The Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales is an elected position for which the incumbent, Arfon Jones of Plaid Cymru, receives a salary of £70,000. The office’s website identifies the role as having four main duties, the first of which is to ‘set out the priorities for policing in North Wales’. But by having North Wales Police investigate the writing of Rod Liddle for hate crime, Commissioner Jones, formerly a senior police officer, betrayed a strange sense of priority.
In his Sunday Times column on April 8, the inimitable Mr Liddle, described by the Police Commissioner as having a ‘shock jock approach to journalism’, wrote:
Anyone for bridge?
The Welsh, or some of them, are moaning that a motorway bridge linking their rain-sodden valleys with the First World is to be renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge. In honour of the venal, grasping, deranged (if Tom Bower’s new biography is accurate) heir to the throne. That Plaid Cymru woman who is always on Question Time has been leading the protests. They would prefer it to be called something indecipherable with no real vowels, such as Ysgythysgymlngwchgwch Bryggy.
Let them have their way. So long as it allows people to get out of the place pronto, should we worry about what it’s called?
Wales’s Daily Post interpreted this as the ‘controversial columnist managing to insult Wales three times in just six sentences’, in which case a strike rate of only 50 per cent will be a great disappointment to Rod Liddle – the man who in 2010 described the Welsh TV channel S4C as ‘an epic waste of money just to assuage the sensibilities of some of those miserable, seaweed-munching, sheep-bothering, pinch-faced hill tribes who are perpetually bitter about having England as a next-door neighbour’.
Compared with that stream of pejorative adjectives, Liddle’s latest jibes suggest that during the past eight years he has mellowed and actually become slightly more charitable towards the former principality. Whatever the reason, Commissar – sorry, Commissioner – Jones had regretfully to announce: ‘North Wales Police have carried out an assessment and come to the conclusion that no criminal offence has taken place. However, that does not change the fact that the views expressed in the Sunday Times are morally repugnant and an absolute disgrace.’
As the official response to what any rational person should recognise as nothing more than provocative jokes, this disapproving solemnity from the Police Commissioner is shocking. In this instance, Commissioner Jones had to make do with reporting Rod Liddle to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), ‘and would encourage others to do so’, because ‘such behaviour cannot be left unchallenged’. Although IPSO ruled that Liddle’s words did not breach the Editors’ Code, it stated that this was because the code is intended to protect ‘identifiable individuals’ and not ‘groups or categories of people’; worryingly, it added: ‘If Leanne Wood [she being “that Plaid Cymru woman”] were to consider that the article discriminated against her personally, it would be for her to claim to IPSO.’
At least so far, Wood has not taken up IPSO’s invitation, though she did respond to Liddle’s column by tweeting Wales’s First Minister with the extraordinary question: ‘Does the Welsh government have a view on this?’
— LeanneWood ??????? (@LeanneWood) 8 April 2018
Let us hope not. Nevertheless, the leader of Plaid Cymru was just one of numerous Welsh politicians who seemingly had ample time to flaunt their indignation. Here follows a small sample of the histrionics.
Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Plaid Cymru: ‘Wales as a whipping post for inflammatory opinionated journalism . . . he goes out of his way, effectively to mock Wales, he calls it poor compared to England and mocks that, and then goes on to mock our language.’
Rhun ap Iorweth, AM for Ynys Môn, Plaid Cymru: ‘Rod Liddle – an antiquated attention-seeking buffoon . . . imagine printing such prejudicial poison.’
I won’t waste time on Rod Liddle – he’s just an antiquated attention-seeking buffoon. But really, @thesundaytimes, imagine printing such predjudicial poison about another religion/race/people. Wouldn’t be acceptable.
“Grow thicker skin,” they guffaw superiorly. ???????? pic.twitter.com/chVPIMxwm8
— Rhun ap Iorwerth (@RhunapIorwerth) 8 April 2018
Neil McEvoy, AM for South wales Central, Independent expelled from Plaid Cymru: ‘If any other country or people were described like this it would be called racism. We’re not some sh*t little country. We’re a proud and confident nation of winners.’
If any other country or people were described like this it would be called racism. We’re not some shit little country. We’re a proud and confident nation of winners #respectWales pic.twitter.com/1e6tiQOEsM
— Neil McEvoy AM (@neiljmcevoy) 8 April 2018
If these and other outraged politicians truly believe they represent what McEvoy proclaims as a ‘a proud and confident nation’, their reaction to Liddle’s words ought to be a shrug of indifference; instead, they responded like maniacal Welsh cybernats. One imagines those good people of Wales who are not keyboard warriors to be much more level-headed and stoical than their easily offended elected representatives.
But much more sinister than these thin-skinned retorts were politicians’ attempts to criminalise what patently was satirical writing. For example, on April 9 Susan Elan Jones, Labour MP for Clywd South, tweeted: ‘I have contacted the police about whether Rod Liddle should be charged with inciting racial hatred.’
Today I contacted the Police about whether Rod Liddle would be charged with inciting racial hatred. Seems he’ll be known to the Police already.https://t.co/UGPC5bCZed
— Susan Elan Jones MP (@susanelanjones) 9 April 2018
No doubt this action had the approval of the Police Commissar – oops, done it again – who was also encouraging complaints of hate crime thus:
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org https://t.co/q2w9rwZk67
— Arfon Jones (@ArfonJ) 8 April 2018
This complainant, Bernadette Horton, turned out to be a writer for the Morning Star, which on April 10 published an article by her headlined ‘No place for any anti-Welsh bigotry’. Bernie described Liddle as a ‘Right-wing hack’ whose ‘allusion to Wales as some backward country behind the supposed First World country of England reeks of imperialism and a Little Englander attitude that is entrenched in the far-Right political parties he probably admires’. Last I heard, Rod Liddle remains a tribal Labour voter, albeit of the traditional working-class variety; however, this still positions him far to the Right of the Morning Star.
Unfortunately, this entire episode demonstrates that it is not only the cranks of the Morning Star who wish to criminalise provocative journalism and politically incorrect humour. When this is also the mindset of hypersensitive Leftist parliamentarians and a politically-motivated Police Commissioner, it is a chilling threat to free speech and the expression of unapproved opinion.
With the Welsh Left now trying to make mockery verboten, let us conclude on a lighter note, courtesy of comedian Simon Evans.
Enjoy the joke – before faint-hearted Police Commissioner Arfon Jones tries to have the clip banned.