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Starmer backs scandal-hit Gething on campaign trip to Wales

30 May 2024 4 minute read
Sir Keir Starmer speaks at the launch of Labour’s six steps for change in Wales at the Priory Centre in Abergavenny. Photo Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Sir Keir Starmer stood by embattled Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething as Labour’s General Election campaign arrived in Wales on Thursday.

At a campaign rally in Abergavenny, Sir Keir thanked Mr Gething for his “leadership” and said he was “looking forward to a new partnership” with the First Minister if Labour took over in Westminster.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Sir Keir said he was “proud” of Labour’s record in Wales, where the party has been in power since devolution in 1999, and said Mr Gething was doing “a very good job”.

Mr Gething’s brief tenure as First Minister has already been beset by scandal, with questions raised about a £200,000 donation to his leadership campaign from a man convicted of environmental crimes and concerns that he may have deleted messages during the pandemic which are relevant to the UK Covid Inquiry.

The First Minister may have to give further evidence to the inquiry after a series of text messages were leaked to Nation.Cymru from a 2020 ministerial group chat, in which Mr Gething said he was “deleting the messages in this group” because they could be caught by the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Gething previously told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that separate lost WhatsApp messages were not deleted by him, but by the Welsh Parliament’s IT team during a security rebuild.

He subsequently sacked cabinet member Hannah Blythyn for allegedly leaking to the press, which she vehemently denied.

Minority

His woes have culminated in the collapse of Labour’s co-operation deal with Plaid Cymru, leaving the party governing with a minority in the Senedd, and the tabling of a no confidence motion by the Welsh Conservatives on Wednesday.

Both Mr Gething and Sir Keir accused the Welsh Conservatives of playing political games with their no confidence motion, which will be debated on June 5.

During his speech to activists in Abergavenny’s Priory Centre, Mr Gething made no direct reference to his problems but said the Conservatives had a record of “treating politics as a game” rather than “a route to opportunity hope and security”.

Sir Keir told reporters after the event: “That’s the oldest trick in the book, and it’s game-playing, it’s diversionary tactics.

“What Vaughan Gething is absolutely focused on is delivering for Wales.”

‘Absolutely clear’

He also insisted it was “absolutely clear” that Mr Gething had broken no rules regarding his £200,000 donation and had “answered all the questions that are put to him”.

Sir Keir was in Monmouthshire to launch his party’s “first steps for Wales”, arguing that a Labour government in London would work more effectively with a Labour government in Cardiff Bay and “turbo-boost the work that we can do delivering for Wales”.

Those first steps replicated the six Labour already set out for the wider UK, including ensuring economic stability, hiring more teachers, cutting NHS waiting lists, creating a Border Security Command, setting up Great British Energy and cracking down on anti-social behaviour.

Education and the health service are devolved matters, controlled by the Labour government in Wales rather than the Conservative government in Westminster, but providing more money for services in England would automatically mean providing more money for devolved services in Wales as well.

Sir Keir also promised to “fight for the future of steel in Wales”, after previously calling for a jobs guarantee for workers at the Port Talbot steelworks, where Tata is planning to close blast furnaces.

On Wednesday, Welsh Conservative leader and Senedd member Andrew RT Davies said Sir Keir’s decision to campaign with Mr Gething was “a reflection of their equally poor judgment” and “should worry us all”.

Vacuous

Tory chairman Richard Holden described Sir Keir’s speech as “yet another vacuous ramble”.

He said: “Starmer calls Labour-run Wales a ‘blueprint’ for a UK Labour government.

“Yet after 25 years of Labour, Welsh NHS patients wait an average seven weeks longer for treatment than in England, they have imposed blanket 20mph speed limits, and they’re wasting millions of taxpayers’ money on a ridiculous plan to have more Senedd politicians.

“The choice is clear in this election: stick with the bold action and clear plan with Rishi Sunak or go back to square one with Sir Keir who doesn’t have the conviction, courage or plan to deliver for British people, and would fail, like Labour have failed the people of Wales.”


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Fymarn
Fymarn
4 days ago

Including devolved areas in the six pledges for the UK election is seriously worrying.

Are they signalling that the won’t respect devolution? Or are they playing in to, and encouraging the misunderstanding in the population about what’s devolved?

Those who care about devolution should be worried by this “it’s all the same as England” approach.

Last edited 4 days ago by Fymarn
Latishoo Muriel
Latishoo Muriel
4 days ago

Gething is exactly the kind of person Starmer would want to be in charge of the Welsh Labour Party. Right-wing, subservient, lacking any qualities that could make him a credible rival to Starmer, and so many skeletons in his cupboard that it will be child’s play to defenestrate him if he should ever show signs of developing the capacity for independent thought.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 days ago

English Labour leader Keir Starmer on his visit to Monmouth today made as usua vague statements, used Boris Johnson populist rhetoric how he’s going to “turbo-boost” Wales to curry favour with the Welsh electorate, where in reality Wales doesn’t feature in his plan other than copy & paste English-one-size-fits Wales agenda. He states how UK Labour will offer a new partnership between the Welsh government and a Labour run UK Government, which sounds very much like indirect rule , forgetting UK Labour should stay as England’s defacto government rather than continue Conservative big brother devolution disrespect as seen since Boris… Read more »

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
4 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

When Keir Starmer announced he was going to reform the House of Lords people were incredibly happy, it sounded great, down with the hereditary peers. However instead we would get more life peers stuffed into the already colossal House of Lords (783 members). Expect more of the likes of Lord Kinnock, Lord Prescott, Baroness Ashton and who knows maybe even a Plaid Cymru peer to join Baroness Smith of Llanfaes.

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