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Starmer accused of hypocrisy and double standards in Gething donations row

26 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (right) and new Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething during a visit to the Port of Holyhead. Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

Keir Starmer has been accused of hypocrisy after Labour returned donations totalling £100k to a candidate embroiled in the gambling scandal while allowing Vaughan Gething to keep twice as much from a criminal donor.

Kevin Craig, Labour’s Central Suffolk and North Ipswich candidate, was suspended after the party was told by the Gambling Commission that an investigation has been launched into one of its general election candidates.

The news was the latest development in a scandal that first came to light two weeks ago when former Welsh Conservative MP Craig Williams – a close aide to Rishi Sunak – admitted he had placed a bet on the general election being held in July, three days before the Prime Minister called it for July 4. Using inside information when placing a bet is a criminal offence, and the Conservative Party has withdrawn its support from Mr Williams, who is standing in the new seat of Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr.

‘Huge mistake’

Apologising for what he described as a “huge mistake”, Labour’s Mr Craig said in a statement: “Throughout my life I have enjoyed the odd bet for fun whether on politics or horses.

“A few weeks ago when I thought I would never win this seat I put a bet on the Tories to win here with the intention of giving any winnings to local charities. While I did not place this bet with any prior knowledge of the outcome, this was a huge mistake for which I apologise unreservedly.”

He added: “It is right that the party upholds the highest standards for its parliamentary candidates – just as the public expects the highest standards from any party hoping to serve in government. I deeply regret what I have done and will take the consequences of this stupid error of judgment on the chin.”

Mr Craig has donated more than £100,000 to Labour in the last few years. A spokesperson for Labour said it would return £100,000 donated under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

A spokesperson for Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, said he would give back £13,000 which Mr Craig paid for staffing costs, and Marsha de Cordova, another Labour candidate, said she would give back £2,436 that Mr Craig donated to her earlier this year.

Labour said it had acted immediately to administratively suspend Mr Craig, pending investigation, after the receipt of communication from the Gambling Commission.

‘Highest standards’

A Labour party spokesperson said: “With Keir Starmer as leader, the Labour party upholds the highest standards for our parliamentary candidates, as the public rightly expects from any party hoping to serve, which is why we have acted immediately in this case.”

However, the party has adopted a different approach to the £200k accepted by Vaughan Gething from the Dauson Environmental Group owned by businessman David Neal, who was given two suspended prison sentences for dumping toxic sludge in the Gwent Levels protected landscape.

Labour has officially supported Mr Gething’s line that he broke no rules, even though opposition parties, commentators and many within his own party consider that accepting the money from such a person was unethical and immoral.

Then last Friday, June 21, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme focussed on Mr Neal’s companies, quoting whistleblowers who alleged that they were engaged in tax evasion by “mischaracterising” waste disposed of to landfill. Companies dumping inert waste in landfill sites pay about £3 per tonne in landfill tax, while other kinds of waste attract taxation at a rate of more than £100 per tonne.

Footage in the Dispatches programme showed medical waste, including blood and sharps, being dumped in a Welsh landfill site. Experts also spoke on the programme about how the noxious smells residents near the Withyhedge landfill site in Pembrokeshire have suffered from for many months are the result of non-inert waste being dumped.

The collection of Landfill Disposals Tax is devolved to Wales, and there are concerns that the £200k donated by Mr Neal’s group to Mr Gething in effect came from money that should have been paid to the Welsh Revenue Authority, a branch of the Welsh Government.

Narrow

Mr Gething’s victory over his Welsh Labour leadership rival was narrow, and one of his close supporters, former Cardiff councillor Ashley Govier, has stated on social media that he could not have become First Minister without the financial backing of Mr Neal.

Pointing out the different ways in which the party has approached the donations to Mr Craig and Mr Gething, a Labour insider said: “This is rank hypocrisy and double standards. Where it’s to UK Labour’s advantage ahead of the BBC leadership debate on Wednesday evening, they give the money back to show Starmer as a strong leader.

“In Wales, the poor people of Pembrokeshire are deemed less important and have to suffer the indignity of Vaughan Gething keeping his dirty money. This is despite the donor having criminal convictions and the landfill site still stinking. As well as Channel 4 Dispatches broadcasting clear evidence of tax avoidance and inappropriate dumping of toxic waste.”

Plaid Cymru MS Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “Paying back the £200k donation from a convicted polluter is the bare minimum Vaughan Gething should have done when the scandal first came to light.

“Mr Gething’s refusal to even countenance doing so is further evidence of his lack of judgment. With such a dismissive attitude to doing what’s right, it’s little wonder that the First Minister lost a vote of confidence in the Senedd.”

The Labour Party was invited to comment, but has not done so.


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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
22 days ago

It shows you the state of politics. The closer July 4th approaches the Labour establishment get giddy with power. It’s do as I say not as I do. Hypocrisy is a virtue to Keir “flipflop” Starmer. Treating Wales with contempt part of the course.

Dewi
Dewi
22 days ago

Nation.cymru needs to stop this campaign now! Obviously the Labour Party in Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 is a ‘poodle to London’ & the interests of Wales are best served by leaving VG where he is with one eye on 2026 . Rhun is as good as Wigley & 1999 will be ours once again . Sorry Jeremy Miles, we know you got shafted, but then again it’s your responsibility to rectify thing; come on let’s make sure Welsh Labour owns its own mistake !

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago

I wonder why the Labour Party hasn’t commented? Surely Mr Starmer is an honourable man after all he is a member of the legal profession oh yes isn’t that the same profession as Mr Gething? Perhaps I’m just feeling a little cynical…

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
22 days ago

I don’t think kevin craig’s placing of a bet on him losing his election is as bad as the various tories that have made bets as it is possible (highly likely) that they knew when the election would be when placing their bets. This constitutes “insider knowledge” which is illegal. Kevin didn’t break any laws as far as I understand the circumstances. As for vaughan gething, I think taking a £200,000 donation from a twice convicted individual (who has committed environmental pollution of the protected Gwent levels, ongoing issues with the landfill site in Pembrokeshire and tax evasion) is even… Read more »

Howie
Howie
22 days ago

The one thing that this has shed a light on are his donations, were these given due to philanthropy and admiration of the Labour party or in the expectation of quid pro quo as a future candidate.
We know from past revelations this is a common practice in most parties, which allays the premise of the best person for the job.

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
22 days ago

National Labour don’t even want the balance of Vaughan Gething’s donation money, even though this is the Welsh Labour rules. They must know its tainted money and will bring shame on National labour, as it brought shame on Welsh Labour

Tim Hughes
Tim Hughes
20 days ago

Please keep going with this story nation cymru,it( no pun intended) stinks

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