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Opinion

The Labour First Minister’s donations matter – we must keep Westminster style sleaze out of Wales

30 Apr 2024 4 minute read
First Minister Vaughan Gething – Image: Senedd Cymru

Heledd Fychan MSPlaid Cymru

Trust matters in politics. But the recent donation scandal surrounding the Labour First Minister of Wales threatens to erode that trust.

Earlier this year, during the Welsh Labour leadership election, it came to light that Vaughan Gething had accepted a staggering £200,000 donation from a convicted criminal and environmental polluter – David Neal of Dauson Environmental Group.

Not only was this the largest political donation ever recorded in the history of Welsh politics, but further investigative pieces by Nation.Cymru’s Martin Shipton discovered that Vaughan Gething had actually lobbied Natural Resources Wales on behalf of Dauson Environmental Group when he was economy minister – encouraging them to go easy on the company.

Further digging by Nation Cymru discovered more – that Dauson Environmental Group had been awarded a Welsh Government loan of £400k when Vaughan Gething was economy minister via the Development Bank of Wales.

This issue goes to the heart of government operations. The conflict of interest is obvious. The lapse in judgment, clear.

But when questions have rightly been asked, the newly elected First Minister has done nothing to allay concerns – attempting to brush aside concerns, criticising “unserious” journalists for asking perfectly legitimate questions, and sticking to the increasingly strained line that ‘all rules were followed.’

Approval ratings

He even pointed towards a rise in his personal approval ratings whilst being questioned by Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd last week during a scrutiny committee as an indicator that ‘people didn’t care’.

Well, First Minister. We care. These donations matter because they threaten the integrity of Welsh politics.

Mr Gething’s so-called defence is that ‘rules were followed’. Rules may well have been followed, but that doesn’t mean that they are morally acceptable nor an indicator of good judgement from someone who currently occupies the highest elected office in Wales.

The palpable silence from fellow Labour Ministers and back-benchers in the Senedd last week when the First Minister took further opposition questions on the matter spoke volumes, just as loud were his Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues lining up to distance themselves from his decision to accept the money.

Ministerial code

The Welsh government’s ministerial code sets out very specific points on what is and isn’t acceptable for Ministers, so as to ensure that influence is not bought. But, also importantly, it makes it clear that ministers should not put themselves in a position where there is a perception of a conflict of interest.

It says: ‘Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests. And Ministers should not accept any gift or hospitality which might or might not reasonably appear to compromise their judgement.’

Plaid Cymru believe that threshold has been reached, and it’s why Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru’s Leader, wrote to the Permanent Secretary asking for a full independent inquiry and for the findings to be made public.

We are all too familiar with Tory chaos, corruption and cronyism.

Sleaze has sadly been normalised in Westminster politics over the last few decades which has denigrated our democracy.

Sadly, it now threatens to rear its head in Welsh politics through this donations saga which continues to dominate the Labour First Minister’s first few weeks in office. And Mr Gething cannot just hope that putting a tin hat on will make the issue go away.

Plaid Cymru believe we have an opportunity in Wales to build something better and to keep that sleaze away from public life here.

Debate

That’s why Plaid Cymru are calling for two things in our debate this week. Firstly, there must be a cap on donations from individuals to politicians. Influence should never be bought.

Secondly, we need an independent investigation into the donations in question. The public would have little confidence, I think, in a process whereby the First Minister acts as judge and jury in his own case.

The First Minister has commissioned one of his predecessors, Carwyn Jones to undertake a review of the rules surrounding donations for the Welsh Labour leadership contest.

In the interest of transparency, it’s regrettable that the First Minister chose a party insider rather than someone unaffiliated to Labour to do that review.

If public trust is to be restored, then these steps must be taken immediately.

As Llinos Medi, Plaid Cymru Westminster Candidate for Ynys Môn recently stated, ‘you don’t buy trust, you work for it.’

I couldn’t agree more. No elected politician should ever take the electorate – or their position – for granted.


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
21 days ago

Quite evidently if Mr Gething cannot see that his integrity is compromised by this then he should be voted out of office.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
21 days ago

All too often, not just in Caerdydd but westminster and other locations around the uk, politicians use that worn out phrase “all rules were followed.”

The politicians make the bl***y rules!

it makes me angry that rules aren’t tightened up. There should be a limit on donations given, there should be a limit on donations received, people convicted of any crime should be banned from making any political donations.

Gaynor
Gaynor
21 days ago

Heledd please tell your fellow MS in Plaid they can humph and point as many fingers as they like. But you refuse to withdraw from an agreement with Labour, which reflects very badly on the integrity of PC, and you desperately need to retrieve that these days . Scandal has never been limited to Westminster, numerous Welsh gvts and politicians have been mired in corruption and back room deals. PC seem to be happy to sit on that perpetual fence. Well you will get haemorroids at this rate and lose all credibility

Tomos
Tomos
20 days ago

Heledd, be careful on that high horse of yours! A typical sanctimonious Plaid article

Wiwergoch
Wiwergoch
20 days ago

Had this happened in Westminster, he would have been forced to resign. Weak media in Wales means he may get away with it. I only hope his party members have more integrity and are vocal about why he needs to go.

CapM
CapM
20 days ago

The evidence is enough to generate a perception of a conflict of interest.
The donation doesn’t pass the sniff test, as has been determined by a number of Gething’s fellow Labour MSs. and MPs.

Garry Jones
Garry Jones
20 days ago

Heledd made good observations about the perceived judgement of the FM at plenary yesterday. I fully support all that she said on the matter there. Robust and mature contributions also from Rhun, Adam and Pred reaffirmed my support for Plaid. 

88651780259598745
88651780259598745
20 days ago

Rules and “optics” are two different things. If the blues are green with envy that’s a big red flag. No-one would object if it was £20k. Return the rest to put this to bed, then lead from the high ground on reforming the system.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
19 days ago

It seems to me the corruption that appears to have happened in this case brings the Labour Party and the whole of the Senedd into disrepute. The LP because they voted Gething in as leader knowing about the dodgy donations and its backstory and the rest of the Senedd for working with him. No calls for a ‘vote of no confidence’. I would suggest all members of the Senedd are complicit in this scandal. Shame Wales doesn’t have half decent investigative journalists (apart from Nation Cymru.) to hold them to account

karl
karl
19 days ago

Sleeze and the alcohol consumption during work hrs. We do not need the disaster of the English parliament. We need a work environment that encourages many to stand and represents us, not donors

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
14 days ago

A bit late for that, sleaze and corruption in Wales is easy to see. Its normalised

Keith Dennett -Jones
Keith Dennett -Jones
11 days ago

A disshonest politician….no surely not lol

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