May 272014
 

Now that the dust has settled let’s see who’s still standing, who counts as walking wounded, and who might be deserving of a coup de grâce. Below you’ll find a table I’ve compiled giving a breakdown of the results. (Click to enlarge.) For comparison, the 2009 results can be found lower down. (Again, click to enlarge.) Further statistics and tables for 2014 can be found at the Pembrokeshire County Council website or at Welsh not British, where young Mr Evans has produced yet more easy-to-read graphics. (Though I got confused!)

Recent posts may also be of interest. First, my Wales Euro Election 2014: Runners and Riders and then my brief, pre-election biography of Nathan Gill, Ukip No 1 in Wales. Finally, bear in mind that the results were declared by local authority not by Westminster or Assembly constituencies. So while Anglesey council is the same as the constituency, this is rarely the case elsewhere, with some authorities containing more than one constituency and some constituencies straddling local government boundaries.

First, let’s get some of the minor parties out of the way. I cannot understand why NO2EU, Socialist Labour and the Socialist Party of Great Britain bothered standing. These three hard Left parties got a total of just 1.2% of the vote. I suppose it’s a platform, and a way of advertising themselves, but beyond that . . .

Moving over to the other extreme of the political spectrum we find the British National Party and its former members in Britain First. Their combined total was 1.9%. A great disappointment for the BNP, which got 5.4% of the vote at the previous Euro elections. I shall return anon to the BNP.

The performance of the Greens was patchy, ranging from 2.3% in Blaenau Gwent to 8.0% in Ceredigion. Nationally the party got 4.5% which was down on the 5.6% of five years ago. With all the environmentalist brainwashing going on in our schools I would have expected the Green vote to be rising. Then again, maybe many Greens ‘lent’ their vote to Plaid Cymru this time round to save Plaid’s skin. (Something else I shall return to.)

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Young Liberal badge

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One of the shocks of this election was of course the near-annihilation of the Liberal Democrats. Now you know my views on the Lib Dems, but I’m not a man to gloat, so (putting aside the party hat and champagne bottle) I will stick with the facts. Nationally, the Lib Dem vote dropped from 10.7% in 2009 to 3.9% last Thursday. The candles in the gloom were where you’d expect to find them: 12.9% in Powys and 11.4% in Ceredigion. But even these were poor figures considering that we are dealing here with areas containing (or until recently containing) Liberal Democrat AMs and MPs.

Elsewhere, the picture is one of unrelieved bleakness: votes of less than 3% in Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Torfaen. The centre ground is obviously overcrowded, and being in coalition with the Tories has its price. This result is part of a decline also found outside Wales, and when we add in the findings of opinion polls, it could be that the Liberal Democrats are coming to the end of the line as a serious political party.

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Euro election 2009Given the result achieved by Ukip, and the added factor this time round of having been in government at Westminster for four years, the Conservatives will be quite satisfied – if not relieved – to have hung on to 17.4% of the vote, down from 21.2% in 2009. The Tories’ lowest vote was 6.2% in Blaenau Gwent, and they got votes below 10% in three other Valleys authorities; with the highest vote, unsurprisingly, being 33.2% in Monmouthshire. This year’s vote was just two percentage points down from 2004.

As for Labour, 28.1% looks excellent when compared with 20.3% in 2009. But 2009 was an election influenced by Gordon Brown being PM and leading an unpopular government heading for defeat in the general election of 2010. To put Labour’s result last Thursday into a longer term perspective, their 28.1% takes them closer to the 32.5% they achieved in 2004. Labour’s lowest vote was 10.3% in Ceredigion and the highest 46.5% in Blaenau Gwent. Which leaves us with just Ukip and Plaid Cymru to consider. Plaid first.

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Plaid scraped home to retain its MEP by just a few thousand votes and a share of 15.3%, compared with 18.5% in 2009 and 17.4% in 2004. The percentage share varied wildly, from 43.5% in Gwynedd to 6.3% in Monmouthshire. Only four local authorities (out of 22) gave Plaid a percentage share above 20%. I have made my views on Plaid Cymru / The Party of Wales known in many previous posts: they are a party that reached a ‘plateau’ of support under Dafydd Wigley from which they have been falling back steadily since he was deposed. And if, as we were being told prior to the voting, many Greens, Liberal Democrats and other ‘progressive elements’ were voting Plaid in order to stop Ukip getting a second seat, then the result is even worse.

Plaid’s support was concentrated along the west side of the country, as it has been throughout the party’s history, and even though 118,479 people in the south decided to stick two fingers up to the three main UK parties they chose to do it by voting Ukip rather than Plaid Cymru. Think about that – tens of thousands of working class Welsh people in the Valleys chose ex-public school ‘Frenchy’ Farage and his golf club bigots in preference to Plaid Cymru. Plaid Cymru has completely failed to break through in Denis Balsom’s ‘Welsh Wales’, among those who described themselves as ‘Welsh Only’ in the 2011 census; this failure, coupled with its heartland being colonised (without any protest from Plaid!) guarantees the eventual – and hopefully speedy – demise of this faux national party.

Yet there are those thankful for a ‘nationalist’ party as incompetent and unthreatening as Plaid Cymru. Given the fact that Plaid losing its MEP might have set in train events resulting in consequences unpalatable to such people, I can’t help wondering if, somewhere along the road to Abergwaun, Wales didn’t experience another deus ex machina moment to compare with what happened in Carmarthen back in September 1997.

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Now we come to the undoubted stars of the show, even if they didn’t quite manage to top the bill: Ladies and gentlemen – the United Kingdom Independence Party! Let me concede that this was a spectacular result for Ukip, so let’s consider where it might lead. But before that, let’s set the context by saying that Ukip’s share of the vote has risen from 10.5% in 2004 to 12.8% in 2009 to 27.6% in 2014. By any standards, quite spectacular; though it’s not immediately obvious where the votes came from.

By which I mean, between 2009 and 2014 the Ukip vote increased by 114,398, and in percentage share terms from 12.8 to 27.6. In other words, it more than doubled. Yet the Labour vote also increased from 138,852 to 206,332, or 20.3% to 28.1%. So little if any of Ukip’s vote came from Labour. We can also safely assume that few would make the switch from Plaid Cymru to Ukip. Which leaves the Tories, Liberal Democrats and the British National Party. Yet the Tory vote was down by less than 20,000 on 2009, so we must assume that many who had previously used the Lib Dems as their protest vote switched to Ukip this time. (While others went to Labour.) Another source of votes was obviously the BNP; something admitted by leader Nick Griffin, who says his lost supporters will be back when they realise Ukip can’t deliver on immigration. (And the BNP can!) Finally, while Ukip may have picked up the votes of the disenchanted and the gullible in the Valleys; in Powys, the north, and rural areas, we can safely say that Ukip had far more appeal to English residents than to Welsh.

If those are the sources of Ukip’s votes then these, I believe, are the factors that helped Ukip achieve its success. First, the desire among a large section of the electorate to use elections that don’t really matter to put the boot into established politics, and lazy and corrupt establishment politicians – so they voted for ‘Farage the outsider’. Second, genuine, but non-racist, concerns about immigration and how it affects the social life or character of communities. Third, a protest against something very few of them really understand called ‘Europe’ and its increasing control over their lives. Fourth, Lib Dem voters deserting to what they perceive to be another ‘protest’ party. Fifth, Ukip still has novelty value and has been promoted by large sections of the media, including the BBC, which made Farage almost a permanent member of the Question Time panel and other programmes. Which raises an intriguing question . . .

Many can see that the BBC has in the past few years has taken on the role of State broadcaster. Whether this was as a result of a decision taken within the BBC, or a role taken on at the behest of others, need not bother us here. This change has manifested itself in the plethora of programmes now prefixed by ‘Great British’ and the clear bias in reporting the Scottish referendum debate. So the question has to be, why is the BBC giving a free ride to this threat to the established order, portraying Farage as a good egg who enjoys a pint and a ciggie? I’m open to suggestions, but my belief is that we are witnessing here the ‘elastic theory’ in practice; by which I mean, Ukip is being used to legitimise certain issues that were previously taboo, or the preserve of extremists, and therby move political debate to the Right. From the confusion created by this shift will soon emerge – to steal Ukip’s clothes – a ‘repositioned’ Conservative Party. There may even be a place for the unquestionably popular Nigel Farage in the New Conservative Party. Either way, it will mean the end of Ukip as a major political force. Though of course, there were those who thought they could do something similar with Hitler in 1930s Germany.

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Looking ahead, I see that Mr Gill, our new Ukip MEP, is quoted as saying, “the Valleys are ours for the taking”, meaning that he expects to win Westminster and Assembly seats in this region. I have no way of knowing from which of his orifices these words emanated, but Mr Gill is an Englishman, living on Anglesey, who knows as much about the Valleys as I do about the Hindu Kush. Which is why I never talk of that region. Ergo he talks bollocks. For he knows as well as I do – or should – that Ukip is a protest vote for elections that people don’t take seriously. Which explains why the party has not a single MP, MSP or AM. Ukip has as much chance of winning Merthyr or Blaenau Gwent next year, or in 2016, as I have of winning the Kentucky Derby. And yet . . .

The threat of Ukip having some success in England at next year’s general election, and perhaps holding the balance of power, remains. (I have heard electoral pacts with the Conservatives mooted.) So put yourself in the position of someone in Scotland who has not yet decided how to vote in the independence referendum. Maybe you’re having a pint in an East End bar, or relaxing at home in Inverurie, when who pops up on the television but Nigel Farage. He says that you Scottish chaps (and he’ll use the word ‘chaps’) should be very grateful to be ruled by chaps like him; so you should forget all this independence nonsense because you’re ‘too wee and too poor’ (said in an appalling Scottish accent, an attempt at humour). Then he signs off with ‘Toodle-pip’. Do you think this intervention, and the possibility of a Tory-Ukip coalition after May 2015, might influence Scottish voters?Farage Salmond Tweet

We all know the answer, yet some Ukip people are urging Farage to get involved in the Scottish referendum debate, to put Alex Salmond in his place. (Telling us that Nathan Gill isn’t the only Ukipper struggling with political and other realities.) Which takes me back to the BBC. Why is the Great British Broadcasting Corporation giving an armchir ride to the man who could ‘lose’ Scotland? For no matter what some in Ukip may think I must believe that wiser counsels will tell Farage to stay out of the Scottish independence debate because, being so quintissentially English in a rather annoying way, he can only harm the Unionist cause. But will he listen? We shall see. Whatever the future holds the way Farage and Ukip have been handled thus far by both the political establishment and the mainstream media is perplexing. I can only assume that there is a longer game being played.

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In conclusion, let me just say a few things that might, hopefully, summarise what I feel about Ukip and the wider Welsh political scene. First, we should thank Ukip for exposing that the ‘socialist roots’ of the Valleys are, for many Valleys’ residents, as shallow as their own leader. When working class and unemployed Welsh people in some of the most deprived parts of Europe can vote for a party whose social policies come close to advocating sterilisation of the poor, then we know that the old certainties are gone, and it’s all up for grabs.

A Welsh academic, writing on Daily Wales, suggested that Ukip, by demanding that immigrants become fluent in English, had somehow released a genie that allowed language activists to demand that people moving into the Welsh-speaking areas of the west should learn Welsh. My comments can be found on the article. But he’s half right. The real lesson though is that by detoxifying the subject of immigration Ukip should have made it easier for us to discuss English immigration into Wales. Far greater in scale and effect than anything England is experiencing.

Finally, given the slow death of Plaid Cymru and other changes taking place in Welsh politics, I feel that the time is now right for nationalists to at least discuss setting aside their differences and uniting behind agreed Regional List candidates for the 2016 elections to the Notional Assembly. The advantages could be many. The elections would provide a platform to promote a more focused message than our people have heard for decades. It would also give the opportunity to challenge Ukip in the only route by which they can hope to achieve Assembly Members. And for Plaidistas reading this, it might provide the kick up the arse most of you know your party needs.

May 232014
 

I didn’t vote in the European elections yesterday. In fact, this was the first time ever that I failed to vote in an election. Previously, I had always voted Plaid Cymru at Assembly, Westminster and European elections (there’s rarely a Plaid candidate for local elections). I got a bit twitchy as the ten o’clock deadline approached, but after a good night’s sleep I felt much better, like I’d finally rid myself of a bad habit. So why did I do it?

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To begin with – and aTribans readers of this blog will know – I don’t really support Plaid Cymru, I haven’t supported the party for decades. I don’t believe in Plaid Cymru, it’s policies, its leaders, its anything. Which means that since I lost faith in the party I have been voting Plaid Cymru for the wrong reasons: 1/ Because there is no real alternative and 2/ Because I hoped that my vote, and the votes of others like me, would help Plaid Cymru to be viewed – in England – as ‘the voice of Welsh nationalism’ and might therefore get Wales a better deal. But the first reason is totally negative and the second is nonsense, because anyone who studies Plaid Cymru for ten minutes knows that far from being a threat to the constitutional status quo it is actually one of its pillars.

So why did I make the decision at this time? In a word, or if you prefer, an acronym, Ukip. The rise and rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party posed a threat to Plaid Cymru’s European seat and this resulted in social media being alive with desperate pleas to ‘vote Plaid to stop Ukip / Tories / Labour getting a second seat which, again, is a very negative reason for voting for any party, and no better than Labour’s message at every election: ‘(Ignore our appalling record and) send a message to London by voting Labour’. In addition, I was being told that Liberal Democrats I’d never heard of, and equally unknown Greens, were heeding this call and being collectively described as “progressive elements”. Jesus! “progressive elements”; now there’s a truly chilling phrase, from the same Stalinist lexicon as ‘freedom-loving peoples’, ‘enemy of the people’ and all the other phrases earlier generations came to love. Knowing I’d be on the same side as these ‘progressive elements’ was another reason to finally break with Plaid. (Those unfamiliar with my views on Liberal Democrats and Greens should either scroll down to Wales Euro Election 2014: Runners and Riders or click on the link.)

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I’m writing this before the Euro results are declared, I can do this because the actual result is irrelevant to my decision, and to my feelings towards Plaid Cymru. Which can be summed up quite simply – Plaid Cymru is a complete and utter failure. It first lost its way a few decades ago when it turned its back on Welsh issues to adopt some flavour-of-the-month left-liberalism. (This happened around the same time as I have always believed the party was compromised.) The death-knell was rung when it decided that discussion of our survival as a nation was a taboo subject following the mauling received by Councillor Seimon Glyn in the English media, and the humiliation dished out to party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time. (Here’s a report.) Which means that the colonisation of WalPlaid logoes, and our inevitable assimilation into England, is off the agenda . . . of a ‘national’ party!

On the purely political front, Plaid Cymru has now reached a ‘plateau’ on the lower slopes of electoral success from which it is incapable of advancing and will, before long, and inevitably, start sliding back. At the European level, this ‘plateau’ means 1 seat or no seat (of four); at Westminster level; 2 – 5 seats (of 40); and in the Assembly 8 – 18 AMs (of 60). The reason for the inevitability of Plaid’s demise lies in the fact that its support is concentrated in those areas – largely Welsh speaking – targetted for social engineering. The English immigrants to these areas won’t vote Plaid, and the diminishing percentage of Welsh in these areas’ populations will soon realise that Plaid has failed them. Couple these painful realities with the ‘breakthrough in the south’ never materialising and it should become obvious to all that time is running out for Plaid Cymru.

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Over almost fifty years of political activism of one kind or another I have heard all sorts of theories, been made all kinds of offers, and been involved in some pretty weird shit myself, but the more I think about the abject failure of Plaid Cymru the more I remember something I heard that, with hindsight, and looking at the state of Wales and Welsh politics, makes sense, of a kind.

The suggestion was that it might have been better for Wales if Plaid Cymru had never been formed. Because then, Labour would have taken on the mantle of Wales’ defender and been able to do a much better job without accusations of being ‘nationalist’. (I am of course talking here of the Welsh Labour Party of S. O. Davies, Cledwyn Hughes, James Griffiths, Gwilym Prys Davies, Elystan Morgan et al.) Also because it has widespread support across the country and could form a government in London. But as things stand today, Labour – and especially at Westminster level – often takes up positions inimical to Wales’ best interests almost to spite Plaid Cymru and to avoid being seen – or accused of – ‘making concessions to nationalism’. While Plaid, stuck on its ‘plateau’, will never achieve its objectives yet blocks the emergence of a genuine nationalist party. The worst of all possible worlds.

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The real irony is that Labour’s vote in the south, the vote Plaid needs to become the biggest party in Wales, has never been solid. In many cases it is a vote Labour gains due solely to the absence of an attractive alternative of the kind the SNP is, but Plaid Cymru is not. Earlier this year I posted a piece on an opinion poll that showed most people, even Labour voters, were dissatisfied with Labour’s running of Wales – yet most of them still intended to vote Labour. Today I read that Ukip is set to become the second party in the Heads of the Valleys region, because Welsh working class men find Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru. Clearly, much of Labour’s sDragon union jackouthern vote is there for the taking . . . but not by a party with all the appeal of Sinn Féin on the Shankill Road!

Plaid Cymru should now do the honest thing. It should admit that it has been a miserable failure. Concede that it will never become a national party. Then it should apologise for wasting everybody’s time for the past ninety years and promise to disband so that a genuinely national party can arise.

But no. Instead, Plaid Cymru plans to enter into a formal coalition with the Green Party of Englandandwales. With a single stroke of tactical genius Plaid’s leaders not only prove me wrong but guarantee my future support. Where do I join? (Hope I don’t get trampled in the rush.)

May 192014
 

I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on Ukip, or indeed, Nathan Gill; but as the BBC and other media have been making clear, these European elections are most definitely about Ukip, and as Mr Gill is the lead candidate, and therefore almost certain to be representing us – we Welsh – in the European Parliament, I have every right to know more about the man, and to present my findings – and indeed my impressions – to a wider audience of potential voters. The best place to start is with what Nathan Gill has to say about himself. Here’s a link to what you see in the panel (click to enlarge).Nathan Gill And for your further delectation, here’s a link to a piece on Ukip I posted earlier this month.

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The first thing that struck me was that this is very badly written, in so many ways. While criticising syntax may be ‘picky’, criticising bad spelling and ludicrous capitalisations is not. For example (final paragraph) there is no ‘d’ in privilege. In the previous paragraph it should be ‘candidates’. How are we to interpret “our Great Nation” (and to which nation does it refer?). Why does he write “Domiciliary and Home Care for the Elderly” when no capitalisation is required? Amazing, that these people, so intolerant of other languages, are so careless with their own.

Over and above these childish mistakes there are other sections that cause amusement or alarm. Let’s start with the funny – well, sort of – bit at the start of the fifth paragraph, where he says, “I am not a career politician”, which is something Ukip candidates have been playing on in this campaign; in other words, ‘Trust us – we are not part of the corrupt system’. Now I don’t wish to go too far in this observation, but this ‘innocent outsider’ ploy was used by the Nazis: ‘Vote for us – we are not part of the corrupt Weimar system’. Yet he ends the preceding paragraph by saying that the aim is to “raise UKIP’s profile as a professional mainstream party”. If Nathan Gill and Ukip succeed in that ambition he will no longer be able to capitalise on his political virginity. In short, there is a glaring contradiction due to whoever wrote this garbage either forgetting what they’d just written or being unable to grasp that contradiction.

Less amusing is this section, immediately before the bit about professionalising Ukip: “I resigned my membership (of the Tories) and joined UKIP in February of 2005 deciding then and there, that this was a fight worth fighting. I was not being asked to stand in the trenches, or storm the beaches of Normandy for my country. This was to be a long and mainly thankless battle to inform the public, and raise UKIP’s profile . . .”. God Almighty! Stand in the trenches! Storm the beaches! What is it with the English Right that it can think of no other way to serve its country than by donning khaki and killing foreigners? We used to be told that this attitude was confined to the extreme Right, the National Front or the BNP, but Ukip now claims to represent mainstream English opinion. If so, God help us!

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How does Mr Gill earn his crust? Because he makes reference to “the family business” I made some enquiries and turned up a number of companies connected with Nathan Gill, four departed, one still clinging to life. The first of the four was Compactor Ltd of Bridlington, in Gill’s native East Riding of Yorkshire, Company No 06329258. Compactor seems to have lasted from July 2007 until March 11, 2011 and the Second Notification of Strike-Off Action in the London Gazette. Other directors were Mrs Elaine Gill (his mother, presumably) and Mr Brian Lynn Quilter. The company was listed as a manufacturer of telegraph and telephone apparatus and equipment.

Another that fell by the wayside was Humview Ltd, of Church Street, Llangefni, Company No 06166193. The other directors were Ms Jana Lyn Gill (wife?) and Mr Richard Bruce Worsey. Humview was Incorporated on March 16, 2007 and the Second Notification, etc was dated May 30, 2009. The third dead company was Picture Perfect (GB) Ltd, back in Bridlington, Company No 05781088. The only other name mentioned, as Company Secretary was, again, Ms Jana Lyn Gill. Picture Perfect first saw the light of day in April 2006 and breathed its last on November 19, 2010 via the London Gazette, departing this mortal coil with debts of just over £11,000.

Finally, we come to Burgill Ltd, Company Number 05076906, which was in the business of ‘letting of own property’ and ‘renting and operating of housing association real estate’. (Intriguing.) This company was also registered at Church Street, Llangefni, with Nathan Gill and his mother serving as directors, but may have operated in Hull. Alas, early in 2009, the company was forceGill Burgilld into compulsory liquidation owing £116,067. On the left you will find a screenshot of Burgill’s life support system just before it was switched off by the Official Receiver in Chester. (Yes, folks, Chester; after a millennium of that city’s parasitism and 15 years of devolution, it seems the Official Receiver for North Wales is still based in Chester.)

So there appears to be just one company with which Ukip’s local hetman is involved that still trades – Gill Enterprises Yorkshire Ltd, Company No 04188257 which, despite the name, has its registered office in Menai Bridge. It was Incorporated on March 27, 2001 and until March 2003 was known as The Pink Panther Resource Centre Ltd. Googling Pink Panther Resource Centre turned up a care home in Hull. Gill Enterprises could be the “family business” referred to in the bio, for his parents were both directors at one time. The only problem being that unless he was an adult student he would have left Coleg Menai around July 1991, ten years before the company was incorporated. Yet there seems to be no contender for the title of “family business” other than this company which currently has just two directors, Nathan Gill and his mother. The business seems to bob along, keeping its head above water, with net worth equalling current liabilities and a few grand in the bank.

All this digging got me wondering about Nathan Gill’s parents, were there other companies that might fit the “family business” label? Well, for a start, and in addition to Compactor and Burgill, Mrs Elaine Gill had also served as a director of Gillshill Ltd, which seems to have enjoyed a lifespan of just two years, from January 1992 until its Final Dissolution on St. David’s Day 1994. The only other director was her husband, Michael Ronald Gill. Though perhaps more interesting from a Welsh perspective is yet another company, Home Comforts (Gwynedd) Ltd, also registered in Menai Bridge, where the other director was again her husband, and she is listed as a ‘care home proprietor’. This company, number 02939007, was registered in August 1994 and dissolved in April 1996.

I don’t profess to know a lot about business and investment, and I can’t afford to pay for the documents that would throw more light on the Gill family’s business ventures (sob!); but it looks a chequered history to me, and I’d certainly like to know more about the disastrous Burgill Ltd. But after all that, I still don’t know what Nathan Gill actually does to support his wife and five children. Perhaps he should have been more specific in his bio rather than making a vague reference to the family business before taking us off to war while painting himself as the political innocent.

UPDATE MAY 29: Since writing this post I have learnt that Gill’s ‘job’ was personal assistant to the Ukip MEP (2009 – 2014), John Bufton. Why so reticent? Perhaps because it would have undermined his claim to not be “a career politician”. At least he’s got a real job now . . . but one he doesn’t want to do!

Additionally, Gill is a Mormon, it seems they have a ‘Meetinghouse’ in Gaerwen, and he may have come to Wales as a ‘missionary’. In my area it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, a whole congregation, complete with patriarch, decamped from somewhere in northern England. Sometimes this village is under siege as they descend on us mob-handed . . . people diving under tables, turning televisions off, clapping hands over kids’ mouths . . . I know Wales is a third world country but do we really have to suffer white missionaries?

Seeing as Gill belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (to give them their full name, often abbreviated to LDS) what is his attitude to gays and same-sex relationships? Come to that, what does he really think of that pork swordsman extraordinaire, legendary drinker and all round sybarite, his party leader, Nigel Farage? Does he really see him as ‘a bit of a lad’ or a sinner bound for hell?

When you think about it, there’s a few things here we should have been told before the election, but it’s pretty obvious why we weren’t.

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If the Ukip bandwagon isn’t halted soon then, some time after the general election of May 7 next year, the UK could have a Conservative-Ukip coalition government. I say this because many Conservatives are quietly supportive of Ukip, while Tory supporters in the media and elsewhere hope to use Ukip to pull the party to the Right. They believe that encouraging Farage and his cohorts to change the terms of debate on Europe, immigration, and other issues, prepares the ground for a ‘repositioned’ Conservative Party to reap the rewards. Which, again, reminds me of 1930s Germany; and the way in which big business, the army, and other establishment elements thought they could use and control Hitler before disposing of him. It didn’t work then, and England’s own ‘funny little man’ may prove equally difficult to ditch.

Nor should we ignore the fact that Ukip sees itself fighting on two fronts. The first is obviously ‘Europe’ and what it interprets as interference in Britain’s internal affairs, the second is the crusade to keep Britain English. Therefore Welsh identity of any kind, when seen through Ukip rifle sights on this second front, is a threat to the desired social and cultural cohesion. Which is why devolution – despite what Ukip may say publicly – would soon be phased out by a Tory-Ukip coalition government. (With the support of many in the Labour Party.)

For these and so many other reasons we must oppose this irredeemably English party for which Wales and Scotland are merely colourful appendages to be disempowered and eventually integrated. Despite the presence of three gullible Welsh candidates on the Ukip list the one topping that list, the one very likely to be elected, is Englishman Nathan Gil, which is how it must be, seeing as Ukip is appealling primarily to the English living in Wales. If Nathan Gill is elected he will sit in the European Parliament representing English interests . . . but in the name of Wales. This is why the fight against Ukip must not end with this week’s elections.

May 152014
 

Standing for election on May 22 to Wales’ four European Parliament seats are no fewer than eleven ‘parties’ (I use the term loosely), each putting up the ordained four candidates. Though lEuro Candidates 2014ooking at some of those candidates it becomes clear that their parties have not so much scraped the bottom of the barrel as gone through the barrel bottom and kept going. But that’s just the opinion of a cynical old bastard who long ago lost faith in politicians and political systems. Anyway, form your own opinions as I run through the parties and candidates in alphabetical order. The full list is on the right (click to enlarge). Each section heading contains a link to that party’s website.

BRITAIN FIRST

Despite the name, this crew is fielding candidates in Wales and Scotland only.

Britain First has already gained considerable notoriety by being allowed – by the Electoral Commission – to use ‘Remember Lee Rigby’ on the ballot papers. The party was founded in May 2011 by Jim Dowson, with lead candidate Paul Gosling as chairman. Though one mystery must be why another founder member, former BNP organiser for Wales and 2009 BNP Euro candidate, Kevin Edwards, is not on the list. Following the break-up of his marriage, and after quitting the BNP in February 2011, Edwards moved from Llandybie (near Ammanford) to Llansamlet in Swansea which, along with neighbouring Bonymaen, is where many of the city’s fascists can be found.

Britain First founder Jim Dowson is also ex-BNP and perhaps into fundamentalist Christianity and hostility to Islam more than direct and blatant racism. A former Scottish Calvinist minister who apparently believes in the death penalty for gays and is fanatically anti-abortion, Dowson has also been a busy boy in the Six Counties, founding Protestant Coalition. So it makes sense that Britain First should be standing in Scotland – targetting the Rangers / Orange Order vote – but why Wales, because as far as I can make out, none of them is Welsh.

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTYGary Tumulty

Next we have the (as yet) unsplintered BNP. Top of their list is a man many think should not be standing at all because, in a parallel dimension, Mike Whitby of Wrecsam is disqualified from becoming a member of a county council or similar authority, but this, it seems, does not extend to the European parliament. Number two on the list is Laurence Reid, an Ulster Protestant domiciled in Wales. Jean Griffin at number three is presumably party leader Nick Griffin’s wife or daughter (possibly his French cousin). While the one with the least chance of being elected is Gary Tumulty of Salford . . . unless he guns down all the other candidates. Again, it’s encouraging that none of these people are Welsh.

CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY

As if Britain First and the BNP weren’t enough, this is yet another bunch of anglo-centric, Unionist fanatics, whe believe that the Ninth Circle of Hell is located somewhere in the English Channel. Regarding our little patch of earth, the message may be more muted than that from the clown troupes mentioned earlier, and said with a smile rather than a snarl, but don’t be fooled, it’s the same message – ‘Wales and England are the same country, and that’s how we like it’.

Top of the Tory list is current MEP Dr. Kay Swinburne who, though Welsh, now lives in the tiroedd coll, which seems to agitate the bruvvers who have just selected young Kinnock. Number two is Councillor Aled Wyn Davies of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant & Llansilin (a home of Glyndŵr). Number three is Dr. Dan Boucher who lives in Morriston and does a nice line in self-promotion. Bringing up the Tory rear (and haven’t we all thought about a Tory rear at one time or another?) is Richard Hopkin, a lawyer, who may or may not be the same Richard Hopkin described by his employer as a “pugnacious litigator”. Grrrr! Here’s a link to the introductory video for the lot.

GREEN PARTY

There is a separate Scottish Green Party that has always backed independence, while we have to suffer the Green Party of Englandandwales, a bunch of English middle class colons no different to those in other parties who believe that we Welsh must be told what’s best for us, with our country a laboratory for the policies they’d never be allowed to implement in their homeland. Although standing as a party in these elections their real forte is as a pressure group, where they enjoy influence way beyond their political support by playing on the questionable assertion that people want green policies even if they aren’t prepared to vote Green. Clever, and worth studying. Though Plaid Cymru has mis-read the message and contemplates a formal alliance.

I can’t be bothered to make enquiries about Pippa Bartolotti, John Matthews, Chris Were or Rozz Cutler.

LABOUR PARTY

The usual uninspiring crew that brings home yet again how ‘stretched’ once-mighty Labour is to find candidates for Europe, Westminster, the Assembly, and 22 local authorities. Thank God we don’t have as many quangoes as in the past, and that civil servants have taken over the running of devolution.

Derek Vaughan tops the list as the current MEP, a former trade unionist and leader of Neath Port Talbot council and said to be a ‘tidy bloke’. Vaughan is certain to be elected so the interest is really on the second name on the Labour list, Jayne Bryant, born in Newport, who could also be elected if Plaid and the Tories do badly and the anticipated Ukip surge does not materialise. At number 3 we have Councillor Alex Thomas, who represents the Rhos ward, also in Neath Port Talbot. The no-hoper is Christina Rees, formerly Mrs Ron Davies; not wishing to be reminded of her husband’s behaviour she wrote a book about it, The Davies Diaries, though she did later apologise. Alec Dauncey

Worth noting that there is no Labour candidate from west of Neath or, indeed, from north of  Neath.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Where to start (says he, wishing he didn’t have to)? Those who know me know that I reserve a special kind of contempt for Liberal Democrats and liberals of all kinds. I regard them as smug, wishy-washy wankers.

The Lib Dem quartet is headed up by Alec Dauncey who lives in Aberystwyth. Now Alec may enjoy a skinful of lager and a bag of chips of a Saturday night before throwing up the diced carrots on the way home . . . but I doubt it. To me, the picture shows a professional tree-hugger in a polo neck sweater more likely to be found listening to a cupped-ear folk singer while unwinding with a glass of organic cider. His bio is a gem, taking political prose to previously uncharted depths of vacuity. But it is so typically Liberal Democrat.

Number two is another Englishman, Robert Speht, living in Swansea. This one a wind turbine-hugger with a string of failed business ventures and an unpaid sandwich bill to his name. Speht lives in Mayals, one of Swansea’s poshest neighbourhoods which, because it lies within the fiercely defended borders of Mumbles community council, provided Speht with the chance to use the title ‘Councillor’ after losing his city council seat. Said – even by colleagues – to be unreliable he struck up a weird friendship with Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Lewis when Lewis, having tried all the rest, eventually fell in with the Lib Dems, mainly because they promised him his year in the Mansion House. To understand how unlikely a Liberal Democrat Richard Lewis is just try to imagine Ghengis Khan the pacifist. Lewis was sighted on April 30 entering the Liberty Stadium to hear Nigel Farage.

The other two candidates are Jackie Radford and Bruce Roberts, of whom I know nothing, and care even less.

NO2EU

Don’t be fooled by the name, for this is not another ‘Wogs begin at Dover’ party. It can’t be, for I see the name of Comrade Robert Griffiths topping their list, as he did in 2009. Robert Griffiths, stalwart of the long defunct Welsh Socialist Republican Movement (also, so some would have it, the Workers Army for a Welsh Republic). Robert Griffiths the current General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. (Marxist-Leninist, I believe.) So we’ve obviously arrived on the hard left.

Of the other NO2EU candidates I know nothing . . .

PLAID CYMRU

For Plaid Cymru / The Party of Wales this is a very important election. Opinion polls suggest they might lose their MEP Jill Evans. If that happens, then I can see real soul-searching within a party that has lost its way.

The problem for Plaid Cymru is that Labour in Wales has cleverly painted Welsh politics as a simple picture of them defending Wales against ‘London’ – even when Labour is in power in London. This is what the ‘send a message to London’ (by voting Labour) is all about, even for European and Assembly elections!  Then, because Plaid does little more than promote itself as ‘Labour, but a bit more Welsh, like’, it is, effectively, marginalised. Plaid’s only hope is to get out of Labour’s shadow and re-position itself as a genuinely Welsh party, taking up the issues other parties ignore, and addressing the big issues from an aggressively Welsh standpoint. But it won’t.

In many ways this state of affairs is regrettable, for in Jill Evans, Marc Jones, Stephen Cornelius and Ioan Bellin the party has a strong team. That said, it might still be best for the long term if Plaid was to lose its seat.

Footnote: Plaid’s number 4 candidate in 2009 was the apple of her daddy’s eye, Natasha Asghar. Happy days!

SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY

Formed in 1996 by Arthur Scargill – who is still ‘Leader’ – the SLP is perhaps the only hard left group that would need something bigger than a telephone booth for its meetings. It claims a direct line of ideological descent from James Connolly, and quotes him in its website header. But there were, in a sense, two James Connollys. One, the Edinburgh-born British socialist; the other, the man who returned to his ConwyIrish roots, formed the Citizen Army, and was executed (though wounded) in Kilmainham jail by the British army after the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916. The SLP reveres the former.

Despite being one of the larger minor parties the SLP’s candidates are hardly household names, even in their own households, but here they are anyway. At number one we have Andrew Jordan, who stood in the Cardiff South & Penarth by-election in 2012, a by-election caused by Alun Michael’s strange decision to stand for election as the local Police and Crime Commissioner. Second is Kathrine Jones, of whom I know naught. David Lloyd Jones, number 3 on the list, is probably the man who stood for Conwy in 2005 against the heavyweight trio of Betty Williams, Guto Bebb and Gareth Roberts. He got 1% of the vote, though he still managed to beat Ukip into 7th place. (Which ain’t gonna happen again any time soon.) If these three are relatively unknown, number 4 on the list, Liz Screen, has a slightly higher profile, if only because she stood in 2009, but it’s all relative.

SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN

Not being terribly au fait with the 57 varieties of socialism I’m not quite sure where the SPGB stands – are they Wobblies? Maybe someone can help me out. The SPGB has three branches; Swansea, Cardiff, and that hot-bed of revolutionary socialism . . . Llandudno. I tried to get more information but the SPGB website was down. The SPGB candidates can be found in the list at the top of the page. None of the names mean anything to me. Though if Richard Cheney is the real name of candidate number 2 it’s a strange quirk that he should share a name with Dick Cheney, vice president to George W. Bush and bête noire of the left. Anyway, seeing as Joe Hill was the most famous Wobbly of them all, let’s end this section with Joe Hill, sung by Joan Baez.

UKIP

The stars of the show! Certainly everybody is looking at Ukip, wondering how big an advance they’re going to make, for there’s no question it will be an advance. I did a recent post on Ukip which says most of what I want to say about them, so it only remains to look at their candidates.

Nathan Gill is an English grannyfarmer living on Ynys Môn who stood in the Seiriol ward in last year’s council elections, where he came eighth out of nine candidates. Though his wife(?) came eighth out out twelve in the Aethwy ward. (This being the ward where our old friend Jacques Protic came bottom of the poll.) Number two on the list is James Cole who, in the photograph I link to, is actually wearing a double-breasted blazer! It says he ‘relocated’ to Swansea, but not from where, though he is Welsh. This video by Cole is priceless; he predicts that ” . . . the native Welsh will be a minority in their own country within the next 15 to 20 years . . . “ yet he makes no mention of English colonisation, for he wants us to believe the influx will come from mainland Europe and elsewhere! Caroline Jones from Porthcawl is a former Tory parliamentary candidate who defected a year ago. The fourth candidate has concerns about “huge volumes of immigration”. David J. Rowlands lives in the Gwent valleys, where this is obviously a serious problem. Rowlands is the only survivor from the 2009 quartet.

I find it very disappointing that three of Ukip’s four candidates are Welsh. But then, this may be a ploy used in the hope of disguising the party’s fundamental Englishness.Euro election 2009

SUMMING UP

One unavoidable conclusion is that the European elections are not taken seriously by the electorate. It gives voters a chance to do something silly, which many of them will. The turnout in 2009 was just 30.4%, down 11% on 2004. (Click on panel to enlarge.) This year’s elections could see an even lower turnout. (Here’s the 2009 result by constituency.)

Six of the eleven parties standing can be said to belong to the extremes of left and right (three of each). Few of their 24 candidates have any relevance to Wales and even fewer have any intention of debating Welsh issues . . . even if they could. Some have been honest enough to admit they’re using the elections – and Wales – simply to gain publicity. In some regards the Greens could be added to this group. Leaving us with the four ‘mainstream’ parties, all running scared of Ukip. For this election is all about how well Ukip will do, how that will impact on the other parties, and if we’ll ever have European elections again.

My position is that I’m a European of the Gaullist persuasion, preferring a confederation of independent states – rather than a bureaucrat-led supranationalist entity – serving as a counter-balance to both Russia and the USA (to which we must now add China). The UK (or England) was never going to fit with either version for so many reasons, one being – as de Gaulle always understood – its ties with the USA. I have now reached the stage where I detest what the European Union has become but could never line up with any of those calling for withdrawal. Perversely, perhaps, the loony left and the loony right being on the same side only serves to make the bloated monster a little more attractive. With enemies like some of those I’ve looked at here, who needs friends?

May 082014
 

Regular followers of this blog may recall that back in 2012 (on the old Google blog, now, sadly, demised) I was able to give out some good news. Which was . . . that for properties to be built by Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd on a new development in Tywyn, “Prospective tenants must have lived and worked Tai Clwydin the area for at least five years”. I learnt this, first, from a piece in our local edition of the Cambrian News, in July (left, click to enlarge), and then it was confirmed in an e-mail I received from Tai Clwyd in September (below, ditto). These two pieces of information can only be read as saying, ‘these properties are reserved for local people’. Or, to be more specific – as Tai Clwyd was in its e-mail – a Section 106, local occupancy, restriction. (Though S106 can deal with other issues.)

Fast forward to 2014 and the word on the mean streets of Tywyn is that these properties are now to be allocated to “people from away” and “people on benefits”. In other words – welcome to Wales’ social housing allocation system: social housing either built in excess of local demand or, where there is local demand – as in Tywyn – locals being passed over in favour of people who have never been to Wales in their lives. A system I have explained more than once, and I shall do so again later in this piece.

In order to find out what has happened between the good news of 2012 and the sobering realities of colonial Wales in 2014 I decided to contact Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd . . . only to learn that it had recently merged with Cymdeithas Tai Eryri to form Grŵp Cynefin, which is “the only housing association to operate across all six north Wales counties plus north Powys”. My initial enquiries with Grŵp Cynefin (GC) drew a blank because it was denied there ever had been a S106 applying to Pendre Gardens, and therefore no guarantee could be given that locals would be offered any of the properties there. After e-mailing GC a copy of the September e-mail my query has now been passed to the Housing Manager.

In a follow-up phone call to GC I was told that it must be the fault of Cyngor Gwynedd that there was no S106. So I next checked the planning consent given by the council (because of course Tywyn is outside the Snowdonia National Park) and could find no mention of a S106. This full planning consent is dated July 23, 2012. So why did the Cambrian News run that piece telling everyone that these new dwellings were for locals only? And why was I told the same thing in September 2012 by Tai Clwyd, two months after that body had been granted the – S106-less – planning permission?

Grŵp Cynefin also referred me to Gwynedd’s Housing Options Team (GHOT), which seems to act as a link for the various social housing providers in the county while also serving as first contact for would-be tenants. The man I spoke with there was courteous and helpful, but could only point me in certain direTai Clwyd replyctions and suggest that an S106 would need to have been agreed between the council and the housing provider.

In another attempt to get answers I phoned the council’s planning department, where it took me a while to explain – or make the woman answering my call understand – that I wanted to know why something was not in an approval granted by the council. Having had my request accepted it could now be 15 days before I receive a response.

I suppose I could have waited until I got answers before writing this post, but my worry is that I’m not going to get the answers I’m after. If I had to bet on it, I’d say I’m in for a game of blame ping-pong. So I’m writing this post half-hoping it might get a better result than yet more phone calls and e-mails. Even so, the questions I would ask are these:

  1. Was it ever proposed to have a Section 106 local – 5-year residency – qualification attaching to the Pendre Gardens development?
  2. If it was, why was the proposal dropped, or the decision changed?
  3. Who authorised the change?
  4. For what reason(s) was the change made?
  5. If there was never any intention of attaching a S106 to Pendre Gardens why was everyone misled (if not lied to); why did no one from the council step in and give the correct information?

The main reason we’re in this mess is that to all intents and purposes Wales and England now operate a single, integrated social housing system. Just like one vast council, or housing association. Which means in practice that if there is a vacant property in Wales, and someone in England – anywhere in England! – has more ‘points’ than local applicants, then the English applicant could be allocated the property. Local connections count for very little. So if you are a law-abiding local, in regular employment, and have any kind of roof over your head, your chances of being allocated social housing are slim. My advice to you is start taking drugs, causing trouble and, best of all, make yourself homeless.

Of course, there will be those who argue that this is a two-way street, for Welsh people can move to England. Yeees . . . but given that England has 53 million people against our 3 million, it’s a two-way street with a bicycle travelling west to east and a 40-tonne juggernaut hurtling east to west. And I’m not just talking quantity, I’m also talking quality. For many of those being moved to Wales will be people that no self-respecting country would allow in. Here’s a selection. But bear in mind that this post I refer you to only deals with those who have made the news. The problem families, the pit bull fanciers, the casual criminals, the anti-social, the wife-beaters, the congenitally irresponsiblePendre Gardens sign, the ‘Ten-pints-and-I’m-Mike-Tyson, me’ types, the ‘breeders-for-benefit’ with their stupid, uncontrollable kids, the all-night party-holders, the fat, ugly women who think smoking ciggies keeps their weight down, these and others go unreported.

So I just cannot understand how this system that is so damaging to Wales and Welsh people has been accepted without resistance. I can only assume that housing associations are doing well out of it financially, and don’t really give a toss about the communities or the country in which they operate. Which might make sense; for Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (after taking over Gwynedd council’s housing stock) gave the maintenance contract for its properties to an English company that in turn employs sub-contractors from over the border who can only spend a short time actually working because of the distances involved travelling to and from work!

It cannot be right that someone who has never heard of Tywyn, or Tredegar, or Treaddur can qualify for social housing in these communities ahead of people who have lived there maybe all their lives. It cannot be right that Wales is used to help solve England’s housing problems. For as Gwynedd’s Common Housing Allocation Policy makes clear, “The scheme also complies with requirements of the legislation by providing priority or additional priority to: transferring tenants who will release accommodation in short supply . . . “ So if, say, Stoke-on-Trent council, or housing associations in that city, are experiencing pressure on their housing stock, then they can ask – maybe demand – that Welsh local authorities and housing associations give priority to those the Potteries would like to get rid of ‘transfer’ in order to make housing available. Some system, eh!

Change is needed. Social housing providers in Wales can no longer use the ‘Nuremburg Defence’ to implement an iniquitous system that so obviously works against Welsh interests. Social housing provision in Wales must be disentangled from that in England. A five-year residency qualification must be introduced for all social housing in Wales, with the only exceptions being genuine refugees and those who will be of benefit to Wales. Finally, those clowns down Cardiff docks need to realise that calling themselves the ‘Welsh Government’ must mean more than obeying civil servants and nodding through essentially English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ stuck in the title . . . like the Housing (Wales) Bill, and the Planning (Wales) Bill.

May 052014
 

It’s been difficult to avoid the UK Independence Party lately, the media loves them and has been promoting them so enthusiastically that one could easily forget that Ukip doesn’t have a single MP, does not control one local authority, has no representatives in the Scottish Parliament or the Notional Assembly for Wales, and is just a rag-bag assortment of fruitcakes and bigots led by a back-slapping, ‘Did you hear the one about . . . ?’ type you avoid at social occasions, a man who appeals to that section of English society which views itself as being a cut above the average BNP English nationalismsupporter. More couth, innit!

I say ‘English’ rather than British because Ukip is fundamentally an English phenomenon. Something we have always known, and was recently confirmed by research conducted by the Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change, the Wales Governance Centre (Cardiff University), and Institute for Public Policy Research. The findings were that within England Ukip support was strongest among those who identified themselves as being English rather than British. With the result that 29% of people in England told researchers they planned to vote for Ukip in this month’s elections to the European Parliament; in Wales the figure was 20%; and in Scotland 10%. We can safely predict, for reasons that need not detain us, those areas of Wales, and those sections of Wales’ population, from which Ukip will get most support. Which ties in with a well-documented and growing sense of English nationalism.

But this is very different to the English nationalism of the imperial heyday, or even that of WWII; for this is not pride in success, or even obduracy; this is something much more difficult to admire. It’s a resentful and hating Englishness. One result of which is – perhaps for the first time since the Norman takeover – many English now view themselves almost as the underdogs; beset by enemies within and without, those enemies having one thing in common – they’re all bloody foreigners. A nationalism that is both self-pitying and ready to lash out in all directions. (So beware! for in this weltanschauung we Celts – certainly those of us who oppose English domination – are little different to ‘bloody foreigners’.)

Ukip letter WM

Click to Enlarge

Worrying though that might be, there is at least a logical linkage in the rise of such a sentiment and the growing support for Ukip. That said, there are also glaring inconsistencies in Ukip’s position. An obvious one was highlighted by a letter in today’s Wasting Mule from a Derek Griffiths of Llandaff. Before launching into a paean to the EU Mr Griffiths makes the more valid point that, “Ukip is inviting us to return its candidates to the very institution from which it is campaigning for the UK’s withdrawal”.

My immediate thought on reading that sentence was, ‘Well said, that man . . . but, wait, isn’t there another political party in these islands that contests elections to an institution from which it wishes to disengage?’ Yes, there is, and how does this other party deal with the dilemma? The party I’m talking about is of course Sinn Féin.

The answer is abstentionism, which has been a central tenet of Irish republicanism for over a century, and is still followed by the five Sinn Féin MPs elected from the Six Counties to the Westminster parliament. Which seems to me and, I’m sure, many other people, to be a logical, and morally defensible, position. So why doesn’t Ukip follow Sinn Féin’s lead and refuse to send its elected representatives to the European Parliament in Strasbourg? After all, if Ukip voters are as sincere in their opposition to political links with the Mainland as Sinn Féin voters are in their opposition to the English connection, then there should be no problem. Otherwise, the fact that Ukip’s MEPs do go to Strasbourg could be misinterpreted.

So I suggest that, in order to avoid the accusation that they are just a bunch of two-bit chancers and hypocritical gravy train riders, Ukip candidates for the Euro elections on May 22nd should state in advance that, if elected, they will adopt the principled and ideologically consistent position of refusing to take their seats in the European Parliament.

P.S. For those minded to be silly, or hoping to cause a distraction, here is a statement from Sinn Féin regarding Westminster expenses.

May 012014
 

‘Jac writing about Cardiff!’ I hear you exclaim, before dropping your coffee in your lap. Yes, and I’m not even going to gloat over certain sporting matters. I’m writing this post because the Cardiff LDP could have implications well beyond the city itself. Before getting down to it let me acknowledge that the post was inspired by Councillor Neil McEvoy’s article on Daily Wales. I only know Neil through social networking but he seems the type of energetic and awkward (in the best sense of the word) politician Wales needs. The kind of man who enjoys making life difficult for those who think their decisions should be accepted without question.

First, a brief explanation. Every local authority has to produce a Local Development Plan telling us how it proposes meeting the future needs of its area in terms of population growth and housebuilding. This is done with the ‘guidance’ of the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Statistics and projections are supplied by StatsWales via the Knowledge and Analytical Services of the same London department. Both the PI and KAS have civil servants based in Cardiff, which allows the ‘Welsh’ Government to claim that it alone is responsible for planning matters in Wales. In this, as in so much else, I fear, the ‘Welsh’ Government deludes itself and misleads the rest of us.Cardiff LDP Map

Local Development Plans across Wales cover the period 2006 – 2026 and are at different stages of acceptance and adoption, so the Cardiff Plan is already way behind schedule. Something else worth saying about LDPs is that they were first compiled before the figures from the 2011 Census became available (from July 2012). Which is odd, seeing as the Census results contradicted many of the assumptions and projections on which the LDPs were predicated.

One of the great mysteries of LDPs in Wales is why they were pushed through even though it was known that the presumptions and calculations on which they were based could be undone by the findings of the 2011 Census. It’s not as if the 2011 Census sneaked up on us, everybody knew it was coming, so why not wait for the hard facts it provided. It’s almost as if certain interests wanted to rush the LDPs through before the figures used could be proved wrong by the Census.

The Deposit LDP for Cardiff can be found here and if you scroll down the page you’ll find a link to the Background Technical Paper on Population, Households and Dwellings. On page 17 of the latter document you’ll find the table below. According to this table the population will increase by 71,612 between 2006 and 2026; resulting in 42,363 new households requiring  41,132 new dwellings. These figures are interesting, but even more interesting is the source for the 2026 figures, the ones used to determine how many new dwellings Cardiff will ‘need’. The Population figures for 2006 and 2011 come from the Office for National Statistics’ Mid Year Estimates (MYE). The Household figure for 2006 comes from StatsWales because household projections are contracted out by the ONS to Knowledge and Analytical Services (i.e. StatsWales). But the all-important 2026 figures are attributed to the “Edge Report”, so what is this? Well, it refers to Edge Analytics, “the specialists in demographic modelling”.

Cardiff LDP summary table

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Which then raises the question: ‘Why would Cardiff council recruit expensive consultants? The council already employs thousands of people, it has access through electoral rolls, council tax ledgers, planning and other data to a wealth of information about the city and its people; and all this can be supplemented by the population projections and other figures provided free by the ONS and StatsWales. So why employ outside specialists?

I’ll leave that question for a while to focus on the most recent national projection released by StatsWales / KAS, which says that the population of Wales in 2026 will be 3,238,000, an increase of 164,000 on 2012. At the 2011 Census Cardiff’s population of 346,090 accounted for 11.3% of Wales’ total. So 11.3% of 164,000 would mean Cardiff’s population increasing by 18,532 to 2026. This, I concede, is unrealistic, so let us assume an increase in Cardiff of double the Welsh average, giving a figure of 37,064 and a population in 2026 of  383,154. This, I think, is reasonable, because if we see anything more, such as the 30% of Wales’ total population increase predicted by Edge Analytics (or Cardiff city council), then the rest of the country needs to start asking serious questions of the ‘Welsh’ Government about investment levels and employment opportunities in other areas of Wales.

Cardiff LDP 4

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Which may give us one reason Cardiff city council decided not to use official figures – they didn’t allow for a big enough increase in the city’s population. (Though, in fairness to them, it seems that Edge did suggest reducing certain of the counci’s predictions – see panel – but the council rejected these recommendations!) Although we have the national projection to 2026, StatsWales / KAS needs to pull its finger out and produce the breakdown by local authority, no matter how unwelcome that will be to certain people connected with Cardiff city council.

Having dealt with population projections the other big issue is the number of new homes the council extrapolates from that figure. To be exact, 41,132 to cope with a projected 71,612 more people. Many factors go into determining how many new dwellings will be needed but the two principal considerations are household size, that is, the average number living in any dwelling; and new households forming, that is, people leaving the parental home to live alone or with a partner, marital break-up, etc.

The current average household size for Wales is 2.31 though higher for Cardiff due to its much younger age profile; and there has been a reducing rate of new household formation for a number of years, even before the recent economic crisis. (See the panel above.) One factor is that more people in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents, as this article explains. Another factor will be the changes in benefits payable to, for example, young single mothers. Finally, we need to consider the 3% of the population living in communal establishments, not households. Add it all up and it makes the claimed 42,363 new households from a population increase of just 71,612 difficult to accept, perhaps suggesting that it contains an element of wishful thinking or speculative housing. I would have thought that Cardiff had seen enough of the latter in recent years. Worse, to stick with the housing figure knowing that the population increase itself is exaggerated could mean that the whole exercise is driven by speculative housing interests.

Other factors also need to be considered in explaining why both the population and household projections are unrealistic. First, the city’s student population of some 37,000 accounts for many houses of multiple occupation (HMO), the large number of buy-to-let mortgages, and also helps push up Cardiff’s household size. But there is surely a limit to how many students Cardiff can attract without standards falling and / or too many students alienating the resident population. Second, the population increase figure between 2001 and 2011 was heavily influenced by immigration from the ‘new’ EU states, mainly Poland. The Poles are going home, and they will not be replaced because there is no large country poised to join the EU.

Cardiff LDP Household gibberish

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I conclude that the true purpose of the Cardiff LDP is to increase the size, and importance, of the city at all costs, with one eye on speculative building. This to be done with no heed paid to damage inflicted on the city’s own green spaces nor the economic health of the wider region and Wales. To achieve this grandiose aim the LDP then has to pick and choose which statistics suit the purpose and, indeed, which recommendations of is own consultants can be used. This is one reason Edge Analytics was retained – to serve as a whipping-boy or scapegoat if the opposition got organised – ‘Our consultants advised us . . . ‘. But as we’ve seen, the council was very selective in what it accepted from its consultants.

This all results in hundreds of pages designed to confuse the curious and discourage those minded to oppose the LDP. Partly achieved by passages of near-gibberish, such as the one reproduced in the panel above. There were not “346,100 households in Cardiff” in July 2012, that was the city’s population (though I don’t recognise the figure). While the 2008-based household size projection for Cardiff is actually 2.36, so I have no idea where the 2.35 and 2.33 figures quoted come from. Edge Analytics? Though it may be worth remembering that the smaller the household size then the more new dwellings that will be ‘needed’.

In many respects the Cardiff Local Development Plan is no worse than other LDPs I have looked at, such as those for Carmarthenshire, and Denbighshire. The main difference being that with Cardiff it’s difficult to detect the behind-the-scenes insistence of the Planning Inspectorate on building more houses than an area needs, presumably because Cardiff city council, unlike many other authorities, needed no encouragement. Consequently the Cardiff Local Development Plan is a compendium of carefully selected statistics plus ‘statistics’ that seem to have been plucked from thin air. As a work of the imagination it might be worth entering it for some literary award. But it should never be implemented; for to do so would be damaging both for Cardiff and for Wales.

STOP PRESS: Last night there was a referendum in the Fairwater-Pentrebane area of Cardiff on the LDP. The question posed was: ‘Do You Think That The Deposit Local Development Plan Should Be Adopted For Cardiff?’ The result: Yes 31 votes (2%), No 1,311 votes (98%) Turnout 13.55%. Read about it here in Daily Wales.