Wales Labour leader race too close to call, says insider

Senedd chamber
There are question marks ahead of the first hustings meeting

A senior Labour insider has said the Welsh party leadership race is too close to call.

Cathy Owens, a former special adviser to ex-First Minister Rhodri Morgan, says no-one knows if Vaughan Gething or Jeremy Miles is in pole position.

She said that was down to the difficulty of getting an accurate sample of those who are going to vote.

Voters have to be a party member or belong to an affiliated organisation like one of the major trade unions.

As the first hustings meeting gets under way on Sunday, there are also no major policy differences in the manifestos put forward by both Mr Gething, the current economy minister, and Mr Miles, the education minister.

Speaking to BBC Politics Wales, Ms Owens said she felt Mr Miles was trying to appear more in the centre left tradition of former First Ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones, but Mr Gething had the advantage of a higher profile.

She added: "We need to hear a bit more from them to see out how distinctly different they are.

"It's far too close to call and even they don't know so if anyone tells you they are going to win they are absolutely making it up.

"No-one knows because it's not clear and that is because it is notoriously difficult to sample this electorate. It's very difficult to do.

"So far the policy platforms are not that starkly different," said Ms Owens.

"There is a good reason for that; this is not a general election or a competing vision from two ends of the political spectrum.

"It is one party and it's not even a competing vision of two ends of the Labour party.

"Labour members will start to ask questions about how different they will be and each campaign will drop questions in trying to show the difference between the two policy platforms."

There are potentially tens of thousands of union members who are eligible to vote but the turnout among them is traditionally low among them during Labour leadership contests.

Turnout is expected to be higher among the Welsh Labour party members - thought to be around 16,000.

Mr Gething has secured the support of the main unions but Jeremy Miles has garnered more support among fellow Labour Senedd members.

The ballots open on 16 February, and close on 14 March with the winner announced two days later.