Oct 2 2005
Matt Withers, Wales on Sunday
MOTORMOUTH TORY MP David Davies is to register himself as a gypsy in a two-fingered salute to his critics, we can reveal.
The outspoken member for Monmouthshire, who already faces a National Assembly probe after refusing to apologise for outspoken remarks about the travelling community, has sparked further anger with the latest stunt in his campaign against political correctness.
Mr Davies, also AM for Monmouthshire, last month criticised a £48,000 Lottery award for a film project on travellers.
He wrote to the Heritage Lottery Fund asking for the same amount to make a film about the "settled community".
But now, after learning anyone can assign themselves the status of traveller with a simple announcement, he plans to go one step further - and declare himself one.
Mr Davies, whose wife Aliz is Hungarian, said: "I'm going to apply to register myself as a traveller.
"I travel quite a lot more than most of these people, especially to Hungary, and according to the Commission for Racial Equality, you don't even have to travel to call yourself a traveller.
"If I have myself registered as a traveller I can say what I think about the travelling community without any fear. People like Plaid Cymru equality spokeswoman Helen Mary Jones won't be able to call me a racist, because I'll be a traveller myself."
Mr Davies caused controversy after the Heritage Lottery Fund award of £48,800 was given to Hampshire council to make a film "raising awareness of the gypsy community and culture".
In his application to the fund, Mr Davies said: "I should like my film to focus on such issues as the importance which the 'settled community' place on property rights, their rigid adherence to an ancient code which they refer to as 'planning regulations', and the time honoured custom of clearing up one's rubbish."
But his latest plan last night caused the chairman of the Gypsy Council, to describe the Tory as a "cretin".
Charles Smith said Mr Davies was talking "utter s**t", adding: "He's a complete idiot and he doesn't know what he's talking about."
He said: "If he wants to try being a traveller, I'd love him to do it.
"He can sell his house and have nowhere where he can legally live. I dare him to do it, because the man is a complete idiot. This just shows how out of touch the Tories really are.
"Attacking gypsies is seen as acceptable racism, but I dare him to be a gypsy or a traveller for a year, to give up his affluent lifestyle and his privileged position."
The plan was also dismissed by the Commission for Racial Equality, a body which Mr Davies has clashed with before.
Its Welsh director, Chris Myant said: "I think what David is trying to do to highlight the fact that, from his point of view, he feels some ethnic minority groups get unfair privileges.
"Rather than just calling himself a traveller, maybe he needs to do is what some other MPs have done in the past and that is to try and try to be one for a period of time.
"It's not an easy thing. I'm sure if David wants to express what it's like to be a traveller he might well find some travelling family that would welcome him and enable him to see the difficulties they actually face."
The storm is just the latest in a number of controversies that have dogged the 35-year-old's political career.
He quit the Assembly's equal opportunities committee last year, describing it as "a total waste of time" after being criticised by other AMs over his questioning of gay rights organisation Stonewall Cymru. And he was forced by his party to apologise after he described the Commission for Racial Equality as a "recruiting sergeant" for the far-right British National Party.
The furore over his gypsy comments made national news last month, and won him the support of TV pundit Rod Liddle, who said Mr Davies had "done us all a favour".
But Plaid Cymru's equality spokeswoman and arch-critic of Mr Davies, Helen Mary Jones said of his latest comments: "David Davies is yet again acting irresponsibly.
"How can he seriously call himself a traveller when he has a house?"
Ms Jones is already planning to report Mr Davies to the Assembly's standards committee this week for his previous comments on gypsies.
But he brushed off her attack.
He said: "If Helen Mary Jones was that concerned, why was she away from her work at the Assembly last week living it up at the Scottish National Party conference?
"Clearly the issue of discrimination against gypsies takes second place to a good knees-up."
But a spokesman for the Conservative Party said of Mr Davies' latest outburst: "We won't be commenting."
The Hon. Tony Davis MP is talking absolute bullshit and is beginning to make a real ass of himself. He is welcome to become a traveler and someone may even be so kind to donate him a lovely concerted old bus with some lovely psychedelic painting on it or some flower designs. I am sure we can find something suitable for him. What it will not make him, whatever he declares himself to be is a Gypsy because he is not one and can never be one as Gypsies, true Gypsies, are Romani and are a Race of People not a club that one can join. So, therefore, the Right Honorable Member can do what he likes but he may not call himself a Gypsy. It is rather amazing to a poor Gyppo like myself how it comes that there are so many bigots and idiots in the political world, in this country and abroad. It seems that something happens to people when the get into Gohja politics.