A controversial Welsh independence group has been accused by supporters online of being “mad”, “thick”, and engaging in “unnecessary stupidity” after it ‘re-tweeted’ an article by an MP who had been cautioned by the police for assaulting his wife, The Eye can reveal.
Contentious organisation YesCymru (YC) declared in a tweet which has now been deleted that “Open assaults on Welsh democracy have led to (its) remarkable growth”, linking the comment to an article in the Herald.Wales by the headline-grabbing MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards, who accepted the caution after attacking his wife.
One stated: “It’s infuriating. Yes Cymru are doing so much very well, then they just undermine all the good stuff with unnecessary stupidity/lack of sensitivity. They have the money to hire people now to do a better job”. Another proclaimed: “I’ve got very mixed feelings about the MP in question but the timing of YC is absolutely mad. Are they thick? Why do they keep making mistakes like these? They need to start having people who know what they’re doing.”
A further comment was: “In (sic) going to say it AGAIN because it is DOING MY HEAD IN, why does Jonathan Edwards, who admitted he was GUILTY OF ASSAULTING HIS WIFE, still have influence in Plaid Cymru and @YesCymru? And why has the latter PLATFORMED HIM TODAY AFTER THE WEEK WE HAVE ALL JUST HAD?”
In the weeks after the police caution last year, Mr Edwards said in a Facebook post: “Life’s journey can take you to very dark places, but you have to keep faith there’s light at the end of the tunnel”.
Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) suspended him for a year in July, meaning he must sit as an independent MP until at least 2021, and a disciplinary panel ruled that any lifting of the suspension depended upon the MP demonstrating “he has undertaken a period of self-reflection and learning to address his actions”.
Even so, PC has been accused of continuing a “close relationship” with him, after it emerged that he had campaigned with PC councillors and used the same adviser as the party leader, following the suspension. Rob James, leader of Carmarthenshire County Council’s (CCC) Labour group, raised “serious doubts” about the nature of the suspension, saying that it was just a “PR stunt”.
Yet this is not the first time YC has hit the headlines, and perhaps recently releasing a sexist video in support of its cause (which was again deleted) is one of the ‘mistakes’ being referred to in the online complaint.
In January the organisation released the video promoting Welsh independence which featured a pair of cartoon women’s legs in stockings, and one critic on social media said: “fire the pig that designed it”.
It displayed the cartoon of a woman wearing stockings and red arms, with a map of Wales for her body and screaming “YEEEEEEEEEEES” in the caption below.
But it was slammed on Twitter, with one critic saying: “I find it astonishing – and cowardly – that @YesCymru have merely deleted that sexist, appalling video from last night and not acknowledged the disgust felt by their membership and apologised for the offence caused, not to mention the damage sustained to the campaign”. Another said in reply to YC: “Never mind the booklet, burn that fucking sexist animation and fire the pig that designed it”.
The controversy also came hard on the heels of it being divulged on The Eye that splits were emerging in YC, with an angry supporter tweeting that he had cancelled his membership, while another showed his fury after claiming the group had ‘liked’ a tweet from a right wing party, which it had also re-tweeted.
Yet the organisation has long been contentious, and appears to be offering highly questionable information. YC has claimed that opinion polls report support for Welsh independence among younger people is “around 40-50 %” saying: “Independence is becoming common sense view within young people in Wales.”. The truth is that recent opinion polls suggest the figure among younger people is far lower than this, and also make clear that the vast majority of people in Wales support Welsh parties which are opposed to independence.
These facts, however, have not been published by YC, but that has not stopped uncritical pieces about the group in the Welsh mainstream media.
One of the biggest broadcasters in Wales published an adulatory ‘story’ about YC, and another leading Welsh media organisation talked about its “rise”– yet both failed to challenge membership figures when other statistics have been highly debatable, they did not raise the negative news that it has celebrated a potential attack on a UK military base and said unionists “refuse to integrate”, or that a supporter who claims he invented the group’s ‘app’ wants to talk about banning gay people from Wales. The ‘report’ about YC by ITV Cymru Wales’ Ellie Pitt, for example, began: “‘Westminster isn’t working for Wales’. These are the five words I have been hearing all week. Over the last few days I have had numerous conversations with recent joiners to the Welsh Independence group YesCymru.”
But nowhere in the article is the body challenged about the huge criticism which has followed close analysis of the official social media account belonging to YC, which reveals it has far fewer ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ than officials maintain.
ITV Cymru Wales is not alone, though. The website WalesOnline (whose Editor, now known as the ‘Audience and Content Director’ Paul Rowland, inaccurately threatened to sue our own man in charge, Phil Parry) published another piece which, again uncritically, put the views of YC, beneath the tendentious headline: “The rise of Yes Cymru and why people are joining in their thousands”.
The ‘report’ on the website proclaimed that: “By October, it (YC) had around 8,000 (members). In the past ten days or so that has shot up to 14,000. One thousand new members signed up on Monday alone, with a further thousand on Tuesday, which is why the group thinks something special is happening”.
Meanwhile there are a huge number of controversies which could have been seized on to confront officials of YC, by the media in Wales other than The Eye, such as ITV Cymru Wales or WalesOnline. The Twitter account of one controversial YC message has announced that at one point it had 487 ‘likes’ and 187 ‘retweets’, but when these were counted the figures were actually just 45 and 70 respectively.
We also showed how a branch of this Welsh independence movement asked provocatively whether “heroes” will make a stand in carrying out an attack on a UK military base on Anglesey.
The goading remark came on Twitter from YC in Ruthin, and referred to a notorious incident in 1936 when an RAF bombing school was set ablaze at Penyberth on the Llyn peninsula, and founding members of PC were jailed. The event has gone down in folklore for Welsh nationalists and a video on YouTube declares: “Penyberth. Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist party) one. RAF nil.”
Another branch of YC has said people in “our country” (Wales) refuse to integrate, asking menacingly what should be ‘done’ about Unionists. This extraordinary tweet was put out by YC in the Afan Valley and announced: “These people are in our country, yet refuse to integrate into our local community”.
A major supporter of YC also holds highly dubious views which he has publicised on social media. Mark Wells/Gareth Mark Welsby claims to be the inventor of the YC ‘app’ and has urged holding a debate about banning gay people from Wales. He wrote in one tweet: “With all this talk about quarantine. I’m serious… Shouldn’t we be discussing banning gay people from Wales. Esp. (gay ex-Welsh rugby international) Gareth Thomas who should resign!! Hiv will spread into Wales’ blood groups inc. Rh+ and our reputation for positive blood ruined. aids infected are negative people”.
But the man behind YC, Sion Jobbins, was not questioned about any of these remarkable events by ITV Cymru Wales’ Ms Pitt, or the WalesOnline reporter. They simply gave the opinions of Mr Jobbins.
Meanwhile, the Editor of the nationalist website Nation.Cymru (NC), which is supported by public money, Ifan Morgan Jones (who helped organise a Welsh independence rally in the past), has said: “If just every @YesCymru member donated £3 a month to @NationCymru it would raise £570,000 a year”, a message which was endorsed by YC in a ‘retweet’.
A YC group member also shared a message saying Zionism was racist from a former Labour MP who had been suspended for criticising an anti-Semitism investigation, after it announced she was to be investigated over allegations she held the same views.
Kerry-Anne Mendoza ‘retweeted’ the comment from Chris Williamson saying: “The truth is Zionism is a racist, warmongering, supremacist ideology. We need to stand together to defeat it wherever it exists, because it’s the enemy of peace”.
In the same tweet Mr Williamson said Leila Khaled was ‘eloquent’, but the Wales Against Anti-Semitism (WAAS) movement then stated online: “Why is @YesCymru’s Kerry Ann Mendoza retweeting Chris Williamson’s glorification of a convicted terrorist?”. The message was also sent to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as well as several well known mainstrem journalists.
Ms Khaled was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and came to public attention for her role in the TWA hijacking in 1969, and one of the four simultaneous hijackings the following year. They were part of the campaign of Black September in Jordan.
But Ms Mendoza, as well as the group she joined (YC), have hit the headlines before. Our journalists showed last month how YC had announced it was to launch the inquiry into the alleged anti-Semitism of Ms Mendoza, after she had tweeted the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) which was emblazoned above the gates to Auschwitz.
Yet we disclosed how the announcement of an ‘investigation’ was made to a senior journalist months after the remark was made online.
In August Ms Mendoza wrote: “Get Brexit done Build, build, build, Jobs, jobs, jobs Arbeit macht frei”. But six months later the chair of YC, Mr Jobbins, said: “We will be discussing the matter (her alleged anti-Semitism generally) as a committee in conjunction with our new diversity and inclusion lead officer who will be starting work for us on Monday (February 15)“.
Despite this ‘discussion’ about Ms Mendoza the message from Mr Williamson which she ‘retweeted’ came the day afterwards, and the outrage of WAAS was four days later.
Ms Mendoza joined YC in the Autumn, shortly after moving to Wales from her home city of Bristol, and her account tweeted news of her membership to its 59,000 followers. Former Cardiff Council leader, the Liberal Democrats’ Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) candidate for Cardiff Central Rodney Berman said of her joining YC: “The decision to admit and then publicly welcome this individual raises serious questions regarding the priorities and values of YesCymru. Quite frankly, it’s appalling”.
She is the Editor of the left-wing website The Canary, but was suspended briefly from Twitter following complaints about another post in which she compared those attending the Jewish Labour Movement’s conference to “white supremacists”. After the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat at the polls in December 2019, she suggested that those who opposed Labour over anti-Semitism would be attacked.
Ms Mendoza also accused (Jewish) writer and columnist Jonathan Freedland of “manufacturing” the 2019 General Election result. In January 2020 she claimed celebrations over the completion of Brexit could turn into a “21st century Kristallnacht”. When the Jewish Chronicle (JC) raised concerns about Ms Mendoza’s appearance at a Labour party meeting, she tweeted: “Black woman can’t talk about racism, says white man”.
Ms Mendoza has also appeared more than once on the controversial state-backed television station, Russia Today (RT) which is accused of being a mouthpiece of the autocratic Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and has played host to the conspiracy theorist in Wales, Anna Brees.
For the programme On Contact, Ms Mendoza said she wanted an “alternative media”. She was interviewed, too, by Max Keiser on his RT show The Keiser Report, and declared that austerity is a “fig leaf” designed to conceal aggressive neoliberal policies.
Even after all of this past history, YC has labelled her a “rock star” in a tweet which was ‘liked’ numerous times by several vocal and high-profile activists.
This might be seen as another ‘mistake’ after the organisation was accused by supporters online of being “mad”, “thick”, and engaging in “unnecessary stupidity” for ‘re-tweeting’ an article by an MP who had been cautioned by the police for assaulting his wife…
Tomorrow – we look as only we know how at today’s extraordinary events in the Welsh media, as TWO ‘national’ services launched within days of each other, fight it out for readers!
The Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his decades-long award-winning career in journalism (when investigations followed his disclosures) 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!