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This week Carwyn Jones met Damian Green to reiterate his support for the confederal approach to devolving post-Brexit powers I have criticised here and elsewhere.

It was a meeting between two embattled men. The Deputy Prime Minister has his travails with the police; the First Minister’s problems are perhaps even more serious.

Yesterday a broad range of figures from across the Labour Party attended the funeral of Carl Sargeant, a former minister in Jones’ administration who is believed to have committed suicide after being told to step down over allegations of sexual misconduct, the details of which he was not told.

Jeremy Corbyn was there. Jones was not.

The First Minister is now embroiled in a serious scandal on two fronts. First, he faces allegations that a ‘toxic culture’ of bullying reigned inside his government. Second, it appears that he may have misled the Welsh Assembly about it.

Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative leader, has published a detailed account of the case against Jones for the Institute of Welsh Affairs and his AMs have gone on the attack in the Assembly too. This offensive culminated earlier this week with a vote on whether Jones would face an AM-led inquiry, as the opposition urged, or one led by an independent adviser.

Despite winning the support of both UKIP and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists, this motion was defeated after the First Minister whipped his own AMs against it – a telling moment given the fierce criticism he has come under from Labour ranks, and one that invites fresh scrutiny of how the party’s intense tribalism compromises its ability to hold itself to account.

The polls currently suggest that despite all the sound and the fury, not a single Welsh seat would change hands were a general election called tomorrow (although they would pick up a few Assembly seats).

But that doesn’t mean the scandal hasn’t had an impact. Based on his past conduct, we might have expected Jones to be playing a prominent role in the confederalist bid to neuter Section 11 of the Withdrawal Bill and pass vast new powers to the devolved administrations.

By taking him ‘off the board’ the current convulsions in Cardiff Bay have given the Government a rare respite, and increased their chances of successfully carrying this vital piece of legislation intact. Davies and his troops may be fighting to clean up Welsh governance, but they are doing British governance sterling service too.

10 comments for: By taking the fight to Jones, the Welsh Tories are guarding the Government’s western flank

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