Welsh leader accused of ‘huge lack of judgement’ for event with Loach, Corbyn

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Welsh leader accused of ‘huge lack of judgement’ for event with Loach, Corbyn

Conservatives criticise Mark Drakeford for agreeing to speak at he World Transformed event in Brighton, as Board of Deputies president urges him to pull out

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford

Mark Drakeford – the leader of the Welsh Government and Labour Party – has been accused of a “huge lack of judgement” over his decision to speak at fringe conference at which film-maker Ken Loach is also booked to appear.

In a new attack on the First Minister’s decision to apppear at next month’s The World Transformed event in Brighton, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies accused Drakeford of ignoring the Jewish community’s feelings with his actions.

Meanwhile, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, called on Mark Drakeford to “withdraw” from his speaking engagement.

In a statement on Tuesday she said: “We are deeply concerned by this and have raised the matter with the First Minister’s office and with Labour officials.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies

“It cannot be fitting for the First Minister and Welsh Labour leader to participate in events with people who have been suspended or expelled from Labour for their role in the Party’s antisemitism crisis over recent years. We call on Mr Drakeford to withdraw from this event and instead address the important topic of welfare reform at a more appropriate forum.”

Davies, leader of the Tory group in the Senedd, said: “Given he is leader of the Welsh government and Welsh Labour, you would think Mark Drakeford would have no truck in attending a counter-event at his own party’s conference, hand-in-hand with cranks thrown out of that very party for their association with antisemitism?

“This demonstrates a huge lack of judgment and sensitivity on the First Minister’s part – how will Wales’ Jewish community feel in seeing him cosy up with those who have shown disregard to the very real presence of the world’s oldest form of racism in the Labour Party?

“Drakeford’s actions begs the question of why he thinks it is appropriate to make friends with those Sir Keir Starmer has said has no place in the Party.“

Davies also questioned whether Drakeford’s decision to speak at the event, which takes place at the same time as the official Labour Conference on the south coast, could spark tensions between the Welsh leader and Sir Keir Starmer.

“Is there trouble in paradise between the UK and Welsh leaders given the event is for those who feel ‘increasingly alienated’ by Starmer’s leadership?,” added Davies.

Drakeford will speak at a session on the future of universal benefit at TWT, which runs from September 25-28.

It is not known whether he was aware that the line up and TWT also included speeches from Loach, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and other figures who have downplayed the extent of antisemitism in the party.

Loach has confirmed he has been informed he faces auto-exclusion from Labour over his involvement and sponsorship of the now proscribed Labour Against The Witch-hunt group.

His comments around the Holocaust also caused outrage at a previous Labour Party conference fringe event appearance.

Peoples Momentum, the CWU, Unite and Young Labour are among those backing the TWT event – which began in 2016 as a festival in support of then leader Corbyn.

But organisers of this year’s event say it will represent those “alienated” by the leadership of Starmer.

Other MPs speaking include John McDonnell, Zarah Sultana, Jon Trickett and Clive Lewis.

Shami Chakrabarti – author of the report that was said to have “white-washed” antisemitism under Corbyn also speaks.

Tickets are priced up to £100 for the event, with some sessions happening online. But those paying are warned they will only receive 50 per cent of their ticket costs if Covid forces cancellation of the festival.

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