Siân Gwenllian MS: ‘Jonathan Edwards will resume his title of Plaid MP – but my view has not changed’
Siân Gwenllian, Member of the Senedd for Arfon and Communications Director on the Plaid Cymru National Executive Committee
Violence against women, including domestic violence, is rife within our society. Men suffer from domestic violence and coercive behaviour too; but women suffer far more often.
Welsh Women’s Aid say that male violence against women is at epidemic levels across Wales and that at least one in three women across the UK will experience it. Police data shows that the Covid-19 lockdowns intensified already record high incidents of domestic violence and abuse in Wales.
The use of violence by any individual against another is totally unacceptable. When a man is violent against a woman (including those who identify as women) there is also a deeper, structural, systemic force at play.
Gender-based violence on the scale that is prevalent today is indicative of gender inequality and power imbalance at its most toxic and visible form. Physical power is used to control and subvert.
If we are to realise true gender equality, then as a society, we must challenge and denounce gender-based violence whenever it occurs.
This was on my mind as I attended the meeting of the Plaid Cymru National Executive Committee, the body elected by all members to represent the Party’s best interests, in mid-July. I was among those Plaid Cymru members who were of the view that former Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards should not be allowed to re-join the Plaid Cymru Group in Westminster.
The MP accepted a police caution for common assault following an incident at his home in May 2020 and his Plaid Cymru membership (both as an ordinary member and as a member of the Plaid Cymru Group of MPs) was suspended.
On July 16, the NEC noted that the party’s internal independent disciplinary process had come to the conclusion that Jonathan Edwards should be allowed to resume his membership, following an application from him.
The NEC however wanted to make a distinction between Jonathan Edwards’ return as an ordinary, individual member and his role as a senior elected Member of Parliament with access to the national platform awarded to him through the Westminster benches.
Since the July NEC meeting, it has become apparent that our party’s disciplinary procedures do not sufficiently differentiate between ordinary members and members who have been elected to positions of influence and so Jonathan Edwards can automatically resume his title of Plaid MP following the panel’s announcement.
That is the constitutional situation which has to be accepted, but my view has not changed.
I believe that as elected politicians of Plaid Cymru, we are extremely privileged to represent our constituents and we must strive to adhere to the core principles of the party in whose name we were elected. Ending gender violence as an essential step towards ending gender inequality is part of Plaid’s vision and ambition and has been eloquently expressed by senior members over many years.
None of us, as elected politicians, are indispensable. Of course, as individuals we can be forgiven for our mistakes but as senior elected members, we are ambassadors for our party on the national and international stage.
If an elected politician has severely damaged the integrity, the credibility and the reputation of our party by contravening one of its core values, then that person should no longer represent the collective, democratic voice of our members.
So now as a party, we must review our standing orders to reflect the views of our democratically elected body in the future. We must also build upon recommendations I made in a report before the pandemic to tackle misogyny within our party.
This should include mandatory training underlining the incredibly serious nature of domestic violence, its impact on women and children and its political significance as part of the persistent fight to end gender inequality in Wales. We must also take further steps to ensure that women’s voices are equally represented in all parts of our party, ensuring that tackling gender inequality including gender based violence is embedded in everything we do.
The Party Leader recently launched the most wide ranging consultation in Plaid Cymru’s history, seeking the ideas of all Party members as to how we design a fairer, more inclusive and thriving party.
As we embark on a period of renewal – in the form of a new political strategy and corporate plan as a result of this wide ranging conversation on the party’s future – I am confident that addressing these issues will be at the heart of our work going forward.
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