Tricky times far from over after rockiest start for Vaughan Gething in FM role

First Minister Vaughan Gething - PA Images
In Scotland, the end of power-sharing between the SNP and the Greens triggered the end of First Minister Humza Yousaf's reign. Credit: PA Images

In the Senedd, Welsh Labour MSs are holding an emergency group meeting this evening - Friday, 17 May - to discuss the situation with Plaid Cymru and no doubt to air any concerns MSs have over the week’s events.

It has been the rockiest of rocky starts for Vaughan Gething who had been hoping that the sacking of Hannah Blythyn and his appointment of Sarah Murphy to cabinet would mark an end to what was in danger of becoming a crisis.

She was a supporter of his rival for the Welsh Labour leadership, Jeremy Miles, so putting her in the role is in line with his determination to try to restore unity, even if that outcome hasn’t quite been delivered over the last two months.

But if you think about the opposite, if a supporter of his leadership campaign had been appointed to replace Hannah Blythyn (another Jeremy Miles supporter and at one point a possible contender herself) then those feeling aggrieved would have only felt more so.

You have to assume, too, that the cabinet is united and supportive of the decision to sack Ms Blythyn. After all there have been no resignations, no barbed comments - at least not yet.

And in the wider party and at Westminster, there’s a feeling within senior figures that, despite Hannah Blythyn’s categoric denial, the first minister would not have taken such drastic action without evidence, therefore putting the onus on her rather than him to provide evidence.

To make matters worse, Plaid Cymru has pulled out of the Co-Operation Agreement which has seen it working with the Labour Welsh Government on a programme of government for the last two and a half years.

The party’s leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said the decision was related to controversies surrounding First Minister Vaughan Gething and what he called “a significant lack of judgement”.

In turn, the first minister said he was “disappointed Plaid Cymru has decided to walk away from their opportunity to deliver for the people of Wales".

Within the Labour Senedd group, however, there’s a sense of shock at the events of the last few days.

Those who are unhappy are still unhappy and don’t see any prospect of the situation improving.

The question is now, how much of a public critic Hannah Blythyn will prove to be. It seems unthinkable that she might consider abstaining in any confidence vote the opposition parties manage to hold but so much of what has happened recently seemed unthinkable.

Although the Labour-Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement was never a coalition, it was a form of power-sharing.

In Scotland, the end of power-sharing between the SNP and the Greens triggered the end of First Minister Humza Yousaf's reign.

Welsh politics is not the same as Scottish politics and Welsh Labour is not the same as the SNP but it shows just how serious this situation is for Vaughan Gething. It seems the tricky times are far from over.

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