You’re So Vaughan…

… you probably think this article’s about you

Austin Williams

IMAGE CREDIT:  Senedd Cymru/ Cwmcafit/ Creative Commons license:

Over the last few years, the national Labour Party have been remarkably quiet, simply waiting for the Tory Party to implode, lose the General Election, and hand victory to them on a plate. Labour leader, Kier Starmer seems to have put the word out that no-one should say anything that might jeopardise their victory.

No policies, no programme, no promises.

So, for those who are uncertain about what Keir Starmer has in store for us all when he wins, he provided a few clues in 2022 – just before his party’s longest pre-election purdah in history.

Speaking in Llandudno, north Wales, he described the Welsh Government as a “blueprint for what Labour can do across the UK.” He continued; “A Welsh Labour government is the living proof of what Labour in power looks like, how things can be done differently and better (demonstrating) daily the difference Labour really makes.”

Here are a few examples of that blueprint:

I could go on, but you get the picture. That said, the revelations over the Welsh First Minister, Vaughan Gething’s shenanigans in the last few weeks is equal testament to what Labour’s blueprint might look like.

Gething was elected as leader of the Welsh parliamentary group on 16 March 2024, as a result of internal voting within the Labour Party, rather than the public vote, managing to beat his rival 52% to 48% for the candidacy of the Labour Party. This proportion was something of an irony for such a staunch Remainiac. He then won the Senedd-wide elections for the leader of the devolved Welsh administration, taking over the reins of power on the basis of a staggering 27 votes. Just as Rishi Sunak was appointed with no public vote, so Gething was imposed; but by mere a handful of colleagues.

Aside from internal party arm-twisting, Gething’s election campaign received a £200,000 boost from Cardiff businessman, David Neal’s company, Dauson Environmental Group. Coincidentally, this was not long after Neal’s companies received £400,000 from the Development Bank of Wales, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Welsh government. Neal runs a recycling franchise that has been frequently prosecuted for environmental crimes. His companies’ payments to Gething’s campaign, far in excess of his nearest rival, seem to have passed the scrutiny of the Senedd and the Electoral Commission although some say that, as a result of this election spending spree – in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis – the new First Minister has been illegally dumped on Wales.

But there are other scandals around Gething that he seems blithely able to ignore, hinting at the imperial nature of any forthcoming Labour administration under Sir Keir Starmer.

During Covid lockdown (if you remember, Wales imposed absurd rules such as banning mobile phones, reading newspapers or eating food on public transport), but during the UK Covid Inquiry, Gething and his Labour team were accused of wiping messages from their WhatsApp accounts, removing evidence in order to limit their accountability. Nation Cymru reports that, on August 17 2020, “Mr Gething wrote to colleagues on a ministerial group chat stating: ‘I’m deleting the messages in this group. They can be captured in an FOI [freedom of information request] and I think we are all in the right place on the choice being made.’” A whistleblowing Welsh Labour minister was promptly sacked for revealing precisely what he had admitted having done.

Gething is well known for his arrogance, his refusal to answer questions, his sense of entitlement, and his coterie of loyal protectors. All are exactly what Starmer meant by being the blueprint for government. Gething’s refusal to accept the result of a no-confidence vote, for example, is par for the course and just the latest example of his magisterial conceit. Accept results that endorse your position; and ignore, marginalise or pillory the ones that don’t. For Labour, Wales seems to be its fiefdom.

In March this year, Mark Drakeford hit the headlines fighting back the tears as he resigned as First Minister for Wales, presumably crying tears of joy that he’d got away with it. His replacement, Vaughan Gething was seen wiping away a tear in the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd) last week as he realised what he’d got himself into. Meanwhile, the Welsh people have been crying out for improvements in their lives for years. Often the Welsh public’s anger has focused on central government in London and thus excusing, or ignoring, the abuses of power by Welsh Labour in government. Very soon, we will all find out what the Welsh people have had to deal with.

Austin Williams, director, Future Cities Project.

Author: austinwilliams

Austin Williams is the director of the Future Cities Project and author of a number of books on the environment and on China. The latest are "China's Urban Revolution" (Bloomsbury) and "New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future" (Thames and Hudson).

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