Welsh assembly pays tribute to ex-minister Carl Sargeant

14 Nov

Members of the Welsh assembly have spoken movingly of the loss of Carl Sargeant, who was found dead four days after being sacked as a minister over harassment allegations.

Politicians from across the political divide paid tribute to Sargeant as business resumed at the Senedd in Cardiff, depicting him as an authentic man who never forgot his working-class roots and campaigned against violence to women, homelessness and modern slavery.

There were also moments of humour, with friends remembering how “Sarge” took up crochet to while away long train journeys around Wales and attracted curious looks as he produced dainty pink baby bonnets.

The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, who is facing pressure over his handling of the harassment claims, said Sargeant’s family had suffered an “unbearable loss and a deep trauma. I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through”.

Jones said Sargeant was well-liked, jovial and fun, but committed and firm. He said he was the best heckler in the assembly, but was always witty and never nasty.

A fellow cabinet member, Lesley Griffiths, said her friend had a “beautiful, sensitive and vulnerable soul”. Griffiths said Sargeant nicknamed her “mother” but “I know he loved me as a sister”.

Members recalled how Sargeant always wanted to be called Carl rather than minister, and loved to sit with assembly catering staff, security guards and drivers.

The Labour assembly member Ken Skates said: “If there is to be a lasting legacy to Carl, it should be that we should all show a bit more love and care for one another. We should be kinder and more respectful to one another, not just here but across society, to change our culture for the better.”

Addressing Sargeant directly, he said: “There is only one more door you must knock on, but on behalf of all those whose doors were opened and whose hearts were opened to you, you take care.”

The Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, paid tribute to Sargeant’s “rootedness and his authenticity”, saying: “He could never be accused of being out of touch.”

The Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, told the chamber Sargeant was the assembly’s “legislator in chief” who had pushed through four major pieces of legislation.

“Carl was a character, but a serious individual who knew what his role was in this institution – to speak for the people of Alyn and Deeside and for the people the length and breadth of Wales who didn’t have a voice,” he said. Davies said Sargeant always had a smile on his face and always addressed him as “boss”.

The Labour politician was found dead at his family home in Connah’s Quay, north Wales, on Tuesday. He had been cabinet secretary for communities and children. On Friday, the first minister agreed to order an independent inquiry into his handling of harassment allegations made by three women.

Sargeant denied the allegations and his family have said he was left in turmoil by the Welsh Labour party’s refusal to disclose details of the claims against him. They said the inquiry announced by Jones will not be truly independent because the Welsh government’s permanent secretary will be leading its establishment.

An inquest on Monday heard Sargeant’s body was found by his wife, Bernadette, in the utility room of their semi-detached home. Family members and paramedics tried for up to half an hour to resuscitate him before he was pronounced dead. A provisional cause of death was given as hanging.

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