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..?

Welsh Labour “Distraught” Carwyn Jones Didn’t Resign

Carwyn Jones’s attempt to tough-out the controversy over his handling of the Carl Sargeant tragedy is going down terribly in Welsh Labour. Mark Tami, the Labour MP who shared Sargeant’s constituency, last night called for an independent inquiry into the party’s handling of the allegations, which he said “was not up to it”. Tami said he found the First Minister’s statement “confusing”…

There were emotional scenes following Jones’s press conference last night. Labour Deputy Leader of Flintshire Council Bernie Attridge fought back tears as he slammed the First Minister for not resigning:

“I’m distraught that the man [Carwyn Jones] hasn’t done the decent thing. The way he’s treated my friend is shocking. I will not let him get away with this. I will fight to the bitter end for justice for my friend Carl Sargeant.”

Meanwhile, former Welsh Labour government minister Leighton Andrews joined calls for an independent inquiry and said Jones had not answered questions properly:

“He’s not answered the questions that people across Wales are asking. He’s not answering the questions that were raised by Carl’s solicitor… there are questions about why he did those interviews on Monday… There’s widespread anger in Wales… people are deeply unhappy about what has happened to Carl Sargeant, a good friend to so many people. They want answers.”

Jones suggested his freedom to provide answers was limited by a coroner’s inquest. But media law experts dismissed this as “nonsense”. This is all looking very bad for Carwyn Jones…

Carwyn Jones Picks a Winner

Labour Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones digs as deep as a Rhondda Valley miner during a debate in the Welsh Assembly yesterday afternoon. Tell you what’s really snot on: he then ate it. To be fair to Carwyn, he didn’t go as far as the finger and thumb public double nasal evacuation made famous by Ed Miliband…

Taxpayers Spend Millions Funding Welsh Trade Union Pilgrims

Welsh trade union ‘pilgrims’ are costing the taxpayer more than £2 million per year, an investigation reveals today. Public sector workers on ‘facilities time’ (paid time-off taken by trade union officers to carry out union duties) are employed by almost every one of the 38 public bodies in Wales. Around 80 such officers across Wales are employed full-time, working a total of 2,978 hours per week – at a cost of approximately £2.1 million a year. An additional 153 officers are employed on a part-time basis to carry out trade union roles. If each member of part time staff worked just one day a week on union ‘facilities time’ it would cost the taxpayer an additional £1.03 million. Shadow Local Government Secretary and Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders said:

“The taxpayer shouldn’t be picking up the tab for Trade Union duties – that’s what their subscriptions are for. Across Wales, public bodies are taking difficult decisions about staffing and funding in order to protect vital services. Meanwhile, millions of pounds in vital funds are being diverted away from the frontline to subsidise the political work of the unions. It’s a national scandal.”

The investigation – carried out under the Freedom of Information Act by the Welsh Conservatives – comes after Guido reported a Taxpayers’ Alliance study revealing the national bill for pilgrims now stands at more than £15 million. David Cameron’s government began a crackdown on pilgrims, Theresa May should finish the job…

Welsh SpAds Cost Taxpayer More Than £700,000

The Labour government in Wales employed a total of 13 special advisers in the last year; that compares to around 70 in Westminster. You’d think the relatively low number would equate to savings for the taxpayer. Not so fast. The Welsh government chose the dead of summer recess to sheepishly slip out this admission:

“The paybill cost for the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 totalled £592,616. This includes salary, employers’ national insurance contributions and pension contributions.  Severance payments of £127,661 were also made which were related to the election in May 2016 and the First Minister’s appointment of a new Cabinet.”

That makes a grand total of £720,277 over the year for just 13 staff, meaning your average Welsh SpAd is on more than £60,000 pa, a lot of money in Wales. They’re not spending your cash Caerphilly

Welsh Politicians Spend Thousands Chartering Planes to Watch Football

Welsh government politicians, special advisers, private secretaries and press officers have billed the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds to fly around the world on more than 30 foreign junkets in the last year. Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones blew more than £10,000 chartering a plane for him and his private secretary to France to watch the football last summer. Why are taxpayers paying for this?

The itinerary of the Welsh cabinet and their flunkies would put globe-trotting A-listers to shame. Expenses documents show Jones spent nearly £50,000 on another two trips to the US, taking in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington DC at a total cost to the taxpayer of £47,992. Economy Secretary Ken Skates and his private secretary also went to the Euro football: they attended matches in Toulouse and Paris over five days, total cost £3,232. How did they manage to spend that much?

He and an official also went to Chongqing and Shanghai at a cost of £17,842. Health Secretary Vaughan Gething was also accompanied by an official on a trip to Enetbbe, Uganda, charging £16,582, to mark the “10th Anniversary of Wales for Africa“. Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths and policy official enjoyed sunny Dubai at a cost of £6,563. Who are these people are why are spending our money?

Welsh politicians have long been on the take and get away with it because no one in the English media cares about what are essentially local stories. At a time when Welsh Labour are breaking their tuition fees promise, their politicians and staff are flying around the world on jollies. How can they justify spending this much on going to watch the football?

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Quote of the Day

Peter Mandelson tells Emma Barnett…

“I think that Jeremy Corbyn himself should search his conscience and ask himself whether he’s the best person to lead the Labour Party into the general election with the best chance of success for the party.”

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