Marcus Stead

Journalist Marcus Stead

Censorship?: Troubled Leanne Wood Urges S4C Not To Air Katie Hopkins Interview

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PLAID Cymru leader Leanne Wood has been accused of stifling free speech after she put pressure on a broadcaster not to proceed with plans to air an interview with controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins.

Wood, who is set to be ousted as leader on Friday after a string of disappointing election results triggered a bitter leadership contest, urged Welsh language broadcaster S4C not to show the interview: “Giving airtime to someone who attacks our culture and our efforts to promote it is not ‘freedom on [sic] speech’, it is cheap sensationalism that gives oxygen to a dangerous hatemonger” she tweeted on Tuesday.

Leanne Wood Letter 1Leanne Wood Letter 2Two days later, Wood wrote an open letter to Huw Jones, Chair of the S4C Authority and Owen Evans, Chief Executive of S4C, in which she wrote: “Katie Hopkins was interviewed on the basis of her recent comments about the Welsh language calling it ‘a dead language’ and claiming that it was causing low educational standards in Wales. These statements are discriminatory, false and misleading. It is baffling to me that Wales’s national Welsh language broadcaster would want to facilitate the broadcasting of these views and give Katie Hopkins airtime and attention.”

Hopkins, 43, received praise and criticism for her online documentary earlier this month in which she exposed shortcomings in the Welsh education system, where international PISA rankings consistently show the country under-performing in English, Maths and Science, which she claimed was in large part due to the Welsh Government’s policy of increasing use of the Welsh language in the education system, including in parts of the country where it is rarely spoken.

Despite the orchestrated backlash from Welsh language campaigners on Twitter, Hopkins’s programme received more than 2,300 ‘thumbs up’ votes on YouTube, compared to just 185 ‘thumbs down’.

Earlier this week, Hopkins returned to the principality to be interviewed by ITV Wales, who produce the S4C current affairs show ‘Y Byd yn ei Le’ about her views on the Welsh language, during which she challenged Wood to sit their Welsh, Maths and English GCSEs together.

S4C was originally due to air the interview during next Tuesday’s edition of the programme, but showed signs of bowing to pressure following a barrage of tweets from Welsh language campaigners to its official account. S4C responded: “Yes, Katie Hopkins has been interviewed by @bydyneilen. The production team will be considering the interview in the coming days.”

Hopkins responded to the claims, saying:  “I was delighted to be asked by ITV Wales to share my view on the failing Welsh school system. It is clear the Welsh government has its priorities all wrong.

“The cost of its obsession with a dead language is paid for by Welsh students – leaving with poor grades and at the bottom of the PISA league tables in the U.K. for English, Maths and Science. Welsh nationalists should be ashamed.”

Guto Harri

Guto Harri

The interview was conducted by the programme’s main presenter, Guto Harri, a  former Chief Political Correspondent of the BBC who went on to work as an adviser to David Cameron and was Boris Johnson’s Communications Director when he was Mayor of London.

In a tweet, Wood asked Harri if it ‘was a spoof’. Harri slammed Wood’s accusations by sending her a tweet that said: “As u know @bydyneile doesn’t “give a platform”. We challenge + expose flaws. Influential commentators can be more dangerous than politicians. Outrageous views need confronting. You missed a thoughtful programme tonight whilst tweeting about another you haven’t seen. Nos da” (‘goodnight’ in Welsh).

Hopkins tweeted a response to Wood and her allies: “Dear Crazy Welsh Nationalists. Guto Harri is a friend. Incidentally, he describes Leanne Wood as incredibly Stupid His team rearranged the schedule for their S4C show ‘Y Byd yn ei Le’ to ensure I could appear Hope this helps to clarify things xx”.

Jacques Protic, a single parent from North Wales who does not believe his children should be forced to learn or speak Welsh, said: “Katie Hopkins made an immense contribution to the Welsh education debate, which up to a few days ago was simply non-existent by articulating the key issue that is behind the failing standards and the abysmal state of the Welsh education – the Welsh language imposition.

“Katie had and used the solid evidence available via the Freedom of Information disclosures from the Welsh Governments education statistics which clearly show that at the KS2 stage, children in the Welsh Medium Education who do not have Welsh at home significantly underperform and, in all subjects, when compared to children undergoing the English Medium Education.

“This is not about being anti-Welsh, but about giving our children the best possible start in primary years education and through the language they speak and understand – In other words the Welsh Government must remove the Welsh language compulsion and allow parents to be the only arbiters when it comes to choosing the educational language for their children.”

Leanne Wood

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Wood is likely to be ousted as leader of the Welsh nationalist party by outspoken MP Adam Price on Friday, with former BBC Wales Political Editor Rhun ap Iorweth also in contention for the job.

Plaid Cymru currently has only around 8,000 members, compared to approximately 125,500 in its Scottish sister party, the SNP.

Since Wood becoming leader in 2012, Plaid Cymru’s share of the vote has remained almost stagnant, going from 0.5% in 2010 to 0.6% last year, resulting in an increase from three MPs to four, while at the 2016 National Assembly elections, the party returned 12 AMs, up just one from the heavy losses it suffered in 2011.

Appetite for Welsh independence remains low, with opinion polls consistently putting the figure at around 15%, with most of the support coming from the party’s heartlands in the west and north west of Wales.

Earlier this month, Hopkins received widespread targeted abuse on social media from Welsh language campaigners following her documentary for online broadcaster Rebel Media, in which she explored the reasons why so many Welsh parents choose to home school their children.

Ceredigion in Mid Wales has the second highest home schooling rate in the UK behind the Isle of Wight, which Hopkins claimed is due to parents not wanting their children to be taught in Welsh, along with concerns about the country’s poor examination results, while others said their exceptionally bright children were being held back in a classroom environment.

Towards the end of the documentary, Hopkins carried out a vox pop in Cardiff city centre where young people who attended Welsh language schools claimed they had been punished for speaking English in the playground.

Written by Marcus Stead

September 27, 2018 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Well said Marcus and only one observation:

    Leanne Wood is not the only one who demands censorship of the ‘forbidden topic’ (Implications behind the Welsh language imposition in Welsh education).

    There is also a ‘deafening silence’ from BBC and ITV Wales on Katie’s podcast. Both knew that Katie was well prepared with tangible and solid evidence to back up her stance.

    Equally, they knew that by challenging her they would be opening the proverbial can of worms. Just wondering then, what purpose they both serve and are they there to prop up/protect the Welsh Government or there to serve the interests of the public they broadcast to?

    Jacques Protic

    September 28, 2018 at 12:51 am

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