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Plaid Cymru’s smear campaign

Whilst all the focus has been on Damian McBride and in Wales, Aneurin Glyndwr, there has been another smear campaign going on for some time which so far has slipped below the political radar.

The existence of unofficial Plaid Cymru blogs, Welsh Ramblings and Guerrilla Welsh Fare has been evident for some time. These sites are highly partisan, personal, and partial in the way that they interpret news, take statements and facts out-of-context and in the selection of the issues they wish to blog about. You will not read anything on these sites for example about Plaid Cymru’s u-turn on top-up fees but that is fair enough. They exist to sell the nationalist cause not to undermine it.

What is regrettable is the way that they reduce politics to the intensely personal, choosing to denigrate an individual’s character rather than deal with the issues. That does not mean that all their posts fall into this category. Some are fair comment and make useful political points but the overriding theme is one of smearing their opponents through misrepresentation, straightforward lies and offensive and often sexist comment.

This tone is carried on elsewhere in the blogosphere through anonymous comments on other people’s blogs that have clearly come from the Plaid Cymru camp. Often these comments reflect the posts on the Plaid Cymru attack blogs. This is all very well and good. If Plaid want to take politics into the gutter that is a matter for them.

There is of course a place for criticism and even antagonistic comment in politics but it should concentrate on issues not personalities, the political actions of individuals not their character. Smeargate surely signals the end of anonymous attack blogs and internet trolls, at least in mainstream politics, so why do Plaid continue to allow their members to use these two sites to promote this stream of invective?

The party may argue that they have no control over the actions of individual members and that maybe the case. It has not stopped them expelling members who disagree with the leadership of course but that is a matter for them too. Indeed if these were just individual members having their say then I would accept that Ieuan Wyn Jones might be powerless to do anything about it. It would still reflect badly on his party but that is his problem.

However, it is now becoming apparent that these two blogs are not being run by ordinary party members at all. In fact, I am told that they are being run by Plaid Cymru ‘staffers’ and by at least one Assembly Member Support Staff. If that is the case then the Party can do something about the content of these blogs.

Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with staff members blogging in work time. That is a matter between them and their employer. They are after all employed to support their bosses within a political environment and it would be pretty dumb to argue that they cannot be political or make public comment on politics. What I do object to is the way that they are bringing politics into disrepute. Do their employers support and condone that?

Perhaps we should ask them? Maybe the Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru and the various Assembly Members and MPs for that party can confirm whether or not any of their staff blog and if so whether they do so anonymously, under a pseudonym or in their own name. I am not interested in the past just the present simply because we have now entered a new era and it is time to move forward in the way we intend to go on.

I will start the ball rolling by saying that to the best of my knowledge only two members of my staff blog. One of them does so on this site in his own name, the other contributes occasionally to the Morriston Liberal Democrat blog under the pseudonym, Morriston Focus, but as she is a prominent member of the Morriston Focus Team, her address is on the site and she confines herself to dealing with local issues I do not think that is a problem.

I will also acknowledge that I am one of the people who contributes to this site as admin, which I do for administrative reasons. In particular I will use this pseudonym to post contributions by other politicians so as not to confuse the authorship of the piece.

It is now over to Plaid Cymru politicians to make their own declarations.

Related posts:

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  2. Plaid Cymru split to go to Assembly Committee
  3. Establishing a Yes campaign by Joseph Carter

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33 Responses

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  1. Che Grav-ara says

    Peter where have I been personal?

    I do not believe that I am any more personal than this blog?

    I think you have let your frustrations get to you a bit but you shouldn’t attempt to smear other bloggers irresponsibly.

  2. Peter Black says

    Well let me see. In this month alone we have:

    http://guerrilla-welsh-fare.blogspot.com/2009/04/it-wasnt-slick-it-wasnt-modern.html – personalised against Kirsty
    http://guerrilla-welsh-fare.blogspot.com/2009/04/no-welcome-in-hillside.html – an outright untruth
    http://guerrilla-welsh-fare.blogspot.com/2009/04/lib-dem-doom-and-gloom.html – inaccurate and untrue. Invented rumours to seek to undermine the Welsh Lib Dems.
    http://guerrilla-welsh-fare.blogspot.com/2009/04/split-dems.html – more made up stuff
    http://guerrilla-welsh-fare.blogspot.com/2009/03/kirsty-who.html highly personalised and sexist attack on Kirsty.

  3. Che Grav-ara says

    Are you serious!

    I think you should maybe take a step back and see the difference between the political and personal Peter.

    If it is “personal” to give my political views on the Lib Dems then I hold my hand up. All those post are based on political issues or political performance as far as I am concerned.

    You have done far worse with rumours that you have heard and far more personal on political issues. I am not accusing you of being personal as I am sure your posts are based in the political but I think unless you are a Lib Dem upset that I have blogged negatively about you I think it is stretching the imagination a bit to claim those are in anyway smear stories and you do me a great deal of disservice in comparing my blog on political issues with the sort of vile lies made up by Labours smear machine. You should be careful about trivialising such matters.

    The worst is claiming I am a sexist for highlight Matt Withers view that Kirsty has not been doing a good job speaking at the Assembly. It’s a blog about her performance. Get a grip man!

  4. Peter Black says

    I am serious yes. You are the one who needs to take a step back, though you are not as bad as Ramblings. You need to take responsibility for the trolls on your blog for a start. And it was not Matt Withers who described Kirsty as a ‘scared little schoolgirl’. That was you.

  5. Simon Dyda says

    Good grief, Peter.

  6. Anonymous says

    Still no denial that they are staff though. Well said Peter.

  7. Anonymous says

    Anon whats your point. This is a Lib Dem staff blog? Peter himself has said that two of his staff blog?

  8. Ifor Bach says

    “Still no denial that they are staff though. Well said Peter”

    Sounds like a comment from Marcus there, although he doesn’t post as ‘anon’ of course. Only one persona for him. He probably doesn’t even know about this….except he’s just twittered a link here. Hmmmm….

  9. Anonymous says

    I agree with nearly everything here except the suggestion that it’s ok for AM support staff to blog in work time using Assembly equipment.

    AMSS are there to support the work of their employers as elected representatives, NOT to campaign on behalf of their employer’s party. That is what party staff exist to do.

    It is quite improper for Welsh Ramblings and Guerrila Welsh Fare to use Assembly computers and contracted hours to denigrate their political oppoenents and to smear them.

    The sooner their employers put an end to it the better.

  10. Stephanie Lewis says

    Very good post Peter. You have obviously rattled some cages there!

    The usual suspects have played their hand by spouting off PDQ in responding. If the cap fits wear it, I say.

    Plaid staffers do blog smears. One is also a candidate fighting his campaign in time paid for by the tax payer. His boss has a responsibility to stop that kind of stuff, surely?. I hope she does now.

    I hope the Assembly Commission takes a dim view of such matters and starts to track account holders who post to Blogger, Typepad and Wordpad accounts on Assembly hardware.

    The culprits will then soon be smoked out and about time too.

    Its time to stamp out the smear-merchants from Welsh politics. Let that campaign start today.

    Welsh Lib Dems – leading the way as usual!

    P.S. It would be interesting to find out how many Plaid Councillors in Wales use council computers and broadband to run their smear campaigns also on the blogosphere? This whole thing needs looking into.

  11. Plaid Preseli says

    “Rattled some cages” Stephanie? I think its the sound of our seats rattling beneath us because we’re creased up laughing at this silliness.

    Peter Black Rule 1 seems to be that Plaid people have to wear identifying marks and have permission from someone important to blog. Peter Black Rule 2 is that we have to desist from saying anything other than “aren’t Lib Dems wunnerful – golly gee gosh”. Anything else is a smear.

    C’mon Lib Dem dudes. Are you into freedom of expression or not? And which one of you came up with the rickety old “Plaidway Man” attempt to make out that Plaid Cymru were in fact Dick Turpin in disguise, set to rob the people of Wales of all their money? Now that was more than a smear – it was surely a downright unprincipled fabrication???

  12. Kevin says

    Good post, Peter. I think most people of all political parties working in the Assembly will be glad you’ve done this and gladder still if the Plaid smear machines are shut down for good. An independent Wales run by the kind of people who trade in this kind of gutter politics is a nightmarish vision.

  13. Peter Black says

    I cannot believe anybody still remembers Plaidwayman. It was a very effective illustration of a legitimate political point.

  14. Fidothedog says

    So appointed you censor general of the internet Peter?

  15. Anonymous says

    There’s a lot of kicking sand in people’s faces going on here. The only issue is whether the authors of WR and GWF are Plaid staffers. Is so, they should declare themselves. Otherwise they’re just trying to deceive people.

  16. Anonymous says

    Obviously Peter is upset about something and I have no idea if he has been personally attacked on other blogs (i.e. attacking him as a person or his personal life and not Lib Dem policies or his skills as a politician).
    WR and GWF seem to be Plaid leaning blogs but does this matter? Does it matter if the sites are run by Plaid staff, Plaid members or Plaid supporters? Surely the only issues of concern should be if any Party is deliberately trying to make unfounded allegations or smears against others as seems to have been the case with Draper and McBride’s Red Rag. If Peter has evidence that Plaid Cymru is orchestrating a deliberate smear campaign against other politicians he should come forward with evidence as Guido Fawkes did with Red Rag. If he has no evidence he should stop using sites like this to smear other political parties and apologise for making allegations without so far producing a shred of evidence.

  17. Peter Black says

    I have provided evidence above and can do so for Ramblings without any problem. This is not about me but about the general tone of these anonymous, semi-official Plaid blogs who use innuendo, smear, personal, sexist attacks and downright lies to make their point. I have not accused Plaid of orchestrating a campaign nor, as Miserable Old Fart accuses me, am I seeking to censor them. I have just invited Plaid to take responsibility for their own staff.

  18. Anonymous says

    Peter sorry but from what I can see of the posts above from GWF they are hardly smears. There is nothing there worse than what is on your blog or this blog. You are wrong to have painted this as a McBride style smear.
    This is equally a semi official staff blog done anonymously (for the most part anyway). I don’t think for a second it is a smear blog but it is no more or no less one than is GWF judging by those posts

  19. Peter Black says

    And who are you?

    Any blog that tells lies about its oppponents, makes sexist and demeaning remarks about them and attacks people personally not on the basis of their politics behind the cloak of anonynmity is a smear blog in my view. That has never happened here and nor will it. We have exclusively dealt with issues and with politics not with people’s characters. You will also notice that I published this post under my own name, which is more than you Plaid trolls are capable of doing here.

  20. Anonymous says

    An interesting post which if you get away from the emotion and vitriol raises some interesting issues about the future of blogging and censorship.
    Blogs by their very nature, the same as newspaper or magazine article pieces, are ‘opinion pieces’ and therefore unlikely to be ‘objective’. I have never read your blog Peter but I’m sure you do not give equal ‘objective’ coverage to the views of all political parties and nor should you. I’m sure you give your ‘opinions’ on issues and people who leave comments give their opinions on your opinions. I think this is healthy for a democracy.
    The second point about writing anonymous blogs is also interesting. Newspaper columnists write in their own names on the whole and many bloggers also do. Should there be a clear and transparent registration process for all blogs to avoid anonymous blogs and blogs that do not properly register should be censored or taken off line in the UK? If not, how should blogs and the internet be regulated? I’d be interested in your views Peter.
    The other issue then is that of people leaving anonymous comments. I’m sure people do this for a number of reasons. As you will see, I have left this posting anonymously as I work in a politically sensitive position (not a staff member for a political party!). I believe Iain Dale on his blog blocked anonymous comments and has introduced moderation and his thread on this subject outlines the pros and cons of such a move. Do you allow anonymous comments on your blog Peter or do you block them? If so, why?

  21. Peter Black says

    As you can see I do accept anonymous comments as I do on my own blog if they are constructive and have a useful point to make. This is the policy I apply on my onw blog, which I am also applying here:

    ‘I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

    Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted.

    I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

    Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

    The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.’

  22. Anonymous says

    And do you believe that all blogs should be registered and anonymous blogs should be banned?

  23. Peter Black says

    No

  24. Anonymous says

    So, complaining aside, what actualy measures do you propose to stop attack blogs?

  25. Peter Black says

    If you read what I have said I have not proposed any measures to stop them. I am not advocating censorship, just political parties taking responsibility for the actions of their employees.

  26. Frank H Little says

    Missed point error by the man with four legs and a tail. Nobody condemning the McBride/Draper plans was accused of trying to censor the Internet.

  27. Anonymous says

    But Peter, if you do not want some kind of regulation or censorship then there will always be attack blogs run by party staff or not? Agree or disagree? Rather than whingeing from the sidelines I was trying to encourage debate about measures we could actually introduce to improve political blogging but nobody seems to want to have this debate (bar Peter’s idea of party’s asking their staff to stop blogging anonymously – a code of conduct for all Assembly and Westminster staff?). It’s nice to have good old whinge at how nasty other parties are and not come up with any ideas as to how to regulate blogging or political debates but obviously this is not the blog for this kind of discussion. Back to Iain Dale, Guido, Tom Harris and other blogs that discuss the issues.

  28. Peter Black says

    Try re-reading the post and commenting on that not on what you want it to say.

    My complaint is that Plaid Cymru are using anonymous blogs to run a smear and abuse campaign against their opponents. The solution to that is for Plaid to take some responsibility for the semi-official actions of their staff.

    I do not want to introduce censorship because I know that it is unproductive, unenforceable and illiberal (in reverse order).

    If you are unhappy with that view then starting your own blog may well be the solution for you.

  29. Che Grav-ara says

    Peter this is an absolute joke.

    “I do not want to introduce censorship because I know that it is unproductive, unenforceable and illiberal (in reverse order).”

    You have censored my legitimate comments just because they disagree with you. You have lost any credibility you had left.

    The fact you are attempting to smear Plaid Cymru in this way on a Lib Dem official blog run anonymously is beyond hypocrisy!

  30. Peter Black says

    Che, I have not censored your comments I have published all of them right up to when you started repeating yourself and getting abusive, something I was not prepared to bore people with. That is my prerogative.

    The joke is that you Plaidies do not understand what you are doing. Your blog posts are sexist, personal and demeaning. They do not constitute serious political comment, rather they amount to abuse and mud slinging in the hope that some of it will stick. You are not the worst. However, the fact that you are semi-officially sanctioned by Plaid Cymru makes that party culpable.

    I am not smearing anybody. I am saying it how I see it. It is a shame that you cannot see that.

  31. Peter Black says

    P.S. This blog is not run anonymously. As I explained in the post it is run by me and other individuals who post on here in their own name.

  32. Anonymous says

    “P.S. This blog is not run anonymously. As I explained in the post it is run by me and other individuals who post on here in their own name.”

    My congratulations to the parents of ‘Admin’ and ‘FC’ for such a creative approach to naming their children.

  33. Ali Goldsworthy says

    I think it is fairly obvious that this blog isn’t run anonomously ‘anonymous’ – if people wanted to contact someone about it or a posting on it they would know who was at the other end of the line/email.

    You are right occasionally we let people publish under pseudenoymns, but if someone had a problem with what was posted they would know who to go to.

    But to the extend we need to do a post introducing the admin team you are right. It’s on its way along with a few other changes that were discussed when we met up on Sunday. Hopefully you’ll see the fruits of that Labour over the coming weeks and months. It’s certainly generated some comments already.