Following the resignation of Carwyn Jones in April at the Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno, the race has been on to succeed the man who has led Welsh Labour since 2009. We profile the 3 front runners.
The election to succeed Jones is key not only for the future of Wales but also the long-running party civil war. Wales currently remains the only place the left of the party, Corbyn’s faction, are not in control.
Leadership contenders for the top job in Welsh Labour require 20% of AMs to nominate them with the votes of party members and affiliates carrying equal weight. As reported on TPN it was decided at a special conference on the 15th September that the election will be conducted on the basis of one member one vote in line with the national Labour Party as opposed to an Electoral College system. While the Unite Union supported OMOV other unions such as GMB, Unison, Usdaw and the CWU supported the retention of the Electoral College system. According to the rules set out by Welsh Labour the contest is due to be concluded in December.
The Favourite: Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford, seen above, is the left wing pro-Corbyn candidate backed by Momentum and is undoubtedly the front-runner. Describing himself as a ‘pragmatist’ and socialist, Drakeford the AM for Cardiff West was the first candidate to declare his candidacy on the 24th of April shortly after Carwyn Jones’ resignation indicating perhaps that he was anticipating a leadership challenge.
Drakeford who has been Cabinet Secretary for Finance since 2016 as well as working as an AM since 2011 was originally brought up in Carmarthenshire in West Wales before moving to Cardiff in the 1980s. In fact, Drakeford has always been interested in Politics something he attributes to the politicised Carmarthenshire environment he grew up in the 1960s. Drakeford also has experience of local politics as a Labour councillor on South Glamorgan Council from 1985 to 1993 specialising in education with a particular focus on Welsh Language education.
Outside of Politics Drakeford also had spells working as a Probation Officer Youth Justice Worker and Barnado’s Project leader in west Cardiff. He has also worked as a university lecturer before moving to work in the Welsh Assembly.
Tellingly Drakeford has received nominations from 17 of the 29 AMs including Jack Sargent the son of Carl Sergant who won his late father’s seat in a subsequent by-election. In addition to this, he also has endorsements from the leaders of Swansea and Rhondda Councils as well as former AMs Brian Gibbons and Edwina Hart. It would appear particularly as he can command the support of 58% of AMs and the OMOV voting system that Drakeford is the favourite. He is the most left wing of the candidates and the only candidate to support Corbyn during the Labour leadership election in 2015.
Vaughan Gething: Main challenger
Vaughan Gething AM for Cardiff South and Penarth appears to be Drakeford’s main challenger. Gething who is a rare ethnic minority figure in Welsh politics was born in Zambia, his mother is Zambian and his father Welsh. A qualified solicitor, Gething became the first Black President of his National Union of Students in Wales.
Gething also has experience as a Councillor from 2004 to 2008 representing the Bluetown Ward in Cardiff and was then elected as an AM in 2011. He is Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services.
Gething, a member of the GMB Union as well as a member of the Co-op Party has been endorsed by Owen Smith, indicating a more centrist position than Drakeford and had the election been fought under the old rules with Union bloc votes then Gething could have been the favourite given his strong Union links. However under OMOV it appears Gething will have an uphill struggle.
Gething will hope to win votes on his anti-Brexit stance.
Eluend Morgan: The outsider
Eluend Morgan is the third and final contender. Morgan is the only female candidate. She has a degree in European Studies from the University of Hull. After graduating Morgan worked as a researcher for STC, Agenda TV and the BBC.
In 1994 Morgan was elected as an MEP for Mid and West Wales at the time she was the youngest MEP to take up her seat. She was the budget control spokesperson for the Socialist group in the European Parliament until 2009, as well as acting as the Labour spokesperson on Energy, Industry and Science. Morgan was awarded a life peerage in 2010, becoming Baroness Morgan of Ely and was elected as AM for Mid and West Wales in 2016. Since 2017 she has been minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning. Morgan was actively involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign during the 1997 Welsh Assembly referendum.
As she only received 5 AM nominations out of 29 or 17% Morgan may be considered an outsider for the leadership. However her campaign received a boost on the 18th of September when previous leadership contenders Huw Irranca-Davies and Alun Davies withdrew from the race in order to support her.
How do they differ on policy?
Mark Drakeford has recently announced that he would back a 2nd referendum to stay in the EU if a No deal scenario were to occur, currently both his leadership rivals also back a 2nd referendum but even on the event of a deal. In a recent article he writes passionately about the benefits of trade unions and how re-introducing worker rights through more secure employment contracts are at the forefront of his plans in Welsh Labour. Promising to use the power of the purse, to force companies that have government contracts to introduce fair and proper terms of employment.
Vaughan Gething, also has an anti-austerity tone and recognises that change is needed in Wales. He has put building houses and increasing social mobility at the forefront of his campaign, and although he realises that Labour must do more than simply oppose Tory policy, he doesn’t actually offer much in the way of new ideas to achieve such goals.
The vote will take place in November, with the result being announced in early December. With Mark Drakeford in pole position, this is something that UK Labour will be watching very carefully, because he may be the final piece of the Corbyn puzzle. They will be aware though, that leadership contests often spring surprises.