Wales

General election: Labour hopeful 'frustrated' by all-women shortlist in Arfon

Caernarfon Castle Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The seat which includes Caernarfon is one of Labour's top targets in next month's election

Gwynedd's only Labour councillor says he is unhappy he has been blocked from fighting the party's top target seat in Wales at the general election.

Mary Griffiths-Clarke is standing down as the candidate for Arfon, citing ill-health and work commitments.

In 2017, she came within 92 votes of taking the seat from Plaid Cymru,

Sion Jones said Labour's policy of an all-women shortlist was "incredibly frustrating" for him, but the party defended its drive for "gender parity".

Mr Jones, from Caernarfon, fought the seat in the 2016 Welsh Assembly election where he increased Labour's share of the vote by 7.8% while still missing out to Plaid Cymru.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he "couldn't rule out" standing as an independent after becoming frustrated by the party's insistence that only women would be eligible.

Image caption Sion Jones claimed Labour was "missing an opportunity" by not letting him stand in the election

"If a Labour MP stands down I can totally understand the rule where all-women shortlists are in place to increase the number of female Parliamentarians," he said.

"But here in Arfon we're in a situation where I'm the only Labour member of the council and I feel that the party is missing an opportunity here.

"I'd be ready to go out campaign tomorrow but it's incredibly frustrating, I have no doubt I could beat Hywel Williams.

"I've had many people ask if I was standing and I've tried to explain this to the party centrally on the need to open this to open selection.

"It will take time to raise the profile of someone who's not local, so it's an incredibly frustrating situation."

A spokesman for Welsh Labour said it had "a bold and progressive policy to achieve gender parity in the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party".

"A key part of this approach is ensuring we have women candidates in seats with retiring Welsh Labour MPs and in seats that are within our grasp at the next election," the spokesman added.

"We're looking forward to winning in Arfon, and returning a record number of women MPs to Parliament."

The Lib Dems and Greens have decided not to contest the seat as part of a pact with Plaid Cymru.

Gary Gribben has been chosen to stand for the Brexit Party, while the Conservatives have yet to name their candidate.

Nominations close on 14 November.

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