The sudden death of former Welsh Government minister Carl Sargeant last week sent shockwaves through the world of politics. First minister Carwyn Jones, who sacked Mr Sargeant from the cabinet just days before he died, has come under pressure for the way he handed the issue, but has resisted calls to resign. IAN CRAIG looks at the implications of one of the most shocking political scandals in living memory.

THE death of former Welsh Government minister Carl Sargeant was one of the most shocking political events in recent memory.

In the midst of a scandal engulfing Parliament, with Conservative and Labour MPs being accused of a catalogue of sexual offences, Labour AM Mr Sargeant was sacked as communities and children secretary and suspended from the Labour Party on Friday November 3, after allegations arose about his conduct with women.

Just days later, on Tuesday November 7, he was found dead at his north Wales home.

Yesterday, at the opening of an inquest into his death, senior coroner for north Wales John Gittins said he will seek statements from the first minister and others at the Welsh Assembly, but will not consider the truth of allegations made against Mr Sargeant, nor look at “Cardiff and the Welsh Assembly or the Labour Party”.

The provisional cause of death was recorded as hanging.

There has been much speculation around Carwyn Jones’ handling of the whole incident in the days before Mr Sargeant was found dead.

And there have been many calls for the first minister to resign.

Most contentious has been the fact that the first minister had spoken to the media about the sacking, and Mr Sargeant apparently died still unaware of the detail of the allegations against him.

But Mr Jones refused to resign, with a much-anticipated – and much-delayed – press conference last Thursday ultimately encompassing a brief statement in which the first minister insisted he had acted “by the book” with regard to how he acted following the allegations, and no questions allowed.

So what now?

The prospect of the first minister falling on his sword may be apparently out of the question, for the time being at least, but he is likely to come under further pressure in the coming weeks and months, with Ukip already saying they will call for a vote of no confidence in him.

Only Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has appeared to come to the first minister’s defence, saying at the weekend it is too soon to call for his resignation before all the facts were known.

When asked about the issue on the Argus’ Facebook page readers had mixed views on the first minister’s future.

Simon Grant said: “As with all organisations there will be procedures and protocols to follow once allegations have been raised against an individual. If Carwyn Jones and his team followed those procedures then he can’t really be held responsible for the tragedy that followed and, therefore, there isn’t any reason for him to resign.

“If, however, he didn’t follow the correct procedures then that’s a different story.”

And Matthew Davies said: “As long as procedure was followed the man shouldn’t resign, but if it wasn’t, even in the slightest, he needs to go. Time will tell.”

But David Gatehouse said: “Shocking lack of duty of care on the part of Jones. And awful lack of judgement. He got it wrong and should suffer the consequences.”

And Vel Hier added: “If he had a conscience instead of his massive ego, we wouldn’t have to answer the question – he would have done the decent thing, YES! He most certainly should go.”

Del Filby, meanwhile, said: “His rush to virtue signal by sacking a colleague, instead of a more appropriate response, has resulted in a tragic death. Why does he prevaricate about resigning? An honourable man would already have done so.”

Others questioned the process around the sacking from the cabinet and suspension from Labour.

David Woodford said: “It must be bad enough to tell your family you’re sacked for a mistake, but for what Carl was accused of without any explanation is, in my opinion, wrong.

“Surely you must have an enquiry before you take drastic action.”

Robbie Ash said: “Details should certainly have been given to him about what he was accused of. Hopefully whatever evidence comes to light the correct procedures have taken place.”

And Lesley Grant said: “In my workplace nobody would have been suspended let alone sacked without them and their union rep being told why so they could respond.

“I don’t think Carwyn should resign if he did follow Labour procedure but in that case procedure is wrong.”

On Friday the first minister confirmed an independent inquiry would be held, with permanent secretary of the Assembly Shan Morgan putting the wheels in motion.

A spokesman from his office said: “It would be proper to ask a senior QC to lead that work.

“To ensure this happens separately from his office, the first minister has asked the permanent secretary to begin preparatory work for this inquiry, and to make contact with the family to discuss the terms of reference and the identity of the QC.

“It is our understanding that such an inquiry should not take place before the outcome of a coroner’s inquest, but we will take further advice on this matter.”

But Mr Sargeant’s family said they are unhappy with this, saying the inquiry should be carried out by “a body that is fully independent of the Welsh Government”.

“The permanent secretary reports directly to the first minister and is therefore not independent.

“We believe that a truly independent body must also be responsible for agreeing the terms of reference and appointing the chair and secretariat for the inquiry.” said a statement on the family’s behalf.

They also said they are concerned by the suggestion that an inquiry cannot be held until after the inquest is complete.

“The first minister will also know, as an experienced lawyer, that to announce and commence a full independent review and inquiry does not hinder the coroner’s inquest and would run alongside the coroner’s inquest in any event.

“He will know all the procedural issues that arise and that one does not prevent the other from taking place.

“An independent inquiry will ask all the questions that need to be asked and have not been answered.”

It would determine any failing in following the correct procedures, practices and protocols, and any abdication of responsibility and duty of care that was owed to Mr Sargeant.

“We believe a full independent inquiry must be established immediately.”

Mr Sargeant’s death also led his former colleague Leighton Andrews, who served in the Welsh cabinet between 2009 and 2013 and again between 2014 and May 2016, to make some shocking claims about “minor bullying, mind-games, power-games, favouritism, inconsistency of treatment to different ministers, deliberate personal undermining on occasion” in the upper echelons in Cardiff Bay.

The ex-AM said: “I found that the atmosphere was unquestionably worse after I returned to government in September 2014 than it had been in the period May 2011 - June 2013.

“Carl was unquestionably the target of some of this behaviour.

“The relentless drip-drip of disinformation – and worse – had a strain on his and others’ mental health.

“The first minister was made aware of this by several ministers, including myself.

“Nothing was done.

“In a normal workplace, it would have been tackled.

“It was damaging to the mental health of ministers and special advisers.”

Mr Andrews also said he believed Mr Sargeant was “not given the benefit of due process over the complaints made against him, and that the interviews given on Monday by the First Minister prejudiced any inquiry in themselves”.

He added he had made a complaint to Carwyn Jones about “deliberate personal undermining” of Mr Sargeant in 2014, but no action was taken after an informal investigation.

This will no doubt heap further pressure on the first minister.

It has been widely assumed Carwyn Jones will step aside as first minister before the next Assembly Election, due to be held in 2021, with a general assumption that he will make way for his successor around 2019 – which will mark his 10th year in the role.

But does the backlash from Mr Sargeant’s death mean this will happen sooner rather than later?

If the outcome of the inquiry – whenever that happens – proves particularly damning for the first minister he may be leaving Cardiff Bay sooner than planned.


- November 3: Carl Sargeant is sacked from the Welsh Government cabinet and suspended from the Labour Party after allegations arose around his conduct with women. In a statement he said: “I look forward to returning to government once my name has been cleared”.

- November 7: Mr Sargeant is found dead at his north Wales home at 11.30am. Assembly business is suspended for the week.

- November 8: Questions are raised around the way Mr Sargeant’s sacking was handled, with Carwyn Jones coming in for particular criticism. Mr Sargeant’s family claim he was “not offered common courtesy, decency or natural justice”.

- November 9: Mr Jones comes in for further criticism after he refuses to answer questions or address calls to resign in a press conference. Ex-minister Leighton Andrews makes claims about a “toxic” atmosphere in the Welsh cabinet.

- November 10: Mr Jones agrees to hold an inquiry, but Mr Sargeant’s family say this should be completely independent from the Welsh Government.

- November 13: Inquest opens.