Jawad Iqbal Jawad Iqbal

It’s already going wrong for Vaughan Gething

Vaughan Gething (Credit: Getty Images)

Plaid Cymru’s sudden decision to end its co-operation deal with Labour in Wales piles even more pressure on the First Minister, Vaughan Gething. It caps a tumultuous week for Gething, who on Thursday sacked one of his ministers in a row over a leaked text message. The collapse of the deal with Plaid leaves Welsh Labour reliant on other parties in the Senedd to push through vital legislation. The first minister has been in post for barely two months, but the controversies have been coming thick and fast. His political honeymoon period has been brief, at best.

Why has Plaid chosen to walk away from the deal with the government at this point? The agreement was due to run out at the end of the year anyway, so why the sudden rush? Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Plaid leader, blamed a ‘change in attitude’ from the government meant that ‘a number of things had been brought into focus’. Specifically, he questioned the ‘judgment’ of the first minister in choosing not to return a controversial £200,000 leadership campaign donation.

Gething has insisted all along that the donations were properly declared, that rules have not been broken, and that no money will be paid back. The Plaid leader’s criticisms stretch beyond the donations controversy. He said also that he was ‘worried by the circumstances’ around the sacking this week of Hannah Blythyn, the minister for social partnership, for allegedly leaking text messages to the media. She denies doing so. The sacking came after a story that was first published in Nation.Cymru which revealed that Gething told ministers he was deleting messages from a pandemic-era group chat. The first minister disputes this version of events, saying the messages related to ‘unkind comments’ that were potentially embarrassing, made on a group following a Labour group meeting. The row doesn’t exactly suggest an administration focused on the concerns uppermost in the minds of Welsh voters.

Gething tried to put a brave face on today’s bombshell developments, saying he was ‘disappointed Plaid Cymru has decided to walk away from their opportunity to deliver for the people of Wales’. They obviously don’t see it quite that way. There’s no disguising that this is a big blow to Welsh Labour, and even more so in its timing. The three-year co-operation deal between the two parties was agreed in December 2021 under Gething’s predecessor Mark Drakeford, after the Senedd election where Labour secured 30 seats but not an outright majority. It was not a formal coalition, but it meant Labour and Plaid worked together in a number of agreed policy areas. Crucially, the deal meant that Plaid supported Welsh Labour ministers in getting their budget through the Senedd – essential for the functioning of any government. What happens now is anyone’s guess. Labour will probably now be forced to turn for support from the sole Welsh Liberal Democrat in the Senedd. It is hardly a recipe for stable or decisive government.

Gething only became first minister in March this year after winning a lacklustre leadership contest against his opponent, Jeremy Miles. Since then he has been embroiled in controversy after controversy, almost on a weekly basis. There have been persistent rumours about unhappiness within Labour ranks over the failure to squash the donations controversy. It is hard to see how his administration can really function effectively without the support of Plaid’s 13 members. The Conservatives have already hinted at bringing forward a potential no-confidence vote. All in all, it leaves Gething wounded and vulnerable, with the turmoil surrounding his leadership showing no sign of ending any time soon. It is all a far cry from Gething’s promise when he was sworn in as first minister that he wanted to lead a Wales of ‘hope, ambition, and unity’. So far, he has delivered only chaos and instability.

Written by
Jawad Iqbal

Jawad Iqbal is a broadcaster and ex-television news executive. Jawad is a former Visiting Senior Fellow in the Institute of Global Affairs at the LSE

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