Wales politics

Labour members would reject Welsh split say AMs

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Labour's Welsh members would reject any attempt to split from the UK party, two Labour AMs have told BBC Wales.

Former Welsh Government minister Leighton Andrews said the Welsh arm of the party should consider a divorce if differences grow with Labour in Westminster on Brexit.

But Mike Hedges said members would throw the idea out.

Jenny Rathbone said it would be "political suicide" for Welsh Labour to go it alone.

Darren Williams, member of Labour's ruling national executive committee and prominent Jeremy Corbyn supporter, said a split would achieve "nothing positive".

Ms Rathbone, Labour AM for Cardiff Central, said: "To even consider breaking away from the UK Labour party would be political suicide because not many people would follow him and then we'd have two different parties competing for election."

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Media captionJenny Rathbone says there would be almost no appetite for Welsh Labour to split from the UK party

She said she detected no appetite for a split in the Labour group in the assembly.

"The membership at large would totally disagree," she said. "The membership at large would be aghast I think at the prospect of breaking away from the UK Labour Party. I absolutely don't know anybody apart from Leighton who thinks along those lines."

Ms Rathbone, who supported Jeremy Corbyn at the both leadership elections, added: "He is our leader. We need to unite behind him and this sort of conversation about having a separatist party is extremely unhelpful."

Mr Andrews spoke in response to a debate within the party over how involved the UK should be in the single market.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has advocated a Norway-style model of access to the single market, but Jeremy Corbyn later said Britain should leave the single market.

Later John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said Mr Jones and Mr Corbyn were saying the same thing on Brexit.

Mr Andrews suggested that if UK Labour's Brexit position moved away from that held by Welsh Labour ministers then a divorce should be considered.

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Image caption Mike Hedges suggested anyone wanting a split "should ask the membership"

Mr Hedges, who had also backed Corbyn in his leadership campaigns, said: "If people want to split let them be prepared to go out and ask the membership if they want to split.

"I think the party members would reject it by two to three to one," the AM for Swansea East said.

"I also know that the party members voted for Jeremy Corbyn in very large numbers, who I'm absolutely certain Leighton Andrews didn't vote for."

He said Mr Andrews, who lost his Rhondda assembly seat in May 2016, "is out of step with his constituency and out of step with the Labour party".

"It seems to me the logic of where Leighton Andrews is going is he's saying we need Welsh independence so we can negotiate our own Brexit deal."

In the last year Welsh Labour has won greater powers within the Labour party to make its own decisions - but remains part of the overall organisation.

Darren Williams added: "A divorce between the British and Welsh parties would achieve nothing positive.

"The proposal ignores the fact that people in Wales voted not just for Welsh Labour but for Jeremy Corbyn and the most progressive UK manifesto in many years."

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