As all three contenders in the Welsh Labour Leadership race voted last month to dump mud from the Hinkley Point nuclear complex off Penarth – it might have seemed as if nuclear power would not be an issue in the battle for the Wales Labour leadership …but it is now.
The Geiger counter crackled back into life when the front-runner in the leadership contest – Mark Drakeford – was debating nuclear power in a hustings in Newport last night and referring to comments made by rival leadership candidate Baroness Eluned Morgan.
For the second time this week it appears Drakeford – in another knuckle-knawing moment – has used an unfortunate choice of words – although perhaps was being more honest about what he really thinks of nuclear power than his rivals Vaughan Gething (Labour AM for Cardiff South and Penarth) and Eluned Morgan.
Drakeford explains that he was rebutting what he called Eluned Morgan’s “belief that nuclear power is somehow an advantage to the environment.” and had retorted “Tell that to the people in Chernobyl, tell that to people in Fukushima!“ [ both locations of major nuclear power station disasters].
Amid groans of disapproval from the debate audience, Drakeford went on to say “You may not like it, but YOU wouldn’t like it if you were living there either, and being told this was the way that your environment will be safeguarded for the future.”
This alleged faux-pas is now being eagerly seized upon by his two rivals (Baroness Morgan and Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething) as showing a lack of commitment to the controversial new Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station project on Anglesey – a second nuclear power station at the Wylfa site which could yield thousands of new jobs .
Gething and Morgan claim that Drakeford is “sceptical” about nuclear power, and assert that this could damage the prospects of the proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear project . Hyping up the issue for all it’s worth, Vaughan Gething said Mr Drakeford’s comments would be “deeply damaging” to Wylfa Newydd .
Drakeford retaliated by criticising the “leak” of dialogue from the apparently “private” meeting to the BBC as “highly biased and partisan” and said no-one should rely on it to judge his views. Drakeford also pointed out his campaign for the Labour Leadership had been endorsed by none less that the Labour MP for Anglesey Albert Owen.”If that doesn’t tell you that the idea that my views are somehow hostile to Wylfa is not true, then I don’t know what else I can do to persuade you”, he said.
Stirring the pot today was Vaughan Gething supporter Hefin David – who is Labour AM for Caerphilly. Mr David said “In these difficult times we should think carefully about the words we use. There is a certain recklessness in this comparison that I’m sure wasn’t intended by Mark Drakeford.”
Meanwhile Stephen Doughty the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth announced that he had cast his leadership election vote in favour of Vaughan Gething