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...

Western Mail - - WM2 -

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.

Andrew James

> For­mer min­is­ter Carl Sargeant was found hanged at home last week

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