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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 08:46 GMT

UK: Wales

Labour election inquest blames party rifts

The report makes more than 20 recommendations for the party

Divisions over candidate selection and the two bitterly-fought leadership contests are being blamed in an internal report for the Wales Labour Party's poor election showing this year.

The party also blames its poor results in the National Assembly and European elections on an ageing membership and complacency.

BBC Wales's Simon Morris: "Labour must shake off the impression it's run from London"
The report contained more than 20 recommendations.

It is believed they include a call for the Wales Labour Party to shake off the impression that it is run from London.

The report suggests that Labour should strive to position itself as the true party of Wales to combat the growth of Plaid Cymru support.

Labour strategists will present this as evidence that the party is looking to the future.

Chair of the "Yes" campaign Prof Kevin Morgan: "The Labour Party had become a political mausoleum"
Party member Professor Kevin Morgan, who chaired the devolution "Yes" campaign, has been pushing for reform for some time and welcomes the report.

"The pace of change had become glacial," he said.

"Quite frankly it (the party) had become disconnected from its members and supporters and Plaid Cymru took us to the cleaners."

The proposal that could prove the most contentious is a plan to put more ordinary party members on the Executive Committee of the Wales Labour Party.

[ image: The election defeats were a severe blow to the Labour leadership]
The election defeats were a severe blow to the Labour leadership
Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North, represents "Cyfle" - a group set up to press for reform of the Labour Party in Wales.

She argues that reform of the executive is essential to make sure that it represents the views of the grassroots membership.

"We feel that all the disasters of the last 12 months can be put down to the executive, and the fact that it doesn't represent the views of the ordinary members in Wales," she said.

Labour won a minority of Assembly seats during the first election to the devolved body in May.

The party won 28 seats - three short of the total it needed to control the 60-seat Assembly outright.

'Political earthquake'

The loss of traditional south Wales Labour seats such as Llanelli, Rhondda and Islwyn to Plaid Cymru caused a great deal of anxiety to Labour strategists.

Plaid leader Dafydd Wigley described the results as a 'political earthquake'.

The European and local elections also brought little cheer, with the loss of control of authorities including Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, and Wrexham.

The party leadership vowed that the embarrassing defeats should never be repeated.

Labour's Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Huw Lewis - a former assistant general secretary of the Wales Labour Party - said the party now has to recognise that it is in a situation where it faces three all-Wales elections in one year.

"We have to get out there, campaign, reconnect ourselves to Labour voters in communities and just work harder and faster," he said.

The party's executive is due to discuss the report on Saturday.

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