Plaid AM censured for calling blogger “an arsehole”

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

Disciplinary motions in the Senedd are usually straightforward affairs.

The Chair of the Standards Committee summarises what happened, the AM in question may or may not make a mea culpa and then the Senedd unanimously agrees to whatever punishment the Standards Committee recommends.

Yesterday was a bit different as Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) faced the music for her run-in with cloudyeller-in-chief, Royston Jones (aka. Jac o’ the North – see also Jac in the Fart Box).

Gloriously unrepentant, Leanne told AMs it would be dishonest to apologise, listing several other groups targeted by Jones including the disabled, LGBTs and feminists.

“These types of attacks are personal, but they are also political, and the timing, after our group had experienced such a horrific loss just that week, well, enough was enough. I decided that the best way to stand up to that bully was to use language that he was sure to understand. It’s not language I would normally use, but sometimes, when standing up to bullies, you have to deploy whatever strategies you deem necessary.”
– Leanne Wood AM

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) – a member of the Standards Committee – said none of the facts were contested, the complaint was made by a third party and while more needed to be done to address social media abuse, it was language unbecoming of an elected representative.

David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) – another committee member – added that provocation wasn’t justification for breaking the Code of Conduct.

Leanne had AMs in her corner. Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) said the report warranted some judgement and humanity. How can Leanne be in the wrong, when others (usually men) get away with saying objectionable things?

“Her reaction was human, instinctive and protective, and it is those three characteristics that continue to bind women from all parties together in this Chamber in the face of dehumanising threats and abuse. I know that we won’t all vote the same way today, but I cannot believe that we don’t at least feel the same way. I commend Leanne for standing her ground.”
– Lynne Neagle AM

Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) – who was Royston’s target – said the context and timing of the comment, in the days following Steffan Lewis’ death and before his funeral, meant she didn’t think she was in a position to respond herself. People were making assumptions about her based on a one-line Twitter biography. She expressed gratitude to Leanne for defending her by realising “how ill-judged, insensitive and cruel the timing and the tone of those messages about me were.”

Chair of the Standards Committee, Jayne Bryant (Lab, Newport West), said the role of the Standards Committee was quasi-judicial and they can’t make decisions based on party lines or personal opinions. While she had sympathy for Leanne Wood, with political discourse currently toxic, AMs had a duty to maintain high standards of behaviour.

When it came to the vote, Lynne Neagle AM voted against.

Also from the government benches, Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central), Vaughan Gething AM (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) and Kirsty Williams AM (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) abstained.