Posted: Sat 11th May 2024

A view from Plaid Cymru’s North Wales Member of the Senedd for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area has invited Wrexham & Clwyd South Members of Parliament and Members of the Senedd to write a monthly article with updates on their work in their respective Parliaments and closer to home – you can find them all here.

In this month’s column Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd MS writes:

Like a bad smell, the ongoing controversy about the First Minister accepting a £200,000 donation from a twice-convicted environmental polluter has continued to linger over the Senedd.

Dodgy donations to individual politicians are bad enough. Dodgy donations that help get a First Minister elected are at a totally different level and potentially undermine the institution they want to lead.

Despite numerous debates and cross-examination by myself and many other opposition MSs, as well as ongoing rumblings and embarrassment from his own backbenchers, the First Minister is sticking with the defence of ‘no rules were broken’.

His failure to read the room, to understand the genuine anger that people feel about this matter and the damage it does to the Senedd as a whole if allowed to pass as acceptable is telling.

Perceptions matter in politics. There is a growing realisation that this is a First Minister who is not in listening mode when the full facts are presented:

David Neal has twice been convicted of environmental dumping on the protected Gwent Levels

His company Dauson Environmental donated £200,000 to his election campaign, one tranche on the day they submitted a planning application for a solar farm to the Welsh Government

Another company is at the centre of another environmental scandal in Pembrokeshire where the Withyhedge landfill site has been described as a ‘stink bomb on steroids’ by local residents

Dauson Environmental was given a £400,000 loan by the Welsh Government-owned Development Bank for Wales.

That sort of money is substantial – and undoubtedly helped Vaughan Gething in his campaign against Jeremy Miles, whom he eventually defeated by 51-49%.

As we have seen from the various donations made to the UK Conservative party, the perception of cash for honours (with donors being ennobled to the House of Lords) is highly damaging for democracy.

In response to growing pressure, the First Minister appointed Carwyn Jones, a previous Labour First Minister, to review the decision. It hardly feels like an independent inquiry and is again demonstrative of a certain arrogance that afflicts any party that has enjoyed political power for too long.

That’s demonstrably the case for Labour in Wales – who have been in control in Wales for the past century and have governed in the devolved parliament for the past 25 years.

This week we celebrate that particular milestone for our young democracy. The celebrations are however muted because the First Minister seems to have taken a cue from Westminster when it comes to sleaze.

We should leave the sleaze in Westminster and build a better democracy in Wales.

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