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Friday, August 12, 2022

Plaid Cymru in a hole and digging

Actually, this is not an occasion for glib titles, it is there to attract your attention to a very serious failing by a major political party in Wales.

As the Guardian reports, Plaid Cymru have restored the whip to an MP who was cautioned by police after assaulting his wife, prompting anger both within the party and without.

The paper says that Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards, who had been sitting as an independent since he was arrested on suspicion of assault, will again be able to represent the nationalist party at Westminster following his suspension in July 2020:

Leanne Wood, who led Plaid Cymru until September 2018 and had called for Edwards to be banned from the party if it was serious about stamping out misogyny and domestic abuse, reacted by tweeting: “Disappointed, yes. Disillusioned, never. The fight against the scourge of misogyny in Welsh politics continues.”

Edwards, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, was allowed to rejoin Plaid Cymru last month as a regular member, a move that has already caused division among its members. The decision to readmit him to the Westminster group was taken despite a “significant majority” of the party’s ruling body recommending against it.

The party chair, Beca Brown, said a disciplinary panel restored Edwards’s membership after he expressed “sincere remorse” and the whip was restored after the party received “further procedural advice”. Plaid would be undertaking a review to ensure it became “truly free from a culture of misogyny”, she added.

Welsh Women’s Aid said it was witnessing epidemic levels of gender-based violence in Wales and that violence against women must be taken seriously. “When there is widespread casualisation of misogyny in politics, it sets the tone for how the wider population regards the severity of these incidents and undermines the status and position of women and girls in our society.

“Parliament and parties across the political spectrum must make it clear that harassment, abuse and violence are unacceptable, and must put an end to the antiquated systems and procedures that perpetuate this.”

And now, today, the BBC report that Edward's soon-to-be ex-wife, has issued a statement saying that she is "appalled and disappointed" that Plaid Cymru has reinstated him as an MP for the party. 

Emma Edwards, told BBC Wales it sends a message "that survivors of domestic abuse don't matter":

His wife said: "At the time I was in shock, denial and I was hopeful that we would be able to reconcile.

"Even though Jonathan attended an online domestic abuse course, he did not accept responsibility for what happened, minimising the incident. This meant that there was not going to be any reconciliation. I was perhaps naive to think that there could be."

She said the statement issued at the time, which said she accepted her husband's apology, was "drafted for me by Jonathan's press officer at the time and I was told that it would be the best way to stop it being a story".

"I now regret saying those words," she said, "as they have been used to excuse Jonathan's actions.

"I have since learned that he is presenting himself as the victim in all of this and this is why I am now seeking to set the record straight.

"I am appalled and disappointed that the party I was until recently a member of has accepted a domestic abuser to represent them as an MP.

"This sends the message that women don't matter and that survivors of domestic abuse don't matter. I always believed Plaid Cymru to be better than this.

"Until now, I have maintained silence. I am not a political person and I do not seek publicity... I cannot stand by and watch the truth being distorted as it has been."

This is an appalling example to set by a party which portrays itself as progressive and opposed to abuse of all kinds. They have left the victim of this violence high and dry, while welcoming back her abuser as if nothing happened. I hope people will remember this come the next election.

It was Mrs Edwards' most recent statement that put a new slant on the case for me. Perhaps incorrectly I had seen the reentry of J Edwards into the Plaid party and its group at the Commons as closure of the case but this development begs so many questions about the whole episode. The bit about a Plaid press officer advising her in 2020 to make what amounts to a conciliatory statement begs questions about who sanctioned that person's actions. Was he/she employed just to serve Edwards, or was it a Party employee/contractor who was more likely to have been directed by a senior Party official ?. Sian Gwenllian wrote a stiff piece on Nation Cymru about Edwards, yet one of the possibilities that needs looking at is that the said press officer might have been part of her functional resource as Communications Director. Right hand not knowing what the left hand has been up to ?
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