, Louise Magee added some detailed comments on the campaign and the outcome, acknowledging that the initial strategy had been geared towards winning certain seats from the Tories but that a more defensive approach had been adopted as the campaign went on. The party’s digital work had been much improved and there had been 175 visits from Shadow Cabinet members and other key campaigners. Some 200,000 people had been spoken to in the course of the campaign. In addition to the seats that we had lost, we came close to losing Newport West and Alyn and Deeside. There had been issues with the print system, which had given rise to a number of complaints. 

Wayne David also made some comments, in which he highlighted that this had been the most centrally-directed campaign that he had experienced and that the party had been slow to respond to feedback from the ground in Wales. 

A long discussion followed, in which some WEC members were critical of the party leadership and its position on Brexit, among other things. Darren argued that a balanced assessment was needed rather than a rush to judgement as we had seen from many quarters. There were long-term issues as well as the dominance of Brexit, which the Tories had exploited to the full with their simplistic sloganeering. Darren paid tribute to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and expressed concern about the negative comments made by certain elected representatives during the campaign. Others also felt that certain comments by prominent party figures had crossed the line and undermined the party’s campaign. They called for action to be taken. It was eventually agreed that the WEC should write to the Chief Whip of the Assembly Group about these matters. Darren also supported the proposal by fellow CLP rep Catherine Thomas that we write to Jeremy Corbyn to thank him for his leadership and this was agreed. 

There was a brief item on the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections in which Louise reported that we still needed to select candidates to cover the Dyfed-Powys and North Wales police areas and that the officers and CLP reps from the regions concerned would meet after the meeting to discuss this. 

The next item was entitled ‘other work in progress’ but focussed on an update on the Welsh democracy review, where it was reported that the planned timetable had been disrupted by the General Election and there had been insufficient discussion on various proposals that had been submitted. To secure a degree of consensus, it was proposed that the staff work with Paul Murphy to prepare a report for conference reviewing the work that had been done, the areas where rule changes were now unnecessary (either as a result of decisions by the NEC or of work by the WEC- such as the establishment of standing orders for the Welsh BAME Committee) and deferring any more substantial changes until 2021. Darren argued, however, that to postpone further reforms in the way suggested would be a missed opportunity and would cause great disappointment among party members, who had hoped that the democracy review would bring in significant change. While acknowledging the practical difficulties, he suggested that certain changes to the makeup of the WEC could be agreed at this year’s conference before the committee was re-elected for the 2020-22 term. Specifically, seats representing BAME members, women members and a proposed new seat for disabled members could be elected by OMOV, which would be popular among members and achievable as a result of action at the UK level. It was agreed that options on these matters could be included in a report to be brought to the February meeting. 

It was also suggested that it would be useful to conduct a longer-term review of the way that the party operated on the ground and try to learn lessons for the future in relation to our culture and organisational capacity. As the meeting was already over-running, the remaining reports were taken quickly before the meeting adjourned. 

NEC Meeting 17 September 2019

This was the meeting that takes place every year in the week preceding party conference and which finalises whatever decisions the NEC might need to make regarding the conference agenda and other arrangements. It is normally, therefore, one of the lengthier meetings and this year’s was no exception. 

Jeremy began his Leader’s report by paying tribute to those prominent party members who had died over the summer months and for whom we had received obituaries, but also to Jennie Formby, who had continued to undertake the role of General Secretary with her usual fortitude and professionalism despite having to contend with her treatment for cancer. He also thanked the party staff in general, who had worked hard throughout a particularly demanding period. 

Jeremy then reminded us of the challenge that we would soon face to secure a government that would represent ordinary people. Boris Johnson had been elected by a mere 92,000 Tory votes, he was making a series of unfunded spending commitments and had the temerity to say that austerity was now over when this was clearly not the case. Jeremy continued to campaign all over the UK and had paid a visit to Whaley Bridge, to see the damage done by the flood and the work that had been put into deal with it and protect local people. The community had been full of praise for the emergency services and seemed supportive of the local Labour MP. The Tories were still committed to leaving the EU by 31st October but didn’t seem to have any new proposals. They had tried not to publish the Yellowhammer report but it had come out two days after parliament was prorogued. Legislation had been passed to avoid a no-deal Brexit, thanks to Labour MPs and peers. 

The Prime Minister was under pressure to say whether he would abide by the law as passed. There was also a court case underway on the question of whether the prorogation had been legal and Shami Chakrabarti had attached herself to the case. Jeremy had reached out to other opposition parties to prioritise ruling out no deal and this had proven effective. He said that we shouldn’t promote either a referendum or an election until no deal was off the table. The government no longer had a majority, having lost 21 Tory MPs. If Boris Johnson were defeated on the Queen’s Speech, this could lead to an election; otherwise Labour could potentially table a vote of no confidence. The alternative to Labour’s approach would be Johnson taking the UK into the arms of Trump’s USA. Labour was determined to campaign on all issues during an election including poverty and austerity. In the meantime, we would be having a full debate at conference on Brexit and Labour’s plans for a Green New Deal among other issues. 

In the ensuing discussion, several NEC members congratulated Jeremy on his handling of the Brexit issue in parliament and there was criticism of Jo Swinson for her attempt to avoid working with Jeremy and the LibDems commitment to revoke Article 50 without going back to the people. 

The next item should have been the Deputy Leader’s report but Tom Watson was not present and had not given apologies, so we had to move on to the subsequent item. This was the local government report, where Cllr Nick Forbes said that the LGA had unanimously adopted a Labour motion on the climate emergency. He was also promoting Labour innovation in local government on a special website, which would be a useful resource for the party. Andrew Gwynne MP had said that local government was an important delivery agent for 44% of our manifesto. Nick was also delighted that Debbie Wilcox, previously Leader of Newport Council and the WLGA, had been elevated to the House of Lords. 

The International Report was presented by John Hilary, former Director of War on Want, who had recently moved into this role and wanted to ensure more political content in the NEC’s discussions of its relations with parties and other organisations abroad. Kashmir and Yemen were among the pressing international issues raised under this item. 

We then had the General Secretary’s report, with Jennie ringing in for this item. This covered many of the organisational issues that required consideration. Jennie reported that the EHRC were still working on their investigation. The party has also stepped is planning for a general election, which had been underway since 2017 and subject to regular review, with funding now made available for specific quantities of election materials. The party had recently opened up applications for aspiring parliamentary candidates and had received 1200 of these before the deadline. The Governance and Legal Unit had been carrying out due diligence checks. Trigger ballots for Labour-held seats were currently the priority. 

There was lengthy discussion covering a number of the points that Jennie had raised, including concerns about the procedure undertaken to fill vacancies for candidates in seats where the MP was retiring or had defected to another party- some of these selections had begun only to be abruptly halted and had yet to be recommenced. There was clearly a pressing need for the party to have candidates in place in these important winnable seats as soon as possible. 

Jennie asked the NEC to agree that the party should continue to prioritise trigger ballots, but ask officers to come back with a proposal for a truncated process for new selections. The NEC agreed, but asked for a detailed proposal to be brought to the eve of conference meeting the following Friday, despite Jennie expressing reservations as to whether this would be achievable, given the pressure of conference preparation work. NEC members also expressed concern about the continuing absence of a date for the next Women’s Conference- Jennie pointed out that other conferences had been cancelled but gave assurances that the Women’s Conference would definitely take place in the New Year, albeit that it was currently difficult to be more precise because the events team were preoccupied with the main conference. 

Harry Donaldson, Chair of Conference Arrangements Committee, then gave a report on how motions would be dealt with at conference- 398 had been submitted, 9 of which had been ruled out of order due to excessive length, 23 were on organisational matters and had therefore been referred to the NEC. The remainder had been grouped into 53 different subject areas. The issue of organisational issues not being considered a valid subject for conference motions is a controversial one as there is nothing in the rulebook to support this approach and it has simply become custom and practice since the Blair era. In the next item, which was acceptance of NEC Officers’ decisions, Jon Lansman moved that the officers’ decision on whether to allow organisational motions should be reconsidered, which I supported, but this was lost by 18 votes to 11. 

The next item was the report from the long-running review on Labour’s policy on organising in Northern Ireland. Jim Kennedy, who had chaired the review panel, presented a paper. There were a number of complex considerations regarding Labour’s links with the SDLP, which currently remained a sister party even though it had taken steps towards closer relations with Fianna Fail, which might yet result in merger. There were also questions to consider regarding the implications of any change in Labour’s position for the Good Friday Peace Agreement, which was currently in a more sensitive state than it had been for some time as a result of the Tories’ crude politicking in relation to Brexit. The overwhelming view of the NEC was that the report was a sensible, sober response to complex issues and should be accepted, although some of use, myself included, expressed the hope that we would not be closing the door to a potential change in policy in the future and that we needed to acknowledge the aspirations of the many Labour Party members in Northern Ireland who wanted to be able to play a more active role. 

We then turned to rule changes to be debated at conference both from the NEC and from CLPs. Most of the NEC rule changes were fairly uncontentious and represented attempts to address practical issues and to take forward the work of the democracy review. There was a lengthy debate on a motion regarding efforts to promote the selection of a greater number of BAME candidates, the result of which was that it was agreed that there should be more targeting of our efforts in this regard towards particular areas. By far the most contentious NEC rule change was the one seeking to give the NEC the power to carry out fast-track expulsions of members accused of particularly egregious conduct in relation to discrimination issues, where there was clear evidence of their guilt. Along with a couple of other NEC members, I strongly opposed this proposal, as I had done when it had been first raised, on the grounds that it was not necessary to improve the efficiency of the party’s disciplinary procedures but was rather an attempt to demonstrate to the media and the wider external audience that we were ‘getting tough’ on anti-Semitism. There was no clear definition offered as to what would constitute a sufficiently egregious case nor what kind of evidence would be considered prima facie. In addition, the change would blur the distinction between the role of the NEC as investigator/prosecutor and the quasi-judicial role of the National Constitutional Committee. These objections were, however, dismissed by the majority of NEC members and the rule change was accepted. None of the constituency party rule changes secured NEC support, which was unfortunate as a couple of them proposed very sensible and reasonable changes. 

Meeting of the Welsh Executive Committee, held on Saturday 5th October 2019 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

This was a very well-attended meeting with a very full agenda, reflecting the rapidly moving political developments affecting the party. Mark Drakeford had as usual circulated a detailed written report on both Welsh Government and party business, but chose in his verbal presentation to focus on two issues: Brexit and the re-selections process for the MPs in Wales.

On Brexit, he noted that UK conference had agreed that a UK Labour government would offer voters a referendum with a choice between remaining in the EU and a viable ‘leave’ option, and that the Welsh Government would campaign in such a referendum for ‘remain’. The party wouldn’t, however, get the opportunity to do that unless we won the election and it was therefore important to stress that only Labour would offer voters this choice. 

On re-selections, Mark expressed his deep disappointment that the NEC had rejected the rule change proposed by Mick Antoniw, which would have given Welsh Labour devolved responsibility for re-selections in Wales. Mark said that this had perpetuated an anomaly whereby the Welsh party had control over selections and re-selections for Assembly candidates, but only for selections and not re-selections for parliamentary candidates. He would seek to persuade the NEC to reconsider its decision at some point in the future, but this was probably best done alongside any other requests for devolved responsibilities arising out of the Welsh Labour Party Democracy Review. 

Wales now had to proceed with trigger ballots on the same basis as in England, but Mark felt that time needed to be taken to do this properly, partly due to a duty of care to staff who were dealing with a number of other issues, including the selections in Ynys Môn and Cynon Valley, but also to ensure that the procedures followed were robust and not open to challenge. Certainly, it would not be possible to re-select in all constituencies simultaneously. 

There was a lengthy discussion arising from Mark’s report, in which several WEC members echoed his disappointment over the NEC decision. One trade union representative criticised Darren for not having supported Mick’s rule change at the NEC. Darren responded that he was not on the NEC as a WEC representative but as a voice for ordinary party members throughout the UK, and that he had sought to reflect what he believed to be the consensus among members on this and other issues. He did not believe that most members in Wales felt it necessary for there to be separate Welsh selection or re-selection procedures for candidates for a UK-wide legislature. Darren also welcomed Mark’s positive comments on Brexit, highlighting the fact that only Labour, of the main parties, offered voters a final say, but expressed concern that any election material in Wales should acknowledge that a democratic decision had been made at UK conference on the party’s Brexit position, and that, while the Welsh Government was free to express a view, this had not been subject to consultation within the Welsh party. Unite also indicated their support for the UK party position. 

Christina Rees. Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, reported on the ongoing saga in Westminster, where it appeared that parliament was now about to be prorogued again. There were concerns about the intricacies of the legislation relating to Brexit, but legal documents following the Scottish court decision suggested that the Prime Minister would comply with the law and request an extension to the 31st October Brexit deadline if no deal was agreed within the next few weeks. There were fears, however, that he might be seeking the assistance of other right-wing governments in Europe to veto any such extension. 

In the following discussion, several WEC members condemned the irresponsible behaviour of UK government ministers, including in relation to the delay in providing funding for Wales, as well as the inappropriate, misogynistic language used by several Tory MPs. 

In her Deputy Leader’s report, Carolyn Harris MP reflected on a successful UK party conference and the positive role played by Welsh Labour MPs at Westminster, including Diane Abbott’s historic role in leading for Labour at Prime Minister’s Questions. She talked about the continuing scourge of poverty, which underlined the vital need for a Labour government at UK level and reported that election preparations were well underway. 

Christine commented on the issue of bursaries for nurses, pointing out that Wales already pays these, and said that Wales’ experience was not always adequately reflected in some of the debates at Westminster. She commended the party’s commitment to end the elitism represented by public schools and asked what Wales could do on this issue. Mark Drakeford said that the Welsh Government was seeking the agreement of the Assembly to remove charitable status from private schools and hospitals in Wales. 

The next item was a set of draft standing orders for Welsh Labour’s BAME Committee, which had been drawn up by the Deputy General Secretary in liaison with the committee’s officers and which reflected the standing orders of the Women’s Committee. The Committee’s Chair and BAME representative, Ramesh Patel, thanked the party and Jane Hutt for their efforts. He asked whether it would be possible for the Vice Chair to attend WEC meetings in a non-voting capacity if the Chair were ever unavailable, but was told that this would not be consistent with practice in other areas where substitutes were never allowed. The only issue of detail that needed to be decided on the document was whether the committee should elect its officers annually or biennially; Ramesh said that the preference of the existing officers was for biennial elections, which would give them the same term of office as the WEC itself, and this was agreed by the WEC. Some members raised the question of how more BAME candidates could be selected and suggested the possibility of all-BAME shortlists, but it was pointed out that this would be illegal under the current legislation. 

The next item was a document setting out procedures for the selection of Assembly regional list candidates and for the re-selection for the two sitting Labour regional list AMs. David Costa explained that the procedures from the last two elections had not been entirely applicable to the changed circumstances this year but he had taken those elements that still applied and updated them in a way that was consistent with procedures adopted in other areas. There were some minor questions of detail but this document was largely uncontentious. On the re-selection aspect, the trigger ballot threshold was set at 50%, but there was general agreement that this should not be changed for the next election as the same threshold had applied to all of the constituency Assembly re-selections. This was purely for CLPs, however, as trade unions and other bodies do not affiliate at the Assembly regional level. The paper was therefore adopted. 

We then discussed draft procedures for parliamentary trigger ballots in Wales following the decision discussed above. David Costa explained that the paper was not concerned with the fundamentals of the mechanism but with the detailed implementation of the rules and therefore closely followed the NEC guidelines already drawn up for England, substituting references to the NEC for the WEC where appropriate. Darren expressed concern about the potential delay to the process that Mark’s opening remarks had seemed to imply. Darren said that it was important to get on with the process now as quickly as possible to give the members their democratic say in who their candidate should be and added that the seven-week model timetable seemed longer than strictly necessary and that we should look to shorten this somewhat. Most other contributors to the discussion, however, stressed that they considered seven weeks a tight timescale and that they were concerned about the workload for party staff. David Costa pointed out that the seven weeks was simply a model that could be adjusted to fit local needs. 

The paper stated that, where a male MP faced an open selection as the result of a trigger ballot, party rules dictated that he should automatically be on the shortlist, but in keeping with Welsh Labour’s commitment to promote gender balance, the other places on the shortlist would be reserved for women candidates. Some of the union reps sought to challenge this and questioned its legality, but David Costa reassured them that the party was confident that its proposals were legally sound and the paper was eventually carried unamended. 

There was a brief item simply confirming that the current Welsh Policy Forum representatives would continue to serve until replaced by the new WEC. 

There then followed the General Secretary’s report, which gave a general overview of recent and ongoing party activity, including the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. Louise paid tribute to Rhiannon Evans during her tenure as Acting GS. It was confirmed that Alice Hughes had been appointed as Policy and Campaigns Officer and Alvin Shum as Regional Organiser. WEC members raised questions about the parliamentary selection in Monmouth, which had prompted some concerns, and about the by-election campaign in Brecon and Radnorshire- these were to be pursued further via correspondence with the General Secretary. 

By this point, the meeting was over-running and the EPLP and WLGA written reports were noted without further discussion. Jeff Cuthbert added some brief comments to his PCC report in relation to the continuing pressure caused by cuts in police numbers. 

Under the minutes, an item from the June meeting was picked up where members had requested CLP membership figures, but the response was that these were the property of the Governance and Legal Unit at HQ and that it was not appropriate to share them. Under Any Other Business, Jackie Thomas from Community highlighted a multi-union march in Newport the following Saturday to save the Orb steelworks. 

Meeting of the Welsh Executive Committee, held on Monday 9th September (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

This meeting was called at a point when it looked as though there might be an imminent General Election. By the time that it took place, this seemed less likely due to the opposition parties in Westminster uniting to defy Boris Johnson’s push towards a snap election. Nevertheless, it was felt useful to put in place selection procedures for any parliamentary vacancies that might needed to be filled quickly. At the time of the meeting, only one of these was known about, which was Ynys Môn, where Albert Owen had announced that he would be retiring after 18 years as MP. 

A paper had been prepared by party officers, which reviewed the situation in Wales and made proposals for urgent selections. Of the non-Labour held seats in Wales, only two still needed to select candidates, namely Montgomeryshire and Ceredigion. Both of these were due to complete their respective selection within a fortnight of the meeting. The paper made a commitment to ensure that there was as much democratic involvement by party members as possible while also completing selections without delay to ensure that the party would be ready for the election when it came. 

The constituency party in Ynys Môn had been consulted and agreed a timetable which would skip the normal branch nominations process but would allow members to participate in a hustings meeting, where they would decide between candidates shortlisted by a selections committee. The hustings meeting was expected to take place on 5th or 6th October. Similar arrangements would be put in place for any other vacancies that might occur before a General Election was actually called. 

This was all uncontentious and the meeting agree the paper. However, Darren also took this opportunity to ask about progress on trigger ballots for the re-selection of candidates in Labour-held seats. This process had been underway in England for a couple of weeks, with constituencies undertaking the process in stages, but this had not yet begun in Wales. The Deputy General Secretary, David Costa, explained that, since the WEC had agreed at its last meeting that Mark Drakeford should write to the UK Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby to ask for a rule change to give Welsh Labour devolved control over re-selections of parliamentary candidates in Wales, he had been advised that Mick Antoniw, as Mark’s representative on the NEC, should put a rule change motion to the NEC, which was due to meet the following week. 

Any progress on trigger ballots in Wales would therefore have to wait on the outcome of this meeting. If the NEC agreed to support Mick’s rule change, then it would go to UK party conference. If carried, it would mean that the WEC would have to decide on re-selection rules for Wales at its next meeting on 5th October. If the NEC or conference rejected the rule change proposal, then the WEC meeting on 5th October would have to draw up detailed procedures for implementing the same mechanism as was already underway in England. 

Darren asked whether, in the event that the NEC rejected the rule change, the process of implementing trigger ballots in Wales could be brought forward, rather than wait for 5th October, because of the limited time available, given the continuing possibility of an early election. He pointed out that most members in Wales hadn’t had an opportunity to choose their parliamentary candidate since around 2013 or 2014. He also noted that, in the event of the rule change being agreed, the actual mechanism applied in Wales would be determined by the 30-odd voting members of the WEC, whereas the procedures in England had been agreed by UK party conference. It was explained, however, that it would not be possible to bring the meeting forward due to party conference and Mark’s expected absence the following week. 

The final item was a report from the General Secretary on election preparations. Louise said that Welsh Labour leaflet template text was available as both bilingual and monolingual versions via Labour Connect. The party would be conducting interviews in the next few days for both the Policy Officer and vacant Regional Organiser positions and would be seeking an increase in staffing if and when a general election was called. There would also be campaign training in South West and North Wales and IT training on Contact Creator and Labour Connect. It wasn’t intended to cancel scheduled events such as Welsh Women’s Conference or the Welsh Policy Forum unless a snap election were to be called. Darren asked whether there would be more engagement between the WEC and the Welsh manifesto process on this occasion, noting that in 2017 WEC members had been told nothing about the process until the manifesto was actually published. David Costa responded that the Welsh manifesto process was a subsidiary of the UK process and that the specifically Welsh elements would reflect documents already agreed by the WEC or the Welsh Policy Forum and there was also a need for the text to be written quickly by a small number of people. Mark Drakeford added that, although there were real time constraints, he would want the party to look at how we could engage people in the process as far as possible. He explained that SpAds do most of the actual writing of the manifesto but that there could be an opportunity to WEC members to meet them to discuss particular policy areas. Chris also commented on the manifesto, saying that the Welsh version had been rather bland in 2017 and that this time it needed to be more dynamic with positive reference to Jeremy Corbyn.