Lynne Jones is challenging former first minister Carwyn Jones to be Welsh Labour's representative on the Labour Party's ruling body. Here she sets out why.

"LABOUR'S great strength in Wales – which has helped sustain 100 years of electoral success – is our mass membership, links with the trade union movement and strong roots in the communities we serve. 

As far back as 1922, the party won more than half of all seats up for election in Wales for the first time, and we have been doing so consistently ever since.  

READ MORE: Carwyn Jones on why he wants to remain on Labour's NEC

Labour’s unique structure as a party isn’t the only factor in this remarkable electoral story, but it is certainly a big one that has served us well - even when the Westminster leadership of the party was distancing itself from our working class roots.   

As a Labour MP from 1992 to 2010, I saw us rise to the great heights of the 1997 election and then watched the gains being frittered away as New Labour failed to reverse Margaret Thatcher’s ‘free market’ policies, including her anti-union laws. 

In the five years from 1992 to 1997, individual party membership rose 50 per cent to just over 400,000 as people signed up for the final push to get rid of the Tories. But disillusionment set in as it soon became clear the Tony Blair’s government was listening more to the powerful institutions that work for the richest one per cent and against the interests of the great majority. 

By 2009, membership had plummeted to 156,000 and several unions had disaffiliated from the party. Rhodri Morgan, Wales’s Labour leader, partially insulated us here by declaring ‘clear red water’ with New Labour, but the two Westminster elections that followed 1997 saw the party lose 63 seats and four million votes across the UK. 

The party’s fortunes were initially revived under Jeremy Corbyn. In the 2017 General Election, we achieved our biggest vote since 1997 and gained 30 seats. With a manifesto much more akin to Welsh Labour’s current policies, we denied Theresa May a majority and our membership soared to 564,000. 

There is much debate about why we were then defeated in 2019. One factor was that, shaken by 2017, the Establishment stepped up its vilification of Corbyn. But the fact that 52 of the 54 seats we lost in England and Wales were Leave voting gives a clue that it was more about Brexit than anything else. 

The National Wales: Lynne Jones (right) campaigning with party members.Lynne Jones (right) campaigning with party members.

The one thing that is not in doubt is the fine shape the party itself was in when Keir Starmer took over as leader and the broad support there was across the membership and in affiliated unions for Corbyn’s policies. Why else would Starmer promise to make the 2017 manifesto his ‘foundational document’? 

Yet, over the last two years, he has abandoned nearly all of the ten pledges he made to get elected, including promises to end outsourcing in the NHS, scrap tuition fees and bring energy, transport and water back into public ownership. 

To make matters worse, he has not honoured his pledge to ‘unite the party, promote pluralism and improve our culture’. Instead, we have seen the Labour whip being removed from his predecessor and what can only be described as a purge of activists. 

The Westminster leadership’s shabby treatment of Jeremy Corbyn over his view on the scale of the problem of anti-Semitism in the party, which the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had said was a matter of legitimate debate, is at odds with the fact that the party itself decided it didn’t warrant suspension. 

But I am equally concerned about the treatment of the many lay members who have found themselves suspended on the flimsiest of pretexts, often triggered by complaints made by people who have a political axe to grind. And this has been compounded by the introduction of a list of proscribed organisations, with people being suspended indefinitely or expelled for associating with them even before the ban was introduced. 

As a former human rights lawyer, Starmer should not be supporting the retrospective application of a rule. It is a fundamental breach of natural justice.  

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Given the U turns on policy and the shoddy treatment of activists, it’s no wonder that party membership is in free-fall again. The exact figures are not public, but it is generally accepted that we have lost more than 150,000 members in two years.  

This drop in membership combined with trade unions becoming more detached or even disaffiliating has had a devastating effect on Labour’s finances. This has led to wholesale staff redundancies and is returning us to reliance for party funding on the rich and powerful, which compromised the last Labour Government. 

With an election possible at any time, we need to move fast and work hard to reverse this process. And that’s why I’m running to represent Wales on Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee.  If elected, I will fight for policies that put people and our planet before profit and for a party that is – as Starmer originally promised – a pluralist organisation where all democratic socialists have a place. 

UK Labour needs to take a leaf out of Wales’s book and realise that its members and affiliates are key ingredients of winning formula."

Lynne Jones was Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak from 1992 to 2010. As an MP, she served as chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and voted against the war in Iraq and against the introduction of tuition fees. After retiring from the House of Commons in 2010, she moved to Brecon and Radnorshire, where she re-founded her local Labour branch and became active in the Constituency Party.