Most of you will be aware that after a protracted and amateurish ‘process’ Plaid Cymru has now expelled Neil McEvoy from its Assembly group. This will have surprised absolutely no one. But what is it all about, what’s the real story?
From speaking with Neil McEvoy and others, and from my own research, this is my interpretation of an affair that reflects badly on devolution, also on Plaid Cymru, the Labour Party, and the third sector, while telling us much about the anti-democratic manoeuvrings and poisonous environment of Cardiff Bay.
The biggest problem I found in researching this piece – something I’ve been doing, off and on, for months – was not the scarcity of evidence but the overwhelming amount of it. Which meant that I had to stick to the straight and narrow without being detoured by personal animosities and other distractions.
IN THE BEGINNING
I don’t think we need to go back any further than November 2011 to find the time when Neil McEvoy made himself a host of powerful enemies, people who have pursued him ever since, and would now appear to have him down . . . though I wouldn’t bet on it.
What he did with a Facebook post and tweet about men being denied access to their children, and his criticism of Welsh Women’s Aid – run then by Labour’s Paula Hardy and today still packed with party members including the former MP for Swansea East, Siân James – was to threaten a system that relied on unquestioning acceptance of certain dicta, in this case – ‘All men are bastards, and all women are victims’.
This particular dictum wrings an unquestioning acceptance out of politicians and others which is then used to cultivate an ever-growing number of third sector bodies – as new ‘niches’ are found to exploit – with hundreds of crony jobs and all paid for from the public purse. And who would dare argue – for aren’t they ‘helping vulnerable women’.
Though it’s worth remembering that McEvoy was not without support from the very same quarter where most wanted him lynched, as this piece reminds us. It’s about Erin Pizzey, who had founded the UK’s first women’s refuge in London, in 1971.
This woman has been a doyenne of the women’s rights movement since the term ‘battered wives’ was coined and has expressed strong views on the narrow interpretation that only women can be victims of domestic violence. She has also been very critical of what she terms ‘aggressive feminism’.
Predictably, this has made Pizzey unpopular with those who use their gender as a weapon in securing personal advancement, often in the absence of ability or qualifications. And especially with those who view someone else’s domestic abuse as a good career move for them.
Following the self-interested attacks from various third sector bodies back in 2011 the Labour Party predictably came down on a Plaid Cymru politician. But it didn’t end there, because McEvoy was suspended by his own party.
Here we see the first inkling of something beneath the surface suggesting that the political differences we are asked to believe in, the Punch and Judy shows of electioneering and political debate, may be just a sham.
THE POLITICS OF IT 1
Neil McEvoy was first elected as a Labour councillor for the Riverside ward on Cardiff city council in 1999, becoming vice-chair of the Labour group. In 2003 he left to join Plaid Cymru and lost his seat in the 2004 elections.
In 2008 he was back on the council, representing the Fairwater ward. With Plaid now running the council in coalition with the Lib Dems he served as deputy council leader from 2008 – 2012. Although Labour returned to power in 2012 McEvoy retained his Fairwater seat, coming top out of 13 candidates with 16% of the total vote.
Neil McEvoy entered the Assembly in 2016 by the regional route, becoming an AM for South Wales Central. Although the regional vote is difficult to interpret, few doubt that Plaid’s good showing was due to McEvoy being on the regional list.
(In the first round of voting for the South Wales Central list he actually beat party leader Leanne Wood.)
At the same election he also stood for the Cardiff West constituency, where he increased the Plaid vote by 11.9% and slashed the Labour majority.
Roll on to 2017 and in defending his Fairwater seat Neil McEvoy took Plaid Cymru to previously unscaled heights and a humiliating defeat for Labour. He upped his percentage of the vote to 20%, with the leading Labour candidate trailing way behind on 9%.
What makes this result so impressive is that just before the council elections – in March, in fact – a Cardiff Council (i.e. Labour) tribunal found that a throwaway remark McEvoy had made to a council official amounted to ‘bullying’.
Plaid Cymru joined in by suspending him from the Plaid Cymru Assembly group. Plaid chairman Alun Ffred Jones, thought that the ludicrous charge was “serious because it involves bullying”. (Alun Ffred is one of those men so devoid of animation that watching him I think back to the old Soviet Union and the undead politburo members atop Lenin’s tomb. A fur hat and a few snowflakes would complete that rather unsettling image.)
The timing and co-ordination of these attacks was of course coincidental.
THE POLITICS OF IT 2
Were he or she reading this then I’m sure that the foreign correspondent of Maritza Plovdiv would be thinking (in Bulgarian) ‘Wow! at last Plaid Cymru has a politician who can stick it to the Labour Party, take them on and beat them on their own turf. Let the good times roll!’
In truth, since Neil McEvoy arrived in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru’s faint-hearts have behaved as if they’d been handed a bomb. For a number of reasons.
To begin with, I don’t think they understand McEvoy. For while Plaid may have many members in Cardiff nowadays, and there may be a thriving Welsh language scene in the city, this is largely due to the population movement that has enfeebled our rural areas.
But Neil McEvoy didn’t move down from Pwllheli or up from Crymych, he’s Kerdiff through and through, with his Irish/Yemeni/English/Welsh background. And this is his strength, for he appeals to Cardiff voters who might not engage with Carys or Rhodri.
Nor did he come to Plaid by any of the usual routes. By which I mean, he certainly hasn’t come from the language movement, he isn’t an environmentalist or a hard leftie infiltrator, nor is he a professional politician who started out as a party worker or spad, and he certainly didn’t emerge from the third sector.
So in many ways, Neil McEvoy is a one-off, an enigma; and for all their talk of ‘the people’, when presented with a genuine man of the people Plaid Cymru’s upper echelons are horrified.
That’s because Neil McEvoy – like most of us reading this – realises that the real enemy in Wales is the Labour Party, not the Conservatives. And so he attacks the Labour Party and its corrupt system again and again. This is why Plaid Cymru is on the verge of expelling him from the party.
It is no exaggeration to make a comparison with the palace coup against Dafydd Wigley in 2000, for once again Plaid Cymru is thinking of getting rid of its most popular politician and its greatest electoral asset.
And once again, the move may be prompted by influences external to the party.
ALL PROGRESSIVES TOGETHER
In the collective mindset of the Plaid Cymru leadership and hierarchy being ‘progressive’ – and/or being viewed by others as ‘progressive’ – is more important than doing what’s best for Wales. Posturing.
Giving the finger to the US president, saving the planet, arguing that only fascists and racists want us to leave the EU, supporting every -ism that rolls off the left-liberal production line, and getting good coverage in the Guardian, are much more important than serving Wales.
Despite professing love for, and faith in, ‘the people’, progressives don’t really trust hoi polloi to do what’s best (especially since Brexit, Trump, and a host of other recent disappointments). Far better that a progressive elite should run things in the best interests of the untutored mob.
This has given Wales the kind of paternalistic statism we have always known from Labour, with Plaid Cymru latching on to Labour’s coat-tails in recent decades. Industry and commerce are inimical to this model because companies and even individual entrepreneurs cannot be easily controlled, and so both Labour and Plaid Cymru – despite regular protestations to the contrary – are anti-business.
There was a time when Labour could exercise this control through the workforces of major industries and trade unions, but with the passing of the traditional working class it has tried to maintain its hold by breaking society down into ethnic, sexual and other ‘deprived’ or ‘oppressed’ groups – all of which must be defended!
This helps explain the rise of the third sector which, especially in Wales, now fills the role vacated by the trade unions as Labour support troops. Plaid Cymru dutifully goes along with this . . . on condition that enough of its people get a slice of the third sector pie.
It’s no surprise then that one of the complainants against Neil McEvoy is Frances Beecher of homelessness company Llamau (of which I have writ many times). Her complaints are laughable, and tell us how contrived this witch-hunt is, and who’s behind it.
For example, “he was ‘bullish, difficult and aggressive’ at the charity’s public election hustings in May 20”, we are told. Er, so a politician spoke up at a public meeting! God Almighty – let’s get the bastard!
This ‘social worker politics’ ensures that Wales remains poor, for which Labour and Plaid Cymru blame the Tories (even when they aren’t in power), and the poverty allows the Tories to point to Wales and use it as a warning of what happens if you vote Labour.
So everybody wins – except Wales.
Let’s also remember that relying on more money from the UK government proves that Plaid Cymru doesn’t want independence. Dependent devolution with few responsibilities and plenty of perks is far more amenable.
Of all the -isms Plaid Cymru has adopted over recent decades none is currently more pernicious and self-harming than the aggressive and intolerant form of feminism now stalking Cardiff Bay.
It manifests itself in a number of ways, and it transcends party boundaries to the advantage of Labour.
In November 2015 I wrote this mixed-bag post, and you should scroll down to the section ‘Sophie Howe, more Labour cronyism’. Howe, a Labour time-server, had been deputy PCC for South Wales to Alun Michael, the former Labour MP, then a new post was created for her, that of Future Generations Commissioner.
This new post linked with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, legislation tied in with the OnePlanet nonsense that opened rural Wales up to hippy lebensraum. Because it involved hippies, and offered no benefits whatsoever to Welsh people, it was supported enthusiastically by Plaid Cymru.
Neil McEvoy (who I referred to in the piece as “a rising star within Plaid Cymru”), criticised the appointment for what it was – Labour cronyism. Others in Plaid Cymru saw it differently, like then AM Jocelyn Davies.
It was the Jocelyn Davies view that prevailed in Plaid Cymru and provided me with an insight into certain attitudes that allowed gender and perceptions of solidarity to over-ride the political differences most of us imagined existed. The political differences we were asked to vote for at election times.
With the death of Carl Sargeant and other recent developments we now know that things are even worse than justifying political cronyism for no better reason than that the appointee is “a strong woman”.
The agenda takes many forms. For example, there is currently a petition calling for Neil McEvoy not to be reinstated to the Plaid Cymru Assembly group. It is addressed to party leader Leanne Wood, but is it her decision alone?
Even though it claims to be the work of ‘Concerned Welsh Women’ it’s pulling in signatures from around the world, so obviously the petition has been widely publicised in feminist circles and the Labour Party.
The word on the street is that this petition was started by another ‘strong woman’, in the form of Helen Mary Jones, sometime AM for Llanelli. She of course denies it. Though I find it interesting how many times her rebuttal reduces the whole business to a men versus women issue.
At one point she refers to Neil McEvoy as “Neil McAvoy”. Being unable to even get his name right might suggest he’s almost incidental to something bigger.
Whether Helen Mary Jones did start the petition or not she told a friend of mine once, “I have more friends in the Labour Party than in Plaid Cymru”. Make of that what you will.
Helen Mary Jones was AM for Llanelli. The seat where the great rugby coach Carwyn James once stood, and where Plaid Cymru had one of its strongest branches . . . until the general election of 2017, when the candidate selected by the local party was turfed out to make way for a woman candidate imposed by Cardiff HQ.
The imposed candidate lost, the local branch imploded, and Plaid Cymru is withering away in Llanelli.
UPDATE 25.01.2018: It seems that the petition has been taken down.
The late Carl Sargeant complained about being bullied from within the office of Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones in 2014. The finger points at former television journalist Jo Kiernan, who left at the end of 2015. This report of her departure makes it clear she was loathed by many people even in her own party.
When she left the office of the First Minister Jo Kiernan went to lobbying firm Deryn, from where the bullying and undermining of Carl Sargeant continued. The ‘Welsh’ media is reluctant to say this, so let us be thankful for Guido Fawkes. Jo Kiernan also served as a consultant to Llamau.
Though whether the continued bullying came from Kiernan alone will perhaps be established in coming months. It may be significant that Jo Kiernan’s Twitter account went silent around the time of Carl Sargeant’s death, but the tweets preserved suggest she too is ‘a strong woman’.
If we look to the six leading players at Deryn we see four with Labour backgrounds, Cathy Owens, Huw Roberts, Jo Kiernan and Vicki Evans, and two from Plaid Cymru, Nerys Evans and Elin Llŷr.
In July 2016 Neil McEvoy drew attention to what he, and many others, considered to be a conflict of interest involving Nerys Evans. He also called for a register of lobbyists. Which would have seen his card marked, yet again.
Early in 2017 Neil McEvoy further endeared himself to Deryn by revealing that Ofcom’s Welsh operation had awarded a contract to Deryn without any tendering process, and this looked bad seeing as two Deryn directors – Nerys Evans and Huw Roberts – sat on the Ofcom Wales board.
The Ofcom contract with Deryn was terminated in August.
These third world shenanigans feed into the continuum, Labour/Plaid Cymru-lobbyists-third sector. With people, overwhelmingly women, floating between the different parts as if they were one. Though of course the continuum is restricted to Labour and Plaid Cymru personnel.
Which inevitably results in political differences blurring, or disappearing altogether. The priorities are influencing political decisions (often for personal gain) and milking the public purse. And God help anybody, like Neil McEvoy, who becomes aware of this corruption and starts blowing the whistle.
This explains why Plaid Cymru is so anaemic, so reluctant to confront Labour. It could even be that through channels like Deryn Labour is to some extent controlling Plaid Cymru. Certainly Nerys Evans is a very close friend of Leanne Wood.
One thing’s for sure, when it comes to election times, and we are asked to choose between Labour and Plaid Cymru, there is no choice, they’re one and the same; combining to keep Wales poor so they get votes by blaming the Tories while their friends in the third sector feather their nests from exploiting our deprivation. (And, where necessary, importing more!)
Neil McEvoy knows this. Neil McEvoy wants to expose this. And it’s the reason Neil McEvoy is now being targeted: Discredit the messenger and hope that the message dies with his political career. But it won’t work. Too many people are waking up to the incestuous relationships and the wider corruption down Cardiff Bay.
Neil McEvoy will emerge from this stronger and more popular, but the careers of many of his detractors will suffer, and I’ll enjoy writing about it. Because you’ve brought it on yourselves!
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