I have not given any formal interviews to the media since November 10th, the morning that the Independent Inquiry into Carl’s death was announced, but privately I have been mulling over various unanswered questions.
Two weeks ago, the Western Mail’s Chief Reporter Martin Shipton wrote:
Other allegations are also swirling around the Senedd, with suggestions that outsiders were tipped off from the fifth floor that Mr Sargeant was going to lose his job in Government before he knew himself.
If that happened, it would be in potential breach of codes of conduct covering Ministers, civil servants and/ or special advisers.
It is worth saying a few words about how reshuffles are ordinarily conducted in the Welsh Government, because I have never seen a reshuffle conducted in quite this way before.
I have been involved in six reshuffles. In May 2007, Rhodri Morgan brought me into the Welsh Government as a Deputy Minister. I was appointed in the First Minister’s office in Cathays Park, with Rhodri and his then chief special advisor Mark Drakeford in attendance. In July, following the formation of the One Wales Government, I was moved to a different Deputy Ministerial role – I was in my Rhondda constituency, so the discussion occurred on the telephone.
In December 2009, Carwyn Jones appointed me to his Cabinet as Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning. Again, this happened in the FM’s office in Cathays Park, with Special Advisor Jane Runeckles present. In May 2011, I was appointed Minister for Education and Skills, and I was reappointed to that role in the March 2013 reshuffle. Again, both meetings with the FM took place in his Cathays Park office. I was forced to resign from the Government in June 2013 – a story for another day – with the meeting taking place in the FM’s office in Cardiff Bay. I was appointed back to the Cabinet in September 2014 as Minister for Public Services, again in Cathays Park. In each of the May 2011, March 2013 and September 2014 appointments, chief special advisor Jo Kiernan was present.
When a re-shuffle takes place, very few people are ‘in the know’. They are, usually, the First Minister, his chief special adviser, possibly one or two other special advisors, and the First Minister’s ‘outer office’ of Private Office civil servants and the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat. For incumbent ministers, their private offices will know that their minister is going to meet the FM, but they won’t know what is going to happen to them. Ministerial drivers will know that they are taking Ministers to see the FM, but that is all they know.
In the case of the November 3 reshuffle, as Martin Shipton wrote on November 18, it has been widely speculated that outsiders knew in advance that Carl Sargeant was to be sacked before he did.
So what do we know? From discussions with many well-connected individuals over the last few weeks I have been able to piece together the following:
- A Labour AM told the Labour Assembly Group meeting on November 9 that he had been texted by someone he regarded as a reliable source that Carl was to lose his job, before the reshuffle was announced.
- A leading Welsh journalist received a text in advance of the reshuffle’s announcement that Carl was to be sacked.
- A Welsh Labour MP told another Welsh Labour MP that Carl was to lose his job, before the reshuffle was announced.
So who told what to whom?
Only a very small number of people would have known that Carl was to be sacked.
The next question that arises is this: were the leaks to the Labour AM, the Labour MP and the journalist direct from the ‘Fifth Floor’ – the Ministerial Floor – or were they from intermediaries who had themselves had information leaked to them? If so, who were the intermediaries and what interest did they have in leaking the material, and why was it leaked to them and by whom?
At the end of the day, information must have been leaked from someone – or some people – on the Fifth Floor.
The Permanent Secretary should conduct a full leak inquiry, if she isn’t doing so already, into all calls, texts and emails sent by relevant people on the day of the reshuffle and the days leading up to it. Someone, or some people, leaked the news about Carl Sargeant’s sacking. This has never happened before in any Welsh Government reshuffle. It is unprecedented. So who leaked? And to whom? And how many people knew?