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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The search for truth around the Carl Sargeant sacking

By my estimation there are now three separate inquiries looking at the circumstances around Carl Sargeant's tragic and untimely death four weeks ago. There is the inquest, an independent QC-led investigation seeking to establish whether the First Minister followed the correct procedures in sacking the former Minister, and now we have an inquiry looking at whether news of the sacking was leaked.

At the heart of all this is a war of words between friends of Carl, including former minister, Leighton Andrews, Cardiff Bay lobbyist, Daran Hill, and the First Minister himself. At the same time an increasingly bullish Tory leader, is seeking to drive home a perceived advantage by pressing Carwyn Jones on details in the Senedd Siambr, even to the point of appropriating Leighton Andrews' twitter feed as a source for his questions.

As if to add insult to injury, Carwyn Jones has gone on the record with the BBC, claiming that he could not have done anything differently over the allegations made against Carl Sargeant. There are many who would disagree with that.

For a start it is my view that Carwyn should have followed the example set by Theresa May over Damian Green and suspended Carl whilst the allegations were investigated, rather than sack him. Secondly, he should not have added insult to injury by giving more details of the allegations to the media, the day before Carl died.

Carwyn also adopted a more traditional political stance in the interview by seeking to attack the messenger rather than address the message. He accused Leighton Andrews, a fellow Labour Party colleague of waging a "trial by Twitter" and labelled him as being perpetually grumpy when in government. Nobody who knows Leighton can deny the 'grumpy' tag, but really, how is it relevant?

The nub of the disagreement between Carwyn and Leighton centres on the latter's claim that at sometime in October and/or November 2014 he raised with the First Minister in a one-on-one meeting, allegations of bullying behaviour within Carwyn's office. This is denied.

With a by-election now scheduled on 6th February, this is not going to go away soon. Hints are being published on social media that Labour may find itself opposed by an independent candidate in the seat, whilst there are also suggestions that there are more questions to be answered than have so far been posed.

For now, the Assembly Labour Group appears to be backing the First Minister. Whether they do so once the various inquiries report is a moot question. Leighton Andrews has consistently said that he is not calling on Carwyn Jones to resign, but consequences are not always predictable and with the First Minister continually digging himself deeper into a hole of his own making, it is clear that this is now a fight for his political survival.

Update: I have been reminded of a fourth inquiry as to whether the First Minister misled the Assembly when he said no allegations of bullying had been made to him in 2014.
But there will not be a fifth (or first) inquiry. In a move which can only add to conspiracy theories, Welsh Labour has decided to close the book on the allegations which started the Sargeant affair.
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