Regaining control of Swansea City Council after 8 years in opposition is Labour’s prime target in Wales, and one of its key targets across the UK. In a ward with a history of far right political activity (including entrism within the Labour Party), and less than a week before close of nominations, Wales General Secretary, David Hagendyk, has suspended one of the candidates in a key target ward.
Was the comrade a slacker? On the contrary, Uta Clay was acknowledged as having knocked on more doors in this campaign than any other candidate in Swansea. One of the remaining candidates, on the other hand, has persistently ignored all demands from David Hagendyk to get off his backside and do some work.
The Llansamlet ward has been bedevilled by right wing extremism for years. In the 2008 elections the BNP vote in Llansamlet was second to Labour, ahead of the Tories, LibDems and Plaid Cymru. It is expected that, this year, there will be at least 4 candidates fielded from the BNP or Britain First or both.
Arguments have rumbled on about a local traveller site and the issue has been ruthlessly exploited by racists and fascists. Shamefully, one of the sitting Labour councillors, Dennis James, has disgraced himself with inappropriate and inflammatory comments on this situation. Less than 5 years ago, Labour Party by-election leaflets supporting Penny Matthews, another sitting Labour councillor in the ward, were formally condemmed by the then Commission for Racial Equality. Amongst her other acheivements, Cllr Matthews has previously managed to recruit two members of the BNP into the Labour Party. When this was discovered, far from apologising, pronounced that they had been good members and it was a pity to lose them.
In addition to problems with the far right, there has been huge resistance from many parts of the semi-moribund Swansea East Labour constituency party to all-women shortlists, which were agreed by Wales Labour and the Swansea county party. Hardly any new women were added to the panel from Swansea East branches, following which various branches recited the usual incantations about having nothing against women except that “we just haven’t got any”. The Mynyddbach Branch in particular obstructed the entire selection process throughout Swansea for nearly a year.
When the County Party called for support from Comrade Hagendyk to enforce his own policy in Swansea East, he announced that he would give them all a bit more time and organise a recruiting campaign for women. He did nothing (Comrade Hagendyk, by sheer coincidence, was an unsuccessful Progress candidate for the national policy forum at the last election). Eventually two Swansea East branches selected Swansea women from outside the Swansea East Constituency (Llansamlet and Mynyddbach).
Mynyddbach Branch then embarked on a process of undermining and intimidation of their candidate until she became ill and resigned. Wales Labour did nothing about this. The other candidate, Uta Clay in the Llansamlet Branch proved a more difficult obstacle. Fellow candidate and sitting councillor Penny Matthews presided over a branch meeting last November at which, without the item being on the agenda, without any written notice given and in the knowledge that Uta herself was unable to attend the meeting, the allegation was raised that Uta Clay had been describing herself to constituents on the doorstep as a “socialist”. It was moved from the floor that she be deselected and this was carried. Obviously, even Comrade Hagendyk had to rule that this process was illegitimate. But, instead of taking action against the conspirators he instituted a procedure which led to the suspension of the branch, thus preventing the active members of the branch from preparing a meaningful election campaign.
Until last week, there seemed to be a serious danger that Uta Clay would actually make it to the ballot paper and probably win for Labour, replacing an ‘Independent’, clearly preferred by Cllrs Matthews and James. Aided and abetted by the Chair of the Swansea East Constituency Labour Party, Eirlys Lloyd, any attempt by Uta Clay to publish literature, challenging a series of lies and misinformation (you’d never guess where from!), supportive comrades decided to put out a leaflet introducing Uta to the ward (and of course promoting the other 3 Labour candidates). This was done by her partner Bob who wrote and published the leaflet himself and at his own expense.
As a result of this and without any indication as to what rules have been broken, both Bob and Uta Clay have been placed on “administrative suspension from the Party” and consequently Uta clay’s candidacy has been withdrawn, although no one has a clue as to who might replace her as the fourth Labour candidate in Llansamlet.
Comrade Hagendyk has thus stepped in to complete the work of the Swansea East ‘dinasaurs’ and both the ‘outside women’ have been got rid of. Although this is clearly a local government matter neither the Labour Group nor the County Labour Party were consulted.
Further bulletins on the shenanigans of Comrade Hagendyk will follow.