Why it’s time for Carwyn Jones to go

The First Minister. Picture: National Assembly.

Tim Richards, LLB.PGCE.

When it comes to his role in the way in which Carl Sargeant was treated, Carwyn Jones has claimed that he had acted “by the book”.

But whatever book it was, it didn’t come from a shelf in the Law section.

In simple terms, Carwyn Jones has got himself into the mess he is in because he mixed up politics with the law.

It is clear that the basic principles of natural justice in the law were the last thing on Carwyn Jones’s mind. He did not give Carl Sargeant any details of what he was accused of, what evidence there was against him, or a chance to give his side of the story.

Let us remember that Carwyn Jones was in the middle of a political reshuffle when he “sacked” Carl Sargeant, saying that he had no alternative, because of allegations about his conduct.

But in fact, he had not sacked him, as is clear from Carl Sargeant’s statement at the time. He said that: “Given the nature of the allegations, I agreed with the First Minister that it was right that I stand aside from cabinet today”.

And his statement clearly shows that he intended “to write to the General Secretary of Welsh Labour requesting an urgent independent investigation into these allegations in order to allow me to clear my name”.

The fact that Carwyn Jones used the word “sacked” was highly misleading as the correct legal term should have been ‘suspended’.

Carwyn Jones should have known that, as he once held the job of Counsel General, the legal officer of the Welsh Assembly who is supposed to advise the Welsh Government on the law.

It is little wonder that Carl Sargeant was upset as it must have looked like he had already been judged.

But as if this was not bad enough, at no time did Carwyn Jones give Carl Sargeant or his solicitor details of what he was alleged to have done.

When his solicitor asked the Welsh Labour party the following week all he got was the internal Welsh Labour party rule which was supposed to justify his suspension.

So far as Carwyn Jones was concerned, the allegations were an internal Labour party disciplinary matter. This says a lot about how he regards the Welsh Assembly.

He also told Carl Sargeant’s solicitor that “his special advisor Matt Greenough had spoken to the complainant or complainants to verify the complaint”.

This is a rather strange statement as it does not even make it clear whether it was one or more than one complaints.

At the same time, he told BBC Wales that: “I asked my office to speak to those women involved who had provided detail of those incidents. As a result of those conversations, I felt I had no choice but to refer the matter to the party.”

Flawed

As a lawyer and First Minister, Carwyn Jones should have realised that making the investigation an internal Labour party matter was avoiding independent scrutiny as Welsh Ministers are, like members of the UK Government at Westminster, covered by a Ministerial Code of conduct.

Sexual harassment is covered by the catch-all clause in the Ministerial Code: “Ministers of the Crown are expected to behave in a principled way that upholds the highest standards of propriety”.

As Carwyn Jones was alleging that Carl Sargeant should be sacked as a Minister because he broke this code he should have used that disciplinary procedure, but he preferred to keep it in-house so that he could control it.

It is no wonder that Carl Sargeant’s family do not trust Carwyn Jones to set up a truly independent inquiry.

They have pointed out that his plan to ask the Permanent Secretary to hire a QC to look into what happened is deeply flawed because he reports directly to the First Minister and is therefore not independent.

The family has argued for “a truly independent body” that “must also be responsible for agreeing the terms of reference and appointing the chair and secretariat for the inquiry”.

In the final analysis, Carwyn Jones has a mountain to climb as he has lost credibility through his mishandling of both the Cabinet reshuffle and his lack of answers to serious questions about how he has dealt with the whole affair.

More worrying for him is that if he does ensure that the Inquiry is truly independent then it will damn him for his failure to act justly with Carl Sargeant, and if the inquiry is not independent then he will have brought the whole Welsh Assembly into disrepute.

It is not a question anymore of whether Carwyn Jones will resign – it is when.

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kim erswell
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kim erswell

Tony Blair is a lawyer too.

Dafis
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Dafis

we are warned not to ….”level potentially libellous accusations, including corruption, at any individuals involved in this affair.” How about just a blanket accusation that the Cynulliad is riddled with a form of institutional corruption, not necessarily involving any direct financial rewards, which enables a mix of laziness, impulsive and poorly constructed decisions, and excessive focus on virtue signalling. And that is probably just the tip of a very slimy iceberg! The only force that can eliminate such characteristics is the electorate, by taking a keener interest in who gets nominated and who gets elected. [This message has been lightly… Read more »

Cofi Dre
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Cofi Dre

While I have no doubt that Carwyn Jones is an inert politician, and one who furthermore has a problem with the truth, and while we all know that Labour is rife with backroom plotting and bullying, we should also work out which, if any, of the various SPADs, political consultancies and lobbyists and ombudsmen/women have been getting involved behind the scenes. They were all tweeting like mad and going on telly with accusations, and suddenly they’ve gone silent. This probably goes beyond one party, beyond elected politicians or even the Assembly. If accusations of sexual harassment etc have been used… Read more »

Benjiman L. Angwin
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Benjiman L. Angwin

I am also opposed to Carwyn Jones stepping down before 2019 because of two things. 1. He is a Welsh-speaker and our Senedd is not even 100 years old (we must foster the Prif Weinidog being a Welsh-speaker as an accepted status quo during this early phase in our history). 2. Brexit and Corbyn’s left wing extremism within his party could threaten Wales. If he steps down during its height, his leftist flank could flank could damage our Senedd. CJ, like him or not, is a stabilising force. Even at 200 years old our Senedd will be young. We need… Read more »

Amy Roberts
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Amy Roberts

“it will have a trickle down impact and establish a Welsh-speaking status quo in the centuries to come.” Do you think this will be as effective as trickle down economics?

Dafis
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Dafis

Top drawer rhetorical question ! Anything relying on trickle down will get nowhere, die slowly and get damp in the meantime.

Alan Rogers
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Alan Rogers

As a man born in England who has lived for more than half of his life in Wales I wish for the Prif Weinidog ALWAYS to be bilingual. However if there is no acceptable bilingual replacement then the good of the whole of the population of Wales must take priority.

Howard Lloyd Williams
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Howard Lloyd Williams

A very difficult issue to call. Whichever way the first minister stepped he was certain to cause offence. Was it an option to ignore the accusations and was it an option to allow the minister to remain in office whilst being investigated?
Politics involves dealing with dilemmas of this kind. Someone was going to be hurt whatever course was adopted.
We need to ask ourselves what we would have done in the first ministers position? We need to be careful as to who is doing the bullying here.

Tim Richards
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Tim Richards

Now that Carwyn Jones has referred himself to an independent adviser over ministerial code breach claims shouldn’t he now stand aside in the same way that he told Carl Sargeant to do?