Following this afternoon’s First Minister’s Questions, Carwyn Jones AM (Lab, Bridgend) resigned as First Minister. Here’s the full speech:
He noted how the Senedd has changed since 2009. If someone had told him in 1999 that he would leave the post of First Minister with a tax-varying, law-making parliament that would’ve surprised him.
He paid tribute to the support network around him, including his family and civil servants, the former who have to live with having a husband and father who has constantly been in government, the latter because nothing could be delivered without them and it was often a difficult task.
Carwyn was particularly proud of the programme to build more than 150 new schools, the expansion of apprenticeships, the huge transformation in the treatment of AIDS since the 1990s, the introduction of opt-out organ donation and improved cancer survival rates. He was also pleased that the Welsh language was no longer a political football but “a language that everybody knows is a source of national pride, whether they speak Welsh or not.”
“I’d just like to say thank you to everyone here, but most importantly to the people of Wales I’ve had the honour to serve. Every school or hospital, every business I’ve seen, on the Eisteddfod maes, or the Royal Welsh showground, out shopping with the family, or the rugby, wherever it may be, I’ve been met with kindness and with courtesy, and I cannot thank you enough…..It’s been an honour.”
– Carwyn Jones AM
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), said people will remember Carwyn’s time as First Minister for different things and different reasons – decisions which will affect people for good or ill.
“….I have always had the utmost respect for you as the holder of the office of First Minister, and the way in which you have conducted your role. We have clashed on several occasions in this Chamber, especially in recent weeks, but whatever our political differences, as people, I am confident that there is more that unites us than what divides us.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
Paul Davies listed a number of occasions where the opposition and Labour came together on common ground, including introducing food hygiene ratings, the 2011 referendum and free childcare.
“You’ve highlighted exactly one of the big jobs that you have done, which is to raise the profile of Wales not just here in the UK, but across the globe….Many years ago many people from Wales would go abroad and if you were asked a survey or questionnaire, someone would say, ‘Where are you from?’ and you might say, ‘Cardiff’, or you might say, ‘Wales’—’Huh? Where’s that?’…..Well, today people where Wales is and people know what Wales is about, and a lot of that credit is down to you as First Minister.”
– Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central)
“Quite an achievement”
While Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr), would be the first to agree himself and Carwyn Jones have never seen eye to eye, he was willing to put that to one side today.
“One of your main tasks in many ways was to build on the success of your predecessor, and someone you described earlier as your mentor, Rhodri Morgan – one who was crucial in gaining popular support for our National Assembly, a new institution that was on very unstable foundations during those early days….You proceeded with the referendum that we as two parties had agreed to institute, ensuring that this Senedd has the powers that enable us to legislate for Wales and its people, today and for the future. That was quite an achievement, Carwyn, and I’m eager to put that on record today.”
– Adam Price AM
Adam praised Carwyn’s “quiet dignity” in dealing with the opposition and colleagues and admitted he found it difficult to “ruffle his feathers”.
“You’ve also been genuine in your desire to see Wales progress, and while I may well have been frustrated about the lack of support for faster progress, particularly on the Welsh constitution, on powers and the lack of support that you’ve had from your MPs in particular. The fact that you’ve now started the ball rolling on the devolution of the criminal justice system as well as having worked with others of us to deliver a successful ‘yes’ vote back in 2011, shows where you stand politically on these questions.”
– Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)
Newbies & Old Timers
On behalf of the Labour group, Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) described Carwyn as an undoubted electoral asset, providing her with support as a first-time candidate in 2016. Vikki celebrated Welsh Government investment in schools, particularly over £100million in her constituency.
The final tribute came from John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) – a fellow “old timer” from 1999 – noting how the Senedd has moved from discussing orders relating to Egyptian potatoes to full law-making powers. He praised Carwyn’s general knowledge skills and how during a tie during a quiz participated in a dance-off but also, more seriously, his ability to handle a crisis.
“But in any event, very early on, Llywydd, Carwyn took a Cabinet post and took Wales through that terrible crisis of foot and mouth which, again, many of us will remember very well—the searing difficulty that that brought to our rural communities and Wales as a whole, and it was Carwyn’s early responsibility early in his time in the Cabinet to take Wales through that. That was a major challenge and again, it’s a tribute to the mettle of Carwyn that he was able to meet that challenge and guide Wales through that time of terrible crisis.”
– John Griffiths AM
In revenge for the dance-off revelation, Carwyn told a story of John Griffiths booking a £10-a-night hotel in Blackpool which only had one shower which was directly accessible off a corridor.
Thanking everyone who contributed and sharing short personal anecdotes and well-wishes, Carwyn brought the curtain down on 9 years as First Minister and, after more than 18 years of being in government one way or another, returned to the backbenches to applause.
“Thank you all very much, and best of luck to you all. It’s been an honour and a privilege to serve my country as a Welshman.”
– Carwyn Jones AM