Louise Magee has announced her decision to stand down as Welsh Labour’s general secretary, describing now as “the best opportunity I was likely to encounter to hand the reins over at a time and place of my choosing”.
In an email to party staff on Tuesday, Magee informed them that she would not be returning to her role as general secretary following a six-month secondment as an advisor to Labour’s national campaigns coordinator Shabana Mahmood.
“The decision to leave the Labour Party’s employ after almost two decades of near continuous employment was an extremely difficult one to make. For those who choose politics as a way of life, it is often the case that there is no ‘good time’ to leave; there is always one more election to fight, one more battle to win for the party we love. It is with this in mind that I came to my decision,” she wrote.
“The Senedd election that we won together in May was not just a victory for the ages, but a campaign to remember. Polls, pundits and opponents said we couldn’t do it. Together, we proved them wrong.”
Magee has served as the Welsh Labour general secretary since April 2017. Her tenure has seen several elections including the 2021 Senedd race, in which Labour equalled its best ever result and took 30 seats in the Welsh parliament.
Commenting on her departure, Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford said: “Louise’s insight, strategic focus and unflappable disposition are sometimes rare qualities in politics and we are lucky to have had a general secretary who possessed them all.
“Even in the choppiest of political waters, Louise has overseen campaigns that delivered for Welsh Labour beyond all expectations. The Senedd election we fought together in May this year was not just a great result, but also a brilliant campaign, bringing people together in a way that made even the toughest of days not simply manageable but enjoyable. Louise can be rightly proud not only of the results she has delivered, but the manner in which she has delivered them.
“Louise has also assembled a Welsh Labour team better equipped to rise to the challenges of 21st century campaigning, bigger and better resourced than at any time in recent history. She will leave a party in the rudest of health, with a team ready to rise to the challenges ahead.”
Carolyn Harris described Magee as “one of the sharpest campaigning minds I have had the pleasure of working alongside”. The Welsh Labour deputy leader added: “Her skills, determination and great humour will be missed, and they each inform a legacy that Welsh Labour will benefit from for many years to come.”
Welsh Labour outperformed expectations in May, with polls predicting beforehand that the party would take between 22 and 29 seats. Labour finished the count with 30 seats, including 27 constituency seats and three on the regional lists.
Labour took 39.9% (+5.2 on 2016) of the vote in the constituency seats ballot, and 36.2% (+4.6) of the vote in the regional lists seats race. The party also secured three out of the four Welsh police and crime commissioner positions.
Below is the full text of the email sent by Louise Magee.
Of the many emails I have sent to Welsh Labour colleagues over many years, this is one that I have found most challenging to write.
As you know, I am currently on a six month secondment working as an advisor to Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator. Yesterday, I spoke with Mark and told him that at the end of this secondment, I will not be returning to my role as Welsh Labour General Secretary.
As I said to Mark, the decision to leave the Labour Party’s employ after almost two decades of near continuous employment was an extremely difficult one to make. For those who choose politics as a way of life, it is often the case that there is no “good time” to leave; there is always one more election to fight, one more battle to win for the party we love.
It is with this in mind that I came to my decision. The Senedd election that we won together in May was not just a victory for the ages, but a campaign to remember. Polls, pundits and opponents said we couldn’t do it. Together, we proved them wrong. With barely a moment to take in the magnitude of our shared victory, I started my role working with Shabana and the UK Labour team as they look to shape a party ready to do in the UK what we have done here in Wales – deliver a Labour government.
Taken together, these two moments seemed to be either the springboard into another decade of frontline Labour politics, or the best opportunity I was likely to encounter to hand the reins over at a time and place of my choosing. I chose the latter.
It has been a privilege unlike any other to work for the Labour Party for as long as I have, and to have played a part in delivering campaigns that have improved the lives of those people we are here to serve. Be it my first time as an organiser winning a key marginal in Labour’s last UK General Election victory, my time as an organiser in Wales turning the council red again with Team Bridgend in 2008, winning Newport and Merthyr in 2012 or being Sadiq’s Field Director and winning back the London Mayoralty, I have been incredibly lucky to work for some brilliant politicians – and to work with the brightest and the best people working in politics.
Nowhere has this been more true than here in Wales. The Welsh Labour machine is the stuff of legend, and its current incarnation is no exception. Brilliant and dedicated, they are legends each and every one, and the secret behind all our shared successes. Of the many worries I may have about leaving, I am sure of one thing – Welsh Labour continues to have the best group of staff anywhere in the UK. I have been particularly proud to have expanded our staff team while in post, increasing significantly our digital and communications capacity, establishing the Head of Communications and Head of Digital roles, while and improving our fundraising capability.
I am unable to thank every fantastic colleague by name as there are truly too many to mention. I have been so lucky to have, in Carwyn and Mark, two Welsh Labour leaders who have created an environment where creativity can flourish, debate is encouraged, and challenges owned as much as success is shared collectively. To serve one leader of this calibre would be good luck; two may appear a little greedy. In Carolyn, our first ever Deputy Leader, I have found not just a colleague but a friend. Her ability to inspire is matched only by her unqualified support and backing however choppy the waters. The same is true of the WEC Chairs I have worked with, especially Mike Payne, Bridie Sedgebeer and Nick Ireland. Even in trying times, their support, commitment and fundamental decency never wavered. And most recently, in Shabana Mahmood, I have had the opportunity to work up close with, and learn so much from, one of the sharpest, incisive and most engaging politicians the Labour Party has.
I first moved to Wales in 2006 to take a job as an Organiser, planning on staying a year or so. All these years later, and after a few stints away, Wales is now my home. I may be leaving my role as Welsh Labour’s General Secretary, but I will always remain a part of the Welsh Labour family. I hope to see many of you soon – not least on the doorstep ahead of next May’s local elections!