Wednesday 9 December 2009

The Other Resignation

The departure of Mohammed Asghar from Plaid's ranks was a surprise, in that the timing, method, and destination were all unexpected; but I can't honestly say that it was a shock. It had been obvious to myself and many others for some time that his views were, to put it mildly, at variance with the mainstream of Plaid on a range of issues, including our core aims and principles.

Some have asked how we could be in a position where someone who disagrees with the raison d'être of the party could be propelled into such a prominent position. At one level, the answer is quite simple - all members sign an application form declaring their support for the party's aims and objectives, and from that point on, their support for those aims is taken as read. We don't use polygraphs to test their sincerity, nor would I want to.

That, however, would be too glib an answer. Our processes for adding members' names to the approved central list of candidates have been proved wanting. Even that's no great surprise to me; NEC members in particular know that I've been banging on about that for some time. Yesterday's events merely emphasise the need for the internal discussions we are currently having about the way in which we select, train, and prepare our candidates.

Those who say that we need to look again at our selection processes are right; but change was on the way anyway. The reality has been that our attitude to selection has, in some aspects, not moved on from the 1960s and 1970s, when we had to twist people's arms to get them to stand in hopeless seats, and greeted any volunteer with open arms. On a personal level, I've been at both ends of that twisting process myself. One of the problems of success is that we cannot afford to take that approach any longer - but I'd still rather be dealing with the problems of success than those of failure.

Should members who cross the floor resign? In principle, I think that they should. It's more obvious in the case of a list member than a constituency member, since the list election is based on voting for a party rather than an individual, but even at constituency level, the idea that people win because of who they are rather than the party which they represent is something of a convenient constitutional fiction.

It's true that candidates have a 'personal' vote as well as a party vote, but by and large the extent of that personal vote is greatly exaggerated. As a long time canvasser for candidates other than myself, I can say from experience that every candidate (even some of Plaid's highest profile politicians), also attracts a personal 'anti-vote'. That is to say, whilst there are people who will say, 'I'm not normally Plaid, but I'm voting for X', there are others who will say 'I normally vote Plaid, but I'm not voting for X'. Any experienced canvasser, for any party, will understand that point, even if the candidates don't necessarily hear the same message when they knock doors themselves.

In truth, party candidates get elected because they are party candidates, not because of who they are. And whilst they are entitled to change their views, changing party after being elected means that the electorate are no longer being represented by that for which they voted.

Of course, some people end up changing party not because they've changed their views, but because they've held to the views on which they were elected, whilst the party has gone off in another direction, but that's a wholly different can of worms. A story for another day perhaps.

In this case, the situation seems to be perfectly clear – we have an elected member effectively saying that he never agreed with the platform on which he was elected. Of course he should resign.


HuwOS said...

Absolutely he should resign.
I understand he has in his career been tory, labour, plaid and now tory again.
As he is quite obviously someone whose primary concern is himself, it would seem he is back to his natural home.
Hopefully there he can sink into the obscurity he so clearly deserves.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Alun Davies will come back to make up the numbers if he's not offered a cabinet post !!

John Dixon said...


Be careful what you wish for...

Dyfrig said...

I feel that it would be a shame for the NEC to use Asghar's utterly dishonourably conduct to overhaul the selection process. I think that it's a genuine strength that local members have such a strong grip over who will seek to represent them in various elections. I would hate to see us go down the Labour route, with Ty Gwynfor parachuting candidates in to stand elections.
And to be honest, I feel that Asghar is an exceptional case. If you look at the current crop of parliamentary candidates, I think that we have a better slate than ever before. Even in unwinnable constituencies we have some truly outstanding candidates. And all this has been achieved without any central control.

Alun Thomas said...

John rydw i yn copio beth rydw i wedi ysgrifennu ar flog Vaughan ar y pwnc yma.

Mae hwn wedi bod yn amlwg i mi a rhai ohonom sydd yn byw ac yn aelodau yng Nghasnewydd ers amser hir.
Synnu nad oes NEB o’r De ddwyrain sydd yn ymwneud a'r Blaid yn ymateb. Wn i pam???

O’r diwedd mae rhai pobol yn dechrau gofyn cwestiynau. Roedd cefndir Osgar yn amlwg i lawer o'r funud gyntaf ymunodd gyda'r Blaid. Ddaeth yn gynghorydd sir gan ei fod mewn ward “liwgar” i ddenu llawer o bleidleisiau, ond gofynner beth oedd ei gyfraniad i'r ward ac i'r Ddinas pan oedd yn aelod o'r cyngor. Clywodd rhywun e yn areithio erioed yn siambr y cyngor?

Wrth gwrs mae hanes am Osgar!! Holwch sut ddaeth i'r amlwg yng Nghasnewydd tua 5/6 mlynedd yn ôl. Hefyd gofynnwch sut cymerwyd cangen Casnewydd o'r Blaid drosto gan e a'i deulu!! Hefyd gofynnwch pwy oedd yn brwydro mor ffyrnig i gael e ar y rhestr i ddechrau, a'r pwysau ar aelodau cyffredin i bleidleisio drosto oherwydd lliw ei groen a'i grefydd.

Ie pwy oedd yn defnyddiodd pwy? Nawr efallai gawn i ambell i ateb!!!

Beth sydd yn fy mhoeni i a llawer un arall yw'r cwestiwn o egwyddor sy'n caniatáu i berson aros mewn swydd heb wynebu ei etholwyr? Ond i Osgar beth yw egwyddor? Mae hwn yn hen hanes a dydy e ddim yn becso'r dam!!

Gwych o gwpled
Esgus o ddyn yw Oscar - i'w hunan
yn unig mae'n deyrngar;

Mae yn dweud y cwbl ond beth hefyd am gyfrifoldeb y “Back room boys” yn hwn i gyd?????

John Dixon said...


The NEC will not be using recent events to overhaul the selection process; the National Council has already agreed to the overhaul many months ago, and we're just putting the details in place.

Nor is there any intention to give the party centrally any right to parachute candidates into any area. The two things which we are looking at are strengthening the process of building a national register of approved candidates - and the words that I used (select, train, and prepare) were about much more than simply giving a Yea or a Nay - and helping members at selection hustings to think about more aspects of the performance of individuals than merely whether they can make a good speech and answer a few questions.

The final choice of candidates will remain with local members. Having said that, I have never made any secret of the fact that, as far as the list system goes, I would personally prefer a national list (rather than 5 regional lists), which would give the party a better chance of ensuring that we can use the list system to achieve the best balance in the overall team - and I'm talking about things like experience and skills here rather than simply the more obvious visual balance.

John Dixon said...


Dwi ddim am wneud unrhyw sylwadau am gefndir yr unigolyn dan sylw. Cafodd ei ddewis gan yr aelodau mewn cystadleuaeth agored.

Dwi ddim yn ymwybodol o unrhyw ymdrechion o'r Blaid yn ganolog i ddwyn perswâd ar aelodau i bleidleisio dros neu yn erbyn unrhyw ymgeisydd; yn bendant, ni fuaswn i'n fodlon caniatáu y fath ymyrraeth. Unig gyfrifoldeb y Blaid yn genedlaethol yn y broses ddewis ydy sicrhau fod yr ymgeisyddion posib yn cwrdd ag unrhyw feini prawf a osodir, ac yn hynny o beth, dwi ddim yn credu fod ein prosesau presennol yn ddigon cryf.

Dwi'n ymwybodol fod rhai unigolion, gan gynnwys swyddogion cenedlaethol, wedi argymell aelodau i bleidleisio dros un neu'r llall o'r ymgeisyddion mewn ambell i broses ddewis; ond fel unigolion oedden nhw'n gweithredu, nid ar ran y Pwyllgor Gwaith. Yn bersonol, fel ceidwad y cyfansoddiad, ac fel y swyddog sy'n atebol am ymddygiad a pherfformiad Tŷ Gwynfor, dwi bob amser wedi gwrthod cymeradwyo unrhyw ymgeisydd mewn cystadleuaeth o'r fath. Gwell gen i gadw at fy nghyfrifoldebau cenedlaethol - sef sicrhau addasrwydd yr ymgeiswyr posib - a gadael i'r aelodau lleol wneud eu dewis.

Dyfrig said...

I find the notion on a national list deeply problematic. If we were to adopt a national list, it should be on a One Member One Vote system, through a postal ballot.
The recent system used to select the European list was deeply problematic. A single hustings was arranged for each regional list area, meaning that areas with large numbers of Plaid Cymru voters were at a disadvantage. Members in Meirionydd - where the concentration of Plaid Cymru members is highest - were forced to choose between a hustings in Aberystwyth or Bangor, both of them over an hour's drive away. Compare this with a member in Cardiff, who had 3 hustings meetings held within the same hour's driving distance. The result was a system where members in South East Wales had better access to, and were therefore better represented in, the selection process.

John Dixon said...


In referring to a preference for a national list, I was referring to the way in which the Additional Members are elected to the Assembly rather than more specifically to the way in which Plaid selects them. As long as the electoral system bases them on regions, we have to select separate regional lists.