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Vaughan Gething’s rise was impressive but his future is now uncertain

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Vaughan Gething’s rise was impressive but his future is now uncertain

It has become clear that Gething’s troubles are cutting through to the people of Wales – they are not just political tittle-tattle. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

It has become clear that Gething’s troubles are cutting through to the people of Wales – they are not just political tittle-tattle. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures© Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

When Vaughan Gething spoke to the Guardian just before he won the Welsh first minister leadership race, he did not fight shy of discussing the wider significance.

“You can’t deny the historic nature of it,” he said. “If I win, the fact that I’ll be the first Black leader of any European nation is a matter of historic significance.” 

Gething did make history, beating his only rival for the leadership, Jeremy Miles, by a narrow margin, but since then has faced a string of accusations calling into question his judgment and transparency.

 

The most damaging is the revelation that he took £200,000 of donations for his leadership campaign from a company whose owner, David Neal, was convicted of dumping waste on the Gwent Levels in south Wales.

He has also been criticised over leaked texts from the pandemic, which led to a minister being sacked, and his authority was further undermined when Plaid Cymru ended its cooperation agreement with his government, making it trickier for the administration to operate as it does not have a Senedd majority.

Usually Welsh Labour is a tight, disciplined ship. Wales has long been a Labour stronghold and its politicians tend to put up a united front, no matter the internal wrangling. 

But the cracks have been showing. The former Labour deputy minister Lee Waters was the first to break ranks when he said he was “shocked” at where the donation had come from. Others have said they would not have taken it.

There is also wider concern about the direction Labour under Gething is taking. On Tuesday, the former first minster, Mark Drakeford, was visibly angry when the government said it was shelving plans to reform the school year, a move designed to help children from poorer backgrounds.

It has also become clear that Gething’s troubles are cutting through to the people of Wales. They are not just political bubble tittle-tattle.

It was thought the general election campaign had come at a good time for Gething – surely the Labour faithful would rally around him? At first, the decision last week by the Tories to table a motion of no confidence seemed mistimed and senior UK Labour figures, including Keir Starmer, backed Gething during visits to Wales. 

The maths of the Senedd also favoured Labour, which has 30 of the 60 Senedd seats and it had been confident of seeing off the no confidence vote, even though all three opposition parties had said they would support it.

 

But on Wednesday morning came the bombshell that two Labour members – believed to be two of Gething’s critics – were unwell and would not be in the Senedd for the vote.

The no-confidence vote is not binding. No action automatically flows from it but it wounds Gething. It will also give a powerful attack angle for the UK Tories, who have long tried to make capital out of Welsh government problems in policy areas Cardiff controls, such as long NHS waiting lists.

Gething’s rise has been impressive. Eleven years ago, he became the first Black minister in any of the devolved UK administrations and back then made it clear that he wanted to be first minister, telling the Guardian: “If I can do that in this job, we’ll wait and see what the future holds.”

Suddenly, the future looks much less bright. 

Story by Steven Morris: The Guardian

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