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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting, June 2019 (Report by Christine Newman)

This meeting was very lengthy with 21 items on the agenda so edited highlights only have been provided. 

Report of the Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Mark presented a written report to the committee. He thanked the staff of the Welsh Labour office for their hard work and loyalty over the recent very busy period.

On Brexit, Mark expressed concern that, due to the current Tory Leadership Election, the unity of the U.K. was seriously under threat. Their talk of “a no deal Brexit,” was putting undue strain on relations between Scotland, Wales and Ireland with England. However, our links with the Irish Government were strengthening, an example of this was the reopening of their Consulate Office in Cardiff. Negotiating with the Tories for a satisfactory deal for Wales seemed futile in Mark’s opinion. With this situation in mind and having discussed the matter with J.C. he felt that he had no option but to support and call for a public confirmational vote. A move, much appreciated by members of the WEC including myself. Although I did remind the meeting that we have a huge task ahead of us persuading the Brexit supporters in Wales to support our remain position. Mark confirmed that the Welsh Government (WG) hope to publish a new policy document” soon, making the case for remaining in the E.U. as strong as possible.

On Ford, the WEC were reminded that the Bridgend Engine Plant by September 2020 will have lost 1,700 jobs. Both Mark and the Economy Minister, Ken Skates AM had visited the plant and engaged in talks with management and the unions over the last few weeks. Mark gave assurances that the WG had pressed the Ford Management to reverse their decision and if that is not possible not to leave the plant/country without giving significant compensation to their staff. Concern was expressed for those worst affected, those with mortgages and young families to support. That is why a 24 hour, 7 day a week helpline has been set up for the work force, by the WG. In addition, funding is available for those affected, to attend appropriate re-training courses. As for the Ford supply chain, which had developed over the years, the WG is also offering to help them. I added that this situation illustrates how there is no loyalty among capitalist firms such as Ford, considering all the financial assistance they have received from the WG.

On the M4 Relief Road, Mark reported that a Public Inspector’s Report and a detailed account of why the WG decided to scrap this project can be found on the following website: https://gov.wales/m4-corridor-around-newport. Mark added that the two main reasons for this decision, were that the WG would be unable to meet the rising cost of the project and the serious environmental impact on the Gwent Levels. On hearing that a new expert commission, chaired by Lord Terry Burns, had been set up to make recommendations as soon as possible on how the congestion on the M4 in Newport and SE Wales can be tackled, no further comments or questions were raised on this matter at the meeting.

On Budget Preparations, Mark admitted that the situation was very serious, as the WG cannot plan its 2020-21 budget. This is because:

  1. We are entering the 10th year of austerity – which is a political choice by the Conservative Government.
  2. This same government promised a Comprehensive Spending Review, which has not taken place yet, making it incredibly difficult for the WG to make any financial planning arrangement with Local Government, Welsh NHS, etc.
  3. The complete lack of clarity by the U.K. Government on its Shared Prosperity Fund which is supposed to replace the E.U.’s £370million a year funding for Wales.
  4. The WG Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans AM has written to the U.K. Government demanding a permanent adjustment to Wales’s block grant, over and above Barnett that should then be administered by the WG and not as threatened, by the UK Government.

On Local Government, following recent talks between the WG and Local Government (LG), the following proposals were announced:

  1. The development of a LG Bill,
  2. To enshrine the social partnership model in law.

During the questioning of Mark, I raised two concerns and received assurances on one, that the WG were seriously considering re-regulating the public bus services in Wales, and secondly, the WG and LG were looking into bringing back in house, privately-run public services. Social Care was mentioned as an example. The Unison Delegate Dan Beard, raised the question of staff cuts at St David’s University in Lampeter and the reluctance of the Liberal Democrat Education Minister Kirsty Williams AM to negotiate with the unions. Dan was advised to contact Jane Hutt AM as she has been given the job of overseeing Higher Education labour matters.

A Report from the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales was noted by the WEC. It is clear that Christina and her team are keeping up the pressure on the Tories especially Alun Cairns. He is difficult to pin down and seems ineffectual in representing the interests of the ordinary people in Wales. This is partly due to the fact that the UK Government is so preoccupied with Brexit matters, as a result of which other issues are being neglected. Yet Christina and her team have been busy questioning the Tories on such matters as the European Elections, the status of the Stronger Towns Fund, the Ford Closure, the Policing Budget, the U.K. Shared Prosperity Fund, the Brexit impact on Wales, the Wales Steel Industry and the British Steel Pension.

Christina was asked what disciplinary action has been taken over the eight Labour MPs who voted with the Tories at a recent Brexit debate. She was not aware that any action had been taken.

Welsh Labour Deputy Leader, Carolyn Harris gave a verbal report on the work she had been involved in recently. Perhaps her proudest achievement is that the UK Government have agreed to give financial help to those parents who have difficulty in paying for the funeral expenses of their dead child. In addition, Carolyn has also been involved in calling for women prisoners, especially pregnant ones, not to be sent to prison in England, as at present, but to be placed in Women’s centres. She also expressed concern about the unfair treatment of Virgin staff by the Swansea management.

A paper on Transitional Rules for the Women’s Committee, was accepted by the WEC. It was agreed that a transitional period for regular discussions between the Women’s Committee and the WEC, would be necessary, in order to fully implement the rule changes.

Welsh Labour Democracy Review: an Interim Report on Stage 2 of the Democracy Review was presented to the WEC and accepted. It was agreed that the less contentious issues would be dealt with first and presented for approval to next year’s Welsh Labour Conference. It was also confirmed that a series of meetings on this matter would be chaired by Lord Paul Murphy, plus a timetable was being arranged for these ongoing consultations.

The Reselection of MPs was included in the Democracy Review paper, as there was an issue to be resolved in relation to the way this is applied in Wales. Cllr Debbie Wilcox reminded the WEC that councillors have to go through a full reselection process before they can stand in each election. I added that, in the interests of fairness, such a practice should also apply to AMs and MPs but this was opposed by one of the AMs present on the grounds of inconvenience and workload. Mark Drakeford asked the WEC to agree that he should write to the UK General Secretary, asking for a rule change to allow Welsh Labour to have control over reselections in Wales. He said that there were two key principles here, firstly the matter of devolution and secondly the question of parity with the English party. He noted that there had been a significant transfer of responsibilities to Wales at the 2016 LP conference but, following the change at last year’s conference in the way that reselections are conducted, there was now an inconsistency and not everything was devolved. It was agreed that the letter should be written.

There was a paper updating us on Candidate Selections that still had to be conducted, namely: PCCs for South Wales, Dyfed-Powys and North Wales; the remaining Parliamentary Selections, Assembly Selections for constituencies not currently held by Labour; and Assembly Regional List Reselections and Selections.

On Local Government, Cllr Sarah Merry presented a paper, concerning approved procedures that were felt necessary following the recent development on the Vale of Glamorgan Council, where the ruling Tory Party have split and now Labour councillors and Independents (i.e. ex-Tories) are running the Council, hence the need for a code of conduct on power sharing. The other paper which was formally agreed, was entitled NEC Local Government Committee Review of the Party’s Local Government Organisations and Groups, it was about adopting rules, guidelines and procedures appropriate for Welsh Labour.

Vacancies on the WEC: Two Trade Union places had become vacant and, since there were no runners-up from the original election, David Costa had drafted a proposed procedure for filling the vacancies, which involved inviting those unions eligible to nominate to do so and then conducting a ballot if necessary; this was agreed.

CLP Rules & Standing Orders: this item set out what CLPs needed to do in order to implement the rule changes agreed at UK conference in a number of areas, including: 

  1. All CLP Secretaries should follow the national model of Rules and S.O.s and any deviations must be agreed by Welsh Labour.
  2. On Quorums, the new rules state that the minimum should be 25 for a CLP GC and 6 for a branch meeting.
  3. Formal Notice of all meetings and the business intended should be sent out by the secretary to all those entitled to attended at least seven days prior to the meeting. Those members not on e-mail should be contacted by post.
  4. A GC executive should include 6 officers including a Policy Officer, a new post with an important role. There was a request for a yearly breakdown of membership levels per CLP, with the numbers who had lapsed, joined, left, etc. It was agreed to request this information from the NEC.

The Code of conduct/disciplinary procedures for National Assembly LP members. The paper was introduced by Vikki Howells, setting out the revised rules for the Assembly group, which had now been completed, and was accepted by the WEC.

Dates for WEC meetings up to the following year’s Welsh conference were also agreed.

Acting General Secretary’s Report. This covered:

  1. The work done for the European Elections.
  2. Staffing – Grace Ashworth became the third trainee organiser, who will be based in Aberconwy. There are two staff vacancies since Alex Bevan and Victoria Solomon had left. Welsh Labour was awaiting approval from the UK Labour HR team to appoint replacements.
  3. The Brecon and Radnorshire by-election would be held over the summer.
  4. There would be a Labour Stall at the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst.
  5. The Welsh Policy Forum had met on Saturday 22/6/2019, the first of a two-year term in the current cycle.
  6. A Stage 2 policy document was being prepared over the summer for launch in November’s Welsh Policy Forum.

Jackie Jones was warmly welcomed at the beginning of the meeting, as the newly elected and only Labour MEP in Wales. She and the other Labour candidates had submitted a report outlining where Labour could have improved its performance in the recent European Election.

WLGA re-elected leader’s report.

Debbie Wilcox confirmed what the First Minister had stated – that the Public Sector Finance was in disarray due to the Tory Government’s position over Brexit. On Local Government Reform, constructive talks were taking place between the First Minister and the Housing and Local Government Minister and progress was being made.

A PCC report from Jeff Cuthbert was accepted by the WEC. Finance was a very serious concern.

Minutes of the previous WEC were accepted. 

Under the final item Correspondence:

  1. The North Wales Consultative Committee report was accepted by the WEC.
  2. Stephen Doughty MP asked whether Welsh Labour had received any reply to a complaint about Darren Williams (who was not present at the meeting) for circulating a supportive message about Chris Williamson MP on behalf of Welsh Labour Grassroots. This request was seconded by Tonia Antoniazzi. What an uncomradely way to end a meeting!

Meeting of the Welsh Executive Committee, 6th April 2019 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

This meeting was a special one, dedicated entirely to preparations for the Welsh Labour Conference, due to take place the following weekend, and therefore the agenda was much shorter than usual. 

The first item was to resolve the one issue left over from the report on the Democracy Review discussed at the previous meeting, namely the question of electing the Welsh seat on the National Executive Committee. In response to concerns raised by the unions at the previous meeting, it had been established that we could allow members of affiliates to vote alongside full party members, but only on the same basis as they can vote in UK Labour leadership elections (i.e. they must first be registered as affiliated supporters) and the ballot would be conducted online. Although one or two of the union reps were not entirely happy with this proposal and suggested that a decision be deferred while other options were explored, but Chris argued that there had already been a full discussion and a solution had been arrived at that addressed most of the concerns; we should therefore go ahead and vote on it. The OMOV ballot arrangements proposed by officers were duly put to the vote, alongside an alternative proposal (put by one of the union reps) that the election be conducted via an electoral college at conference, and the OMOV option was accepted. 

The main item was to decide the WEC’s position on the various motions submitted by CLPs and affiliates. 26 motions had been accepted as valid and 4 ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee. For the first time, the text of motions deemed invalid by the SOC was published – as long requested by Chris – along with the reason for their rejection. Of those accepted, there were 5 almost identical motions on ending no-fault evictions, two very similar motions on child poverty and two broadly similar motions on women’s refuges. In each of these cases, the officers were seeking agreement from the bodies in question that the motions could be composited. In relation to the policy motions, Mark Drakeford said that Welsh ministers and special advisers were keen to see motions supported by conference wherever possible, even with qualifications, but outlined some practical difficulties with three motions and, in each case, the WEC accepted Mark’s arguments and agreed either to ask the moving body to remit the motion in question or to recommend that conference vote against. 

There were three motions on internal party issues, and the Deputy General Secretary, David Costa, gave a view on these, suggesting that, in two cases the WEC seek remittance but that the third be supported. These recommendations were adopted by the WEC. 

The only other item was notice of the draft timetable for conference, which was circulated for information, and the meeting therefore concluded much more promptly than usual. 

Meeting of the Welsh Executive Committee, 16 March 2019 (Joint Report with Christine Newman)

The meeting began with an update from the Acting General Secretary, Rhiannon Evans, on the Newport West by-election, which had been triggered by the sad death of the great Paul Flynn a month before. The election was obviously hugely important, as, although the party had an excellent candidate in Ruth Jones, we could not take for granted that the strong personal vote built up by Paul over many years would simply fall into our laps. In addition, it was clearly going to be a significant test of the leadership, both of Jeremy Corbyn and of Mark Drakeford, and at a time when the political atmosphere was particularly febrile because of the Brexit saga. Rhiannon offered reassurance about the degree of organisation and input from staff and volunteers into the election campaign. The TULO organisation of Labour union affiliates was to organise a big push on 23rdMarch. Darren suggested trying to get as many people to the constituency as possible on the final Saturday before the election; it appeared that the party was already thinking along similar lines. 

The next item was a report from the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister, Mark Drakeford. Mark once again provided a detailed written report of his activities over the previous month, which had included speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference the week before, seeking to protect Wales’ interests as the prospect of Brexit loomed ever closer, and acting on his campaign pledge to develop a social partnership bill in collaboration with the trade unions. His action on this last point won praise from trade union reps present. Darren commended Mark and Julie Morgan for the work that they had done in addressing the concerns of campaigners, who had sought to protect the Welsh Independent Living Grant; the additional funding and provision of an independent social work assessment, which had been agreed, had assuaged many of these concerns. Mark also commented on the terrible events that had taken place in Christchurch, New Zealand; he had written to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to offer condolences on behalf of the Welsh Government, and had tried to provide solidarity and reassurance to Muslim communities in Wales, including by attending Friday prayers in a Cardiff mosque and also the vigil organised by the Muslim Council for Wales. 

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Christina Rees, echoed Mark’s comments about the tragedy in Christchurch and the need to protect the harmonious relations that we had sought to promote in our multicultural societies. She also reported on efforts that she had made to hold Welsh Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, to account over issues including mineworkers’ pensions and the questionable plans for the Felindre Parkway station. 

Deputy Leader, Carolyn Harris, reported on a number of successful campaign days that had been held with materials tailored to the needs of Wales, and the development of Labour’s community organising strategy, highlighted by the recent event with Ian Lavery MP in the Vale of Glamorgan. She also referred to the importance not only of the Newport West by-election but also the council by-election in Merthyr, which could potentially enable Labour to regain control of the local authority. 

The next item was progress on the Welsh Labour Democracy Review. Officers had prepared a detailed report on the progress that had been made on Stage 2 of the review, which, subject to WEC approval, was to be presented to Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno. Mark Drakeford and Deputy General Secretary, David Costa, presented this report to the meeting. As indicated at the previous meeting, less of the work encompassed by the review had been accomplished that we would have liked, and there had been a focus on agreeing some changes where there was general consensus. A table of responses included in the paper indicated that there had been a sharp increase in submissions, especially from CLPs, close to the deadline, although no indication was given as to common themes and priorities from those submissions. Despite the somewhat disappointing absence of major reform proposals, overall there were some important and positive steps forward in a number of key areas. These included a relaxation of the restrictions relating to motions submitted to Welsh Labour Conference, removing the “contemporary” criterion and the two-year rule, although not, unfortunately, the requirement that motions must relate to devolved matters only. In addition, there was agreement in principle that Welsh Labour Women’s Conference should become a motion-based event with voting delegates; the Women’s Committee had been asked to draw up appropriate arrangements. 

There were three items in the Democracy Review report that were more contentious. The first of these was a proposal to provide for the election by an OMOV ballot of the position representing Wales on the National Executive Committee. This post has been in the gift of the Welsh Labour leader since it was created in 2016, but there had been widespread support for it to be elected in submissions to the UK Democracy Review and Mark Drakeford had also made this one of his leadership campaign pledges. The proposal as presented would have allowed affiliates as well as CLPs to make nominations, but only party members to vote. The trade unions raised concerns about this and it was agreed that, although there were some practical difficulties (because the election had to be conducted by the UK party) an attempt would be made to accommodate their wishes for their members to vote and the matter would be brought back to the next meeting. 

A second controversial matter related to the rules for reselecting parliamentary candidates. The trigger ballot mechanism was reformed at the UK Labour Conference in 2018, reducing the threshold of votes needed to trigger an open selection, but it was widely assumed that this would apply only in England. There had since been clarification that it would apply to Wales and Scotland as well. The document acknowledged this, but said that Welsh Labour might wish to ask the NEC for a further rule change to allow Wales to have the option to determine its own rules. Some WEC members expressed support for this idea, with two even questioning whether the interpretation of the rules that we had been given was correct. Darren, however, argued that, while he supported devolution where it made practical sense, there was no obvious reason why selection of Labour candidates for a UK-wide Parliament should be different in each of the constituent countries and that we should therefore accept the status quo. It was agreed that the paper could stand as written as it simply acknowledged the current position and that we come back to it at a later date 

The final issue that provoked some controversy was in relation to the commitment to make WEC papers more widely available for members to see. This again was in line with one of Mark Drakeford’s pledges to promote greater openness and accountability within the Welsh party. It was agreed that Welsh Labour should seek to establish a password-protected section of the UK Labour website in which these papers could be published, subject to some exclusions for sensitive or confidential material, but there was a debate as to whether the obligation to publish the papers should be written into the standing orders or whether there should simply be a general instruction to officers that this should be done. At Mark’s suggestion, we adopted the latter approach on an initial basis with the aim of moving towards a more formal commitment once the new approach had been introduced. 

There was then a paper on electoral reform, which summarised responses to the consultation that Welsh Labour had undertaken on this subject. It was reported that, although there had been general consensus that the number of Assembly Members should be increased, there was no consensus about moving towards a more proportional electoral system and it was therefore agreed that we should conduct further discussions on this through the policy process with any resulting proposals to be incorporated in Labour’s manifesto for the next Assembly elections in 2021. 

The Acting General Secretary, Rhiannon Evans, reported that, since the last meeting, the Assembly Member and Police and Crime Commissioner trigger ballot processes had begun, that parliamentary candidates had been selected in Clwyd West and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, with Brecon and Radnorshire due to conclude on 30thMarch. In addition, an expedited selection timetable had been agreed for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and this was also under consideration for Ceredigion. In response to questions, Rhiannon said that the Assembly selections in Bridgend and the Rhondda would begin after conference and that it had not yet been decided which would begin first. 

Neither Derek Vaughan MEP nor Cllr Debbie Wilcox were present at the meeting, but both had circulated written reports. Jeff Cuthbert had also produced a written report on the work of the Police and Crime Commissioners and added some comments about the need for greater resources and a more coherent strategy to deal with violent crime, as well as criticising Theresa May’s denial of the link between cuts in police numbers and the increase in recorded crime. 

In response to the minutes, Darren sought a further update on the question of whether new rules on quorums, agreed at UK Conference, would apply in Wales, and was told that the party had confirmed that these would apply. There was one piece of correspondence from Dwyfor Meirionnydd CLP, which incorporated a motion seeking discussion of open selections at Welsh Labour Conference, and it was agreed that this could not be taken up in the way that the CLP wanted because the Assembly selections had largely concluded and we now knew that the parliamentary selections were bound by the same rules as the UK party, but CLP reps asked that the CLP be given a detailed response that fully acknowledged their concerns and clarified the position.  

WEC Meeting, 26th January 2019 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

This was the first meeting since the election as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Mark Drakeford (whom both of us strongly supported).  The tone was very positive and upbeat, with WEC members offering Mark their warm congratulations, regardless of whether or not they had supported him in the election itself.

In his Leader’s report, Mark acknowledged the challenges faced by Wales in relation to Brexit and reflected on the leadership election and the selection of his first cabinet. He also gave a welcome reaffirmation of his commitment to promote greater democracy, accountability and transparency within the party. He said that, even without rule changes, there is a lot that we can do to increase transparency and empower members and was pleased to report that WEC members are now listed on the Welsh Labour website for the first time. He said that he had asked party staff to find ways to make as many WEC papers as possible available online for party members to read. He reiterated his support for an OMOV election for the Welsh seat on the NEC and said that he wanted Welsh conference to spend more of its time debating policy. 

In response to questions, Mark echoed concerns about the impact of Brexit, which he said had already been felt within the Welsh economy for some time. He pointed out, however, that attitudes to the issue varied, even among Labour voters, with some frustrated that the party appeared to be trying to resist the people’s will. His own view was that we needed to be able to show that we had done everything possible in Parliament to mitigate the harm that Brexit could do, and at that point, we might legitimately be able to go back to the people and ask them to express a view once again. The overriding priority was that the UK should not leave the EU without a deal. Mark also talked about the importance of having a Cabinet minister with specific responsibility for North Wales, about his commitment to the cooperative economy and about the need for difficult issues in relation to crime and policing to be subject to oversight from the First Minister’s office.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Christina Rees, had circulated a written report but also gave a verbal update on the efforts that she and her parliamentary colleagues had been undertaking in Westminster to steer the Brexit process in a more positive direction, by putting amendments to the Government’s legislation. 

In questions to Christina, Chris highlighted media reports that a number of prominent industrialists had stopped funding the Tory party because of its Brexit policy and also queried whether the growing list of energy and infrastructure projects in Wales that had effectively been blocked by the UK government – Swansea tidal lagoon, rail electrification, Wylfa ‘B’ – reflected Tory vindictiveness. Christina echoed Chris’ concerns on this latter point and also highlighted the lack of agreement as to who would control the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, intended to replace EU structural funding.  

The Deputy Leader, Carolyn Harris, said that, while Mark would be focussing on policy, she would continue to devote her energies to campaigning, and highlighted a number of dates over the coming months that had been designated as campaign days. She also talked about campaigning around Holocaust Memorial Day, gambling and alleviation of poverty. 

Darren asked for some clarification on Assembly selections. Welsh Labour want all the trigger ballots for seats with sitting Labour AMs (other than any who may have signalled an intention to step down) to be completed by 29 March. With regard to the Labour-held regional list seats, it was explained that there are no ongoing selection procedures in rule and that we therefore have to agree the procedures anew every time this comes up (while this may seem an odd position to be in after twenty years of devolution, it does at least give us the opportunity to improve on the procedures used in the past). This won’t be done at the same time as the trigger ballot for constituency AMs, however, not least because the only region with Labour list AMs (Mid and West Wales) currently has several parliamentary selections to take care of.  

The WEC agreed that, in future, aspiring election candidates should receive a local party membership list free of charge as soon as they’ve submitted their application for selection, rather than having to pay £30, as in the past, or waiting till they’ve been shortlisted, as in England. This will remove a barrier to candidates on low incomes. We also agreed that, where a CLP, particularly in a rural area, wanted to organise an expedited parliamentary selection process, where not many applications were expected, the General Secretary should be empowered to authorise this. What this would mean in practice is that, in the event of there being up to six self-nominations in total, all applicants would be automatically shortlisted (subject to probity checks) and be considered by an all-member selection meeting. 

We confirmed that both of the ‘new’ Assembly selections being treated as priorities, Bridgend and Rhondda, should be all-women shortlists. This had been our expectation at the previous meeting, but in response to a request from Bridgend CLP, we had agreed to defer a final decision until such time as the CLPs had had an opportunity to discuss the matter. Bridgend had, in the end, opted to have an all-women shortlist but Rhondda CLP had stated a preference for an open shortlist. In discussing the submissions, however, WEC members recalled that we had a clear policy of prioritising all-women shortlists for any winnable seats that might become newly vacant and had agreed that it would take a very strong argument to persuade us to make an exception. The WEC was unanimously of the view that we had not been presented with such an argument and that we should uphold our established position, a view that both of us spoke to support. Chris said that it had taken a long series of battles to win Welsh Labour to its current commitment to meaningful action in support of gender balance and the WEC had a political responsibility to take a strong lead in ensuring that this policy was adhered to.

We then moved on to the Welsh Labour Party Democracy Review, and agreed, at Mark’s suggestion, that, in view of the vast number of issues left to be addressed by the Welsh Democracy Review and the relatively low engagement so far from party units and affiliates, decisions on any resulting changes would have to be split between this year’s and next year’s conferences. It was also agreed to extend the deadline to allow more CLPs to respond to the party democracy review consultation document. 

We next considered a paper giving a technical debrief on the recent leadership election. Among other things, this reported that more than 750 members had attended hustings meetings; the total electorate had been around 175,000 members and affiliated supporters; and the turnout had been 53.1% for members and 5.7% for affiliates. Darren asked whether further information could be provided, such as a breakout of support for each candidate between the two categories of voter; a similar request was made by Unison, who said that it would be particularly useful to have a breakdown of voting between affiliates, to assist in efforts to drive up turnout in future elections. The Acting General Secretary, Rhiannon Evans, said that it would not be possible to provide a breakdown of further voting between each candidate, because this had been a single section OMOV ballot, but she was aware that some affiliates had approached the balloting agency, ERS, about individual union turnout and she understood that it might be possible to provide this. 

Rhiannon had also circulated a written report covering the leadership election, campaigning and visits by leading party figures to various parts of Wales, the Future Candidates programme and staffing changes. There were also written reports from our MEP, Derek Vaughan, Debbie Wilcox (leader of the WLGA) and Jeff Cuthbert (representing the Police and Crime Commissioners). 

Lastly, Darren asked once again for an update on the position regarding the applicability (or otherwise) to Wales of rule changes relating to CLP management agreed at the Liverpool conference in September (most notably on quorums for CLP meetings). We had previously been told that discussions were underway between Welsh Labour and party HQ to establish an agreed position on the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions. Welsh Labour have apparently continued to pursue this but are still awaiting a definitive response. In the meantime, Welsh CLPs have been told that their pre-existing arrangements still stand.