New Times,
New Thinking.

Future unclear for Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones amid inquiries into the sacking of Carl Sargeant

The communities secretary was found dead just days after being fired. 

By Stephen Bush

Happy St David’s Day? Carwyn Jones may feel otherwise. The Welsh Labour leader and First Minister has been in post more than eight years. His predecessor, Rhodri Morgan, served nine years. So you would expect there to be some speculation about the post-Jones future as, even in good times, one could fairly assume that Jones was nearer the end of his tenure than the beginning.

But the speculation has an added bite because the First Minister’s political stock is at an all-time-low as he and his government face questions over their handling of the sacking of Carl Sargeant, who went on to kill himself four days after being fired from his position as communities secretary following several allegations that he had sexually harassed women.

Jones has already been exonerated by one inquiry, about whether information about Sargeant’s sacking was improperly leaked, but there are two still ongoing. The first is into his specific handling of the allegations against Sargeant, the second into whether, as former Welsh Cabinet minister Leighton Andrews has alleged, there was a culture of bullying in Jones’s administration.

But now the Welsh government has lost a non-binding vote on whether the full findings of the first inquiry should be published. Opponents of publication warn it could comprise the two ongoing inquiries, and could put the women who accused Sargeant at risk of identification, even if their names are redacted.

The two ongoing inquiries will report in time and that will have implications for when Jones’s eventual exit as First Minister comes about and whether it happens on his own terms.

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But there’s a question that is entirely missing from the speculation about Jones’s future and what he ought to have done: were the allegations credible? Don’t forget that Damian Green’s position became untenable not just due to the official reason he was sacked (a misleading statement about a historic matter), but because the investigation into his conduct found the allegations about his behaviour towards Kate Maltby to be credible. And even bearing in mind the tragic events that followed, is it really the contention of the Welsh Assembly that the ministers they scrutinise should have a lower bar than the ones in Westminster?

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