Thursday 26 March 2009

Half a story

Contrary to the impression given in a story in today's Western Mail, no member of Plaid Cymru has been, nor will be if I have anything to do with it, disciplined in any way for disagreeing with the government on tuition fees, nor for continuing to argue for Plaid's policies instead. No surprise that Peter Black should choose to shoot at what the Western Mail has managed to make look like an open goal, though, and I can't really blame him for having a go. Not being in possession of the full facts is hardly a deterrent.

I have made it perfectly clear on several occasions that I disagree with the fees decision myself, and that I will continue to promote Plaid's policy, not that of the government. It would be extremely odd for me to say that others cannot do the same thing. As is often the case, however, the full story is not quite as it might seem.

On Saturday, the Western Mail published extracts from a "private" letter sent to Ieuan about the government's decision on student tuition fees. Nothing wrong with that in journalistic terms; they were obviously passed a copy of the "private" letter, although this particular "private" letter appears to have been circulated to so many people that no-one has any clue as to who could possibly have passed it to the newspaper.

Today, they ran a follow-up story about the way in which I interpreted the letter – on this occasion, the source was very clear. It's a pity however that in neither story did the Western Mail make it clear that they had actually published only edited extracts from the original letter.

I have no criticism of their decision to edit the letter; I would probably have done the same in their position. But it would have been nice if they had made it clear that they had done so, and that my response on behalf of the party was to the unexpurgated version, not just to the extracts which they chose to publish. Still, the Western Mail isn't really there just to make my life easy, and it would be unfair to expect otherwise.

But while I'm talking about 'leaks'…

Alongside that story on Saturday, they ran another, apparently completely unconnected, story about an alleged 'discussion paper' which had been 'leaked' to them. Whilst I had serious doubts initially, I no longer doubt that the paper was indeed passed to them by a member of the party. But I'm quite certain that the 'discussion group' referred to is entirely fictitious (although the Western Mail is not responsible for the fiction), and that the 'paper' was written not for internal discussion as claimed, but specifically for the purposes of creating a story which was deliberately intended to undermine the leader as well as the campaigns of a number of the party's candidates.

Why would any member of any party seek to undermine the campaigns of colleagues? Maybe, in quite a few years' time, some publisher or other would like to offer me a fat fee for my memoirs… For the time being, let's just say that this has little to do with the issue of student fees itself.

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