Coronavirus Curriculum Planning 2020-1

This is essentially me thinking aloud about the four post-grad modules I am scheduled to teach next academic year. Two weeks ago I said that if I was still here in the autumn – and I am planning to be:

Whatever happens, if I am here in the autumn, I will I know be teaching the social, political and economic consequences of coronavirus on at least two postgrad courses I lead.

In fact, I now think I will be teaching it on all four modules. All my teaching, aside from guest lectures, is in the October-January period, so I need to start some outline preparation. Here goes as I brain-dump some initial course thinking in a public value business school.

Government from the Inside – From the Minister’s Viewpoint (PLT435)

You can find a link to the module overview here. It is essentially an overview of the Ministerial life, from appointment to leaving office. It looks amongst other things at Appointment and the first 100 days, Ministers in Cabinet, as departmental leaders, in the Chamber and Committee, working with and against the Opposition, Ministers and the Media, pressure groups and ministers, evidence for ministerial policy-making, leaving ministerial office. It covers UK and devolved ministerial life.I am planning a book for Palgrave Macmillan based on the course which I have now taught for the last three years.

Students are assessed through an end-of-term essay. These are on topics they choose and are always interesting. Last year one student elected to look at Norman Fowler and the Aids Crisis, which has some parallels with today’s crisis. If I took a coronavirus lens I guess I would look through the course at how the virus has disrupted the marking of Boris Johnson’s 100 days in office; how COBR (A) has worked in co-ordination, including with the devolved administrations, how scrutiny of evidence has developed in Parliamentary committees, how pressure group and media criticism has influenced ministerial policy, and the role of daily press briefings in crises, the collation of evidence in an emerging crisis and the building of ministerial discursive capacity, Opposition input in the crisis, and maybe some futurism about ministerial reputations in the crisis and their likely scorecards after leaving office.

I am already collating materials, from press reports to parliamentary inquiries and government documents, which includes much of the advice that went to SAGE. (To be fair to the UK government, a lot of material has been published in respect of the evidence base and their assumptions). There is also a considerable amount of material on managing crises in the interviews with former ministers on the Institute for Government’s Ministers Reflect series. No question then that coronavirus will feature on this module.

International Business Management (BST448)

This is one of the core modules on Cardiff Business School’s MSc. in International Management. I have been teaching this module for the last two years and it has had a significant ‘tech’ focus, which has enabled the exploration of themes around globalisation, based on my recent research. In postgrad terms it’s a large module with about 140 students, a very high proportion of them from China. Who knows how or if this will change next year? The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked all kinds of writing about the future of globalisation, networks, re-localisation, etc. The COVID-19 outbreak also lends itself to a straightforward introduction for management students to PESTLE analysis.

There are significant opportunities here obviously to look comparatively at governmental and political responses, business impacts in different sectors, the role of technology in surveillance of the disease (and obviously surveillance more generally), and how the disease may affect international business development, including global value chains. It may allow students to bring their own country by country observations to the forefront.

Think I will definitely be teaching COVID-19 and its impact on the the global economy this course, but it may require some re-writing.

Leading Policy and Delivery (BST652)

I was involved in co-developing our new part-time MSc in Public Leadership . This autumn I will be teaching the module about leading policy into delivery over three sessions. I guess that COVID-19 will become one of the cases that we will interrogate as it will be directly relevant to everyone’s immediate experience. Our students come from a variety of public service backgrounds.

Unlike the ministerial module above, the focus will be more about the impact on public service delivery. So I can see us covering its impact on the relationship between the making of policy and its implementation on the ground; thefeedback loops between frontline delivery and policy-making; collaboration between services,  both devolved and non-devolved; integration of third sector in delivery; what this means for target-setting, capacity- building, resilience planning, governance.

Much of this would have been discussed on the module in any case. But there is quite a lot to plan for here. And I think the agenda will expand as time goes by.

Strategic Planning and Innovation (BST680).

This year we began teaching a postgraduate Diploma in Healthcare  Planning in Wales. I am one of two academics teaching on the Strategic Planning and Innovation module. To a degree, our emphasis, as the NHS Wales Deputy Chief Executive, Simon Dean, said at Cardiff Business School in 2019, is that what matters most is the planning, not the plan. Though this was devised before the COVID-19 outbreak, we already had considered planning for unexpected emergencies and crises and ways in which governments did this in a variety of spheres, from terrorist outbreaks to a no-deal Brexit. COVID-19 forces consideration of previous planning exercises for pandemics.

This module from my perspective probably needs some adjustment but less overall than the others, as the key themes are there in outline, but need drawing out with reference to the current crisis, and the evidence materials published by the UK Government already mentioned above are directly relevant.

That was a brain-dump on behalf of my course planning. Now I need to allocate time for teaching preparation for each of these modules.

 

Coronavirus – Living well is the best revenge

As a 62 year-old asthmatic with ropey lungs I have been apprehensive about Coronavirus for some weeks, and the news from Italy over the last week or so intensified my worries.

Today, one conference at which I was to give a paper in April (Political Studies Association in Edinburgh) has been cancelled. Last week their expressed view was that they were going ahead. Cardiff University has now taken the decision on the other one where I was due to give a paper out of my hands – PUPOL in The Hague at Leiden University –, saying ‘all work-related travel outside the UK should be postponed until further notice unless it is essential.’ I suspect PUPOL would have been cancelled anyway.

We are waiting on the UK government’s decisions over closures and further social distancing. Obviously Ireland made its decision to close schools etc today. Yesterday, Denmark, where our son lives, took that decision.

My 90 year old mother has been in and out of hospital over the last four weeks, so that has been my main concern as I have been visiting her in hospital, and when she was out last week there were a series of medical and care calls to undertake, before she went back in on Sunday.

My mother’s care and the need to visit her in hospital means that I cannot do what Colin Talbot has done and self-isolate, or ‘cocoon’ as Colin prefers, but from what I know of Colin’s medical conditions they are much more serious than mine. But I have been giving active consideration to that, given the way COVID-19 targets the lungs. We haven’t been stockpiling toilet rolls but our cupboards and freezer have the necessary basics to avoid shopping if we had to. Today I noticed local shop-keepers wearing plastic gloves and using sanitiser after customers touched card machines and counters, and who can blame them.

We also have childcare responsibilities with our grand-children – days spent with them are a bonus to life.

I am currently due to give a lecture on Monday to 2-300 students as a guest lecturer on another course, but there is no reason why the materials couldn’t be delivered on-line, and that is the same case with a guest lecture the following week to a smaller number.

The charity I chair, the Cardiff City Community Foundation, has its annual Foundation year events over the weekend starting tomorrow, as we celebrate how Our Club Changes Lives. We have been reviewing all our activities – and our risks – over the last week in the context of the advice from Public Health Wales.

This is a year in which we were lucky enough to have a concentrated period of holidays in May and June – a wedding in Spain, an educational visit to Sicily, and then the Euros in Rome for which we are fortunate enough to have tickets. How many of these will now go ahead is anyone’s guess. UEFA is meeting to discuss whether the Euros are postponed for a year apparently.

Whatever happens, if I am here in the autumn, I will I know be teaching the social, political and economic consequences of coronavirus on at least two postgrad courses I lead.

If I am here in the autumn. I plan to be, but the truth is no-one knows what outcomes will be. I am sick of hearing about people who have died being described as elderly or having ‘underlying health conditions’. Every coronavirus death is a tragedy. No-one should be dehumanised and no death simply excused away as due to the individual being ‘elderly’ or having ‘underlying health conditions’. I have underlying health conditions. So do millions.

We are living with uncertainty, in a way that few of my generation and those younger have ever experienced. Indeed maybe only those with experience of living through the war have anything similar to compare it with.

I think the advice from the UK government will now change to a more intensified set of social distancing recommendations every few days. I have confidence in the scientists, but I am keeping an eye on what is being said in Italy in particular.

The declared number of cases is not the true number of cases, as the scientists said today. 500+ cases officially in the UK, but more like 5-10,000 in the population as a whole, and they are no longer going to be testing cases in the community, but keeping testing for those in hospital already.

They are, without saying it, planning for the worst, and unlike with swine flu and avian flu, where preparations were made for the worst case, we have practical evidence in Europe of what that worst case looks like.

New Statesman article

The New Statesman has published this article from me on the Tories’ new ‘activist unionism’. Below I republish it with links.

 There is a new orthodoxy on the left – the notion that Brexit will inevitably mean the break-up of the Union. Scotland will secede. Northern Ireland will vote to reunite with Ireland.  These things are indeed possible. But equally possible is that we end up in a post-Brexit creaking UK able still to cling together through a new state overhaul driven from the centre.

Some attention has been given post-election to the Conservative plans for a constitutional commission. But less focus has been given to the significant plans being put together for a re-servicing of the Union. The Policy Exchange think-tank has called for ‘a Grand Strategy to modernise the United Kingdom.’ This is an activist Unionism of a kind only glimpsed before.

Since the 1970s, there have been two significant modernisations of the UK state. The first, the neoliberal Thatcherite agenda based on a hollowing out of the central state, with new central agencies, restrictions on local government’s freedom of manoeuvre, privatisation and deregulation. The second, the New Labour modernisation of 1997-2010, including devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, the Good Friday Agreement, the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information and the Supreme Court, with centrally-driven targets for service delivery in England. We are now on the cusp of a third modernisation, outlined in the Conservative manifesto, reinforced in the background notes to the December Queen’s Speech, and fleshed out in a series of policy papers.

Some of this pre-dates the Johnson government. The Dunlop Review of UK Union Capability was established under Theresa May with the objective ‘as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union….to consider how through its institutional arrangements it meets the challenge of strengthening and sustaining the Union in the future’ . But the Conservative Manifesto and Queen’s Speech make it clear that this is now part of a strategic programme.

The Conservative Party has usually had a strong focus on the possible uses of state power, even when deregulating and privatising. Alastair Campbell’s second volume of diaries record an observation of the late Alan Clark that Conservatives were fascinated with him and the Blair project because they recognised a real enthusiasm for power and its uses. The Conservatives now have at the helm someone who understands the uses of state power. Dominic Cummings has, says Rachel Wolf, one of the authors of the Conservative manifesto, been thinking about the UK state for twenty years. Cumminsology, as Alain de Botton called it recently in the New Statesman, involves a focus on the need for a more efficient and modernised state machinery: and a profound fury at the inefficiencies of existing state procedures (which many who have served in governments will share).

Cummings, and his former boss Michael Gove, are often under-estimated by some on the left who prefer caricature to analysis. As I wrote about Gove in 2014, ‘he is a deeply serious, and deeply ideological politician, whose objective is shifting the political agenda strategically’. Ditto Cummings. He is, as Tony Blair’s former political secretary John McTernan wrote in July, ‘a man with a plan’.

The Conservative state modernisation agenda is extensive. If the range of Policy Exchange papers on the Constitution, the Judiciary and Whitehall is accurate, its possibilities range from limiting the powers of the Supreme Court – possibly even re-branding it as simply an Upper Court of Appeal, to remove the sense that it is a constitutional court – to an infrastructure modernisation programme for the UK, a re-casting of central institutions to oversee the Union, with the engagement of devolved authorities such as Mayors within England to address the UK/English delivery confusion, to a series of Whitehall reforms (some of which are pretty uncontroversial) and the creation of a UK form of the American defence-linked research agency DARPA, one of Dominic Cummings’ long-held ambitions .

Some of the approach to an activist unionism has already been rolled out in Wales, where the Wales Office has essentially been re-branded as the UK Government in Wales, central government funded initiatives such as the City Deal have been used to build stronger relationships directly between the UK Government and Welsh institutions including local authorities. A ‘Western powerhouse’ model, bringing together Cardiff, Newport and Bristol, was launched to undermine Welsh Government economic plans. Welsh appointments to bodies under the control of the UK government have been politicised, as Policy Exchange suggests should happen across the UK. In the General Election, the Conservatives even promised to deliver the M4 Relief Road, without the power to do so. The Queens Speech promises a cross-border Marches deal, and many other actions.

This activist unionism may not be enough. The latest state modernisation programme may well do nothing fundamental to resolve the post-Brexit challenges of the UK. It may simply leave us with the latest modernised version of what Tom Nairn three decades ago called Ukania. But no-one should assume that the break-up of the UK is inevitable, or that Gove-Cummings haven’t thought about these things. They have, and their previous experience in respect of English schools shows that they understand the uses of state power and are capable of fast and far-reaching action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve loaned my vote to the Greens.

My membership of the Labour Party lapsed in March. I’d decided months before that I wasn’t going to be caught out by an automatic renewal and cancelled my direct debit.

I might still have voted Labour, and the choice not to would have been harder in Wales if Derek Vaughan had stood for re-election or one or two of the other Labour candidates like Mary Wimbury, whom I’ve known for years, had been top of the Labour list.

But ultimately I decided not to vote for the pro-Brexit anti-Semitic shambles that the Labour leadership has allowed the party to become. In 2017 I voted Labour, and my vote has been waved around with that of millions of others as an endorsement of the leadership’s plans for a better Brexit. Well, stuff that. We won’t get fooled again.

When my postal ballot arrived two weeks ago, I returned it immediately with a cross against the Greens. Caroline Lucas has been the outstanding Parliamentary leader for a People’s Vote that I’ve now marched for several times in London. Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has done great work on the regulation of Facebook in the European Parliament, and I’ve just finished writing a book on this subject.*

There’s a bigger reason for voting Green of course, and that’s to do with the ceaseless drive of capitalist consumption that threatens our planet and human and other life on it. I’m voting for my grand-daughters and their future.

I know others will have made different choices, and there are good people standing for a number of the other anti-Brexit parties. I’m not saying the Greens are perfect, but strategically I’d like to see them to do well in these elections and in 2021 see them sitting in our National Assembly.

I’d like to come home, Labour friends, but hey, have you got work to do. If Labour enables Brexit I won’t be back.  If Brexit happens, and we end up in Ukania, then I’m not sure what future the unionist parties have in any case. The Leavers don’t care for the Union, after all. If we have to face life after Brexit, then other political choices may have to be made.

There’s no joy in this, by the way. Only sadness.

Ukania beckons, and the far-right is on the march. Labour leadership could have pointed the way to a progressive alternative. Instead, it ducks the key decision of our time.

*For Labour, both Jo Stevens and Ian Lucas have also done brilliant work on this subject in the U.K. Parliament, let me say, in the most exceptional Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry I have ever seen. But that’s another story. 

Remembering Sarge, one year on

We lost Carl a year ago today. My Radio Wales tribute that day can be found here.

Once again, I want to thank Felicity Evans for her sensitivity in interviewing.

I won’t be posting more on this as I expect to be giving evidence at the Inquest in a couple of weeks time.

The historical significance of Carwyn Jones as First Minister

Carwyn Jones’s announcement on Saturday that he was standing down has taken time to sink in, and only now are people beginning to weigh up the immense contribution he made as First Minister.  I believe that he will be regarded as a historically significant First Minister and I am glad that he had the opportunity to announce his departure amongst friends and family at Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno.

Where Rhodri Morgan consolidated a devolution project that was very fragile when he became Welsh Labour leader, as I said on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Carwyn’s role has been to develop the role of the National Assembly and the Welsh Government. We now have a law-making Assembly with tax-raising powers. It was Carwyn’s bold decision to take forward the referendum in 2011, with the support of coalition partners Plaid Cymru, despite the foot-dragging of the Conservative-led coalition government at Westminster, and it was he who articulated the new name of Welsh Government for the executive body after the 2011 election.

Carwyn pioneered the tax-raising role of the institution with his personal support for a levy on plastic bags that was a pioneering policy now adopted by other parts of the UK. He did that despite scepticism, and some hostility, in the business community.

It is also often forgotten that Carwyn was the first First Minister who was home-grown: in other words, he had grown into political life within the National Assembly, not having served at Westminster like his predecessors. That gave him a healthy distance from what can be a stultifying obsession with Westminster parliamentary sovereignty and an openness to new constitutional developments.

His personal commitment to education, firmly articulated in his 2009 leadership campaign, paved the way for further investment and a substantial programme of school improvement, as well as underpinning the decision to protect Welsh students against £9000 tuition fees.

He has been capable of bold decisions with clear vision, such as the purchase of Cardiff Airport, now expanding with new routes across the world, and new and innovative legislation in areas such as organ donation, introduced despite controversy and articulated clearly by Carwyn himself.

He gave space for a new approach for public service reform, which Carl Sargeant developed and carried through in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, that means public service bodies in Wales have to come to the table to work through their public service delivery on a cross-boundary basis. The Violence against Women legislation, which Carl championed, Lesley Griffiths introduced, and I took through the National Assembly, will be seen as another significant achievement.

In the first decade of devolution the taps of public sector investment were turned on: but five months after Carwyn’s election as First Minister a Conservative-led coalition was in office implementing austerity policies which forced difficult choices on all of us in government. Carwyn provided leadership, not least on the economic front, where programmes like Jobs Growth Wales delivered more successfully than Westminster-based work programmes. Where the Conservative-led coalition scrapped the Remploy factories, the Welsh Government introduced a scheme to support employers who took on Remploy workers.

When the steel crisis hit in 2016, and the UK government proved dilatory and unable to act, Carwyn ensured a strong Welsh response which protected Welsh jobs at Tata. That response in 2016 helped turn around Welsh Labour fortunes in seats in Wales which had seemed in the early months of 2016 to be under threat from the Tories.

In electoral terms, Carwyn’s successes in 2011 and 2016 outdid, albeit in very different circumstances, those of his predecessors: and he made a significant personal contribution to the 2017 UK Labour campaign which led to the recapturing of Cardiff North, Gower and Vale of Clwyd.

In respect of Brexit, he identified earlier than most the pivotal importance of the Irish border issue, based on his family connections through Lisa and his own study of the subject.

In his conference speech, he expressed the view that the last few months have been the darkest of times. Bluntly, the last five and a half months have been miserable, indeed hateful. They have of course been darkest of all for the family and close friends of Carl Sargeant, but there has never been any question that they have taken a huge toll on Carwyn and his family. He will know above all the need in Welsh Labour for the healing to commence, and that his decision to stand down will now enable people to come together, as Jack Sargeant has passionately and bravely articulated, in pursuit of a kinder politics.

The Hamilton Inquiry

The Hamilton report is the expected whitewash. It is partial, inconsistent, contradictory and ignores evidence from a number of witnesses.

This should be no surprise, because the Hamilton inquiry was flawed from the beginning.

First, it was misrepresented by some as an inquiry into bullying. It wasn’t an inquiry into bullying, as Mr Hamilton himself states in paragraph 7. It was a narrowly-drawn inquiry into whether or not the First Minister misled the Assembly on two named dates.

I have tapes and transcripts of my interviews with Mr Hamilton. When I met him on 8 February Mr Hamilton told me that he couldn’t ‘make a finding about a substantive complaint of bullying’ and that his concern was ‘simply to record whether there were allegations or not on the relevant dates.’

Second, at the outset Mr Hamilton was unable to give witnesses any assurances about confidentiality. I wrote to him on 17 December asking whether he could give assurances to witnesses who feared repercussions. In his reply to me on 22 December, he made it clear that he was not able to give such assurances.

As a result of that, several witnesses felt uncomfortable about giving evidence, as the BBC reported in January.

Some of these people were never even contacted by Mr Hamilton. Separately, according to paragraph 46 of Mr Hamilton’s report, one Minister who could have given evidence did not do so. I am aware of at least four people who could have given relevant evidence but did not wish to do so because of the framing of the Inquiry or the failure to give assurances about protection of witnesses’ identities or their evidence. I am also aware of people who were told that their evidence was unnecessary or not likely to be relevant.

At least one potential witness declined to give evidence to Mr. Hamilton as a direct result of clear failures by the inquiry to uphold a public guarantee made by the Permanent Secretary, to provide “safeguards to ensure due separation”

I made it clear to the BBC last December that my complaint about the conduct of the chief special adviser to the First Minister was not about bullying – Mr Hamilton was aware of this.

There is no question that several Ministers raised concerns about the conduct of a special adviser prior to 11 November 2014. Matt Greenough, one of the First Minister’s special advisers, was aware that we wished to discuss these issues with the First Minister. Matt texted me on 14 October 2014 making it clear that he had told the First Minister that we wished to raise these issues with him.

My contemporaneous diary notes, supplied to Mr Hamilton, explicitly challenge the version of events given by Mr Greenough and the First Minister in paragraph 35 and this text from Mr Greenough confirms my version:

IMG_7869

I have contemporaneous diary notes documenting my conversations with Matt Greenough and with the First Minister. Mr Hamilton told me that I was the only witness with contemporaneous notes, and told me ’I suppose it shows the wisdom of you keeping your diary’.

I asked the First Minister on 19 November 2014 for a formal inquiry into whether or not his chief special adviser had breached the code of conduct for special advisers. My complaint was specific and limited to the issue set out in paragraph 37 of Mr Hamilton’s report, as I have always said. It was not about bullying and I did not suggest that it was. I did not raise any other issues at that time.

Reluctantly, the First Minister agreed to a formal investigation and told me that the head of the Delivery Unit, Marion Stapleton, would carry out this inquiry. I had taken a letter setting out my complaint with me. I asked the First Minister if he wanted anything in writing from me, and he said he did not. At the time I took that in good faith.

When I asked the First Minister on 4 February 2015 what had happened to the Inquiry, he told me ‘Marion found nothing.’ He sent me the following text later that day:

IMG_1241

All of these matters are recorded in my diary.

I heard no more.

I now know, from Written Answers and from a Freedom of Information request I submitted in 2017, that the First Minister never asked Ms Stapleton to carry out any such inquiry, despite what he told me on 19 November 2014 and 4 February 2015 in meetings, and on 4 February 2015 by text. I had sincerely believed at the time that the First Minister had commissioned her to do this, and I was shocked when I discovered in December 2017 that he had not.

I supplied Mr Hamilton with the text above from the First Minister to me. I am surprised that no reference is made to this in his report. I have therefore set out the evidence here and  leave it to others to judge whether the First Minister deliberately misled me in 2014 and 2015 when I was a serving member of his Cabinet.

I need to comment explicitly on some points of detail made in Mr Hamilton’s report. In paragraph 39, Mr Hamilton says my ‘failure to hand over’ on 19 November the letter of complaint I had drafted ‘is difficult to understand.’ This wholly contradicts what Mr Hamilton said to me on 8 February. When I met Mr Hamilton on 8 February, he told me ‘I can understand why you didn’t’.

In paragraph 40 Mr Hamilton fails to mention that I have documentary evidence that I put the chief special adviser’s statement to me that Carl Sargeant had ignored legal advice on the Gender-based Violence Bill on 12 September 2014 directly to Carl on that very day in the form of a text message to him. Carl responded robustly making it clear that the statement was untrue. In respect of paragraph 41 I did not claim that these remarks were bullying. My complaint was limited and precise.

In paragraph 45 Mr Hamilton refers to a witness who asserted that he had raised concerns about bullying with the First Minister, but these claims were disputed by the First Minister. The witness is known to me. That witness gave written evidence, with dates of conversations with the First Minister, and also supplied Mr Hamilton with an email he had sent to the First Minister. Mr Hamilton makes no reference to this email.

In paragraph 47 Mr Hamilton refers to a ‘small number of friends or associates of the late Mr Sargeant.’ Elsewhere in paragraph 21 Mr Hamilton says that he interviewed 23 people. I am personally aware of at least 10 witnesses who gave verbal evidence to Mr Hamilton who could be referred to as friends of Carl Sargeant. I am aware of two others who had written communication with Mr Hamilton but did not give verbal evidence. 10 out of 23 – or 12 out of 25 – is not ‘a small number’. A leading Welsh journalist made it clear in November 2017 that he had been made aware in 2014 of complaints of bullying within Welsh Government. His evidence is ignored by Mr Hamilton. Evidence from a former civil servant that Mr Sargeant had been ‘constantly monitored and micro-managed’ is ignored by Mr Hamilton.

In paragraph 61 Mr Hamilton takes at face value the claim by the First Minister that when he said in the Chamber on 14 November 2017 issues brought to his attention had been ‘dealt with’ he meant issues ‘which arose from time to time involving disagreements between Ministers’. I do not agree that these issues were disagreements which from time to time happen between ministers. They were not issues between ministers. They were issues about the treatment of advisers and ministers. As I told Mr Hamilton, I did not regard those issues as having been dealt with. I am aware that evidence was given that Carl Sargeant did not believe that they had been dealt with either. I pointed out to Mr Hamilton that in a series of answers to Opposition Assembly Members arising from this the First Minister said that such issues were matters for the Independent Adviser’s Inquiry. Mr Hamilton told me, in respect  of the First Minister’s answers, ‘to some extent, what he did was kick into touch I suppose, in a number of those sessions’. I do not believe that these issues have been adequately addressed by Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton appears to have nothing to say about the documentary evidence I provided to him about my conversation and text exchange with the First Minister on 4 February 2015 to which I refer above.

I stand by my previous statements – confirmed by others – that at times in the 2011-16 Assembly there was a toxic atmosphere on the Fifth Floor and that Mr Sargeant and certain other Ministers were subject to persistent personal undermining: indeed, during 2018 I have subsequently learned that the undermining of certain Ministers, including myself, was more extensive than I thought at the time.

It is odd that, having stated that he was not tasked with testing whether there was a substantive case about bullying, Mr Hamilton then goes on to state that there was no substantive evidence of bullying or persistent personal undermining given to him. As he said, this was not an inquiry into bullying. Had it been, then more substantive examples could have been given, including by people who declined to give evidence. I have been told that some people had given evidence about being bullied but this does not appear in Mr Hamilton’s report. In my evidence, I told Mr Hamilton that I had been made aware of a series of complaints that any inquiry into bullying would have to look into, including  breaches of employment practices and equal pay laws.

The Hamilton Inquiry was a narrowly-drawn investigation into whether or not the First Minister had misled the Assembly by his statements on two specific dates. I am not surprised at the conclusion. The Terms of Reference given to Mr Hamilton were designed and framed with one objective – to allow the First Minister to gain time for himself, or in Mr Hamilton’s vernacular, to ‘kick into touch’.

All of this makes it clear how important are the Terms of Reference for the QC-led Independent Inquiry which has yet to commence.