This is the twelfth tranche of emails from the correspondence between various people in Plaid Cymru and myself, following a complaint about what I had written on the subject of the Ynys Môn by-election last year. For easy reference, I've put together the all the previous corresponence on this page, which I will keep updating as further emails are published.
From: Chris Franks
Sent: Monday, 27 November 2013, 9:10am
To: Michael Haggett
I though that I was ask if you would like us to meet before tonight's hearing to go through any procedure matters. Are there any special requirements you need?
From: Michael Haggett
Sent: Wednesday, 27 November 2013, 6:21pm
To: Dafydd Trystan
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards, Shaughan Feakes, Leanne Wood, Chris Franks, Elin Jones
Subject: Re: Complaint
Standing orders are quite clear; but if there is anything more that you or anyone else in the party would like to say about the disciplinary procedure, it needs to be in writing so that no-one can be in any doubt about what was said.
The same is true of any questions anyone wants to ask me, either now or at any other time. One of the main reasons for the mess you are in is that no-one ever did.
From: Chris Franks
Sent: Wednesday, 27 November 2013, 9:10pm
To: Michael Haggett
As you are aware, we had invited you to a disciplinary hearing tonight, at Plaid Cymru’s central office in Ty Gwynfor, at 6pm. Unfortunately however, one of our panel members ------------------------------------------------------------------, and therefore we have had to postpone the meeting at very short notice.
We have decided to reconvene the hearing for Tuesday 3 December at 6pm. Please confirm that you will be able to attend. In the meantime, if you would like to make any further submissions in response to the disciplinary allegations against you, either over the phone, or by email, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. My mobile number is ----- ------
From: Michael Haggett
Sent: Thursday, 28 November 2013, 4:54pm
To: Dafydd Trystan
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards, Shaughan Feakes, Leanne Wood, Chris Franks, Elin Jones
Subject: Re: Complaint
I was sorry to learn why the meeting arranged for yesterday evening could not happen in the way planned. Would you be so kind as to ----------------------------------------------- to the person concerned.
In these special circumstances, I am prepared to extend the deadline set out in my email of 22 November to 3 December. This will give you one more opportunity to replace Chris with someone who will answer the questions I've asked rather than evade them, act in a fair and even-handed manner, and not ignore standing orders.
I will confirm whether I will attend any formal hearing against me when the preceding stages set out in standing orders have been properly completed.
From: Chris Franks
Sent: Thursday, 5 December 2013, 3:07pm
To: Michael Haggett
Formal disciplinary hearing convened at Ty Gwynfor, 3 December 2013
I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the formal disciplinary hearing that was convened at Ty Gwynfor last night in order to consider the complaint lodged by Elin Jones, AM against you. You declined to attend the hearing, despite being invited to do so. Due to Farida Aslam’s -----------------------------------------------, and the fact that the hearing had already been postponed twice, Fflur Jones, another committee member from the Membership, Disciplinary and Standards Committee had been briefed in Farida’s absence, and stood in for Farida on the panel.
As you will be aware, upon receipt of the Investigating Officer’s Report into the complaint against you, the Hearing panel had resolved that you had a case to answer, and a formal hearing therefore convened. The manner in which the hearing was conducted, despite your absence, was in keeping with clause 4.6 of the Standing Orders, a copy of which you are already in receipt.
The panel considered the considerable investigation report compiled by Shaughan Feakes, the Investigating Officer. Having considered all the evidence available, the panel decided that it could not dismiss the complaint against you, but rather that the complaint against you should be upheld. Due also to the seriousness of the complaint against you, it was also decided that sanctions should be imposed upon you in keeping with clause 5.1 of the Standing Orders.
It was the decision of the panel that the sanctions to be imposed upon you are as follows:
1. That you are given a Formal written warning, which will remain live for a period of 12 months from the date of this letter.
2. That if any further complaints are raised against you during that period of 12 months, and those complaints are eventually upheld by a panel of the Membership, Disciplinary and Standards Committee, the result will be your immediate expulsion from the Party.
The reasons why the Panel reached this decision are as follows:
Having considered the length and breadth of the complaints against you, particularly the choice of language you used in your criticisms of Rhun ap Iorwerth, it is the panel’s decision that your actions were damaging, or potentially damaging to the public reputation of the Party, in keeping with ground 3.1iii of the Standing Orders. Whilst the Panel appreciates, and indeed welcomes open debate concerning Plaid Cymru’s policies, and our politicians’ reliance or commentary upon them, it cannot condone blogs being written which uses language such as “We do not need dishonest politicians like Rhun ap Iorwerth”….. “He is a cuckoo who has duped his way into our nest”….. “he is misleading people on this issue by telling blatant lies” …. “If Rhun ap Iorwerth is elected, it would be a tragedy for Plaid Cymru”….
Such comments are biased, unprofessional and personally vindictive, and do not contribute anything to a proper and mature political debate regarding whether a Plaid Cymru prospective politician had upheld, or strayed away from Plaid Cymru’s official policy on nuclear power. Whilst your blogs did not ultimately manage to damage the result in the Anglesey by-election, it nevertheless gave scope for Labour and other political parties to try and switch the focus onto criticism from within Plaid Cymru of Rhun ap Iorwerth, which in turn generated negative articles being published in the Western Mail, and in Labour party tweets. Even in blogs hosted by Cai Larsen, called the Menai blogs, which were generally supportive of Rhun ap Iorwerth, comments such as “But the issue I’d like to focus on is this – there’s little we can learn from Labour, but discipline is an exception. They have their arguments in a room and they pull together in public. Some of us have a great deal to learn from that” were made. This demonstrates that your unwise decision to blog in such a personally vindictive manner about Rhun ap Iorwerth caused even our supporters to despair at a perceived lack of discipline within Plaid Cymru. Indeed, it is the panel’s view that had it not been for the extremely positive and talented campaign run by Rhun ap Iorwerth, your negative comments could have had a much more adverse effect on our performance in the by-election. For all these reasons therefore, we consider that your blogs did have a potentially damaging effect on the public reputation of Plaid Cymru.
Elin Jones AM will therefore be informed that her complaints against you have been upheld. You have the right to appeal against this decision, in keeping with section 6 of the Standing Orders. If you wish to appeal, then please do so within seven days of the date of this letter.
Membership, Disciplinary and Standard Hearing Panel
From: Michael Haggett
Sent: Wednesday, 11 December 2013, 5:17pm
To: Rhuanedd Richards
Cc: Leanne Wood
Subject: Appeal and other matters
I have received an email from Chris Franks dated 5 December which is included with the complete chain of previous correspondence below.
It is perfectly clear that standing orders have not been adhered to and that the decision of the Hearing Panel is therefore invalid. I need only repeat what I said before in my email of 22 November:
You cannot move to an investigation unless you set out a timetable for it and inform all parties of what it is (Clause 4.3) and that any investigation must make enquires of all parties (Clause 4.2). Until a proper investigation has been conducted the Hearing Panel cannot resolve whether or not there is a case for me to answer (Clause 4.4). If they were then to decide that there was a case for me to answer, I would need to be informed of what that case was before I could answer it at a formal hearing.
Because of this I am registering an appeal to you as Chief Executive of the party (Clause 6.7) on the grounds that the procedure adopted by the Hearing Panel was flawed and therefore unjust (Clause 6.3i).
It is also true that the verdict and conclusions of the Hearing Panel as set out in the letter of 5 December demonstrate that they are based on factual inaccuracies (clause 6.3ii).
The most blatant factual inaccuracy is that the report produced by Shaughan Feakes states that I had not responded to his "several requests to speak with him". I would repeat what I said in my email of 28 October:
It is bizarre that a so-called investigation has taken place in which I was not asked a single question. Page 1 of the report contains the extraordinary statement that, "Michael Haggett has not responded to my several requests to speak with him." I have not received any such request.
Chris told me on 9 September that Shaughan would contact me, and said the same again on 16 September. In my reply of 16 September I specifically noted that he had not yet done so, but that I would be happy to answer any questions he cared to send me. In my email of 24 September I repeated that Shaughan had not been in contact with me.
The question that must now be asked is why what I said, more than once, was deliberately ignored. The result is an investigation that was fundamentally flawed because no-one asked me any questions, despite the clear obligation set out in clause 4.2 for it to make enquiries of all parties. Clause 4.3 requires that a timetable for the investigation be determined at the outset, and for all parties to be informed of what it is. I repeatedly asked Chris to provide this information, but he refused to do so.
I should add that in the email of 16 September, Chris said that Shaughan would "contact me to go into the detail of the complaint", and it would have been frankly impossible for him to have given me the detail of the complaint without sending me an email. In total, Shaughan received 25 emails from me, yet did not contact me at all.
It is clear from the email of 19 October that this so-called report was a factor in the decision to hold a formal hearing, and from the email of 5 December that it was relied on as "considerable".
But as well as this, the so-called report includes several inaccuracies based on incomplete or deliberately selective investigation, because it did not consider or present the evidence that I would have given him or pointed him to in response to the enquiries he should have made of me.
As a second and separate matter, it is now appropriate for me to note specific wrongdoing from several individuals that have been involved in the process.
Chris has proceeded with this matter in an unacceptable manner from the very beginning. He has fundamentally misunderstood the new nature of the disciplinary procedure. He has not taken any notice of standing orders even when his failure to follow them had been pointed out to him, and he has been defensive and evasive when questioned. Many of my questions still remain unanswered.
At first sight, these failures appeared to have been due to incompetence or, perhaps, being under so much pressure that he did not have time to deal with this matter with due diligence. However he went on to do things that simply cannot be excused by incompetence or lack of time. In particular he presented Shaughan's report to the Hearing Panel knowing full well that it contained blatantly untrue statements, and at the same time refused to provide them with copies of my correspondence with him, which would have clearly exposed this untruthfulness. The two other members of the Hearing Panel were therefore deprived of sufficient evidence to reach a proper conclusion about whether to proceed to a formal hearing. This is a double-dose of blatant wrongdoing on his part, and is much more serious than Chris merely being incompetent and evasive. He is clearly unfit to be Chair of the MDSP because he has refused to act in a fair and even-handed manner.
It is still not clear whether the Hearing Panel was presented with this correspondence at or before the meeting of 3 December. The email of 5 December is deliberately ambiguous, cryptically referring only to "all the evidence available" without specifying what it was. However because the email of 5 December does not attempt to address or answer any of the points I raised, it seems obvious that they weren't considered. Any procedure that refuses to consider or answer the points I have made is clearly unjust.
Throughout this process I have made a series of perfectly reasonable requests which, if followed, might have resulted in this matter being concluded in a fair and even-handed way in accordance with the rules set out in standing orders. But they were unreasonably denied. Yet Chris's blind rush to stitch me up by abusing the processes set out in standing orders in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion has backfired ... for he has now disqualified himself, along with the remainder of the Hearing Panel, from taking any further part in this matter.
Shaughan conducted his so-called investigation without contacting me or asking me a single question, in direct contravention of Clause 4.2. This was despite him being copied in on all correspondence, in which I specifically noted on more than one occasion that I was still waiting to hear from him. He was also instructed to contact me to "go into the detail of the complaint", but did not do so. I was kept entirely in the dark about the complaint, only receiving a copy of it five weeks after his so-called investigation had been completed and the report written.
By attaching his name to this joke of a document, he must bear personal responsibility for it and fully deserves to be reprimanded. However I would not want to be overly critical of his behaviour. As someone who works in Ty Gwynfor, he was severely compromised and probably put into an impossible position, and it is only fair that these mitigating circumstances are taken into account.
Nevertheless, the end result is that Plaid Cymru staff resources have been improperly used to prepare and present evidence in favour of one member of the party, while deliberately and completely ignoring the right of another member of the party to receive the same consideration. I had every right to expect that an equivalent amount of time and effort should have been given to investigating and presenting evidence that would show that what I said about Rhun's untruthfulness was justified.
I will repeat what I said in my email of 28 October:
I must therefore insist that a new investigation is held. It would take far too long to list all the other inadequacies of the investigation as reflected its report, but this is the most important of them: The central question is whether what Rhun said on Sunday Supplement and Pawb a'i Farn about Plaid's nuclear policy—specifically that it makes a distinction between new nuclear power stations on new sites and new nuclear power stations on existing nuclear sites—is or is not true. If Rhun lied, there can be no possible objection to me calling him a liar. It is a simple matter of fact that can easily be ascertained by competent investigation. Everything hinges on this, yet the report skirts round the issue. The new investigation must properly address this question.
Because of what has happened, it is now foolish to believe that a fair and balanced investigation can be carried out by anyone within Plaid Cymru. Clause 4.2 of Standing Orders makes provision for an external investigator to be appointed in exceptional circumstances like these, and I would insist this is now done. I believe it would be best if the investigation concerning me, and the investigations concerning Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd were all conducted by one person from outside the party.
This would have dealt with a situation in which a member of staff would otherwise be put into a compromised position, but my request was ignored.
Although Leanne asked Dafydd to intervene to ensure that all procedures have been properly followed and that everyone is treated properly and fairly, he made the decision to ignore standing orders in the same way as Chris had done, thus making himself complicit in Chris's wrongdoing.
I found this ridiculous and inexplicable, but I have now become aware of an explanation for such a perverse decision. Apparently, Dafydd is married to Lisa Turnbull. It was therefore his duty to declare this obvious conflict of interest and pass the matter on to someone else. No-one can be expected to make a fair and unbiased decision about whether or not a Hearing Panel of which their own partner was a member had acted properly.
Instead of declaring this conflict of interest, he went ahead and made the decision anyway. This is a appalling display of double standards on his part, for it is completely the opposite of what he did when there was a similar conflict of interest in 2006 over the selection process for regional candidates, as reported here. At the time he said,
The second I knew that Lisa intended to put her name forward for the regional list, I had nothing further to do with the internal selection contest.
That was undoubtedly the right thing for him to do, but means he can have no possible excuse for not doing the same thing on this occasion. The only reasonable explanation for this improper behaviour is that he knew he would not be able to get away with it when being questioned by the media, but thought that he could get away with it on this occasion by keeping quiet and hoping I would be none the wiser. It was a gamble that very nearly worked, and I can only thank the friends who have supported me throughout this sorry affair for letting me know about it.
What has happened to openness and transparency? Throughout this matter, people who have been entrusted with key positions of responsibility have demonstrated the clandestine culture that infests certain sections of the party. This is shameful and inexcusable.
As a third, and again separate, matter I would like to comment on some of the unfounded assertions mentioned in the letter of 5 December.
The letter says that my comments "do not contribute anything to a proper and mature political debate regarding whether a Plaid Cymru prospective politician had upheld, or strayed away from Plaid Cymru's official policy on nuclear power." This deliberately misses the point. I called Rhun a liar not because of whether he agreed or disagreed with party policy, but because he lied about what our party policy is ... in the same way as Elfyn Llwyd, Bob Parry and Dafydd Elis-Thomas had done before him. This is the one fundamental fact that has been deliberately and consistently ignored throughout this process. Rhun told a barefaced lie. How then can any reasonable person object to me calling him a liar or saying that he was misleading people? Of course the truth hurts, but Rhun brought it on himself. It is ridiculous to take action against me when it was Rhun who lied.
Cai Larsen is quoted as saying, "But the issue I’d like to focus on is this – there’s little we can learn from Labour, but discipline is an exception. They have their arguments in a room and they pull together in public. Some of us have a great deal to learn from that." Quite why Cai's opinion is so important is beyond me, but my reply to what Cai said was not even considered. Again this clearly shows that the Hearing Panel did not take the trouble to read through the evidence, but instead relied on a flawed report that quite deliberately only presented one side of the story. But if namedropping carries so much weight with the Hearing Panel, why did they ignore the comments made on Blog Menai by people, including members of the party, who supported me? Once again, they placed undue reliance on the selective version presented to them in Shaughan's joke of a report rather than consider all the evidence.
The letter also talks about a "perceived" lack of discipline within Plaid Cymru. It's much, much worse than that. There can be no doubt whatsoever that there is a lack of discipline within Plaid Cymru, and other parties and political commentators have mocked us about it for years. But who are those that lack discipline? Certainly not me. I have consistently upheld Plaid Cymru's policy on nuclear power in the face of systematic attempts to misrepresent it over several years. On this occasion, Rhun was the one that went against the party, not me. He was the one who lied about Plaid Cymru's policy in an attempt to justify himself after he eventually admitted he was pro-Wylfa B. He was the one who said he would rebel against his party colleagues if the matter came to a vote. Yet everyone involved in this sorry process has not taken the trouble to read and listen to the evidence I presented in Syniadau ... or, if they did, deliberately ignored it. This lack of discipline by a handful of mavericks within the party such as Elfyn, Bob, Dafydd and now Rhun is a running sore that should have been dealt with long before now. This is why Plaid Cymru is a laughing stock, and is now making itself even more of one. I could not be silent about this, because silence implies consent. That is a lesson that others in the party should have learned, but they were too spineless stand up for what we have agreed as a party. People like me have had to shoulder that burden instead ... but my shoulders are quite up to the job.
And finally, there is nothing personal or vindictive in what I've said about Rhun. I have never met or spoken to him. I have simply responded to what he said on his blog and to the media using exactly the same standards of truth and professionalism that characterize everything I write on Syniadau. I have not singled out Rhun. I pointed out that by lying he misrepresented our party and brought it into disrepute, but I did the same when Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd told similar lies. So why the double standards now? What makes Rhun so much more special than Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd? That is one of the outstanding questions to which I have never received an answer. Once again, senior members of Plaid Cymru are playing favourites to the detriment of the party as a whole and what we stand for.
Consider this matter carefully while there is still time to do so, for the reputation of the whole party is at stake, even though the wrongdoing is currently confined to only a few individuals in positions of power. Why should anyone in the party take offence at what I've said? I think the public know full well that politicians are prone to tell lies, be evasive and defensive, and turn a blind eye to wrongdoing when they find it convenient to do so ... and Plaid Cymru politicians are no exception. That has been amply demonstrated in the way this matter has been handled. For my part, I will not hesitate to call Plaid Cymru politicians liars when they lie and attempt to mislead the public and ordinary members of the party, and it is very foolish of anyone in Plaid to think for one moment that they can prevent me from doing so.
My primary obligation as the person responsible for Syniadau is to tell the truth without fear or favour. That is why my blog is so influential and widely read, and I will not throw away that reputation because people in positions of power in Plaid Cymru are offended by what I write. I will commend those who deserve commendation, irrespective of what party they are from; and I will criticize those who deserve criticism, irrespective of what party they are from. If they don't like it, tough. Telling the truth is much more important than Plaid Cymru will ever be.
PS. This email is addressed to you, Rhuanedd, as Chief Executive, as required by Clause 6.7 of standing orders. I have not copied it to certain others because they can no longer play any part or have any influence in the matter. I expect you to respect this, and not forward it or any the information it contains indiscriminately.