Labour not imposing candidates in Wales, says Kinnock

A Labour MP has defended his party’s decision to parachute candidates into safe seats in Wales, insisting there was local input in the decision.

Concerns have been raised after think tank chief and former Labour aide Torsten Bell and Alex Barros-Curtis, executive director of legal affairs for the party, were selected as candidates for Swansea West and Cardiff West on Friday.

Former Labour MP for Cynon Valley Beth Winter accused the party of “imposing candidates” following the expedited process, which she branded an “insult to Wales”.

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Director of the Resolution Foundation, Torsten Bell, who is standing as a Labour candidate in Wales (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Bell appears to have no connection to the country, while Mr Barros-Curtis went to school in North Wales.

But Stephen Kinnock, who is standing for Labour in Aberfan Maesteg, has insisted the decision was taken with the local party’s input.

He told the BBC’s Nick Servini on Politics Wales: “There were constituency Labour Party members on both of those selection committees.

“There was input from the local party membership in both cases.

“I know Torsten well, he is one of the smartest people on the scene in terms of understanding where we are on the public finances, in terms of developing policy that is going to take our country forward. He’s an incredibly talented person.”

Mr Kinnock did not answer when questioned if Mr Bell had ever been to Swansea.

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Leader of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said the decision was a ‘worrying sign about what Labour’s attitude in government would be towards Wales’ (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

However, he added: “What Torsten will do is work his socks off to show that he is completely committed to the people of Swansea West.

“He will build trust and a strong relationship with his party members, as I would like to think that I have done, and in the end, people want a name, an MP that delivers they want an MP who is a strong national voice and an active local campaigner, and that is what both Torsten and Alex will be.”

Speaking with the PA news agency on Saturday, Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru, said the decision to “parachute” in members was a “worrying sign about what Labour’s attitude in government would be towards Wales”.

He said: “We’re seeing a slashing on the number of MPs in Wales from 40 to 32.

“If among those 32 you have parachuted in candidates who are not there because they want to play any part in Welsh politics, that’s a dilution of the Welsh voice.

“It’s insulting to the Labour Party members themselves in those constituencies, but it’s also insulting to Wales to do this at the last minute.”

When the candidates were announced a Welsh Labour spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that despite the expedited process, the panels were formed by representatives from the Welsh Executive Committee and local members.

“Torsten brings a wealth of experience in economic policy and tackling child poverty. He will be real champion for Swansea West.

“Alex has extensive legal experience and is a campaigner for social justice issues.”