Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to visit Wales to help his party hang on to power in next week’s assembly elections after a trip was cancelled at the last moment amid the furore over Ken Livingstone’s comments on Hitler and Zionism.
The Welsh Labour leader, Carwyn Jones has rejected claims that he banned Corbyn from joining him on the assembly election campaign trail. But he said that because voting in Wales was imminent, and the UK parliament was sitting next week, it was unlikely Corbyn would have time to come.
The idea of a UK Labour leader not joining a campaign in one of the party’s traditional strongholds would have once been inconceivable.
Corbyn had been due to join Jones in south Wales on Friday for a visit to Bridgend College to highlight Welsh Labour’s manifesto pledge to create 100,000 apprenticeships. Jones’s visit went ahead – without the UK leader.
The Welsh leader expressed anger at the content of Livingstone’s comments but also frustration that the issue was distracting his party from getting their messages across.
Jones told the Guardian: “The decision [for the visit to be cancelled] was taken yesterday. There’s no question of me having banned him from Wales. I don’t have the power to do that, of course.
“Yesterday we saw what happened with Ken Livingstone. We knew that if he came today the day would be entirely about Ken Livingstone and we’re here to spend a day talking about the Welsh election on Thursday. From our point of view, it’s very important to focus on the Welsh election campaign.”
On Livingstone’s comments and suspension, he said: “Enough’s enough. How many times is he going to do this? He knew exactly what he was doing yesterday. This is not somebody who is inexperienced. It was deliberate. In Welsh Labour we operate a zero tolerance policy – there is no way I’d have somebody with these views inside Welsh Labour. I expect the same in UK Labour.”
Asked if Livingstone would have even known an election was taking place, Jones said: “No – he lives in the London bubble, [he] wouldn’t have thought about the elections elsewhere. From our perspective I’m not going to pretend that these comments were anything other than unhelpful yesterday. Sometimes I do wish that some of our politicians would focus on the fact we are having elections across the UK.”
Welsh Labour has mixed views over whether Corbyn is positive or negative for their campaign. Before the campaign, Jones told the Guardian Welsh Labour would attempt to distance itself from the UK party and the infighting that had blighted Corbyn’s leadership during its campaign.
On Friday, he said Corbyn was playing better now: “On the doorstep it’s fair to say we get mixed views. Fewer people are raising him as an issue and the reaction is more mixed. Some months ago the reaction was more negative. Not now – it’s much more balanced.”
Jones said the visit was cancelled after conversations between his office and Corbyn’s. “I was looking forward to welcoming him to Wales,” he added. Labour governed during the last assembly with 30 of the 60 seats. Polls have them winning about 28 seats.
This article was written by Steven Morris, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th April 2016 15.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010