Vaughan Gething – 2024 Response in the Senedd to No Confidence Vote Against Him

The speech made by Vaughan Gething, the Welsh First Minister, in the Senedd on 5 June 2024.

Diolch, Llywydd. I regret that the Conservatives have brought forward this motion today. I do not regret it because I think I’m above criticism. I do not regret it because I think I have made and will continue to make mistakes. I am human, I am fallible. I do not even regret it because of the issues it raises, because I have nothing to hide. I regret the motion because it is designed to question my integrity.

Like so many of you in this Chamber, I have dedicated my adult life to public service and to Wales. Even in the midst of an election campaign, it does hurt deeply when my intentions are questioned. I have never, ever made a decision in more than a decade as a Minister for personal or financial gain—never. I do not doubt the sincerity behind some of the questions that the motion touches on today, even if the motion is transparently designed for another purpose. I hope the people in this Chamber and beyond will take a moment to reflect on the sincerity with which I have answered and continue to answer these questions. I will not shy away from scrutiny and challenge. I have reflected on donations and, as Members know, I’ve instigated a review into how that is handled in the future in my party, and I’ve asked the cross-party Standards of Conduct Committee to look at Senedd rules for all of us.

We cannot, of course, retrofit new rules to old campaigns where we don’t like the result. That is not how democracy works, but I do take seriously what people have said to me outside the cut and thrust of this Chamber. The support that I’ve received in recent weeks from Labour Party colleagues across Wales and the UK has been overwhelming, and I’m grateful for their incredible generosity of spirit and solidarity. More than that, I want to thank the many members of the public for their support in person, online and in a variety of means. Diolch o galon i chi. I also want to recognise that, like me, so many people of colour have been traduced and vilified merely for raising concerns about how some of these debates have been handled. Our lived experience should matter and be respected. We still have a very long way to go.

Mae gennym ni ffordd bell i fynd.

We still have a long way to go.

Pairs are a normal part of how this Parliament and many others work. It preserves the democratic balance determined by the electorate. Welsh Labour has always paired with other parties during ill health absence. We did so for three months with the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. The refusal to do so today when two of our Members are unwell reflects poorly on opposition parties. This is meant to be a motion about confidence, but we know that it is not. The timing tells you everything that you need to know.

If Andrew R.T. Davies and his colleagues were genuinely concerned about the issue of political donations, they would have spoken out at a different time. They would have stood up when it really counted. They would have rejected the millions of pounds given to their party by a man who boasted about wanting to shoot a black female MP, or the millions given to their party by a man who served as a Minister in a foreign dictatorship.

If that party had genuine concerns about how decisions were made and actions taken during the pandemic, they would have stood up when it counted. They would have walked away from the party that partied in Downing Street whilst the country was on its knees; walked away not defended a Prime Minister served with a criminal fixed-penalty notice.

If that party had genuine concern for the integrity of devolution and democracy in Wales, then they would do well to look to their own benches before casting the first stone—to demand of anyone else standards they have no intention of meeting themselves. They can talk about confidence until they are blue in the face to match their blue rosettes. If they want a real confidence motion, then table one properly in line with Standing Orders.

I will tell them what I have confidence in. I have confidence in Wales and in our younger generation. I have confidence in our campaign to change our country. I have confidence that we do have brighter days ahead of us, and the kind of populist politics that are being promoted day after day by the Tories, I hope, is about to be dealt a hammer blow at the ballot box.

I know that some will try to reframe this confidence as arrogance. It is absolutely not the same thing. And if that word did pop into your heads, I challenge you to ask why. I can make apologies for many things, but I will never shy away from a positive approach to politics, our country and our Government. I want us to to be a confident Cymru.

To Plaid Cymru I say this: we have worked together in the past. I have offered you the hand of friendship, practical action and co-operation. I continue to do so. You yourself recognise the hypocrisy of the Tories. You say you want to see an end of the Tories in Wales, yet you come here today to link arms with them. There is nothing progressive about joining the Tory lead in an anti-Labour alliance. It is the very opposite of the co-operation that we have worked through. It is of course for you to explain to your voters, members and potential supporters why now, of all times, you would side with a party that makes enemies of the vulnerable, that smashed our economy and treats Wales as an afterthought.

Gwlad dros blaid. I will continue to put Wales first; first in thought, deed and ambition, as I serve and lead my country. Diolch yn fawr.