Welsh minister Hannah Blythyn sacked over leaked text message

A Welsh minister has been sacked after a row over the leak of a text message, which she denies being behind.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said he had "no alternative" but to ask Hannah Blythyn to leave the Welsh government after a message from a ministerial group chat appeared in local news outlets.

But the former social partnership minister said she was "clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything", adding she was "deeply shocked" at her dismissal.

It follows a Nation.Cymru news report featuring a message from Mr Gething sent in August 2020, which said he was "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," the message added.

The Welsh Labour leader previously told the UK COVID-19 Inquiry that lost WhatsApp messages were deleted by the Welsh parliament's IT team during a security rebuild.

But Mr Gething denied the leaked message referred to the Welsh government's coronavirus response, and said it was from an iMessage group about internal party discussions.

He also said during a plenary hearing for the inquiry: "I reject completely the suggestion that I have not been honest with the COVID-19 inquiry."

'I have no alternative'

In a statement, Mr Gething said: "Having reviewed the evidence available to me regarding the recent disclosure of communication to the media, I have regrettably reached the conclusion I have no alternative but to ask Hannah Blythyn to leave the government."

He added it was "of vital importance we are able to maintain confidence amongst government colleagues so that we work as one to focus on improving the lives of the people in Wales" - but said he has been clear, "there is a route back for her to take up a government position again".

Ms Blythyn posted on X, saying she was "saddened" and that "integrity is all in politics and I retain mine".

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Situation 'almost unprecedented'

A spokesman for the UK COVID-19 Inquiry previously confirmed it had been made aware of the leaked message.

He added it was considering whether Mr Gething needed to provide further information.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, described the situation as "almost unprecedented" and called for him "to prove quickly that he is capable of governing Wales".

Plaid Cymru's leader Rhun ap Iorwerth went further and said: "If anyone should be considering their position, it is the first minister himself."