Johnson, Churchill and Crisis Communications

My article on Johnson, Churchill and crisis communications was published in the New European yesterday. It was written and published before we knew the Prime Minister had contracted COVID-19, and I genuinely wish him a swift recovery. But that doesn’t invalidate what I wrote:

The UK Government’s coronavirus communications have been poor. Partly because of the apparent change of strategy – from the formation of ‘herd immunity’ at the risk of a large number of deaths to a stronger emphasis on social distancing and self-isolation. The initial strategy, heavily criticised and harder to explain, will unquestionably be the subject of Parliamentary and Public Inquiries in due course. Inquiries will also deal with the apparent delays in creating more ICU beds, ordering additional ventilators and protective equipment for front-line staff. For now, the priority is getting those problems sorted.

But the major problem has been the Prime Minister. The people taking key decisions at the centre of this unprecedented crisis are intelligent, hard-working and diligent, working under extreme pressure, at great pace and with facts and evidence that are being gathered in real-time. But the PM’s performance has not inspired confidence. Alastair Campbell, who knows a thing or two about crisis communications, published twenty recommendations for practical things the government should be doing. His key observation was the need for the Prime Minister to ‘narrate’ a strategy. Unlike his hero Churchill, Boris Johnson has failed in that. Even Monday’s address to the nation showed someone trying but failing to suppress his gung-ho bonhomie.

There are four key factors that can gleaned from the writings of Churchill’s contemporaries, people who served with him or watched him at close distance. They are

  • Clarity
  • Gravity
  • Preparation, and
  • Discipline

Clarity. Waffle won’t wash. Indeed, it confuses the message. Churchill could sometimes be prolix in his orations but he knew the importance of clarity and concision in the delivery of messages. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister in 1940, he wrote a minute to his War Cabinet headed ‘Brevity’.  It’s as relevant today as when it was written. ‘To do our work’, said Churchill, ‘we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.’ This was not a plea for recommendations without evidence – where needed, that should be given in an Appendix. The demand for brevity, to Churchill, wasn’t simply about the use of time. It was about getting clarity. This one-page memorandum ended ‘the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.’

Gravity. Churchill didn’t treat the British people as idiots, setting out the severest challenges with honesty. He also used humour wisely. Sir Ian Jacob, Military Assistant Secretary to the War Cabinet, and later BBC Director-General, recalled ‘humour in debate was not precluded, provided it did not degenerate into levity.’ Churchill wouldn’t have offered ‘Operation Last-Gasp’ in a meeting or conference call as Johnson is alleged to have done with industrialists in discussions on ventilator manufacture. Churchill had strong views on the naming of key war-time operations, stressing that they should not be frivolous or boastful. He understood the dignity of state office. It wasn’t a game.

Preparation. Churchill was a ‘girly swot’. Jacob said ‘his passion for detail is well known’. What most impressed people about Churchill, Jacob recalled, ‘was the fury of his concentration’. The diaries of his Assistant Private Secretary, Jock Colville, are littered with references to his preparations for speeches. A frequent opponent, Aneurin Bevan, recorded that Churchill ‘prepared his work with care and polished and re-polished it.’ The Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Alan Brooke, who frequently clashed with Churchill, recalled in his diaries that he often had to help with Churchill’s speech preparations:

the whole Cabinet table had usually been littered with segments of the speech which had been returned by various people with remarks of criticisms. He worked at tremendous pressure on these occasions.

Discipline. Not all Churchill’s speeches worked. But in the midst of crisis, Churchill understood the importance of discipline for getting his message across. Bevan recalled that Churchill’s speeches ‘advanced along a broad sweeping front, making this point, then another, paragraph by paragraph, a majestic progress.’ Clement Attlee explained how Churchill provided the narrative for the war effort. ‘If somebody asked me what exactly Winston did to win the war, I would say “Talk about it”’.

Clarity, gravity, preparation, discipline. Not words yet associated with the current Prime Minister whose slap-dash extemporising has delivered mixed messages. Where Macron, Merkel, Sturgeon, Varadkar and even Rishi Sunak have been clear and controlled, Johnson has jabbered.

Churchill of course didn’t face 24-hour news or real-time social media. But he knew the importance of message discipline in a crisis. The Prime Minister should re-read his own book on Churchill, particularly this: ‘Churchill’s speeches were a triumph of effort, and preparation.’ From now on, he has to stay scripted.

 

 

Leighton Andrews is Professor of Public Leadership at Cardiff Business School, and a former Welsh Government Minister.

 

 

 

 

This is a time for honesty.

My Labour membership application has been rejected.

My application to rejoin the Labour Party has been rejected because I won’t be voting for the Corbyn continuity candidate.

I received a letter from Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) this week saying that the General Secretary, Jennie Formby, had taken action to reject my membership application. She had the power to do this ‘for any reason she sees fit.’

This is the same Jennie Formby who told me when I applied to renew my membership on 15 January that members like me were ‘the heart and soul of the party’. You can see her welcoming email above. I received a text thanking me for rejoining at the same time.

IMG_3810

The GLU letter, received at 00.44 on 24 March, meaning I missed it when it originally arrived, says I was being refused membership because of information ‘brought to the attention of national officers’, namely that ‘you publicly stated on Twitter on 23 May 2019 that you had cancelled your Labour membership and were voting for the Green Party’.

My tweet is here:

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 04.30.38

The GLU statement of course is inaccurate. My Labour Party membership had lapsed in March 2019. I was not a Labour member when I voted Green in May 2019. I explained in a blogpost here that I was loaning my vote to the Greens because of Labour’s failure to deal with anti-semitism and its hopeless dithering on Brexit. The BBC covered this at the time.

I’d been wondering for two months why my promised membership card hadn’t arrived. I explained in a New Statesman article on 9 March that I hadn’t had my membership card or ballot, and I would be voting for Lisa Nandy then Keir Starmer if I did. I said

I rejoined the Labour Party in January explicitly to vote in the leadership election for a candidate who can reclaim Labour from Corbynism, address the issue of anti-Semitism, and reconnect the party with the wider public.

I also explained that in the December 2019 General Election, I had  voted for my local Labour MP Kevin Brennan, who had a strong anti-Brexit position, having voted, like all other Cardiff Labour MPs, against the introduction of Article 50 in 2017. I had donated to a couple of local Labour campaigns in Wales too.

In the New Statesman article I speculated that perhaps my membership was being looked at:

My membership of the Labour Party lapsed in March 2019. I’d decided months before that I wasn’t going to be caught out by an automatic renewal and cancelled my direct debit. In the European elections. I decided not to vote for the pro-Brexit anti-Semitic shambles that the Labour leadership has allowed the party to become. After all, in the 2017 I had voted Labour, and my vote had been waved around with that of millions of others as an endorsement of the leadership’s plans for a better Brexit. Well, stuff that. Won’t get fooled again.

So, having left Labour, I loaned my vote to the Greens last May. My decision was explicitly prompted by the Labour NEC decision on Brexit. Perhaps that means that my membership application is being closely scrutinised. Who knows? Personally I would hope that my thirteen years as an elected Welsh Labour member of the National Assembly for Wales, along with eight years as a Welsh Labour minister, might just count in my favour. After all, a lot of people with long records of supporting other parties were allowed to join Labour in the summer of 2015.

Indeed, in 2015, people who had voted and advocating voting Green or Plaid Cymru in the 2015 General Election were allowed to join Labour just a few weeks later.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that I am being excluded for making it clear two weeks ago that I wouldn’t be voting for the Corbyn continuity candidate. The Labour hierarchy has been trawling round to find excuses to strip Labour membership of longstanding supporters like Alastair Campbell and Trevor Phillips, both of whom I count as friends, with far more urgency than they acted on anti-Semites.

Alastair explained why he decided in the end that he wouldn’t contest the decision to expel him , stating that

The culture you have helped to create has made the party one which I feel no longer truly represents my values, or the hopes I have for Britain. Secondly, as someone who has been obsessed all my life with Labour winning, because otherwise we risk the continuing, debilitating Conservative domination of our politics, I see no strategy in place or even in development that remotely meets the electoral or policy challenges ahead. On the contrary, in so far as I ascertain a strategy at all, it is one that looks more designed to lose.

December’s General Election proved him right.

Labour lost office at UK level almost ten years ago. In a podcast with the Western Mail‘s Martin Shipton in January , I outlined some of my criticism of UK Labour leadership since 2010, beginning with the failures to stop the Con-Lib coalition pinning the 2008 financial crash on Labour and to stand up for the 1997-2010 record.

My membership matters not a jot in the current crises the country faces. Labour’s inability to forge a broad, popular movement against a government destroying democratic norms matters enormously. Labour needs all the friends it can get – but as we know, some people are happier in a cult of the like-minded, not a broad popular movement.

The letter from Labour’s GLU is here:

 

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 04.12.59

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.

 

Why I’ve rejoined Labour

IMG_3810I rejoined the Labour Party yesterday, explicitly to vote in the leadership election for a candidate who can take Labour away from the cult, address the issue of anti-semitism, and reconnect the party with the wider public.

As I explained in May, I left Labour over the two issues of anti-semitism and Brexit. My membership lapsed in March. My decision to vote Green in the European elections was explicitly prompted by the Labour NEC decision on Brexit.

As I explained in my podcast with Martin Shipton yesterday, in the December General Election, I voted for my local Labour MP Kevin Brennan, who had a strong anti-Brexit position, having voted, like all other Cardiff Labour MPs, against the introduction of Article 50 in 2017. I donated to a couple of local Labour campaigns too. The Western Mail article based on the podcast outlines some of my criticism of UK Labour leadership since 2010, beginning with the failures to stop the Con-Lib coalition pinning the 2008 financial crash on Labour and to stand up for the 1997-2010 record.

I am rejoining now because the leadership campaign so far suggests that there is a chance of returning the Labour Party to sensible but radical leadership.

This is not to say that whoever is elected, Labour doesn’t face significant challenges. And the challenges facing Wales and the UK as a whole are deep and will be accentuated by the lived reality of Brexit. Rebuilding won’t happen overnight. And the outcomes, in the face of the new Conservative activist unionism, are uncertain.

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.

Intimidation of witnesses

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.

Review of Adrian Masters’ Nothing has changed.

I reviewed Adrian Masters’ book Nothing has Changed for Wales Arts Review. Here’s a longer version of the review:

I’ve known Adrian Masters since he worked for BBC Radio Wales and came to interview me in my Tonypandy home prior to my election to the National Assembly in 2003. I’ve forgotten now what the item was about, but I think Adrian had been interviewing people in the Rhondda on the issues that mattered to them and then come to candidates for their views.

Adrian has always been one of the most thorough of interviewers in Welsh broadcasting – fair, but firm. His infamous red notebooks contain many secrets, some of which he shares – without revealing sources where they didn’t want to be named – in this volume of his 2017 election diaries. His title of course comes from the statement by the Prime Minister after she reversed her disastrous manifesto pledge on social care during the election campaign. By the early hours of 10 June, however, as Adrian says, ‘Everything has changed’.

This was an election where, as Adrian reminded us, the Conservatives started well-ahead of Labour in the polls and senior Labour figures thought that the party would do well to hold 200 seats. ITV Wales’s own Yougov poll had the Tories well ahead of Labour at the beginning of the campaign, poised to win 21 seats. I remember this well from a Twitter spat at the time between my friend the late Carl Sargeant and my Cardiff University colleague Roger Scully.

Though the substantive election inquests have yet to be published, this election seemed to one of two halves, reflected in the cross-over in the opinion polls and the dramatic final outcome. For the third General Election in a row I watched an exit poll come in and said ‘I don’t believe it’. Only unlike the previous two general elections I wasn’t sitting in a BBC Wales studio at the time.

Adrian’s book takes us back to the days before the election, which genuinely seem like a different electoral world. As he says ‘certainties have been lost, rules bent or broken and leaders have risen and fallen.’ His account starts with the terrorist incident in Westminster, moves through the death of Rhodri Morgan and the further terrorist outrage in Manchester, and concludes with Labour picking up Welsh seats like Vale of Clwyd, Gower and Cardiff North.

Adrian is in no doubt that the Labour surge can be put down to changing and more positive reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s performance, a strong showing by Welsh Labour under Carwyn Jones’ leadership, and argues that ‘the tributes to Rhodri Morgan also cemented the view of Welsh Labour being different.’

Where Adrian scores most heavily in these diaries is on background colour. Messages come in from different party representatives, both elected and backroom, which may have surfaced on Adrian’s Twitter feed at the time but may not have made it into broadcast reports. Things that Adrian was told then on background now surface – unattributed – in their mistaken glory.

What is written from a Labour perspective reflects conversations I was having with people at the time, but it is interesting to get an all-round view of how Conservative, Plaid and other party insiders were feeling. I can make guesses at some of the sources on the Labour side in particular, but while Adrian quotes them here to give a sense of the contemporary mood, he doesn’t embarrass them with personal unmasking. Nor would you expect him to do so.

Where people were willing to be quoted, Adrian makes good use of the material he gathered. ‘By any sensible consideration, I’m toast’ says Paul Flynn at one point. Later in the campaign he tells Adrian ‘More optimistic now. There is a favourable Welsh dimension because of Carwyn and memories of Rhodri.’ As late as the last week of the campaign a Conservative AM tells Adrian that they (he doesn’t specify gender) now think they will elect ‘a rugby team and a few reserves’. They went down to eight.

Adrian’s personal account of the ITV Wales debate is fascinating, and gives a good sense of the challenges facing a broadcast journalist trying to both maintain balance and keep the flow of the debate. His account of the behind-the-scenes row within the Conservative Party as to whether Andrew RT Davies or Alun Cairns was to appear for them is entertaining and becomes a sub-plot within the text, as does Adrian’s battle to get an interview with the PM. Campaign insider accounts of the use of Facebook and social, media to mobilise young people are interesting and valuable.

Throughout this book, Adrian demonstrates what a good print journalist he could have been. His account has pace, is well-written and thoughtful, with contemplative passages added to the contemporary diary and reconstructed notes. Reading it in the aftermath of Carl Sargeant’s tragic death made me reflect on how long ago it all now feels. Yes,  everything has changed.

Mental health and politics

I was teaching the final seminar in my module on Ministerial Life yesterday, and it was about Losing Political Office, something about which I am obviously an expert! Aside from looking at the usual kinds of ministerial exits – sackings, forced resignations, principled resignations, defeat at the ballot-box etc, I ended with an examination of the impact on loss of office which Dame Jane Roberts has undertaken. Jane was the former Leader of Camden Council and is a trained child pyschiatrist and has done good work in Wales as well on behalf of the Welsh Government. In her writings, she says:

Political mortality is not a comfortable subject to discuss. We shy away from lingering long over exits of any kind. The nature of political office and its intoxicating allure for many makes contemplating its end deeply painful.

She emphasises that this is in part because

Politics is about the promise of the future.

My summary slide of some of Jane’s arguments is here:

Jane Roberts png

In the trauma of the last few weeks, the emotional devastation has obviously been strongest with Carl’s immediate and wider family. But I have been struck by how many of his close friends are now themselves receiving counselling, and I am personally grateful to Cardiff University for facilitating that for me. Teaching, itself, has been therapeutic, and my colleagues and my students have been terrific.

I wrote five weeks ago how my mental health had improved after leaving politics. The last five weeks, I have to be honest, have not been great. A crisis like this has shown me who my friends really are. There are people I thought for years I could count on who suddenly became unavailable. There are other people in public life whose behaviour has been shockingly dishonest, and some who have indulged in name-calling, smearing and personal attacks. That has been deeply distressing to see and experience, and has simply compounded the grief at losing Carl. The emotional bullying has continued, in other words, and Welsh Labour needs to deal with it. Whether the hurt and anger will fade, only time will tell. While things continue as they are, there can be no closure, and the wounds will fester. However, truth will out.

On the positive side, there have been people, including in my own party but many in opposing parties or in the media or the civil service, or old friends who have suddenly got back in touch, who have reached out with a kind word or a private message or a hug. They know who they are, and I am deeply grateful to them.

Back in 1999, in my book Wales Says Yes, I wrote the following:

politics from Wales says Yes

Five years ago, four Assembly Members from four different parties bravely spoke out about their own mental health in a deeply moving debate in the Senedd. I have supported mental health charities in the past, and the Rhondda Labour Party donated some of its receipts from a fundraising dinner with Alastair Campbell to Time to Change Wales. Alastair and I also did a photocall for Time to Change Wales when Cardiff City played Burnley a couple of years ago, as you can see in the featured photo. We were 2-0 up till close to the end, then they equalized in the last minute, in case you wondered.

At the end of the day, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace depend on leadership from the top. If bullying – well-defined here by ACAS – is allowed to continue unabated, it poisons relationships and undermines organisational effectiveness. When I give evidence to the Inquiries coming forward, I will be giving evidence also on behalf of people who were bullied and who witnessed bullying, but in their present roles cannot themselves speak out. And I will not be silenced.