Welsh Labour will have a special conference on democracy within the party on the 15th September to decide whether the party should adopt 1 member 1 vote (OMOV) for the upcoming leadership election or a reformed version of the electoral college. This is part of the democracy review that been fast-tracked so the changes can be put in place before the next leadership contest in December.
Previously Welsh Labour used the electoral college to decide their leader but this method has come under increasing criticism that has peaked following the election of Carolyn Harris as deputy leader.
In the old electoral college system, Assembly Members, Party Members, and Affiliated supporters all hold an equal share of votes. Harris was elected to the role of deputy despite winning only 35% of the votes of members and less overall votes. Her opponent, Julie Morgan, won the popular vote 54 to 46.
Morgan started a petition to get the party to change to OMOV before the leadership election following her defeat.
OMOV sees every member to have 1 vote whilst the reformed electoral college would see general members’ votes make up 50% of the electoral college and affiliated members would make up the other 50%.
The reformed electoral college is the WEC’s “prefferred option” following a narrow vote, 15-14.
The Labour Party adopted 1 member 1 vote for its national leadership election in 2014. This change was vital in the election of Jeremy Corbyn.
The electoral college has been criticised for delivering leaders who the membership do not want but also giving certain members a plurality of votes. It also gives AMs ‘super votes’ worth equal to around 400 normal members.
20 out of 27 CLPs backed OMOV last year but the Welsh Executive comitee disregarded this vote.
Mark Drakeford, the leading candidate to succeed Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, supports the change whilst his only other opponent currently on the ballot, Vaughan Gething, favours retaining the electoral college.
Drakeford in a recent statement said:
‘We cannot go on with a system that means that the person who got the most votes ends up being the loser’
OMOV is thought to favour Drakeford who is backed by the left of the party but his support for OMOV stems back a long way.
Unite back the change to OMOV but many unions feel that a move to OMOV would dilute union control of the party. GMB, Unison, Usdaw and the Communication Workers are fiercely opposed to the change and in a joint statement stated:
‘The Labour Party was set up by the trade union movement to be the political voice of organised labour, and any attempt to take away the trade union voice in Wales will be resisted.’
The conference will vote to decide whether to make the change. Delegates from all CLPs, women’s forums, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies will be able to vote, provided that their organisations have paid their affiliation fees in time. The vote will be 50% party units and 50% affiliates, and will decide between OMOV and a reformed version of the electoral college.
TPN spoke to Daniel Metcalf, the Chair of Preseli Pembrokeshire Labour Party and a supporter of OMOV on the likelihood of the change:
‘We were happy to hear the positive news that Unite had decided to formally back OMOV, with union support being vital to our campaign.
I and many other supporters of OMOV feel confident that we can win the vote, with the majority of CLP delegates and Unite who carry significant voting weight, behind us.’
Talking about Union opposition to the campaign for OMOV Daniel said:
‘We made it clear that we are upset at the accusations of some within the party that we are anti-Trade Union when that is simply not the case. Almost all members in our campaign were trade union members, and we believe that a move to OMOV will actually drive up union participation.’
The move would bring Wales in line with nationwide and Scottish leadership elections. Many Corbynistas believe the change is vital to getting Drakeford elected, bringing Wales in line with the views of its membership and the leadership of the rest of the country.
Drakeford is supported by Momentum as well as other left wing figures, including Lee Waters AM, whilst Gething recently gained the endorsement of Owen Smith.