Con­cern over low turnout in leader poll

Western Mail - - NEWS - MARTIN SHIP­TON Chief re­porter martin.ship­[email protected]­ »IN MON­DAY’S PA­PER: »OUR EX­PERTS ON THE BIG­GEST CHAL­LENGES FAC­ING DRAKE­FORD

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

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