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‘Sickening’ messages reveal toxic culture of Tory Senedd group

14 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Shadow Minister for Culture Laura Anne Jones – Image: Senedd Cymru

Emily Price

“Sickening” and “hateful” messages obtained by Nation.Cymru have revealed the toxic working atmosphere within the Conservative Senedd group.

The communications associated with Shadow Culture Minister Laura Anne Jones include disparaging comments about other party members and jokes about an MS’s dead father.

Screen grabs show that in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2024, the South Wales East MS sent a message in a chat to her Senedd staffer Edward Sumner and Conservative General Election candidate for Cardiff North and Cardiff Councillor Joel Williams.

Messages sent in a Tory group chat – Telephone numbers have been redacted.

The pair responded with offensive remarks and laughing emojis about “multiculturalism” and “gays”.

They also made cruel jokes about Shadow Transport Minister Natasha Asghar and her late father, the former Tory MS, Mohammad ‘Oscar’ Asghar.

Messages sent in a Tory group chat – Telephone numbers have been redacted.

Offensive

Despite Ms Jones being present in the chat, she did not appear to reprimand her team for the offensive conversations.

We have redacted telephone numbers from the images but have confirmed that some laughing emojis were sent from Ms Jones’ telephone number in response to jokes about Ms Asghar.

In a discussion about London’s New Year firework display, Mr Sumner wrote: “Fuck me. This firework display. All about immigration, diversity and gays.”

Cllr Williams replied: “The worst display yet!”

Mr Sumner added: “All about what we have in common, trying to force immigration and multiculturalism on us.”

After describing the display as “woke”, Cllr Williams – a former Big Brother star – appeared to poke fun at Ms Asghar who last year failed in her bid to become the Conservative candidate for London Mayor.

Laughing emojis sent by Ms Jones following a joke about Ms Asghar.

Israel

The Cardiff Councillor wrote: “We wouldn’t have this if Natasha was Mayor of London would we. A massive LED display of Natasha and Asghar airlines. A display of all her ‘interviews’. A real [reel] of her responses to the plethora of Facebook comments regarding Israel / Hamas.”

Responding, Mr Sumner wrote: “Finishes on a drone show of Mohammed looking down on us all. RIP DAD X.”

Mr Asghar died unexpectedly in 2020 and his daughter vowed to continue his legacy after being elected to the Senedd in May for the same region her father served.

Other messages included branding Tom Gifffard MS ‘lazy’.

Culture

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds has called for an investigation into the workplace culture of the Welsh Tories.

She said: “These comments are truly sickening, and everyone involved the exchanges of these deplorable messages must be immediately suspended.

“These messages are unacceptable in any workplace let alone in an office of an elected representative, which is why there must be an immediate investigation into the workplace culture of the Welsh Conservative party in the Senedd.

“We cannot allow our democratic institutions to be tarnished by hateful messages that are sadly becoming increasingly more frequent thanks to the influence of individuals from the hard right.”

Whip

Leader of the Cardiff Lib Dems, Rodney Berman has called for the council whip to be removed from Cllr Williams.

Mr Berman said: “This is not at all fitting behaviour for someone in public office as a Cardiff Conservative councillor or someone aspiring to be an MP and it doesn’t reflect the open and liberal Cardiff I know.

“The council whip should be withdrawn and the Conservatives should withdraw their support for his candidacy in Cardiff North with immediate effect while a full investigation takes place.

“The Welsh Conservatives seem to have become infected by the worst of the Trumpian hard right.

“Given all the recent scandals within over the last few months it is abundantly clear that there needs to be an investigation into workplace culture within the Welsh Conservatives.”

Nation.Cymru made Ms Asghar aware of the messages we had obtained prior to publication.

In a statement, she said:  “As this weekend is particularly difficult for us as a family with it being four years since my father’s death and Father’s Day, I will not be commenting at the moment. Instead, as a family, we will be reflecting on my late dad’s life and praying for his soul with our loved ones.”

‘Jest’

We asked Cllr Williams if he regretted the comments he had made about Ms Asghar.

In a statement he said: “I’ve contacted Natasha’s Office to explain the context of these messages and how no offence was meant by them.

“The tongue-in-cheek comments I made were in the early hours of New Years and said in jest, in a private WhatsApp Group.

“These comments proceed an application Natasha submitted for the London Mayoral candidacy.

“Reference to ‘Ashgar Airlines’ dates back to a longstanding joke I had with Natasha’s dad, Oscar after he remarked he wanted to buy Cardiff Airport from the Welsh Government and turn it around.”

In another message Chief of Staff Paul Smith was referred to as a ‘Prick’

‘Lazy’

Further messages sent by Mr Sumner included a jibe at Tory MS Tom Giffard for being “lazy” and a message describing Tory Chief of Staff Paul Smith as a “prick”.

Both Mr Giffard and Mr Smith did not respond to our requests for comment.

It comes just weeks after we revealed Ms Jones was under investigation by South Wales Police and the Senedd’s Standards Commissioner over alleged false mileage claims.

A solicitor on behalf of Ms Jones said: “Ms Jones is not prepared to comment on statements made by other individuals. Beyond that, Ms Jones is unable to comment further due to the likelihood of such messages forming part of disclosure to the Standards Commissioner during their ongoing inquiries. Ms Jones does not wish to make any comment that may prejudice that process.”

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “I have asked Laura Anne Jones to step back from the Welsh Conservative Shadow Cabinet while investigations take place.

“We will not be making any comments on any active investigations being carried out.”


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FrankC
FrankC
1 month ago

Wow! Good work Nation Cymru

David
David
1 month ago

Very very disgusting behaviour!

Paul Symons
Paul Symons
1 month ago

It’s unbelievable! These people know that they are going to be watched and held to account and yet they carry on behaving as though they are above the rules that the rest of us have to stick to. If they can’t even control their messages ( remember the old adage ‘Don’t write down anything that can be used against you’) How can they be trusted to undertake serious decisions on our behalf? It’s not as though they’re doing it for the minimum wage.

Rob
Rob
29 days ago

I don’t know what to think any more. A thoroughly depressing story. We deserve better but I guess you get what you vote for. People of Wales please wake up. Get on the independence march in Carmarthen a week tomorrow!

Gareth
Gareth
29 days ago

The drift towards the far right of politics in the Tory party, and all the hate that goes with it, seems to have infected the Tory party here. Sad. These people think they offer Cymru a credible opposition, and people wonder why Labour have been in charge from day 1. We can do better than this. Indy now.

hdavies15
hdavies15
29 days ago

These people are evidence that they are continually looking to plumb new depths. The expenses scams are some way into the public domain and now the rampant abusive chatter. Out with the lot of them, as soon as possible.

Yuri Nator
Yuri Nator
29 days ago

Rodney Berman sounds very naïve with his comment, “it doesn’t reflect the open and liberal Cardiff I know.”
He needs to get out and about more. A lot worse than the content of these WhatsApp messages is said every day. I would also point out in my experience some of the outlooks from other cultures are hardly “open and liberal” either and in fact racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes and comments are very prevalent.

Ron Puma
Ron Puma
29 days ago

It’s about time the honourable small-c conservatives parted company with the Real Tories, the amoral descendents of an elite that became only wealthy and powerful through ruthless global exploitation.

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