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Vaughan Gething to face no confidence vote in the Senedd

Senedd members will vote on the future of First Minister Vaughan Gething next week. The Welsh Conservatives have tabled a motion, claiming the Senedd has lost confidence in Mr Gething, who has been in office for less than three months.

Mr Gething was elected as the Welsh Labour leader on 16 March, becoming First Minister in a subsequent vote the following week. However, his campaign and early tenure have been marred by controversy, leading to this no confidence vote.

For the Conservative motion to succeed, Labour members would need to abstain or vote in favour, a move that would publicly undermine Mr Gething. Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, stated that the First Minister faced a “litany of unanswered questions” and that it was “time to put an end to the obfuscation, the drift, and the infighting.” The debate and vote are scheduled for next Wednesday, 5 June.

The motion proposes that the Senedd:

  1. Recognises public concern over Mr Gething accepting a £200,000 donation for his Labour leadership campaign from a company owned by an individual with two environmental criminal convictions, and regrets the poor judgement shown by the First Minister in accepting this donation and failing to repay it.
  2. Regrets the publication of ministerial messages where Mr Gething states his intention to delete messages that could have aided the Covid-19 inquiry, despite previously telling the inquiry that he didn’t delete any messages.
  3. Notes the dismissal of the Minister for Social Partnership and regrets that Mr Gething is unwilling to publish supporting evidence for the dismissal, and notes the former minister’s strong denial of the accusations.
  4. For these reasons, expresses no confidence in the First Minister.

Andrew RT Davies remarked, “Next week Senedd Members will have the chance to have their say on Vaughan Gething’s judgement, his transparency, and his truthfulness. The litany of unanswered questions has paralysed the Welsh Government to the point that Gething has been completely unable to address record NHS waiting lists, sliding educational attainment, and high economic inactivity. It’s time to put an end to the obfuscation, the drift, and the infighting and vote no confidence in Vaughan Gething.”

Controversy arose prior to Mr Gething’s election as First Minister when it was revealed he accepted £200,000 from a businessman convicted of environmental offences, despite being aware of the convictions. He had also accepted money from David Neal in his unsuccessful 2018 bid for First Minister. Mr Gething has maintained that he declared all donations correctly and insists there are no questions about influence on his leadership due to Mr Neal’s contributions. It was disclosed after campaign accounts were filed that Mr Gething spent more than £220,000 in his campaign.

The £200,000 donation from Dauson Environmental is a significant amount in Welsh political terms. It was later revealed that the company was applying for permission to build a solar farm on a protected site, requiring Welsh Government approval, and had received a £400,000 loan from Development Bank Wales, funded by the Welsh Government. Mr Gething has denied having any influence over the loan or planning decisions.

Mr Gething was publicly criticised by fellow MS Lee Waters, who urged him to return the money. Mr Waters told the Senedd on 2 May, “The First Minister has said the donations to his campaign were checked and filed properly with the Electoral Commission and declared to the Senedd and that there is no case to answer. But the issue is not whether the paperwork was correct – it’s whether the judgement was correct. I welcome the appointment of Carwyn Jones to review the rules for future elections. The suggestion in Plaid’s motion of a spending cap is worthy of consideration, but agreeing to it today would prejudge the review. The Conservative motion is based on a false premise. Decisions on loans from the development bank are made at arm’s length precisely to avoid conflicts of interest.”

Mr Gething has also faced calls for an independent investigation and a cap on future donations. Questions lingered for weeks over the unspent £31,636 from his campaign, which would typically go to the Labour Party. It was eventually announced that the funds would go to “progressive causes,” avoiding direct involvement by the Labour Party in the controversy.

Further outrage stemmed from a 2020 message in which Mr Gething stated he was deleting messages related to the Welsh Government’s pandemic response. He has denied committing perjury during the Covid-19 inquiry.

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On 16 May, Mr Gething dismissed Hannah Blythyn, his social partnership minister, accusing her of leaking information to the media. Ms Blythyn denied the allegation, but Mr Gething refused to release evidence supporting his decision.

In response, Plaid Cymru withdrew from their co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government. Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorwerth expressed concern over Mr Gething’s judgement regarding the £200,000 donation and his dismissal of a government minister. He noted, “Money left over has now been passed on to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. I am worried by the circumstances surrounding the decision to sack a member of the Government this week relating to matters that should already be in the public domain.”

Public support for Mr Gething has plummeted, with his approval rating dropping 27 points in the last month. According to Redfield & Wilton polling conducted between 18 and 19 May, his net approval rating is now down by 17%.