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.