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Welsh Tory candidates in sexism storm over 'jokes' on Facebook

by Martin Shipton, Western Mail Feb 9 2011

Joel James

 TWO Tory National Assembly candidates are under investigation for making tasteless and sexist jokes on Facebook.

The internal party inquiry was launched last night after the Western Mail passed details of the internet postings to the Welsh Conservatives.

One of the candidates, Joel James ' the only Tory member of Rhondda Cynon Taf council ' was given a name check by David Cameron during his speech at last year's Welsh Conservative conference.

Referring to the party's increased representation at local government level since he first spoke in Wales as leader four years before, Mr Cameron said: 'We've got over 60 more councillors in cities, towns and villages and even in Labour's heartland, and yes, even deep in the Valleys, even in the Rhondda. Let's not forget Joel James ' he may be the only Conservative in the village but we're proud of the progress we've made.'

Within months, however, Mr James was posting juvenile and sexist comments on Facebook, including a reference to French pornography.

Last Wednesday Welsh Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne congratulated Mr James via Twitter after his selection as the Tory candidate for Ponty-pridd in May's election. On the same day Mr Bourne congratulated Mr James' friend Dan Saxton on his selection as the Tory candidate for Cynon Valley.

Last July Mr Saxton posted a tasteless joke involving a little girl on Facebook and last month he posted a sexist joke about how to get a 'bird into bed'.

The controversy follows the high-profile departures from Sky Sports of presenter Richard Keys and commentator Andy Gray after the pair made sexist remarks over assistant referee Sian Massey.

They thought their microphones had been switched off when they were heard questioning if Ms Massey knew the offside rule.

Jenny Rathbone, Labour's Assembly candidate for Cardiff Central, said: 'It is sad that the Welsh Conservatives find it so hard to shed their Nasty Party image. These remarks range from sexist to the frankly depraved and have no place in Welsh politics.

'It is a pitiful reflection on the Welsh Tories that they have candidates coming out with the same type of ignorant trash that Richard Keys and Andy Gray were rightly criticised for.'

Mr James was elected to represent Llantwit Fardre on Rhondda Cynon Taf council in 2008.

Last month he posted an entry about himself on Wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia, which said: 'Joel James is a British politician currently the sitting councillor for Llantwit Fardre. He is the Conservative Party nominee for the 2011 Welsh Assembly election for the Pontypridd constituency.

'He is 25 years old at the time of writing this and has a degree in History from Bristol University.

'He was also an election agent for another aspiring British politician Mr Steven Rogers, who ran in the 2010 Cymmer ward by-election in the Porth area of Rhondda Cynon Taf and did quadruple their vote share in the area and hopes to run again in 2012.

'Both being Conservatives in political aspiration, Joel is aided by his close friend and representative of the Cynon Valley National Assembly for Wales constituency. Both are members of the Pontypridd Conservative Association based in Pontypridd.'

The entry was deleted by Wikipedia on the grounds that Mr James is not important enough to deserve an entry.

A senior Labour member of Rhondda Cynon Taf council said last night: 'Since he was elected his attendance and performance have been very mediocre ' and that's paying him a compliment. The truth is he comes across as quite amateur.

'He got a ribbing soon after he was elected after turning up late for a meeting and giving the excuse that his mother had forgotten to wake him up. On another occasion he said his mother had not packed his committee reports in his briefcase.

'Actually he comes from a family of extremely strong Labour supporters.'

A Welsh Conservative Party spokesman said last night: 'Both Daniel Saxton and Joel James have apologised unreservedly to senior members of the Welsh Conservative Party for their comments, which they now recognise are wholly unacceptable. The comments have now been removed from their Facebook profiles.

'Their conduct has been referred to the Welsh Conservative Party's standing committee on candidates for further investigation.'

This latest incident follows the resignation last month of Richard Lowe, the Tory Assembly candidate for Alyn & Deeside. The party said Mr Lowe had stepped down for personal reasons after it emerged that he had made a sick joke about the missing girl Madeleine McCann.

In 2009 Mr Lowe, who is a member of Cheshire West and Chester Council, had the Tory whip withdrawn for four months after making a sick joke on Facebook about Madeleine.

He was forced to apologise for 'inappropriate' comments he posted in response to boasts by fellow Conservative Matt Lewis about dressing up as Madeleine McCann for a New Year's Eve party.

Mr Lowe had written on the social networking site: 'Is this a cunning (Baldrick style) plan to obtain the reward money' Room for one more''

His group leader, Mike Jones, said after Mr Lowe's reinstatement: 'He's done a lot of growing up in the last three months.'


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