Labour has undemocratic culture, says party member

Torsten Bell
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, has been announced as Labour's candidate for Swansea West [Getty Images]

There is an "undemocratic culture" within Labour, a former member of the party's National Executive Committee has said.

Darren Williams claimed some Welsh general election candidates have been "imposed" on local members with "no previous connections" to their area.

Two new Labour candidates were announced on Friday – Torsten Bell for Swansea West and Alex Barros Curtis for Cardiff West.

Welsh Labour said its Welsh Executive Committee and local members were part of the panel for choosing candidates.

But Mr Williams, a Labour member for 35 years and a member of the Cardiff West Constituency Labour Party Executive, said members in that constituency had "no meaningful input into this decision".

He added that the selection process and announcement, which came as a shock many members in Cardiff West and Swansea West, was "a reflection of the undemocratic culture of the Labour Party under the current leadership".

Mr Williams also disputed Welsh Labour’s statement that the decision was made by local members.

"Although two constituency Labour Party officers were part of the selection panel, they were outnumbered by members of Welsh Executive Committee – with the latter having effectively imposed a candidate who is a party functionary, effectively chosen by the UK leadership," he said.

"The outcome of the selections in Cardiff West and in Swansea West suggest the Welsh Executive Committee members involved acted in the interest of the UK Labour leadership rather than in the interest of the party membership in Wales."

Another Labour member and councillor in Swansea West, Ceri Evans, also criticised the process, saying it "flies in face of assurances by Keir Starmer that all MPs will be decided by constituency Labour parties."

'Questions for leadership'

"That clearly hasn’t happened here. It can’t be a coincidence that the candidate here is from London," Mr Evans added.

"The wishes of Swansea West members are not being considered at all in this process.”

Another member told BBC Wales that the “role of the constituency Labour parties are being eroded and there are questions for the Welsh leadership on their impact on this decision making process."

Alex Barros-Curtis, who has been chosen to stand in Cariff West, grew up in north Wales and has served as the UK Labour Party’s executive director of legal affairs.

Torsten Bell, the candidate chosen for Swansea West, is chief executive of the economic think tank the Resolution Foundation and a former labour treasury adviser.

Vaughan Gething with Angela Rayner
First Minister Vaughan Gething joined UK Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner at Welsh Labour's general election campaign launch in Llandudno last week [Getty Images]

In May, Mr Bell wrote an article in the Guardian arguing in favour of lifting the UK government’s two-child benefit cap, saying scrapping it would “immediately lift about half a million children out of poverty.”

This is despite the current UK Labour policy to keep the cap.

Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams said: “When Labour candidates are parachuted into Welsh seats, the least voters should expect is transparency on where they stand on important issues.

“Keir Starmer is notorious for wanting every Labour candidate to sing from the same hymn sheet and Mr Bell should come clean on whether his loyalty to the Labour whip is more important than his independence of thought.”

Announcing the selection of both candidates, Welsh Labour said: "We’re pleased that despite the expedited process, the panels were formed by representatives from the Welsh executive committee and local members.

"Torsten brings a wealth of experience in economic policy and tackling child poverty. He will be real champion for Swansea West.

"Alex has extensive legal experience and is a campaigner for social justice issues."

The Conservative Party has been asked to comment.

The candidates in Swansea West are:

Labour - Torsten Bell

Conservative - Tara-Jane Sutcliffe

Plaid Cymru - Gwyn Williams

Liberal Democrats - Mike O’Carroll

Reform - Patrick Benham-Crosswell

Green Party - Peter Jones

Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition - Gareth Bromhall

The candidates in Cardiff West are:

Labour - Alex Barros-Curtis

Conservative - James Roberts Hamblin

Plaid Cymru - Kiera Marshall

Liberal Democrats - TBC

Reform - Peter Hopkins

Green Party - Jess Ryan

Workers Party of Britain - Akil Kata