May 272013
 

In recent months I have given much thought to my lifestyle. I’m spending far too much time at my computer, writing my blog and other things; reading, watching television, or just filling my head with information I’d be none the poorer for not knowing. Then there’s Twitter, Facebook, texts, e-mails. And so often I’m not even sure who I’m dealing with . . . I suspect many are socialists, or oafs in baseball caps. Even socialist oafs in baseball caps! People I wouldn’t bother with in the real world. It has become clear to me that this technology, promised to be the great servant of mankind, can, if we allow it, become our master, exerting an unhealthy influence over our lives.

Another issue encouraging my return to the real world is the new wave of US entrepreneurs and capitalists behind this revolution. They may look and sound like unworldly geeks, but when it comes to business, with their monopolistic ambitions and their tax-dodging, they are more ruthless than Ford, Rockefeller and J P Morgan ever were. Do I really want to use anything over which these amoral weirdoes have control? Do I want to use software or social networking that is all the while gathering information about me? Do I want to download a harmless ‘update’, only to find that I have, totally unwillingly and without warning, also installed a toolbar, a search engine, anti-virus software, tracking cookies and God knows what else? No, I do not.

Don’t run away with the idea that I am Thoreaurejecting new technology entirely and going live in a cave, but I will in future be drastically reducing the time I spend on my computer. My Twitter account will be closed soon, and so will my Facebook page (which I never could see the value of). As for my blog, I shall keep it open but resort to it less. Maybe a weekly or bi-weekly post, supplemented by ‘specials’ if I think I have something worth saying. For while I believe some of my postings have had an effect, particularly those dealing with the Third Sector and other obvious forms of mismanagement or corruption, at the end of the day, blogging could be viewed as a cheap form of vanity publishing.

‘Why now?’ you might ask. Well, there comes a point when you realise you’re repeating yourself. Largely because the stupidly of politicians, and the perfidy of those who manipulate them, is unchanging. As is the gullibility of  too many Welsh voters. Only the characters and the circumstances change. One Third Sector scandal is much like another. And when a blogger finds himself referring back to his own earlier posts then he should realise that he’s said it all before. Such is the situation with me.

In addition, my mother has just died, a milestone in any man’s life. So now seems the right time to make my return to the real world. Before finishing, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog, both at its original home with Google Blogger, and more recently here, courtesy of Gwilym ab Ioan of S C Cambria. Thank you also for your support and comments over the years. What follows may be my last post for a while, in it I try to give my honest assessment of the situation in Wales today, and how we got here.

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IN THE BEGINNING

When I joined the nationalist movement in the mid-ʼ60s I joined something vibrant and exciting, there was a ‘We’re not taking this shit any more!’ attitude, and a belief that change would be brought about by pressure from below, by activists like us. And for a while we had the system worried. But by 1975, the high-water mark had been reached, and Welsh nationalism was in retreat. For by now the British Establishment understood what it was dealing with. It knew how far Welsh nationalism was prepared to go, what barriers it wouldn’t cross; it had worked out who could be bought, or intimidated; and it understood that by guiding a nationalist movement without mass support into politics that that movement was never going to threaten the status quo.

And so it proved. After Plaid Cymru won Carmarthen in 1966, Meirionnydd and Caernarfon in 1974, after seventeen years of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, after the Free Wales Army (FWA), Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC) and countless other manifestations of Welsh nationalism, on St. David’s Day 1979 just 20.26% of us voted for a Welsh Assembly. That the devolution referendum of 1997 was won was due to Margaret Thatcher and eighteen years of Conservative rule. It had nothing to do with Plaid Cymru. Even then, many Labour voters argued that we didn’t need devolution – Labour was back in power! (A good example of the mentality of the ‘Donkey Labour’ voter; rejecting devolution because it’s only needed when the Tories are in power but unable to work out that the Tories will never give Wales devolution!)

DOWNHILL

By the early 1970s the English Establishment had worked out the following facts. Plaid Cymru was essentially a linguistic and cultural movement which, once the initial excitement had worn off, would have little appeal to the anglophone majority. Many of the language activists were simply after their own niche in the English system, some proving themselves to be ruthlessly ambitious. While the most sincere and selfless element of Welsh nationalism, those who resorted to direct action, were not prepared to take a human life. Just to be sure, the English Establishment put it place a colonisation strategy to encourage English settlers into Wales, using agencies as diverse as higher education and tourism, plus quangos such as the Development Board for Rural Wales.

It was downhill from there. Apart from the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign and groups such as the Welsh Socialist Republican Movement, Cofiwn, Cyfamodwyr, Wales was quiescent. Plaid Cymru went through various colour changes – red, green, pink – and Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s best days were behind it, its victories nearly all won in the first twenty years of its existence. Whatever came to us now would be gifted by our masters without them having to worry about pressure from below. Even the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign, which had widespread popular support, did nothing to remove the problem of holiday homes.

TODAY

Which brings me to a consideration of Wales today. Plaid Cymru can be discounted entirely. Exposed and discredited. Infiltrated and manipulated. A former leader openly talking about joining the Labour Party. More concerned with socialism and environmentalism than with nationalism. Its ambition limited to being junior partner in a Labour-led coalition. Quite happy to see the Welsh countryside covered with wind turbines and populated with English settlers. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, or the wider language-cultural movement, stands exposed as a bunch of weak-kneed charlatans. Deluding themselves that another school in Cardiff is fair exchange for the loss of Ceredigion. Smug and complacent on the moral high ground, as the enemy takes over the land below. Direct action? There is none.

Ah! but we’ve got devolution, you reply. No. What we have is a system in which a bunch of second-rate politicians faff about in a leaky building down Cardiff docks while real power is increasingly exerted by English civil servants and organisations of which most of us have never heard – Planning Inspectorate, Housing Directorate, Wales Rural Observatory, countless Third Sector shyster-wagons, etc. – for which we never voted. So don’t kid yourself that this system fronted by Carwyn and his gang is devolved and democratic government, or that it’s doing anything for us. It is nothing but English colonialism with its repulsive features partly disguised with a Welsh veil.

TOMORROW?

The biggest issue facing the Welsh nation is its very survival. Partly due to ‘Wales’ becoming divorced from ‘the Welsh’. Allowing politicians and academics, journalists and others, to crow about something being ‘wonderful for Wales’ when it offers Welsh people nothing, or is even detrimental to their interests. Tourism, for example. To the point where people can even bang on about Wales being ‘a rainbow nation’, with we Welsh nothing more than another exotic component. Hand in hand with this divorce goes the trivialisation of Welsh identity, and a careful promotion of what are considered to be acceptable expressions of Welshness. So that some tart on a reality TV show would be an acceptable face of ‘Welshness’, but a dignified patriot rejecting an ‘honour’ from the English Queen would be a narrow bigot, an extremist.

EuphemismThese Orwellian interpretations dominate Welsh life. Exemplified by the approach to colonisation. Wales today has ‘incomers’ or ‘in-migrants’, and ‘people from other parts of Britain’, or even ‘from over the border’. These can be ‘retirees’, or people ‘looking for a better quality of life’ (even ‘good-lifers’ is acceptable). They can even be, in the memorable phrase of Wyn Roberts, “this beneficent influx”. You can use any bloody euphemism you choose, but they must never be called ‘English’. To do so would be ‘racist’. Exposing a pathetic self-censorship, perhaps even self-intimidation. This is the level of debate we have sunk to in Wales; one corrupted by political correctness and poisoned by a variant of socialism that would be ridiculed and rejected from Bilbao to Barcelona to Belfast.

From now on the only issue must be the fight against colonisation and the threat it poses to the survival of Welsh nationhood. Everything else is secondary or irrelevant. Whether it’s ‘saving the planet’ (as if Wales could make any bloody difference!) or the chimera of extra power for those clowns I mentioned earlier in the leaky building. Because no matter how many lies are told, how imaginative the euphemisms employed, or how many distractions promoted, WE know the truth: England is carrying out a colonisation programme in Wales that is excluding and marginalising the Welsh (apart from those needed to disguise the process) with the intention of destroying Welsh national identity. Fight this evil wherever you find it. It is the biggest threat the Welsh nation has ever faced.

May 222013
 

In a previous incarnation, and a parallel dimension (Google Blogger), I wrote a piece on Ireland’s national cricket team, and that team’s victory over England in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. I used the Irish victory to ask why Wales does not have a national cricket team. Obviously I’m not the only one asking this question, as we can see from this petition to the Notional Assembly’s Petitions Committee earlier this month, urging the Welsh Government to support the establishment of a national cricket team for Wales.

ECBAt present, Wales is, to all intents and purposes, part of England, and linked to England in the England and Wales Cricket Board. Though the abbreviated title is always ECB, and that’s how it appears on the badges worn by international players, even Welsh players. There is also a Wales Cricket Board, which seems to be a subordinate body looking after the amateur game within Wales.

There were a number of interesting submissions made to the Petitions Committee. One that caught my eye was from David Morgan who, despite the name, comes across as one of Brutannia’s staunchest sons, to the extent of believing in that magic land, ‘Englandanwales’. Read more of his submission in the Wales Online piece I’ve linked to. Morgan is nothing if not honest. He spells out clearly why he thinks a Welsh national cricket team would be a bad idea. First, it would spell “the end of Glamorgan as a professional club in England and Wales”. Second, “it would see the end of the Swalec stadium”.

For those who don’t follow cricket, let me give a little background information. When I was a boy and a young man in Swansea I’d regularly go to that most beautifully situated stadium, St. Helen’s, overlooking the bay. In winter to watch the Whites (Swansea RFC) and in summer to see Glamorgan County Cricket Club. I have been there for cricket matches in a crowd of over 15,000. Glamorgan’s highest-ever attendance of over 20,000 was at St. Helen’s. This was the ground where Gary Sobers hit his six sixes in one over. But then certain influences got to work and it was decided that ‘the county’ would in future base itself in Cardiff and only play the occasional game in Swansea. So St. Helen’s, and Swansea, became an early casualty of the GCCC history‘everything in Cardiff’ syndrome. To the extent that St. Helen’s has almost been written out of the club’s history.

In 1997 we saw the formation of the England and Wales Cricket Board as “the single national governing body for all cricket in England and Wales”. Note how that short phase mentions two countries but uses the term “national”. And in the sixteen years of the ECB’s existence it’s fair to assume that no one at Cardiff City Cricket Club (CCCC), or any other cricketing body in Wales, saw any need to query that insult. Around the same time CCCC began planning a new stadium in Sophia Gardens. When completed, with its 16,000 seats, it would eventually be known – after a sponsorship deal – as the Swalec Stadium.

Everything seemed to be going well; a new stadium, a new governing body, CCCC even won the English County Championship in 1997 . . . what could go wrong? Well, for a start, the Welsh public started losing interest in cricket (or maybe the crowds stayed in Swansea), resulting in the Swalec Stadium being about one tenth full on a good day . . . with few of the crowd under 60, most of the women knitting and half the men dozing. How to make the stadium pay? Well, there was only one answer – get England to play test matches there. Fill the home of Cardiff City Cricket Club with English fans supporting England on their ‘home’ ground. And so it came to pass . . . first One Day internationals, then a full, five-day Test match in July 2009.

So that’s why Wales does not have a Swalec Stadiumnational cricket team. It’s because we are already represented by the English Cricket Board. Also, because to insist on a national team would jeopardise the existence of Cardiff City Cricket Club and its white elephant stadium. Or, to look at it another way; in order for CCCC to balance the books Wales must be subsumed into England. And for the umpteenth time, Wales ends up paying for a prestige project that Cardiff can’t afford and never really needed.

Yet listening to some, including the chairman of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee, Lib Dem AM William Powell, you’d think the only problem is the ‘anachronistic acronym’. I kid you not. Powell seems to think that everything would be just fine if the ECB became the EWCB! Listen, Wil; that suggestion is more insulting than the acronym itself. Because from ‘flannelled fools’ in England we expect no better, but you masquerade as one of our representatives.

Of course, the Swalec Stadium could have a future – if Wales had a national cricket team. If the cricket authorities in Wales started thinking and behaving like Welshmen we could have a national league, with our national team playing test matches against Australia, India, South Africa, West Indies at the Swalec Stadium. And competing, like Ireland, in the World Cup. Losing Cardiff City Cricket Club and no longer being ‘represented’ in the English County Championship would be a price worth paying.

Strange, when you think about it; but here I am advocating that Wales has more sporting links with countries and cultures around the world, while the enemies of Wales at CCCC and the ECB, who see no further than England, and view Wales as a part of England, would call me ‘narrow’ in my vision, and ‘insular’.

May 202013
 

There are now 56 council executives in Wales earning over £100,000 a year, and a further 66 earning in excess of £75,000 per year. There are different ways of looking at these figures. In the Wales Online article I’m quoting from, ‘the TaxPayers’ Alliance co-ordinator for Wales, Lee Canning, said frontline staff were those providing the important services that need protection, adding: “That’s what taxpayers pay for”‘. Seeing as the TaxPayers Alliance is a Conservative and Unionist Party organisation, we can dismiss immediately the simpering bollocks about “frontline staff”. We can also dismiss the comments of Steve Thomas, representing the secretive Welsh Local Government Association, a Labour organisation, which exists to defend such salaries.

LG reorganisation table

Personally, I’ve never been driven by socialist envy politics; and because I don’t support any political party I don’t engage in hypocritical points-scoring. In fact, I am quite relaxed about a chief executive earning £200,000 (inc. pension package) a year for running a Welsh local authority. The reason I criticise the situation we have today is because we don’t need 22 local authorities in a country of three million people. Eight local authorities would be enough. (My suggestion is on the left. Click to enlarge.) There are few now who don’t agree that we need fewer councils, and I have not heard anyone defend the 22-council model for a long time. Which means we are looking at the administrative equivalent of a dead man walking, with no one prepared to apply the coup de grâce.

Almost every week we get fresh evidence of how dysfunctional our local authorities are, and how they are no longer able to cope. If it’s not some gauleiter chief executive making a grab for untrammeled power, then it’s the twenty-first century equivalent of smoke-filled rooms in which a self-elected ‘cabinet’ cuts deals detrimental to the best interests of the people. As for providing acceptable services, both Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent have been stripped of responsibility for education. Telling us the Welsh Government accepts that many of our councils are too small to provide the full range of services, which explains why for a few years it has been urging ‘co-operation’ . . . but no one listened.

The attitude of the Welsh Government today can be summed up by, ‘Yes, we agree, things must change . . . but not yet’. In fact, nothing is promised until after the next Assembly elections in 2016. Though in the hope of killing time, and perhaps being seen to be doing something, the Welsh Government has now set up a body glorying in the name of the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery. Which an old conservative like me finds rather touching. For while this may be New Labour it is respectful of Welsh political tradition – ‘If you want to kick a problem into the long grass, set up a Commission’.

The main argument used by the Labour Government up to now to explain its inertia has been that there will be costs attached to local government re-organisation. Which of course is true, but look at it this way. There will be costs to local government reorganisation whether it’s done in 2019 or 2015; so why not do it sooner rather than later, and save us four years of wasted funding on a system we know no longer delivers? If the Labour Party had pulled its finger out we could have had elections to the new authorities on the same day as the Assembly elections in May 2016. It might not be too late.

Of course, the real reason for Labour’s inaction is that reducing the number of councils will result in culling a few hundred of its councillors . . . and there’s no clipsuch thing as ‘voluntary redundancy’ or ‘natural wastage’ when it comes to Labour councillors. They’re there ’til the Grim Reaper drags them – still trying to fill in that last expenses claim form – to the great council chamber in the sky. The latest smokescreen being tried on a gullible media to disguise this truth is the suggestion that the current local authorities have different council tax bandings, and so harmonisation would be required. Yes, obviously. Are we expected to accept this as an insurmountable reason for not going ahead with local government re-organisation?

The AM chosen to deliver this bombshell was Mike Hedges. Hedges is a former Leader of Swansea council. Just about the most uninspiring leader a city was ever lumbered with. (Why did it have to be the city of my dreams?) But a perfect exemplar for the decline in quality to be found in the Swansea Labour Party that opened the gates to the invaders I have dealt with in previous posts. I say “the AM chosen” because I don’t believe Hedges came up with this thought on his lickle own. He is simply the messenger.

But the real message is this: Wales is lumbered with a local government system that is causing increasing damage and expense but, in order to serve its own selfish interests, Labour is prevaricating over dealing with the issue; with the result that all of us, from the oldest to the youngest, are paying the price. Yet another example of Labour when in office using its power to serve the interests of the Labour Party, rather than serving Wales.

UPDATE 21.05.13: I am indebted to Glyn Erasmus for this table (Microsoft Excel) showing the current Council Tax Band D rate for each local authority and the differences between the various authorities I suggest for merger. Glyn also suggests that Monmouthshire could be linked with Powys. I can see where he’s coming from, they have a lot in common; but a merger would result in a unit looking rather like Chile. Or perhaps our Krajina!

It may say something about Wales, and the Labour Party, that our poorest areas seem to have the highest council tax rates. Note though that Swansea, Cardiff and Caerphilly still have relatively low levels of Band D Council Tax; so it will be interesting to see how long this lasts, now that Labour is back in control of these authorities.

In the case of Caerphilly I suppose there’ll have to be an increase if only to pay for the secret deal Labour did to bump up the salaries of the council managers. In Cardiff, with Russell Goodwage back in charge as puppet-master, we can safely anticipate an increase. While in the ugly lovely town there’s a new GLBT Officer to pay for, and other expenses to be loaded on the Jacks by councillors who’ve never worked but they do enjoy playing politics with other people’s money. Right on!

May 172013
 

The National Audit Office in London has delivered a very critical assessment of the proposed HS2 high speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. (Click here for BBC report.) Especially damning is the view that the promised economic benefits for cities other than London might not materialise. Worse, these other cities might actually lose out. To come to this conclusion the NAO relied on evidence from around the world, some of it dealt with Flanders HS2in this recent Newsnight report. This, to some extent, is the ‘shadow effect’, which argues that it is difficult for other, competing cities to flourish within the ambit of a dominating political, economic and cultural presence such as London. Looking at it this way, HS2 will merely lengthen London’s ‘shadow’.

There are examples of improved communications other than rail damaging areas brought ‘nearer’ to ‘shadow’-casting towns and cities. Here in Wales we need only think of the A55 North Wales Expressway. When the A55 was being built in the 1980s and 1990s we were told, by Minister of State Wyn Roberts, that it was a “Highway of Opportunity” . . . he should have added, ‘for Chester and other places on the English side of the border’. For soon after the A55 reached Bangor the Royal Mail moved its North Wales sorting facilities to Chester. Other employers followed because it was now possible to ‘serve’ North Wales from England. This leap into the future actually took us back to some of the darkest days of Welsh subjugation, when Chester served as the ‘capital’ of North Wales, the place to which countless patriots were dragged to be humiliated and butchered. Turning to a more modern capital . . .

As yet I have heard no Welsh response to the NAO report, nor any comparison made with the proposed Cardiff Metro network. (Institute of Welsh Affairs report here.) Which may not be surprising, seeing as there are  comparisons to be made, but these are hardly helpful to the proponents of the Cardiff Metro system. Which also highlights a major difference between HS2 and the Cardiff Metro system. Many of those in favour of HS2 genuinely believe that the reduced journey times from London will bring tangible economic benefits to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and other cities. This can not be said for those pushing the Cardiff system; for as David Stevens of Admiral Insurance put it, “We must help Cardiff compete more effectively with cities across Europe”. (A condition known to clinical psychologists as fixato obsessivo barcelonis.)

Cardiff Metro System

Click to Enlarge

The Cardiff system is – as it says on the label – all about making Cardiff look like a metropolis by integrating and aggregating the populations of surrounding urban areas. This linking in with the Cardiff city state project. So if HS2 might extend London’s ‘shadow’ as far as Leeds, what could the Cardiff Metro system do for Newport, Merthyr, Bridgend? I suspect that if this system was constructed, then it would extend Cardiff’s ‘shadow’, allowing little to flourish from Bridgend to the border and from Merthyr to the coast . . . unless it lay within the city.

The evidence is piling up that improved communications often work against ‘peripheral’ areas and this should act as a wake-up call for many threatened by the Cardiff Metro system. It would be nice to think that Labour councillors in the Valleys could tear themselves away from their expenses claims forms for long enough to think about the people they supposedly represent. That senior executives on local authorities might take a break from wangling higher salaries to devote time to the communities they’re employed to serve. But for both, it’s probably too much like hard work, so they’ll end up doing what Russell Goodwage and the Wasting Mule want them to do; plus the IWA, the Cardiff Business Partnership and others who wouldn’t give a toss if Ebbw Vale and Treherbert were to disappear off the map.

May 152013
 

There has been a lot of debate lately about procurement policies in Wales. (One discussion was here.) At its simplest, this means ensuring that the Welsh Management, local government and other agencies give contracts to Welsh firms. Doing this obviously maximises the benefits to Wales in terms of jobs, but it also ensures that more money stays in the country, enabling Welsh firms to grow, and circulating in the local economy. So simple, and so obvious, that we shouldn’t really need to discuss it. But we do, because too many contracts – big and small – are still Glandyfi castlegoing to companies from outside Wales. Stuck in traffic at road works yesterday I saw, laid out before me, a good example of this problem.

Anyone who travels the A487, Bangor to Fishguard trunk road, will know about the major road works being undertaken at Glandyfi, between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth. This stretch of road was totally unfit for twenty-first century traffic, having blind bends and a carriageway too narrow for vehicles to pass. (Geologists among you may find this of interest.) The problem at Glandyfi was due to the road being squeezed between the Dyfi estuary and the railway line on the one side, and the walls of Glandyfi castle on the other. Glandyfi castle which, its website tells us, “lies just 12 miles from Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast”. At 12 miles from Aber’ where else it would it be – the Côte de bloody Azur! The website also informs us that guests can go “walking in the Welsh hills”. Fancy that – Welsh hills in Wales! Glandyfi Castle seems to be the worst type of colonio-tourism: ‘Come and enjoy the scenery . . . sorry about the natives’. Makes me wonder how much loot this place has milked from the Welsh public purse over the years. But I digress. Let us return to the road below the castle.

The main contract for this £10m project was granted to English firm Carillion Construction Ltd, which has its HQ in Wolverhapton, some 12 miles from Birmingham, an English city, in the English Midlands, which is in England. A company that does not enjoy an unsullied reputation in civil engineering. Since the work started I must have driven along this stretch of road some 20 or 30 times, and I have always been struck by the fact that most of the sub-contractors seem to be English firms, based in places like Manchester, Coventry; or else I see vehicles showing telephone numbers I know are not Welsh. Though the real giveaway at Glandyfi is the transit camp of portakabins to house the workers. Which is not to say that local firms haven’t seen a few crumbs. For example, when I drove through yesterday I saw a Brodyr Evans of Dolgellau roadsweeper being used . . . which won’t make a big dent in £10m.

So why was the contract given to Carillion? Other big projects in this area have gone to Jones Bros of Ruthin, Alun Griffiths of Abergavenny Carillionand Watkin Jones of Bangor. And there are other Welsh companies. Did none of them tender for the Glandyfi project? Let’s give the Welsh Management the benefit of the doubt and assume that Carillion’s was the only, or the only acceptable, tender. Even if that were the case, then the Welsh Management could still have insisted that Carillion use Welsh sub-contractors. So why didn’t they? How can our AMs lecture our councils and others about local procurement when they don’t practice what they preach?

Some sources say the work was scheduled for completion in July 2012, others say “late 2012”. Whatever the date, it’s well behind schedule. Are we to believe that Welsh companies couldn’t have done a better job? Whether they could or not, the fact remains that millions of pounds have left Wales; a few hundred jobs have been denied to Welsh people; plus, tens of thousands of Welsh people have driven through Glandyfi encouraged to think, ‘How could we manage without the English?’ And all due to the incompetence of those buffoons down Cardiff docks.

May 102013
 

In March 2012 BBC Wales ran a couple of programmes about homelessness in Swansea. The fact that my home town is now ‘the homelessness capital of Wales’ prompted a response. MyStar of the show post about the first programme can be found here, and the post of the second programme here. Due to Google censorship I can only transfer posts from my old blog to my new one – via RSS Owl – without comments. Of those comments many were supportive of my position, but there were a few from devotees of political correctness, those choosing to focus on my pithy terminology as a way of avoiding the meat of the issue. Tossers!

This week the Beeb returned to the subject with Swansea: Back on the Streets, linking up with some of the stars from previous shows – such as Gheorgika, the exuberantly religious Romanian – and to let us meet some of the new faces around town. Chief among these was an Irish alcoholic straight from central casting, named Tim (shown above, right); given when drunk to a kind of maudlin loquacity that could be mistaken for profundity. (Especially if the hearer was also drunk.)

I had a good idea what to expect of the programme from the information given on the BBC Wales website. Though I guarantee that the Jacks do not “boast” about their city having “the highest number of homeless in Wales”. Though others do. I’m referring now to those who promote Swansea as a magnet for dossers so they can then run to funderSwansea dosserss claiming there’s a terrible problem that can only be solved by throwing lots of money at it. (Or rather, at them.) And of course, to achieve the desired funding porkies must be reared and fattened, a few of which we heard on this week’s show.

In trying to explain why Swansea is the homelessness capital of Wales we were told that, ” . . . people come from the surrounding valleys because there’s more help on offer here. It’s also at the end of the railway line, they get off the train and stay”. But if I was a homeless person from the Valleys, with enough money for a train ticket, why would I pay the extra to go to Swansea, passing through Cardiff? For are we not constantly told that Cardiff is wealthy beyond the dreams of Jacks, Gogs, Cardis and assorted other provincials? People from across southern Wales don’t just drift into Swansea because it’s at the end of the line. (Anyway, it’s not.) The giveaway is “more help on offer here”. They’re drawn here by the Third Sector homelessness industry. And then of course there’s the uncomfortable truth that Irish Tim, and our Romanian friend, plus many others, were not sired in Merthyr, nor were they suckled in Tonypandy.

A lot of people in Swansea – and other parts of the country – think that the Welsh media is rather too keen on promoting Cardiff while ignoring or even undermining other areas. Programmes like this only increase that perception. So one such programme would have been enough, but four in just over a year is overkill.

On the one hand we have individuals, groups and agencies in Swansea tryinBayg their best to improve the city’s image, to attract visitors and investors, and then we have BBC ‘Wales’ doing this. So it’s: ‘Come and enjoy the Maritime Quarter . . . Don’t forget the Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations in 2014 . . . You must visit Gower . . . Go see the Swans . . . ‘ While from BBC Wales we get – ‘But remember! Wherever you go in Swansea you’ll be pestered by winos and panhandlers – cos Swansea is the dossers capital of Wales!’

Though perhaps in recognition of the fact that these programmes do not go down well with the Jacks, the Beeb is also currently running a few programmes about Swansea Market. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a local institution, biggest covered market in Wales and all that, the only place I’d buy my laverbread and cockles; but if the BBC wanted to balance things up after so much air time given to the negative publicity of the homelessness industry, then they could have done a hell of a lot better than a few progs about the Market. Must try harder.

May 062013
 

This poster can be found in the corridor leading to the cafeteria at Bronglais hospital, Aberystwyth. Or at least, it was there this afternoon. It seemed worthy of a wider audience.WEA blanked

My initial thought on reading this poster was, ‘What insulting bollocks, treating us as if we’re a primitive and exotic species to be discussed at a ‘fully residential course”. After thinking about it for a few hours, I’m even more pissed off with those organising this course.

The organisers are the Workers Educational Association, a Labour Party front organisation, so nothing to be surprised at there. But what does surprise me is the source of the funding.

I have complained in many posts about the Labour Party diverting EU funding to the Third Sector, but Labour sources have always denied that party connections helped gain the funding. Or, as in the case of Naz Malik and Awema, that Labour Party membership protected wrong-doers when the funding was mis-used. What’s different here is that we have an organisation that is unquestionably linked to the Labour Party receiving EU funding.

I don’t doubt that the funding was given for ‘educational’ purposes, but to improve the skills of Welsh people so that they might get better jobs . . . or just jobs. The EU certainly didn’t hand over this money to fund a course for the titilation of those who have come to Wales to take jobs from Welsh people!! Then, again, squandering the funding, and allowing Welsh jobs to be stolen, guarantees that we’ll qualify for more funding.

Though maybe we’re all missing the point. Perhaps this funding from the EU is primarily for the use of the Labour Party, its members and hangers-on. Because that’s obviously what Labour believes.

May 032013
 

It may be a strange thing to say, but last night’s English council elections, and the advances made by Ukip, should provide great encouragement for those of us who want the diverging interests and needs of Wales and England put into sharper focus.

Most of Ukip’s votes seem to have come from disillusioned Conservatives, but neither Labour nor Lib Dem voters are immune to Ukip’s appeal. There are a number of reasons for this, not least that those who sit in Westminster have not been so distanced from us, the common herd, for almost two hundred years. Which might be accepted if they were perceived to be honest, competent and capable. They are not. Add to a distant and incompetent government an uninspiring opposition, an economic recession, a growing sense that the English are treated shabbily both at home and abroad, and Ukip was almost guaranteed to succeed. (Nick Griffin and what’s left of the BNP must be ruing the fact that if they could only have shaken off the skinhead-thicko-racist image then much of Ukip’s success could have been theirs. But with one foot in the English gutter and the other in the Third Reich they never had a chance.)English elections

Seeing as these were exclusively English local elections (the only election in Wales being Ynys Môn, returning to the democratic fold) why am I even writing about it? Because . . . Ukip success could be excellent news for those of us who understand that what is promoted as ‘consensus’ invariably results in us Welsh being screwed. I’m also writing this to counter the responses of the Left in Wales, patriotic or otherwise, who detest Ukip so much that they blind themselves to the potential advantages to Wales, and just fall in with the Guardianista Left in throwing up their hands and wailing, ‘Isn’t it just awful!’

So what are these ‘advantages’ I’m talking about? Ukip is an English nationalist party; to pretend it’s anything else is dishonest. As dishonest as the party itself using ‘UK’ in its name. For Ukip’s UK is nothing but Greater England. The party’s attitude to us and the Scots is, ‘We’ll get along just fine as long as you do as we tell you’. Which may not sound too promising for us Welsh, but consider these possibilities.

Ideological politics has been dying a slow death in the UK and Wales for over twenty years. The process began with the deposing of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and was completed with the creation of New Labour a few years later. All parties – Plaid Cymru included – then piled into the centre ground with the result that a ‘consensus’ was arrived at based on the suppression of ideology, the belief that endlessly repackaging money could be the basis of a national economy, and allowing oneself to be carried along by those taking us towards a new world order. Throw an economic recession into the mix and it begins to explain how a party of golf club bigots could become the hottest thing in English politics.

No matter what the major parties may be saying publicly, they know that Ukip’s strength is growing because an increasing number of English voters no longer trust Labour or Conservatives to deliver; first, on ‘Europe’ (i.e. pulling out); and then on ‘immigration’ (i.e. allowing far fewer immigrants). To reassure these people – and more importantly, to regain their votes – both major parties will have to shift their positions on the two issues. But it won’t end there. For being essentially an English nationalist party Ukip also resents the money ‘wasted’, and the concessions made, to Scotland and Wales. It will insist that funding to both countries be cut, perhaps even that devolution be abolished. Or maybe Ukip will demand a parliament for England. For don’t expect subtlety, or carefully-considered policies; expect more of what will appeal to existing and potential Ukip voters.

English elections 2Which means that what really matters is how this English return to gut-instinct politics will be received in Wales. All parties in the Assembly are agreed that devolution is here to stay. And I believe they mean it. Which could put both Labour and Conservative parties on course for confrontation with their London masters if the latter harden their positions towards Wales in order to fight off the Ukip threat. Perhaps more important than the positions of the political parties is the attitude of the Welsh people; for they are now overwhelmingly supportive of devolution and would strongly resent any ‘English’ interference. Which is not to say that Ukip would not have support in Wales if it tried to force a London government into abolishing the Welsh Assembly. (Let’s remember that one of our four MEPs is from Ukip.) But we know where most of that support would come from; it would expose a divide that many would prefer to keep papered over.

The growing strength of Ukip, and its influence on both Conservatives and Labour, can only be good for our cause. Because it will alienate so many of our people and make them want to erect ‘defences’ against an increasingly selfish and xenophobic England. Leaving our politicians with little alternative but to follow suit (if they wish to persist in their collective delusion of being our ‘leaders’). So ignore the outraged moaners of the Left; England moving to the Right and prioritising her national interests would be wonderful news . . . because it would provoke a sizeable section of our nation into rethinking the relationship with England. So stuff consensus . . . radical change invariably comes from conflict or confrontation. Wales needs radical change. Keep up the good work, Nige! 

P.S. Within minutes of this post going out I came across this tweet. TweetDon’t know who he is, I don’t follow him, he doesn’t follow me, and I doubt if he reads my blog. But I think it proves my point.