A row has broken out after a Senedd Member criticised two people involved in Welsh public affairs, saying that they were using social media to support “politically partisan tweets” and “partisan political propaganda”.
Darran Millar, the Welsh Conservative member for Clwyd West, was then criticised by Public Affairs Cymru for his own tweets which they claimed was an attempt to “pressure” and “silence” public affairs professionals.
The MS first criticised Emma Henwood, who is a Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Sport Wales, which is publicly funded and the main adviser to Welsh Government on sport.
He then criticised Jess Blair, the director of the Electoral Reform Society in Wales, which is an independent campaigning organisation.
Both had liked tweets by Llanelli’s Labour MS Lee Waters criticising the Conservative Party, and Jess Blair had also liked a tweet by the First Minister calling the Internal Market Bill “a massive power grab”.
“Hi Emma Henwood, what does Sport Wales think of you liking politically partisan tweets like this?” Darran Millar tweeted. “I can’t imagine that it would approve of someone in your position doing this.”
He later tweeted at Jess Blair: “what does the Electoral Reform Society think of you, as Director of ERS Cymru, reposting partisan political propaganda on your social media account? Is this something they deem to be acceptable?”
Public Affairs Cymru then released a statement saying that they were “disappointed” that public affairs professionals were “singled out” with an “implicit threat to their career” by a Member of the Senedd.
They said that those that worked for public bodies were “entitled to hold an opinion, and they should not find themselves pressured by those in a position of power from expressing it”.
Public Affairs Cymru is a volunteer-run membership organisation for public affairs professionals in Wales.
“A unique strength of the Senedd is the working relationship held between MS’s and public affairs professionals, one of respect and professionalism,” the statement said.
“In our experience, all parties in Wales have typically been open to engaging in a constructive and transparent manner. We hope to see this continue.
“To seek to silence someone from expressing an opinion by implying in doing so they may jeopardise their career is unhealthy for our shared Welsh democracy. Furthermore, it is a tactic to shut down debate, not engage in it.
“The public affairs sector is a vibrant and diverse community full of policy ideas with much to offer Wales.”