Fast conclusion to contest sought

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The Independent Online
THE consensus at yesterday's Welsh Labour conference was that the question of the party leadership must be settled quickly. There were fears, however, of the constituencies and unions being 'bounced' into a decision, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Replying to the emphasis by the GMB's John Edmonds on the employment issue, George Wright, TGWU (transport workers) Wales area secretary, said: 'There are no sharp differences of opinion on full employment, the health service and Europe. It's a choice on other matters.'

Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, a member of Tony Blair's home affairs team, pointed to Mr Blair as John Smith's natural successor. He said that through Mr Blair, 'the public now know that Labour is the party of law and order.'

Some felt more time was needed for the contest. Rhodri Morgan, MP for Cardiff West and frontbench spokesman on Welsh affairs, said: 'We in the Parliamentary Labour Party must not give the impression of trying to bounce the constituency sections and the trade unions into a decision for a specific person or a specific dream ticket.'

Delegates emphasised the need to attack the Government.

Mr Wright said: 'No one in our movement who has seen the performance in the Tory Party would want to see that in the Labour Party, and let John Major off the hook in the meantime.'

Carol Fern, of Swansea Constituency Labour Party, said the leadership must wait until the Tories had been routed in the European elections. 'Before John Smith died the media were saying how inept the Conservatives were. I think it would be really bad if the focus of that is lost.'

Wayne David, Labour MEP for South Wales, warned: 'I think it would be a foolish individual who tried to campaign before these (European) elections.'

He added: 'We have to accept there is a tremendous array of talent. There is not much policy difference. It's a difference of nuance, of emphasis.'

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