What does a vote of no confidence mean for Vaughan Gething?

Senior sources said they thought the First Minister would lose Wednesday's vote. Credit: PA Images

Since the day Vaughan Gething became First Minister, he has faced consistent pressure over donations to his leadership campaign.

His leadership faced more trouble when evidence emerged appearing to contradict his claims he did not delete WhatsApp messages during the pandemic.

Before the Senedd recess, the Conservatives scheduled a vote of no confidence in Vaughan Gething. At that point, the motion seemed like a symbolic political move rather than a serious threat to Mr Gething's premiership.

However on Tuesday night, the mood changed with senior sources saying they thought he would lose.

So, what does a confidence vote in the First Minister mean and what could happen next?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Vaughan Gething in May 2024. Credit: PA

How did we get here?

Questions about donations started before Vaughan Gething was elected by the Welsh Labour party as First Minister.

It was revealed in February that he received £20,000 in donations from Dauson Environmental Group, whose director David Neal was given a suspended prison sentence in 2013 for illegally dumping waste on a conservation site on the Gwent Levels.

His companies Atlantic Recycling and Neal Soil Suppliers were also prosecuted and ordered to pay fines and costs of £202,000.

The First Minister said he did not know the company was linked to an investigation when it donated money to his leadership bid.

But questions about his leadership campaign didn't go away. He faced criticism from inside his own party, with Labour colleagues questioning his judgement.

Next, came the publication of WhatsApp messages which appeared to contradict his claims he did not delete WhatsApp messages during the pandemic.

Questioned by opposition leaders in the Senedd, Mr Gething said a screenshot of messages had appeared on a news website "without context", adding that he'd be "entirely relaxed" for the message to be seen by the Inquiry.

"I have already asked the full unredacted screenshot is shared with the current inquiry", he said.

Then, a few days later, came a shock statement from Vaughan Gething. He announced that Hannah Blythyn had been sacked for reasons connected to the leak of phone messages.

Vaughan Gething might've hoped the announcement of a general election would take the pressure off. Credit: PA Images

Ms Blythyn denies leaking material.

This led to Plaid Cymru leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, deciding to pull out of the cooperation agreement.

Less than two weeks later, the Welsh Conservatives announced they would table a motion of no confidence in the First Minister.

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said, “Senedd Members will have the chance to have their say on Vaughan Gething’s judgement, his transparency, and his truthfulness."

What does a vote of no confidence mean?

The debate called by the Welsh Conservatives proposes that the Senedd has no confidence in the First Minister.

A no confidence vote essentially expresses a lack of support for a specific politician or the whole government.

The Conservatives have called a motion of no confidence in the First Minister, calling into question the Senedd support for him personally.

What happens next?

Wednesday's vote is not binding, which means if the First Minister loses he is not obliged to do anything. He doesn't have to resign. It would simply mean the majority of his fellow MSs in the Senedd do not support him.

When Humza Yousaf, the former SNP First Minister of Scotland, faced a similar vote he stepped down from his post ahead of it taking place.

If he loses and chooses to resign, it would mean that a new leader of Welsh Labour would have to be appointed. That would be a decision for the party to make.

Where Vaughan Gething to win the no confidence vote, his future seems more secure.

Vaughan Gething has faced questions about donations before he was appointed First Minister. Credit: PA Images

Analysis from ITV Cymru Wales' National Correspondent, Rob Osborne

"He will win" was the conventional wisdom.

Why, people said, would Labour want to inflict damage on its own Welsh leader during an election? That was until 48 hours ago.

Internal whispers began to circulate, hinting that the victory might not be as certain as previously thought. The First Minister's team was concerned that a few of their own members might not be able to cast their votes, with one member even being unreachable.

And remember these days, members do not physically need to be in the Senedd to vote - they can do it from home.Still, even yesterday, some on the opposition side thought he would win. But as the clock ticked, the mood changed: "he will lose."

If he does, Vaughan Gething doesn't have to resign. The vote of confidence is not binding, but politically, it would be incredibly damaging.

Many in Labour were unhappy with Mr Gething even before all the stories about donations. Although he narrowly won the Welsh Labour Leader race, most of his colleagues supported Jeremy Miles.

As First Minister, he put his own stamp on policy, often going against his predecessor, Mark Drakeford's plans. First, he found more money for junior doctors, there was a change in emphasis on 20mph, and two controversial policy ideas—around sustainable farming and council tax—were kicked into the long grass.

Then came the extraordinary scenes yesterday of Mark Drakeford publicly criticising the latest decision not to change the school timetable.

The Welsh Conservatives confirmed they have tabled a motion of no confidence in Vaughan Gething. Credit: Senedd

Add to that the bad headlines and Hannah Blythyn's sacking, and you'll see why Welsh Labour isn't a happy ship right now.

Some of Vaughan Gething's supporters say he is being judged unfairly and that some of his critics have an agenda.

And if he loses, what next?

He could resign, and if he does, expect a coronation of Jeremy Miles. He could fight on and call it a political stunt. What if he chooses to call a vote of confidence in his government? Could we see an early Senedd election? Unlikely.

Vaughan Gething has long waited to become First Minister. He wants to stay in the job.

But if he were to leave now, history would remember him as the Liz Truss of Welsh Politics - being, at the time of writing, the First Minister for just 77 days.

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