There has been no shortage of controversies in Welsh politics in recent years, and perhaps the most controversial of them all is Neil McEvoy, the leader of Propel.
The list of controversies and complaints involving McEvoy during his tenure with Plaid Cymru is almost too long to list. From accusations of intimidation and bullying, between 2011 and 2018 he was never far from the headlines.
Following a number of controversies as part of Plaid Cymru, he was expelled from the party in January 2018, with a party spokesperson stating “his ongoing behaviour has left Assembly Member colleagues feeling undermined and demoralised.”
This expulsion is ultimately what drove McEvoy to start to Propel, stating: “It’s a very exciting time for Propel. Our membership is growing, we’ve started announcing our field of quality candidates across the country, we’ve ratified our party policies and now we’re an officially registered political party.
“Wales needs champions and our candidates will not pull any punches when it comes to standing up for our communities and our nation. We’re proud to have Wales’ first black boxing world champion, Steve Robinson, standing for us in South Wales Central and Gwynedd’s disability champion, Peter Read, standing in Dywfor Meirionnydd.
“Every one of our candidates has faced real adversity in their life and they’ve had the strength to go on to do exceptional things.
“We have a mantra in Propel, which is ‘not politics as usual’. We’re not here to be like the other establishment parties. We bring something very different. We’re campaigners looking to end the corruption and incompetence that is endemic in Welsh public life. And we’re not here to argue over crumbs from London’s table. We will announce policies to actually grow the Welsh economy and make our country richer.
“That starts with ending Welsh lockdowns. We will be the only credible party at the May elections who will make a scientific and medical case for ending Drakeford’s incredibly damaging lockdown. We’re going to give people a choice to end Welsh lockdowns, save lives and restore freedom.”
So what does Propel stand for compared to the “established parties”?
In the statement, the party advocates for:
Natural justice, due process and free speech to be enshrined in a Welsh constitution and bill of rights.
The right of communities to influence local policy through referenda.
The decentralisation of decision making to a community level.
Making ‘actions that would lessen national sovereignty’ subject to a national referendum.
A just and fair market economy.
The elimination of severe poverty in Wales.
Tackling corruption, nepotism and corporate lobbying and money in politics.
Breaking up monopolies.
A welfare state which acts as a ‘strong safety net’.
The sustainable reindustrialisation of Wales
However, the launch of Propel has not stopped the controversies.
In December 2020, McEvoy was excluded from Senedd proceedings for 21 calendar days, was barred from Senedd buildings and had his pay docked after a Senedd Committee found him to have breached Senedd rules following an altercation with Labour MS Mick Antoniw where McEvoy behaved in a threatening manner and employed physical and verbal aggression to do so.
One witness said it “looked as though Neil was going to punch Mick.”
The witness said Mr McEvoy “appeared to be struggling to retain his composure. I did not know what he would do next.
“It appeared to me that the incident could be the prelude to something worse.”
Six members of Senedd staff gave interviews about the incident involving Mr Antoniw, according to a report.
A witness in the area outside the chamber, known as the Cwrt, said: “Had I seen that behaviour outside the Assembly, in a pub for example, I would have expected violence from Neil McEvoy.”
The standards committee of the Senedd found that Mr McEvoy committed a “severe breach” of the code of conduct and had showed “contempt” for colleagues.
Mr McEvoy appealed against the committee’s ruling – made before Sir Roderick’s resignation – to a high court judge. Sir John Griffith Williams dismissed the appeal in April of this year.
In a response to BBC Wales Mr McEvoy raised questions about the process and added: “It’s no surprise to me that the first Welsh born person of colour is being given the longest ban in Senedd history for saying a few choice words to a Labour politician.
“They are gutless Red Tories.”
In January, a report emerged that stated McEvoy broke rules prohibiting the use of Welsh Parliament resources for election campaigning 22 times in 2016 and 2017.
The Senedd’s standards commissioner said he had ‘caused or permitted’ the printing of thousands of election leaflets in his office.
According to the report approximately 8,920 “sheets of election campaign material” were produced on a printer located at his regional office in Cardiff.
He also employed a member of staff to translate the campaign material into Welsh.
Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain alleged that the Member of the Senedd (MS) for South Wales Central had contravened the rules prohibiting the use of resources paid for by the Welsh Parliament for campaigning for elections.
He wrote while “it may be the case that Mr McEvoy was not aware of the details of every occasion on which his office was used for non-Assembly work I find it inconceivable that he was not well aware that such use was taking place.”
It apparently included 3,000 leaflets for the 2016 Grangetown Cardiff council by-election and 2,000 leaflets and 1,960 double-sided direct mail letters for the Riverside ward ahead of Cardiff Council elections in 2017.
Mr Bain alleged Mr McEvoy: caused or permitted the use of the printer, accounting for four breaches of the rules.
Mr Bain also found Mr McEvoy:
caused or permitted the location of a separate campaign printer and a folding machine at the regional office in 2016 and 2017
caused or permitted the use of electricity to power equipment used to process party political and election campaign documents
employed a temporary staff member between October 2016 and April 2017, paid from Senedd funds, to do translation work of a party political and election campaign nature
used Senedd rooms in December 2016 to interview candidates for the post of campaign group organiser
caused or permitted a campaign organiser to be based at his regional office and carry out campaign work
Although Plaid Cymru apparently met the costs of using the printer, the rental costs were paid for from Senedd funds. Mr Bain wrote that the cost to the taxpayer was approximately £89. A “low” estimate of the cost of the overall alleged misconduct was given as £3,450.
“The fact his investigation has been leaked tells you everything you need to know about the people behind it.” stated McEvoy
“It would appear that the Welsh parliament have no interest in due process or me getting fair process.
“They can’t wait to find out what the Standards Committee has to say about the investigation. There’s an election coming and they want to get a hit on me now, through the media.
“This is how politics works in Wales now. Shadowy, anonymous people, making complaints and then leaking them to the media to try to ruin people’s reputations. Nothing has been learned from the death of Carl Sargeant.
“Time for a serious clean up and clean out of politicians in May. They won’t stop me.”
Most recently, MvEcoy has been contacted by the police after political leaflets about Repel were delivered to homes during Covid restrictions.
He said: “I think it’s clear to the public that when it comes to me, and my party Propel, policing is done very differently.
“If the law is there then the law has to apply equally to everybody. Mark Drakeford is having his leaflets delivered, paying a private company to do so, yet the chief constable is seeking to stop my leaflets being delivered by volunteers who are taking Covid precautions. Everyone has gloves, everybody has sanitiser, myself included.
“I’m just doing my job, that’s the irony. You’ve got politicians (drinking) in the Senedd contrary to Covid regulations and nothing is being done – no cautions – nothing at all.
“My baby son was tired, we put him to bed and settled down and there was an almighty knock on the door.
“I saw two police officers and thought something bad had happened to the family, I thought something was really wrong – for a Sunday night with the police waking you up I thought it must be something serious and when I opened my door I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“We can’t live in a situation where politicians are hassled by the police to stop doing politics. If we’re able to have pizza menus delivered which is supposedly legal, it’s outrageous that informing people on the type of government we should have is illegal.”