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First Minister: 101 tweets around Welsh Government reshuffle are conspiracy theory innuendo, gossip and tittle tattle

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Tuesday, Jan 30th, 2018.

In First Minister’s Questions today, leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies renewed calls for a leak inquiry report to be made public, with the First Minister Carwyn Jones strongly firing back by standing by the results of an investigation that has taken place.

The leak inquiry is one of three following the sacking and subsequent death of the Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant.

Last week at the conclusion on the leak enquiry it was formally stated: “This investigation has now finished and found that there is no evidence of prior unauthorised sharing of information by the Welsh Government relating to the recent ministerial reshuffle”.

The First Minister was today asked if there was any authorised leaking of information, as an investigation has concluded there was ‘no evidence of unauthorised sharing of information’.

Carwyn Jones said he was ‘confident’ there was no authorised leaking, and pointed out any publication of reports could mean that those who gave evidence anonymously would be ‘outed’. He also pointed out that if those contributing anonymously were named it could affect other investigations and prevent other people coming forward to contribute information.

Mr Davies pointed to 101 tweets made by journalists and lobbyists in days before the reshuffle which he claimed demonstrated a knowledge of the reshuffle’s outcome – including the sacking of the late Carl Sargeant. Mr Davies suggested any reports could be redacted to ensure anonymity was maintained.

Mr Jones replied: “Twitter is not evidence. Twitter is gossip” – later doubling down by suggesting it is not used in court saying it is ‘innuendo, gossip and tittle tattle, the kind of thing some politicians love’ and suggesting that anyone who thought the tweets were based on leaks were sharing ‘conspiracy theories’.

Twitter is commonly used by Welsh Government and Ministers for various authoritative announcements and comments – and has even previously been used by the First Minister’s administration to communicate reshuffles.

Although the tweets referred to today in the chamber are apparently ‘2-3 days before the reshuffle’ our own article from reshuffle day (here) reads as follows before any announcement: “12:30pm: BBC reporting first move in the reshuffle – ‘Deeside AM Carl Sargeant has lost his job as Communities Secretary’. Previously reshuffles have seen the official Welsh Government twitter accounts break the news publicly – but this time things could be done a more old school manner with the news ’emerging’ over the afternoon.

BBC Political Correspondent Aled ap Dafydd tweeted several times that day, including:

Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Davies said: “Information readily available on social media points to the fact that a number of people outside the Welsh Government had prior knowledge of November’s reshuffle.

“That the First Minister – himself a former barrister – chose to pour scorn on the validity of this evidence is to ignore legal guidelines and vital information which should have formed part of the Permanent Secretary’s inquiry.

“If the First Minister has nothing to hide then there is no reason why he cannot allow for the publication of a redacted version of the inquiry report, so that Assembly Members of all stripes can decide for themselves whether there’s a case to answer for here.

“Our democratic processes cannot continue to be marred by the First Minister’s persistent stonewalling and obfuscation, particularly when matters of significant public interest are at stake.”

In one of the more angry First Minister Questions to date the First Minister also came under fire for citing what appeared to be detailed information on private communications between an Assembly Member and a Health Board to make a point about non-attendance at a consultation opportunity.

After shouts claiming the Welsh Government were acting like “Putin’s Russia”, Elin Jones AM, the Presiding Officer, said she would be unhappy if her details were used in such a way in a debate in the chamber – with another investigation now likely.

Once the session is over we will embed the video from the above questions and answers….

UPDATE: ITV Wales Political Editor has tweeted the below, however we can’t find a copy online on official sources. We are unsure if this is gossip or tittle tattle, but appears to be information from the First Minister’s Spokesperson

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