New Leader, Old Problems for Welsh Labour

As expected, Wales’ decline was further cemented this afternoon with the election of self-proclaimed Corbyn-groupie, Mark Drakeford, as new Welsh Labour leader. As the result shows, the Momentum machine mercilessly crushed his also-ran opponents.

However, there’ll be no ‘honeymoon’ period for Comrade Drakeford when he’s crowned Wales’ First Minister next week. The increasingly murky conspiracy surrounding the suicide of Labour Minister Carl Sargeant a year ago, still completely dominates Welsh politics.

Sargeant was sacked as Minister following supposed “allegations” of inappropriate behaviour towards women – allegations he denied right up to his death.

Drakeford’s predecessor, the ineffectual Carwyn Jones, remains mired and under pressure for sacking Sargeant without giving him any details of the complaints or letting him offer his side of the story.

As reported previously by Guido, Labour’s problem in Wales is rooted in the very dodgy relationship between the party and Cardiff lobbying firm, Deryn Consulting.

With the Inquest into Carl Sargeant’s death under way, more details are emerging about the web of intrigue that places Deryn at the heart of the conspiracy that was ‘out to get’ Sargeant:

The main conspirators are:

  • Cathy Owens: Head of Deryn who took to the BBC in the days before Sargeant’s death to allege sexual harassment from an unnamed politician. Owens pointedly did not rule out Sargeant from her unsupported allegations as part of a concerted campaign to try and humiliate and discredit him.
  • Jo Kiernan: Deryn employee and named at last week’s Inquest as co-ordinating a bullying campaign against Sargeant when she worked as Carwyn Jones’ chief SpAd.

  • Helen Antoniazzi: Works for a charity called Chwarae Teg – a prominent Deryn client. A former senior Plaid Cymru staffer and believed to be one of the ‘complainants’.
  • Dave Hagendyk: Head of the Learning and Work Institute in Wales – another prominent Deryn client. Former Welsh Labour General Secretary and at the Inquest named as the co-ordinator of complaints against Sargeant.

The big question facing new First Minister Drakeford will be – will he allow his first 100 days as leader to be bogged down in the same conspiracy that toppled Carwyn Jones or will he be savvy enough to cut the conspirators adrift..?

Bullying Lobbyists at Centre of Carl Sargeant Investigation

Tory Welsh Assembly Member Darren Millar has revealed it was Carl Sargeant himself who asked for questions to be tabled about bullying in the Welsh Government back in 2014. Sargeant was a Cabinet member at the time and asked the Tory AM to help him tackle bullying coming from the First Minister’s office. Darren Millar didn’t name the ex-adviser responsible. Guido can reveal he was referring to Carwyn Jones’ former top special adviser Jo Kiernan, now at Welsh spin merchants Deryn.

There are allegations that Deryn put pressure on Sargeant before his death. It is said the firm had been participating in a whispering campaign against him for months because he would not give lobbyists access in Cardiff. Cathy Owens, head of Deryn and herself a former special adviser who was embroiled in an earlier bullying scandal, took to the BBC in the days before Carl’s death to allege sexual harassment from an unnamed politician. She pointedly did not rule out Sargeant from her unsupported allegations as part of a concerted campaign to try and humiliate and discredit him.

Deryn – which is never far from a Welsh government lobbying scandal – has something of a reputation as a Welsh Bell Pottinger. It is losing scandal-averse clients. Deryn has just been dropped by the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon developers…

See also: The Persistent Personal Undermining of Carl Sargeant – Leighton Andrews

Pressure On Carwyn As Carl Sargeant’s Family Releases Emails

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones is under pressure tonight after Carl Sargeant’s family spoke out about the circumstances surrounding his suicide. The family says Labour did not inform Sargeant of the “detail of the allegations” before he died. Correspondence between Sargeant’s solicitor and the party reveals the allegations were “related to unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping”. There was no police investigation taking place. The family also says concerns were raised with Labour about the AM’s mental welfare before died. The family are especially critical of Jones’s media statements…

A family spokesperson said:

“In light of the continued unwillingness to clarify the nature of the allegations made against Carl, the family wish the release into the public domain, correspondence between Carl’s solicitors and the Labour Party on Monday of this week. Up to the point of his tragic death on Tuesday morning Carl was not informed of any of the detail of the allegations against him, despite requests and warnings regarding his mental welfare.

“The correspondence also discloses the solicitor’s concern that media appearances by the First Minister on Monday were prejudicing the inquiry. The family wish to disclose the fact that Carl maintained his innocence and he categorically denied any wrongdoing. The distress of not being able to defend himself properly against these unspecified allegations meant he was not afforded common courtesy, decency or natural justice.”

Here’s the email sent by Sargeant’s solicitor to Labour on Monday raising concerns about the First Minister’s media statements:

Doesn’t look good…

Welsh Labour AM Carl Sargeant Found Dead

On Friday Welsh Labour politician Carl Sargeant resigned after being accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women. Press Association reports he has been found dead. Developing…

UPDATE: Corbyn: “This is terrible and deeply shocking news. My thoughts and profound sympathy are with Carl’s family, friends and colleagues.”

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