This is the twenty-second 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 correspondence on this page, which I will keep updating as further emails are published.
From the emails in the previous post people will see that I had asked Nerys, as Deputy Chair of the party, to intervene in the same way as Leanne had asked Dafydd to intervene before (Dafydd was now disqualified by reason of his previous involvement, which is why Nerys had taken over his role in overseeing this matter) because it was clear that the second Hearing Panel was rushing headlong into making almost exactly the same mistakes as the first Hearing Panel had made. Just as Chris Franks had done last year, Eli Jones also expected me to turn up and be judged without having seen a copy of the investigation report, without knowing exactly what the case against me was supposed to be, and without any prior disclosure of the evidence that would be presented.
But this time round nothing happened, and so the hearing went ahead anyway. The next I heard was this email from Eli Jones, which I will publish without comment for now. I think everyone who has been following this series will be able to make up their own minds about it.
From: Eli Jones
Sent: Friday, 20 June 2014, 4:54pm
To: Undisclosed recipients
Subject: Complaint made by Elin Jones AM aganst Michael Haggett, August 2013
To: Michael Haggett and the Director of Communications
Copy to: Hearing Panel members, Chief Executive, and Party Chair
Dear Mr Haggett and Ms Jones
Further to my earlier correspondence informing you that the Panel had reached a decision that there was a case to answer concerning the allegation that Mr Haggett had engaged in -
Actions or statements damaging or potentially damaging to the public reputation of the party
contrary to Standing Order 3.1iii, and that there would therefore be a formal hearing to consider the evidence, I now write to you to inform you of the outcome of that formal hearing, held at Tŷ Gwynfor on 17th June 2014.
You will recall that both parties were invited to attend to present their case, and/or to submit a written statement in advance. Both parties were asked to acknowledge receipt of that communication and to indicate whether it was their intention to attend the hearing.
The Panel was informed that Ms Jones would not be submitting a written statement nor would she be attending, as she felt she had nothing further to add to the complaint she had submitted in August 2013.
The Panel received no response from Mr Haggett, despite having taken the precaution of ensuring a copy of our correspondence had reached its destination as it was sent by recorded delivery.
The Panel therefore proceeded with the formal hearing in the absence of both parties to the complaint.You are invited to present your case before the Hearing Panel at that time.
The Panel formally received the Investigating Officer’s Report, (Standing Order 4.6i), and considered the evidence set out in the original complaint and in the Report. The Panel was also prepared to consider any submission received through appropriate channels from Mr Haggett, but none was forthcoming. The Panel expressed its total dismay at the lack of co-operation, and the lack of contrition or remorse, but also its abject horror to learn of the breach of paragraph 9.1 of the Standing Orders for Membership, Discipline and Standards, and the reminders included in both direct communications from the Panel to the parties, concerning public statements regarding the circumstances or persons involved in a disciplinary procedure. These make it quite clear that:
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.
The Panel had been made aware that not only had Mr Haggett been blogging about the proceedings, and that this was the source of a non-helpful article in The Western Mail published on 14 June 2014, but that Mr Hagget had published verbatim within his blog the correspondence he had received from the Panel.
This action on Mr Haggett’s part confirmed to the Panel that Mr Haggett had received our correspondence, and that he had chosen not to respond to us, contrary to our request, but also that he had deliberately flouted the requirements of paragraph 9.1. In turn, that implied that he was acting audaciously towards the Panel, and by extension, towards the Party.
The Panel considered whether to refer such disregard and deliberate impudence onwards as a further, separate complaint against Mr Hagget, but having concluded that no useful benefit would be derived form further referral, the Panel regarded this latest inappropriate behaviour as an extension to, and part of, the subject matter of the complaint currently under review.
In addressing the core subject matter of the complaint, the Panel found that there was evidence to support the allegation of
Actions or statements damaging or potentially damaging, the public reputation of the party (Standing Order 3.1.iii).
Plaid Cymru is a party which is united by the aims outlined in its constitution but naturally encompasses a broad range of views and opinions. Like any other organisation, our members are not always going to agree on everything – but we do manage to get along with one another and we respect each other, and each other’s standpoints.
We understand that Mr Haggett had concerns about the manner of Rhun ap Iorwerth’s selection, but there is provision in our Constitution for such circumstances. We understand that Mr Haggett had different views and opinions to Rhun’s (and others), and we understand that annoyance and frustration can arise when events take a path contrary to our wishes. This is why Plaid has robust and wide-ranging internal democratic mechanisms in place which allow for discussion and debate and resolution of our differences – even if it lands up as an agreement to disagree. There was no evidence whatsoever that Mr Haggett had attempted to utilise such mechanisms. Mr Hagget’s concerns, whether in relation to the selection process or any of the other issues featured in his blog during the election campaign, appear not to have been raised through the proper constitutional channels Plaid provides.
What the Panel found was evidence of a distressingly vicious and personalised escalating attack on one of its members. The Panel was appalled by the degree of vitriol and unsubstantiated allegations targeted at the candidate. Criticism of our candidate’s views on any topic is unhelpful in the context of a by-election, but Mr Haggett went far beyond acceptable comment by referring to him, inter alia, as a “liar” and a “dishonest politician” without any evidence to support such serious allegations. The Panel would consider the making of such scurrilous allegations against a member of another Party as inappropriate and unacceptable, but to make them against a member of one’s own party is beyond belief.
There did not appear to have been any attempt to apologise to Rhun ap Iorwerth, whether directly, or as part of the disciplinary process, for this slur on his personal integrity, nor was any contrition shown for the verbal assault impugning Rhun’s reputation nor for undermining the efforts of loyal Plaid members during such a significant by-election. The absence of a response from Mr Haggett to the Panel is indicative of how even he himself could not defend such behaviour.
Any democratic party will have to deal with contentious issues which divide opinion. Some of these debates may become heated but it is the responsibility of all members to avoid personalising disputes and to respect and tolerate the views of members who are of a different persuasion. Plaid values diversity. But Plaid also expects respect for different views, and from all its members towards all its members. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel found that in the course of his blog attacks on Rhun ap Iorwerth, Mr Haggett had manifestly failed to respect a fellow member, had undermined the efforts of fellow members, and had shown unacceptable intolerance of views that differed from his own. This transgression was further compounded by the open contempt shown for the workings of this Panel, and thereby, Plaid in general.
The Panel regards Mr Haggett’s behaviour in this matter as not the behaviour that members of Plaid Cymru have the right to expect from their party colleagues - indeed, no major organisation would tolerate such behaviour from a member.
It is therefore the unanimous decision of the Panel that the complaint made by Elin Jones in August 2013 be upheld, and that recent behaviour, towards the Panel, (and therefore Plaid), contrary to paragraph 9.1, compounds and exacerbates an untenable situation. The Panel considers both these aspects of the same complaint to be sufficiently serious to require a sanction.
The Panel concluded that Mr Haggett’s party membership be suspended for a period of not less than two years, with immediate effect. Any future application for membership from Mr Haggett will be subject to the scrutiny and approval of the Membership, Disciplinary and Standards Committee.
Incidentally, the provisions of paragraph 9.1, remain applicable, for the time being.
Chair - Hearing Panel