Carwyn leads tribute to ‘friend and colleague’ Carl Sargeant
TRIBUTES to Labour politician Carl Sargeant, who was found dead last week four days after losing his Cabinet job after unspecified allegations of sexual harassment were made against him, were led by First Minister Carwyn Jones in a special plenary session at the Senedd yesterday.
Mr Jones said he remembered Mr Sargeant as a politician, a colleague and a friend: “He had a knack of turning difficult pieces of legislation into something worthwhile. There’s no better example of that than the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – an idea that began as one line of a manifesto and nothing else.”
Mr Jones said that when he told Mr Sargeant he was taking that policy through he replied “Thanks for that”.
The First Minister added: “It is now being talked about around the world”.
Mr Jones said Mr Sargeant had been “ever present” in the Cabinet, and with good reason: “I appointed him because he was good at legislation because he was good with people and he brought the voice of Deeside to the heart of Government.”
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said Mr Sargeant had wanted to create a better Wales: “Politicians are lucky to get one piece of legislation through in their lifetime but Carl got four through. Each piece will have a massive outcome here in Wales. We have lost a colleague and a friend but Bernie, Lucy and Carl’s son have lost a father and a husband and that pain and distress must be burning fiercely.”
Mr Davies said he hoped they could remember the good times with a “father, mentor and inspiration”. He added: “He was one of the most genuine men I had the privilege to meet. He has a legacy to be proud of and it’s been a privilege and an honour to call Carl a fellow Assembly Member.”
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: “He was a politician who was authentically working class. He was committed to and rooted in his community.”
She described him as a “politician who could never be accused of being out of touch”, adding that his loss was a “blow to this Assembly”.
Ukip Wales leader Neil Hamilton spoke of the allegations made against Mr Sargeant, recalling his own feelings after being accused of rape along with his wife.
Mr Hamilton said: “Carl’s family must feel they have been hit by an express train. There is a human cost to the political bear pit.”
Mr Hamilton said the Assembly had collectively failed its colleague: “He was a genuine man of the people. He never acquired airs and graces.
“He never saw himself as more important than anybody else.”
Cabinet Member Lesley Griffiths said it was still hard to process Mr Sargeant’s death: “He was proud to be elected to this place in 2003. I followed in 2007 and we quickly became great friends.”
Mr Sargeant had been proud of his working class background.
Ms Griffiths said: “There are very few Bills and Acts Carl didn’t have a hand in. He was full of fun and very mischievous at times. He took his role as an elected representative seriously. He was proud to be an advocate for his constituency and especially those who didn’t have a voice.”
She said: “Carl had a wicked sense of humour and loved making me and others laugh.
“His banter was legendary and he always won the award for heckler of the year.”
A few years ago, he had decided to teach himself to crochet, using YouTube while on the train home.
“He made some beautiful items,” she said.
Ms Griffiths said she loved watching the looks of other passengers seeing this “burly guy crocheting a pink baby bonnet”.
He had a “beautiful, sensitive and vulnerable soul”.
She added: “I loved him as a brother, even though he called me mother.
“I know he loved me as a sister. We are heartbroken he is no longer with us.”
Presiding Officer Elin Jones thanked all AMs for their “sincere and warm” tributes.
She said others had wanted to speak but she hadn’t been able to call everyone.
She ended the session with her own tribute, saying: “We come to this Assembly from many and varied backgrounds, representing every community in Wales. Sometimes this place can change us – it didn’t change Carl Sargeant. He remained true to his community and his background.
“He influenced us, not the other way round.”
> Carl Sargeant, 49, was found dead at his home four days after being removed from his role as cabinet secretary for communities and children