Misogyny – not so niche now
This last week has been the most difficult I’ve experienced as a member and elected representative for Plaid Cymru. The Prosiect Pawb report commissioned by the party to look into reports of a toxic culture delivered its damning conclusion. Plaid Cymru has a culture of harassment, bullying and misogyny that needs rooting out.
It’s not just Plaid Cymru wrestling with these problems of course. We’ve seen it in the WRU, the Met Police and in other political parties too. Too often society generally turns a blind eye, too often ‘banter’ is the excuse and too often those in power brush bad behaviour under the carpet.
We had all hoped that the ‘me too’ movement would spark a fundamental change but it sadly wasn’t the silver bullet for such an endemic problem. In a climate of political polarisation, culture wars and anti-wokeness, it’s all too easy to dismiss genuine problems as ‘niche issues’. Within Plaid similar concerns have also been raised previously but we have to accept that not enough has been done to turn the page.
It’s been an eyeopener to say the least. With no hint of irony I’ve even seen some point the finger at former party leader Leanne Wood for the party’s current woes. I recall she was accused of focussing overly on niche issues when she challenged misogyny. Misogyny doesn’t seem so niche now does it? It’s an indication of how much work there is to do.
My own County Council group in Wrecsam is made up of a majority of women councillors, sadly we are the exception not the rule. We’ve worked hard locally to encourage more women to stand for the party and many stepped up to the plate during the last council election.
They’ve also been supported by men in the party who have been instrumental in ensuring a supportive, positive and respectful environment. It’s difficult to now bring this report to them and we’ve had to have an honest and open conversation locally about what needs to change. We’re agreed it starts with accountability.
At the heart of the problem is sexual harassment and misogyny but it’s also important to note the report points to bullying too. Abuse of power is also an issue and one political parties have to be particularly mindful of. Nerys Evans is clear in stating in her report that the perpetrators are men and although the majority of victims are women, men have been victims too.
Moving forward we have to separate these issues out in order to understand them fully. We also can’t just point the finger at the top of the party, these issues reflect our society more generally and will therefore manifest at all levels.
A green shoot in this saga is the fact that Plaid Cymru commissioned this report itself and shared the conclusions publicly. It’s undoubtedly tough to hear damning home truths set out so starkly and to put them up for public scrutiny but it’s also the starting point for raising the bar.
As a member of the party’s National Executive I know how determined people are to effect genuine change. There is absolute unity around the priority to implement all 82 of the recommendations set out in Nerys’ Evans report as a matter of urgency.
Fundamentally, Plaid Cymru is a party of decent, dedicated people who are committed to building a better Wales. We know that to do that, we have to embody what that Wales looks like.
Clearly not everyone has lived up to the standard. We now owe it to our members, to our staff and to all those within the Independence movement to embed a new culture of respect from the grassroots through to the very top.
The party is currently in the very capable hands of Llyr Gruffydd MS as interim leader and we have started the process to elect the next leader of our party. That person undoubtedly has a huge task ahead but they will have the backing of us all to get the job done. That job is about making Plaid Cymru structures a best practice example in Wales but it’s also about setting out the vision for the Wales we want to build and the road map to getting there.
That vision has to include a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour.
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