Carwyn Jones: Family strain made him ‘nearly quit’ as first minister

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Carwyn Jones was first minister from 2009 to 2018 and is still a member of the Senedd for Bridgend

Ex-first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones has revealed he came close to stepping down from the job earlier than he did due to the strain on his family.

He said that he thought about walking away from the role when his daughter was going through a “difficult time”.

Mr Jones said that being away so much made him question if “she needed a dad who is at home more”.

Discussing his book, “Not Just Politics”, he also warns Wales could become independent by accident.

Mr Jones, first minister from 2009 to 2018, said that one occasion stood out “when my daughter was going through a difficult time, as sometimes adopted children do”.

“She found things very difficult,” he told BBC Wales.

“At that point I did start to think does she need a dad who is at home more?

“But she came through it, she’s a great kid.”

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Carwyn Jones became first minister in December 2009, after Rhodri Morgan stepped down

Mr Jones also talked about his wife Lisa’s diagnosis with leukaemia in the 1990s and how they did not allow the illness to get in the way of their plans for the future.

“Very fortunately Lisa recovered. She had a bone marrow transplant from her brother, within a year she was pretty much back to normal and was strong, and she’s a very brave person,” he said.

“Life carried on and it was important that life carried on. When Lisa was ill a lot of people who were diagnosed didn’t make it.

“Lisa was one of the fortunate ones, and 25 years on there has been no recurrence at all of the illness.

“I think it’s important that when you get cancer you carry on. That you don’t let it get in the way of your life and carry on with your plans.”

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Carl Sargeant was found dead days after Carwyn Jones sacked him amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour

Mr Jones admitted that the death of the sacked Welsh Government minister Carl Sargeant would be one event that “inevitably leaves a mark on you”.

Mr Sargeant was found dead at his home days after the then-first minister dismissed him in November 2017, after being accused of inappropriate conduct towards women.

Five months later, Mr Jones announced he would be stepping down as first minister, saying he had been through the “darkest of times”.

In the book Mr Jones reveals that following Mr Sargeant’s death he was clinically depressed, he received counselling and was prescribed with antidepressants.

But Mr Jones doesn’t believe this should have been made public at the time.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate when you have a grieving family to start talking about yourself and the challenges that you face. I think people would see that as a bit of a distraction to be fair,” he said.

“I would never have felt comfortable with talking about what I was going through when there is a family that had gone through much worse.

“These things are not appropriate. There comes a time to discuss these things but it wasn’t then.”

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Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined Carwyn Jones on the 2017 general election campaign trail in Cardiff

Another theme that Mr Jones tackles in the book is the future of the United Kingdom.

“I’ve never accepted that it’s a choice between the status quo and independence,” he said.

“I think there is another way, a kind of federation, where you’ve got four equal nations who opt into that federation.”

Mr Jones believes that there is a great appetite for constitutional change in the Labour Party.

“I think (Labour leader) Keir Starmer gets it. I’m not saying his view will be exactly the same as mine in terms of parliamentary sovereignty, it may be a different model,” he added.

‘Independence for England’

Mr Jones also warns that Wales could become independent by accident.

“You have to bear in mind that if Scotland can leave the UK, Wales can leave the UK, so can England,” he said.

“And you see Scotland leaving, that might well start to create a drive for English nationalism, independence for England.

“There are lots of forces that seem unlikely and ridiculous, and would have seemed so years ago, which now are not as ridiculous as they might be. These are the things we have to deal with.”

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