Members of the Welsh Labour party have expressed their disdain over the elimination of a front runner candidate for MP for Carmarthen and long standing member of the party, Labour County Councillor Rob James.
The email sent to selection committee members reads:
Dear Selection Committee Members,
Following receipt of additional material after the initial longlisting stage, the longlisting panel reconvened to discuss the material with a candidate under section 3.B.2. of the selection procedures.
Following this panel, Rob James has been deemed ineligible to stand as a Parliamentary candidate and has been removed from the short list.
A reminder of the following in the code of conduct:
2.14 Only designated CLP officers will be authorised to issue statements to the media about any aspect of the selection procedure, and then only after approval by the Welsh Labour General Secretary.
Mr James had won the backing of all local Labour councillors.
Carmarthenshire News Online has seen emails which have been sent from senior members of the Labour party accusing Welsh Labour of not engaging with anyone over the decision.
It is understood that an alleged text sent by Mr James in relation to a prominent Welsh Labour Minister could have caused difficulties given Welsh Labour polices on second home ownership in Wales and a rise in council tax for second home or vacant home owners. It is understood that a debate took place on March 8th at County Hall and may have caused some discussion and debate concerning a prominent Welsh Labour Minister’s alleged ownership of three homes in Wales.
Increase Of Council Tax To 300% For All Second Homes In Wales. Council Tax for second homes in Wales will increase by up to 300% starting on 1 April 2023, and each local council in Wales will decide the amount by which the Council Tax will increase.
Welsh Labour senior officers have also been accused of withholding information from party members regarding the deselection of Mr James. It is understood that concerns will be addressed on Sunday.
The concerns include:
Welsh Labour knew about this situation on the morning of 30/8/23
The members of the selection committee did not receive notification until an email at 16.35 on that day with the Carmarthen membership still not informed.
There are concerns that Members will still be voting up until the deadline tomorrow. Some claim t is undemocratic to have left them to carry on voting on a defunct short list for 3 days.
Concerns have also been expressed that members who attend the hustings on Sunday may only be attending to vote for their preferred candidate, and would not have chosen to attend if they had known that candidate was not on the short list.
One Labour party member said: “For some CE&D members it is in excess of a 70 mile round trip, taking up time, money and possibly special arrangements. It is simply not fair not to inform them of the change. Not to inform them is to get them to the meeting under false pretences. Errors of omission are just as significant as errors of commission when it comes to honesty.
Other comments include: “Members are expressing the opinion that this is an unacceptably unfair process – to them and the candidates – and that the whole process should be abandoned and rerun as the only fair option. Your only response to this appears to be that the arrangements are too far advanced. For the selection committee, this occurs on top of several hiccups in the process which have eaten into time periods such as irregularities in the long listing process, the shortening of the branch nomination process + member confusion about the voting method and the selection committee’s legitimate concerns about a Sunday morning meeting (addressed by ignoring them). All these concerns are about the basic democracy of the process. Members say, if the Labour Party does not care about democracy, who else will?”
Some are calling for the whole selection process to be reviewed with one saying : “This has most definitely been an example of how not to do it. On the other hand, if the object of the exercise was to alienate as many members as possible and persuade them to leave the Labour Party, then it may prove to have been a great success. I’m not sure who is going to be left to support the new candidate, whoever is selected. Of course the final injustice is to the remaining candidates and the successful candidate especially – the latter will have to pick up the pieces from this.”
Another email to Welsh Labour reads: “It has recently come to my attention that Mr. Rob James has been excluded from the short list of members seeking to stand as a Welsh Labour candidate in the next General Election. I believe the Welsh Labour Party made this decision based on an anonymous allegation that Mr James sent a text against a Labour MS. For a Party that claims to be a ‘democratic socialist party,’ this decision, without further investigation, strikes me as being undemocratic.”
The following email was sent out to selection committee members:
Dear Selection Committee members,
Further to yesterday’s notification that Rob James has been deemed ineligible by the WEC Long listing panel, we have spoken to the WEC Observer to confirm our intention to continue with the selection as planned on Sunday.
Concerns over members having already voted are addressed in a very large part by the fact that voting is being conducted under the Single Transferable Vote method and that members who had a preference other than Rob have already been given the opportunity to express this preference.
With the selection now only 72 hours away, we are now in the very advanced stages of preparation and it has been confirmed by the WEC Observer that there is no good reason to pause or restart the process.
The role of the Selection Committee has been completed and there is no further cause to meet. I attach a copy of the selection document for your reference. As Procedures Secretary, I will be continuing the final preparations for the selection along with my Welsh Labour colleagues.
One party member said: “Mr. James should not be excluded from the short list and the hustings should be delayed until the anonymous allegation is fully investigated. I feel deeply offended that a democratic party would proceed and exclude an outstanding candidate, who I believe has the best chance of winning this seat for Labour.
“If the decision is made to exclude Mr James, I would like to have my postal vote remove from the count. I will also cancel my membership of the Labour Party, and in future I will not vote Labour in either Senedd or General Elections.”
We tried to contact the Welsh Labour Regional Organiser but we were unable to get a response.
A subsequent meeting surrounding the selection process was held at St Peter’s Hall in Carmarthen on Sunday August 3rd. It has been reported that there was chaos at the meeting with local party members expressing anger at the removal of a Mr James from the shortlist of candidates even after postal ballot papers had been sent out with his name on them.
Mr James has been the leader of the opposition at Carmarthenshire County Council for a number of years and has helped Labour win seats at the Senedd and Westminster in Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.
Mr James said that he could not recall sending a text which alleged that the Llanelli MS Lee Waters owned three homes, a claim which has been dismissed by Lee Waters MS as ‘complete nonsense’. Mr James said that he was involved in debating the rise in council tax for second home and holiday home owners and that his views were that the council should explore alternatives or risk driving people out of the county.