Vaughan Gething's first FMQs and the questions showing no signs of going away

  • Vaughan Gething faced questions from Senedd Members for the first time as First Minister.

When Vaughan Gething became first minister, I predicted a bumpy start for him and that’s exactly what his first session of Senedd questions delivered.

Both opposition party leaders chose to raise the matter of donations to his leadership campaign.

Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservatives' leader in the Senedd, chose to take a fact-finding approach, getting confirmation of the amount involved (£200,000 exactly, said the First Minister); whether or not it was all used (campaign accounts will show if it’s all been spent) and, with a wasp-ish sting, asking what steps have been put in place to prevent the perception that "money can by you influence".

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth was even more satirical, sarcastically suggesting it was a positive that the first minister has shown "a skill for leveraging-in money" but he too said that Mr Gething had come into the job "under a cloud".

Well may Mr Gething be frustrated at their questions, hitting out at the Conservative leader by saying that he and Welsh Government ministers are "scrupulous" about the ministerial code, more than "could be said of other administrations in the UK,” but he will have to give a more satisfactory answer to these questions because they are not going away.

A donation sum of £200,000 is a large one in any context but is positively massive in Welsh politics.

Mark Drakeford during his final First Minister’s Questions at the Senedd in Cardiff Credit: Welsh Government/PA

And the perception of influence - even though the first minister insists that he will have no part in any decision which could affect the commercial activities of the donor - will continue to be raised.

Labour politicians at Westminster would do so with Conservative UK Government ministers and a Labour first minister should expect opponents to do the same here.

The problem is made worse for Mr Gething, however, because some Labour members, including some cabinet members, are also troubled by the donations question.

They are staying quiet for the moment but have made their feelings known internally.

Neither will the first minister be able to keep dismissing opposition politicians who question his relationship with Keir Starmer as being "obsessed about internal Labour Party matters".

That’s how he described Rhun ap Iorwerth’s questions about his meeting with Keir Starmer this week and whether or not he has any influence over the UK Labour leader’s policies.

But it’s not an obsession with internal Labour Party matters if, as Mr Gething keeps saying, one of his main aims is to see a Labour UK Government and that the solution to many of Wales’ most pressing problems is for there to be Labour leaders at both ends of the M4 working in partnership rather than against each other.

In that context, we will all have to be obsessed with internal Labour Party matters because that relationship will be pivotal to the way that both operate and the way that their policies and spending decisions affect each one of us here in Wales.

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