Saturday 11 April 2015

Mud slinging

The dogs bark and the caravan is set to move on in the row about Huw Thomas and Mike Parker in Ceredigion.

Huw Thomas was the lead story on BBC Wales' news bulletins last night, and we heard that he had apologised for remarks made on maes-e back in 2006 when he suggested that a good way to deal with people driving around Wales displaying English flags on their cars would be to throw Tippex on the vehicles. He had also made disparaging remarks about 'chavs' and referred condescendingly to a shop assistant as 'Stacey'.

Viewers had to take this on trust because Huw was not willing to appear in front of the cameras.

For his part, Mike Parker was happy to talk to take a few minutes out of canvassing to talk to the BBC. "I'm not interested in trying to smear other candidates. This election is about tackling the LibDems and their incumbent MP for their record as a part of the coalition government," he said.

And that was that. Almost.

The consensus among commentators is that it is wrong to dredge up things that people said and wrote years ago in different times when they were younger and not thinking about future careers in politics.

And they are surely right, but it goes further than politics.

The rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media means that daft actions or comments people made when they were young could well come back to haunt them in their future working lives, with PR managers scouring social networks when recruiting. Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, a teenager was expelled from a local school after posting pictures of himself and his private parts online.

To a lesser extent the problem existed before there were social media. I knew someone who was caught switching price labels on two pots of jam in a mini-mart as a student. With a criminal record in his early twenties he found that his career choices were limited.

It would be nice to think that politicians would give this problem careful consideration in the next parliament because it is a ticking time bomb for huge numbers of young people.

But back to Huw Thomas.

What triggered this week's events were attempts to smear Mike Parker and distort what he wrote in an old magazine article by someone operating through the pages of the Cambrian News.

Huw Thomas was very quick to demand that Mike Parker should be removed as Plaid's candidate, saying:

“These outrageous and deeply offensive remarks are exactly the sort of poisonous rhetoric you’d expect from Ukip, not a party that claims to be progressive and left wing.

“There should be no place in our politics or our society for such divisive and hateful language.

Now, these remarks were made just days ago, and they look very much like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. Not only that, but Huw Thomas was joined in the attack by various Labour big guns, including Peter Hain and Leighton Andrews.

A week before that the victim was Nicola Sturgeon over remarks it turned out that she had never made.

There have been no apologies to either Mike Parker or Nicola Sturgeon.

Writing on Golwg360 a couple of days ago Ifan Morgan Jones was quite critical of Mike Parker:

O dderbyn bod y Cambrian News wedi camddehongli Mike Parker, ni ddylid neidio i’r casgliad ei fod ef yn gyfan-gwbl ddi-fai chwaith.

["Having accepted that the Cambrian News misinterpreted Mike Parker, we should not jump to the conclusion that he is completely blameless either"]

A day later he was defending Huw Thomas: "if he is guilty of anything, it is hypocrisy and perhaps a little political naivety". Huw has nothing to apologise for let alone resign for, Ifan says, perhaps momentarily forgetting that nobody from Plaid had called for Huw Thomas to be sacked.

And Ifan is right if you view Ceredigion in isolation, but to see Ceredigion in isolation is naive. The problem is that next week it will be somebody else's turn to be singled out by Hain, Andrews and the rest of Labour's attack machine. Smear, attack, delete tweets which turn out to be embarrassing and then repeat the process somewhere else.

The dogs bark, and the caravan moves on.


Cai Larsen said...

The truth is this - nobody would have bothered going after Thomas' remarks from the fairly distant past except for the fact that he and his party decided to make quite cynical & hypocrytical use of an obviously manufactured smear story.

Believe me there's plenty of embarassing stuff written by people who are now professional politicians hanging in cyber space. No one's bothered going after that, & no one woyld have bothered going after Huw - except for Huw & his party agressive brand of attack dog politics.

Anonymous said...

Quite right. I doubt there is a man or woman among us who has not come out with something ridiculous at some stage. What was simply appalling was the way this individual cynically stabbed a decent, honest man in the back. I initially felt some sympathy for Thomas until I read what he had written regarding Mike Parker. What does that say about his character? Huw, it was not what you wrote years ago as a student, but your joining in with a politically motivated character assassination that has angered so many people.

Anonymous said...

Are there legal grounds for action against the Cambrian News?
Beverly Thomas must be complicit in what is clearly an attempt to mislead. I, for one, would be willing to contribute financially.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@15.02 Possibly, although it's not something I would advocate. However, see Blogmenai:

Anonymous said...

Pam Lai? Ar ol yr etholiad.

Redhead said...

Aggressive, backstabbing, negative canvassing immediately puts my sympathy with the person being singled out! Let the guy keep it up - it will just lose him more votes.

Many of the electorate are much more savvy at this election but many of the candidates still appear to still be dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you; Labour should remove Thomas; as you sow so shall you reap. It's up to Plaid what they do about Parker.

There is something that you should remember; these casual attacks on people from England, mostly because they are English and therefore MUST conform to a racial stereotype that has been manufactured by Nationalists both in Plaid and Labour, are simple racism.

When I am in England I often see lorries with the Ddraig Goch proudly displayed in their cabs. Many cars with the Wales sticker on the back travel the UK and Europe and I often pick out our flag waving above the crowd at music events. Are the English entitled to make disparaging comments about us Welsh because of this.

What concerns me is that making nasty comments about "the English" is seen as a way to gain acceptance in North West and West Wales, of "joining the clan". So what does that suggest? To me it suggests that anti English racism is both acceptable and common amongst a large section of the public in those areas. Maybe it's a vote winner that no one will admit to?

Anonymous said...

The ubiquitous Cross of St George across Wales is indicative of much more than support for a sports team. It illustrates the extent to which Wales contains large areas where Welsh identifiers make up a declining proportion of the population or are in a minority.

Redhead said...

People always single out a minority to take their fear out on. In my part of the world it's county locals v "incomers",, everyone in the county (locals and "incomers") v the next door county and my region of the country v every other region!

Thus it always was. Get rid of austerity, tax the bankers and non-doms, everyone who isn't a rich bastard rthen cheers up and it all calms down till the next time they grind us down!

Anonymous said...

It’s not been a great week for welsh politics, the fact that in a tight election race in Ceredigion mud has been slung isn’t newsworthy but as you said in your previous post its voters who’ll decide who to believe and who’ll be the best MP for Ceredigion, not Twitter.

However having said that the real story that’s passed the entire welsh media by was the total over the top reaction by the Labour Party in all out attack mode over baseless smears against Mike Parker as Cai alluded to and the welsh medias willingness to go along with it and not retract the ‘claims’. People losing faith in the mainstream media was part of what drove 45% of Scots to say YES to independence don’t forget, are you listening BBC Wales?

Wales will still return a majority of Labour MP’s to Westminster, but Labour's efforts to play down how worried it is about Leanne Wood’s popularity and Plaid Cymru’s favourable press since the debates have backfired and will eventually undermine them long term as voters across Wales see them for what they really are.

Farter Cuck said...

Parker didn't use the word Nazi but the Cambrian News article (and others I have seen) never say he did, they say he compared incomers to Nazis.

Broken down into the parts which are relevant to the notion some people have that there is scope for a libel action, Parker said:

"To some extent rural Wales..." is "...inhabited by a sprinkling of...Final Solution crackpots..."

Final Solution is unquestionably a Nazi genocidal plan. Not a generic term but the specific blueprint of the Nazis, so Parker could only have had the Nazis in mind when making his 'comparison' - he probably regrets that now he's a Parliamentary Candidate, but he said what he said and he has to live by it.

So despite not using the word Nazis - and the Cambrian News never said he did - his article did refer in clear terms to Nazi (and only Nazi) means.

Before any of you complain that the parts I missed out of the quote add context which change what Parker said, they most certainly do not. And what I missed out does not detract from the meaning or sentiment.

I'd actually go further and give some credit to the Cambrian News, because if read literally, Parker didn't say that the incomers were LIKE Nazis (the Cambrian News said he 'compares' them to Nazis) but he actually referred to them as "Final Solution crackpots" - that is to say, he did not say they were akin to "Final Solution crackpots" - but that they WERE "Final Solution crackpots"!!

Whether he used the word Nazi matters not a jot! Any suggestion that the Cambrian News is liable to a libel action by Parker is laughable. Seriously, I know my stuff. Just because you don't like something that does not make it libellous.

This blog post is ironically titled 'Mud slinging', Cneifiwr writes in a previous article that the dirt which was uncovered relating to his beloved Ceredigion party pal came about after someone "spent hours digging out the article from a fairly obscure source".

Yet this is countered with the revelation of a blog post written (also many years ago) by the Labour candidate, Huw Thomas, which someone must have "spent hours digging out from a fairly obscure source"!

I'm not condoning either Parker's or Thomas's sentiments, but if anybody wants to find propaganda or mud slinging, peruse this blog and its comments!

Iestyn said...

Anonymous 09:38 makes a point about 'racial' stereotyping being bad - which I'm sure most people who read this blog agree with wholeheartedly - but rather spoils it by describing said views as "manufactured by Nationalists", and obviously held by those barbarians in the "North and West". It's difficult to respect anti-stereotyping comments by someone who stereotypes people on the grounds of their geographical location or their particular view regarding which nation they belong to.

Anon 14:22 also makes a good point - ie the difference between the 53% or so of non-Welsh born in Ceredigion, and the nought point whatever percent of Welsh born in England. But does the size of the targetted group make it any difference to the rights and wrongs of stereotyping? Or is it *more* important to recognise the differences in such a large population? Would that enable us to work with the reasonable majority, rather than painting them all with the same brush as "them", and driving them away from our efforts to survive.

The beauty of the SNP success is how they have appealed to people outside of the "usual suspects", and brought them into the fold. It's more difficult in Wales, because we have the easily used scare tactic of "those nationalists speak another language you know" (another patently untrue stereotype), but lumping all the "them" together will never help "us" at all.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line Cambrian News is losing readers hands over fist and went for cheap sensationalism with a Nazi headline that's backfired, the fallout exposed the depth Labour and Lib Dems will go to keep seats and gave a bloody nose to welsh journalists who happily jumped on the bandwagon without checking facts.

Jac o' the North, said...

Farter Cuck,

I interpreted 'Final Solution crackpots' to mean Holocaust deniers. This can include Nazis, but also many others, including Jihadists and extreme anti-Zionists. And if those Parker referred to were Nazis, then for them it's a case of, 'Final Solution! What Final Solution?'

So it's not as straightforward as you suggest, it never is when anyone says, 'Well, OK, he may not have used the actual word, but it's what he meant to say'. A decent lawyer would quite easily establish that Mike Parker has been misquoted, libelled, and is therefore due substantial damages

Iestyn said...

Anon 16:27. Your absolutely right that the bits you've replaced with ... are neither here nor there in this case. Wjhat you maybe forget is the context of the article (discussing the fact of the BNP organising their rally in Mid Wales that year, and Griffin and some others having relocated to mid Wales), and the wider comparison with the Anerican "white flight" situation. Other minor points that the Cambrian News omitted, certainly in early iterations, was that the article was 14 years old, and that such wors as "a smattering of", "some", etc, were indications that Mike Parker was referring to specific people, rather than the more general accusation that the Cambrian News reported.