Anger as Plaid Cymru restores whip to MP cautioned for assaulting wife

·3-min read

Plaid Cymru’s restoration of the whip to an MP who was cautioned by police after assaulting his wife has caused anger, with a former leader joining in the criticism.

Jonathan Edwards, who had been sitting as an independent since he was arrested on suspicion of assault, will again be able to represent the nationalist party at Westminster following his suspension in July 2020.

Leanne Wood, who led Plaid Cymru until September 2018 and had called for Edwards to be banned from the party if it was serious about stamping out misogyny and domestic abuse, reacted by tweeting: “Disappointed, yes. Disillusioned, never. The fight against the scourge of misogyny in Welsh politics continues.”

Edwards, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, was allowed to rejoin Plaid Cymru last month as a regular member, a move that has already caused division among its members. The decision to readmit him to the Westminster group was taken despite a “significant majority” of the party’s ruling body recommending against it.

The party chair, Beca Brown, said a disciplinary panel restored Edwards’s membership after he expressed “sincere remorse” and the whip was restored after the party received “further procedural advice”. Plaid would be undertaking a review to ensure it became “truly free from a culture of misogyny”, she added.

Welsh Women’s Aid said it was witnessing epidemic levels of gender-based violence in Wales and that violence against women must be taken seriously. “When there is widespread casualisation of misogyny in politics, it sets the tone for how the wider population regards the severity of these incidents and undermines the status and position of women and girls in our society.

“Parliament and parties across the political spectrum must make it clear that harassment, abuse and violence are unacceptable, and must put an end to the antiquated systems and procedures that perpetuate this.”

Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, which has stood candidates in constituencies associated with MPs facing abuse allegations, described the readmission of Edwards to the Plaid benches as “appalling”.

“Political parties have failed to address harassment and abuse in their own ranks time and again, and this failure transcends party lines,” she said. “It simply isn’t good enough for parties to continue to say that they take harassment and abuse extremely seriously but to continue to protect their allies and fail to take meaningful action. The only way this will ever change is with a truly zero-tolerance approach to violence, harassment and abuse that puts people over politics”

Edwards, who was arrested at his home in 2020, has described the incident as “the biggest regret of my life”, while his wife released a statement saying she accepted her husband’s apology.

In a statement after the whip was restored, Edwards said he wanted to apologise again, and claimed that the past two years had been “a period of deep reflection” during which he had enrolled in a domestic violence awareness course.

Edwards joins a list of other MPs who have been readmitted to their parties after engaging in misconduct or facing serious allegations.

Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths, two Tory MPs who had the whip removed after being accused of sexually inappropriate conduct, were readmitted under Theresa May’s leadership in 2018.

Patrick O’Grady, the SNP’s former Westminster chief whip, was this year suspended from his party’s Westminster group for a week over an allegation that he made a sexual advance towards a teenage staff member in 2016.