|Shenanigans in Swansea selection|
|Magazine - Labour Party|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 21:58|
It’s another case of “never mind fascists and incompetents; stop the socialists and the feminists”. Jon Lansman, Tower Hamlets Labour Party, reports.
Regaining control of Swansea City Council after eight years in opposition is Labour’s prime target in Wales, and one of its key targets across the UK. However, in a ward with a history of far right political activity (including entryism within the Labour Party) and less than a week before close of nominations, Wales General Secretary David Hagendyk decided to suspend one of the candidates in a key target ward.
Was the comrade a slacker? On the contrary, Uta Clay was acknowledged as having knocked on more doors in the campaign than any other candidate in Swansea. One of the remaining candidates, on the other hand, has persistently ignored all demands from David Hagendyk to get off his backside and do some work.
A rumbling argument about a local traveller site has been ruthlessly exploited by racists and fascists (and sitting Labour councillor, Dennis James, has disgraced himself with inappropriate and inflammatory comments on this situation). Less than five years ago, Labour Party by-election leaflets supporting Penny Matthews, another sitting Labour councillor in the ward, were formally condemned by the then Commission for Racial Equality. Among her other achievements, Cllr Matthews previously managed to recruit two members of the BNP into the Labour Party. When this was discovered, far from apologising, she pronounced that they had been good members and it was a pity to lose them.
There has been huge resistance from many parts of the semi-moribund Swansea East CLP to all-women shortlists, which were agreed by Wales Labour and the Swansea county Party. Hardly any new women were added to the panel from Swansea East branches, following which various branches recited the usual incantations about having nothing against women except that “we just haven’t got any”. The Mynyddbach Branch in particular obstructed the entire selection process throughout Swansea for nearly a year.
When the County Party called for support from Comrade Hagendyk to enforce his own policy in Swansea East, he announced that he would give them all a bit more time and organise a recruiting campaign for women. He did nothing (Comrade Hagendyk, by sheer coincidence, was an unsuccessful Progress candidate for the NPF at the last election). Eventually two Swansea East branches selected women from outside Swansea East constituency (Llansamlet and Mynyddbach). Mynyddbach Branch embarked on a process of undermining and intimidation of their candidate until she became ill and resigned. Wales Labour did nothing about this.
The other woman, Uta Clay in Llansamlet Branch, proved a more difficult obstacle. Fellow candidate and sitting councillor Penny Matthews presided over a branch meeting last November at which, without the item being on the agenda, without any written notice and knowing that Uta was unable to attend the meeting, the allegation was raised that Uta Clay had been describing herself to constituents on the doorstep as a “socialist”. It was moved from the floor that she be deselected and this was carried. Even Comrade Hagendyk had to rule that this process was illegitimate. However, instead of taking action against the conspirators he instituted a procedure which led to the suspension of the branch, thus preventing the active members of the branch from preparing a meaningful election campaign.
Until one week before the close of nominations, there seemed to be a serious danger that Uta Clay would actually make it to the ballot paper and probably win for Labour, replacing an “Independent” who was clearly preferred by Cllrs Matthews and James. Aided and abetted by the Chair of Swansea East CLP, Eirlys Lloyd, any attempt by Uta Clay to publish literature challenging a series of lies and misinformation (you’d never guess where from!) was thwarted. Supportive comrades therefore decided to put out a leaflet introducing Uta to the ward (and promoting the other three Labour candidates). This was done by her partner Bob Clay, former MP for Sunderland North, who wrote and published the leaflet himself and at his own expense.
As a result, and without any indication as to what rules have been broken, both Bob and Uta Clay were placed on “administrative suspension from the Party”. Consequently Uta Clay’s candidacy was withdrawn, although no one had a clue as to who might replace her as the fourth Labour candidate in Llansamlet.
Fortunately, a last minute appeal to the party General Secretary in London swiftly resulted in the reinstatement of Uta Clay as the candidate, much to the resentment of certain party staff in Wales (expressed off the record to the press). However, the disagreement rumbles on. The Party still refuses to sanction the distribution of leaflets in the ward. Bob Clay remains suspended and he and others could still find themselves expelled for the crime of actively campaigning for a Labour candidate against the wishes of other Labour candidates.