Public Services

Taxpayer-funded trolling

The last couple of months have proven significant for me having been selected to fight Cardiff Central for the Conservatives in the upcoming Senedd election and, then, ranked third by members in South Wales Central to represent their region on the Party list. However, it’s not all been plain sailing writes Calum Davies.

Naturally, if you decide to enter the public sphere by standing for office this comes with increased scrutiny of what you say and do – and rightfully so. I cannot expect to seek election to a body that controls health, education, and economic development policy without being up front with voters about what I believe.

So, in general, I welcome the heightened desire to examine me – dangerous for the ego though. However, I find this has come in an unique form. In the last six weeks or so, I have made the Nation.Cymru website ten times, with five stories where I was the main subject. You’d think I was a big figure in Welsh politics with this kind of coverage, whereas in reality I’m unlikely to be elected to the Senedd later this year. 

The irony is I’ve probably had more coverage on Nation.Cymru in the last six weeks than any other Welsh Conservative. This doesn’t surprise me, however, as the website often decides to print Plaid Cymru’s press releases on a topic the Senedd Conservatives covered days before. If one looks at the coverage of topics, the opinion pieces, the sharing audience, the advertisement, the editorials, the partisan favouritism, its indulgence of independence, and its slanted “news” coverage then it is patently obvious that this is a website dedicated to serving nationalist interests and the nationalist cause.

Now there is nothing particularly wrong with this. After all, Gwydir is here to provide a space for conservatives in Wales, established due to the absence of any other area in which this happens. But Gwydir is open about this – it does not pretend to be otherwise.

Meanwhile, Nation.Cymru claims to be in its strapline “a news service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales”. Well it simply isn’t. It is by a small group of people that hold a minority view, for people in Wales who hold that same minority view. Having just been on their website to see Yes Cymru and Plaid Cymru advertising, this is clear to see. Why would these two groups throw their money at advertising there otherwise?

So why is Nation.Cymru claiming to be by Wales, for Wales? Probably because it is funded by the taxpayer. That’s right, this overtly nationalist website, that spurts propaganda is paid for out of the Welsh Government budget. You know – that Welsh Government that complains it hasn’t got enough money to run public services and adopts an antagonistic attitude towards the UK Government when Wales was running an eye-watering deficit before Covid. I’m pleased to see Bubble Wales has at least been pointing this out consistently.

If you thought the taxpayer funding for a nationalist website was bad enough, you should actually read the content. Some of the opinion pieces are seemingly written by someone living on a another planet. The news pieces are either not news – a few angry cranks on Twitter do not make “an outcry” as when a Conservative MP supported the investment in her local football club – or, increasingly, are just copy-and-paste jobs from other more reputable publications. 

Nation.Cymru’s contributors recent obsession with me – which included covering an article I wrote for Gwydir two months earlier – does feel like a bit of an orchestrated campaign given the flimsy pretence on which some of stories were written.

But because of the website’s incessant coverage of me – basically a nobody – when there is a Welsh Government to scrutinise (which is why the media in Wales needs to grow), the website’s agenda and audience have together mixed to create taxpayer funded trolling for those that do not conform to the nationalist agenda. Seems that my opposition to the Cardiff Bay establishment – those that have occupied the power centres of Welsh devolution and not those held in opposition for two decades – means I’m a good target for the website to feed some meat to their nationalist audience.

I have written elsewhere about my feelings about devolution, but when each Nation.Cymru increases the number of Twitter users writing that I am not Welsh or that I’ve betrayed my country – when, in reality, I hold my views because I love my country and want to save it from these very trolls – questions must be asked about whether this website either needs or deserves money extracted from the public purse.

I never really thought I’d be particularity bothered by trolls, having experienced the odd few before. But the sheer volume and – more annoyingly – inaccuracy of them recently coinciding with the increasing coverage of myself on Nation.Cymru, prompted me to write this article. No doubt the result will be more of the same.

Calum Davies is the Conservative Senedd candidate for Cardiff Central and is on the Party’s list for South Wales Central.

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