Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething loses no-confidence vote just weeks into role

Wales' First Minister Vaughan Gething has lost a no-confidence vote in the Senedd. During the debate preceding the vote Mr Gething broke down in tears.

The motion was put forward by the Conservatives who said there were three reasons he had lost their confidence. The first was accepting a £200,000 donation from a businessman convicted of environmental offences; secondly, that he said he would delete messages from his phone because they could be released via the Freedom of Information Act; and thirdly that he sacked a minister without providing evidence.

The vote is not binding and as it stands we do not believe Mr Gething plans to resign and there is no Senedd rule that can force him to leave unless another vote is tabled which calls the confidence of the whole government into question. If that were backed all ministers would have to quit and a new First Minister would have to be appointed in 28 days.

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All Plaid and Conservative members, as well as the Lib Dem Jane Dodds and independent MS Rhys ab Owen, planned to back the motion. Because Labour has exactly half of the seats in the Senedd – 30 out of the total 60 – it meant to defeat it all Labour members would have to be present. Two key members were absent with Llanelli MS Lee Waters and Delyn MS Hannah Blythyn away through illness. For the latest analysis of the biggest stories sign up to the Wales Matters newsletter here.

Parties can use what's called a "pairing" system to, in certain situations, effectively cancel each other out so if a Labour member is missing then a Conservative member would not vote so the status quo is maintained. Both the Tories and Plaid Cymru said they would not pair with Labour with Andrew RT Davies saying he did not think that would be appropriate on an issue as important as a no-confidence vote in the First Minister.

In his opening of the debate Mr Davies said Mr Gething's judgement was wrong in accepting the money from David Neal, of Dauson Environmental Group. "There are those on the Labour benches who have indicated that they wouldn't have taken that money. There are those outside of this chamber, in the Labour movement, who have indicated that they wouldn't have taken that money. It is the judgement that the First Minister exercised in accepting that money that has first caused people to have concerns over the way the First Minister has acted," he said.

Plaid''s leader Rhun ap Iorwerth spoke of the Nolan principles, which are designed to guide those in public life. He quoted the one of "integrity" saying: "'Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work.' Again I repeat the First Minister's assertion that nothing inappropriate happened. But if the perception that accepting the money exists, well, that in itself undermines the integrity of the office of the First Minister."

As Labour group chair Vikki Howells spoke during the debate Mr Gething was seen weeping with colleagues reaching out to comfort him and the First Minister seen dabbing both eyes with a tissue. Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, who recently took his party out of a cooperation agreement with Welsh Labour in a major blow to the First Minister, said the debate marked a "very grave day in the history of the Senedd because we're of the view the First Minister has lost our confidence but [also] the people who are more important – the people of Wales".

Mr Gething addressed the hour-long debate towards the conclusion following a largely bruising discussion in which many MSs called for him to step down. He said had "nothing to hide" and the motion was "designed to question my integrity". He said it "does hurt deeply when my intentions are questioned" and added he had "never" taken a decision for personal or financial gain during his political career. "I will not shy away from scrutiny and challenge," he said.

The Welsh Labour leader said he did "take seriously what people said to me outside the cut and thrust of this chamber" and thanked both party colleagues and the public for their support. The refusal of the Tories and Plaid to participate in vote pairing in the light of two Labour MSs being absent through illness "reflects poorly on opposition parties," he added.

"I have confidence in Wales and in our younger generation. I have confidence in our campaign to change our country. I have confidence we have brighter days ahead of us," said Mr Gething. He pledged to "continue to put Wales first" as his speech ended with many Labour MSs banging their desks as he retook his seat. Join our WhatsApp news community here.