Welsh Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday 20th April 2017 (joint report with Chris Newman)

This special meeting was called within hours of Theresa May’s announcement of a snap general election on 8 June and was intended primarily to agree procedures for the party’s selection of candidates. The NEC, meeting the day before, had agreed the broad principles governing candidate selection and a detailed procedure for England but Wales and Scotland had the scope to adopt a slightly different approach, following the devolution of responsibility in this area last year.

Opening Remarks – Mike Payne, who took over as Welsh Labour Chair at Welsh conference in February, welcomed members and the new General Secretary, Louise Magee, to the meeting. He explained the background to the meeting and the fact that, following the devolution of sections of the Labour Party Rule Book to Wales, the WEC is responsible for administering the selection process of MPs, which was now a matter of some urgency. Of the 40 Welsh parliamentary seats, 25 were held by Labour and all of our sitting MPs had agreed to stand again. The NEC had agreed that all of these would automatically be endorsed, so Welsh Labour now needed to quickly select a further 15 candidates. The NEC had adopted an exceptional selections procedure, dispensing with the normal provisions for involvement by local members and branches, and Welsh Labour’s Party Development Board (the ‘executive’ of the Executive!) had provisionally approved a similar approach. Mike was at pains to emphasise that this was a response to the urgency of the situation and was not intended set any precedent for future elections.

General Election Update – the new General Secretary, Louise Magee had had to respond to the general election announcement on her first day in the job. She outlined the progress she and the Welsh Labour staff had made since then. Staffing numbers had been increased to help meet the increased workload, with a new regional organiser and eight local organisers to be appointed. A fundraising appeal had also gone out to members. ‘Flying start’ leaflets and posters were ready for use. The 25 sitting Labour MPs had been contacted and the Welsh members of the PLP had meet with members of WEC. A ‘Snap General Election Guide’ produced by the party centrally, was tabled and outlined deadlines, advice and procedures were to be followed. Members were reminded that a series of visits with Jeremy Corbyn were being planned, the first of which would be on Whitchurch Common in the marginal seat of Cardiff North the next day – Friday 21 April.

Stephen Doughty reported that the Welsh PLP had met and had been unanimous about the need for a clear Welsh dimension to the campaign and for Welsh branding for the Labour manifesto. One of the councillors on the WEC raised concerns that the general election announcement would mean a loss of focus on the council elections but Louise reassured her that this would not be the case. One of the senior elected representatives on the WEC expressed concern about initial messages from the UK party leadership, targeting the rich for tax increases, which he thought was divisive and electorally unhelpful. Another CLP rep strongly took issue with this (rightly, in our view) but the Chair then moved on with the agenda.

The Shadow Welsh Secretary, Christina Rees described the local election campaign so far, including major events held in North Wales, in Flint, Bangor and Wrexham and then in South Wales, in Newport and Cardiff. She had witnessed enthusiasm for a Labour Victory in the local elections and little sign of any real UKIP activity. While this call for a snap election had been a shock, our duty was to keep on campaigning for another Labour Victory.

The Welsh Labour Leader, Carwyn Jones felt that we had a mountain to climb in the general election. It was not yet clear what the manifesto would look like but it would be important to ensure that it was ‘devolution-proof’. Prior to the general election announcement, we’d seemed to be holding our own, although there had been some criticism of the UK leadership. This time last year, Labour had been predicted to lose 6 or 7 Assembly seats and Carwyn had been asked if he was going to resign but the party had obviously fought its way back from that position. It was fighting a defensive campaign, which had worked well last year. It was important to try and move the debate away from Brexit and focus instead on the Tory Cuts and a general anti-austerity message.

Minutes of Party Development Board held on 19/4/19 – this included the selection procedure being presented to the WEC. For the 15 vacant seats, adverts would be placed on the LP and Welsh Labour websites. The closing date would be on Monday 24th April at 5pm and standard CV and monitoring forms would be used.  It was proposed that all candidates be selected via a WEC panel consisting of the chair Mike Payne, vice chair Pam Baldwin and treasurer, Jen Smith. This panel will appoint candidates on the basis of their CV’s and local knowledge without an interview. Candidates who had stood in the 2015 general and 2016 Assembly elections would be considered in the first instance and then ‘new’ candidates. All selections would take place by Tuesday 2nd May subject to NEC endorsement.

Darren moved, and Chris seconded, an amendment to this process, because of concerns about the lack of any input to the selection process by local members, which could result in a degree of disenchantment and demoralisation. While recognising that the very short timescale precluded a full selection process in the 15 vacant seats, we argued that concentrating the decisions in the hands of the three officers was too ‘top-down’ a procedure and proposed that the panel for each seat should consist of one of the WEC officers, plus a WEC CLP rep for the region in question and one of the officers of the CLP in question. There was some support for this position, mainly from other CLP reps, but several other members spoke against, mainly on the grounds that our proposal would introduce unnecessary and time-consuming complications when time was of the essence and that we should trust our three officers to conduct the process. We were told that the latter would seek local knowledge about each constituency to inform their decision. Unfortunately, at least one person made the familiar, tiresome and rather insulting suggestion that our concern about democracy and accountability meant that we were less concerned than we should be about actually winning the election.

In the event, most people accepted the argument that the urgency of the situation precluded our proposal, for which there were only seven votes (compared to twenty against) and the original procedure was adopted. With the crucial decision having been made, the meeting then concluded.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 25th February 2017 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

This was a special meeting to consider the business of Welsh Labour conference, due to take place in Llandudno at the end of March.

The first item of business was the Welsh Labour Rules Review – i.e. the rule changes that the WEC itself will put before conference, many of which aim to incorporate in the Welsh party rules the decisions made by the Liverpool conference in September to transfer certain powers from London to Wales.

These included the following:

  • increasing the membership of the WEC to include a (non-voting) representative of the Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioners and a second Young Labour representative (the latter already existing de facto); and giving the WEC’s Party Development Board and its sub-committees on Organisation and Local Government formal status;
  • acknowledging that County Parties have been replaced by Local Campaign Forums and similar bodies;
  • recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader (who will be the leader of the Assembly Labour Group) and providing for the establishment of the post of Deputy Leader, with one of these being a woman (detailed procedural arrangements for such an election to be decided by WEC at a later date).
  • amending the provisions for gender balance in electing certain posts, so that the post-holder must be female at least every other year, rather than having to switch between women and men in consecutive years.
  • increasing the membership of the Welsh Policy Forum to incorporate the new positions listed above.
  • acknowledging that the WEC now has the power to draw up rules for Parliamentary, Assembly and Local Government selections in Wales (which will be undertaken at a later date).
  • introducing new Procedural Guidance for WEC meetings, to address a rule change submitted by the Socialist Health Association to last year’s conference, which the SHA was prevailed upon to remit. Papers would be circulated at least ten days before meetings, as sought by the SHA, but not published on membersnet, as the SHA wanted. Also, a quorum for WEC meetings would be set but simply at 40% of the voting members of the executive overall, and without stipulating a particular number within each section of the executive (CLPs, unions, etc.) In endorsing this Procedural Guidance, the WEC also effectively agreed to oppose a rule change from Swansea West CLP, which repeated the requirements of last year’s SHA motion – although it was not entirely clear at the time that we were making this decision.

It was agreed that conference should vote on these proposals in blocks, with each covering a single issue – not take them all together as one vote, as the Liverpool conference had controversially done with its rule changes.

More detailed proposals for rule changes in areas like the election of the deputy leader and candidate selections will be subject to detailed consultation within the party after conference.

The Provisional Conference Agenda was noted. In response to question from Chris as to how progress on agreed resolutions is reported, we were told that this would be dealt with via the WPF.

Next, the WEC considered what stance to take in relation to those Motions, Issues and Rule Changes submitted by party units and affiliates and accepted as valid by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC):

It was agreed without significant dissent, to support motions from the GMB to establish a ‘Fair Work Commission’ to address issues like casualization and zero-hours contracts; from Unite to defend jobs, manufacturing and employment rights in the face of Brexit; from Unison, seeking to improve the quality of domiciliary care and the pay of those providing it (against the advice of the SOC, which had recommended seeking remission); from Brecon and Radnorshire CLP to maintain and strengthen NHS recruitment and provide stability and security to heath workers from the EU; and from Welsh Labour Students to increase healthcare and support for transgender people in Wales.

With all other motions, it was agreed, after debate, to ask the organisations in question to remit them for various reasons:

  • an USDAW motion seeking a package of support and legal protection for carers, because of uncertainty about the cost implications;
  • a motion from Ceredigion CLP on the election of the Welsh Labour Leader and Deputy Leader, because its support for OMOV was felt to pre-empt the forthcoming consultation on these elections;
  • a motion from Clwyd West on affordable housing because of its final paragraph calling for Fair Rents Officer to ensure parity between private sector and social sector rental charges was felt to be undeliverable (it was agreed by 11 votes to 7 to seek remittance, with us being among the seven; it was then agreed by 10 votes to 8 to oppose if remittance was not forthcoming, with us being among the 8).

The longest debate was on the motion on ‘Not For Profit Rail’ from our own CLP, Cardiff West, noting that the Welsh Government had failed to carry out conference policy to establish a not-for-profit rail franchise in Wales and calling on it to make good this failure. Carwyn argued that the Welsh Government does not have the legal powers to do what the motion asks, because these were denied by the UK government in negotiations over the Wales Bill – yet did not explain why, in that case, Welsh ministers had supported the original conference motion, at a time when the Wales Bill was not even under discussion and there was therefore no immediate possibility of any additional powers. We believe that, under the existing legislation, the Welsh Government could have specified a not-for-profit service when inviting companies to tender and established its own provider if no such bids had been forthcoming, and that that remains the case. We therefore rejected the recommendation to seek remission but almost every other member of the WEC accepted Carwyn’s argument and we were heavily defeated. The WEC will present its own statement to conference, expressing support for the principle of public control of rail travel but claiming that the Welsh Government is doing everything it can under the law. Cardiff West CLP has subsequently agreed to mandate its delegates not to remit, so there will be a battle over this on the conference floor.

It was also reported that the validity of motions from Cardiff West CLP Women’s Forum motion and the Socialist Educational Association Cymru motion was still being considered by the SOC.

Three Contemporary issues had been submitted by affiliates, and five by CLPs, for consideration by the Welsh Policy Forum in the year after conference but only one from each section will go forward. These were not discussed by the WEC because they will be subject to a priorities ballot at conference.

A Report on the Welsh Policy Forum (WPF), covering the consultation with CLPs and affiliates about the policy-making process leading up to the next Assembly elections, was also agreed.

Specifically:

  • The current structure of the WPF is retained, with the minor changes in membership that the WEC had agreed to incorporate in its rule changes for conference.
  • When nominations are sought for the next WPF, a statement on the expectation of WPF role holders is included.
  • A meeting will be held with the WLGA Labour Group to discuss the role of councillors in WPF policy making after the council elections.
  • Following a review of Local Campaign Forums in Autumn 2017, a decision will be made as to whether a rule change to increase Local Government representation should be brought to the 2018 conference.
  • The Welsh party will seek to make greater use of social media to facilitate policy discussions, supplementing the formal face-to-face discussions in the policy forum.
  • The Welsh MPs and AMs will be invited, via their WEC reps, to consider questions raised by Ian Lucas MP about MPs’ role in the policy-making process in relation to non-devolved issues; they should report back to the WEC with recommendations by September 2017.
  • Conference 2017 will be asked to approve this report as providing the framework for the work of the WPF 2017-2021. Arrangements be made for a WPF meeting in November 2017 and in the meantime, Welsh CLP and affiliates will be encouraged to contribute to the work of the party’s (UK) National Policy Forum.

Dave Hagendyk gave his final General Secretary’s Report (the vacancy has now been advertised). This was supposed to have included a further update on suspensions but Dave explained that the necessary information had not yet been forthcoming from HQ because everyone was so preoccupied with the Stoke and Copeland by-elections but he would circulate it by email when it was received.

The main discussion under this item was to initiate a consultation on whether Welsh CLPs should be organised according to the new parliamentary boundaries that were expected to be introduced, or to be based on the Assembly boundaries, which are co-terminus with the current parliamentary constituencies. (This is a matter for the WEC, as a result of ‘devolution’ rule changes agreed in Liverpool in September). This was originally intended to close in 9 June to enable the WEC to make a decision at our 8 July meeting but, given the importance of the issue and the fact that the local government elections were pending, it was agreed to give CLPs another couple of weeks to consider the proposals and, in order to facilitate this, to move the July WEC meeting to the end of the month (despite this being in the school holiday).

In Any Other Business, the case of Shiromini Satkunarajah was raised: she is a final-year electronic engineering student at Bangor University who was due to be deported, along with her mother, after eight years in the UK and had been taken to the Yarls Wood detention centre. It was agreed to circulate the petition calling for her to be allowed to stay. Darren also highlighted the important demonstration in Cardiff on 18 March to mark UN Day Against Racism and asked for the party to promote it, and concerns were raised regarding widespread misunderstandings about the role of the WLGA.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 4 February 2017 (Joint report with Chris Newman)

In opening the meeting, the Chair initiated a vote of thanks to both Dave Hagendyk, who had announced that he would be stepping down as Welsh Labour general secretary, in order to take up another position, and Jo Stevens, who had resigned as Shadow Welsh Secretary in order to vote against the whip on Article 50 in the House of Commons.

As usual, the first substantial item was the report from Carwyn Jones. He described the new Wales Act as a ‘two steps forward two steps back’, piece of legislation, which would not provide a lasting devolutionary settlement and did not offer Wales what had been granted to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The Wales Office had been unhelpful throughout the drafting process and the Westminster Government, focussed on ‘Brexit,’ had been reluctant to grant the Welsh Government many concessions.

The Joint Ministerial Council, bringing together the UK and devolved governments, had held its most recent meeting on ‘Brexit’ in Cardiff and Carwyn noted the frustrating lack of information coming from the Prime Minister. Each country had its own set of problems but they all wanted a full and unfettered access to the Single Market, yet no progress was made. The Westminster Government’s recently published White Paper on the matter was unhelpful and so was Whitehall! It appeared that the Prime Minister and her team were keen to go for a ‘hard Brexit’ dogmatic approach, which would leave Wales in a state of considerable economic uncertainty.

The Welsh Government had also published a Local Government White Paper, which seeks to promote greater collaboration between councils, as well as facilitating voluntary mergers (having moved away from compulsory mergers) and also aims to give councils the opportunity to choose their own electoral system, subject to a two-thirds majority vote (which was consistent with the Assembly’s newly-obtained power to choose its own electoral system).

There would be changes to the way the Assembly operates as a result of the new powers it was due to obtain and the Presiding Officer has set up an advisory group to help her respond to this, in which Labour had agreed to participate. There is still a widespread view that the Assembly needs more AMs, because of the increased workload associated with legislation and scrutiny work, but the political climate makes it difficult to justify the increase in cost.

Carwyn was asked a number of questions, mostly on the Brexit process and the implications for Wales, as well as the prospect of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and USA and the threat this might represent to the NHS. Chris conveyed the disappointment of the teaching unions over the lack of action by the Welsh Government’s Supply Taskforce to tackle the power of private agencies like New Directions and asked why Wales couldn’t adopt the same approach as Northern Ireland, which has a central register of supply teachers. Carwyn said that the Welsh Government didn’t currently have sufficient power to address this properly, although it would do in the near future. Mike Payne of the GMB added that the issue had also been discussed within the Education Sub-Group of the Workforce Partnership Council and it was disappointing that more progress had not been made.

Next came the EU Update from Derek Vaughan MEP, who commented on the difficult decisions Labour MPs had had to make in relation to the vote on triggering Article 50. In his view, the key ‘red line’ should have been the ability of MPs to vote on the final Brexit deal, as MEPs will. The EU is insistent that the UK must trigger Article 50 before they start serious negotiations. It was noted that, in many parts of the UK, the Brexit vote was really only an anti-Cameron/Tory/Establishment vote. Many people currently believe that things are fine following the ‘leave’ vote but don’t realise that this is because we are still in the EU, as the final exit is not until two years hence. Derek thought that we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a second referendum, not least because many people might change their views once the economy started to go downhill. Chris asked whether an early general election might be better than another referendum but Derek thought an early election would be difficult for Labour at present. Carwyn reiterated his view that all four UK parliaments should be required to ratify the final deal, although he felt that a second referendum could break the deadlock if this were not forthcoming.

Asked if Brexit could be stopped once Article 50 had been triggered, Derek said there was a view that this could be done if the other 27 EU members agreed. He also confirmed that funding for projects in Wales would still be available until 2020. After that, Wales will take a massive financial hit as it seemed unlikely that the Westminster Tory Government would not make good the losses that the Welsh Government would have to deal with.

Dave Hagendyk then gave his General Secretary’s Report and announced that the appointment of his successor should take place in early March. Tributes were paid to Dave, as those present thanked him for everything he had done over the years and wished him well in his new job.  Dave also announced that Rhiannon Evans, who was originally from Mold and was previously at the League Against Cruel Sports, has been appointed as Press and Communications Officer. Dave also hoped to secure monies to employ more staff to help in key seats for the local elections. Candidate selection for the local government elections are going well but concern was expressed about the lack of gender balance. The Training Academy is going well, providing a programme of training opportunities for new and young members throughout Wales, in modern training techniques and systems. The expected parliamentary boundary changes would also pose difficult questions for Welsh Labour’s organisation – i.e. whether to work on the basis of the 29 new parliamentary boundaries or stick with the existing 40 CLPs. Dave would bring a paper on this to the next meeting.

Dave had also conducted an investigation into some issues within Ceredigion CLP, which resulted in the re-running of the AGM, but praised the energy and enthusiasm of the CLP. Darren highlighted the fact that Ceredigion currently has only one Labour councillor and, having seen a huge increase in membership, is trying to find candidates to run a bigger slate in May but has had most of its few newly-selected candidates refused endorsement because they did not have twelve months membership. He asked Dave to clarify the scope for providing special dispensation. Dave replied that he was keen to see the local party stand more candidates this time and was willing, in principle, to be flexible if the CLP could provide more details and make a sufficiently persuasive case.

Minutes of the WEC Sub-Committees on Local Government and Organisation and Campaigns were circulated, discussed and noted.

The WEC then considered the Stage One Report of the ‘Making Gender Equality a Reality’ Working Party. This gave an update on the work done in response to a composite resolution carried at last year’s Welsh conference following motions from several CLPs and affiliates, seeking a more robust approach to ensuring gender-balanced selections. The report, which will be put to this year’s conference, set the scene for detailed consultation by reviewing the historical record, setting out some practical considerations and identifying the principles on which the party’s approach to selection should be based – namely, transparency, principle and consistency. The report was well received and Catherine Thomas and Dawn Bowden were thanked for their commitment and hard work in producing it.

Dave gave an NEC Investigations Update, saying that all those who were still suspended following last year’s leadership election had been contacted and offered an interview, although some hadn’t responded. The vast majority of those dealt with so far had had their suspensions lifted with a warning and that was likely to be the case with the majority of the remainder, although one or two were likely to b taken further due to homophobic and/or misogynistic language.

Darren queried why, based on information he’d received as an NEC member, a disproportionate number of those cases still unresolved (around a quarter) concerned members in Wales (Dave did not have an immediate explanation for this). He also said that there was almost universal recognition on the NEC that there had been problems in the way that disciplinary matters had been dealt with, partly due to the limited number of penalties available (i.e. members had been suspended when a milder response might have been more appropriate). The NE C Organisation Committee had, however, considered a paper that sought to learn lessons for the future and take a more nuanced and less draconian view in future. Another CLP rep also expressed concerns about the way some Welsh Labour members had been treated and said that she believed that at least one or two had not yet been contacted; Dave agreed to investigate this and report back. It was also agreed to make ‘Investigations Update’ a standing agenda item.

Regarding Welsh Labour Conference, we were told that arrangements were going well, with registrations now around the 300 mark (members under the age of 27 had been allowed to register free of charge). Its detailed business, comprising the review of Welsh Labour rules, policy making process and the future work programme of the WEC, would be discussed at an additional WEC meeting on 25 February.

Finally, an update on the work of the National Policy Forum was given. Alun Davies AM said that he was trying to use his role on the NPF, by virtue of his NEC membership, to promote more effective ways for Welsh Government ministers and the Westminster Shadow Cabinet to work more closely and productively together.

Welsh Executive Committee Report 5th November 2016

This was the first meeting since the end of the leadership election and the party conference in Liverpool. With Welsh conference and the local elections on the horizon, there was a very full agenda, as a result of which the last couple of items were dealt with somewhat hurriedly. Chris Newman was away at a Socialist Educational Association meeting, so I am reporting this one ‘solo’.

We began with a minute’s silence for Terry Thomas, a former NUM and GMB official who had chaired the WEC at one time and had passed away since the last meeting. Sophie and I were congratulated on her wedding and Jo Stevens was welcomed to her first meeting as Shadow Welsh Secretary – the third person to hold that position since I joined the WEC in February.

Carwyn then gave his Leader’s Report. The main issue affecting Wales continued to be the prospect of Brexit. He noted the court judgement earlier in the week, which had determined that the royal prerogative could not be used to overturn an act of Parliament. The Tories didn’t seem to think that they could succeed in challenging the ruling, hence the talk of an early general election. If they did win, there would be wider ramifications for Wales, inasmuch as the royal prerogative could also be used to interfere with the devolution process. Carwyn had attended a Joint Ministerial Council meeting with Theresa May, where he had asked her to rule out any deal involving tariffs. The Tories did not seem to have a clue as to their position. Should there be an early general election, the Wales Bill currently going through Parliament would be lost; despite the bill’s serious flaws, this would be a setback for Wales. Carwyn also reported on the legislation being taken forward by the Welsh Government in the National Assembly, including a bill to repeal the Trade Union Act in its application to the devolved public sector in Wales. Welsh Labour’s budget for 2017/18 also seemed assured of acceptance, following a deal with Plaid Cymru that had involved some uncontentious concessions.

Carwyn then took questions from WEC members, most of which related to Brexit and the risks to the Welsh economy, although the replacement of Communities First and moves to promote collaboration between local authorities were also raised. I asked him about two recent developments where the private sector appeared to be encroaching on public services in Wales: the announcement of four private bidders for the Wales and the Borders rail franchise; and the plan to build a private hospital in the grounds of Morriston hospital, by relocating the existing Sancta Maria facility. On the first point, he said that the current Wales Bill would prevent the Welsh Government from running rail services directly or from establishing a new public provider (which may be true but doesn’t explain why they couldn’t have promoted an alternative not for profit approach, in line with Welsh Labour conference policy). On the second, he said that he knew nothing about the proposal but would look into it.

The Shadow Welsh Secretary’s Report was then given by Jo Stevens, the third person to hold this position since I joined the WEC in February. Jo paid tribute to her immediate predecessor, Paul Flynn, who had made his mark during his brief tenure, and highlighted the significant contribution now being made by Welsh MPs to Labour’s frontbench, across several policy areas. Jo talked about Labour’s efforts to challenge the Tories in Parliament over their handling of ‘Brexit’, putting in 170 questions to represent the 170 days until Article 50 is triggered. David Davis had been avoiding answering any questions, while Theresa May had shown her misplaced priorities by putting immigration and border controls ahead of the economy in her talks with the EU. Jo also covered a number of other areas in which she and her parliamentary colleagues were currently active, including the prospects for the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon; the failings of the Concentrix contract let by HMRC to address tax credit fraud; the campaign for state pension equality for women; and winter pressures in the NHS. Jo was keen that, when issues like grammar schools came up, Wales’ positive record should be highlighted and Jeremy was very supportive of this. Jo emphasised the need for a united response to the Boundary Review, which was due to close on 5 December, and finished by highlighting the possibility of an early general election in the spring, which was likely to be challenging for Labour, given recent opinion polls an by-election results.

An EU Update was on the agenda but was not taken as our MEP, Derek Vaughan, had sent his apologies and the issue had already been aired under Carwyn’s and Jo’s reports.

We therefore moved on to the General Secretary’s report. Dave Hagendyk began with the update on suspensions that he had promised at the last meeting. 57 members in Wales had been suspended during the leadership campaign. 23 of these, whose cases were not deemed very serious, had had their suspensions lifted but been given a warning; the remaining 34 were subject to further investigation. Dave also reported that Michelle Perfect had been replaced by Joe Lock as North Wales organiser and that the press officer, Huw Price had left to become a Special Adviser to the Welsh Government. CLPs and affiliates were now able to make nominations for the Welsh Labour Best Practice Awards (closing date: 28 January). There had been mixed results in recent council by-elections, with Labour victories in Caerphilly, Denbighshire and the Vale of Glamorgan but seats lost to opponents in Cardiff and Neath Port Talbot.

Dave then put forward a paper setting out a proposed procedure for considering whatever changes to the Welsh party’s rules and standing orders may be necessary as a result of the devolution of certain responsibilities from London to Cardiff. The proposals seemed unduly complicated to me, with varying timescales for the different areas of the rules. Some changes that are judged necessary to be made immediately (e.g. recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader, as opposed to just Leader of the National Assembly Labour Group), but which would apparently involve minor changes to the existing rules, would be presented to conference in March, while others (including, for example, the rules for the election of the leader and deputy leader, as well as selection procedures for candidates at all levels) would be considered afterwards and either implemented by the WEC (where it has the power to do so) or dealt with at a future conference. (In addition, a later agenda item sought to initiate a consultation on the Welsh Policy Forum process with a view to agreeing the way forward at conference in March.)

In the light of all this complexity, some of us welcomed the submission by Aberconwy CLP of a motion calling for a special rules review conference, which would enable all matters dealing with the party’s structure and governance to be dealt with together at a dedicated event. I moved that this be adopted by the WEC, with the regional secretary of Unison seconding the motion. Although Aberconwy had not specified a timescale, it was made clear in the discussion (after initial criticisms that a rules review conference would be a distraction from the local election campaign) that it couldn’t take place before the late summer and probably have to wait until the autumn. Nevertheless, it was, unfortunately, defeated by 12 votes to 9.

There were also three motions (from Cynon Valley, Preseli Pembrokeshire and Swansea West CLPs) welcoming the creation of a seat for Wales on the NEC (as agreed at the Liverpool conference) but calling for it to be elected by OMOV, rather than appointed by Carwyn (a branch in Dwyfor Meirionnydd had also passed a similar motion but this was discounted because it hadn’t gone to the CLP first). Dave Hagendyk advised us that these motions could not be considered because the Welsh party does not have the power to override a decision made by the ‘national’ party conference. Nevertheless, there was a brief discussion initiated by one of the other CLP reps, who argued that members had reason to feel aggrieved because they hadn’t been consulted about the basis on which the new NEC seat would be established. I spoke to support this point and pointed out that the WEC hadn’t actually discussed the extra NEC seat at any point in the time that I had been a member and that information from comrades who were members last year suggested that it hadn’t been discussed then either. I was then personally criticised (by colleagues who either hadn’t understood or didn’t accept what I had already said) for voting at the NEC against the “WEC position” and for defending my position in media interviews, before the chair brought things to a close, after giving me another chance to defend myself, and said that if members had concerns about particular individuals’ conduct, they should make a formal complaint, rather than indulge in personal attacks during meetings. (At the end of the meeting, a senior WEC member said that he would be making a formal complaint about my “behaviour”.)

Finally on the General Secretary’s report, another CLP rep raised concerns (which I share) about the suspensions that had been carried out and it was agreed that this issue would be discussed more fully at the next meeting.

The remainder of the agenda was fairly uncontroversial. There were reports from those WEC sub-committees that had met since the last full meeting, including the Organisation sub-committee, on which I sit and which had agreed, among other things, to conduct an audit of Welsh CLPs, to ascertain how healthily (or otherwise) these bodies are functioning. There was also the item referred to above, regarding a review of the Welsh Policy-Making Process, which will be conducted by consulting party units and affiliates in the period leading up to February 2017, with the conclusions presented to Welsh party conference.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting, 3 September 2016 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

In opening the meeting, the Chair, Donna Hutton, congratulated Darren on this election to the NEC and welcomed Mary Williams, who had taken up the Unite seat vacated by Hannah Blythyn when she was elected to the Assembly as AM for Delyn.

Report of Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Carwyn Jones AM began by expressing concern about the cancellation of an NEC meeting on party reform, which had been scheduled for 6 September, as one of the items this meeting would have discussed was the package of rule changes intended to devolve greater power over the rules in Wales to the Welsh party. He was concerned that this would mean that the proposed changes would not be put to conference and there would be a year’s delay. Other members echoed his concerned but Darren pointed out that there was still an NEC meeting scheduled for 20 September, which could, in principle, agree that the proposals be put to Conference. It was agreed to write to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol, urging the NEC to approve the rule changes. It was also agreed to ask the two leadership candidates to endorse the proposals.

Carwyn also announced a plan to hold a special “Welsh Labour Convention”, in order to facilitate greater involvement of party members in the future planning of the party’s long term policy development. Huw Lewis and Janice Gregory, both recent ex-AMs, have been asked to draw up a discussion paper on this topic for the WEC’s next meeting on 5 November.

Report of the Shadow Welsh Secretary

Paul Flynn MP raised concerns about the possibility of the Labour party losing 11 of its Welsh MPs due to the forthcoming Boundary Changes (as well as losing our one MEP to Brexit). These changes are seen as an act of blatant gerrymandering by the Tories and a legal challenge is being considered because the government have not taken into account the most recent data on the number of people in each constituency. Paul also reaffirmed the urgent need for the infighting within the PLP to stop. He felt the party should come together and unite to fight the Tories and not each other. His written report was noted.

Election of the Party Development Board (PDB)

Nominations were invited for the PDB, a sub-committee of the WEC that sometimes has to make key decisions between WEC meetings. In addition to the WEC officers, Assembly Labour Leader and Shadow Welsh Secretary, Karen Wilkie, Margaret Thomas and Mary Williams were elected to represent the affiliates; and Pam Baldwin, Ceri Reeves and Darren to represent the CLPs.

EU Update

Derek Vaughan MEP’s written report was noted. Carwyn said that the key issue was the need to have access to a single and tariff free market, in order to keep the manufacturing sector in Wales. However the EU would not accept this situation without the UK government paying for this arrangement, and us accepting free movement of labour and their rules. He felt that Article 50 would be triggered by mid-2017. In the meantime, Carwyn has put together an advisory group (which would have to include Brexiteers) and strengthen the appropriate section of the civil service, in order to offer much needed assistance to the Welsh Government. Assurance would have to be offered to wales’ key foreign investors. On the question of a second referendum he felt it was not politically acceptable. Any deal with the EU would have to be ratified by all 4 UK parliaments; any decision concerning devolved matters such as, fisheries, farming and the environment will require Welsh Assembly approval as well as Wales having direct negotiations with the EU.

General Secretary’s Report

David Hagendyk returned to the matter of the proposed rule changes for the Welsh party and secured agreement from the WEC that, if the changes were agreed by UK conference, there would be a wide-ranging consultation with Welsh party members as to what should be done with the new powers. On staffing, it was announced that Michelle Perfect, North Wales Organiser and Welsh Labour Women’s Officer, has resigned in order to work for Hannah Blythyn, AM for Delyn. Her replacement in North Wales would be interviewed shortly but Jo McIntyre was to be the new Women’s Officer. Under the newly-announced Organising Academy, training and training packages would soon be available for party members, with a particular focus on CLPs where UKIP is a threat; Fraser Welsh would be taking charge of this work. Details of the Boundary Changes for Wales would be published on 13 September and there would be a meeting on the implications on 16 September and begin to try and agree a common Labour position. These changes will have a big effect on the Party and raises the question of how we should respond.

Among the points raised in the discussion was the suggestion that mass voter registration should be promoted via the universities. Concerns were also raised about various issues arising out of the leadership contest, including the online abuse that had taken place and the anonymous criticisms that had been reported in the media regarding certain full-time staff. Darren raised concerns about the large number of suspensions of party members in recent weeks and asked Dave about the involvement of Welsh Labour staff in the process and the numbers of Welsh party members affected. Dave said that he did not yet have accurate data on the numbers suspended in Wales but understood that this was being complied by the party centrally and promised to pass on the information once received.

WEC Committees and Panels

Volunteers were enlisted for the Appeals panel; the Organisation Committee; the Local Government Committee; and working parties to take forward Welsh conference decisions on Making Gender Balance a Reality; the Welsh Labour Review of Policy Process; and School Term Time Contracts.

Labour Conference 2016

Arrangements were discussed, including the Delegates’ Briefing, Welsh Night and the scheduled debate on Wales. Chris remarked that it was unfortunate that Welsh ministers were not able to attend conference to talk about their respective policy areas, because the Assembly would be sitting at the time, and asked if anything could be done about this. Her frustration was echoed by others but it was reported that this was a matter for the Assembly as a whole and it was unlikely to change in the short term, give the political balance.

Local Government elections and September Event

The event planned for 17 September on next May’s elections was publicised.

Welsh Executive Committee report, 9 July 2016 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

There was only one substantive item on the agenda for this meeting: ‘Implications of the European referendum result’. Just over a fortnight after the vote, it had seemed the best use of the meeting time to give detailed consideration to the implications of the decision. Undoubtedly, the ‘Leave’ vote was – and is – a hugely important issue for the party and for Wales but it seemed artificial to exclude all other topics, especially when the party was in the midst of a leadership crisis.

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, explained the situation. The Welsh Government had already sent out a team to Brussels, for exploratory talks with EU officials, to see what side deals, if any, could be struck for Wales. Nobody yet seemed to know what was likely to happen. Wales could not depend on the support of Scotland because they are moving toward a position of independence. This would not be a viable option for Wales, even if it were politically desirable, as we don’t have the same economic resources as the Scots.

It is vital, Carwyn said, that Wales should retain access to the single market; that was certainly the view of major firms based in the UK, such as TATA, who do not want to pay a 5% tariff on their products – but the single market means free movement of labour which the ‘Brexit’ decision implies most voters don’t want.

Departure from the EU could cost Wales some £650 million a year. The Welsh Government cannot guarantee funding for the big projects promised in its recent election if they take more than two years to complete. The projects affected could include the City Deal, the Metro and the apprenticeship scheme. The funding provided to Wales under the Barnett Formula would prove inadequate compared to the support currently available from EU Structural Funds. Once we had left the EU, we would not be able to trust the Tories to make up the difference. Therefore the Welsh Government needs to press ahead with seeking more devolved powers from Westminster.

Carwyn acknowledged that some people were raising the question of a second referendum. He certainly felt that all four UK parliaments would have to ratify the final deal, once we know what it looks like. We would have to reject it within the next twelve months if it is unacceptable. Clearly the public have been lied to. We need to start campaigning for greater social justice and the need to improve workers’ rights, to combat racism and end exploitation of workers especially as about 150,000 jobs in Wales are dependent on the EU.

Derek Vaughan MEP likened this period to a state of bereavement. The outcome was the result of a complex mixture of factors such as the influence of the right wing media, which – together with pro-Brexit MPs – had told lies and played the race card, plus the failure of Labour MPs to talk enough about immigration issues. For example Labour did not stress the fact that there are a similar number of UK citizens living in the EU as there are immigrants living in this country. The Tory Lobbying Act had also played its part by gagging charities and trade unions from speaking out on inequality matters prior to the 2015 election. It left the poor in our society feeling they had nothing to lose if we left the EU.

As a country, we need to change the way we deal with the EU but the EU is already fed up with the UK. The current situation has left us with the pound dropping in value, an estimated 750,000 jobs disappearing and businesses losing confidence in investing in the UK. In Wales, we need to ensure that EU funding for our major projects is spent by 2018 when the UK might leave the EU. Uncertainty about when Article 50 will be invoked was discussed. As for a second referendum, it may be possible to have one, as circumstances change and the final deal is shown to the people, whose views may change when they realise that they were lied to.

The discussion was then opened up to the rest of the meeting and a number of points were raised:

A question was raised as to how far we could currently quantify the likely impact of Brexit. Carwyn responded that 150,000 jobs in Wales are dependent on access to the single market and funding of apprenticeships would certainly suffer if EU funding were not replaced but Derek explained that full data on projects benefiting from the current funding programme was not yet fully available.

Concern was expressed about the damaging role that social media played in circulating racist comments. The Labour Party needs to educate its supporters against harbouring such ideas. For example in launching their local council election campaign, Newport Council had recently passed a resolution expressing pride in being a diverse city.

Chris argued that Labour needed to make the case for social justice and solidarity in response to the divisive and racist ideas of the right and to tackle the underlying causes of social division by, for example, repealing the Tory anti-union laws in order to allow unions more effectively to challenge unscrupulous employers who played off migrant and indigenous workers. Other WEC members said that we should point out that migrant workers often did the jobs that indigenous workers were reluctant to undertake and that Labour should campaign for a Living Wage and for more robust trade union recognition, as well as for the retention of the employment rights won through the EU, which would now be under threat.

It was agreed to send a letter of solidarity from the WEC, to a) Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth Labour Party, concerning the defacing by local fascists, of Michael Foot’s memorial in the city and b) to Jo Cox’s family; and to support a proposed remembrance day commemoration for those who had gone from Wales to fight fascism in Spain in the International Brigades.

Darren argued that Labour had failed to make a sufficiently convincing case for the EU over recent years and, in particular, had been too reluctant to acknowledge the neo-liberal drift of EU policy over the last twenty years and to set out a credible reform agenda. He pointed out that, despite the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the ‘Remain’ campaign by the MPs who had challenged his leadership in recent weeks, some 63% of those who had backed Labour in the general election had voted ‘Remain’ – almost the same percentage as for SNP voters, for which Nichola Sturgeon had been lauded. Another CLPs rep picked up the point about the divisions opening up in the PLP and the potential damage that could be done to Labour’s ability to campaign on issues like Europe. She observed that the party had secured considerable additional revenue as a result of the large increase in membership over the last year and proposed the WEC take a position that more of this money should go directly to branches to assist their campaigning. The chair advised her, however, that we could not vote on this as it was not within the competency of the WEC.

Paul Flynn MP, attending his first WEC meeting since taking over as Shadow Welsh Secretary, reported on the very unpleasant atmosphere in the House of Commons and said that some Labour MPs were behaving unprofessionally. Such public disunity was having an adverse effect on the standing of our party. Paul reminded the committee that he had not supported Ed Miliband in the 2010 leadership election but did not criticise him while in office, unlike the current situation where some Labour MPs seemed to think it was time for a free-for-all against Jeremy Corbyn. This point was echoed by other Committee members.

Following the conclusion of the EU debate, the minutes of previous meetings were circulated, including those of the Party Development Board (PDB), a sub-committee of the WEC. Darren asked when the PDB would next be subject to election and it was agreed that this would be done at the next meeting.

Welsh Executive Committee Report, 14 May 2016

This was the first full meeting of the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) elected at the end of last year, which took office at Welsh Labour conference in February (there was a very brief meeting at the conference, to elect a chair and vice-chair and fill some other posts).

Election report

The main item of business was a report and discussion on the Assembly election campaign, the results and subsequent developments at Cardiff Bay.

Carwyn Jones said that Labour’s result had been better than expected and that the results in Cardiff North and the Vale, in particular, had been gratifying, but our overall vote had gone down and much of it had gone to UKIP. The latter had already split, in effect, into two groups in the Assembly. Plaid had done well in Blaenau Gwent and Cardiff West, as well as in the Rhondda, focussing mainly on local issues. There was little doubt that they had intended to take over the government when nominating Leanne for First Minister on 11 May and that Plaid AMs had approached the Tories and UKIP with this in mind. There had been strong public opposition to their manoeuvring, however.

Janice Gregory also gave her perspective as campaign co-ordinator. She said the campaign team had met weekly and had had big issues to contend with, like the steel crisis, which has had to be factored into the campaign. She praised the team in Transport House, whom she felt couldn’t have done more. She said that the result in the Rhondda had taken everyone by surprise.

The general secretary, Dave Hagendyk said it had been a very difficult campaign, with the Labour vote squeezed by Plaid and UKIP. Labour had undertaken four direct mailings in target seats and distributed three million pieces of print altogether, as well as using Facebook targetting. Across Wales, close to 300,000 people had been spoken to – more than anywhere else in the UK, outside London. Labour’s result in North Wales had been tremendous but recent elections had seen the party retreat eastward and we now needed to work hard to re-establish ourselves in the West and North-West of Wales. Welsh Labour would carry out a detailed analysis of the campaign and election results over the next couple of months and bring back a report to a future meeting.

There was a lengthy and thorough discussion of the campaign, some of the main points of which included: details of the campaigning tactics employed by Plaid in the Rhondda; the desirability in future of campaign messages tailored more specifically at North Wales; and the need to analyse the reasons for the big vote for UKIP.

In the context of a comment about the damaging effects of party disunity, there was some criticism (justifiably, in my view) of the circumstances of Stephen Doughty’s resignation from the front bench earlier in the year. Stephen, who was present as one of the two representatives of the Welsh PLP, defended himself, saying that he had resigned in writing prior to the contentious BBC interview on the matter and – notwithstanding his criticisms of the reshuffle – had worked loyally with the party leadership throughout. His explanation was accepted by the chair.

Carwyn alluded to the events surrounding Ken Livingstone’s comments about Zionism and the cancellation of Jeremy Corbyn’s planned visit to Wales. He criticised Ken for detracting from the positive messages of the campaign, saying that a day had been wasted, and reiterated that he had not stopped Jeremy from coming to Wales: the decision had been made by mutual agreement. While agreeing with Carwyn about the unhelpfulness of Ken’s comments, I expressed concern about his call for Ken to be expelled, as I felt that any disciplinary penalty should await the outcome of the party’s investigation. I also said that, notwithstanding the explanation he had given about Jeremy’s visit, the comments in the Western Mail attributed to a “party source” had been damaging, as they had implied that Jeremy was an electoral liability. Carwyn said that the media coverage had been “unfortunate” and Janice added that it was difficult to prevent people lacking any real authority from preventing themselves in the media as anonymous “Labour sources”. Andy Richards of Unite said that his union backed Carwyn’s position on the Livingstone issue.

I also commented on the Plaid campaign in Cardiff West, which had been very negative and focussed entirely on local government, rather than Assembly, issues, and I endorsed another Committee member’s comment that it was a shame that the Welsh Labour manifesto had been published so late.

Report from Nia Griffith, Shadow Welsh Secretary – Nia talked about the series of issues over which the UK Tory government had been forced to back down recently, including their plans to force all English schools to become Academies, as well as aspects of the draconian Trade Union Bill. The Queen’s Speech was due to take place in the coming week and the proposed legislation to tackle extremism was likely to be particularly controversial, in the light of the disgraceful Islamophobic campaign against Sadiq Khan. Nia also commented on the implications of the Tories’ proposed parliamentary boundary changes, which would reduce Wales’ representation from 40 seats to 29. Stephen Doughty observed that the partial success of the campaign against the Trade Union Bill showed that the Tories can be defeated. Dave Hagendyk added that thanks were also due to Labour’s representatives in the House of Lords, including Eluned Morgan, who had now been elected to the Assembly.

European Referendum – Dave reported that printed campaign materials had now been delivered. The campaign needed to engage both with those voters who needed to be persuaded to vote ‘yes’ and with those already inclined to do so, who needed to be encouraged to turn out. Many loyal Labour voters were unconvinced of the need to remain in the EU and so much of the party’s efforts would be focussed on ‘heartland’ areas, rather than election marginals. There was a discussion, covering a number of points, including: the need to get the student vote out; the varying attitudes to the EU in different economic sectors; and the need to counter UKIP’s appeal to disaffected voters. Margaret Thomas of Unison said that her union had registered as a third-party campaign for the referendum, having consulted members, who’d been overwhelmingly supportive of a ‘yes’ vote. I said that Labour needed to have a distinct message from the official ‘IN’ campaign, emphasising the need for reform of the EU, to avoid repeating our mistake in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, when we were seen as too close to the Tories in the ‘Better Together’ campaign.

General Secretary’s report – Dave said that the Welsh party’s policy consultation work now needed to be refocussed on UK-wide issues, via ‘Your Britain’. He also reported that Welsh Labour would be left with just two organisers after the referendum: Michelle in North Wales and one (to be appointed) in the South.

Party Reform update – The chair, Donna Hutton reported that a ‘Party Reform’ exercise was being led by the NEC, with a number of strands, including one concerning the relationship between the party centrally and its Welsh and Scottish organisations. Andy Richards had been representing Welsh Labour in discussions about areas of party activity in which responsibility could be devolved to Wales. Any proposals would be put before the party conference in September, after which the Welsh party would conduct its own, detailed review of its rules and processes, which would culminate at the 2017 Welsh conference. In response to a question from Catherine Thomas (Mid & West Wales CLPs), it was confirmed that this would include agreeing a more consistent approach to gender-balanced representation.

Welsh Labour Conference 2017 – It was confirmed that this will take place in Llandudno, 22-26 March.