News Bulletin 2nd-8th January 2017

Annwyl gyfaill/Dear comrade

Welcome to the first WLG/Momentum bulletin of 2017. We hope that you had an enjoyable festive break. This bulletin contains a round-up of recent political developments, news about national and local WLG/Momentum meetings and information about Welsh Labour conference, including advice on motions.

Both Parliament and the Assembly are due to return on Monday following their respective Christmas recesses. On Tuesday, the Assembly will debate the Welsh Government’s final budget for 2017/18, which is certain to be passed following a deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru. The Labour government also now has an effective working majority in the Assembly, following the announcement by former Plaid leader and Presiding Officer, Dafydd Elis Thomas that he will vote with Labour for the duration of the present term.

Probably the most significant political development in Wales during the recess was the announcement that negotiations had been concluded between the Welsh Government and the Treasury over a ‘fiscal framework’ for Wales. This sets the terms under which Wales’ block grant from Westminster will be reduced to allow for the revenue expected when Wales gets partial control of income tax in 2019. In addition, it doubles Wales’ capacity to borrow for capital investment and, most importantly, reforms the Barnett Formula for the first time since it was established in 1979, so that any future increases in public spending for England will be uplifted by 15% when applied to Wales, to make allowance for Wales’ greater social need.

The last week has also seen Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Clive Lewis launch a public consultation on the party’s industrial strategy in order “to develop the specific policies and interventions” necessary to realise “Labour’s vision for a high-skill, high-wage, high-productivity economy … that will bring good jobs to every corner of the country.” Meanwhile, the inequality and injustice that characterises the British economy has been underscored by the High Pay Centre, which posted on its blog about Fat Cat Wednesday, the fourth day of the year, by which time FTSE 100 CEOs had already ‘earned’ the equivalent of the average annual salary in the UK.

On Tuesday, WLG members in Cardiff and Swansea were among those protesting about the 2.3% average rise in rail fares, highlighting Labour’s message that the cost of rail travel has increased by 27% since the Tories came to power and that public ownership is essential for the future of the service and those who use it and work in it. The TSSA rail union has also produced a hard-hitting video highlighting the extent to which rail privatisation has allowed foreign companies to take control of Britain’s railways, although the video has also attracted criticism from some on the left.

WLG/Momentum News

The Steering Committee elected at the WLG AGM on 10 December is set to meet for the first time in Llandrindod Wells on Sunday 22 January. Unfortunately, our new Secretary, Maz Hobson has had to step down from the post as a result of increased work pressures, so filling the post of Secretary, as well as that of the Chair, will be among the items on the agenda.

We await confirmation of the details of the first Momentum conference. The Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) met just before Christmas and there is a note of its proposed arrangements on the Momentum website – local groups should note that they are advised to meet by 21 January to elect delegates and submit motions, although it seems increasingly likely that the CAC’s timetable will slip.

WLG/Momentum Local Groups

A number of local group meetings have already been arranged for to take place over the next few weeks:

North West Wales WLG/Momentum are meeting tomorrow evening, Monday 9th January, 7.30 pm at Llandudno Junction Labour Club, 87 Conway Rd, Llandudno Junction LL31 9NE.
Cardiff and Vale WLG/Momentum have their AGM, followed by a general meeting, at 7pm on Monday 16th January in the Taff Suite, Sport Wales, Sophia Gardens CF11 9SW.

Welsh Labour Conference

As noted before Christmas, this year’s Welsh Labour conference is due to take place in Llandudno on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 March and online registration is now available here. Each CLP may send two delegates, of which at least one must be a woman, for every 1,000 members or part thereof, and an additional youth delegate aged under 27. There us an opportunity for comrades to be elected as delegates at January/February CLP meetings, before the 18 February deadline.

Each CLP may also submit either a ‘contemporary motion’ or a constitutional amendment for conference, by 11 February. WLG/Momentum has, in recent months, worked with other organisations in the Welsh party to promote comprehensive reform of the Welsh party rulebook. The latest version of the proposed replacement rulebook, drafted by Prof. Tony Beddow, is attached. There are various potential ways to get this revised rulebook considered by the party:

1. Submit a constitutional amendment motion that would seek to ‘delete all the current rules’ and replace with our preferred version. We think it likely, however, that a motion along these lines would be ruled out of order.

2. Submit a constitutional amendment that would aim to change the rules in one particular area; we would encourage comrades to try this and suggest a few possibilities, taken from Tony’s redrafted rule-book, in the second document attached.

3. Seek a special rules review conference, so that CLPs and other party units/affiliates could propose a number of potential changes and the rulebook as a whole could be reformed more comprehensively. We have suggested a model motion to this effect in the second document attached, based on a motion that Aberconwy CLP submitted to the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC), which was narrowly defeated (we do not think that this precludes similar motions going direct to conference).

We have also suggested, in the attached, motions on two other matters, which we know many comrades would like to see conference discuss:

1. The creation of the new NEC seat for Wales and the preference that most of us have for this to be elected by OMOV. The wording of our model motion reflects the fact that the UK party conference has made a decision on this, which cannot therefore be overturned by the Welsh conference, but we can nevertheless look to begin the process of reviewing this decision.

2. The election of a Leader and Deputy Leader of the Welsh party. Section 7 of the proposed rule-book attached sets out a democratic method for electing these posts. The WEC, however, is committed to consulting members on this issue after next year’s Welsh conference, so we consider it likely that a motion seeking to establish an electoral system would be ruled out of order, as it would pre-empt that consultation. The proposed motion therefore simply expresses a preference for OMOV and gender balance.

Forthcoming Events

Penarth, Monday 9th January: Greg Lewis, an award-winning television producer and author, will talk about his new book, A Bullet Saved My Life, which tells the story of Bob Peters from Penarth, who went to fight fascism in Spain as an International Brigader in the 1930s. 6 pm at the Ffotogallery, Turner House Gallery, Plymouth Road, Penarth CF64 3DH. There will be a wine reception before the talk and a Q&A afterwards.

Merthyr Tydfil, Tuesday 10th January: Merthyr Tydfil Trades Union Council present a showing of Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ at Merthyr Tydfil Labour Club, Court House, Court Street, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8DU. Tickets £2.00 each from Mags (07989 791179) or Steve (07816 032683) with proceeds to Merthyr Tydfil night shelter.

Cardiff, Friday 20th January: Stand Up to Racism Wales demonstration to coincide with Trump’s inauguration, 6.00-9.00 pm on the Castle lawn, Castle Street, Cardiff.

Friday 24th February: Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney CLP’s 2017 Keir Hardie Lecture with Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education as guest speaker. 7.00-10.00 pm at Theatre Soar, Canolfan Soar, Pontmorlais, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8UB.Tickets cost £12 for Labour Party Members and £15 for non-members from Hayley Hughes, tel: 07584 082021 and include light refreshments. All proceeds will support local party campaigns.

Cardiff, Saturday 18th March: Stand Up to Racism demonstration, supported by the Wales TUC and Jo Stevens MP, coinciding with demos in London and Glasgow, to mark UN Day Against Racism. Assemble at 11.00 am in Grange Gardens, Cardiff CF11 7LJ and march to City Hall. Standing up against racist attacks and the rise of the far right in Europe and America and in solidarity with those oppressed by racism. More details here.