Concern over low turnout in leader poll
CONCERN has been expressed about the low turnout in the Welsh Labour leadership election, in which only 12.3% of those entitled to vote actually did so.
Mark Drakeford defeated Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan on Thursday, and next Wednesday will succeed Carwyn Jones as First Minister.
But figures released by the party show that just 53.1% of members took part in the election.
Among members of affiliated trade unions the turnout was a derisory 5.6%.
In the run-up to the election there was a huge campaign run by grassroots activists aimed at changing the voting system from an electoral college to one based on one member, one vote (OMOV).
Under the electoral college ordinary members had only one-third of the votes, with a further third going to MPs, AMs and Welsh Labour’s MEP Derek Vaughan, and the final third going to members of affiliated organisations – mainly trade unionists.
Opponents of the electoral college argued that it was anti-democratic, with too much weight given to the votes of elected politicians and to the relatively small number of affiliates who participated in the election. A special conference of Welsh Labour took place in September where delegates decided to change the electoral system for party leaders and deputy leaders to OMOV.
Some senior party members are saddened by the low turnout in this week’s leadership election.
One told us: “This is an embarrassment and suggests that many of the people who joined Labour to support Jeremy Corbyn don’t give a damn about Welsh politics. They don’t care enough to spend a couple of minutes on their computer and send an electronic vote.
“The fact is that a lot of these new members look at things entirely from a UK perspective. Some of them may be from Wales originally, but some will come originally from England and live in constituencies where there is no Labour elected representative and hasn’t been for years. Often they don’t attend meetings, where they would be exposed to discussion about Welsh political issues. Instead they joined up because they want to be part of Corbyn’s fan club – so long as that doesn’t entail any actual activity.”
Jeff Jones, a former Labour leader of Bridgend council, said: “Welsh Labour’s got to start asking why 47% of its members couldn’t be bothered to vote.
“Some may say that people weren’t impressed by any of the candidates, but I think it goes deeper than that. The sad fact is that many party members simply don’t care who the First Minister is. Those who joined because of Jeremy Corbyn are only interested in one leader – and that’s him.
“The turnout for affiliated members is an absolute joke. Many people may pay the political levy to the Labour Party as part of their union subscription, but they’re not interested in anything to do with the Assembly. They don’t understand it and aren’t interested.”
An official Welsh Labour source said the number of votes cast was far more than in any other party leadership contest in Wales.
The party does not intend to issue the actual number of votes cast, but psephologist Dr Dafydd Trystan has estimated that on the first ballot Mark Drakeford got around 10,100 votes, Vaughan Gething around 6,600 votes and Eluned Morgan around 4,800. After Baroness Morgan’s second preferences were taken into account, Mr Drakeford got around 11,600 and Mr Gething around 8,900.
> Mark Drakeford is congratulated after being announced as the new Welsh Labour leader