James Heale James Heale

Welsh government in crisis after Plaid pull the plug

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Throughout the last 25 years of devolution in the UK, one thing has remained consistent: Welsh Labour’s stranglehold on Cardiff Bay. But in recent weeks, the party’s grip on the Senedd has been shaken by a series of controversies, culminating in today’s news that Plaid Cymru is pulling out of their power-sharing agreement. The two parties signed up to the three-year deal in 2021. However the Welsh nationalists have this afternoon withdrawn with immediate effect – seven months before the agreement was due to officially end.

In a statement, Plaid’s leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said he remained ‘deeply concerned’ that the Labour First Minister Vaughan Gething had failed to pay back the controversial £200,000 donation, and was ‘worried by the circumstances’ around the sacking of Welsh minister Hannah Blythyn over alleged leaked Covid-era text messages. He also expressed discomfort at Labour’s approach to parts of the co-operation agreement, including the decision to delay council tax reform. Plaid’s decision cannot have been an easy one: they will lose their special advisers and access to civil servants.

Gething now faces the most precarious moment of his eight-week administration. The First Minister has summoned all Labour Members of the Senedd to a crunch talks at 5 p.m today. If, as seems likely, the Welsh Conservatives call for a vote of confidence in Gething then it will be decided on a knife-edge. Labour currently holds 30 of the 60 seats in the Senedd. One of those is Hannah Blythyn who, by a delicious irony, now holds Vaughan Gething’s future in her hands. Much could depend on what Jane Dodds, the sole Liberal Democrat MS, decides to do in the coming days.

There are eerie echoes of Humza Yousaf and the SNP government here. In both cases, a popular incumbent of a long-serving government departed following a lengthy stint. There was then a hard-fought campaign for succession, narrowly won by a younger heir with just 52 per cent of the vote. The victor was then plunged into various crises, culminating in their coalition deals collapsing.

Vaughan Gething will just be hoping that his reign does not now end in the same way that Humza Yousaf’s did: with his enforced exit after mere months as First Minister.