Emotions on show at Senedd as tributes paid to ‘authentic’ Carl
Yesterday’s plenary session was choked with emotion as AMs paid tribute to Carl Sargeant after his death last week. Chief reporter Martin Shipton observed the moving proceedings...
FOR the second time this year, Assembly Members gathered to pay tribute to one of their own.
Six months ago the eulogies were for Rhodri Morgan, a much-loved former First Minister whose sudden death had been a shock.
But yesterday’s emotional plenary session at the Senedd was underpinned by unspeakable tragedy.
The full circumstances await investigation, but what we know is that Carl Sargeant seemingly took his own life days after being told he was losing his Cabinet place because of unspecified allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
It’s by far the worst event since the National Assembly came into being and in truth Welsh politics has never known anything like it.
Losing a highly regarded politician in such circumstances is truly awful. There was palpable grief in the packed public gallery as AM after AM made emotional speeches about the man they worked with and socialised with. No-one made a sound but everyone was choked.
The word “authentic” was used repeatedly to describe Carl Sargeant – an acknowledgement from an overwhelmingly middle-class set of AMs that he was something different: a working-class former industrial worker who had become a minister, and who through his position was able to introduce legislation aimed at improving people’s lives.
At a time when many people dismiss politicians as an alien group that doesn’t understand the concerns of ordinary people, Carl Sargeant was recognised as one who had defied the stereotype.
The actions of First Minister Carwyn Jones are rightly under scrutiny but he paid a generous tribute to the friend he had worked with in government for 10 years.
Wrexham AM and, for years, a fellow Cabinet member, Lesley Griffiths bravely held things together as she spoke of the man she regarded as a younger brother.
Just as emotional was a speech from Alun Davies, not normally known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. But on this occasion he was obviously distressed and tearful as he spoke of the loss to Carl Sargeant’s family, to the Assembly and to the nation. He spoke of the need to “remember he [Carl] has fair play”.
From the Conservative group, Andrew RT Davies, Paul Davies and Nick Ramsay all had affectionate memories to share of a man they could respect and like despite their political differences.
Leanne Wood was correct with her tribute but genuine feeling came through when she read a tribute from Bethan Jenkins, who had formed a true bond of friendship with Carl Sargeant.
In the cut-and-thrust of politics, it’s easy to forget that those who hold elected office are just as human as the rest of us. When they lose a friend and colleague they feel grief, and in the heart-rending circumstances of yesterday’s plenary session they show it quite spontaneously.
The presence of Carl Sargeant’s family intensified the sorrow for everyone present. Whatever the loss felt by his political friends, it is insignificant in comparison with that endured by his wife, children and parents.
> Former minister Carl Sargeant was found hanged at home last week