My mole at the BBC tells me that Plaid did indeed lodge a formal complaint with both the BBC and the Western Mail over the story about ‘Hayzell David’ and her ‘paper’ proposing a merger between Labour and Plaid.
The complaint was strongly rejected however by the Western Mail, whose Chief Reporter, Martin Shipton, apparently claimed that he had received the paper not from ‘Ms David’ herself, but from another source within Plaid. This source is regarded by him as being completely reliable.
Assuming that Mr Shipton is telling the truth (and the laws of libel preclude me from making any other assumption for the purposes of this post, although the little ditty which Chesterton wrote about journalists does float through my mind as I write), this seems to raise more questions than it answers.
I have not been privy to a copy of the ‘paper’ itself, but I am given to understand that ‘paper’ is rather a grand description for what amounts to half a side of A4, and that the ‘extracts’ quoted in Saturday’s Western Mail amount to virtually the whole of the said ‘paper’.
I am also told that the distribution of the paper was rather strange – although the Western Mail claims that it was written for the Women’s section, it was apparently not even sent to the officers of that section – although curiously it was sent to a number of male members of the party.
Given that, in comments to my previous post, the only reference anyone can find to the name ‘Hayzell’ is as a man’s name, what then is the basis of the Western Mail’s claim that this person is an ‘activist in the women’s section’, or that this paper is in any way connected with that section? It clearly fits the Western Mail’s agenda for this to be so, of course. The paper has previously attacked Plaid’s use of the Regional List seats to attempt to achieve a degree of gender balance, and is desperate to try and link the story in some way to the ‘Helen Mary Four’. I always hesitate before hurling an accusation of misogyny – but in this case my hesitation would not be a lengthy one.
The answer – the only answer possible – is that the link to the Women’s section is based entirely on the faith placed by the Western Mail on the unnamed Plaid source who fed them the document. So, is that faith justified? It doesn’t really seem to me that it stands up to any attempt to apply a reasonable degree of journalistic diligence.
If the paper was indeed written by a member of Plaid’s Women’s section, who for some unfathomable reason chose to write under a pseudonym, why would it not have been sent to the officers of the section? Any activist would certainly have had their addresses.
If the Western Mail’s reliable source was really anywhere near the centre of Plaid’s activity, then he or she would have known that the name was false, and that the paper would have zero credibility within the party.
Perhaps the ‘source’ was him or herself the author of the paper, and was trying to upset the applecart in advance of this week’s meetings to ratify the agreement between Plaid and Labour. But he or she would know that any future credibility with the Western Mail would be irreparably damaged as a result of such an amateurish attempt at deceit.
Alternatively, the source could him or herself have fallen for the hoax, and believed the truth of it in passing it on – but again, that would indicate that this source is someone pretty peripheral to the party’s activity, if they were so easily taken in by this one.
Expect the Western Mail to continue to defend the indefensible in their reporting of this story, publicly at least. But I’ll bet that there’s one ‘source’ to whom they’ll pay considerably less attention in future.