Wales' first minister set to lose confidence vote

Vaughan Gething
Vaughan Gething has been first minister since March [Reuters]

First Minister Vaughan Gething looks set to lose a vote of no confidence in his leadership later, after one of his members said that two Labour colleagues are off sick.

The Conservatives called the Senedd vote after weeks of criticism, including some in Labour, of the donations to Mr Gething’s leadership campaign.

Vikki Howells, the chair of the Labour group of MSs, told Radio Wales Breakfast that two members are currently unwell.

She said Vaughan Gething would not stand down if he lost, saying it was a “gimmick” and it was to the “voting public to decide who is in the Senedd”.

Mr Gething would not resign if he loses, Ms Howells said.

It is believed that the two MSs are Hannah Blythyn, who was sacked from the Welsh government by Vaughan Gething for allegedly leaking, which she denies, and Lee Waters, the former transport minister.

Neither were in the Senedd chamber on Tuesday, and it is unclear whether the two MSs would be able to vote remotely.

Neither have proxy votes, granted for long term absence.

With Labour holding exactly half the seats in the 60 seat Welsh Parliament, it needs every backbencher to support the first minister.

The Conservatives have refused to agree to a pairing arrangement where some of their members would not vote in return for Labour absences.

Their motion could be successful if at least one Labour Senedd member either rebels, abstains or does not take part.

Cynon Valley MS Vikki Howells said: "This vote that will be being held this afternoon is just a gimmick by the Tories who are desperate to deflect from their disastrous 14 years in government.

"This is a party that will do anything to shift the focus elsewhere when we should be focusing on a general election."

She said Labour has always "paired with the Tories" to cancel out the impact of any members who are absent.

"We do have two Labour members who are currently unwell. The Tories knew that before they tabled this motion which as of yesterday, we have been told that they are refusing to pair with us."

She added: "This is not a binding vote. The binding votes are the votes that are cast at the ballot box in a Senedd election."

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said it was "exceptionally unlikely in any parliamentary democracy on a confidence issue that a pairing system would kick in".

He said the pairing system was there for "more mundane votes".

Why is Vaughan Gething facing a no confidence vote?

Vaughan Gething won the Welsh Labour leadership election in March after a campaign dominated by the donation of £200,000 from Dauson Environmental Group.

The company is owned by David John Neal, a man twice convicted for environmental offences.

It emerged during the leadership contest that Mr Gething had lobbied on behalf of one of Mr Neal's companies, prior to his first leadership run in 2018.

Public reaction from Labour politicians was largely muted during the campaign itself, but Mr Gething has failed to prevent private anger from rising to the surface.

There were calls for the party not to take any remainder from Dauson. One former Welsh government minister Lee Waters demanded Mr Gething return the money.

Throughout the first minister has said that he has followed all the rules for political donations.

In a separate row, Mr Gething found himself having to defend a message he sent during the pandemic, where the then-health minister told colleagues he was deleting texts from a ministerial group chat.

He later sacked Hannah Blythyn, alleging she was the source of the leak to the Nation.Cymru news site. She denied it, and has not spoken in the Senedd since.

Opposition parties have demanded evidence, which Mr Gething has declined to provide.