How Plaid Cymru Works - 25

This is the twenty-fifth 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: Jocelyn Davies
Sent: Saturday, 28 June 2014, 2:24pm
To: Michael Haggett
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards
Subject: Fwd: Appeal

Michael

Thank you for your email. I am disappointed that you've changed your view about a paper hearing. I do not agree with your reasons and I intend to proceed next Wednesday. I imagine you may be disappointed. So we are clear, this is not a re-run of the hearing that you are appealing against so this must not be confused with a review. The standing orders are very specific on that point although silent on how it should be done.

Appeals on fairness/factual accuracy are well established and it is also commonplace for them to be undertaken by people with no prior involvement and by way of a paper hearing. I'm therefore undertaking this appeal as best I can along the lines of normal good practice.

As this appeal is not a re-run of the complaint hearing we will be considering:-

Your documentation, including your appeal notice
The complaint
The investigation report
The report of the hearing
The information you have placed in the public domain
And possibly any further documentation you'd like us to consider specific to your appeal

You have all this information, except the investigation report. You were required to to be specific about what aspects of the hearing procedure were breached and which facts you are disputing when you registered your appeal. As you have yet to see the investigation report I accept you were not able to fully meet this requirement. I'm therefore sending it to you. It is very brief. If you dispute any of the facts in it or in the report of the hearing please let me know by Monday midday as originally timetabled.

Many thanks for your cooperation. I am copying this to Rhuanedd so she can circulate it to the other panel members as I don not have their personal email addresses.

Best wishes

Jocelyn

Complaint Report – Ian Titherington

Report of Investigation into Elin Jones’ Complaint of 02/08/13

(Syniadau Blog – Michael Haggett)

The following report has been written without a response from Michael Haggett (MH), despite written requests being sent to him by myself (a hard copy and by e-mail). As the Syniadau blog has been updated since the e-mail was sent, I am assuming that MH has received the documentation and chosen not to respond in this instance. With this in mind, I have also made the assumptions that MH is responsible for both the content of the Syniadau blog and the specific blog posts relating to this complaint. I have concentrated specifically of the blog posts published prior to the actual Ynys Mon by-election, including any comments as part of the posts.

In Elin Jones’s (EJ’s) complaint letter of 02/08/13, she accuses MH of ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ – ‘undermining the efforts of Plaid Cymru to win Ynys Mon’ – ‘the content of the blog undermined the integrity of the candidate’ – ‘the blog brought negative attention to Plaid’s campaign’.

MH’s consistent argument throughout his blogposts on this matter, was that Rhun ap Iorweth (RapI) was responsible for any damage being done to the party and not himself. He bases this primarily on his position on the development of Wylfa B, although his criticisms go beyond this. He also questions RapI‘s loyalty to the party, the selection process and his inexperience.

EJ’s complaint in terms of the party’s standing orders, relates to 3.1.iii which refers to: -

Engaging in “actions or statements damaging or potentially damaging the public reputation of the party”

This standing order must in my opinion be treated with caution, as it should not be used to stifle debate within the party either in relation to policy or actions of others. However, there are constitutional mechanisms within the party which allow members to both set policy, question actions and if necessary criticise individuals. Yet in this particular case, MH, does not appear to have taken this route.

I do not believe that it is the role of this report to speculate on RapI’s stance on nuclear power; the issue which has largely led to this complaint. During the by-election campaign in Ynys Mon, he along with the all the candidates was open to public scrutiny on this and Plaid’s political opponents were given every opportunity to challenge him. It could be argued that MH did not have the opportunity to raise his concerns internally due to the short timescale, so chose to do so through his blog posts. This would have some credibility, if there was evidence that he had contacted the party nationally or locally to raise concerns, but I have not been made aware of such communication.

Having read all of MH’s blog comments leading up to RapI’s selection and the subsequent campaign, there is a pattern of more and more antagonism towards RapI. Phrases such as ‘a stitch-up’ and ‘a political liability’ were used during the campaign by MH to describe the candidate, then the language became far harsher towards the election day when the candidate was labelled ‘a liar’.

Two statements are of particular significance for me, both published just before the election date:-

‘We do not need dishonest politicians like RapI

‘If RapI is elected, it would be a tragedy for Plaid Cymru, Ynys Mon and Wales’

Whatever context you care to refer to, these two statements alone are without doubt, damaging or potentially damaging to the public reputation of the candidate. During such a high profile by-election where the former party leader held the seat, such strongly worded attacks on the candidate are effectively attacks on the party, so the only conclusion I can come to is that MH has demonstrably engaged in statements that potentially damaged the public reputation of the party.

There is an argument that as Plaid Cymru were so successful in this election, that the blog posts referred to had little or no effect on the result, or the reputation of the candidate. However, this is not the issue, as Plaid’s political opponents not only used the statements to attack us, but will no doubt use these statements in future campaigns. Even if it could be argued that the statements were not damaging, they were most certainly potentially damaging.

 
Conclusions

I believe that MH has engaged in actions or statements damaging or potentially damaging to the public reputation of the party.

His published attacks on RapI leading up to the Ynys Mon by-election were personal, arguably libellous and most certainly detrimental to the Party. There is no evidence that MH made any effort to raise his concerns internally through the party structure and he has to my knowledge, not apologised to RapI or retracted any of the published blog posts I assume he is responsible for.

MH is clearly a very bright and eloquent political thinker who cares passionately about Wales, including all issues relating to nuclear power. However, as a member of Plaid Cymru, he has responsibilities as well as rights and in this particular case, I believe that he has been irresponsible in his blog posts, to the detriment of the party.

From: Rhuanedd Richards
Sent: Monday, 30 June 2014, 9:22am
To: Michael Haggett
Cc: Jocelyn Davies
Subject: Re: Second Appeal

Dear Michael

I’m grateful to Jocelyn for passing on the email that you did not receive and to you for confirming the grounds of the appeal.

The names of those who will serve on the Appeal Panel, as confirmed by the National Executive Committee, are Jocelyn Davies (Chair), Rebeca Lewis and Alun Ffred Jones.

Kind regards

Rhuanedd

From: Michael Haggett
Sent: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 6:26pm
To: Jocelyn Davies
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards, Leanne Wood, Nerys Evans
Subject: Re: Second Appeal

Dear Jocelyn

Thank you for your email of 28 June. I suggest you read what I actually wrote more carefully. I have not "changed my mind". I said I would be happy for there to be a "paper hearing" if what you meant was that the process should be conduced entirely by email. When you said that you meant something different, namely that you thought it should involve only you viewing the documentation, I made it clear that this was unacceptable.

It is not just a case of you viewing documentation, but for all the parties involved to be able to view it, ask questions about anything that is unclear, and refute it if necessary. To give you an example of why prior disclosure of evidence is so necessary, I would ask you to look back at the evidence Shaughan gave at the first appeal. On the surface, the first Appeal Panel might well have concluded that I had received phone messages from him but not answered them; but when his evidence was disclosed to me, I was able to explain what had in fact happened.

As what I have shown so far reveals several very large irregularities in the way the procedure was conducted, I find it very hard to believe that the Appeal Panel would not seek evidence from the other parties involved to help clarify what happened, most notably from Elin, Rhun, Nerys, Ian and Eli. Indeed I think it would be remiss of you not to.

It would be quite bizarre for you to refuse to do this, especially because these were the procedures set out for the first appeal. For this reason I would again ask whether you are qualified to sit on the Appeal Panel. When did the NEC meet in order to ratify your (plural, including Rebeca and Alun Ffred) appointments to the MDSP? Have the three of you received the necessary training, and when did you receive it? People have the right to a consistency of approach, not for different people to go off in totally different directions.

-

Turning now to the matter of outstanding information, thank you for forwarding me a copy of Ian's investigation report. I will make some preliminary comments on it below. But I am still waiting the other information I requested, and because of this I am unable to produce a complete statment of evidence for the appeal. This is a reminder of the information I requested:

1. The dates of all meetings of the MDSP/Hearing Panel, subsequent to the information I was sent before as part of the first appeal.

2. The minutes or any other record of those meetings. These may be redacted to exclude items which do not relate to the subject matters referred to in Elin's complaint against me or my complaints against Elfyn, Bob, Dafydd and Rhun. If any meeting did not discuss these matters, a simple statement that it did not will suffice; however I require the dates of any such meetings because the fact that these matters were not discussed in them will be relevant in itself.

3. Copies of the correspondence, or the file notes of any conversations, of those acting in an official capacity (as either members of the MDSP/Hearing Panel/Appeal Panel, Investigating Officer, or any other officer of Plaid Cymru) which relate to these subject matters, subsequent to what I was sent before.

4. A copy of all the evidence, both written and oral, presented at the so-called hearing of 17 June, from all parties. In particular, this would include a copy of Ian's Investigation Report, which I know must exist but which I have not as yet received. It would also include any statement about the case I was expected to answer, which may or may not exist.

Taking items 1 and 2 together, this is important because when I made the same request for the first appeal, they showed discrepancies and malpractice on the part of the MDSP. It would also include the "report of the hearing", something you say I have been given but which I have not received.

Items 3 and 4 are important because there is always the possibility that correspondence or a document has gone astray, or that its existence was not revealed to me. As you can see, I have been scrupulous in making sure that every email I send includes with it the complete chain of previous correspondence, so as to leave nobody in any doubt about who said what and when they said it, or any excuse for not acting upon it. Those who have written to me have not always done this.

Having now received a copy of the investigation report, the next most pressing need is to get an answer to my question about the two packages that were sent by Royal Mail Signed For and Special Delivery Guaranteed but returned to sender. What was in these packages and when were they sent? I would remind you that in Eli's first email, dated 7 April, she had indicated that all correspondence would be by email, so it might well be that these packages only contained copies of her emails of 7 April, 13 May and 23 May, and that no attempt was made to send me a copy of the investigation report, details of the case I was expected to answer, or prior disclosure of evidence.

-

Turning now to Ian's Investigation Report, I would note the following.

1. Ian says the he wrote this report "without a response from Michael Haggett". I would refer you to my email to him dated 28 April.

2. Ian claims that what I wrote was based "primarily on [my] position on the development of Wylfa B". This entirely misses the point, I called Rhun a liar and said he was misleading the public not on the basis of what I believe, but because he was misrepresenting the position of Plaid Cymru. Our policy is one of total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power station in Wales, including Wylfa B, and it makes no distinction whatsoever between new sites and sites on or near existing or previous nuclear power stations.

3. Linked to this is the rather strange suggestion that I should have adopted "constitutional mechanisms". With regard to our party's policy on nuclear power, I have no need to do this because I am happy with the policy that has been adopted and confirmed overwhelmingly at previous conferences. It is for those who disagree with what we as a party have decided to make the case for change, and to bring a motion before conference to effect such a change. If a majority votes for it, then our policy on nuclear power will change; but unless or until that happens our policy is going to remain exactly what it is now.

4. Ian also suggests that any criticism of individuals should be done through "constitutional mechanisms". This is absurd. Rhun told a blatant lie in public, therefore I have every right to criticize him for this immediately and in public, so as to correct the misinformation he put out.

5. Ian says he does "not believe that it is the role of this report to speculate on RapI’s stance on nuclear power". I would agree that it is not his job to speculate; as investigating officer it is his job to ask direct questions about it, especially if he believes it is this which had largely led to Elin's complaint. Indeed I would go further and remind the Appeal Panel that the Investigating Officer is required to make enquires of all parties under clause 4.2 of Standing Orders. In addition to Ian not asking Rhun any questions, he did not ask Elin any questions either. This is a complete dereliction of his duty, and it completely invalidates his report.

6. Ian’s report point-blank refuses to address the main issue, namely whether or not what Rhun said about Plaid’s policy on nuclear was true or not. I provided irrefutable evidence to show that what he said was not true. Therefore there can be no possible objection to me calling Rhun a liar or saying that he misled the public by telling that lie.

7. It might also be worth repeating the point I made in my email of 27 June about needing to know exactly what the case against me was before being in a position to decide how to defend myself. It was clear from Eli's email of 20 June that the second Hearing Panel had considered matters which were not part of Elin's complaint, but having at last been given a copy of Ian's so-called investigation report, it is now clear that they were prompted to do so by opinions Ian had expressed on matters which seem to have very little connexion to what Elin had complained about.

-

Finally, on the matter of timetable, it is silly of you to ask or expect me to meet impossible deadlines. I have been away for the weekend, and have only today learned that you expected me to respond to Ian's report by yesterday. I had hoped you would see sense and delay the Appeal Hearing until all the outstanding information has been provided, but you seem determined to close your eyes and press ahead anyway.

I can't stop you pressing ahead, but if you do this without full information being available to enable me to properly prepare my appeal you will simply add more weight to the perception that there has been wrongdoing which Plaid Cymru is desperate to keep hidden.

For this reason, I am copying this email to Leanne as party leader and Nerys as Deputy Chair, so as to give them an opportunity to prevent your undue haste bringing the party into yet greater disrepute.

Best regards

Michael

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, it would be "help" legitimise if the existing parties, when awake, ensured that the Assembly and its governing elite became accountable? At present it seems you can be drunk, semi-sober, a multiple expense bender, and a confirmed breaker of Ministerial formal codes....and the official response is, "No further action". It's the new freemasonary. Just what Wales needed.

Anonymous said...

And so it ends .......................... with hardly a whimper.

And no-one gives a damn.



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