The outspoken Penarth AM, Gareth Bennett (UKIP South Wales Central) is in hot water over allegedly less-than-flattering remarks about Labour AM Joyce Watson that he made in YouTube video .
Gareth Bennett has the knack of saying out loud what many people are thinking but – in these politically-correct times – feel they dare not utter.
The video poked fun at the stern-faced Joyce Watson saying she used to run a pub but “you wouldn’t guess that from looking at her”.
The video – which has now been withdrawn from YouTube – superimposed Joyce Watson’s face on the figure of a “buxom barmaid” wearing the kind of revealing corsetry that wouldn’t be out of place in a German – or in an EU – bierkeller.
In his voice-over put-down, Gareth Bennett said of Ms Watson “…She doesn’t look like the life and soul of the party. I’m not sure I would fancy popping in for a quick one at the local if I saw her pulling pints at the bar.”
Ms Watson was most definitely not amused. She claimed that the visual allusion to “buxom barmaids” was “inherently sexist”.
The “case” was referred – by the indignant Labour Party – to the Welsh Assembly’s Standards Commissioner
Sir Roderick is a pillar of the Welsh Establishment . He’s a retired High Court judge, a fellow of Aberystwyth, Swansea and Bangor Universities, a fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and a member of the bardic body – the Gorsedd .
Sir Roderick’s ‘not guilty’ verdict set the feathers flying in the Assembly’s feminist hen-coop where various AMs and three Welsh Labour Government ministers – including the pro-trans, pro-gay, pro-lesbian Labour leadership contender Vaughan Gething (Labour AM for Cardiff South and Penarth) – demanded that he re-consider his judgement.
On Twitter Vaughan Gething self-righteously commented “The Standards Commissioner really does need to explain his position. I would like to see him have an attack of common sense and reconsider the issue. His decision runs wholly against the Assembly’s own dignity and respect policy.”
Discounting Sir Roderick’s many years of experience as a High Court judge, Gething (a junior trade union solicitor by profession) asked “If a sexist video like this is not acted upon what confidence can we have over handling future complaints?”
Meanwhile Alun Davies AM, the Labour minister for local government, proclaimed “this video was wrong and the decision needs to be reviewed,” [ Davies’s Wikipedia entry contains records several occasions when his own conduct has been called into question. In July 2014 he was sacked as a minister but later allowed back into the Welsh Labour Government]
Female Labour leadership contender Eluned Morgan said of Gareth Bennett’s video “If that video was not sexist, I’m not sure what is. I am very interested to hear his [ justification for such a decision in particular in the light of the new Dignity and Respect agenda currently being promoted by the Assembly.” ]
Apparently failing to recognise the irony of her own remarks, Baroness Eluned Morgan called Sir Roderick “a 71-year-old male” – and asked “with respect, has he ever actually experienced sexism in his life? Does he know what it feels like for a woman attempting to fulfil an important role in public life to be reduced to a comedy picture of a cleavage?”
The Welsh Assembly says it has established its new “Dignity and Respect” policy in order to create “an inclusive culture that is free from harassment”. Critics say the very need for such an innovation inadvertently shines a revealing spotlight on the rumours of many murky goings-on in the Assembly over the last 20 years or more.
Sir Roderick Evans has now said he is “reviewing” his decision on the complaint from Joyce Watson.