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Welsh Labour Deputy Leadership Election

For the first time, Welsh Labour are about to elect a Deputy Leader in Wales, reflecting changes over time to the devolved leadership and decision-making within the party. The First Minister is now the leader of Welsh Labour, and the Welsh Executive Committee have backed calls for a balanced leadership, so the Deputy Leader will be a woman this time.

The election will take place using the Electoral College, so a third of the votes represent party members, a third represent the trades unions, and third represents AMs, MPs and MEPs. Hustings are currently underway across Wales, and the successful candidate will be announced at the Welsh Labour Conference in April.

Only AMs can stand as the Leader, but the Deputy Leader can be AMs, MPs or Council Leaders. Only AMs, MPs and MEPs could nominate to the ballot, and candidates needed to persuade at least 3 AMs and 3 MPs to nominate them.

In the end, two nominations came forward, Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan, and Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris. Though Debbie Wilcox, the Leader of Newport Council, had intended to stand, it was harder for her to get the nominations to get on to the ballot, and this may be looked at again in the future.

Both Julie Morgan and Carolyn Harris have demonstrated their fierce commitment to equality, fairness and social justice. We went along to the first hustings in Cardiff to see how each would make the case for the new role.

Carolyn Harris made a very personal start, highlighting her real life experience, her varied career, from dinner lady to MP, and she experience of poverty and adversity. She made a strong case for having an MP in this role, describing how she could work with and influence both Jeremy Corbyn and Carwyn Jones in terms of delivering change.

She said she wanted to reach out and to give people hope, so that voters understood why and how a Labour government can help them. She would use the role to talk to communities, and act as a bridge between communities and the Welsh Government – campaigning for them.

Julie Morgan focused a little more on her left-wing credentials, outlining how a progressive government in Wales had been able to deliver on core left-wing policy, and mentioned a need to change the internal electoral system to OMOV in her opening statement. She saw the role of Deputy Leader as the energy of members, and in her opener. She talked about being brought up in a council house, supported by the state, and described how she had become a campaigner having seen the power of politics on people’s lives. She also mentioned the need for a kinder style of politics.

The issue of OMOV was raised by both trade union and Momentum members at the hustings. It is a key internal democratic issue, as the UK Labour party has moved to OMOV – which is seen as more likely to elect a left-wing candidate like Jeremy Corbyn, rather than a centre left candidate that can secure the support of trade unionist, parliamentarians and members.

That said, the hustings were in stark contrast to the last Leadership hustings in Wales, with Jeremy Corbyn debating Owen Smith, and an audience that reflected a strong effort by Momentum to make an impact, and some disappointingly hostile behavior. This hustings was polite, comradely, and only attended by around 70 people.

So there was a polite exchange about internal democracy versus navel gazing, rather than an ideological row. It is important, of course, because the Deputy Leader will have a place on the Welsh Executive Committee, and if Julie wins, she will use her role to push for changes to the way the Welsh Labour Leader is elected.

The rest of the hustings saw fewer differences between the candidates. On 1950s Women, the need for more BAME diversity in the party, Brexit and the Valleys were discussed, with a lot of common ground.

On Brexit, Julie Morgan called for either a second referendum or a substantive parliamentary vote on the final deal. Carolyn Harris was concerned that a second referendum would further erode trust between politician and the public.

So both candidates would be strong advocates of those the Labour Party was set up to support, and the policy differences are not that wide. Where they differ was on internal party structures and decisions. Julie Morgan made a poised and practiced case for OMOV as a more democratic position, and Carolyn Harris made an impassioned plea to not focusing on procedures, but on people, and continuing to be the party that the people of Wales can depend on.

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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