Unions hit back at bid to change Welsh Labour voting rules

Four leading trades unions have issued a joint statement declaring their opposition to what they see as an attempt to ‘bounce’ Labour into switching to ‘One Member, One Vote’ (OMOV) in the election to select the next First Minister.

The GMB, Unison, Usdaw, and the CWU are defending the current electoral college model, under which members of unions and other affiliated organisations receive 1/3 of the overall vote, as it used to work for the national Labour Party before Ed Miliband’s reforms.

Pressure for reform has been growing after the results of last week’s election for the Welsh party’s first-ever deputy leader, under which the winning candidate secured almost 1,500 votes less than the (more left-wing) runner-up. Any shift would likely benefit more left-wing candidates as it has for the UK party.

Mark Drakeford, the current front runner and self-styled ‘unity candidate’, supports a switch to OMOV. If this leads to the big unions supporting a rival candidate it could transform the race to succeed Carwyn Jones, who has announced that he will stand down this autumn.

Sinn Fein defending ‘unionist’ credentials of new Irish senator

It’s possibly not the most helpful endorsement for a politician trying to demonstrate their unionist bona fines. Ian Marshall, the newly-appointed member of the Irish upper house, has been staunchly defended by none other than Sinn Fein.

Marshall is an ardent remainer, and was put forward for a seat in the Seanad by Leo Varadkar. Sinn Fein also endorsed his candidacy, in what one of their senators said was proof of their vision of a greater Ireland which “welcomes British citizens”.

However, the problem arises in that despite Marshall’s declared intention to “represent the opinions and views of the people of Northern Ireland”, he really does no such thing.

Irish nationalism’s anti-Brexit position is already well represented in Dublin by essentially every political party, from Varadkar’s traditionally more anglophile Fine Gael on one side to Sinn Fein on the other.

By contrast unionist opinion – even amongst pro-Remain parties such as the Ulster Unionists – is rapidly consolidating behind the DUP’s staunch opposition to the EU’s bid to give Ulster ‘special status’ which would prioritise its links to the Republic over its links to the rest of the United Kingdom.

When Sinn Fein senator Rose Conway-Walsh asks herself ‘what is a real unionist?’, a useful answer in these circumstances might be ‘somebody representative of mainstream unionist opinion’. Such a voice might be a useful and novel addition to the Irish parliament – but Marshall isn’t it.

Plaid bid to make ‘attacks on the Welsh langauge’ illegal

The Welsh nationalists are pushing for language to join race, gender, and sexuality as a ‘protected characteristic’ in equalities legislation, Wales Online reports.

Liz Saville-Roberts, Plaid’s Westminster leader, is making the push after a column by Rod Liddle which poked fun at Welsh during a criticism of the (decidedly low-energy) ‘backlash’ against the naming of a new Severn bridge after the Prince of Wales.

David TC Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth who is a fluent Welsh speaker, has said ahead of the debate that he was not offended by Liddle’s remarks. The debate is another reminder of how Plaid’s nationalism has a culturally prescriptive, slightly Quebecois dimension mostly lacking from its Scottish counterpart.

In other language news, the News Letter reports that David Trimble has warned that the Irish Government’s efforts to revive Gaelic have been ‘disastrous’, and said that Northern Ireland would be better served by examining the Scottish approach.

A stand-off over an independent Irish Language Act is one of the key sticking points preventing Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists from getting the Northern Irish Executive back on its feet. However, both parties responded to the former First Minister’s suggestions by simply restating their positions.

London and Edinburgh prepare for Supreme Court showdown

The British and Scottish Governments are on course for a clash in the courts after the SNP claimed a deal over the Brexit Bill is no longer possible, according to the Scotsman.

Both parties have been at loggerheads over the fate of powers being repatriated from the European Union which, according to the devolved executives, are somehow ‘devolved powers’ which Westminster is trying to steal.

Previously Wales and Scotland had maintained a united front on this issue, but Cardiff recently struck an agreement with London and left the SNP out on a limb, their arguments about being good-faith defenders of the devolution settlement somewhat threadbare.

Davis invited before the Northern Irish Affairs Committee

The Brexit Secretary has been invited to appear before the House of Commons’ Northern Irish committee to answer questions about the future of the Irish border.

A solution does not currently appear to be in sight, with the EU reportedly ‘pushing back’ against British proposals amidst a hardening unionist backlash against Brussels’ own suggestions.