Darren Williams is a CLP representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) as well as a member of the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC). Like some other members, he publishes a report on the meetings of the committees.
Last month, the SKWAWKBOX was delighted to announce that Labour’s internal democracy took a step forward as part of the party’s forward planning for the next General Election, with members in key target marginal seats to be given the opportunity to elect the panels who will select their MP candidate shortlists, rather than having them composed of NEC members – all too often with a majority of ‘moderates’.
However, this applied only to English seats, as Welsh and Scottish selections are devolved. The SKWAWKBOX published a list of the English seats and invited interested members to put themselves forward so we can help them get the support they need for their candidacy.
Now Williams’ report (created jointly with fellow member Chris Newman) on the latest WEC meeting makes grim reading for Welsh members who want their democratic say in selections to be no less than that of their English counterparts:
The main item in the General Secretary’s Report from Louise Magee was a paper on Parliamentary Selections in Wales. This set out the procedure to be followed over the coming months to get candidates in place in the seats considered the greatest priority in expectation of another early general election. A paper had been agreed for England at the NEC meeting the previous Tuesday but Wales and Scotland now have devolved responsibility for our own selections. With Labour having won 28 of the 40 Welsh constituencies on 8 June, the remaining 12 seats were divided into 6 “offensive” seats, considered the most winnable and therefore the priority for selection purposes, and 6 “majority” seats, seen as less of an immediate priority.
Those in the “offensive” category are: Aberconwy; Arfon; Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire; Clwyd West; Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. There would be an initial consultation, leading up to 8 September, on gender balance in these six seats, to determine which ones should choose candidates from an All-Women Shortlist, then the selections should take place immediately in all six, using the established procedures.
Darren pointed out that, when the NEC had agreed procedures for priority marginals in England, this had included the election by GCs or All-Member Meetings of a Selections Committee to oversee the process, providing greater democratic accountability, which should help to address members’ unhappiness at their exclusion from selections for the June election. He proposed that this be incorporated in the arrangements for Wales, rather than simply leaving CLP Executive Committees to make their own arrangements, under the default procedures. This proposal was heavily defeated, however, and the paper was adopted as originally tabled.
In spite of having the relatively simple task of organising selections in only 6 target seats – or even 12 if it did so for all Welsh seats, the party is denying its members equal democratic powers to members in England.
Welsh Labour, which is considered by many to still be excessively influenced by blairite or ‘moderate’ officers and representatives, seems determined to retain control over candidate selection procedures at the expense of the democratic voice and wishes of its members, in spite of developments in England and in spite of the support of a majority of its members for a UK Labour leader who is committed to democracy inside the party.
This needs to change and quickly.
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