By Darren Williams
Welsh Labour held its first Conference for three years in Llandudno on 12th and 13th March. Mark Drakeford’s keynote speech reaffirmed Welsh Labour’s progressive ambitions ahead of the local government elections in May and motions were carried on issues ranging from homelessness, music education and the National Care Service to the war in Ukraine.
Two significant decisions made were on electoral reform for the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) and the Welsh Labour Democracy Review. On the former, Conference gave Mark Drakeford the authority to seek a deal with Plaid Cymru that would increase the size of the Senedd and potentially introduce a more proportional electoral system, with the outcome of talks coming back for endorsement to a recall conference in the summer.
On the Democracy Review – established in 2018 and now coming to an end – some modest but valuable democratic reforms were agreed, including giving Conference the ability to debate non-devolved issues that particularly affect Wales. There was also agreement in principle to introduce direct elections for more seats on the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) and to open up the nomination process in Welsh Labour leadership elections to CLPs and affiliates, with definite proposals coming back to the aforementioned recall conference.
Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) held a well-attended fringe meeting on the Saturday evening, which heard from Mark Drakeford and fellow Senedd Members, Mike Hedges, Mick Antoniw and Carolyn Thomas; Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter; Unite Regional Secretary Peter Hughes; and Lynne Jones, the former Socialist Campaign Group MP who is the left’s candidate for the NEC seat representing Wales.
The results of elections to the CLP section of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) were also announced at Conference. Four incumbents backed by the left were re-elected and they were joined by one additional left winger, a former parliamentary candidate. But two left incumbents – including Ivan Monckton, Chair of WLG and of the Unite Wales Political Committee – lost their seats and overall, the left saw its representation drop from nine to five of the ten CLP seats.
The exodus of many left wing Party members over the last couple of years will undoubtedly have played a part in this electoral setback. The organised left will need to redouble its efforts, in the light of this experience, to secure the best possible results among the Welsh membership in the forthcoming national Party elections.
Darren Williams is a member of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee and Secretary of Welsh Labour Grassroots. Twitter: @darrenw_cardiff
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