Vaughan Gething: Questions remain over new Labour leader's donation controversy

Vaughan Gething, at Cardiff University, after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader. Credit: PA Images

Now the hard work begins for Vaughan Gething and he could face a bumpy start to his time at the top.

Questions over donations to his campaign and about the role of unions in nominating won’t stop being asked both within and without the Welsh Labour Party.

Inside the party, some senior figures told me they felt the campaign was one-sided from the start and that there should be a review of the way that leadership elections are run.

The cabinet minister and Jeremy Miles supporter, Julie James, told me that, “Personally I think that the way we fund political campaigns is really problematic and it probably needs reform at a UK level. We see the difficulties at the UK level, we've had the same difficulties here, unless we have reform we'll always have these difficulties."

Vaughan Gething (Left) with ITV Cymru Wales' Political editor Adrian Masters (Right) Credit: PA Images

And Jeremy Miles’ own statement ended with him saying that “We must never forget this is an honour and responsibility underpinned by trust that must be continually earned.”

Outside the party the challenges will be even sharper and could cause Mr Gething serious headaches.

Plaid Cymru - still officially in a cooperation agreement with the government that Mr Gething is about to run has been immediately critical.

Its leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “It is a matter of deep concern that we now have an incoming First Minister who before even taking up the highest public office is facing serious allegations and questions about his judgement.

“At the very least, Vaughan Gething should surely return the £200,000 campaign donation which has rightly drawn so much criticism from within his own party and beyond.”

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, said that Vaughan Gething should surely return the £200,000 campaign donation. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The Welsh Conservatives have been making the Gething campaign donations a matter of attack for several weeks now.

Don’t be surprised if both parties nominate their own leaders when it comes to the election of a new First Minister next week, rather than letting Mr Gething’s appointment through on the nod.

They won’t be able to block it - the suspension of Rhys ab Owen last week removed that as a mathematical possibility. But they will want to put on record their unhappiness with Mr Gething’s appointment.

After that, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine one or the other of them pushing a confidence vote. They’ll certainly do their best to keep it uppermost in people’s minds.

This expected political turbulence doesn’t even take into account the very many challenges facing the next first minister: stubbornly high hospital waiting times, struggling educational standards, continued criticism over the 20mph policy, anger from farmers and ongoing scrutiny of his role during the covid pandemic.

Mr Gething will appoint his cabinet in the coming days. Much was spoken about healing wounds and divisions in the course of today’s announcement and the many interviews he’s done since. Who he appoints and how he brings his party together will be an early sign of how successful he will be at achieving that.

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