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'Relax' and allow debate, leadership hopefuls urged

There's another call today for Labour AMs thinking about taking over from Carwyn Jones to hold off and allow the party space to discuss its future direction.

And this time the call comes from someone who's said to be considering standing in the contest to become Welsh Labour leader.

So far only Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford has declared his intention to stand. Health Secretary Vaughan Gething and Lifelong Learning minister Eluned Morgan are widely expected to declare within days.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates, Counsel General Jeremy Miles and Children's minister Huw Irranca Davies are also thought to be considering standing.

So too is Public Services Minister Alun Davies who today is publishing a blog post in which he'll urge colleagues to 'relax' and take advantage of 'the gift of time' that Carwyn Jones has given them by announcing the timetable for his departure.

He won't formally stand down as Welsh Labour leader until September with a view to handing over the reigns as First Minister at the beginning of December.

In his blog post the Blaenau Gwent AM says that gives Welsh Labour a chance to do 'something different. Maybe even something special and unique in politics ... time and space to have a debate before we actually need to have an election campaign.'

He'll say that it would be better for that debate 'if it is not seen through the prism of which candidate from whichever wing of the party is taking a position on a particular issue.'

He's not the first to make such a call. I reported yesterday on an email sent by the Aberavon AM David Reesurging the same thing. Llanelli's Lee Waters and Delyn's Hannah Blythyn have also made similar comments.

I've spoken to several others however who think that holding off from expressing support would prevent Labour AMs from knowing who's in the running.

I've heard one suggestion that those who are interested in standing may need to say so publicly even without the promise of nominations when the contest formally begins in September.

Meanwhile calls continue to be made for there to be as many candidates as possible so that the party can have a range of ideas and policies discussed.

Credit: Labour campaign photo

A former Labour parliamentary candidate and councillor, Calum Higgins, has written a blog post saying that the election must be a contest rather than a coronation.

He writes:

We can’t have a coronation of Mark Drakeford, no matter how competent and likeable he is. There are several issues with a coronation and Welsh Labour should look at the precedents that have been set. Coronations run the risk of ending with a bounce in the polls followed by an inevitable slump and kicking from the electorate when they get their say (e.g Gordon Brown, Theresa May).

Many labour members disliked the lack of mandate May had when elected PM by the Conservative Mps in Westminster, Welsh Labour now need to deal with that same issue by at least putting their next leader through the scrutiny of a leadership battle where they can set out their stall for change.

There are plenty of qualified people who could be nominated and would provide fresh ideas for the party going forward if given the chance to articulate them to the membership. There is room for at least 3 candidates to be nominated and provide members with a real menu to choose from. Challenge and scrutiny makes politics better, and if Drakeford is the best candidate then I would expect this to be something he would welcome and use as an opportunity to set out his vision for Wales.

– Calum Higgins

There's continued pressure too for a change to the system in the way the next leader will be elected.

Following controversy over the deputy leadership election at the weekend, there have been increasing calls for Welsh Labour's complicated method of choosing top jobs - the electoral college - to be scrapped and replaced with one-member-one-vote.

Although Welsh Labour is looking at changing the system, it's not planning to do so before the leadership election. Party chiefs are coming under pressure to think again and there could be a special conference to do just that.

With some clamouring for one-member-one-vote and others saying the special rôle of the unions must be recognised, I've heard one suggestion of a compromise that would see the third part of the electoral college - AMs, MPs and the MEP - lose their special status in a new college comprising 50% union and affiliate votes and 50% members.

Like all compromises it won't please everyone but it might be something everyone could live with.

UPDATE 1400: Candidate number 2?

A second candidate could be about to enter the contest.

The Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that she will make a statement about the leadership tomorrow.

She'll say whatever it is she has to say at a money advice event that she's organised in Pembroke Dock.

Ahead of the meeting she made the following comments:

The Tory austerity cuts have forced more people into poverty, but the real challenge for us in Wales today is the increasing number of people who suffer from in-work poverty with many struggling to pay their bills which has a severe impact on people’s mental health.

Any leadership contender needs to have an answer to this and other fundamental questions that impact on people’s daily lives if they want to run the country.

Many are finding that their household budgets are squeezed as bills continue to rise. For people, especially on lower incomes, the changing benefits system and the increasing cost of living is making life much more stressful. In preparation for the roll out of Universal Credit, I’ve brought a whole range of organisations together to make it easy for people to get the information they need, all under one roof.

– Eluned Morgan AM