First Minister dismisses calls to sack minister over Zoom gaffe

The First Minister has dismissed calls to sack his health minister after he was heard swearing about a colleague during a virtual sitting of the Welsh Assembly.

Mark Drakeford said Vaughan Gething had apologised to Assembly Member Jenny Rathbone, and that was "the end of the matter".

Mr Gething made the blunder when he accidentally left his microphone on and was heard talking about Jenny Rathbone, the AM for Cardiff Central, and said to an unknown person: "What the f*** is the matter with her?"

Speaking on Friday, Mr Drakeford said: "It is very important that assembly members are able to ask those questions and they get the proper answers to them.

"The health minister apologised immediately to the individual involved and that apology was accepted and that is the end of the matter."

Mr Gething later apologised and said he was "obviously embarrassed" about the gaffe, made as he finished answering questions during a session being held on video conferencing platform Zoom.

Ms Rathbone, who had been asking questions about the Welsh Government's response to coronavirus, was seen getting up from her seat and walking away from the camera.

Some assembly members could be seen laughing and putting their hands over their mouths as the health minister made the comments.

Presiding Officer Elin Jones told Mr Gething to turn his microphone off.

After the session, Mr Gething posted on Twitter: "I'm obviously embarrassed about my comments at the end of questions today.

"I've sent a message apologising and offered to speak to Jenny Rathbone if she wishes to do so.

"It is an unwelcome distraction at a time of unprecedented challenge."

Following the Zoom call, the leaders of opposition parties Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives called for Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford to sack Mr Gething immediately.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: "He does not have the right attitude, skills or temperament to lead the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"To maintain public confidence, the First Minister needs to relieve him of these responsibilities with immediate effect."

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, tweeted: "Politicians are entitled to ask serious and challenging questions of ministers and it's essential that they are able to do so during this pandemic.

"For a health minister to show such unprofessionalism and disdain at this time is completely unacceptable and he should be sacked."