Who is former Plaid Cymru AM Neil McEvoy?

By David Deans
BBC News

Image caption,
Neil McEvoy has proven to be a marmite figure in Plaid Cymru

Neil McEvoy has become one of the most controversial of the 2016 intake of AMs in Cardiff Bay.

To his supporters the Paid Cymru politician is a breath of fresh air, applying an anti-establishment approach that takes the Welsh Labour Government head-on.

But in just two years he has alienated many of his Plaid Cymru colleagues.

After being expelled from the party group in the assembly, the Cardiff-based politician has now been thrown out of the party itself for 18 months - cast out onto the sidelines as an independent.

A populist Welsh nationalist who can be difficult to place on either the left or the right, Mr McEvoy is a marmite figure who divides opinion in his party.

Mr McEvoy, who trained as a teacher in modern languages and a one-time Labour councillor in the Cardiff seat of Riverside, saw his first big political success in the Cardiff elections of 2008.

The Cardiff Plaid group went from four seats to seven, and entered into coalition running Wales' largest authority with the Liberal Democrats with the councillor becoming deputy council leader.

Image caption,
Neil McEvoy and Leanne Wood both launched Plaid's local election campaign last year

His time in the job was not without controversy and in 2011 he was given a written warning after he accused a women's charity of "publicly funded child abuse".

The coalition came and went - replaced by a Labour majority in 2012 - but McEvoy later secured selection to the second place on Plaid Cymru list for South Wales Central in the 2016 election, almost causing an upset when party leader Leanne Wood only narrowly beat him.

In that poll he secured a significant increase in the share of the vote for Plaid Cymru in the constituency he ran in, Cardiff West.

Although he failed to win the seat, he was elected to represent the region on the list.

In the assembly he has been an abrasive critic of the Welsh Government, and has called for more regulation of the lobbying industry.

He has been outspoken in his opposition to co-operation between Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour - quickly proving to be a thorn in the side of Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

He has long demanded that Plaid is more confrontational, saying in a self-penned article: "I want to defeat the Welsh Establishment. I don't want to be instructed to bend my knee to it."

Mr McEvoy's relationship with the leadership, his assembly colleagues and his party began to take a nosedive when, in 2017, a tribunal suspended him for a month from being a Cardiff councillor after it found he made a comment that amounted to "bullying behaviour" to a council officer.

Mr McEvoy was suspended from the Plaid Cymru group - with the whip taken off him - and lost his role as a party spokesperson on sport and tourism.

Image source, NeilMcEvoy/Facebook
Image caption,
A Facebook post by Neil McEvoy prompted his second suspension from Plaid Cymru

He was later reinstated, but a row over his opposition to Plaid's support for the end to right-to-buy in Wales led to him being suspended again - this time with the party leader accusing him of breaching the Plaid rulebook.

He would not return to the party group, with colleagues deciding to expel him in January.

It was not immediately apparent at the time, but the expulsion came days after Mr McEvoy, under data protection laws, asked for data held by his colleagues about him. AMs complained of a breach of trust.

Separately Plaid Cymru held a disciplinary investigation into his conduct after complaints were raised on social media - an investigation that took a year and came to its conclusion on Monday.

Image caption,
Neil McEvoy defended the right of Gareth Bennett (pictured) to speak in the assembly

As the process rumbled on, two recent articles written for Nation.Cymru saw him take positions at odds with others in the party.

One saw him defending UKIP AM Gareth Bennett's right to speak in the assembly after he was barred from doing so by Plaid AM and presiding officer Elin Jones after a speech on transgender rights.

Mr Bennett's words were "quite offensive", Mr McEvoy said, but he accused others in the Senedd chamber of being unable to tolerate "any real diversity of thinking".

He complained about "virtue signalling", accusing left-wing AMs of using the Bennett speech as "an opportunity for politicians to fire off tweets and hashtags about all the things they're against".

In another piece he railed against the "authoritarian left" and criticised gender quotas for the assembly that has been backed by Plaid AM Sian Gwenllian as a way to ensure equality of representation.

"Future assembly members won't be measured by their merit and ability, but through a simple count of their genitalia," he wrote.

Given his expulsion, and his political disagreements with Plaid itself, it is unclear where Neil McEvoy will have to go next.