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Former Pontypridd MP Kim Howells says Welsh Labour must remove Vaughan Gething as leader

07 Jul 2024 6 minute read
Kim Howells. Photo via YouTube

Martin Shipton

One of Wales’ most respected former MPs has called Vaughan Gething “damaged goods” and called for his replacement as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister “sooner rather than later”.

Mr Gething has been mired in controversy since NationCymru revealed that he had accepted donations totalling £200,000 from a convicted criminal.

Dr Kim Howells, who was the Labour MP for Pontypridd from 1989 until 2010 and held a number of ministerial posts in the UK Government including at the Foreign Office, made the comment on BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme.

Addressing Dr Howells, presenter Vaughan Roderick said: “You’ve had decades of experience of elections. For Welsh Labour, the results in terms of seats were very good, but in terms of vote share was pretty poor – and vote share is vital when it comes to the next Senedd election because [the allocation of seats is] fully proportional. Does Welsh Labour need to change its leader? I mean, is Vaughan Gething, newly elected as he is, already damaged goods?”

‘Determination’

Dr Howells responded: “He is damaged goods and Welsh Labour needs to change its leader sooner rather than later. The problem is, they’ve got to find somebody to replace him, and to do that they’ve got to show some spine and some determination, and they’ve got to get on with it.

“I spoke to other former MPs in the run-up to this election, all of them from Wales. All of them said to me, if this had been the Senedd elections, we’d have lost them.”

Roderick said: “Some people even think Labour would have come third.”

Dr Howells said: “There’s a very good chance of that, I think. There’s a great deal of disillusionment out there about the performance of Labour in the Senedd, and they need to get a grip.”

Reacting to Dr Howells’ comments, a Labour insider said: “It’s very significant that someone of Kim Howells’ stature, who could by no means be described as on the left of the party, is coming out so strongly about the need to remove Vaughan Gething. He’s the sort of person you’d expect in normal circumstances to be supporting Vaughan, because they’re both from the same wing of the party. But quite rightly he has recognised the danger Vaughan Gething poses to the party from an electoral point of view.”

Reform UK

Earlier in the BBC interview, Dr Howells expressed concern about the rise of Reform UK and the fracturing of the general election vote which enabled Labour to win a landslide victory with a relatively low level of support.

He said: “I can’t remember an outcome like this. I don’t think there ever has been an outcome like this. If you’d have asked me three or four years ago, would Reform come second in so many seats in Wales, I’d have said this is fantasy.

2But it isn’t fantasy. It’s here and now. They almost won Llanelli. They came second in so many Valleys seats. North Wales saw a big Reform vote. And if you try and pick that apart, I suspect that there are certain issues which are the same right across Britain that worry people – and one of them is immigration.

“Nobody wants to talk about it. In the same way, nobody wants to mention the fact that there are these new sectarian groupings, which could be very damaging to all political parties. A Muslim vote perhaps – look at the way they won these seats, standing up for Gaza, for a foreign affairs issue. It is quite extraordinary, I think, and very different from anything we’ve known before.”

Stradey Park Hotel

Roderick said: “It’s odd, isn’t it? Llanelli had particular circumstances surrounding the Stradey Park Hotel [where the Home Office had a plan, now abandoned, to house asylum seekers] But a lot of the constituencies where Reform did well don’t have many brown faces, if we put it that way.”

Dr Howells said: “Look at Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr, Aberdare. These have probably got the lowest number of people living in those constituencies who weren’t born there. These are people who’ve got a very, very low percentage of immigrants from anywhere, even from England.

“I think one of the great problems with political parties these days is that they’re terrified about uttering certain words. They don’t want to raise certain subjects. They’re constantly walking on broken eggs. They’re frightened of trying to face head-on issues like immigration.

“And it’s not going to go away. I can’t see anybody stopping small boats. I can’t see Europe in general trying to do anything that’s going to be effective to stop immigration from Africa, Asia and from South America. These are massive problems. And by the way, look at the way Europe is turning. Look at the rightward shift of politics in Europe. This is going to take some adapting to, believe me.”

Farage

Dr Howells said it would be wrong to downplay the appeal of Nigel Farage: “He’s a sharp cookie, by the way. Don’t ever underrate this guy. He’s a very effective speaker, he’s got a presence, the media love interviewing him. He’s learnt a lot – he’s learnt from his friend Trump in America. With things standing as they are at the moment, it looks as if Trump is going to get re-elected, unless the Democrats regain some sanity and get rid of Biden.

“That kind of international mood is something which is going to affect British politics – and in David Lammy I’m not sure we’ve got the sharpest tool in the box as Foreign Secretary to handle all of that. I think it’s a bad appointment. I think he’s said so many things about various right-wing leaders in Europe and Trump in America. We’ve got to live with these people, and like it or not politics is about compromise, and it’s about skills in negotiation – and somehow, we’ve got to learn to live in that new world. Labour’s got to learn pretty fast, I think.”


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hdavies15
hdavies15
7 days ago

Hasn’t taken long for Knives to come out. Seems like old Kim has it in for everybody within the current Labour regimes in London and Cardiff !

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
7 days ago

When a highly respected person like Dr Kim Howells speaks, it’s time to listen!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 days ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

With due respect I don’t think the family of the late David Wilkie would echo that sentiment.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 days ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Highly respected?

karl
karl
6 days ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

I don’t respect anything about him. He has a shadow overhanging him

John Ellis
John Ellis
6 days ago
Reply to  karl

Though surely dubious issues arising from his past history as a servant of the NUM doesn’t necessarily imply that he’s wrong about this entirely unconnected matter!

Neilyn
Neilyn
7 days ago

First sensible words I’ve ever heard him speak in all the time I’ve known of him, that’s for sure. Gething must go, asap, but parachuting his replacement in from England will NOT be acceptable. Do that at your peril Labour.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 days ago
Reply to  Neilyn

It’s not the message I disagree with it’s the messenger. Yes, corrupted Vaughan Gething should go, but equally rotten Kim Howells shouldn’t throw stones in a house made of glass.

Last edited 6 days ago by Y Cymro
Robert Williams
Robert Williams
7 days ago

hdavies15 hits the nail on the head. Kim Howells has little time for anyone but Kim.Howells. His remark about David Lammy in particular is disgraceful.

robin campbell
robin campbell
6 days ago

Agree – true Brit Kim worried about Labour’s grip

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
6 days ago
Reply to  robin campbell

Kim Sion Dafydd

Cai
Cai
1 day ago

What’s disgraceful about the Lammy remark? The guy is a clown

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
7 days ago

Spot on, Gething has to go

aled rees
aled rees
7 days ago

He’s talking a lot of sense.Gething need’s to go and Lammy is nt the sharpest tool in the box.

Geoffrey Harris
Geoffrey Harris
6 days ago

No, leave Gething alone, he is the greatest aid for independence we have. Leave until the next Senydd election then he can go.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 days ago

Yes, Vaughan Gething being a rotten apple can only taint. Welsh Labour unless they start putting Wales first rather than the Labour party will face untold consequences come the Senedd elections in 2026.

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
6 days ago

I would say that VG is damaged goods and denying that is silly. Surely the question should be, can the damage be repaired? I was all set to support Labour but not if it meant having a leader who shows such bad judgment. But then I’m a floating voter but I know of a number of Labour Party members who have changed their allegiance because of him.

John Ellis
John Ellis
6 days ago
Reply to  Old Curmudgeon

Seems I’m pretty much on the same page as you, because I completely agree with all of your your comment!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 days ago

How ironic to hear hypocrite former Labour Transport Minister Kim Howells call for “damaged goods “Vaughan Gething to go sooner than later with his shady activity as a miners union representative during the miners strike of 1984/85 seeing he admitted to destroying documents that could have identified those implicated in the death of taxi driver and father of four young children David Wilkie in a 2004 BBC documentary.

Guardian link: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&opi=89978449&url=https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/jan/26/uk.tradeunions&ved=2ahUKEwif58_-u5WHAxXMTEEAHa5hDiEQFnoECBIQAQ&usg=AOvVaw3ZlapboV-I6Tg96Kq523EA

Brychan
Brychan
6 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

He didn’t shred anything of value. He made that story up later to ingratiate his role in the strike. Howells was the office boy at Sardis House in Pontypridd which, for reasons of asset sequestration, was not the epicentre of picketing. For central valleys that was co-ordinated from the lodge committees at the ‘Alamo’ in Maerdy. It was the lack of centralised co-ordination that led to the unsanctioned activity, three individuals gone off on one. It’s this that led to the death. Howells role was what was then called a ‘press officer’, and other than phoned in from the front… Read more »

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
6 days ago

Or, alternatively, keep him in as long as possible, and we can look forward to Labour loosing seats in 2026, hopefully to Plaid.

Valley girl
Valley girl
6 days ago

Welsh Labour are not going to work with the new PM if VG still in place. Starmer has to make a choice.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
6 days ago
Reply to  Valley girl

Oh yes they will. They have already demonstrated that they are more than happy to put party before country.

Brychan
Brychan
6 days ago

What Kim Howells fails to understand is that the reason why Reform did so well in Llanelli is that their candidate was a local councillor who sits on Cyngor Tref Cydweli who is active on local issues. Nothing to do with Farage or the Stradey Park Hotel episode. There was an extreme right Ukip candidate that campaigned on the asylum seeker issue. He failed, while Reform played the local candidate card. Boundary changes means that the Gwendraeth valleys are now included in the constituency. The alternative opposition to Labour in Wales, Plaid Cymru, previously strong in Llanelli have committed an… Read more »

Lavinia jones
Lavinia jones
6 days ago

Get shot of him and the senedd

Martyn Clifford
Martyn Clifford
5 days ago
Reply to  Lavinia jones

The latter isn’t going to happen. Pointless to keep raking it up . Devolution all over the uk is fixed now.

Rugge08
Rugge08
5 days ago

Kim howells would not have got anywhere without the num short memory Kim.

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