The ‘Welsh Labour Conference’ last Saturday held at Llandudno sparked the resignation from the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, who outlined that he is set to resign later this Autumn. The conference reacted in shock as it became clear Mr Jones was announcing his resignation, stating: “In any normal political career, you expect to be put through the ringer, and even have your integrity challenged.The decision to resign from his nine-year tenure took many of his colleagues and opponents by surprise, attributing him as the “giant of Welsh politics”, and Jeremy Corbyn praising Carwyn Jones for his “tireless commitment”. However for some the resignation was greeted with much gratitude, with AM Dai Lloyd expressing “ There should be no long goodbye from Carwyn Jones. He should go sooner rather than later, he was already a lame duck, and the lame duckedness goes on”.
The decision by Jones is arguably no surprise given that Jones referred himself to an independent inquiry over allegations of bullying at a senior level of the Welsh government three years ago, following the death of assembly member Carl Sargeant in November. Former minister Leighton Andrews stated that Carl Sargeant, who is believed to have taken his own life four days after being removed from his role as cabinet secretary for communities and children while facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour, was “unquestionably the target” of some of the behaviour and “toxic” atmosphere within Welsh labour.
The First Minister had previously expressed to labour assembly members that any issues brought to his attention at that time were dealt with. Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh conservatives suggested that Jones “misled assembly members” over his knowledge of bullying within the Welsh government. This dark period of Welsh labour was acknowledged by Jones as being “the darkest of times”, and thanked his children and wife Lisa – who he said had been seriously ill in the run-up to the conference – for their support.
The current Secretary for Finance and Local Government announced on Tuesday 24th April that he is standing to replace Carwyn Jones outlining that he wanted to continue with the Welsh Government’s “radical” tradition, and already secured backing from senior Labour AM Jane Hutt, as well as Mike Hedges and Mick Antoniw. Drakeford who has been a professor of social policy at Cardiff University is on the left of the party and has been the Labour assembly group’s most high profile supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, AM Dawn Bowden has called for a woman candidate to be on the ballot paper, as despite not expressing support for any one candidate she said there was a “huge amount of talent in the group” and all of those named so far were “very strong potential candidates”.
Male or female there is set to be a new Welsh labour leader that will succeed the long reign of Carwyn Jones. Labour dominate the Welsh political sphere, and with recent bullying scandals, Brexit and further devolved powers, Welsh Labour are most definitely in their most challenging period.