Over the past three weeks readers of Syniadau will have read a series of posts about the disciplinary action taken by Plaid Cymru against me following a complaint by Elin Jones about what I wrote on the subject of the Ynys Môn by-election last year.
Rather than offer a running commentary, I took the decision to publish the complete correspondence between myself and the various people involved in a neutral and unvarnished way, because I think what has happened speaks for itself. Of course I realized that if I tried to do it all in one long post, nobody would read it through to the end, so I decided it would be more effective to publish the unfolding drama in a series of instalments. In fact I've written all the posts in this series in advance and scheduled them to be published automatically, one each day. Meanwhile, I decided to take what I'd like to believe is a well-deserved holiday ... killing two birds with one stone by giving me a break from politics, while at the same time giving everybody who reads Syniadau something to read while I enjoy the last few weeks of winter.
This is the last post in the series, and I'm writing it to explain why I have taken the decision to make what has happened public.
The first thing to note is that, throughout the disciplinary process, I have taken care to follow all the rules as set out in Plaid Cymru's Standing Orders. Unless we all act in accordance with an agreed set of rules, the party will descend into chaos. It was the Membership, Discipline and Standards Panel (the Hearing Panel is made up of three members of the MDSP) that broke these rules, and that is why my appeal against their decision was successful. They acted unjustly.
However, in now publishing what has happened I am still not breaking any of the rules set out in Standing Orders. Several people involved in the disciplinary procedure against me have tried to use Clause 9.1 of Standing Orders to make out that the procedure is confidential, but this simply isn't true. This is what Section 9 actually says:
9. PUBLIC STATEMENTS
9.1 No public statement regarding the circumstances or persons involved in a disciplinary procedure shall be made by any member other than the Chair of the Party until after the conclusion of any appeal or until after the last day for the making of an appeal in the event of no appeal being made.
There is no mention of confidentially in this clause or anywhere else in Standing Orders, and indeed the procedure cannot be confidential, for how else could an accused person take advice or have the right to choose to be represented by someone else at any hearing? The idea that the procedure is somehow confidential is completely bogus, but when this bogus claim gets repeated time and time again, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Chris, Dafydd and Alun were trying to intimidate me to avoid embarrassment to themselves. Such bully-boy tactics might work on others, but they won't work on me.
Clause 9.1 is not about confidentiality, it only restricts a member from making public statements until after the conclusion of any appeal. An appeal (whether it turns out to be the only one or not is irrelevant) has now been concluded, therefore I am perfectly free to make any public statement I wish. Once again people in positions of power in Plaid Cymru need to learn to read the rules as written, rather than ignore them or pretend that they say something different.
However, even though there is nothing in Standing Orders that prevents me from now speaking out about what has happened, I feel I need to make it clear why I am doing this. Despite what some people might think, it is definitely not because I want to damage the public reputation of Plaid Cymru. Quite the contrary, I am doing this in order to uphold our values and reputation as a party. Yes, I have exposed the lies, double standards, wrongdoing and hypocrisy of some people in positions of power within our party, and I make no apology for that, but I am doing this so that others in the party know about what is being done in their name and can take action to put these things right. Our reputation as a party will be enhanced, not damaged, if we are seen to do this. I have not, at least not yet, given up on Plaid Cymru. I am and I intend to remain a member of Plaid Cymru in order to fight for what I see as the soul of our party. Most people leave political parties because they don't agree with party policy; am I to go down in history as someone who is thrown out of my party because I do agree with party policy?
One crucial thing that makes us in Plaid Cymru different from Labour and the Tories is that our party policy is decided democratically by members at conference rather than imposed from on high by leaders or shadowy committees. It is explicitly set out in section 15.2i of our constitution that conference is responsible for determining the party's policy. No matter how "inconvenient" this may be for those in positions of power in the party, our rules are quite clear.
Time after time delegates and now ordinary members of Plaid Cymru have reaffirmed at conference our total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations, without making any distinction between new nuclear power stations on new sites and new nuclear power stations on existing nuclear sites. We cannot let this, our right as members to decide policy, be hijacked by those who want to undermine what we have decided by telling lies about it, no matter what positions they hold in the party. It is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.
As I see things, this is not particularly about me or any disciplinary procedure against me. As I said in my email to Leanne on this page, I regard this disciplinary procedure as a relatively minor matter. What is important is that we in Plaid Cymru should be clear in public about what our policy on nuclear energy is.
Over the past few years a series of high-profile Plaid Cymru politicians such as Elfyn Llwyd, Bob Parry, Dafydd Elis-Thomas and now Rhun ap Iorwerth have told blatant lies about our nuclear policy ... yet our leaders will not speak out to put the record straight. Although he probably didn't use these exact words, Edmund Burke is usually credited with saying, "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing", and it's true. Because the leadership of Plaid Cymru have sat on their hands and done nothing, the lie that people such as Elfyn, Bob, Dafydd and now Rhun keep repeating has gained traction to the extent that most people in Wales probably believe it.
All I asked Leanne to do was to ensure that either she as our leader, or Llyr Gruffydd as our spokesman on energy, put the record straight by saying, explicitly, that it is not our policy to treat a new nuclear power station on or next to an existing nuclear site any differently from a new nuclear power station somewhere else. We need to make it clear beyond any shadow of doubt that Plaid's policy is one of total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations.
But she hasn't done this, and neither has Llyr. In fact Llyr has gone out of his way to ignore the subject even when it cried out to be addressed. Only a few weeks ago he published a policy paper on energy, which is available here. In many ways it's a good paper, but it doesn't mention our policy on nuclear energy at all. How can we possibly have a policy on energy without it addressing the issue of nuclear power? By ignoring the elephant in the room, he has turned a good piece of work into something that cannot be seen as credible. For some hidden reason, the good people in our party who should be speaking out about our policy on nuclear energy have been silenced, and this means that the lies go unchallenged and gradually become accepted as fact.
Because I have been one of the few people in the party who has not been afraid to expose the lies that Elfyn, Bob, Dafydd and Rhun have told, the guns have now been turned on me. Rather than stand up for what they know is true, some people would prefer to maintain a false semblance of party "unity" by accepting these lies as if they were true. This is spineless capitulation, and I am not prepared to fall into line behind a lie. Silence implies consent, therefore I must speak out. It is because I have spoken out that people like Elin Jones want to punish me for it ... and she has found willing accomplices in those members of the MDSP who were prepared to ride roughshod over party rules in order to stitch me up.
To be clear, the MDSP not only rode roughshod over party rules in order to find me "guilty" of bringing the party into disrepute; they also rode roughshod over party rules in the way they refused to set up any investigation or take any action against Elfyn, Bob, Dafydd and Rhun for bringing the party into disrepute through their lies. If the minutes of the MDSP meeting are to be believed (and there is a very large question mark over that) the MDSP made the decision to ignore their wrongdoing, but neglected to inform me of that decision or give any reasons for it, even though they are specifically required to explain their reasons under Clause 3.5 of Standing Orders. I'm not at all surprised. There is no reason they could possibly give that wouldn't immediately be seen as hollow and ridiculous.
As a result of this decision, more than anything else, they have made Plaid Cymru a complete laughing stock. The members of the MDSP had a duty to treat my complaints against Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd in exactly the same way as they treated Elin's complaint against me. Their refusal to act in an impartial and even-handed manner shows blatant bias and prejudice, has damaged the reputation of those responsible, and has brought shame and disgrace upon the party as a whole. Yet to add to that hypocrisy, it did not even enter their heads to want to "re-start" the disciplinary process against Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd. They only want to "re-start" the disciplinary process against me.
Yet despite all their bluster, there is no provision under Standing Orders that allows the MDSP to "re-start" the disciplinary process after an appeal, and Dafydd Trystan acknowledged in his email of 4 February that there is no constitutional provision for it. Even so, I have said that I am prepared for there to be a new investigation. However the remit of any new investigation must include my complaints against Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd, as well as Elin's complaint against me. Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd must be formally told that their statements are being investigated as part of a disciplinary procedure against them and must be made subject to the same potential sanctions as I might be. The investigation must be carried out by someone of stature from outside the party, must itself reach firm conclusions as to culpability, and must be published. This is the only way to handle things fairly.
In short, those in positions of power in Plaid Cymru are now faced with a choice. On the one hand, if they insist on taking this matter further, it must be done on a level playing field and in the light of public scrutiny rather than behind closed doors. I have no doubt that a proper, independent investigation carried out by someone of stature from outside the party will find that Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd have lied and misled the public, and that it is they who are guilty of damaging the public reputation of our party, not me. It's not often that I'll give the Liberal Democrats credit, but they undoubtedly did the right thing by referring the recent complaints against Chris Rennard to an independent QC. We should learn from them. No in-house investigation would or could be credible, because Chris Rennard in the case of the LibDems and Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd in the case of Plaid Cymru are in positions of power within their respective parties.
But, on the other hand, if those in positions of power in Plaid Cymru are not prepared to do this, then it might be better for Elin to withdraw her complaint and for Alun to drop his threat of further disciplinary action against me. If they do this, then I will be happy to withdraw my complaints against Rhun, Elfyn, Bob and Dafydd.
I have no doubt that some people are incensed that I managed to foil a blatant attempt to stitch me up behind closed doors. People in positions of authority don't like being challenged. Egos have been bruised, tempers are frayed, and things now need to cool down. That's one reason why I decided that this would be a good time to take a break. I hope that by the time I get back in March, wiser counsel will prevail and the leadership of Plaid Cymru will step in to say that enough is enough. I'm sure we all have better things to do, not least fighting the next election. Jill Evans, as we can read here, was not intimidated by Bob Parry's lies when she spoke at a conference against nuclear energy in 2010, and it would be a tragedy if we did not come together as a party to make sure that someone who agrees with party policy keeps her seat in the European Parliament.