GWYNEDD (UPDATED): Would-be candidate’s frustration at all-women shortlist
(Updated to include Labour party response)
Labour’s decision to implement an all-women shortlist for one of its main target seats has been criticised by its only county councillor in Gwynedd.
On Monday Mary Griffiths Clarke announced she was standing down as the party’s parliamentary candidate for Arfon, blaming ill health and a decision to concentrate on her legal career.
Then a relative unknown, in 2017 she came within 92 votes of taking the seat for Labour, narrowly missing out to Plaid’s Hywel Williams.
But according to Gwynedd’s only Labour county councillor, the party should rethink its national policy decision to exclude men from the party nomination in key target seats, claiming that he would be in a better position to capture Arfon this time around.
Cllr Sion Jones fought the seat in the 2016 Welsh Assembly Election where he increased the party’s share of the vote by 7.8% while still missing out to Plaid Cymru’s Sian Gwenllian.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he “couldn’t rule out” standing as an independent after becoming frustrated by the party’s insistence that only women would be eligible.
“If a Labour MP stands down I can totally understand the rule where all -women’s shortlists are in place to increase the number of female Parliamentarians,” said Cllr Jones, who broadly backs the scheme designed to encourage more women into politics.
“But here in Arfon we’re in a situation where I’m the only Labour MP on the council and I feel that the party is missing an opportunity here.
“I’d be ready to go out campaign tomorrow but its incredibly frustrating, I have no doubt I could beat Hywel Williams.
“I’ve had many people ask if I was standing and I’ve tried to explain this to the party centrally on the need to open this to open selection.
“It will take time to raise the profile of someone who’s not local so its an incredibly frustrating situation.”
He added, “I have considered running as an independent and have been approached by many asking me to do so.
“I haven’t made my mind up yet but time is not on my side but I’d rather not split the Labour vote and accept that it would mean I’d be thrown out of the party for doing so.
“I do fear that our chances are slim of taking Arfon unless something changes.
“All women shortlists work very well in many areas but I really believe that this is one area where the policy will not work.”
In response, a spokesman for Welsh Labour said: “Welsh Labour has a bold and progressive policy to achieve gender parity in the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party.
“A key part of this approach is ensuring we have women candidates in seats with retiring Welsh Labour MPs and in seats that are within our grasp at the next election.
“We’re looking forward to winning in Arfon, and returning a record number of women MPs to Parliament.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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