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Monday, March 13, 2006

Exclusive - John Jenkins speaks out

I thought that it was worth highlighting in full a comment to this post on the decision of the Tories to jettison their duly selected candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, John Jenkins.

Mr. Jenkins had once described gays as having a "medical mental condition" on his website, but despite this his party allowed him to proceed all the way to selection before realising their mistake and acting to try and avoid a public relations disaster.

In the early hours of this morning Mr. Jenkins broke his self-imposed silence on this issue on this blog. What he has to say amounts to a damning indictment of the cynicism and opportunism of the so-called new improved Conservatives (NITs):

"Peter, very interesting observation regarding my resignation as the Conservative candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

You are indeed right, I was pre-approved by the Board of the Welsh Conservative Party to be able to apply for constituency nominations for the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections. I was also selected with over 80% of the vote at a meeting of members of the local Conservative Association to be their candidate.

All these people knew of my reputation - which I will repeat again for your benefit - was a hatchet job by the Western Mail/BBC Wales back in 2003 whereby they seriously distorted my comments to make me (and the Conservative Party) look like some foaming at the mouth right wing nut job.

I was pre-approved by the Welsh Conservative Party and selected legitimately by a local Conservative Association but when Colonial-Governor Cameron saw the potential for trouble and the possible tarnishing of his oh-so-perfect image he panicked and demanded my head on a plate, which I gave him voluntarily along with the two ripped halves of my Conservative Party membership card.

If my own side won't even support me when I have done nothing wrong then they are not a Party worth associating with. To be honest I expect you and the Lib Dems, Labour and Plaid to have a dig, you are only doing your job as part of the (dare I say it) Punch & Judy politics sideshow.

So your comments are a little inaccurate but that is excusable being a member of another political party and now knowing the full story but, yes, you are right, the Conservative Party knew all about my baggage - The Chairman, President, Director and Leader of the Welsh Conservative Party are all members of the Board of the Welsh Conservative Party and could have vetoed by pre-approval if they wanted to but they knew I was not a raving mad homophobe so pre-approved me.

If there is only one thing that this incident proves is not that the Conservative Party is made up of homophobic loonies but that the strings of the Welsh Conservative Party are being firmly pulled from London and surely that is of far more consequence and importance in the run-up to the next Welsh Assembly elections than the inconsequential fate of an ex-Tory councillor from Llanelli?"

We all know that political parties try to manage their publicity, but in this case the Tories clearly did not see the crisis coming until it was right on top of them. What John Jenkins has demonstrated in his comment is that the new, so-called liberal Conservatism is a sham.

The Conservative Party apparatus did not apparently care about Mr. Jenkin's views or the principles that they themselves are now espousing. If they did then they would have acted sooner. Instead their sole motivation was to avoid embarrassment. Their outrage was entirely manufactured because if it had been otherwise then they would have acted earlier to either not approve him or to prevent his selection.

Eighty per cent of the local membership of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Conservative Association voted to endorse Mr. Jenkins in full knowledge of his views. That says a lot more about the current disposition of the modern Conservative Party than any comment or policy pronouncement that may come from the mouths of Nick Bourne or David Cameron.

Again you are being slightly disingenuous with the truth here. I know that you are a Liberal Democrat whose job it is to put the boot into the Opposition but please base your observations on fact.

I am not and never have been a homophobe. The comments attributed to me back in 2003 were a severe distortion of some comments that I made concerning a hefty debate on political philosophy where I tried to say that someone could hold such so-called “right wing” views on social issues yet still be on the far-left of the political spectrum. Of course some political activist saw the opportunity for mischief and spun it to the Western Mail/BBC Wales.

At the time, March 2003, as we were less than 8 weeks away from an Assembly Election, my Party advised me to go quickly and go quietly to avoid any embarrassment and bad publicity so close to an election. They also advised me to go to ground, say nothing to the press even though my instinct was to defend myself again all these accusations and slurs against my character were being made. To defend myself publicly would be to prolong a negative news story so I was advised to keep my mouth shut, which I did.

Now when this issue came up again, following my selection in February in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, I would have at least expected my Party to defend me. After all, they pre-approved me so I would expect them to stand by that judgement. They know that I am not an offensive, bigoted or homophobic person, I have been elected a County Councillor by local residents who know be best, the Conservative Party saw fit to put me on the Executive Committee of the Welsh Conservative Councillors’ Association, to make me Deputy Chairman of two local Conservative Associations – Llanelli and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire – and to make me Deputy Chairman of the Party’s regional organisation in Mid & West Wales.

My point is that I didn’t just slip under the radar. I was well known within the Conservative Party and my 2003 incident was well known about. They knew I was not a mad right-wing nut job that the press made me out to be in 2003 (and again in 2005).

However, David Cameron didn’t. In the words of Andrew McKay MP, Cameron’s “Special Advisor” in Westminster, he “did not care” about Wales or the situation in Wales, it was his job “to protect David Cameron” (i.e. David Cameron’s image). It was McKay who was delegated the task of calling me up to tell me to quit or be sacked.

Peter – you seem to think that the story here is “the Tories haven’t changed, they are still right wing nut jobs under Cameron” but you miss the bigger picture, that the Welsh Conservative Party is an organisation under the thumb of its paymasters in London and that in this era of devolution, that simply will not do.

So please, keep to the facts. You don’t need to spin this one; it speaks enough volumes about what is wrong with the Conservative Party in Wales without you having to try and spin it into something that it is not.
And another untruth - this is not an "exclusive" to your blog - you won't read anything here that you won't have already read in the Llanelli Star.
A non-Llanelli Star reader writes:

Just for the record the exact words posted on John Jenkins' website were:

"I hold my hands up and admit to being “homophobic” if you must label me. I cannot convince myself of anything other than homosexuality being a medical mental condition. I would not harm an individual for being gay but just think that they need medical attention rather than their “fashionable” display of sexual deviancy being pandered to."
Actually from recollection these comments weren't actually on a website of John's but on an internet forum (which is no longer up). But the comments themselves are certainly as I remember them (and I was posting on that thread).
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