Labour Leadership 2018: The Candidate Manifestos

(Title Image: ITV Sharp End)

The ballots have been issued for Labour members to vote for a new leader of their party in Wales. Many will have, presumably, already done so by now. It’s unclear if this is the end of the campaign, with the result due to be announced on December 6th.

For the rest of us, it’s worth summarising what the three candidates are actually planning to do if they win.

From the outset, while all three candidates might want to introduce their own policies, they still have a set of manifesto commitments to deliver from 2016; so unlike the Plaid Cymru and Tory leadership contests the policy proposals have been pared-down.

It would be a mistake to say it’s a lack of ambition. It’s more likely to be the reality of being in government as none of the candidates can outright disagree with government policy.

As I did for the Plaid Cymru and Tory leadership elections, I’ll be listing up to five key internal party policies and political priorities for each candidate.

Prof. Mark Drakeford AM (Lab, Cardiff West): Mark Drakeford for Leader (link)

Why should members vote for Mark?

Mark plays his experience card as Wales heads for “turbulent times” in light of Brexit. He also makes good use of his Corbynite credentials, categorising himself as a socialist, using the slogan “For the Many, Not the Few” quite a few times in his campaign literature as well as name-dropping the likes of Barbara Castle, Tony Benn and Michael Foot as political inspirations.

Party Policies

  • He would like to run the Welsh Government under a more “collective leadership”.
  • Create a position of Minister for North Wales and a Cabinet Secretary for Housing.
  • Independent investigation of breaches of the Ministerial Code.
  • Supports 50:50 representation of the genders in the Senedd and Welsh Government.
  • Supports an open recruitment process for special advisers and a formal role for unions and constituency parties in selecting candidates, but doesn’t support mandatory re-selection.

Political Priorities

  • Establish a case for a Welsh Mutual Energy Body, Community Bank and set up a commission to investigate the long-term impact of nuclear energy on local communities.
  • Cancel local authority mergers.
  • Extend smoking bans to the outdoors in town and city centres and introduce a Clean Air Act.
  • Seek devolution of probation and youth justice as the first steps towards full devolution of criminal justice.
  • Will only support a second Brexit referendum if the UK Parliament rejects a Brexit deal and there’s no subsequent UK general election; wants to remain part of the customs union.

Summary: Of the three candidates, Mark has outlined more measures with regard to the internal machinations of the Labour party. In terms of his political priorities, some of the proposals – such as a vacant land tax, banning upfront letting fees and exempting care leavers from council tax – are either already in the pipeline or actively being introduced. He’s noticeably made a big pitch for women’s votes – a number of the most prominently pushed policy ideas on social media feature gender equality. It’s probably the broadest platform of the three, but his comments during the campaign about “reluctantly” seeking the role of First Minister have perhaps narrowed the field more than he expects.

Vaughan Gething AM (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth): Change Takes Courage (link)

Why should members vote for Vaughan?

Vaughan portrays himself as the “change” candidate. He sees Wales as having potential that hasn’t yet been lived up to, whilst pointing to the “good work” Labour has already done in Wales. He said he’s increased pay for frontline NHS staff and his background as a trade union official and employment lawyer provide examples of standing up for ordinary people.

Party Policies

Vaughan hasn’t, as far as I can tell, yet made any commitments or policy announcements with regard to the internal workings of the Labour party or how he would potentially run the Welsh Government.

Political Priorities

  • Establish a universal National Care Service, funded “with new tax powers”.
  • Will extend the Welsh Government’s free childcare scheme to cover 3-4-year olds of parents who are in a work or training-related activity and 2-year-olds of parents living in poverty.
  • Grant local councils more freedom over how they spend their budgets.
  • Make apprenticeships available to anyone who wants one and introduce free university tuition for care-leavers.
  • Supports a “People’s Vote” on Brexit.

Summary: The standout feature of the Gething campaign is its simplicity. Instead of focusing on the minutiae of the internal workings of Labour, it’s an election pitch with a greater focus on policy. It’s also a very polished campaign clearly inspired by Barack Obama and Sadiq Khan – but in this day and age it actually looks slightly “seen it all before”. One thing I’ve said previously is that he looks and sounds the part of a future First Minister – and that’s demonstrated by the heavy emphasis his campaign has put on himself – but there’s a lack of depth and substance.

Eluned Morgan AM, Baroness Ely (Lab, Mid & West Wales): Elect Eluned (link)

Why should members vote for Eluned?

Eluned’s platform is a mix of wanting to reform the party, whilst also broadening the party’s reach by portraying herself as being “outside the (Cardiff Bay) bubble”. She states that people don’t want “more of the same” and Labour needs to “look and sound different” in order to prevent 20 years of rule appearing stale to the electorate; so there’s a couched warning in there as well.

Party Policies

  • Establish a Minister for Productivity and Cabinet Secretary for Sustainability, Energy & Climate Change.
  • Committed to “One Member, One Vote”.
  • Wants to improve Labour’s communication in non-traditional mediums (like online).

Political Priorities

  • A new skills programme and skills grants to prepare the Welsh workforce for the challenges of Industry 4.0.
  • Work with housing associations and the construction sector to roll-out Smart Eco-Homes for older people.
  • Commit to a carbon-neutral public sector, zero-carbon buses by 2030 and the creation of a National Forest.
  • A “no holds barred” review of taxation in Wales, including council tax and business rates; will consider a local pilot of a universal basic income with the UK Department of Work & Pensions.
  • Supports a “People’s Vote” on Brexit.

Summary: Eluned’s campaign falls halfway between the other two in both a good way and a bad way. There’s a long list of policy suggestions, but its heavily skewed towards the economy and there’s little else there; the NHS and schools are barely mentioned as far as I can tell. Though, having said that, Eluned has demonstrated a good grasp of some of the longer-term issues facing Wales, namely climate change and Industry 4.0. It’s also surprising that there’s very little mention of what her “Beyond the Bubble” exercise actually found beyond photo opportunities.

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