Sargeant shadow over conference

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Image caption An inquiry has yet to begin into the sacking of Carl Sargeant by Carwyn Jones

There are many questions about the inquiries into the death of Carl Sargeant that have been nagging away at the back of people's minds. Probably the main one is why the main QC-led inquiry has not actually started yet?

I recall speculation late last year about whether they would all be finished by the time Labour party members gathered in Llandudno in the spring for the annual Welsh conference.

The reality now is that not only have they not been finished but one of them has not even got under way.

Surely it means that things will now rumble on well past the summer. I have even heard people speculating about whether it will be wrapped up by the end of the year.

The letter from the Sargeant family solicitors is more about timing than content. In truth, it is difficult to know exactly what the delay is about.

In the last interview I did with the main family lawyer Neil Hudgell, he spoke about wanting the opportunity to test witnesses in the inquiry.

The sense was that the main terms of reference had been agreed - what was needed was final agreement on the nuts and bolts about how the inquiry would be carried out.

The letter talks about the QC Paul Bowen now wanting to renegotiate some of that.

There is clear frustration from the family about the length of time this is all taking. There will be frustration from within party and government ranks as well.

Dictating terms

The difficulty for the Welsh Government is trying to avoid at all costs the accusation that it is trying to influence proceedings.

You can see how sensitive things have become when the letter interprets a statement from the first minister that there is nothing to stop the inquest resuming as dictating the terms of the various inquiries.

And of course to add to the story, the son of Carl Sargeant will not be speaking to his lawyer miles away. He will be in the middle of the conference as the party's newest assembly member.

All of this follows a bruising few days in which there was an almighty row at the Senedd about whether the contents of a leak inquiry into the reshuffle in which Mr Sargeant lost his job should be published.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething took to the airwaves this morning to admit the presentation on this issue had been "incredibly difficult".

He tried to address the question of why Labour backbenchers have been giving so little vocal support to the first minister as he deals with an onslaught from opponents by saying it is not helpful to respond to shouting with more shouting.

Mr Gething's basic message is that the Welsh Government is trying to be reasonable in the face of unreasonable voices. I suspect that will be put to the test increasingly over the coming weeks.

Control of the party

All of this forms the backdrop to a packed Labour conference.

There is the election of the new deputy leader with the undercurrent of tensions over one member one vote, although it appears that plans for a democracy review will try to take the heat out of the situation.

Whether that will mean changes when the time comes to elect a new Welsh Labour leader is another question.

More broadly this all taps into another undercurrent which is the future control of the party. This can be crudely put as the traditional middle-ground Welsh Labour versus the legions of new members attracted to the party by the politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

As well as the deputy leadership, ten new members of the Welsh executive committee, which runs the party in Wales, will also be elected and this could tip the balance in favour of those on the left.

And before I forget, Jeremy Corbyn will also be putting in an appearance.

Then there is probably the central question that may remain unsaid by many but will nevertheless be on their minds of many in the sunshine of Llandudno: "Will this be the last conference for Carwyn Jones as first minister and leader of Welsh Labour?