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Vaughan Gething accused of being ‘Starmer’s man in Wales’

03 Apr 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

Welsh Labour critics of Vaughan Gething believe his failure to hold a Cabinet meeting in the two weeks since he was elected First Minister is an early indication that he is Keir Starmer’s man in Wales rather than a “Father of the Nation”, like his predecessors.

Mr Gething became First Minister on March 20 after winning a narrow victory over his rival Jeremy Miles following a fraught campaign in which he was strongly criticised for accepting donations totalling £200k from the company of a businessman who had received two suspended jail sentences for polluting the protected landscape of the Gwent Levels.

It also emerged that Mr Gething had lobbied the regulator Natural Resources Wales to go easy on the group concerned, and that it had submitted an application for a giant solar plant whose fate will be decided by the Welsh Government.

Dismay

Now some Welsh Labour insiders have been expressing dismay over Mr Gething’s priorities since he took over from Mark Drakeford.

A senior party source told us: “There’s been not exactly surprise, but quite a bit of eye-rolling over the fact that Vaughan hasn’t held a Cabinet meeting since his election on March 20.

“It’s the normal thing in any new government, or following a reshuffle, that the new head of government holds a Cabinet meeting at which he or she sets out their priorities and gives some indication as to the priorities the Cabinet Secretaries should focus on. That hasn’t happened at all.

“Instead, immediately after taking charge, Vaughan went to London where he was greeted by Keir Starmer and invited to a Shadow Cabinet meeting in Westminster.

“Mark Drakeford never attended a Shadow Cabinet meeting in Westminster. Colleagues say he’s told them he then went for a break to Spain over Easter.

“It seems clear that in the run-up to the general election, Vaughan will be used as part of UK Labour’s senior team during the campaign. On one level that’s fine, but on another it confirms that he’s more interested in being a party figure than a national leader.

“For him, unlike his three predecessors – Mark Drakeford, Carwyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan – it’s more important to be the leader of Welsh Labour than the First Minister.

“To various degrees, Mark, Carwyn and Rhodri behaved as “Fathers of the Nation” – that’s not something Vaughan is interested in. As some expected, he’s becoming Keir Starmer’s man in Wales. Taking it further, one could say that he’s the First Minister Alun Michael would have become if he’s had the opportunity to do so.”

Tainted

Mr Michael defeated Rhodri Morgan for the Welsh Labour leadership in the run-up to the first devolved election in 1999. His victory was tainted with allegations of a stitch-up. While Mr Morgan won majority support among party members, Mr Michael benefitted from trade union block votes awarded to him by small groups of union leaders, as well as support from MPs.

In the election, Labour did worse than expected, winning only 28 of the 60 seats in the then National Assembly. Nine months after being elected as First Secretary – as the leader of the Assembly was initially known – Mr Michael, who was seen by many as Tony Blair’s man in Wales rather than as a genuine national leader, was ousted by opposition politicians because of his failure to secure extra funding from the UK Government to match the European aid money granted to Wales because of its relative poverty.

Rhodri Morgan then took over as First Minister.

‘Fed up’

The senior Labour source told us: “Clearly Vaughan has decided to operate in a very different way from his predecessors. People are not impressed, and in fact fed up. I have spoken to one Minister who wasn’t at all impressed by the failure to hold a Cabinet meeting, and about Vaughan’s apparent sense of priorities.

“It’s clear that there is not a great deal of goodwill towards Vaughan in the Labour Senedd group, most of whom supported Jeremy Miles.

“Among those Ministers who supported Jeremy, there’s not much of an incentive to be loyal, because it’s been suggested that in a year or so he intends to have a reshuffle in which some of them would be expected to make way for MSs like Hefin David, Vikki Howells and Jack Sargeant who supported Vaughan and were disappointed not to get Ministerial roles.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The FM was sworn in on March 20t and then appointed his Cabinet on Thursday evening.

“He had meetings with colleagues on Friday and then a number of engagements over Easter week, during the recess, including further meetings with Cabinet colleagues and external organisations etc up until Thursday.

“I am assuming he would have had a few days off over the Easter weekend.”


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Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
6 days ago

And people think that the Labour Party are the answer to the Tory problem 🙄

The Tories and Labour are just two cheeks of the same backside 🙄🥱

Richard E
Richard E
6 days ago

I think VG knows exactly what he is doing and where he wants to go with the role – and that is his right whether “ elected “ by a 5 per cent or 25 per cent majority .

Wales needs to focus on preparing for the next Election to Cardiff Bsy and agreeing on key priorities to deliver real outcomes by finding a progrrssive majority to deliver them.

James
James
6 days ago

Of course he is. There’s a reason there was so much corruption involved with him getting elected to FM. English Labour knew he’d be a lap dog unlike Miles who i genuinely believe would stand up for Wales.

Annibendod
Annibendod
6 days ago

To all Welsh Labour members who share in Plaid Cymru’s values, who perhaps are reluctant wrt to our constitutional position, I say this … Please reconsider your party line on supporting the UK. That is to say, that it is somehow collectivist. It is not. It is a capitalist construct of imperialist intention. Plaid Cymru proposes Welsh Democracy and British collectivism. Your hearts may be in the right place but you may be in the wrong party. Perhaps it is time for the change Wales needs. How about helping Plaid become the party Wales needs?

Last edited 6 days ago by Annibendod
Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
6 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

So will Rhun ap Iorwerth now have the courage to say no more cooperation and actually start acting like an opposition?
And more importantly, get on with building the party for the next Senedd election?
I doubt it.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 days ago

Tony Blair was George W Bush jnr poodle and Vaughan Gething is Keir Starmer’s little Shih Tzu. 🐕

Why vote
Why vote
6 days ago

He must be hiding awaiting instructions from a higher power,
Or he might be waiting for someone to donate enough money for him to get out and about and do something.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
5 days ago

I had a word with the local soothsayer…I was told of a vision.
Gosh, said that nice Mr Kier, that Gethin chap is solid. Wait a decent while so as not to antagonise those Welshies (they’re sewn up anyway), find him a nice safe seat – preferably in England – and whizzo, a seat in my cabinet.

karl
karl
5 days ago

Both Tory light then. Nothing of Starmers Labour, on any values, is a vote winner for me. All they are is get the Tories out at all cost. By union flag waving (sick) , ignoring brexit and cuddling to the far right when possible. I hate the Tories, but can only vote for real change

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
9 hours ago

One of the lads down the pyb thinks that Yawn Gethin’s failure to call a meeting of the Cabinet has nothing to do with his bosses in London – says he’s jyst downright lazy, pwdwr.

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