A few weeks ago, Paul Martin of BBC Wales ran a story saying that some people were reluctant to give evidence to the Inquiry currently underway into whether the First Minister had breached the ministerial code. Separately, last week ITV’s Adrian Masters published an article about the concerns expressed by some witnesses that the hearings were being held in Welsh Government buildings. Both stories are true and I have incorporated in my evidence material from some reluctant to have their names used.
But matters are worse than that. There have been several attempts, which I suspect have been coordinated, to undermine people who have spoken up in support of Carl Sargeant. I am aware of a number of public servants whose employers have had malicious or anonymous mail about them.
In my own case, my employer, Cardiff University, has had a series of FoI requests on matters which have nothing to do with my work, clearly intended to damage my reputation or undermine my relationship with the University.
Cardiff University, I am pleased to say, has been robust in my defence, as has the Universities and Colleges Union, UCU.
Here is a selection from the FoI requests. I will publish more in due course.
I would like to know details of any disciplinary investigations and/or sanctions involving Leighton Andrews, details of any complaints made against him and details of all complaints raised formally or informally by him since January 1st 2017.
Could I please request under the freedom of information act, Leighton Andrews’s diary since November 5th this year and details and content of any communication – text, emails, calls, WhatsApp messages – between Leighton Andrews and employees of Wales Online/Media Wales/Western Mail, BBC, ITV, Golwg, The Times, The Daily Mail, Guido Fawkes and Skwawkbox since November 3rd 2017.
Please provide any communications relating to Leighton Andrews’ behaviour and public comments since November 5th 2017, details of all meetings between Leighton Andrews and his superiors (both departmental and within the wider organisational structure) since November 5th 2017, and all communications relating to either permission or requests to allow Leighton Andrews to conduct non-university business during normal working hours since November 5th 2017.
Please provide (under the Freedom of Information Act), any communications, notes or minutes relating to the commercial, financial or organisational impact on the university of Leighton Andrews’ recent public comments since the beginning of November 2017. I would also like copies of any communications between Leighton Andrews and email addresses ending in @assembly.wales, @senedd.cymru, @gov.wales, @wales.gsi.gov.uk, and @parliament.uk.
In my opinion, these FoI requests are malicious, and designed to undermine my reputation and discredit me.
In November, a few days after Carl Sargeant’s death, following my blogpost about the toxic atmosphere on the Ministerial Floor in Ty Hywel for much of 2011-16, the First Minister told senior Welsh Labour A.M.s that people were being ‘lined up’ to attack me. Within days, an anonymous MP was slagging me off to the BBC . The First Minister went on television and attacked me in December. Subsequently, journalists have told me that people close to the First Minister have been making insinuations about me and also about a member of my family. I am aware that another attack on me is currently being prepared. Others, in public service, have suffered worse.
In my opinion, these attacks are designed to intimidate and to discourage people from giving evidence to the inquiries that have been established. Some people feel too exposed to give evidence. These attacks on friends of Carl – who are not elected politicians – are vile and disgusting. Remember, all of this is happening today, in post-devolution Wales, not in Senator McCarthy’s time in the USA. It is deeply damaging to devolution, to the reputation of Welsh Labour, and the reputation of the Welsh Government. I have kept the chair of Welsh Labour informed about the attacks on me, and I am grateful for his supportive approach. But the attacks need to stop, and Welsh Labour colleagues need to take action to ensure that they do.