Aug 252015
 

The ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson due to “online harassment” and “virtual persecution” continues to reverberate, here’s an update. (Though what is virtual persecution? Is it something less than real persecution?)

To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the press release announcing the resignation was issued by Equinox, the Castle’s PR company. Given how these things are done, with the Castle paying the bills, it’s reasonable to assume that the press release was sent to Equinox ready-written, with instructions for the agency to merely issue it to its media contacts.

Glen Johnson Cambrian News

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One of those contacts was of course the Cambrian News . . . or maybe the Cambrian News got the resignation story directly from the Castle . . . or maybe the Cambrian News didn’t need to be informed at all . . .

Seeing as both my blog and I were mentioned in the Cambrian News report I wrote to managing editor Beverly Davies making it clear that the only references to Glen Johnson on my blog were positive, and so I should not have been mentioned in a way that obviously tried to implicate me in the alleged ‘harassment’. I was refused an apology but given a few hours to make a comment to a follow-up story . . . without being given any details of that follow-up!

Even so, I did give her a statement, though I doubt if it will be published. Here it is. ‘I want nothing to do with the Cambrian News because it cannot be trusted to report honestly on any issue where its over-riding political, ethno-cultural and constitutional prejudices come into play’.

In my exchange of e-mails with Beverly Davies I made the point that, “The Facilities Officer at Cardigan Castle is Sue Lewis, who was, prior to that job being created for her, a trustee. She is one of those I have criticised in my blog. She is also a freelance reporter for your newspaper, and her husband Mike is your South Ceredigion reporter. What a cosy arrangement!”

Beverly Davies responded with, “While Sue Lewis does do some freelance work for our paper, she only covers Aberporth Town (sic) Council and Cardigan Town Council meetings. She has had no involvement in our Cardigan castle stories.” My incredulity becomes clear in my response, “Do you seriously expect me, or any other sentient being, to believe that Sue Lewis has no input to articles written by her husband (or even his colleagues) about the place she works!”

But what if it’s true! Picture the scene chez Lewis, gentle reader, He: ‘I’m working on a story about the place where you work, Sweetie Pie, but you mustn’t tell me anything, or try to influence the article in any way – is that clear?‘ She (eyelashes fluttering): ‘Of course not, Big Boy, you know I wouldn’t do that, I’m an obedient lickle wifey‘. Yes, that must be how things are done in the Lewis household, or maybe not . . .

For there must, regrettably, be the possibility that that image of connubial bliss exists nowhere but in my imagination, and that in the real world the press release and the Cambrian News article were both written by Sue Lewis. In which case, is Glen Johnson just a willing dupe in the machinations of others? If not, if he is the author of the resignation statement, how does he feel about the trustees and the Cambrian News using his resignation to attack me, a man who has done him no wrong, and said nothing about him that was hurtful or even critical?

Let’s have some straight answers, Glen. Are you accusing me of harassing you? If not, how about correcting the impression your resignation has allowed others to create  – people you recently worked with – that I am some kind of ogre stalking the internet terrorising women and children. The time for vague allegations and innuendo is past. Things are coming to a head. Let’s have some straight answers, Glen.

Elsewhere, an old comrade, completely unprompted, complained to the BBC about its treatment of the Johnson resignation. His point about cut and paste journalism, and treating press releases as news items, are worrying reminders of the state of the Welsh media. Read it here.

Time now to turn to a recurring theme in the saga of Cardigan Castle, money being squandered.

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WEBSITE? THAT’LL BE FORTY-FOUR GRAND, LOVE.

One of the complaints levelled again and again against the project is that there is little to see for the £12m expenditure. People go there and wonder what that vast sum was spent on. One specific complaint made more than once is that the display cabinets are of a similar standard – and cost – to those housing the English crown jewels in London, even though Cardigan Castle has little if anything of value to display. This complaint puzzled me, but recent information may throw some some light on this issue.

A former trustee has sent me a quote, from September 2012, to set up a website for the Castle. The quote comes from a firm called Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, in England. The quotation – just for a website, remember! – is £44,000. Read it here for yourself; read it through, item by item, and you’ll realise what a rip-off it would have been. Of course, this was three years ago, no doubt HSD would now charge £50,000.

This is what happens when public money is involved and there is no adequate oversight from the funders’ representatives, as is the case with Cardigan Castle. The customer thinks, ‘What the hell, it’s not our money!’ and the supplier rubs his sweaty hands thinking, ‘They’re getting millions in grants, let’s get our snouts in the trough’. Incidentally, I’m told that all the other quotes for a website came in under £5,000.

One obvious question is, why did the trustees ever go to a firm like this, so far away, so expensive, to get a quote for something that could have been provided by Dai Jones down the road for one tenth of the price? Does someone connected with the Castle know someone involved with HSD?

Thankfully, HSD did not get the website contract. An outlay like that would have been difficult to explain, even with the cosy relationship between Lady Tucker and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Gareth ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Gregory. The website now running appears to the creation of Sugar Creative of Cardiff, though there are many firms much nearer to Cardigan that could – and should – have been given the work.

Let us conclude this section by returning to Haley Sharpe Design, for despite losing out on the website rip-off contract the company was asked to fit out the Castle with display cabinets and similar equipment, and also to hold exhibitions. (See left sidebar when page opens.) Knowing how much HSD wanted to charge for a website we can be fairly sure that Cardigan Castle has paid over the odds for its display cases and much else. But then, it’s only public money.

I ask again, who is the link between Cardigan Castle and HSD?

Alas, problems rarely come singly, do they, boys and girls? and poor old Jac has also been assailed by that master of the vituperative, that Woodward and Bernstein of the Welsh blogosphere, Phil Parry of Wales Eye.

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IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?

Every so often, when the bile rises, or I have criticised his belovéd Labour Party too effectively, Phil Parry girds his loins and sallies forth to engage with the evil dragon of nationalism – me! These attacks invariably take the form of Parry telling his vast readership that I am about to be banged up because someone has reported me to the police. This ‘someone’ is usually Jacques Protic, a Serbian gent living on Ynys Môn, a man who manages to be a Labour Party member while simultaneously believing that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! (No, I did not make that up, as the panel below testifies. It is a comment Protic made to a BBC blog.)

Parry’s latest assault on the dragon can be found here. I recommend that you be sitting down when you read it, and without a hot drink in your hand. (I should also warn you that in this latest piece Parry offers links to earlier works of fiction in which I star – apparently forgetting that these are behind a paywall!) Now, where to start?

Protic-Labour

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Well, Parry begins with some bizarre story about an investigation by GogPlod into comments on my blog. He writes, “An investigation was launched by North Wales Police after a complaint from a member of the public about the website ‘Jac o’ the North’, and the Editor, Royston Jones, was officially warned to remove abusive comments or it may be closed down, according to sources.” I have received no such warning. North Wales Police has not contacted me.

Other than that, almost everything in the article is a re-hash of what he’s written before. Protic predictably appears, there is yet another mention of the Cayo Evans photograph, the social housing petition is regurgitated, and then he flaunts his powers of investigation with, “Mr Jones is currently embroiled in a controversy which centres on Cardigan castle”. Wow!

The thing about Parry is that he is consistent . . . consistent in attacking me for things I have not done. Let’s start with Protic. The basis for this story is that Protic alleges he was threatened over the telephone and had his car’s tyres slashed, and all because of something I’d written about him on my blog. As if Protic doesn’t draw enough attention to himself by expressing his odious views on every forum he can find.

The Cayo Evans photograph. I don’t know who took it, I don’t appear in it, but putting it up on my blog makes me guilty of . . . well, something. The social housing petition was launched by Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndŵr. I put it on my sidebar because I’m unreasonable enough to believe that local people should enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing. And of course the ‘hook’ for the latest Parry article is that someone – but not me – wrote something some arsehole somewhere considers ‘racist’.

If online racism really concerns Phil Parry then let him visit MailOnline or Guido Fawkes or a host of other ‘mainstream’ sites, where he will find all the racist comments a man in search of them could desire, made against the Welsh and just about every nation other than the English. But of course Parry won’t do that, because he’s not really interested in racism per se; he is, just like the Cambrian News, and politicians in Wales and elsewhere, simply interested in using the slur of racism to silence people whose views he doesn’t like.

Though let us not be too harsh on Phil Parry for I fear he may be losing it, or maybe someone is playing jokes on him. In what I assume to have been a desperate attempt to say something new about me Parry wrote, “He retired as director of a Barmouth air conditioning firm . . . “ Who? Me! Accusing me of being a gun-toting, ethnic-cleansing, bodice-ripping, baby-eating nationalist I can live with, but you go too far when you accuse me of being a director of an air conditioning firm in – of all places – Barmouth!

I don’t know who, or what, you’re talking about, Parry . . . and neither, I suspect, do you.

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IT WAS THE CAMBRIAN NEWS WOT WON IT!

Apart from learning that Beverly Davies has a sense of humour, something else I learnt yesterday was that Elin Jones AM has been asked for a comment on the Johnson resignation, and it will appear in this week’s issue of the rag. No doubt it will be in with the comments from the Pope and the mayor of Wagga Wagga, both outraged by my criticisms of certain Cardigan Castle trustees.

This, I’m told, is what she will say: “Glen Johnson has been a long-time champion of the castle and its history. He is one of the local experts and was influential in convincing me and others of the merits of the need to invest and restore the castle. I am sure he has spent years of voluntary effort in researching and supporting the castle. It is a travesty that he now feels pressured by social media to withdraw as a trustee. We need to thank him for all he has done and hopefully he can continue to contribute in other ways to the project.” So the local AM appears to have swallowed the Cambrian News story hook line and sinker . . . or maybe not, because here’s my interpretation.

Elin Jonres

Elin Jones will be standing for re-election next May which, let me remind you, is just over eight months away. She is very mindful of how the Cambrian News may have destroyed her colleague Mike Parker’s chances of becoming Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru MP just three months ago, in the May General Election. For anyone who has perhaps forgotten, check out my post, Mike Parker and Huw ‘Tipp-Ex’ Thomas in Full Agreement.

What the Cambrian News did with that piece of gutter journalism was deliberately misrepresent something Parker had written many years earlier. For soon after moving to Wales he wrote a piece for Planet magazine telling of his shock at realising many English people move to rural Wales to escape the multiracial towns and cities of England. (But he never used the word ‘Nazi’.) He also told us that many of the English who move to Wales look down on their Welsh neighbours with contempt. Read the original 2001 article here. Compare it with what the Cambrian News wrote and you’ll realise what a squalid distortion the latter was.

Remarkably, it was left to the Western Mail to put this story into its correct perspective, with Martin Shipton writing, “The purpose of this attack on Mr Parker, of course, is to dissuade people from voting for him.” In other words, it was an attempt by the Cambrian News to influence the outcome of the General Election in Ceredigion by telling lies about the candidate the ‘paper did not want to win. And it may have worked.

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THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?

Its victory over Mike Parker, and the muted response from Plaid Cymru, has emboldened the Cambrian News, making it believe that it can control the political debate, certainly in Ceredigion, and perhaps beyond. Given who owns the ‘paper there is nothing surprising here.

The Cambrian News is part of the Tindle Group, still run by the eponymous, and 88-year-old Sir Ray Tindle. Sir Ray is a patriot of the old school, the man who told his editors, once Bush and Blair began their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”. (Read full article here.)

When it comes to Wales, we can be sure that Sir Ray’s views are unequivocally Unionist, which means doing everything possible to portray nationalists as a dangerous and evil enemy . . . especially when they look like winning. The only way dissenting voices can hope to avoid the Tindle treatment is to dissent as little as possible . . . the course Elin Jones has so clearly adopted. With the result that debate is stifled, truth takes a kicking, and democracy in Wales is further weakened.

This assault on truth and democracy in the service of English interests becomes increasingly more obvious as Tindle and other owners ship in journalists recruited in England, journalists who don’t know their patch, and thus make a mockery of ‘local journalism’. The pretence can only be maintained with the assistance of a ‘Welsh’ veneer provided by the likes of Beverly Davies.

The Cambrian News and many other ‘local’ newspapers are now a threat to the democratic process. They promote a viewpoint that is hostile to Welsh interests, they try to intimidate those who dare challenge them and their viewpoint, and they have lost that fundamental connection with local communities that should justify their existence.

The Elin Jones approach is nothing less than surrendering to the diktats of a warped old man who cares nothing for Wales. How does a Plaid Cymru politician justify such a stance, even to herself? The way forward must be to challenge the Cambrian News and all the other BritNat propaganda rags. If Plaid Cymru isn’t prepared to stand up to this bullying, then it does not deserve to survive.

UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yesterday, some 30 people, including ex-volunteers, gathered outside the Castle to make a presentation to sacked Director Cris Tomos. There were young and old there, Welsh and English, to present him with gifts, including a blooming apple tree, showing the gratitude of the townspeople for all the work he has done for Cardigan. Inside, the remaining trustees plotted at their monthly meeting.

UPDATE II 27.08.2015: In this week’s online South Ceredigion edition of the Cambrian News Glen Johnson seems to saying something different regarding his family. Last week it was, “The main reason for my resignation is to protect my family from the virtual persecution being dealt out . . . “. This week, the writer of the article says, ” . . . with his family bearing the brunt of ‘overheard conversations'”.

The implication is inescapable – nothing was said directly to his family. That his family overheard unflattering conversations around the town only proves what a hot topic the running of the Castle has become. Even then, I guarantee that if ‘them trustees’ were getting a slagging, it wasn’t Glen Johnson the critics had in mind. I’m beginning to worry that the saintly Glen Johnson may be developing a martyr complex.

Curiously, although the article is headed ‘AM steps into Cardigan Castle row’ there is no quote from Elin Jones. Perhaps you have to pay for the full edition to read what Elin Jones said. Which I’m sure you’re prepared to do, especially after seeing the subscription page.

Aug 192015
 

My first post on this subject was Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? on July 7th. Since then I have posted Cardigan Castle – It’s Getting Worse! (July 12th), Cardigan Castle: Gang of Four + One (July 21st), there was a section in Updates, etc (July 26th), then came Cardigan Castle: Guest Post by ‘Dyn Deche Rhys’ (July 30th), and finally, Cardigan Castle: Connections Keep A-Coming (August 3rd). IGlen Johnson‘m listing them in case you feel the need to refer to them as you read on.

The reason I’m returning to the subject now is that it’s all getting a bit naughty. Those I’ve written about, and others behind them, are pulling out the stops in order, not to answer the many questions being asked, but to silence those doing the asking. I suppose things came to a head yesterday with the resignation of Glen Johnson, one of the trustees. Mr Johnson cited as his reason for stepping down the need to protect his family from “online persecution”.

This is the report from the BBC Wales website. Here’s the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Finally, the Cambrian News report talks of “online harassment” and mentions my blog, even gives my name, thereby inviting readers to make the erroneous connection. But then, this is the Cambrian News, and this is the nature of the beast. No one should be surprised to learn that Mike Lewis, husband of trustee Sue Lewis, is a staff reporter, possibly deputy editor, on this rag. Perhaps more pertinent may be the fact that Sue Lewis herself freelances for the CN, as these minutes from Aberporth Community Council make clear. Could it be that Sue Lewis herself wrote the Cambrian News report on Johnson’s resignation?

The first thing to understand about Glen Johnson is that for months he’s been telling anyone who’d listen that he’d had enough, and was stepping down at the September AGM of trustees . . . and these declarations of intent pre-date anything I’ve written about Cardigan Castle. His FaceGlen Johnson Facebookbook page carries a few of these statements. Here’s a couple from July. (Click to enlarge.)

After reading the media accounts I went to my blog to check what I had written about him . . . as opposed to what people what you to believe I’ve written. I could only find two references to Glen Johnson in my blog posts and both were positive. The first in my post of July 7th and the second in the guest post of July 30th. Read both extracts below.

JULY 7: “So this place (Cardigan Castle) has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise (in history).”

JULY 30: “A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.

Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.

This is harassment! This is “online persecution”!

So if I haven’t been attacking him, what exactly is going on with this ‘resignation’? I am convinced that this whole episode can be explained by the press release issued to the media. Enquiries are referred to a Cardiff telephone number belonging to Equinox, Cardigan Castle’s PR agency. This resignation is nothing but a publicity stunt, one staged to depict critics of the Castle’s trustees as the sort of bastards who threaten the trustees’ wives and children. Remember! this man was resigning anyway, before I put out a word on Cardigan Castle, but someone, somewhere, saw the chance to capitalise on a long-planned resignation by twisting it into the sudden decision of a persecuted man forced out by internet bullies – i.e. me! And all designed to deflect criticism from the ruling trustees, and even allow them to shelter under the umbrella of victimhood.

Here’s my message to Glen Johnson. If your family really is being intimidated then you should have reported it to the police, not a PR agency. And if, as I suspect, you haven’t yet reported it to the police, get in touch with me and I’ll accompany you to the police station. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. But my best advice for you is, don’t allow yourself to be used by people much cleverer and more ruthless than you.

Glen Johnson’s stage-managed resignation is only the latest in a list of incidents which have been attempts to either frighten me off or have my blog closed down. Here’s an example worth recounting.

On August 12th a comment was made to my post, Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? of July 7th. The first comment to that post in a fortnight, and it came from ‘Charity Solicitor’. I responded and he / she came back the following day with a longer comment that contained, “It is, therefore, entirely ludicrous to claim, as you and your friends often do, that the trustees have their hands in the till.” I had never accused the trustees of that, and I made that fact clear; I also asked ‘Charity Solicitor’ to direct me to where, as he alleged, I had accused the trustees of theft.

Of course ‘Charity Solicitor’ could not find anything like this on my blog, for the simple reason that I had never written it. Others joined in the debate and eventually ‘Charity Solicitor’, realising he’d been sussed, admitted he was Dr (Charles) Robert Anthony. On August 14th he made what, for a lawyer, was an extraordinary statement, done in a pathetic attempt to laugh off the very serious allegation he had made against me only a few days earlier. He wrote, “‘Hands in the till’ is a figure of speech or metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” Sorry, pal , ‘hands in the till’ most definitely means stealing, there is no other interpretation. And for what, exactly, could ‘hands in the till’ be a metaphor?

Throughout this exchange with me and others Dr Anthony wasn’t clear whether he was speaking officially for the trustees or merely on their behalf, unofficially. Make your own guesses.

But yet again we have someone riding to the rescue but refusing to address the questions raised, and instead trying to steer the debate onto more promising ground by making me defend myself against things I never said. Very similar to what is happening with this ludicrously contrived resignation. I’m confronted with evasion, innuendo, non-sequiturs, smears, misrepresentation, and downright lies. So let me make my position clear.

I retract nothing I have written about Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. To see them hoping to hide behind poor, manipulated Glen Johnson is despicable, and it will not succeed. The questions are still awaiting answers.

  • Who is Jonathan Timms of Kent, and how did he get involved? Is he perhaps related to a trustee, or does he own a holiday home in Aberporth? Possibly both?
  • Why have so many trustees and staff walked away from this project (before I ever got involved)?
  • How many times did Sue Lewis shout ‘ENGLISH!’ in that now infamous e-mail?
  • How often does Jann Tucker crack open a bottle or twa with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s supposedly impartial representative, Gareth Gregory?
  • Was Hedydd Jones reprimanded for saying ‘Over my dead body” at the prospect of the Gorsedd visiting the Castle?
  • Why did the project – as Glen Johnson himself bemoaned – change from a historical and cultural icon into a tacky tourist venture that is financially unworkable?
  • What did Sandra Davies mean by saying, “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”? Was she asked to explain that insulting remark?
  • What did Jonathan Timms, the trustees’ contact point and secretary, mean when he described Rhys ap Sue Lewis fairy godmotherGruffydd and his sons as “savages”?
  • Can you provide satisfactory evidence of contracts being properly advertised and put out to tender? Evidence that would satisfy someone other than Jann Tucker’s drinking buddy.
  • The same applies to appointments, or were they all advertised – online only – from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, as was the case with the post created for trustee Sue Lewis almost immediately after she lost her job at the Tivy-Side Advertiser?

And yet, despite the slanders, I am greatly heartened that the Gang of Four’s defenders feel they need to resort to these tactics. I say ‘defenders’ because I am convinced that what we see now, with Johnson’s resignation especially, is intervention by persons who have come to realise that the Gang of Four are a liability, but to remove them would be an admission of defeat, so they have to be defended at all costs. It’s a difficult situation for them; and so desperate are they that someone must have thought this resignation stunt was worth a try.

Just stand back and consider the absurdity of the news coverage given. Here we have a nobody, in a small town, who resigns from a trust few will have heard of – but it makes the BBC News! This of course is the BBC we have come to know, this is the BBC of the Scottish independence referendum, the BBC of ‘British’ this and ‘Great British’ that, the defender of the British establishment. So in conclusion, let me reiterate . . .

Despite what has been alleged by the Cambrian News and others, nothing mildly derogatory, let alone threatening, has appeared on this blog in relation to Glen Johnson. Anyone persisting with these groundless accusations – or making fresh accusations – should be very careful what they say or write.

UPDATE 20.08.2015: La Tucker is to step down from her position of trustee at the AGM next month. Apparently, something to do with ‘rotation’ . . . are we talking turnips here?

Aug 172015
 

This post re-visits a subject I dealt with in September 2012. (Unfortunately, the original comments and other features were lost when Google pulled the plug on my earAssembly elections maplier blog in December 2012. See sidebar) The reason I am returning to the subject is that, on the one hand, there has been no change for the better, yet on the other hand, there has been a change for the worse. Put it together and it gives a stronger case in 2015 for regional parties than when I originally mooted the idea almost three years ago.

There are a number of reasons for promoting the case for regional parties standing in the ‘Welsh’ Assembly elections of 2016. I try to deal with them in the various sections below. The map on the right will help you understand the boundaries, click on it to enlarge it.

1. SHAM DEVOLUTION

The first of those reasons is one that I dealt with back in 2012, namely that devolution is a sham. Wales is more firmly under England’s control than ever, but now it’s done through civil servants taking orders from London yet doubling as ‘advisors’ to the self-deluding ‘ministers’ of the ‘Welsh’ Government. In reality, of course, these civil servants / advisors are relaying orders. It is a charade of the kind we would have found in the old East Germany, or any country run by a regime reliant on US support.

Among the many agencies of this sham devolution I have dealt with, one that has received more attention than most, is the Planning Inspectorate. (To find the many articles I have written on the subject type ‘Planning Inspectorate’ in the Search box at the top of the sidebar.) It is this agency that facilitates the colonisation of Wales with its bullying of our local councillors (or working with alien and eager senior officers), justifying building new homes we don’t need with ludicrously inflated population ‘projections’, or reduced household (size) estimates.Thickett Planing Resource

To keep up the pretence of ‘devolution’ the Planning Inspectorate maintains an office in Cardiff, it even has a few Welsh planning inspectors, but this is all window-dressing. As we saw with the review of the Local Development Plan for Denbighshire. Two inspectors were involved in assessing the protests of the local council, which argued that the 2011 census showed the county did not need the number of new homes the Planning Inspectorate had demanded. Read about it here.

The two inspectors involved in the ‘assessment’ of March 2014 were Anthony Thickett (see panel) and Gwynedd Thomas. Within a few months Thickett was appointed chief inspector for the Wales region of the Planning Inspectorate. Poor old Gwynedd Thomas was there just to add a little local colour, in the hope of disguising that this was part of the colonisation process, and all determined in London.

It doesn’t matter how we look at, What we have in Wales is a system designed to frustrate Welsh ambitions rather than satisfy them. It is a system of devolution for the benefit of England. And this explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government can do nothing to serve Welsh interests if that might work against English interests, yet agencies like the Planning Inspectorate are daily working in England’s interests against Wales.

The ‘Welsh’ Government is, like poor Gwynedd Thomas, nothing more than a fig leaf for this colonialist reality; it’s only real power lies in being able to distribute funding handed down to it. Yet far too much of this money currently goes to Cardiff or to Labour’s cronies and hangers-on in our irredeemably corrupt Third Sector.

2. THE ‘WELSH’ LABOUR PARTY

Sham devolution of course needs willing participants in the country being flim-flammed, and this is where the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party comes into the picture. Over many, many years I have made my feelings known on this, the most corrupt political party in the Western world, but if anyone is still in any doubt as to the nature of the beast, then let them read Why I Detest the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its Evil Empire, Merthyr: All Aboard the ‘Welsh’ Labour Gravy Train, or more recently, ‘Welsh’ Labour and Social Enterprises – All Fall Down!.

It is the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that, for sixteen years, has fronted the colonialist system of sham devolution I just mentioned. This explains why the only time we see the self-styled First Minister on UK-wide television is when he’s proving how loyal we Welsh are despite devolution (which for some reason, still worries many English!). Such as welcoming Bet Windsor to Wales, or spouting BritNat bollocks during last year’s Scottish independence referendum campaign. The man is an embarrassment to all right-thinking Welsh.

One feature of this sham devolution is the growth of Cardiff, due to it serving as the ‘capital’, and because so much of the colonial bureaucracy is centred there. Though this can have a damaging effect on other areas.

I travel around Wales much more than most people, and one thing that strikes me whether I’m in Llandudno, Newtown or Haverfordwest is that on any contract connected with or funded by an agency based in Cardiff, the hoardings tell me that the estate agent dealing with the sale or, in the case of a new project, the company that drew up the plans and others, will also be found in Cardiff. Suggesting to me that companies based in Cardiff have an unfair advantage when it comes to these civil servants drawing up lists of ‘approved’ estate agents, contractors, architects, and others, or else we dealing with a form of favouritism that comes close to corruption. But this Cardiff bias can take other forms.

A Puppet Regime

I am indebted to a correspondent in regular contact with the aforementioned civil servants for a recent example of the way Cardiff is favoured above other areas. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Among the provisions of the Act is a new register of private landlords. This work – and the jobs it will generate – has been allocated to Cardiff City Council, without any tendering process. Why should the richest area of Wales be gifted yet more jobs when this work could have been done by any local authority? And who made the decision?

Though an irony in this situation is that even the Conservative and Unionist Party, the party of the City and big business, has finally conceded that England has an economic imbalance, with too much of the country’s wealth and power accumulated in London and the south east. Hence the talk of investing hundreds of billions of pounds in HS2 and Northern ‘Powerhouses’. Yet here in Wales, we are replicating the system England is now seeking to remedy!

3. PLAID CYMRU

My feelings on Plaid are equally well documented. I suppose Plaid Cymru: Ninety Wasted Years, from October last year, sums it up as well as anything I’ve written, but use the Search box atop the sidebar to find other posts. Nothing has improved since I wrote that piece. In this year’s General Election Plaid Cymru again performed miserably, dealt with in Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again.

And from all quarters comes news that that Plaid Cymru continues to be the most impotent ‘national’ party in Europe, afraid of upsetting anyone. Here’s one recent example that says it pretty well.

Followers of Welsh public life will be aware of a growing problem in local government that sees senior officers take over the running of certain councils. Nowhere has this trend been more apparent than in Carmarthenshire, where the council has for some years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, with the approval of the leaders of the parties in coalition there, Labour and ‘Independents’. But recently, after a change of leadership in the local Labour Party, there was a falling-out between the former love-birds and Independent leader Meryl Gravel began smooching Plaid Cymru, which resulted in a new coalition between the two.

With Plaid Cymru the larger of the parties, and Plaid’s Emlyn Dole named council leader in May, most people expected things to change in Carmarthenshire but that, alas, has not happened. It appears to be business as before, as this little cameo, received from a reliable source, illustrates.

The trade union Unison, ” . . . had to wait 2 months to get a meeting with Dole. There were a number of items on the agenda (employment issues and the council’s plans for publicly owned assets such as Parc Howard in Llanelli). To Unison’s surprise, waiting to greet them in Dole’s office was Mark James, although the union had asked for a private meeting with the leader. The meeting did not go well.”

Emlyn Dole’s submission to The Ultimate Authority may be connected with his little ‘difficulty’, for Plaid’s leader in the seat where Gwynfor Evans won that famous 1966 victory has been caught flouting planning regulations. But never mind, for Plaid Cymru has not forgotten its primary role – sticking up for Labour. As I reminded people in my June 28th post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour’, and as Plaid itself continues to remind us.

Just last Saturday, at the commemoration of the 1911 Llanelli Riots, local Labour MP Nia Griffith was getting a bit of stick from some in the crowd for making a big noise about the Tories’ austerity measures but neglecting to inform her listeners that she had abstained when presented with the chance to show her ‘opposition’ in the House of Commons vote a few weeks ago. Who rode to her rescue? Helen Mary Jones, the Plaid candidate for Llanelli in next year’s Assembly election, and Vaughan Williams, who failed so miserably to win the seat in May this year.

Plaid Cymru is now more of an asset to England than to Wales. From England’s perspective Plaid Cymru is the perfect ‘in-our-pocket’ regional party. That’s because it can still attract the votes of many who want independence / greater devolution, or who care about Welsh cultural identity, but for all sorts of reasons Plaid Cymru will never get more than 25% of the vote, even in the most favourable circumstances, yet – in the absence of an alternative – it can still be presented as ‘the Welsh nationalist party’.

If there was any danger of Plaid Cymru collapsing, perhaps due to the emergence of that alternative national party, then it would be in our masters’ interests to keep Plaid Cymru alive. It may already be happening.

4. UKIP

Finally we come to perhaps the major difference today from the situation prevailing when I wrote the earlier piece on regional parties back in December 2012. Then there was a perception that Ukip, being primarily an anti-EU party, would do well in European elections, but only European elections.

The General Election earlier this year taught us the fallacy of that belief as we saw the Ukip vote in Wales reach 13.6%, and in so doing exceed the Plaid Cymru share of the vote. But this increase in Ukip vote has been aided by the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a weakening of the Labour Party, which was of course almost wiped out in Scotland. To help you understand how things have changed I’ve compiled a table showing the vote shares for the major parties in Wales over the five most recent elections. (The two figures shown for 2011 represent the constituency vote and the regional vote.)

Share of vote

The Labour Party is in turmoil and, as I write this, looking likely to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader; the Lib Dems are unlikely to recover any time soon, if ever; and Plaid Cymru seems doomed to a slow, lingering death. Few of those turning away from Labour and Lib Dems find Plaid Cymru attractive (hardly surprising seeing as long-time Plaid Cymru voters are deserting the party), and while some of those abandoning Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid will simply not vote, many will turn to the Tories or Ukip.

One thing’s for sure, Labour will definitely not have a majority after next year’s election, and may have difficulty forming a coalition with Plaid Cymru and / or Liberal Democrats. Taking us into uncharted territory, but also presenting great opportunities.

REGIONAL PARTIES

Regional parties contesting regional list seats are the only possible way to address the various problems listed above, the only way to ensure a more equitable Wales in which Labour is not completely dominant, with the added advantage of checking the advance of Ukip.

We can be sure that Ukip will view the list for the north as one its best hopes of winning Assembly seats, especially with the party’s local hetman, Nathan Gill MEP, being domiciled on Ynys Môn. So the first regional party I want to propose is for the north. Yes, I can already hear people asking, ‘What does Arfon have in common with Deeside?’ Short answer would be that across the north you will hear, ‘Everything is down south’. This will be Ukip’s message next year to northern voters. It can also be Strategic Development Plans 2the message of an alliance made up of people with roots in northern Wales, committed to serving the area, and hopefully objecting to the A55 corridor becoming a planned commuter belt. Because we can be sure Ukip won’t object! Neither will the other parties. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Another area where Ukip did well in 2014 and again this year is the Valleys. While the elected leaders in the region seem happy to surrender to Cardiff’s city state ambitions I’m sure there are many others in the Valleys who believe their towns and villages deserve better than a future as dormitory communities. This could be one message for a Valleys grouping. Another message for Labour could be, ‘Instead of using EU and other funding to help your cronies capitalise on our deprivation, use it to help us and our communities – the reason the EU gave it to us’.

The third region is obviously the Swansea Bay conurbation.

What I am suggesting is not formal political parties in the accepted sense. I am arguing for ad hoc regional groups with no ambitions beyond using their voice to demand fair shares for all, something that could perhaps be monitored by publishing regular figures for public spending and jobs created in each region. Because as I say, the only real power in this system of sham devolution is the power to divvy up the hand-outs. Which means that going down to Cardiff docks to play politics, to pretend that it’s a real parliament, is a waste of time. Focus on the money.

The suggestion of regional parties has both greater urgency and greater potential now than when I first mooted the subject because of the decline of three parties and the unattractiveness of those likely to gain from that decline. (And here I include the Greens.) I further predict that regional parties would get support from some of those who would not otherwise vote next year. And there’s guaranteed publicity in the interest that can be predicted from the local media.

To gather enough like-minded individuals in order to compile a raft of regional list candidates should be relatively easy, there’s no great expense involved, and for just nine months of work the rewards could be great. And with Welsh politics in a state of flux not seen in living memory, who knows where it might lead? And if that doesn’t persuade you, then do you really want to vote for any of the failed parties, or the unattractive alternatives I’ve dealt with here?

Aug 122015
 

In February I posted ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers, which recently received a very interesting comment from ‘Brychan’, a regular contributor to this blog. He drew our attention to Monwel, a social enterprise in Glyn Ebwy making road signs and similar products. He also provided this link to a story that appeared last week in the South Wales Argus (Newport). It seems that no one in our ‘national’ media has yet taken up the story, which explains why most of you reading this will not have heard of Monwel.

Monwel grew out of Blaenau Gwent Council’s sign-making department. In the dystopian economic landscape of ‘Welsh’ Labour social enterprises and Third Sector rackets are viewed as commercial enterprises. However you choose to view it, Monwel, the registered company, was Incorporated on November 9th 2012, Company Number 08284345. The four directors at the time of Incorporation were David Michael Davies, Mrs Leslie Scott Barr, Mr Andrew Richards and Mrs Colleen Andrews. Mrs Barr doubles as managing director, which means, presumably, that she is involved in the day-to-day running of Monwel which, according to Company Check, has a net worth of £-53,983.

Monwell Directors

Beyond the fact that he lives in Brynmawr, I know little of David Michael Davies. Leslie Scott Barr was, ‘Brychan’ told me, “a bridal shop owner from Motherwell in Scotland”! Andrew Richards is the man who does the introduction on the video we see on the Monwel website, and appears to have been the Chairman. Mrs Colleen Andrews is presumably the same person who was a director of Tredegar-based Rainbow Community Enterprises, another Heads of the Valleys outfit, where husband Wayne is still a director.

The mission statement for Rainbow Community Enterprises is typical of the vacuous, politically correct bullshit such organisations use: “Our aim is to benefit the surrounding areas through sustainable development of community projects that foster social inclusion and community participation regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or social status, and to work in partnership with other community, voluntary and statutory organisations to further these objects”. Now that you’ve read it, do you have any better understanding of what Rainbow Community Enterprises actually does . . . apart from keeping a few Labour loyalists in what they hope will be mistaken for gainful employment? More on Rainbow later.

As the graphic tells us, within a few months of Monwel Ltd setting up Councillor Haydn Leslie Trollope joined the Board (20.05.2013). Richards and Andrews ceased to be directors on May 31st this year, while two new directors joined in February last year, these being Councillor Jennifer Morgan JP and Mr John Anthony Bennett of Worcester, an ‘expert’ in social enterprises. It’s reasonable to assume that Bennett was piped on board when the crew of the good ship Monwel began to discern Shit Creek on the horizon. Someone else who was briefly aboard (10.02.2014 – 26.09.2014) was Paul Byard, the Wales representative for the Engineering Employers Federation. It’s reasonable to assume that he too was recruited in a trouble-shooting role, and may have jumped ship as he too saw Shit Creek draw ever nearer.

The current board of Monwel is comprised of Councillors Trollope and Morgan, David Michael Davies, the ‘expert’ Bennett, and our cousin from Yr Hen Ogledd, Mrs Barr. Davies and Barr are the only directors who’ve been with Monwel from the start which, let’s remind ourselves, was less than three years ago. Although I’m sure she enjoys the bracing upland air of north Gwent Mrs Barr also experiences the atmosphere of Port Talbot, where she has, since February 2014, been a director with Dewis Housing, which specialises in helping young people in the 16 to 25 age bracket.

More interestingly, perhaps, when she isn’t running social enterprises Mrs Barr advertises her talents as a ‘spiritualist medium’. Now you know me, boys and girls, I’m not one to be judgemental, and what Mrs Barr gets up to in her spare time is her own business. I reproduce here for you Mrs Barr’s Facebook page. Though that background, surely it’s not Ebbw Vale . . . even on a bad day?

Leslie Scott Bass Spiritualist

As recently as March this year our ghost-botherer picked up three awards on behalf of her company at some do in a posh nosh joint in the Vale. To quote from the article linked to here, “Ebbw Vale-based Monwel has picked up three awards in recognition of its success in turning a loss-making public sector service into a profit-making social enterprise in the space of just over a year.” It gets better: “The road traffic sign manufacturer won the Large Social Enterprise category and shared best overall Social Enterprise 2010-2015, while managing director Leslie Barr also won the Women in Enterprise category.”

The bash in the Vale was organised by the “EU-funded South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, run by a six valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen”. Has anyone ever heard of this outfit? What the hell does it do . . . apart from organising bun fights awards ceremonies? In fairness, the SEWCED website does claim to have created 100 jobs . . . a figure that presumably includes the 30+ being made redundant at Monwel. Not a lot for the £6.4m SEWCED claims to have invested, but then, awards ceremonies don’t come cheap . . .

The article also informs us that Mrs Barr “ran her own bridal and evening wear and children’s clothing business” which, the Argus article goes on to tell us, gave her the “experience to help Monwel become a social enterprise away from local authority control”! Of course it did, measuring women up for wedding dresses and hiring out tuxedos and kilts is the perfect training for the intimately related activity of bashing out road signs.

More to the point, these awards were being showered on Mrs Barr and Monwel when the company was already in deep schtuck. And if Monwel was regarded as an exemplar among social enterprises, what the hell does that tell us about the rest of them? Dishing out prizes to Monwel is like awarding Best Bird in Show to John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue!

Clearly, Monwel is another for us to add to the already long list of failed social enterprises and Third Sector funding sink-holes. And it may not end there. Earlier in this post I referred to Rainbow Community Enterprises in Tredegar. This is run by Wayne Andrews, husband of recently-resigned Monwel director Colleen Andrews, who at one time was herself a director at Rainbow. According to Company Check, Rainbow’s net worth has declined from £-4,630 in 2012 to £-11,635 in 2013 to £-15,931 in 2014. This is another ‘company’ hurtling to oblivion. It came close last September, when a notification of strike-off appeared in the London Gazette, only to be discontinued a month later. The two directors (in addition to Andrews) are Ian Marc Anthony Morgan and Raymond Davies.

Rainbow Community Enterprises

Morgan appears to be a young employee with no other directorships, but Raymond Davies has been involved in a number of companies in the area, among them Graig Rhosyn Cleaning Services Ltd of Bedwas, now known as grcleaning, Company Number 06828778. His time as a director, which ended in December last year, overlapped for a few months with Colleen Andrews, who remains a director. And guess what? – yes, grcleaning is also funded by SEWCED! Despite the change of name, and the glowing report in the Argus, grcleaning is another company where liabilities exceed combined assets and cash.

Curiously, Rainbow Community Enterprises shares an address with C A Metal Recycling Ltd, which appears to be a commercial outfit with just one director – Wayne Andrews. Although the Registered Address for C A Metal Recycling Ltd is a private house in New Tredegar the company operates out of Unit 15A of the Capital Valley Eco Park in Rhymni. Rainbow’s address is Unit 15. The private address in New Tredegar, and the added ‘A’, are attempts to disguise that the two companies share premises. Further established by the fact that the telephone number given on the (one-page) Rainbow website, above, is the same number as that given for C A Metal Recycling in the extract from Google, below.

Should a social enterprise in receipt of public funding share premises with a private company, and should the owner of that private company also be a director of the social enterprise? I have never come across an arrangement like this before.

In fact, I cannot believe that those disbursing the EU funding would not have raised objections to this undesirable proximity, unless of course the funding was distributed by the local representatives of the South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, in other words, the local Labour Party machine. Googling Rainbow Community Enterprises brings up what you see in the panel below.

C A Google

Almost as an aside, one who left the board of Rainbow at the end of last year was John Michael Bungay. Despite his unusual name it’s difficult to get information on Bungay other than that he lives up on the border, in or near a village called Coedway. He was also, for eight months in 2007, director at Torino Enterprises, Company No 03754420 which, despite the name (Torino being Turin in Italian), is based in Capel Bangor, just outside Aberystwyth, and is run by Edward Phillip Owen Evans and Howard Wyn Evans. Torino is in the business of warehousing and storage units. The first notification of strike-off action for Torino appeared in the London Gazette on June 11th.

But then, according to Yell (see below) and other sources, there seems to be another Torino Enterprises in Rhymni! Not only that, but it is based in Unit 15 of the Capital Valley Eco Park, and described as a ‘property management company’. Bloody hell! it must be getting crowded in Unit 15, what with Rainbow, C A Metal Recycling and now Torino all jostling for space. Not only that but Bungay was simultaneously working for Rainbow and Torino! Who pays the rent? Or is the unit rent free, seeing as Rainbow is a social enterprise? Or maybe Rainbow owns Unit 15?

Torino Yell

It’s difficult to understand what’s going on here. Googling ‘Torino Enterprises’ brings up only the Gwent operation. Yet Companies House and Company Check both tell us that the company is registered to the address in Capel Bangor. (There was another Torino Enterprises in Wexford, Ireland, though this seems to be dissolved, with no information available.)

There is clearly a connection, if only via John Michael Bungay, between Torino Enterprises of Aberystwyth and whatever is going on under the same name in Rhymni. Despite leaving the Capel Bangor operation in 2007 was he still representing Torino Enterprises years later in Gwent? And is there a connection between the impending demise of Monwel, the striking off of Torino Enterprises, and the near-certain collapse of Rainbow in the very near future? If there’s no connection then it’s one hell of a coincidence.

I mentioned that the mysterious Mr Bungay lived up near the border, well, very fittingly his address is given as Tŷ Cudd (the secret or hidden house).

No matter where we look in this Gwent tale we find the dirty fingers of ‘Welsh’ Labour everywhere. Dishing out EU funding to ‘social enterprises’ that have Labour councillors and supporters as directors and management. These social enterprises then give each other ‘work’ in the vain hope that this sleight of hand, this shuffling money around, will be mistaken for genuine economic activity.

In truth, it is just another example of how Labour controls Wales through its dependency culture. EU funding that is supposed to be invested in real business, and infrastructure, and training, is being cynically employed to create a whole sector of Welsh life beholden to, and therefore loyal to, the Labour Party. An incestuous, unproductive and, inevitably, corrupt sector of our national life.

Aug 062015
 

A Guest Post by ‘Blodyn Tatws’

(Illustrations supplied by ‘Green Fingers’ Jac showing some of the gems you might encounter at the Garden)

The National Botanic Garden of Wales germinated as an idea in the 1990s and opened its gates to the public in May 2000. In common with so many of the other projects which saw the light of day under Tony “Things can only get better” Blair, it was sold to the public on an entirely unrealistic prospectus that it would become financially self-sustaining and shower economic benefits on Wales. It has never come close to achieving either of those objectives, and it never will.Common Flim-flam Flower

To what extent the Garden can claim to be a national garden for Wales is also debatable, and it bears all the hallmarks of those countless third sector charities and trusts whose primary purpose seems to be to find something to do for members of the British establishment now that the market for sahibs and memsahibs has dried up.

Faced with low visitor numbers and dependent on annual subsidies from the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council, the Garden is now attempting a new throw of the dice to reverse its fortunes with a £6.7 million scheme based on a truly weird reading of Welsh history, which on closer inspection seems to have rather more to do with celebrating the history of merchant banking and the arcane world of the City of London.

UP THE GARDEN PATH

In June of this year, Carmarthenshire’s county councillors were treated to a 30 minute Powerpoint presentation by Dr Rosie Plummer, Director of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, as she took them on a whistle stop tour of claims, few of which were backed up by evidence and some of which simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Dr Plummer is nothing if not enthusiastic, and after a few words in Welsh (Rosie is proud of the O Level she took when she moved here), the rest of the spiel sounded like a games mistress addressing the Roedean junior lacrosse team with a sideline in corporate bullshit-bingo doublespeak. Our Rosie is very fond of words such as terrific, fantastic, cutting-edge, collaborative, strategic, tremendous and massive. “We are strategic!” she exclaimed at one point in what she obviously considered to be a slam-dunk argument, and the councillors duly gave her warm applause.

In an oblique reference to an earlier row about the Garden’s attitude towards the Welsh language, Dr Plummer declared that the Garden was massively respectful of the Welsh language, but failed to explain why her marketing manager had effectively told a well-known local broadcaster to bugger off when she asked politely for a bilingual version of a newsletter, or why the Garden had taken to putting up English-only signs to advertise various events.

MORE DOSH, PLEASE

Rosie was clearly much too well brought up to mention to rank-and-file councillors that she would be heading back to County Hall shortly to ask the council’s top brass for some of the cash for the £6.7 million scheme, an extension of the garden’s £1.3 million interest-free loan and a commitment to renewing the council’s annual subsidy.

By the by, there is also an interesting arrangement with the council whereby if the local authority ever sells three farmhouses currently occupied for free by the Garden, the capital recOffshore Orchideipts will go to the Garden, rather than the council.

And so, a couple of weeks later the Executive Board of Carmarthenshire County Council sat down to consider Rosie’s request. To its credit, and for the first time in recorded history, the word “consider” did not mean “rubber-stamp”. The council decided that future funding of the Garden should be dependent on a less cavalier attitude to the Welsh language, and that Dr Plummer should consider offering all-year discounted entry tickets to the local peasantry rather than allowing them in once a year for free in January when there is nothing to see.

If that was not embarrassing enough, the council also opined that the Garden needed to become more financially self-sustaining by attracting families and improving its marketing.

WELSH NOT

For several weeks all went quiet, but the leopard was not about to change its spots, and at the end of July it emerged that Dr Plummer had refused to meet representatives of Cymdeithas yr Iaith unless they provided their own interpreter at their own cost, adding that she would be willing to participate in such a meeting only as long as this process did not restrict the free exchange of ideas.

Separately, Dr Plummer told Cymdeithas that they should stop sending her e-mails in Welsh as English was her preferred language. When it was pointed out to her that the garden was committed to providing a service in Welsh under its language policy, Dr Plummer replied that the policy had been entered into voluntarily.

When the BBC tried to interview her about this, they were told that Dr Plummer’s busy schedule meant she had no time.

Cymdeithas has now written to Carwyn Jones to remind him that his government’s agreement on continued funding of the Garden contains conditions about the use of the language, and asking him to take steps to make the Garden meet its commitments.

Being the National Botanic Garden of Wales does not extend to paying anything more than lip service to the Welsh language or culture, and in reality it is much more interested in marketing itself to visitors from England.

WEEDS AND STALE BARA BRITHLaburnum

Visitor numbers have been on the slide since Dr Plummer took over the running of the Gardens. The Garden is understandably reluctant to publish details, but according to a council report there were just 147,000 in the year to March 2015, despite 2014 being an unusually warm summer. That works out at about 400 per day. Back in 2009-10 income from admission fees was £445,000. In 2013-14, the most recent year for which published accounts are available, it was down to just £368,000. In 2013-14 the Garden received subsidies and grants from national and local government to the tune of £1,335,000, and without that and dipping into its reserves, the Garden would have to close its gates for good.

The closest Dr Plummer got to talking about visitor numbers in her pep talk to councillors was a picture of a little girl skipping for joy, but she was in no doubt that the Garden was vital to the local economy.

A more realistic picture of what visitors think of the Garden can be gained from Tripadvisor. Some enjoy their days out, and some are positively ecstatic, but then they would probably have given rave reviews to Basil and Sybil after a weekend at Fawlty Towers.

More worrying for the Botanic Garden is a thread which runs through most of the less positive reviews: this is a Garden which suffers from a distinct shortage of plants, with vast areas given over to grass, and a surprisingly shabby entrance area.

“It was all rather drab, and that was on a bright day,” said one visitor, while a couple of others noted their disappointment after a trip in March to see what the Garden’s promotional literature said would be 50 kinds of daffodil. Others complained of stale bara brith and weeds in the vegetable garden.

As amateur gardeners in Carmarthenshire know, unless you have a very favoured spot, most of us won’t see daffs in our gardens much before the end of March.

Mawrth a ladd, Ebrill a fling (March kills and April flays), says the old Welsh proverb. And they knew what they were talking about.

But Dr Plummer and her board have a big idea to transform the Garden’s fortunes.

A VISION

Dr Plummer’s presentation did include a reference to a £6.75 million project called “Middleton: Paradise Regained” (geddit, all you readers with English A Levels?) which has won initial funding from the National Lottery and a pledge of around £1.4 million from a businessman called Richard Broyd, the Mercers’ Company in the City of London and a couple of other charities.

The lottery grant was awarded in 2014, but the Garden is still about £5 million short of its target, and Dr Plummer warned that if the additional funds could not be found, there was a risk that the dosh could go to Kent.

If the project does get the go-ahead, it will join the once state-of-the-art bio sciences centre aPetuniat the site in Llanarthne, now unoccupied and looking for new tenants. It was built under the Welsh Government’s disastrous Technium scheme which was enthusiastically overseen by Cllr Meryl Gravell, the veteran former leader of the county council. Technium may have gone the way of Nineveh and Tyre in an orgy of what in some cases amounted to large scale fraud, but Meryl is still with us and is enthusiastically backing her new friend Rosie.

Dr Plummer was pretty miffed about the first round of criticism of the Garden’s attitude towards the Welsh language in April, and issued a regal statement at the time to tick off the ungrateful locals:

“It is therefore enormously disappointing to be subject to such vigorous approaches that largely seem to overlook the very wide range of ways in which the garden actively contributes to bringing the unique importance of Wales to everyone who visits”, she declared.

So how Welsh is the garden and its vision for the 21st century?

CARMARTHENSHIRE OLD SPICE

Rather than spending a bit of time and money on those planty things and weeding, the great and good who run the place have hit on the idea of putting a lot of the site under water and doing a bit of archaeology to recreate a vision of Regency England Wales which will somehow incorporate the massive glass and steel dome designed by Norman Foster when he was in his glass and steel dome phase (see the Berlin Reichstag).

This historical justification for this is set out in a gushing press release to celebrate the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims “to tell the story of more than 250 years of East India Company influence that shaped the landscape of this part of Wales”, it purrs.

According to Rob Thomas, the Garden’s Head of Development, this is an “incredible story of pirates, plague and plants for health”, set at a time “when nutmeg and mace were worth more than their weight in gold”.

As we shall see, this is indeed a truly incredible yarn.

The chair of the HLF’s Welsh committee added that the project would help people learn about the history of the site and “the little known links the East India Company had to the area”.

So little known that they had escaped the attention of everybody else, including the late Dr John Davies, whose magisterial History of Wales does not contain a single reference to the Company or its influence on Wales.

A HISTORY LESSON

As far as the Garden is concerned, the history of the site began in the first half of the 17th century when the estate was bought by a Mr Henry Middleton.

The Middletons, or Myddletons, were municipal bigwigs in Chester under the Tudors, possibly originally from Oswestry, and a couple of them spotted an opportunity to cash in on the burgeoning spice trade under Elizabeth I. The most famous of these was Sir Henry Middleton whoSassafras led a series of very lucrative and often violent expeditions to Asia. Sir Henry died childless after his final adventure, and his money was distributed among the large Middleton brood.

The Middletons’ association with the East India Company appears to have stopped at the death of Sir Henry, who as far as we know never went anywhere near Llanarthne. The Henry who bought the estate was probably a nephew.

The extent of the estate’s links with the East India Company up to the end of the 18th century was therefore that it was once owned by someone whose uncle made a lot of money out east.

Henry built a house on the site, and eventually the Middletons fizzled out. The Gwyns of Gwympa succeeded, but they lived beyond their means and the estate came up for sale in 1789 when it was acquired by William Paxton.

MONEY BAGS

Paxton was a Scot who rose up through the ranks of the East India Company to become Master of the Bengal Mint. In common with other Brit officers of the company, he amassed a huge fortune while running bits of India, and he ran a very lucrative sideline in helping other ex-pat plunderers to transfer their money back to Blighty.

Thus, it is claimed, Paxton laid the foundations of what was to become merchant banking, a branch of the banking industry which eventually morphed into investment banking, or as it is sometimes popularly known, casino banking.

Paxton’s main hobby was money, and there is nothing whatsoever to back up the Garden’s claim that the story of the estate is a tale intertwined with nutmegs, cloves and cinnamon.

East India Company men who made lots of money were known as ‘nabobs’ back home, and were about as popular with people at the time as investment bankers are today, although unlike their modern counterparts, they tended to wreck only the economies of other countries.

Nabobs generally liked to spend a few years out in India accumulating as much cash as they could before heading for home, where they would build mansions and buy their way into politics. Just like many modern Conservative Party donors, in fact.

This is exactly what Paxton did. Although he had never set foot in Wales before, he ended up buying the estate at Llanarthne in 1789, and shortly afterwards work began on a new neo-classical mansion.

The old Middleton Hall was turned into a farmhouse and then demolished, with much of the fabric being recycled for use in Paxton’s building projects. A study a few years back by the National Botanic Garden concluded that very little of the old house Cedar of Libornonremained to be uncovered apart from some foundations and bits of rubble, and yet uncovering what is left is one of the ideas behind the £6.7 million project.

Having built himself a house, Paxton turned his attention to the grounds, which he improved with a series of lakes and waterfalls.

His attempts to break into politics were less than successful, and he notoriously spent £15,000 (almost £500,000 in current values) on food and drink in the 1802 election trying, unsuccessfully, to become MP for Carmarthen. His investment paid off the following year, however, and he held the seat briefly until 1806.

To the horror of the National Dictionary of Biography, Paxton was the subject of scurrilous leaflets written by one of Jac o’ the North’s spiritual forbears in the 1807 election. There he was described as “an upstart nabob heedless of the interests of our native land”, a description which could be applied to a good many modern Tory and Labour MPs.

Paxton died in 1824, and the estate was sold on to a family which had made its fortune in the slave plantations of the West Indies, although that’s a bit of the garden’s history we are unlikely to be told about.

Architecture is a matter of taste, and Paxton’s house was relatively modest by the standards of the day. It was joined in the 19th century by a large number of other mansions of varying degrees of architectural merit dotted around Carmarthenshire, most of which are now long gone, ruined or in the advanced stages of decay.

Carmarthenshire proved to be not very fertile soil for the imported landed gentry, and Llanarthne was no exception.

Paxton’s house changed hands a couple of times before it was destroyed by fire in 1930. Only the servants’ wing survived, with the shell of the main house being bulldozed in the 1950s. The carefully restored servants’ quarters are, of course, out of bounds to the visiting public and now the domain of Dr Plummer.

The lakes were filled in just over a century after they were dug, and the county council became the new owner. There were no Meryl Gravells or Mark James’s around at the time, and so the estate was parcelled up into seven small farms which were then leased to families who wanted to get a foothold on the farming ladder.

PARADISE LOST AND REGAINED?

For just over sixty years, the Middleton estate reverted to being just a piece of rural Carmarthenshire, home to Welsh-speaking families who no doubt all had their own veg plots and modest gardens, only for the lot to be swept away in the New Labour era.

The life and work of the Welsh families who farmed on the site of the Garden will not featA Verr English Roseure in the “Paradise Regained” project which will instead celebrate colonial exploitation and the debt the world owes to merchant bankers.

Or as the Garden’s Head of Development, Rob Thomas, so eloquently put it, this “incredible” story spans “a period of 250 years of international trade from the times of barter and exchange to the establishment of international lines of credit and investment banking; the forging of the blueprint for our current capitalist system; and, in the hands of Sir William Paxton, the formation of modern investment banking.”

For any visitors wondering why the garden does not invest more in plants, the answer would seem to be that there is not enough money left after paying the salaries of all those spin doctors and heads of development.

It is no doubt purely a coincidence that the Garden’s trustees are headed up by an investment banker, Mr Rob Joliffe, who is currently Head of Emerging Markets for UBS, the Swiss banking giant, or that the funders include the Mercers’ Company, one of those arcane City of London old boys’ institutions.

Quite how any of this bears out Dr Plummer’s claim that the objective of the garden is to bring “the unique importance of Wales to everyone who visits” is anyone’s guess.

Aug 032015
 

Despite all that’s been written and said about the goings-on at Castell Aberteifi there always seems to be fresh information coming to light. This truly is the gift that keeps on giving, the sort of thing a humble blogger like me dreams of stumbling upon as he lies tossing and turning in his windy garret. As this saga lurches between farce and tragedy more and more ‘coincidences’ and ‘connections’ come to light; and as if that wasn’t enough, there are also the ironies the saga exposes that raise a chuckle.

Such as the fact that while Lady Tucker and her gang were adamant there should be as little archaeological work as possible carried out at ‘their’ castle, there is now a small army digging away and investigating them! And gems are coming to light. Well, laff.

For latecomers, let me explain that those who imposed their tyrannical grip on the running of the Cardigan Castle renovation project, and silenced or excluded dissenting voices, were totally opposed to any serious investigation into what might lie beneath the surface – in case they found something! That ‘something’ being anything of historical significance that could interfere with the Gang of Four’s ambition to turn Castell Aberteifi into a commercial ‘venue’, with little more than a nod to its fascinating past.

Yet remember! this rejection of history and heritage in favour of crass and very Gareth Gregoryunimaginative commercialism is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Or to be more exact, the Fund’s man on the job, wine-lover Gareth Owain Gregory. The word in the coffee-houses and taverns of old Aberteifi is that when he comes down to Cardigan for trustee meetings he stays at Tucker Towers in Aberporth, where Lady Tucker’s butler keeps his glass filled.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would have expected the representative of the major funder to maintain a discreet and professional distance from the recipients of his organisation’s funding.

Before leaving Mr Gregory, one of his friends up in Cardiff, and a colleague through the Menter Iaith movement, is Eryl Wyn Jones, managing director of Equinox Public Relations Ltd, the Castle’s PR company. I suggest no irregularity or impropriety, I merely observe yet another in a long list of ‘connections’.

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Another little mystery that has presented itself is the Castle’s IT contract. For a few years it has been known that ‘Clive’ from Cliand Computers in Chancery Lane has been doing the IT work at the Castle, so some assumed he’d been passed over when the contract was awarded to Dyfed IT Solutions Ltd.

Not so, for Clive Morris, is one of the three directors of Dyfed IT. The other two being Gareth William Robinson and Dean Houghton. The company seems to be registered at Houghton’s “nondescript detached house” in Aberarad, Castell Newydd Emlyn. The company was Incorporated on April 20th, 2013, and doesn’t appear to have done much since, unless of course Clive Morris has been running the Castle’s IT on behalf of Dyfed IT rather than Cliand.

Note that Louise Cowan’s tweet (below) is dated July 22nd, and she seems keen to stress that Dyfed IT Solutions is a local company. It may be worth remembering that by July 22nd I had already posted three articles about Cardigan Castle, and one of the major complaints locally was that little of the work at the Castle was going to local companies. For anyone wondering who Louise Cowan is, she’s the secretary at Cliand Computers.

DyfedIT 1 tweet

There’s more information on Dyfed It Solutions here. As for it being a local company, well, read on and make up your own mind. We know it’s registered office is in CNE, we know Clive Morris already had a computer business near to the Castle, and Dean Houghton may even have gone to school locally. But what of Robinson, who I suspect is the main man and driving force behind this enterprise?

Gareth William Robinson has over thirty companies to his name, most of which are now dissolved or no longer trading. He specialises in online businesses. The address normally given for Robinson is on a trading estate in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. In most of his business ventures he has had the same two partners, Andrew John Stevens and Douglas Stuart Scott. Stevens and Scott have been involved in over fifty companies each, though invariably in partnership.

Now by one of those quirks we have come to expect in this saga, Robinson, Stevens and Scott have come together again, this time in the Cardigan area, at Morfa Green, Llangrannog. This being the registered address for Broody Media Ltd., Company No 05889172. This company was Incorporated on July 27th 2006 but is dormant. Why would these three dotcom whizzkids turn up in Ceredigion? And why, when and how did Clive Morris link up with them?

One answer would be that Robinson has property in the area; to be precise, Bryn Berwyn at Tresaith. Here it is advertised in English Country Cottages. (He is also rumoured to have a place for himself at Aberporth.) Though of course, people like Robinson rarely own property in their own name, so Bryn Berwyn is owned by a company named Oakley Consultants Ltd, Incorporated March 16th 2005, Company No 05394028. Bryn Berwyn is almost certainly Oakley Consultants Ltd‘s only asset. The two directors of Oakley are Robinson and, I assume, his wife.

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Why is the IT contract important? some may ask. Because, I would argue, here we see more evidence of a pattern I have previously commented on when it comes to how Cardigan Castle awards contracts and makes appointments. It’s a system in which who you know is everything. And if you know the Gang of Four then you’re in the money.

First, let us ask if the IT contract was it properly advertised? I don’t know, but some tell me it was never advertised. If anyone has evidence of this contract being advertised then please send me a link. Another reason concerns are being raised is that, yet again, we see a contract going to someone, Gareth Robinson, who has no obvious connection with the town or the area but, yet again, this person has holiday accommodation up the coast and is almost certainly known to the Gang of Four.

And that might not be all. If we look at Gareth Robinson’s Linkedin profile we see that he did his A Levels at Ashford College. Ashford is a town in Kent, England . . . now who else do we know from Ashford? Why! Jonathan Timms, the mysterious contact for the Cadwgan Trust lives in Ashford . . . and he too has a holiday home just up the coast, and him being known to, and approved of, by Jann Tucker almost certainly explains his appointment.

This investigation into the goings-on at Cardigan Castle started out trying to figure out what was going on, then trying to make the connections between A and B. As those linkages have been established it begins to look more and more as if we are dealing with a network of well-heeled and well-connected persons who have taken over the Cardigan Castle project for the benefit of themselves and their friends.

To achieve this outcome they have, of necessity, excluded the uncouth locals, with their unreasonable demands that Cardigan Castle should have something to do with their town, and them; with its history, and with their identity. How unreasonable can you get!

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Let us end on a more cultural plane (well this is Eisteddfod week!) I have been sent rhymes that are currently being declaimed in the aforementioned coffee-houses and taverns. The limerick below refers to the response of trustee Hedydd Jones when it was suggested the Gorsedd should be allowed in to the accepted birthplace of the Eisteddfod. “Over my dead body”, she shrieked.

Dead body limerick

(Translation: ‘Only “Over my dead body / Will the Gorsedd come to Aberteifi, / Cadwgan has the reins; / We know the signs, / And it’s clear who reigns’.)

Now if I was a trustee I’d be getting worried at this development, because any student of Welsh history and culture could tell them that, when dealing with people, poetry is rarely neutral. Poems are not written about those who fail to excite the muse. Generally speaking, poetry either lauds, eulogises or ridicules. What I’ve been sent most definitely falls into the third category.

The other work will be accessible to those without the language. It is entitled The Ballad of Castell Aberteifi, penned by A. W. Minstrel (Ms), a promising young rhymester.

Ballad Aberteifi

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Footnote: As you can see in the sidebar, this blog is hosted by www.sccambria.com, a contract that of course went out to tender (seeing as this blog receives official funding). On Saturday night Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria got a curious complaint that my blog was racist towards “English citizens living in Wales”. Obviously an attempt to get this blog closed down.

When I checked out the e-mail address from which the silly message came Pipl suggested it had come from an arty individual – previously unknown to me – living in Aberporth. (Where else!) Obviously this man would be known to Lady Tucker and her underlings from living in the same village, and via other routes, such as Oriel Mwldan in Aberteifi.

UPDATE: It has now been confirmed beyond peradventure that the sender of the silly e-mail was indeed the Aberporth ‘artist’. The only question now is, did he do it of his own volition, or was he put up to it by the Gang of Four? Is the fight getting dirty?

As I said in an earlier post, it really is a small world . . . especially in Cardigan and the villages to the north of the town. And the world seems to contract dramatically once you start asking who knows who in the Cardigan Castle saga.