Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Labour Government’s beleaguered First Minister, has told the Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno today that he is to quit as Labour Leader and First Minister this Autumn.
Still swirling around Carwyn Jones is the scandal regarding his abrupt and arbitrary decision to dismiss Labour minister Carl Sargeant last November in the light of unproven allegations of sexual misconduct – a move regarded as having led directly to Mr Sargeant’s suicide just four days later.
A formal inquiry promised by Labour into the circumstances leading to Mr Sargeant’s dismissal – and ultimately his suicide – has still not begun. That left Carwyn Jones being accused of foot-dragging and delaying tactics – the latest example of which was his woefully-misjudged letter threatening legal action against Elin Jones, Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, were she to permit a Conservative debate on the failure to publish the results of an earlier inquiry into the Sargeant affair.
Presiding Officer Elin Jones brusquely wrote back a curt three-line reply telling ex-barrister Carwyn Jones she was “not persuaded of his arguments” and would allow the debate to to go ahead. It was a sure sign – if any were needed – of Jones’s waning authority. His subsequent failure to actually put in an appearance at the contentious debate triggered further criticism.
Carwyn Jones also found himself being accused of rank hyprocrisy. After having championed Welsh Government legislation banning parents in Wales from smacking their children, he admitted in an interview only this week that, as a parent, he HAD smacked his own children.
Carwyn Jones frequently lashed out at his opponents both within and without the Assembly debating chamber, but insiders said although the First Minister was fond of dishing-out verbal punishment, he didn’t like being on the receiving end. Whenever his critics hit back, he couldn’t take it. In 2016 he appeared to be in tears and visibly upset in the Assembly chamber when he failed on the first ballot to be re-elected as First Minister.
But it was the constant drip of the Carl Sargeant affair which continued erode confidence in Carwyn Jones and his ability to carry on heading a chaotic Welsh Labour Government – a government in which everything appeared to circulate around him and his tightly-knit group of special advisers.
This year, almost every media interview that Carwyn Jones gave, began with a question about how soon he intended to resign. Even yesterday he was still in apparent denial – claiming he would carry on as First Minister for some time to come – when most people in the Labour Party had already decided his time was up.
For Carwyn Jones, today’s decision to call it quits finally brings a long-overdue end to a thoroughly undistinguished career.
After ten years “in charge” of Wales, Carwyn Jones is leaving a shameful legacy behind him; – a Wales which is still the poorest nation in the UK, a Wales which has the lowest educational performance in the UK and a Wales with the worst-performing NHS in the UK.
There will now be a contest for the leadership of Welsh Labour Party with all the “usual suspects” in the frame – including Vaughan Gething, the AM for Cardiff South and Penarth who is currently the Welsh Labour Government’s much-criticised health minister.
The matter is expected to be resolved in the party conference in September.