THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has been called upon to take more positive steps to tackle hate crime in Wales.
The earnest and consensual tone of the debate was, however, undermined afterwards by a furious attack on a Plaid Cymru amendment by UKIP.
In a Senedd debate on Tuesday, October 17, members debated the impact of hate crime in Wales’ communities and progress being made to stem the tide of prejudice and violence.
The debate took place against the background of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.
‘UNNOTICED CRIMES’ TO BE TACKLED
Moving the substantive motion, Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said: “All hate crimes are abhorrent. We have seen a number of awful incidents across the UK this year, and I would like again to extend my sympathies to the victims, their families, and everyone affected.”
The Communities Secretary continued to state that while large hate crimes took the headlines, the Welsh Government was also committed to tackling the sort of hate crimes which happen on a smaller scale ‘which often go unnoticed in the wider world’.
In the previous year, Mr Sargeant reported that the figures for hate crime show that 2,941 hate crimes were reported in Wales during 2016-17, which is a 22.3% increase on 2015-16. However, while he was disappointed by the increase, which he explained was attributable to ensuring that such offences were reported and catalogued correctly, he explained that more victims were encouraged to come forwards than hitherto.
Mr Sargeant sounded a warning note of ‘real concern at the rising number of hate crimes committed last year’, including racial abuse; people being shouted at simply for speaking a language other than English—in some cases where the language being used was Welsh; and even of disabled people suffering abuse on buses and trains.
79% RISE IN RACE HATE CRIMES
Responding for the Conservatives, Mark Isherwood revealed to members that overall, police-recorded hate crimes in England and Wales in 2015-16 increased a further 19%, with 79% being race hate crimes.
In July to September 2016, police-recorded hate crime increased 52 per cent in Dyfed Powys to 35 incidents, 22% in north Wales to 56 incidents, 22% in Gwent to 77 incidents and 10% in south Wales to 276 incidents.
Police-recorded hate crime figures in England and Wales published this weeks show a further 29% rise in 2016-17.
Mr Isherwood said: “Home Office statisticians say that this is thought to reflect both a genuine rise in hate crime and ongoing improvements in crime recording by the police.
“Last month, new research showed that the number of lesbian, gay and bi people in Wales experiencing hate crime had jumped from 11 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent this year.”
PLAID AMENDMENT ‘TENDENTIOUS’
Plaid Cymru’s Bethan Jenkins moved an amendment to the motion that called on the Welsh Government to tackle the ‘radicalisation of white men into far right groups’.
While that amendment did not cause a great deal of debate on the floor of the Senedd, although Neil Hamilton from UKIP suggested although he and his party broadly supported the Welsh Government’s efforts there was an ‘attempt to use the issue of hate crime in order to grind political axes’ and described Plaid’s amendment as ‘tendentious’.
After the debate had concluded and the motion passed – including the Plaid amendment – Mr Hamilton’s response and that of his party was a little less measured and far more direct.
SINGLING OUT WHITE MALE RACISTS UNFAIR
A statement from UKIP claimed that ‘Plaid Cymru are once again burying their heads in the sand of Islamic political extremism’.
The statement continues: ‘Plaid Cymru’s amendments are an attempt to divert attention from the main practical problem. By singling out white men, they are also targeting individuals on a racial and gender basis’.
Focusing on the headline events instead of the detail of the motion reporting hate crimes at the local and community level as in the debate, the statement says: ‘The facts show that Islamist terror poses the largest threat to our communities and that should receive the bulk of police and intelligence resources.
‘The activities of individuals and groups described by Plaid Cymru as “far right” cannot be ignored but they are peripheral to the main risk to our safety and liberty posed by ISIS and other so-called ‘Islamic’ groups’.
UKIP Group Leader Neil Hamilton commented: “Plaid Cymru needs to wake up and stop making excuses for politicised Islamic extremism. Political correctness blinds Plaid Cymru to the real threat to British liberal values and undermines the protection of our way of life from those most ready and willing to destroy it.”
The fact that the hate crime debate referenced the increasing number of small incidents of criminal behaviour that targeted people on the basis of their difference from others that took place in small communities, towns, and cities across Wales and was not about terrorism was not mentioned in the release. The fact that those incidents usually – but not always – consisted of racial abuse directed at minorities was also not mentioned.
Greens announce candidate in Ceredigion
CEREDIGION Green Party has selected local community councillor Chris Simpson as their candidate in the upcoming General Election on 12th December. Chris, who moved to Aberystwyth in 1982 and who recently retired from his post as Consultant Pathologist said,
“Politics has been a major part of my life for the last 40 years, working in the Green Party locally and nationally. Finally the Climate Crisis is beginning to get the attention it deserves. We need to act now to rapidly decarbonise our economy and adapt society accordingly. We can’t put this off any longer if we want to leave a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren. I am very proud to represent the Green Party at this crucial time in politics.”
Vital that young people engage in politics
Caleb Rees makes speech to Welsh Youth Parliament
Welsh Youth Parliament Member for Ceredigion, Caleb Rees, has called on young people to take part in politics in a speech to the Welsh Youth Parliament last week.
Caleb Rees said that the ‘wave of young people’ taking part in climate change protests showed that there is an appetite to take part in politics.
“Without a doubt, climate change is going to affect our future and our entire generation and so it was wonderful to see so many young people from all parts of Wales such as Aberystwyth and Ceredigion taking part.
“Personally, this is important to us as a Youth Parliament because it demonstrates young people’s interest in politics and most importantly young people’s willingness to speak out and express their opinions.
“This ties in with the National Assembly’s intention to lower the voting age to 16 years of age, demonstrating that young people in Wales are genuinely interested in having their say and taking part in the political process.
“It is vital that we as members of the First Youth Parliament do our level best to encourage any young person to take part in politics in some way, be it over climate change or not.”
Elin Jones AM for Ceredigion said, “As Caleb said in his speech, more and more young people are seeing the importance of engaging with the political process. This upcoming election will be another opportunity for young people to set out the kind of Ceredigion, and world they want to live in.
“I’m glad that the National Assembly for Wales is proposing to see the voting age reduced to 16 for the next Welsh elections, but unfortunately this is not the case for Westminster.
“I look forward to more inspiring contributions by the Welsh Youth Parliament, including more from Caleb, who is a great spokesperson for Ceredigion.”
First Minister calls for a second EU referendum
THE FIRST MINISTER of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has called for a second EU referendum in response to the imminent change in Conservative leadership.
After the results of the European Parliamentary Elections were announced, Mr Drakeford issued a statement, saying: “I warmly congratulate Jackie Jones on her election as a member of the European Parliament. Jackie, along with Matthew [Dorrance], Mary [Wimbury] and Mark [Whitcutt] served our party as candidates in what has been the most challenging of circumstances.
“Ever since the referendum in 2016, the Welsh Government has respected the result by arguing for a form of Brexit which would protect Welsh jobs and our economy. Labour colleagues in Westminster have done the same, most recently in negotiations with the UK Government.
“The election of a new Conservative leader changes all of that. It eliminates the chances of any agreed form of Brexit and it hugely increases the very real danger of a catastrophic no-deal exit from the EU. We cannot and will not stand by while that takes place.
“Faced with the damage of a hardline Tory Brexit, Welsh Labour believes that the final decision must be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour Government would campaign, in such a vote, for Wales to remain in the EU.
“We will work with any others who seek the same outcome.”
Last Thursday (May 24), Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will quit as leader of the Conservatives on June 7, with it thought that a new leader could be in place by the end of July.
Many believe the party will elect a right wing leader who would be willing to propose a no deal Brexit, although there has been a majority against that option when Parliament voted on it before. Brexit policy was also key to the European Parliamentary Elections, where the Labour Party failed to attract votes, with its lead candidate Jackie Jones narrowly taking the final MEP seat in Wales.
The party claimed just 15.3% of the vote in Wales and 14.1% UK wide, with many pointing at the party’s indecision regarding its stance over Brexit as the reason for the loss of voters.
Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been criticised by many in his party over his reluctance to openly support another referendum, as he attempted to appease both remain and leave voters with his Brexit policy. Mr Drakeford had been similarly reluctant to definitively back another referendum, but with this statement has gained the support of many in the party who wish for a second vote.
The European election results were also poor for the Conservatives, getting just 6.5% of the vote in Wales, and 9.09% across the UK. Governments often perform poorly in European elections, as the public express their disappointment with the ruling party, but this was the Conservatives’ worst ever result in a nationwide election by some way.
The party did not manage to come first in a single council area. The Brexit Party gained 32.5% of the vote in Wales, with Nathan Gill and James Wells claiming two of the country’s four MEP seats for Nigel Farage’s party. Plaid Cymru won 19.6% of the vote, with Jill Evans retaining her seat as Plaid beat Labour for the first time in a Wales-wide vote.
Andrew RT Davies, AM for South Wales Central and former leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, said: “The European Elections proved extremely difficult for the two major parties, but a second referendum is certainly not the answer. Labour promised to respect the Brexit vote, but rerunning the referendum would completely tear up this pledge.
“Regrettably, the First Minister has buckled at the first sign of discontent from his Labour colleagues who have been in denial ever since the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union back in 2016. That’s not leadership.
“People in Wales voted to leave and that should be respected and now delivered – anything else will have severe consequences for democracy as we know it in this country.”
In the 2016 referendum, Wales saw a turnout of 71.7% of its eligible voters, with 52.53% voting to leave and 47.47% voting to remain.
Popular This Week
News2 weeks ago
£1 billion deal set to solve poor mobile coverage
Community5 days ago
Staff experience what dementia may feel like
Community2 weeks ago
Range of topics for Safeguarding Week
Politics5 days ago
Greens announce candidate in Ceredigion
Community1 week ago
Quadruple success for Ceredigion in Estyn Excellence Awards
Politics5 days ago
Vital that young people engage in politics
featured3 hours ago
It’s not too late: Ceredigion residents still have time to register to vote
featured57 mins ago
Ysgol Bro Pedr raise funds for life saving machine