Yet another prominent politician in Wales has today endorsed a highly-questionable ‘national news service’ to be run with just two reporters, despite the fact that the ‘comedian’ behind it made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse publicly other senior politicians, was investigated by the police, and has been reprimanded by a social media company, The Eye can reveal.
This time it is the controversial Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) member for Blaenau Gwent, Alun Davies, MS who has proclaimed in a tweet that he wishes ‘best of luck’ to the ‘comedian’ at the centre of it all, Huw Marshall.
This follows a similar supportive message on Twitter of “Best of luck” from Mr Davies’ Labour colleague Welsh Government (WG) minister Lee Waters, MS, with a supposed ‘language project’ of Mr Marshall’s being described on social media as “Newyddion da (Good news)” by fellow WP/SC member, Helen Mary Jones, MS.
In a further contentious endorsement, Mr Marshall’s remark about securing “an independent Wales” was ‘Retweeted’ by the deputy leader of Plaid Cymru (PC), Rhun ap Iorwerth MS.
Mr Davies declared on Twitter about Mr Marshall’s ‘national news service’: “Well. I wish you best of luck with this initiative. Anything to strengthen our news environment should receive a warm welcome”.
But it seems unlikely that there will be a ‘warm welcome’ for Mr Marshall’s past behaviour.
It was divulged that on social media he had made extremely offensive remarks to two major political figures in 2013, and complaints after further comments led to the reprimand from Twitter.
One of the insults seven years ago, was directed at the Labour MS and minister Ken Skates, with another hurled at the former Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black. After Mr Skates tweeted in celebration of a one-vote council by-election victory over Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) in Ruabon, Mr Marshall referred to him in his own tweet as a “gloating t**t”. Mr Marshall also described Mr Black as a “humourless t..t”and a “dull, tedious t..t”.
Mr Marshall’s use of social media has always been intense, and it appears Mr Davies is an admiring follower of his on Twitter, because apart from today’s remark he has ‘liked’ one of his tweeis which is now padlocked.
The tweet he ‘liked’ had attacked The Eye.
The disturbing revelations recently that three senior Welsh politicians and a party chief of staff may have breached coronavirus/Covid-19 rules, threw the spotlight on the tweets of one of them, Mr Davies, when he condemned people voting against the regulations, saying they “don’t give a damn about the health and well-being of our people”.
He along with the others, are understood to have consumed wine during a meeting in the ‘tea room’ area of the Ty Hywel building, which is attached to the WP/SC in Cardiff, following a full plenary meeting on December 8 – four days after drinking alcohol in hospitality venues was banned in Wales, and the Senedd Commission investigated.
But on Twitter over the last few months, Mr Davies appears to have taken a rather different position.
In one he slammed The Brexit Party for opposing coronavirus regulations, and in another after the scandal over Dominic Cummings visiting Barnard Castle, he said: “One law for them (the Tories). Another law for us.”
But the man he wished ‘best of luck’ to, Mr Marshall, has long been controversial, and the abuse of senior politicians other than Mr Davies, form part of a pattern.
Two people had died and a police officer lost the sight in both eyes when gunman Raoul Moat shot them, yet despite this on July 8, 2010 – with him trying to escape from armed police – Mr Marshall published a message on his Facebook (FB) site, reading: “Hi I’m a sexy 19 year old blond (sic) from the North East of England looking for some fun.
“My Mr Right should be a big strong ginger man with a fiery temper and a jealous nature, who also enjoys camping and writing long letters. If this sounds like you contact me at email@example.com.”
Another post read: “Moat reward… if he isn’t caught by next Wednesday, the rewards (sic) being doubled. It’s going to be a Raul (sic) over”.
But it is the attacks of Mr Davies as well as the people he has supported, which have attracted attention.
In 2005, while Labour’s candidate for Ceredigion, he clashed with Welsh actor Rhys Ifans at a Cardiff hotel over backing the Iraq War.
The police were called, but no charges were brought, and Mr Davies subsequently apologised.
After becoming a member of (what was then) the National Assembly for Wales in 2007, Mr Davies was criticised for claiming back mortgage interest payments for a home he bought in Cardiff five years before he became an Assembly Member.
In 2013 he was criticised by the cross-party Environment and Sustainability Committee for being evasive during a question session and giving contradictory answers.
In the Spring of 2014 he confessed to entering into a relationship with his own special adviser, Anna McMorrin (now MP for Cardiff North), and confirmed that as a result both had left their long term partners. Ms McMorrin was moved from her role.
In June 2014, the First Minister of Wales (FMW) at the time, Carwyn Jones, announced an investigation into a letter Mr Davies had written to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) regarding environmental worries over the proposed development of the Circuit of Wales race track in his own constituency. NRW had expressed concerns about the race track.
On July 8 2014 he was summarily sacked by Mr Jones following repeated written requests to his civil servants for the private details of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments made to opposition politicians. Mr Davies toured television studios with a prepared statement, but refused to take questions.
Even so he was clearly not chastened by these experiences, and in October 2018 Mr Davies was criticised for comparing councils who asked for extra funding to Oliver Twist.
Mr Davies started his political career in PC, and the man he endorsed in his tweet, Mr Marshall, also has a widely publicised link to this party.
In 1992 Mr Marshall stood as PC’s Parliamentary candidate in Cardiff Central, coming fourth with just 748 votes, however his plans to stand for election as a councillor were scuppered when it emerged that he had posted the so-called ‘jokes’ about Moat, and published the offensive remarks to politicians on social media.
Apart from politics, Mr Davies also has a background in Public Relations (PR) for the Welsh utility Hyder.
The ‘initiative’ by Mr Marshall which Mr Davies praised, is also contentious.
It is called New Media Wales (NMW), with the pilot dubbed The News Wales (TNW) [which was wished “best of luck” by Mr Waters], and Mr Marshall has ‘partnered’ with the huge Newsquest Media Group (NMG), which has made many of his supporters uneasy.
One said on Twitter “for me it’s important to be owned and run in Wales”.
Another declared: “He’s (Mr Marshall) been saying for a while that there is a “Partner” on board……I assumed that it was a local, welsh business……but it does indeed look like it is News quest! !”.
A further critic said on Twitter: “Why are we having to use a London based company?”, while a different detractor declared on the social media site: “Gotta be honest, a London-headquarterd media outlet is not at all what I thought I was supporting, purported editorial freedom or nay. I have some reasonably major reservations”.
The holding company of NMG is Gannett which is an American mass media firm headquartered in McLean, Virginia, in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher.
As NMG it owns a host of Welsh titles including The South Wales Argus, but has regularly hit the headlines for the wrong reasons
In May 2019 under the headline “NUJ speaks up for Newsquest journalists at Gannett AGM” details were released that “…the union remains seriously concerned by Gannett’s stewardship of Newsquest, its relentless job cutting programme, a looming hostile takeover bid and the dire conditions facing journalists who work for the UK company”.
Perhaps mention of “dire conditions facing journalists” and disclosures that the ‘comedian’ behind the “initiative” ‘welcomed’ by Mr Davies, made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse publicly leading figures, was investigated by the police, and has been reprimanded by a social media company might make a senior Welsh politician think again before endorsing him on Twitter.
But apparently not for Mr Davies…
The memories of The Eye’s Editor Phil Parry’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (before the advent of NMW or TNW) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!