The Talking Point #17: Carl Sargeant inquiries not off to the best start

(Title Image: Modified from BBC Wales)

As I’ve recently said, the short-term future of the First Minister depends on the outcomes of the (as far as I know) three separate investigations into the circumstances leading up to the death of Carl Sargeant.

The first such inquiry – which was to determine whether information about the November 2017 reshuffle was leaked – reported back last week.

Permanent Secretary (head of the civil service in Wales), Shan Morgan, announced that following an investigation by the Chief Security Officer, no “unauthorised” leaks of information occurred prior to the reshuffle.

Everyone with an active interest in Welsh politics and who also uses Twitter knows any suggestion there was no leak of information at all is complete and utter nonsense.

The First Minister’s dismissals in FMQs yesterday were laughable and pitiful. I say that as someone who has, on record, said he should be given a fair hearing – but he has to help himself.

Using Carwyn’s favourite phrase, “What we know” is that there was no unauthorised leak, but the findings from this first investigation raise more questions because journalists and lobbyists were proactively discussing the possibility of who was coming and going prior to it happening.

The big remaining question being “How did they get that information?” Based on there being no “unauthorised” leaks, there are several possibilities.

Firstly, their powers of prediction are unparalleled. Secondly, they heard the news unofficially (such as by eavesdropping conversations or by second/third-hand accounts).

Thirdly, there was an inevitability about Carl Sargeant’s departure due to the length of time he’s been in office; people just put 2+2 together (an educated guess) and were right.

Fourthly – as is now being speculated due to the barristerial use of the word “unauthorised” – a leak was authorised, meaning the First Minister or someone around him gave the OK to release the information. This has also been denied, but clearly hasn’t been investigated otherwise it would’ve been mentioned as part of the report’s findings.

Friends and colleagues of Carl Sargeant are quite understandably not satisfied by the conclusions of the first inquiry. The Tories have demanded a redacted report be released (the fact it hasn’t is yet another unusual oversight, though the argument goes that the evidence itself would identify the individuals involved even if redacted; how convenient).

Witnesses from within Labour have also reportedly said via the BBC they fear “repercussions” from the party if they give evidence to the James Hamilton-led inquiry into whether the First Minister breached the Ministerial Code (which will probably determine how long Carwyn stays in his job).

“I didn’t see nuthin'”.

Is this a government, or Goodfellas?

The Thick of It wasn’t supposed to act as a training video for “How To Do Politics”.

If this is going to be the standard of investigation from now on then you’ve got to raise the word that the First Minister, civil service and Welsh Labour don’t want to hear or see at all mentioned in relation to this: “whitewash”.

I suppose we’re lucky it’s now out of Cathays Park’s hands, right?

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