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Opinion

It’s time for the Labour Senedd group to step up and tell Gething to go

05 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Vaughan Gething (centre) after losing the vote of no confidence in him at the Senedd. Photo Senedd TV/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

Any shred of credibility that Vaughan Gething had left following the revelations of the last four months has evaporated following the vote of no confidence in him that has been passed by Senedd Members.

By refusing to step down as First Minister, he is trashing Welsh democracy and bringing our national parliament into disrepute.

The arguments put forward in his defence by his supporters in the Labour group and by himself were ludicrous and an insult to the people of Wales.

Most of the Labour speakers ignored the specifics of why he was facing a no confidence motion, clutching at irrelevancies like the need to get rid of the Tory government at Westminster, spurious allegations that he is being held to a higher standard than others, and even that holding the debate on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings was somehow an insult to veterans.

Mr Gething’s own speech failed to address the issues at hand, was full of self-pity and lacked any sense of contrition for his behaviour.

Rhetoric

It’s important to set aside the emotion and rhetoric and concentrate forensically on what he has done.

His problems began when he accepted donations to his leadership campaign totalling £200,000 from a businessman who had been convicted of criminal offences involving the pollution of a precious Welsh landscape. It would have been bad enough to accept such a huge sum from anyone, but to have accepted it from someone who had flagrantly disregarded the law and put his monetary interests above those of the environment was unforgivable.

The sheer wrongness of this was compounded by the fact that Mr Gething had asked the regulator to go easy on the businessman’s companies. In many countries, for a politician to have accepted donations from a convicted criminal – and one who, we learn, is the subject of a further criminal investigation – would in itself be a criminal offence.

For Mr Gething to claim that he “didn’t break the rules” is no more than an immoral cop out.

Likewise, his attempt to mislead the UK Covid Inquiry was disgraceful, and only came to light because of a leak to Nation.Cymru.

Under oath, he expressed regret and embarrassment that messages had been deleted from his phone that should have been available to the Inquiry. Instead of confessing that he had deleted messages in order to avoid them being disclosed following a freedom of information request, he claimed they had been deleted by the Senedd’s IT department.

Dishonesty

This was a straightforward instance of dishonesty: there is no getting away from that. And it leaves us wondering what more he may have deleted. The Covid Inquiry has said it is taking the matter very seriously. Let’s hope Mr Gething is recalled.

If he had an ounce of integrity, Mr Gething would now resign. But he’s made it clear that he has no intention of doing so. The next step is in the hands of the Labour Party. While UK Labour has sought to distance itself from the donations scandal by refusing to accept the £30,000 that was unspent by the Gething campaign, it has made the decision to stand by him for the moment.

Apparently the party has “bigger fish to fry”, as one strategist is said to have put it. That relates to a totally unrelated story that the party is anxious to see not published, it seems.

Once again, the significance of Wales is being diminished and we are sidelined in favour of something considered potentially more damaging.

Inconvenient

Of course, from Labour’s point of view, it is inconvenient that the motion of no confidence was debated in the middle of a general election campaign that the party has been building towards for years. But that’s politics, and just because it’s coming at a bad time doesn’t mean that it should be disregarded.

As Adam Price said during the debate, Wales has remained largely free of allegations of financial impropriety on the part of politicians – something that could not be claimed for Westminster. Mr Gething’s donation scandal has changed that. Whatever he may assert, most people take the view that accepting donations, especially of such magnitude, from a convicted criminal is simply wrong, and taints the democratic process.

Given the small margin of victory he had over Jeremy Miles, it is likely that the dirty money he received made a difference. In effect, Mr Gething bought the Welsh Labour leadership and the role of First Minister. This is utterly shameful and should not be tolerated.

We know that most members of the Senedd Labour group are shocked and appalled by his behaviour, as are many grassroots members of the party as well as the wider population of Wales.

For some reason, no doubt linked to tribal loyalty, the group has been reluctant to move against Mr Gething. By failing to act, they are adding to the damage done to their party and encouraging those who would destroy devolution itself.

It’s time for Labour MSs to reach a collective decision that it’s time for Vaughan Gething to go, and for the necessary steps to be taken to achieve that end.


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Garry Jones
Garry Jones
4 days ago

“It’s time for Labour MSs to reach a collective decision that it’s time for Vaughan Gething to go, and for the necessary steps to be taken to achieve that end.” 
I agree, but perhaps in doing so VG could also be told by his colleagues “…there is a route back for [him] to take up a government position again in future.”  I believe disciplinary action is due, following this sorry episode, but should be proportionate and measured. That which is necessary and sufficient, and no more. 

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
4 days ago
Reply to  Garry Jones

Absolutely not. He needs to go. The claims made against Gething allege some very serious lapses in judgement and have the potential to undermine our democracy. And let us not forget that while Labour may call the VONC a “gimmick”, they didn’t take that view when they supported a VONC in Scotland that led to the ousting of Hamza Yousaf. Similarly, they cried that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak did not have a mandate to govern when they were elected by their party in Westminster following the resignation of their respective leaders. Labour have in effect created the precedent. Why… Read more »

Howie
Howie
4 days ago

He’s trotting out they were sick and couldn’t vote line, whereas others voted remotely, the other MS is most telling as Mark Drakeford was conspicuous in his absence especially after the disagreement in Senedd yesterday on Education policy.
If the former FM did not support you what is that saying.

Carol Bott
Carol Bott
4 minutes ago
Reply to  Howie

It’s disgraceful. I fully agree with your stance. How can ANYONE believe a word uttered by this individual?

Rob
Rob
4 days ago

Those crocodile tears… Pathetic

Yuri Nator
Yuri Nator
4 days ago
Reply to  Rob

They are indeed crocodile tears. He only cares about himself. He is like a parody of a politician: only out for himself and to hell with anyone and everything else. His colleagues are just as bad and all who voted to support him are tainted. I’m sure they’ll be out knocking doors with the election campaign now and they deserve nothing but scorn and difficult questions. The fact his colleagues and he didn’t even try to address the points and engaged in deflection/filibustering type antics like bringing up about the debate being on the eve of the D-Day anniversary shows… Read more »

Gaynor
Gaynor
4 days ago
Reply to  Yuri Nator

You sumned it up.
It’s as if the man is tone deaf. He he an amoral unempathetic automaton

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

Hancockesque dare I say.

Beau Brummie
Beau Brummie
4 days ago

I’m trying not to kick a man when he’s down, but just what did VG spend the £200, 000 on in a two person election, with no hustings, no leaflets, no elimination rounds, and a rigged union block vote?

The greater issue here is the rot in the Labour Party in Wales, not in one individual.

Karen Lewis
Karen Lewis
4 days ago

What is the point of our democracy? Sunak and Gethin were both foisted upon us. Now, even with a no confidence vote the Senedd cannot get rid of Gethin. They call it democracy.

Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
4 days ago

As someone else has rightly pointed out elsewhere, the issue in question is not just about the source of the donation, but what happened to the money afterwards, – how was it spent? I’d want to see full, itemised disclosure of receipts. The man himself has not a shred of honour or integrity and must surely go. But it goes further than that – questions must be asked and answers demanded as to the probity, accountability, and transparency of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party’s internal processes.

Maesglas
Maesglas
4 days ago

It’s a disgrace that this man refuses to resign. This man has no qualities that merit him holding this post. Those Labour members who didn’t vote him could have done so remotely but were the only ones with the courage to transcend their tribalism and do what was right. I.e., refuse to support a man who has brought the post into disrepute. Furthermore, Starmer’s Labour are hypocrites because a few months ago they were rushing to say that the Scotland SNP FM should resign because of an impending vote of no confidence there. Well he did resign and was replaced… Read more »

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
4 days ago

What a day. Many of the worst aspects of politics were on display today. ‘We know that most members of the Senedd Labour group are shocked and appalled by his behaviour, as are many grassroots members of the party as well as the wider population of Wales’. This did not stop them proceeding to put party before country today. We had political cowardice from two “ill” members who did not to turn up and vote allowing Mr Gething to suggest that the vote had been impacted by their absence thereby enabling him to question its legitimacy. We had Hefin David… Read more »

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
4 days ago
Reply to  Swn Y Mor

On the contrary, I applaud Hannah Blythyn and Lee Waters.

The fact that they had to declare that they were ill may give some indication of the pressure they were under to deliver the “correct result” or not be seen to be breaking ranks in public.

Gaynor
Gaynor
4 days ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

Well they should. As it would have done them more electoral good and impressed the electorate that thete are still some Welsh Lab SMs with a backbone and integrity

John Ellis
John Ellis
4 days ago

The essential point in today’s events seems to me to be the absence and non-participation of the two Labour members who, apparently, were ill. The Senedd, or so I’m given to understand, doesn’t operate like the UK parliament in Westminster, where the antique rules require MPs to be physically present in order to vote; in Cardiff Bay I hear that members unable to be present are entitled either to vote on-line or, alternatively, to nominate a colleague as a proxy to cast a vote on their behalf. The two absent Labour members seem to have opted to do neither, but… Read more »

Last edited 4 days ago by John Ellis
SundanceKid
SundanceKid
4 days ago
Reply to  John Ellis

Given that one of the MSs had just been sacked by Gething and the other had denounced him very early after Gething’s appointment, it’s more than reasonable to conclude that they could not support Gething.

I’d be willing to hazard a guess that a few others would have broken ranks too but did not want to be seen to be “rocking the boat”.

John Ellis
John Ellis
4 days ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

It isn’t too often that any doings of the Senedd attract the attention of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today” programme, but yesterday’s vote triggered an exception: this morning they’ve interviewed Vikki Howells.

Her spirited absolute defence of Mr Gething very much put me in mind of those Tory MPs who, in the dog-days of his premiership, came out in exactly the same style in defence of Boris Johnson, even as voter belief in his integrity was fading.

It was precisely the sort of interview which feeds the cynical public allegation that ‘all politicians are the same’. Depressing.

Last edited 4 days ago by John Ellis
Accidental Larger Sandpipers
Accidental Larger Sandpipers
4 days ago

Even if Gething manages to cling on, arguing that “we only lost the vote because two of our people were off sick” (and if you believe that, then for £10 billion I will sell you the perpetual naming rights to the third bridge over the Menai Strait), I don’t see how it saves him. Unless Gething has them both locked up in his garden shed, at some point Blythyn and Waters are going to resurface, and then the opposition can just hold another confidence vote. They can’t pull the sickie ruse twice.

Macsen
Macsen
4 days ago

Shows how ignorant the Westminster Labour party is of anything happening in Wales… they are happily campaigning with him one minute, now they are probably deciding his fate. They are probably deciding do we distance ourselves and ride it out until after the election or tell him to go as soon as possible.

Adrian
Adrian
4 days ago
Reply to  Macsen

Yes – remember Starmer’s fulsome and glowing review of Gething: ‘he’s doing a good job’? I was welling up!

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
3 days ago
Reply to  Macsen

I think the events of the last few weeks should tell us that Starmer and his acolytes are tone deaf and out of touch. The same can also most certainly be said of Gething and his supporters.

So entitled and accustomed they are to being the dominant party in Wales that they believe they are untouchable and can play by different rules to everyone else.

So, I believe Starmer and Gething will stick with the script and “tough it out” because they simply do not understand – or grasp – the strength of feeling in Cymru on this issue.

Last edited 3 days ago by SundanceKid
Adrian
Adrian
4 days ago

Gething’s like the muppet Boris Johnson, but on steroids. Anyone who moaned about Johnson not being kicked out cannot possibly want this chancer to stay. The UK is laughing at the ludicrous parish council in Cardiff Bay: they need to get their act together, and quickly. It’s embarrassing.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
4 days ago

There is little to add to this debate – and yet there is.
During the debate, Hefin David astonishingly suggested that the no confidence vote was an ethnic issue – the motion was not political, the F M was attacked because of his colour.
Aside form the fact that the sleepy Presiding Officer should have pulled him up on this, I for one – and I’m sure the people of Wales feel the same – am disgusted at the suggestion.
So a question now for Hefin David – how low can you go?

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
3 days ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Hefin should have been asked to provide evidence to back up his inflammatory insinuation.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
4 days ago

Gething has to go and the sooner the better. He seems to have no integrity, he is also incompetent, of poor judgement and amoral.

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