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Eluned Morgan wins leadership bid support but falls short of threshold to stand

The contest to succeed Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister has intensified as four Assembly Members have gone public with their support for Eluned Morgan, bringing her tantalisingly close to being able to stand.

However it leaves her one short of the number of nominations she needs to be a candidate leading to anger that there may not be a female candidate in the forthcoming leadership election.

Two of those nominating the Welsh Language and lifelong learning minister had hoped to stand themselves. Fellow government members Huw Irranca-Davies and Alun Davies have withdrawn from the race in order to back her candidature.

They join Dawn Bowden and David Rees in saying they'll nominate Eluned Morgan. She requires the support of five others to be able to stand, leaving her one short. Of the Labour group of AMs, only the First Minister Carwyn Jones hasn't declared support for a candidate. He says he'll remain neutral.

The contest hasn't technically begun yet and won't until Carwyn Jones formally resigns which he's expected to do around the time of next week's Labour party conference.

But there's been some bitterness directed at the campaign of the front-runner, Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford. He now has 15 nominations pledged, more than half the Labour Assembly group.

There has been public and private criticism of that situation with it being suggested that he's 'hoovering up' support in a deliberate attempt to shut down debate, a suggestion he firmly denies.

Vaughan Gething, the Health Secretary, has the required five nominations and had urged fellow AMs to ensure a female candidate was on the ballot paper.

Eluned Morgan has been considered the only credible woman candidate but she's struggled to get the nominations needed. Her supporters believed she had the required amount and were preparing to launch their campaign officially this week.

That changed however when environment minister Hannah Blythyn announced that she was supporting Mark Drakeford, followed by Jack Sargeant.

Angry supporters of Eluned Morgan feel there's been a concerted effort to prevent her standing and the likelihood of a contest without a woman candidate has been roundly criticised by Labour members and activists on social media.

In their statement, the four AMs say they won't necessarily vote for Eluned Morgan in the election itself but that they believe there should be a diverse set of candidates.

Since our Welsh Labour conference in the Spring many of our members and elected representatives have stressed the importance of an election process which helps our Party to debate many of the key issues facing Wales in the decades ahead. A healthy debate actually depends on our membership and affiliates having a choice of candidates, and therefore ideas, for the next Welsh Labour Leader and our nominee for the next First Minister.

Today we are acting to try and ensure our membership and affiliates have that choice. We are putting deeds not words in to action. It is a responsibility we must meet so that the membership of our party can choose from amongst candidates who reflect the diverse nature of the communities we seek to represent.

Each of us will form our own view on the merits of the candidates who finally make it on to the ballot paper, but today we confirm that we will give our nominations to Eluned Morgan AM to try to ensure she can take part in the leadership election.

– – Dawn Bowden AM, Alun Davies AM, Huw Irranca-Davies AM, David Rees AM
Huw Irranca-Davies has withdrawn his bid for nominations and is supporting Eluned Morgan to be on the ballot. Credit: ITV Wales

Welsh government minister Huw Irranca-Davies had hoped to stand himself. He's explained why he's withdrawn from the contest and why he's backing Eluned Morgan in the following statement.

I am announcing today that I will not be putting my name forward in the current contest for the leadership of Welsh Labour. My thanks go to all those friends and comrades from across Wales and beyond who have encouraged me to stand, and who have responded so positively to the vision and ideas we have laid out during the summer.

I believe strongly that we have a duty as a party - and as Labour AMs - to ensure that our members have a diverse choice of candidates from which to choose. I also believe that we have a duty as Welsh Labour to reflect the diversity of wider society if we are to be seen as a modern and progressive party. We need to stand by our principles of equality and diversity, in our actions as well as words. As such, I will be offering my nomination to Eluned Morgan AM.

We already have two excellent potential candidates in Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething who have secured sufficient nominations to proceed. Together with Eluned Morgan, all three of my ministerial colleagues and comrades have the experience and capabilities to take Welsh Labour forward as Leader in the party and the Senedd, and to lead our nation and government as First Minister of Wales.

During the summer I have made clear that Welsh Labour needs to set out a new level of ambition for Wales, twenty years on from our first faltering steps to devolution. As the contest proper continues into the Autumn, I look forward to engaging with all our prospective candidates as they set out their own vision and ideas for the future of Welsh Labour, and an exciting future for Wales.

– Huw Irranca-Davies AM
Alun Davies had also put his name forward for nominations. Credit: ITV Wales

Withdrawing his bid to be a candidate, Alun Davies said he believes Eluned Morgan was the 'best qualified person to take key decisions and lead Wales through challenges such as Brexit.

Welsh Labour’s special conference last Saturday means that we now know the process that we will use to elect our new leader. I welcome this decision but it is only the first step on a journey of democratic renewal that must be rooted in our experience in Wales. It is also now clear to me that there is only space for one more person to contest this election. I will therefore nominate and support Eluned Morgan as Welsh Labour leader and as the next First Minister of Wales.

I have been clear throughout this process that it is essential that a woman has a place on the ballot paper and as AMs we all share a responsibility to ensure that this happens. It would be completely unacceptable for this election to take place with an all-male ballot paper. I also believe that a party committed to equality that celebrated the centenary of some women having the vote earlier this year should put these principles into action and elect a woman to be First Minister ofWales.

I believe that Eluned has the skills, experience and vision to lead our party and country. I believe that Eluned has a breadth of experience that can bring radical change to Cardiff Bay. She can be the catalyst that will unite our party to deliver a new radical agenda with the ideas and energy to move in a fresh new direction after two decades in government.

– Alun Davies AM

Under Labour's leadership election rules the only way now that Eluned Morgan can qualify to be a candidate is if a Drakeford supporter switches to nominate her or if Carwyn Jones nominates her in the interests of ensuring a diverse set of candidates. He's previously said there should be a female candidate.

If that doesn't happen it now seems that there won't be a woman in the running to replace him as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister.