The problem of Vaughan Gething

April 26, 2024 14 Comments

The facts are clear enough.  Between December 2023 and January 2024 Vaughan Gething, a candidate for the post of First Minister in the Welsh Government, was given a donation of £200,000 towards his campaign.  No one in his position had ever before received such a huge sum.  The donor was a firm called Dauson Environmental Group (DEG), owned by David John Neal.  In 2013 a court gave David John Neal a suspended sentence after his firm was prosecuted for dumping waste illegally on a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Wentloog Levels.  In 2017, after he failed to clear the waste, he received a second suspended sentence.  In January 2024 a DEG subsidiary, Atlantic Recycling, pleaded guilty to a new offence.  The same company was fined £30,000 for the death of a worker.

In 2016 Vaughan Gething, the local AM, lobbied Natural Resources Wales, the agency responsible for the environment, to ease restrictions on DEG.  In February 2023, at a time when he was Economics Minister, the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), fully owned by the Welsh Government, gave a loan of £400,000 to a DEG subsidiary to buy a solar farm. 

On 16 March 2024 Vaughan Gething the candidate became, by a narrow margin, Vaughan Gething the leadership victor.  Four days later in the Senedd he was elected First Minister.

So much for the facts, thus far at least.  What should we make of them?  Nothing at all, says Vaughan Gething.  Everything that happened was done within the law and within the rules of the Senedd, the Welsh Government and the Labour Party.  All donations were properly registered.  The Code of Conduct for Senedd members and the Ministerial Code had not been broken.  The DBW makes its investment decisions entirely independently of government ministers.  None of the DBW money was recycled into the donation to Gething.  There is no case for returning the donation to its source.

The Labour Party seems to agree.  Aside from some grumblings from backbenchers, and the statement of Jeremy Miles, the defeated candidate, that he personally would not have accepted such a donation, the Party seems unable to question Gething’s conduct.  Instead of agreeing to hold an independent inquiry, Gething asked a previous First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to conduct a ‘review’ of political donations.  He and his supporters are clearly confident that the clamour outside the Party about the donation will fade into silence.

What about the rest of us?  Should we be concerned?  We should.  For three reasons, I suggest.

First, isn’t there something badly wrong with ‘the rules’ as they stand?  Can it be right for such a huge ‘donation’ to be made to a single individual’s campaign for a political position in Wales?  If a sum of such size can affect the result – clearly that was the intention – when another candidate doesn’t have access to similar funds, where does that leave our democracy?   Is it really reduced to ‘the best democracy money can buy’?  And can it be right for a candidate for first Minister to be allowed to receive such a large sum from a convicted criminal? 

Second, whatever the status of ‘the rules’, and irrespective of whether the ‘letter of the law’ was broken or not, the affair raises so many suspicions that it can’t be allowed to go uninvestigated by an external authority.  It would be fatal for us to accept potential wrongdoing as ‘just the way things are these days.’  It would mean that we expect our Welsh politicians to behave no differently from so many Tory politicians in Westminster, addicted as they are to corruption, favouritism and dishonesty.  It would mean that the Labour Party in Wales would be sliding back to the bad old days of Glamorgan County Council in the 1960s, when cronyism and corruption were endemic and everyone turned a blind eye except for marginal magazines like Rebecca.

Third, the Gething affair is a serious setback for those who favour an independent Wales for non-nationalist reasons.  Independence, according to this argument, is essential for Wales to break away from a dominant Tory political culture that has denied and smothered its natural radicalism and communtarianism for a century and more.  A more just society, a less extractive economy and a greener environment can never be achieved when all the critical decisions affecting each remain in the hands of reactionary hands in Westminster, and while devolution seems to deliver only marginal benefits.  This case for self-determination, though, is undermined if the best leading Welsh politicians can do is ape the worst ethical standards of MPs and ministers in the House of Commons.  What would be the point of gaining more power if the public lacked the confidence that it could be directed honestly and wisely?

The argument for independence is also weakened if the Welsh government can’t find better policies than the Tories in London.  There are already reasons to be wary of the political direction of the Gething government.  In the few weeks since his election, it’s announced that the 20mph policy is to be diluted or scrapped, reversing a rare radical and pioneering Welsh government policy, and signalling a Sunak-like reluctance to take the environment seriously.  In his recent statement on the financial crisis facing the National Museum, Gething gave the strong impression that he would be unconcerned if the Museum’s main building in Cardiff were to close.  He knew, he claimed, what ‘the people’ wanted, and it was not culture and the arts.  Rishi Sunak couldn’t have put it better.

I suppose we’ve been lucky to have been spared such reactionary, arrogant populism in the behaviour of Gething’s predecessors as First Minister.

Comments (14)

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  1. Gillian Lewis says:

    All very frightening Andrew!

  2. Gary Beard says:

    Gwir, pob gair.

  3. Amelia Davies says:

    Cytuno 100% Andrew…and the first thing that ocurred to me too was the alarming inadequacy of those ‘rules’!

  4. Emyr Lewis says:

    Taro’r hoelen ar ei phen fel arfer Andrew.

    Peth arall sy’n fy mhryderu yw’r rhagdybiaeth mai diwygio rheolau’r Blaid Lafur yw’r broblem. Mae’r rhagdybiaeth yn bosibl dim ond oherwydd hegemoni’r blaid honno dros wleidyddiaeth Gymreig dros genedlaethau. Oddi mewn iddi hi mae’r grym sy’n cyfri, ac oddi mewn iddi hi mae’r dadleuon pwysig yn digwydd. (gweler ere enghraifft ddatganoli pellach dros heddlua a chyfiander).Mae hynny yn ei dro yn ddifaol i drafodaeth agored ddemocrataidd. Yn wyneb hynny, mae datganiad sotto voce J. Miles fel protest swnllyd. Dyma drasiedi gwleidyddiaeth Cymru, yn arbennig ar y chwith rhyddfrydol.

  5. Alan Thomas says:

    Rwy’n cytuno’n llwyr. Erthygl dda iawn.
    Diflas meddwl bod yna wleidyddion llygredig yn ein Senedd ni hefyd.

  6. Ioan Richard says:

    My response, before reading your BLOG, has been to send this letter BELOW to my five local Senedd Members – Rebecca Evans; Tom Giffard; Altaf Hussain; Sioned Williams and Luke Fletcher. How many others who read your BLOG will openly take such action? How many read your BLOG? Will these five Senedd Members named by me above answer me? Will they continue to press for Senedd integrity?
    From Ioan Richard your Constituent – Gower and South West Wales Region
    23, Mountain Rd., Craigcefnparc, Swansea SA6 5RH date 5-5-24
    To my five local Senedd Members
    Re :- First Minister Wales Government Vaughan Gething
    Dear Senedd Members,
    As your constituent I write to express my gross concerns, indeed revulsions, at how First Minister of Wales Government Vaughan Gething accepted that sum of £200,000 and now refuses to hand it back. This issue stinks.
    As a retired undefeated former Councillor myself of 41 years service at all Council levels, including being Lord Mayor, and former Chair of County Licensing, I know how important it is to avoid conflicts of interest and even just to avoid creating perceptions of such conflicts of interest.
    I ask you to continue to pursue this issue to public satisfaction. It is no good for Mr Gething’s allies to say such a matter is now a distraction from other important issues like Economy and Health and is closed. Of course those are a priority, but integrity in office is also vitally important. To say it is closed is complicity with lack of integrity.
    I for one, as your constituent, ask you to continue to press Mr Gething to do the decent thing and hand that money back to its source. Accepting it from that particular source was a huge error of judgement.
    Yours sincerely, Ioan M. Richard.
    Copied to other Contacts.
    ******************** .

  7. Ioan Richard says:

    So nobody is prepared to comment on my letter above. That being so I will follow it up openly myself. My five local Senedd members also ignored my letter above that was addressed primarily to them. Here is another ‘potshot’ at Vaughan Gething :-

    Our Welsh Government First Minister Vaughan Gething is going to India to have talks with Tata Steel bosses over the future of our steelworks .

    That’s a welcome gesture, but it raises a few questions. Who is paying and how many ‘bag carriers’ will accompany him? Perhaps the cost of his jaunt could be paid using surplus money from the massive amount of money he had recently from Dauson Environmental.

    While there he could then also justify that vast donation by visiting some of the massive polluted stinking waste sites that exist in India today to bring back advice on how to solve those pollution issues currently here in Pembrokeshire.

    If Tata do not heed his pleas for saving one blast furnace then he immediately needs to seek an urgent meeting back here with National Grid and the UK Energy Minister to see if there will be enough reliable mass electricity in the grid to power a giant Electric arc furnace.

    Unreliable wind and solar are an unsuitable erratic source of energy for smelting of many thousands of tonnes of scrap metal around the clock.

    A small modular nuclear reactor earmarked for the Swansea Bay area could do that job to save what would be left of Port Talbot’s essential steelmaking and Trostre’s tinplate rolling mills further west.

  8. Lyn [Mr] Jenkins says:

    In reply to Mr Richard; Pembroke CCGT gas-fired power station in the EXTREME WEST of Wales, generates a reliable 2200MW…….whilst Wales only USES 1598MW on average….ACCORDING TO WELSH GOVT DATA! Therefore, Pembroke is supplying Tata Steel !

    Even the pylon line from Pembroke passes Port Talbot!
    Of course, this all also means that EVERY WIND TURBINE IN WALES and every large solar farm…….must be supplying England’s vast 57 million population , not the little 3million of Wales.
    Therefore, why does the Welsh Govt want to WRECK WALES and its superb natural landscapes with around 400 gigantic wind turbines from 650ft to 820 ft in height? They will be the biggest in the world!! NO OTHER COUNTRY IS SO STUPID!! Check Massachusetts, almost the same area as Wales…….but with double the population!!

    You won’t find any wind turbines anywhere near 650 ft or 820 ft ON LAND there!! Of course, the only have HARVARD UNIVERSITY and MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY[ MIT] ……so the are not as bright as those in Swansea Tech Coll ….or the ARTS GRADUATES OF WELSH GOVT!! How many of them struggled with GCSE Arithmetic , I wonder?? They are obviously strangers to both physics…….and common-sense!!

    If you don’t believe what is happening to Wales……Google Bute Energy with its 22 proposed wind farms; RWE in Mynydd Hiraethog; Belltown in Llanddewi Brefi and Coriolis [IRISH GOVT OWNED] near Bryn village, Maesteg.
    By the way, 820 ft wind turbines on Bryn/Mynydd Margam……will EASILY be visible from Exmoor, Devon. It’s only 25 miles away !!
    ALL of these gigantic wind farms will supply ENGLAND!!
    If you THINK they will power ANYTHING, check The 2023 wind energy graph resembles stalagmites!! SO WIND ENERGY NEEDED 24/7 BACK-UP FROM GAS POWER STATIONS!! COMMON-SENSE!! THE GRAPH TELLS YOU THAT!!
    By the way….check Wind Energy on today! High Pressure is building and many of the 3-arm bandits will soon be on stop !!


  9. Ioan Richard says:

    Up date – Only one of my five local Senedd Members – Tom Giffard (Conservative) has now responded saying he will continue with this Vaughan Gething issue. Well done Tom.

  10. John Byford says:

    The current issue of Private Eye (no 1623) runs the story on page 13 under the header “Cardiff Blues”. It adds some colour to the blog; describing a landfill site as “a stink bomb on steroids”.

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