Oct 292015
 
A GUEST POST ON THE POLITICAL CLASS OF CARMARTHENSHIRE, NOW BEING USED BY WOULD-BE TYRANTS EVERYWHERE TO PROVE THAT DEMOCRACY IS A CRUEL DECEPTION

 

Jeremy Corbyn may have won the Labour leadership contest, and Labour may have seen an unexpectedly large influx of new members, but how much has really changed at local branch level?

Nothing at all if we examine “Welsh” Labour. Take Labour in Carmarthenshire, for example.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Immediately after the general election the knives came out for party veteran Kevin Madge, who was also leader of the County Council. The contest was widely regarded as a tussle between the party’s Amman Valley and Llanelli factions, but it later emerged that at least one of Madge’s assassins was much closer to home.

Kevin Madge has spent his entire career of almost 40 years as a full-time Labour councillor, and for most of the last ten years he enjoyed a generous “senior salary” as a member and then leader of the council’s Executive Board, or cabinet, in bed with Meryl Gravell and her Independent rag-bag army of reactionary grannies, rich retired farmers, opportunists and assorted hangers-on.

The rambling, incoherent Madge was never the brightest lamp post in the street, although decades spent wrangling in smoke-filled Labour committee back-rooms clearly taught him a few survival skills.

Meryl and her acolytes sized up their man, clasped him to their ample bosoms, and a long love affair was born in which Madge was nothing more than an impotent mascot pinned to the bonnet of the municipal limousine chauffeured by Chief Executive Mark James, with Lady Gravell ensconced on the plush leather back seat.

Madge Gravell

The result was a scandal-prone, seedy dictatorship which turned Carmarthenshire into an Eldorado for companies sheltering in tax havens, assorted fraudsters, funny handshake merchants, con-artists and big business rip-off merchants, while ordinary voters were left to scrape a living on the minimum wage.

Top council jobs were and still are the preserve of outsiders, swathes of rural communities had the guts ripped out of them as they lost their schools, shops and pubs, the young and talented left in droves for the brighter lights of the big cities, and the Welsh language suffered a catastrophic decline. CBEs, OBEs and MBEs showered down on the elite and their supporters.

Kevin Madge didn’t see it like that, of course, but what eventually did for him was a growing realisation that the party was on a one-way street to electoral disaster as Madge found himself championing a string of extremely unpopular policies, including massive hikes in charges for using council-owned sports pitches, bowling greens and other facilities.

Voters could no longer see the difference between Madge’s party and the crypto-Tories he had snuggled up to for so long.

Having lost the top job, Kevin Madge disappeared from public view for a couple of weeks before returning to the council chamber to blub his way through an interminable valedictory ramble listing his supposed achievements. He now sits on the backbenches nursing his grudges and sharpening his knives.

Madge’s replacement as Labour leader on Carmarthenshire County Council is the very lugubrious Jeff Edmunds whose main activity when not being a councillor is as pastor of a spiritualist church. His expertise in contacting the dead may yet come in very handy.

But the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on. Jeremy Corbyn is now party leader, and in Carmarthenshire the party is reorganising itself. It’s all change, or rather the deckchairs are being rearranged.

A recipe for success

Kevin Madge has just been appointed chair of a new “super branch” encompassing the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys, presumably because someone believes that he is a vote winner.

When he stood for election in the 2007 Assembly election, Kevin Madge saw Labour’s share of the vote decline from 31% to 24%. In 2012 when Labour was bouncing back in local government elections from the catastrophe of the Brown years everywhere else, Labour lost ground in Kevin Madge’s stomping ground in the Amman Valley. In 2015 Carmarthen East and Dinefwr was one of Labour’s top target seats, and the election was contested by Kevin Madge’s young protégé, Calum Higgins. Whereas Labour saw modest advances in most parts of Wales, Madge and Higgins saw Plaid Cymru returned with a significantly increased majority as Labour voters stayed away or switched to Ukip.

Prior to the influx of new members brought about by the recent Labour leadership campaign, Labour’s constituency branches were in dire shape – in Carmarthenshire as in other parts of Wales. Party activists were reduced to a gnarled rump of grizzled veterans with a very sparse sprinkling of younger blood.

Why anyone under the age of 60 would have wanted to join “Welsh” Labour before May 2015 is a question worth asking. The party was about as attractive to average 20-somethings as joining a bowls club, playing bingo or going to a 1950s night at the local working men’s club.

There are strange and rather sad young people who do all those things, but they are few and far between.

The answer is, of course, that unlike bowls clubs and the like, “Welsh” Labour runs a system of patronage which offers all sorts of goodies for anyone who is prepared to go to committee meetings and put up with the smell of wee and the company of poisonous old power junkies.

Open all hours

Let’s meet Shahid Hussain over in Kevin Madge’s heartland in Cwmaman.

Kevin shahid

Shahid is in his early thirties and a budding entrepreneur who runs a garage and a couple of shops. Back in 2012 he stood for election to the County Council. “I’m sexy and I know it”, he told his Twitter followers, who were treated to his views on women, “yids”, rugby (“gay porn”) and older people. Referring to his Plaid opponent, Shahid predicted he would so kick his ass that he might “pop a hip or something”.

Shahid was very proud of the coverage he had been getting in the local rag, but he quickly achieved press coverage which few Welsh politicians, even the heavyweights, could ever dream of. He even made it big on the other side of the Atlantic.

Labour reacted by telling Shahid to delete his Twitter account and tut-tutting. Kevin Madge blamed it all on the “dangerous” Twitter rather than the unpleasant idiot using it, and days later he was back out campaigning for his boy.

Fortunately for the people of Cwmaman, it was Shahid’s ass that was kicked, but all was not lost because he remained a member of Cwmaman Town Council.

The unfortunate Twitter episode was quickly forgotten, and this year Shahid rose to become mayor, from which lofty position he has continued to make waves.

At a public meeting chaired by Shahid to discuss relocating the town’s post office, he opposed a proposal to move it to the community centre.

Kevin Madge shifted uncomfortably and suggested to his boy that he perhaps ought to declare an interest here, as Shahid was known to be seeking the post office franchise for his garage.

“What is this fucking shit?” shouted Shahid, outraged at the implication that there might be anything wrong with using public office to further his business interests.

Not long after that, matters came to a head again when Shahid opposed a planning application for a convenience store run by a partner of Tesco, forgetting to mention that he had submitted his own plans for a convenience store nearby.

At a stormy meeting on 23 October, the town council approved a vote of no confidence in its mayor, by 11 votes to 1. The only councillor to have confidence in the mayor was, erm, Shahid himself. The next stop is expected to be a formal complaint to the Ombudsman.

If this does bring his career in Labour to an end, Shahid can at least be confident of a warm welcome from Ukip.

Shahid is one of Labour’s young guns, but perhaps we should not be too harsh because the older generation of Labour councillors has not always set a good example.

UPDATE 30.10.2015: Despite a near-unanimous vote of no confidence (11 to one, with one abstention), Shahid Hussain is refusing to resign as mayor of Cwmaman, according to a report in the Carmarthenshire Herald today. The matter will now be referred to the Ombudsman for Public Services with all the attendant lengthy delays and legal costs that that will entail.

Dead donkeys

Step forward the reptilian Keri Thomas, Labour’s veteran councillor for Tyisha, Llanelli.

Keri Thomas has been known to drink more than the occasional glass of shandy, and in 2011 he fell seriously ill before receiving a liver transplant.

He took a year off on full pay from the council with the Chief Executive’s blessing. Despite being too ill to campaign, he was nevertheless selected to stand in the 2012 election once again, and was successfully returned, proving the old adage that you could put a red rosette on a dead donkey and it would still romp home in most of Labour’s strongholds.

Thomas recovered sufficiently to take up work again after the 2012 election, and he was soon lashing out at Llanelli’s Polish community for their drinking habits. Unfortunately, a little more than a year later the occasional tipple was starting to take its toll again, and for most of the last two years he has rarely been seen in County Hall except for meetings of the planning committee of which he was a member until recently.

Keri Thomas remains a councillor and, incredibly, a member of one of the scrutiny committees.

Readers of this blog were recently shocked by John Bayliss’s 27% attendance record in Swansea, but Keri Thomas is on course for the worst attendance of any councillor in Wales. According to the council’s own statistics, he has notched up an attendance record of 0% since they began publishing performance data in August.

Staying in Llanelli for a moment, let’s meet Dafen Dolly, or Tegwen Devichand as she is more formally known. Tegwen has led a colourful life, and despite very humble beginnings has managed to become quite a wealthy woman and the grande dame of Llanelli Labour politics.

Dafen Dolly

One of her protégées was Theressa Bowen, a local woman and party activist, and thanks to Tegwen, Theressa became a Labour county councillor for the first time in 2012. Unfortunately a very bitter falling out ensued, with Tegwen accusing Theressa of stealing a stash of valuable jewellery from her home.

Nothing came of the accusation, and no charges were brought, but Theressa promptly upped and left Labour to join Meryl’s Independents. Meryl and Tegwen are not exactly best friends, and Meryl welcomed Theressa with open arms, not least because the defection put Labour and the Independents on level pegging in the County Council. Meryl even let Theressa stay in her exclusive Spanish villa.

The simmering dispute between Tegwen and Theressa boiled over again earlier this year in a very public row in which the two women accused each other of assault, and both complained to the poor old Ombudsman.

The rise, fall, and rise of Ryan

Our trip started in Cwmaman before reaching Llanelli. All aboard for the next stop in Kidwelly where a by-election has been called for 19 November following the death of the previous Labour incumbent.

This is the first Carmarthenshire by-election to be held under the new Corbynista Labour Party, and with all those new members, you would think the party would have been able to come up with an attractive candidate.

Fair play, they did at least try. One new member who had signed up so that he could vote for Jeremy was surprised to receive an e-mail asking if he would like to stand in Kidwelly, even though he lives as far away from Kidwelly as you can get in Carmarthenshire, and has never set foot in the town.

Which brings us to the cautionary tale of Ryan Thomas.

Ryan became a member of Kidwelly Town Council at the tender age of 24, and by 2014 he was deputy mayor and a rising star. A bit like Shahid, in fact.

Ryan and Nia

Unfortunately things went pear-shaped for him at last year’s mayor-making ceremony when he became tired and emotional, made some very rude comments about the mayor’s wife to a young man who turned out to be her son and then groped a 19-year old woman.

The police became involved, charges were eventually laid, and Ryan was committed to trial.

In the meantime, Ryan was suspended by the Labour Party and he resigned from the council.

British justice ground its way slowly, as usual, and many months passed until the morning of the trial itself when Ryan suddenly realised that it had all been a terrible mistake. He made a formal apology which was accepted by the young woman who had waited in vain for so long, and charges were dropped. The judge dismissed the case and entered a verdict of not guilty.

For those readers who sometimes wonder about the subtleties of the legal system, this neatly illustrates the difference between “not guilty” and “innocent”.

That was in August, and there was jubilation in the public gallery as Ryan walked free. He now finds himself selected to stand as the Labour candidate for his town in November.

(Jac says: ‘What an indictment this is of the English judicial system. The horny little sod confessed, eventually, to indecent assault – but was then found ‘not guilty’! When I come to power anyone suspected of being a Labour Party member will – after receiving a good kicking – be sent off for two years of re-education, where this blog will be compulsory reading. Oh yes.’)

CLARIFICATION (see comments) 05.11.2015: In court Ryan Thomas said, “I accept that I was intoxicated and that my conduct may have been inappropriate as a result” . . . “I wish to apologise for any offence caused.” So let us accept that he was found not guilty of groping. And I may have got the charge wrong, though different reports use different terms, including ‘groping’. The fact remains that he apologised for having done something, so what did he apologise for?

A new boy

To find a truly fresh-faced new hopeful on the Labour scene in Carmarthenshire, we will have to return to Llanelli where Lee Waters, until recently director of the Institute for Welsh Affairs, has thrown his hat into the ring to replace Keith Davies as Assembly Member for Llanelli next year. Party-loving Keith is retiring, presumably to spend more time with his Chardonnay.

As director of the IWA, which likes to describe itself as an independent think tank, and a former ITV chief political correspondent, Lee Waters has been able to observe the inner workings of the Labour Party at close quarters, and he will be even more aware than most of the party’s dismal record since 1999, so his decision to throw in his lot with the freak show in Carmarthenshire is hard to see as anything other than a career move.

Neither Waters nor any of the other exhibits we have examined could be described as part of the Corbynite new wave, so where does this leave all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new converts and idealists?

The idea that Kevin Madge, Dolly Dafen or any of the other grizzled old guard and their young clients are about to release their grip on the party and hand the reins to a group of newcomers is about as realistic as Jeremy’s chances of entering 10 Downing Street.

Oct 272015
 

THEN THERE WAS ONE

In my previous post I mentioned that concerns are growing for the whereabouts and reputation of Labour councillor John Charles Bayliss of Swansea. Well, I’m afraid that fresh information only confirms that those fears were well founded.

To recap: John Charles Bayliss came to Swansea as a student, possibly in 2009. He and other students were recruited, in advance of the May 2012 council elections, to support the man who went on to become council leader after Labour won those elections, David ‘Il Duce‘ Phillips (of whom I have written more than once). This recruiting was perhaps done through Phillips’ wife Sybil Crouch, also a councillor, who works at Swansea university.

Among others recruited in this manner were Pearleen Sangha and Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Theaker. Another former student in this coterie of juvenile councillors was Nick Bradley. Phillips and Crouch are from Liverpool, Sangha from California, Bayliss is from Sussex, Bradley from the West Midlands, and Theaker may actually be from somewhere in Wales, though not Swansea. (Read more about them here.) So all were perfectly qualified to run a city they know sod all about. But that’s the state of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party today, it just cannot find enough local candidates.

Phillips

After two disastrous years in charge Phillips was overthrown in a palace coup. (Here’s an example of how his clique operated.) While mooching around waiting for the job offers to pour in the former council boss tried his hand at fly-tipping before sinking into the obscurity he so richly deserved. Their leader and inspiration thrown down Phillips’ young acolytes started moving out of Swansea, leaving only John Charles Bayliss. Now fears grow that Bayliss has also departed . . . but may be trying to shield the citizenry from the welcome truth sad news.

THE BOY DONE GOOD . . .

Some unkind souls were wont to think that John Boy was nigh-on unemployable, and quite happy to subsist on his council allowances (with perhaps help from his parents) while pursuing his real passions of LGBT causes and enjoying himself. (Though, curiously, all references to his previous enthusiasm for Gay issues have been scrubbed from his Twitter account and other records. How very strange!)

But then, seemingly out of the blue, he found himself a position with flim-flam merchants a PR company called the Remarkable Group. According to the Swansea council website this new position was declared on April 30th this year and officially added to the Register of Members’ Interests on May 6th. Bayliss is now employed as an ‘Account Executive’, but we are not told which account(s) he has responsibility for.

Bayliss Remarkable

Though as I stated in my previous post, I have no doubt that Bayliss was recruited by Remarkable because he is a councillor in Swansea, and in order to ease through the currently stalled Mynydd y Gwair wind farm project for Remarkable’s client RWE Innogy.

 . . . BUT NOT IN SWANSEA

Not long after this appointment Bayliss changed his address from a flat in a house of multiple occupation in Cwmdonkin Terrace, in the Uplands ward he represents, to Cambrian Place in the Maritime Quarter (see picture below); in fact, the very pad where his friend and former council colleague, Mitch Theaker, had lived, vacated when Theaker went to work in the Gulf. But does he really live there? Because it could well be – as was suggested in an e-mail I received on Sunday – that Bayliss works in Bristol during the week and comes back to Swansea after finishing work on Friday. Then again, he might have moved to Bristol altogether and is simply using the Cambrian Place address to deceive people into thinking he still lives in Swansea.

Either way, for a fit and healthy young man with no obvious calls on his time, such as children or elderly parents, and living just a skip and a jump from the civic centre, John Charles Bayliss’s attendance record is appalling . . . or certainly it has become appalling since he got the job in Bristol working on the Mynydd y Gwair wind farm project.

A comment to the previous post by ‘Jobovitch’ tells us that, prior to his taking up employment in Bristol, Bayliss had an attendance record of close on 96%. So I checked, and he’s right. Between 09.11.2014 and 04.05.2016 John Bayliss had an attendance record of 96%, present at 24 out of 25 meetings he was expected to attend. And in the period before that it was 94%. And we find it was also 94% if we go back another six months.

Yet during the most recent six months, the period 04.05.2015 to 27.10.2015, his attendance record plummeted to 27%, to the point where his record was the worst bar just one. (Set out in this document supplied by a reader.)

Cambrian Place

This dramatic change in the attendance record of councillor John Charles Bayliss can be attributed to only one thing: his job with the Remarkable Group, that requires him to live in Bristol.

And yet, at a meeting on May 19th Bayliss was elected vice-chair of the Economy & Investment Cabinet Advisory Committee . . . even though he wasn’t there! He missed further meetings of this committee on June 17th (‘Apologies received’); July 15th (‘Absent’); August 19th (‘Absent’); but he did turn up for the Glyndŵr Day meeting, of what had now been renamed the Development Cabinet Advisory Committee, perhaps because the very first item on the agenda was that, ‘ . . . Councillor J C Bayliss be elected (again?) Vice Chair for the remainder of the Municipal Year’ (’til May 2016). As might be expected, he missed the most recent meeting on October 21st (‘Apologies received’).

Why the hell would the Labour Party in Swansea be so keen to install as vice-chair of an important committee a councillor they must know no longer lives in the city and is not going to turn up for meetings? Does the clue lie with his new employer?

CALCULATIONS

At this point some reading this might be asking, ‘Hang on, if the decision to block the Mynydd y Gwair wind farm was taken at Assembly level, where’s the advantage to the developers in recruiting a Swansea councillor?’ Well, if you read the reasons for turning down the application you’ll see that it hinged on the land lost by the commoners being replaced with acceptable grazing land. This is still being worked on, and the application will almost certainly be re-submitted.

In addition, Bayliss’s great friend and former councillor in the Uplands ward, Pearleen Sangha, is now living and working in Cardiff – for the Labour Party. We can be sure that Bayliss and Sangha, both wind energy fanatics, are in regular contact . . . and who’s to say she isn’t pushing Mynydd y Gwair to persons in or close to the ‘Welsh’ Government? Additionally, Swansea council passed the Mynydd y Gwair application in February 2013 by just three votes. Among those who voted for the application were Bayliss’s friends, Mitchell Theaker, Pearleen Sangha and Nick Bradley . . . all of whom have departed. Council leader at the time David Phillips was also a big supporter, but he’s no longer in a position to threaten, cajole or bribe Labour councillors.

It could well be that if Mynydd y Gwair came before Swansea council tomorrow it would be rejected. That would be a disaster for the developers, because in dealing with the ‘Welsh’ Government one of its strong cards is, ‘Swansea council is in favour’. But things have changed, and that’s why RWE Innogy and Remarkable need a Swansea councillor to tell them who’s for and, more importantly, who’s against – in other words, who they need to work on. This explains why Remarkable recruited John Bayliss.

Though you have to wonder why so many self-declared socialists in the Labour Party in Swansea are keen to cover bleak but lovely Mynydd y Gwair with wind turbines for the benefit of the Beaufort Estate (Prop. Duke of Beaufort). Why is that? Could it be partly personal?

Mynydd y Gwair

I ask because Mynydd y Gwair lies within Mawr, the most rural and sparsely-populated of Swansea’s wards, represented for almost thirty years by Ioan Richard of Craigcefnparc, once a Plaid Cymru councillor (on the old Lliw Valley District Council), like so many genuine nationalists Ioan gave up on Plaid Cymru long ago and has, since local government reorganization in 1996, sat as an Independent on the new City and County of Swansea council.

It would be fair to say that the Labour Party in Swansea doesn’t much like Ioan, he’s been a thorn in their flesh for years. They’ve repaid him in various ways, not least by blocking him from becoming Lord Mayor when his turn came up about a decade ago, a move supported – cheered on, even – by the four councillors Plaid Cymru then had on Swansea council, all of whom have now, thankfully, fallen by the wayside. A procedural change from party political voting to elevation on a simple calculation of seniority finally allowed Ioan to wear the chain in 2011. Ironically, perhaps, the year after next should see David ‘Il Duce‘ Phillips become Lord Mayor, but as a notorious and convicted fly-tipper he is now thankfully disqualified.

Another way Labour displayed its feelings for the councillor from Mawr was in preventing him from voting on the 2013 Mynydd y Gwair debate – an application in his own ward! It was judged that Ioan had ‘pre-determined’ the case by his opposition to the scheme and was therefore not allowed to vote. The student-councillors like Sangha and Bayliss, who had been tweeting their support for the project for months, and who were in contact with Gwenllian Elias, the PR woman for Mynydd y Gwair, were deemed to be approaching the debate with open minds and were allowed to vote!

TIME TO ACT

The situation we find today with John Bayliss is remarkably similar to the one we saw last year with Pearleen Sangha. She too took a job away from Swansea but tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. This was obviously done with the knowledge of the Labour Party – because she was working for the party! Eventually she had to admit the truth and stand down, but had it not been for external pressure then she and the Labour Party would have just carried on, to avoid a ‘messy’ by-election, which Labour lost.

But you mustn’t think that this behaviour is confined to Swansea, as a comment to the previous post from ‘Keri Tyisha’ reminded us. He told us of the 90-year-old councillor in Carmarthenshire suffering from dementia but kept on the council by repeated leaves of absence issued by the chief executive and ruler of the council, Mark James. Again, far better to maintain the pretence that a councillor is doing his or her job than risk a by-election.

Chubby Johhny

In conclusion, Swansea council’s website shows that the attendance record for Councillor John Charles Bayliss has deteriorated alarmingly, from 96% to 27%, and that this deterioration links with his recruitment by the Remarkable Group in Bristol. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Bayliss is living and working in Bristol. That being so, he cannot serve the residents of the Uplands ward in Swansea. He must therefore stand down and a by-election must be held to elect a councillor who can properly serve the ward.

For the longer term, the next reorganisation of local government must be about more than just re-drawing boundaries. It must introduce mechanisms to ensure that the narrow and selfish interests of political parties or chief executives can not be served by deceiving the public into believing that councillors who’ve died, emigrated, been banged up, or are no longer compos mentis, are still serving their community.

Swansea deserves better. Wales deserves better.Swansea your councillors

UPDATE 22:35: Shortly after posting this article, I noticed that the links I’d provided to Swansea council’s website were no longer working. (They were working this morning, that’s how I got the information.) I checked the website and found that everything was working except the section for ‘Your councillors’. I tweeted about it, and got a reply in mid afternoon, but the problem still hasn’t been fixed. Now if I was the suspicious kind . . .

UPDATE 10.11.2015: I have learnt that John C Bayliss is seeking election to the Notional Assembly via the regional list.

Oct 222015
 

In the previous post I wrote about Faerdre Fach farm near Llandysul, the reason for my interest being that the owner, Kate Clamp, had re-named it Happy Donkey Hill, a reference to the donkeys and other animals housed there. That, really, was about all I wanted to say, but comments made by Mrs Clamp persuaded me to persist with this story.

As I pointed out in that earlier post, Mrs Clamp had run a similar enterprise in north east England before delighting us with her presence. This was the Ramshaw Rescue Centre at Low Garth Farm near Bishop Auckland. The report I’ve linked to, from October 2008, says that, Happy%20Donkey%20Hilldue to a neck injury, Mrs Clamp was selling Low Garth Farm, with an asking price of £895,000.

The next reference I found to the Ramshaw Rescue Centre was in this report from December 2010. In it, the Centre’s former kennel manager talks of raising money to buy and re-open the Centre, and is quoted as saying, “The rescue centre, when it was open, was good, but not brilliant – and I want to bring it back and restore and improve its image”. The implication is clear: when run by Mrs Clamp the Ramshaw Rescue Centre did not enjoy a good image.

Whatever the truth of that, we know that in late 2008 she was telling the Northern Echo that a neck injury was forcing her to give up the animal rescue centre at Low Garth Farm. Yet within months we find her in Wales, running exactly the same kind of operation, almost certainly with the same animals. We can safely conclude that her ‘injury’ was imaginary, and so there must have been another reason or reasons for her leaving Low Garth Farm.

*

To my surprise, Kate Clamp made a few comments to my earlier post. You can of course read them for yourself, but I think some of her bon mots are worth extracting to use here.

In her first comment she tells us that she has now bought an “adjoining 31 acres” and, presumably, expects to be commended. Though as I point out, all this means is that yet more of Wales is in foreign ownership. In her next comment she says that my response was, “A very insular and very Welsh response . . . funny how all the successful businesses locally are run by non-Welsh, we spent in excess of £250,000 developing a derelict farm steading and mostly due to unreliable contractors locally used English workmen”.

Kate Clamp comment 2

I asked her to explain how my response was “insular” and “Welsh”, but she did not answer. Just as well perhaps, for she obviously has a very low opinion of us Welsh, and is not shy to express that opinion – we are no good at business, we are lazy workers . . . yet Wales is beautiful and we should be glad to live here (but leave the business of running the country to people like her). This is about as close as you’ll get to hearing someone actually say: ‘Wales is a lovely country . . . pity about the Welsh’.

In her final remarks directed at me (see comments to previous post), and after informing us that, “we” still own Low Garth Farm, she writes, “I am very proud of what we have achieved both in Wales and in England, I have created 2 remarkable businesses from nothing, what is your contribution?”

*

Then, late last night, whilst sipping my Ovaltine, I received a Twitter DM. A curious message, but from a reliable source, telling me that Kate Clamp is the daughter of billionaire Michael Gooley, who made his money with off-the-beaten-track holiday company Trailfinders. Gooley is an important supporter of the Conservative Party and according to this BBC report gave the party £500,000 in the final quarter of last year, in the run-up to the General Election.

I’m not sure how my source stumbled upon this link but she was able to offer support with the tweet below, clearly from Kate Clamp to her brother Tristan Gooley, author of The Natural Navigator. (Obviously a chip off the old block.)

Tristan Gooley tweet

My source was able to direct me towards other supporting evidence, such as this forum discussing Happy Donkey Hill being featured in the Channel Four programme Four in a Bed. There I found a fascinating and revealing comment from ‘Batmanrobin’, which you can read below. (Click to enlarge.) Whoever posted this comment seems to know Kate Clamp, and makes a number of serious allegations. The reference to “Bishop” for Bishop Auckland tells me that ‘Batmanrobin’ is local to that area.

batmanandrobin

One allegation in particular caught my eye, “Donations for the (Ramshaw Rescue) centre was used for cruises and holidays”. I found this interesting because, on the one hand animal rescue centres invariably rely on grants, bequests, donations and other gifts, and are often registered charities, yet I can find nothing on the Charity Commission website for either the Ramshaw Rescue Centre or Faerdre Fach / Happy Donkey Hill. Nor could I find a registered company. Nor anything – charity or company – in the name of Kate Clamp. So how were these ventures organised, what form did they take, and how was the income accounted for and declared?

Then – as is so often the case – a comment from ‘Brychan’ pointed the way. He was able to tell us that the Ramshaw Rescue Centre is still open, and that until very recently the banking was done by a Kate Price. And it seems that at one time she was also known as Kate Wilson. After checking this myself, I’m persuaded that assorted animals are still housed at Low Garth Farm, but I’m not sure if it’s still called Ramshaw Rescue Centre. It may now be run as boarding kennels called 4 Paws Farm. Possibly both rescue centre and boarding kennels.

So now we have four surnames by which the proprietrix of Faerdre Fach has been known: Gooley, Wilson, Price and now Clamp. Are there others? No wonder it’s proving difficult to unearth any information on her. And is ‘Kate’ really her full given name, or is it Catherine / Katherine, Kathleen . . . ?

*

We’ve learnt from Kate Clamp herself that although Low Garth Farm was up for sale in late 2008 it was not sold. As she reprimanded me: “Another grossly misinformed remark about my farm in the North East of England as we still own it!! You really need to research facts before you try to belittle me dear.” So I took her advice and did some research.

First, I wondered who exactly owns Faerdre Fach, and so I went to the Land Registry website. The document I paid £3 for and downloaded told me that the farm had been bought, on February 26th 2009, for £365,000, by Michael William David Gooley CBE.

Faerdre Fach title extract

Next – you’ve guessed it! – I wondered who owned Low Garth Farm. The Land Registry document told me that this property is also registered in the name of Michael William David Gooley CBE. This goes some way to explaining why Kate Cramp didn’t sell Low Garth Farm after all – it was never hers to sell!

*

I think we know enough about Kate Gooley / Wilson / Price / Clamp to make the following assessment.

Despite her claim to be hard-working and successful, what she has was paid for by Tory-funding Daddy. Though that said, he is a real businessman, you can tell that by the fact that he keeps ownership of the properties in which she lives, and where she is allowed to play out her fantasy of being a businesswoman. The fantasies may not end there.

Lady Kate Clamp Facebook

Allegations have been made that donations made to the Ramshaw Rescue Centre were misappropriated. I have no way of knowing whether these serious allegations are true or not, but it’s strange that I can find nothing to tell me how the RRC was constituted. If it was receiving donations then it would need to be registered with the Charity Commission or some other body.

The Clamps departure from Low Garth Farm may have been somewhat hurried, and we know that the excuse given does not ring true because Kate Clamp merely transferred her activities – and perhaps her animals – to Llandysul. So what was the real reason for them moving from the north east of England to the south west of Wales in late 2008 / early 2009? Especially as her new husband Andy Clamp is local to the north east of England.

And yet, as the daughter of a very wealthy man, surely she could, had she so chosen, live the life of a retiring country lady, busying herself with ‘good works’ around the parish. But it looks as if Kate Clamp is, to put it kindly, ‘outgoing’, and loves to be the centre of attention.

Kate Clamp belongs to a restless but well-heeled segment of English society that until relatively recently could enjoy the escape of empire, and lording it over ‘darkies’. Many of them now move to France, and pride themselves on not learning a word of the ‘lingo’; or else they choose Spain, where they shout at waiters – all of whom are, conveniently, named ‘Pedro’. But too many of them end up in Wales, and with the same attitudes.

How much longer do we put up with being treated as some inferior race?

***

IN THE PIPELINE . . .

There are two subjects I’m working on for possible future posts, and I’d appreciate any information.

The first concerns the long-running plan by the Beaufort Estate to erect wind turbines on common grazing land at Mynydd y Gwair, on the northern outskirts of Swansea. Having recently been turned down the developers are appealing, and now mysterious little groups have been haunting central Swansea collecting signatures on vague petitions supporting wind energy.

The approach to passers-by seems to be, ‘Do you want your children / grandchildren to be roasted alive due to global warming? Of course you don’t – so sign our petition!’ No specific mention is made of Mynydd y Gwair but it is strongly believed that the Green extremists collecting these signatures are in the pay of the developers and that these petitions will be presented as ‘evidence’ of public support for the Mynydd y Gwair project. Any information on those who have been deviously collecting signatures in this way would be welcome. Greenpeace and Yes2Wind have been mentioned as being involved. Read here how they operate.

One of the companies involved with the developers, RWE Innogy UK, is the Remarkable Group. As we know, companies such as these like to have someone on the inside, and this explains why Remarkable recently hired Labour councillor John Charles Bayliss. Bayliss is the last of the students recruited a few years ago by a desperate Swansea Labour Party led by David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips to fill gaps in the ranks. I have written of the dear boy many times before.

Bayliss Remarkable

Bayliss is a councillor for the Uplands ward on the west side of the city, but has recently changed his address to one down in the Maritime Quarter which, by a remarkable coincidence, is the very address where his friend and fellow student-councillor Mitchell Theaker dwelt, ere he departed for sunnier climes. But some mutter that Bayliss has himself moved, to Bristol, to be nearer his work with Remarkable. So is John Charles Bayliss still living in Swansea? And if not, why does the Labour Party maintain the pretence that he does?

*

I am also seeking information on Valleys Kids. This is yet another Third Sector outfit run by Labour Party members into which the ‘Welsh’ Government has pumped millions and millions of pounds of EU funding with no discernible benefit for the communities being ‘served’.

From what I can see Valleys Kids is just a glorified but very, very well funded youth club, owning among other properties a nice place on Gower. But Valleys Kids may also have friends in high places, for rumours persist that when the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO) did a random check, and threatened to pull the funding plug, all was smoothed over by a phone call to Tony Blair!

Information on Valleys Kids please to editor@jacothenorth.net.

Oct 202015
 

TRYWERYN (Click to enlarge photographs)

I went to the Tryweryn commemoration on Saturday. (I wouldn’t have botTryweryn 1hered, but two old friends came up, stayed with me Friday night, and so I went with them.) There was a good crowd there, but not many young people; though in fairness, I suppose an event like that was always going to attract what’s left of the Sixties generation. (God! am I that old!)

There seemed to be a great many, er, mature women there, with the uniforms and hairstyles of their age and class. Many of these had been sparky young things in mini skirts back in the 1960s, and had marched with placards held aloft before, rebelliousness spent, settling down to become Miss Pugh of Tryweryn 2Nantiestyn Juniors, and stalwart of Merched y Wawr.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that the Tryweryn commemoration was exclusively a Plaid Cymru affair, which meant that the small number of ‘militants’ that turned up was massively outnumbered, though of course some were in mufti, while other firebrands of yore – like the aforementioned ladies – have turned quite respectable. In fact, there was a rather parchus – almost bourgeois – overlay to the whole thing. I swear anybody who’d farted would have been stared down into the murky waters covering Capel Celyn.Tryweryn 3

This parchus overlay might have influenced the pervading air of elegiac nostalgia. There was a lot of hand-wringing and reminiscing, nostalgia for a lost bucolic paradise; but little to dissuade me from believing that the only reason we haven’t seen another Tryweryn is the fear – on the part of the British state – of unleashing forces more threatening to English colonialism than Plaid Cymru.

Speeches were delivered by former Plaid leader Dafydd Wigley, 60s protest siTryweryn 5nger and politician Dafydd Iwan (who also gave us a couple of songs), former and current MPs for Meirionnydd Elfyn Llwyd and Liz Saville Roberts, with it all compered, rather well, by councillor Elwyn Edwards, a native of drowned Capel Celyn.

Absent was Plaid’s current leader, Leanne Wood, up at the SNP conference in Aberdeen getting the kind of reception she can only dream of in Wales and, much more surprisingly, the man who’s been the local AM since the Assembly started, Dafydd Elis Thomas.Tryweryn 6

As I say, there was a curious atmosphere hanging over the whole event, as if no one was quite sure how to deal with celebrating what was obviously a defeat for Wales but which turned out to be one poke in the eye too many even for a defeated and complaisant people like us.

This strange and uncertain mood became even more obvious at the anti-climatic conclusion. Speeches over . . . and that was it . . . no singing of the anthem, no Yma o Hyd from Dafydd Iwan, just people milling around wondering what to do next. As it turned out, we Tryweryn 7were told to line up behind the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn‘ banner and march back to the car park on other side of the dam.

I remarked to a local freelance photographer I knew that the crowd marching silently over the dam looked more like the type of procession one sees in Catholic countries than anything political. And I suppose it was a kind of pilgrimage, but many there were not sure exactly what they were supposed to be commemorating. Or how they were supposed to commemorate it.

*

MORE ON ‘HAPPY DONKEY HILL’

In the previous post I referred to the property known as Faerdre Fach near Llandysul being re-named Happy Donkey Hill. I have since been passed information that throws more light on the woman responsible for this insult.

It seems that the proprietrix of Happy Donkey Hill is named Kate Clamp, and she’s into ‘animal welfare’, as this report from the Northern Echo (of Newcastle) tells us. Though this 2008 article also tells us that she was forced to give up the Ramshaw Rescue Centre at Low Garth Farm because of a neck injury. Mercifully she recovered well enough to bring herself to Wales and buy Faerdre Fach, which she re-named Happy Donkey Hill.

After moving to Llandysul Kate Clamp branched out into B&B and other holiday accommodation. Not only that but she tried to advertise her new venture with this appearance on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed, a show in which B&B owners visit and assess each other’s establishments (not what you’re thinking!). In part excruciating, in part embarrassing, this example of ‘Welsh’ tourism should chill the heart of any true Welsh person.

Clearly, the multi-chinned Ms Clamp sees herself as one of those big and bubbly ‘personalities’ we are all Happy Donkey Hillexpected to cherish. Anyone who doesn’t accept this depiction is often dismissed as a ‘snob’. A less generous interpretation might be that she’s a loud and domineering woman more concerned with animals than people. With the latter being used to fund her concern for – even preference for – the former. (It may be significant that visitors to Happy Donkey Hill can bring their dogs but not their children.)

I trust that the required planning permissions have been received for all the changes she and her young partner are making to Faerdre Fach Happy Donkey Hill, and that the RSPCA is keeping check on the welfare of the assorted animals there, for Kate Clamp is a very busy woman. (And it must be worth asking, ‘How many more animal ‘refuges’ are we going to allow?) Another concern should be for public health inspectors, for I’d be concerned about so many animals in close proximity to where food is cooked and people sleep.

But at the end of the day, this is ‘Welsh’ tourism. Crude and alien. The time has surely come to curb the excesses of this exploitive and colonialist activity; for tourism, and the colonisation that comes with it, are now the biggest threats to the survival of Welsh identity, the Welsh language, and even Welsh place names, in our rural areas.

*

LEGISLATING FOR GOOD-LIFERS

Back in January last year I wrote a piece about the ‘Welsh’ Government transferring 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. (Read it here.) In other words, instead of this money going to Welsh farmers it would in future be given to ‘rural development projects’. (I think most people reading this will understand the code employed in ‘rural development projects’.) There have been many other assaults on Welsh agriculture recently. Here’s one I noticed in January this year.

On the one hand it would be easy to dismiss these attacks on farming as the behaviour of a political party whose ‘Wales’ is bounded by Llanelli, Ebbw Vale and Coedpoeth. Reasoning that, ‘Them buggers don’t vote for us so why should we do anything for them?’ But this argument doesn’t hold water because even areas that do vote Labour also get shafted. (Just think Valleys.)

One reason for these constant assaults on Welsh rural life is the advice received by the ‘Welsh’ Government in recent years from bodies such as the Wales Rural Observatory (WRO), which I wrote about back in September 2012. (I apologise for the lack of spacing, due to the formatting not transferring properly from my old Google Blogger blog.) Though since writing that piece I understand that the WRO may have had its funding pulled . . . I do hope it was something I said.

By a rather roundabout route I was recently made aware of yet more ludicrous advice being fed to the ‘Welsh’ Government, advice that, yet again, works against Welsh interests and also encourages further colonisation. I’m referring now to the ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’, set out in Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6 as ‘One Planet Development’. You will note that this was ‘prepared’ for the Planning Division of the ‘Welsh’ Government by Land Use Consultants and the Positive Development Trust. Although the address given for this lot on TAN 6 is in Bristol, their head office is in fact in London, so I presume that Bristol is the regional office for this part of Englandandwales.

I urge you to read TAN 6, especially if you want to expand your eco-babble vocabulary.

To cut a long story short, the civil servants who run the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Planning Department have accepted this guidance and imposed it on our local planning authorities. It demands that our local authorities give planning permission to projects meeting the criterion of ‘self-sufficiency’. The panel below is taken from TAN 6 and tells us that this directive does not merely apply to single properties, it can be used to build whole new ‘ecovillages’.

One Planet

The specific example I read about was in Carmarthenshire, planned for Rhiw Las, near Whitland. (Read more here.) While the source, West Wales News Review, is obviously published by environmentalists, it has some use in that it provides us with the name of Rhiw Las Ltd, Company Number, 08686077, Incorporated in September 2013. Rhiw Las Ltd has applied for what are, essentially, four new dwellings in open country, justified on the grounds that they will be self-sufficient smallholdings of the kind demanded by the One Planet legislation. (Read the planning application here.)

It was good to see Plaid Cymru (and other) councillors on Carmarthenshire council reject this application, but we can be sure of two things: 1/ The application will be allowed by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal, and 2/ No matter what the local councillors may think of it, Plaid AMs would have been falling over themselves to support this One Planet eco-bollocks.

The legislation set out in TAN 6 could result in whole new villages of hippies and other undesirables setting up anywhere in Wales. In fact, TAN 6 encourages it. All they’d need to do is form a small company, buy a bit of land (I’m sure the ‘Welsh’ Government will help) and whack in a planning application. It’s frightening to think that a government supposedly serving Welsh interests is agreeing to legislation like this. For no matter that this colonisation ploy originated in England, no matter that is was taken up and presented by the English civil servants controlling the Assembly, it still had to be agreed by those traitorous buffoons down Cardiff docks.

*

Everywhere we look in rural Wales, and along our coasts, we see the same picture – Welsh identity being swamped under a tide of colonisation. Worse, the ‘Welsh’ Government is facilitating this ethnic cleansing by legislating against the indigenous Welsh and passing laws that can only benefit strangers. Also, by encouraging activities and industries that are guaranteed to work against Welsh interests.

We Welsh today are a nation without leaders or representatives, those we have put our faith in have betrayed us time and time again. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a monoglot socialist agitator in Dowlais or a lover of the Welsh language in Dolgellau, you have been taken for granted and betrayed, time after time!

This system will eventually turn Wales into a larger version of Cornwall, with impoverished natives being told to rejoice as wealthy outsiders buy everything – for this is ‘investment’, this is ‘progress’. Only a ‘racist’ would fight against his people being marginalised and their identity destroyed in this way.

But ‘racist’ is just another convenient lie for politicians and media, it’s just another smear; like the ‘terrorists’ who fought to free their countries from English oppression. How can these ingrates, these scoundrels, be compared to the visionaries who set up the first concentration camps, the lauded commanders who took the decision to bomb Dresden, or our noble allies in Saudi Arabia – ideal human rights watchdogs!

With devolution we Welsh are confronted with the colonial appendage of a morally bankrupt system. As such, it deserves neither our respect nor our support. So start rejecting it, treat it with the contempt it deserves. Start today!

Oct 132015
 

REVISED PREDICTION FOR 2016 ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

A few months ago, in my post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour I made a prediction for the outcome of the 2016 Assembly elections in which I suggested that the likeliest result would be a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition. For a number of reasons I think it may be wise to revise my prediction.

One major change since I wrote that piece in June has been the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the UK Labour Party. At first I thought this might help the Labour Party in Wales, seeing as it is forever banging on about being more to the left than the UK party, but now I’m not so sure. Because things are starting to get nasty up in Westminster with civil war breaking out among the Labour MPs.

If Corbyn is no longer leader come next May then Labour will be hors de combat, still licking the wounds received in a bloody civil war to remove him and his right-hand man, John McDonnell. If Corbyn is still there then of course the civil war will be ongoing. What will add to the damage is that the conflict will not be confined to the House of Commons, for a few hundred thousand people – overwhelmingly leftists – joined the Labour Party during the election campaign. Attempts to remove their reason for joining Labour will be resisted, by de-selecting MPs and in other ways defending their heroes. The party might even split. However it pans out, a party so hopelessly divided will not be an attractive proposition to the great majority of voters in Wales.

Of course, Carwyn Jones and his gang will try to stay aloof, arguing that it’s, ‘Nothing to do with us, this is all happening up in London / England’, but too many Welsh voters get news from London sources, and what they’ll see is a party tearing itself apart. This is bound to affect their perceptions of what is after all only a branch of the UK Labour Party. Worse, thousands of those new members joined in Wales, so that’s another reason ‘Welsh’ Labour can not escape collateral damage.

Let’s move on to Plaid Cymru.

To begin with, Leanne Wood is not proving to be the inspirational leader many had hoped, her appeal seems limited to elements within the party and then the rag-bag left. She is making little if any impression on those voters Plaid needs if it is to gain seats, and she’s not going down much better with those voters Plaid needs if it’s to hold on to what it’s got. WhenGwynedd SW Wards merged I listen to her all I hear is socialism in Wales, rather than anything specifically Welsh. I think she’d be happier in a Labour Party led by Corbyn than any patriot should be in a party led by her.

An example of putting socialist ideology before Welsh interests is the recent announcement by the party that if it achieved power it would abolish care charges for everyone over the age of 65. This, according to Elin Jones AM, would cost – over two terms of a Plaid Cymru government (don’t laugh!) – £226m. No it wouldn’t, it would cost a hell of a lot more! Let me explain it slowly, so that even a Plaid Cymru politician can understand.

We have a problem in our rural and coastal areas with large numbers of elderly people moving from England, or moving in middle age after taking early retirement. To the point where in south Meirionnydd, where I live, two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. A similar situation is found in many other areas, with the result that our NHS and social services are already under strain. Consequently, any measures introduced that make Wales more attractive for the elderly than England will unleash an unprecedented spate of granny dumping, and this will cost one hell of a lot more than £226m.

But this hare-brained scheme is so typically Plaid Cymru. Always looking for a pat on the head from the English Left-Green lobby rather than prioritising – or even considering – Welsh interests.

Things are no better at a local level. You may be aware that there was a recent change in Carmarthen’s shire hall. The council has for a number of years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, who regards democracy as a dangerous and unnecessary threat to his rule. The Labour-Independent coalition fronting his dictatorship broke up in May and a new coalition was agreed between the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru.

Great hopes were raised that with Plaid Cymru as the larger party Mark James might be challenged, and there might be an outbreak of democracy in Carmarthenshire, but Plaid has kow-towed to Mark James in the most cowardly manner, and it can’t all be attributed to council leader Emlyn Dole’s barn problems. (Don’t you think Emlyn Dole could pass for the mayor of a small French town? There’s even a passing resemblance to President Hollande.)

For these and other reasons I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting more than 6 seats. And a blood-spattered Labour Party will be lucky to win 20 seats. Then, given that by May 2016 the debate over EU negotiations and the impending referendum will be getting so much news coverage, the beneficiaries of that are bound to be Ukip. So here’s my original prediction from May alongside my updated prediction. Get ready for a Tory-Ukip-Lib Dem coalition!

Prediction

*

REPUTATIONS

On Friday night last I had a Twitter exchange with someone who’s hoping to be among the new Assembly intake, an aspiring Conservative politician named Matthew Paul, the candidate for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. If the name sounds familiar, that may be because Paul stood for the same seat in this year’s Westminster elections, when he came third with some 21% of the vote.

It all began with him responding to a tweet I put out drawing attention to yet more flat pack chalets being ponced up to the status of ‘luxury resort’, and even more strain put on the bullshit generator by claiming that 200 such chalets will bring 200 full-time jobs! As with similar projects I’ve mentioned, the only thing Welsh about the Corran Resort and Spa is its location in Laugharne. Pure coloniotourism. His response was, “And what economic activity do you want in #Laugharne? A steelworks?”

Not knowing who I was dealing with – other than someone ignorant of the parlous state of the European steel industry – I decided to humour him. We exchanged a few quips before I brought up the case of a farm called Faerdre Fach being re-named Happy Donkey Hill. He responded with, “As a matter of taste, I deplore it, but would defend their right to call it whatever they want”. Maybe he thought he was sounding noble by adapting the quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire . . . if so, it didn’t work; it just made him sound like yet another Tory willing to accept the anglicisation of Wales. Or rather, refusing to confront it, choosing to retreat behind sophistry and disingenuous arguments about ‘freedom’.

Donkey Hill

Matthew Paul is a privately educated, Oxford graduate, lawyer. Have you ever wondered why so many lawyers enter politics? It’s said that it’s because of the training they receive in marshalling their arguments and presenting a case, their ability to persuade a jury to believe what they’re saying. Which a cynic might argue is just another way of saying that lawyers are good liars, which then makes them ideal politicians.

It’s always seemed to me that in reputational terms a lawyer becoming a politician is not a lot different to ‘Honest John’ from the ‘pre-loved’ cars lot branching out into double glazing. No sensible individual completely trusts anyone selling second-hand cars or double glazing, so why are we so credulous when it comes to lawyer-politicians?

*

VATTENFALL OF MONEY

I am indebted to regular contributor Brychan for bringing to my attention a rare job opportunity in the Heads of the Valleys, one paying £300 a day. Read all about it here.

As you can see, this largesse is connected with the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, a project being undertaken by Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish ‘company’ which is putting up lots and lots of wind turbines for no other reason than an altruistic desire to save the planet. And because they are such altruists, and philanthropists to boot, they’re giving the run-down communities in the shadow of Pen y Cymoedd wind farm £1.8m every year ’til a’ the seas gang dry. Now Vattenfall is looking for Board Members to oversee the distribution of the bribe . . . though the Board meetings will be held in Cardiff, so more money will be leaving the Valleys.

You will also note from the link provided that recruitment of these Board Members is not being done by Vattenfall itself, for the job has been contracted out to Empower. When I found the website for ‘Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector Ltd‘, and saw that it’s address was in the Cynon Valley, and then read Empower’s Facebook page, I got that sinking feeling that comes over me when Bafetimbi Gomis is repeatedly caught offside, or I realise that I’m dealing with the Third Sector. In this instance there was no sign of an offside French striker.

Empower etc is run by a Beverly Elizabeth Garside, a highly qualified woman who turned her back on London to move to Wales. Why? The short answer is that despite the obvious deprivation, there’s a hell of a lot of money sloshing around in the Valleys . . . you just need to know how to get your hands on it. The secret is ‘social enterprises’ and other Third Sector rackets that create jobs for Labour cronies and give civil servants something to lie about on EU questionnaires. Then, feeding on the publicly-funded Third Sector, we have companies like Empower. A case of, ‘Big fleas have little fleas . . .’.

Empower

One mystery though is why, on her Linkedin profile, Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004. So what form did it take in the intervening three years? Perhaps it too was a sucking-directly-on-the-public-funding-teat Third Sector outfit? Whatever the answer, it’s no coincidence that Bev Garside set up Empower in 2001, the same year the EU Objective One money started flowing into the Valleys. This funding was the honey-pot that encouraged her – and so many like her – to move to Wales.

Although the Empower office is in Mountain Ash, in the heart of the deprived Valleys that give Empower its income, Bev herself chooses to live in the agreeable and prosperous little village of Bwlch, near Talybont-on-Usk. More fitting for a woman who has Common Purpose running through her like ‘Barmouth’ through a stick of rock.

P.S. Vattenfall is Swedish for waterfall, and believed to be a reference to the rate at which money pours into the Swedish State’s coffers from exploiting third world communities like the Heads of the Valleys . . . with the help of economic migrants like Beverly Elizabeth Garside.

*

CARDIGAN CASTLE

Late last Saturday night I received a Facebook message telling me that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis had been made to step down from her post as Facilities Officer or Director at the Castle because it was proving difficult to recruit trustees while she was in place. (Fortunately I was up late on Saturday night doing my bit for the Argentine economy, again.)

This news has yet to be confirmed but I have learnt today that a £40,000 a year vacancy has been advertised at the Castle, and also that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis is notable by her absence from the old pile. Further, I am told that Equinox, the Castle’s Cardiff PR outfit, has had enough, and refuses to represent Lady Tucker and her gang any longer.

I suspect that changes are now being implemented at the Castle, maybe these changes have been enforced, by funders, or the Charity Commission, and there may be attempts to save face by keeping the news from the baying mob. Which is why I would welcome any further information.

Oct 062015
 

GREENWOOD FOREST PARK

Last Saturday, overcome with an uncharacteristic bout of generosity, I took a couple of grandchildren (plus wife, to look after them) on a day out to the Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon. Obviously an ancient Welsh name for the area, to be compared with Oakwood, and Folly Farm, and Plonkers’ Playground. Whereas along the coast, we invariably find ‘Sands’ in the name, so as to make it clear to even the stupidest potential visitor that these places are near to the sea: Golden Sands, Sunny Sands, Happy Sands, et-bloody-cetera.

For what it is, a few slides, some sorry-looking rabbits, pedal ‘go-karts’, one small roller coaster, archery and donkey rides, I suppose Greenwood is OK. But I couldn’t help but notice there seemed to be no locals employed there. Or let me put it this way, I don’t doubt that those working there live locally – they must do – but I didn’t hear one local accent. And let’s remember we’re a few miles outside Caernarfon, near the village of Bethel where, until very recently, everyone spoke Welsh. (Though, chwarae teg, all signs were bilingual, so that would satisfy Cymdeithas yr Iaith . . . if that organisation still exists.)

As you might expect, I made a few enquiries about Greenwood. It’s owned by husband and wife Stephen and Andrea Bristow and seems to be quite healthy, in financial terms. Which may not be surprising, given some of the grants Greenwood has received. For example £25,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) for signage (without which perhaps the signs would have been in English only). Greenwood is now lined up for another grant from the TISS, this time for £250,000, for a few more slides.

Tourism Investment Support Scheme

I don’t know about you, but 311 jobs claimed by the ‘Welsh’ Government as the dividend for an investment of fourteen million pounds seems like a pretty poor return. Especially when not all of the 311 were new jobs, some were ‘safeguarded’; in other words, they were jobs already in existence that we must believe would have been lost without this investment. Either way, it works out at around £45,000 per job.

And remember, this being Wales, there are probably other funding pots claiming to have created or ‘safeguarded’ the very same jobs. Also remember that we’re discussing tourism, so many of the jobs created / ‘safeguarded’ will be seasonal . . . but you aren’t supposed to know that, so forget I mentioned it.

In 2013 Greenwood was ranked the ninth most popular (paid for) attraction in Wales, and a year later it saw 146,000 visitors. Divide 146,000 by 365 and you get 400 a day, and it’s not much more impressive if you go for a six-month ‘season’ giving 800 visitors a day. But then, there’s always the grants.

*

COED Y BRENIN

On the way home from Greenwood we stopped at the visitor centre in Coed-y-Brenin, north of Dolgellau.

There was obviously some kind of mountain biking event being held because the place was full of mud-caked hearties and fitness fascists; nothing but rippling calf muscles and machines the cost of which could support a family of Andean peasants for a lifetime (and put the eldest boy through college). Conspicuous consumption was everywhere, from the fancy motors with the bicycle racks on the back to the £200 shades. But that wasn’t the only reason I felt a little uncomfortable, for it soon dawned on me that our family group might be the only Welsh people there . . . in the heart of Meirionnydd.

I later learnt that the event was the Trek Coed y Brenin Enduro, and although the results do not use the ‘Country’ column a quick glance through the names suggests that Welsh participation was minimal. I further suspect the event into which I stumbled was organised by Mountain Biking Wales or possibly Dyfi Events. Though the Coed y Brenin forest, and indeed the visitor centre, is owned by Natural Resources Wales, and therefore all paid for out of the Welsh public purse.

Coed y Brenin and Greenwood are examples of the ‘Playground Wales’ phenomenon that sees indecently large amounts of Welsh public funding used to encourage strangers to see our homeland as nothing more than their playground; an arrangement for which we pay, but from which we derive little if any benefit.

*

WHOSE COUNTRY IS THIS?

Don’t misunderstand me, there is little intrinsically wrong with responsible tourism from which the indigenous population benefits without it being overwhelmed or having its environment degraded. But in Wales we have the worst kind of exploitive and damaging tourism, one that interprets people queuing to climb Snowdon as a tribute to the ‘success’ of Welsh tourism rather than a warning of impending environmental disaster.

That’s because no one will concede there might be a limit to the number of tourists Wales can comfortably cope with, which in turn is partly due to the fact that the money tourists spend here works its way back to England, unlike money spent by English tourists overseas. So the more the merrier, and sod the consequences!

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, what we experience in Wales is to all intents and purposes English tourism. Most of the businesses taking the money are English owned, most of those employed are English, the vast majority of the visitors are English and, as I’ve already said, the money they spend in Wales will make its way back to England in VAT and other taxes, utility bills, payments to suppliers, etc., etc.

The extent of how ugly, alien and exploitive tourism in Wales has become is laid bare by people like Chris Osborne, chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance. Osborne, like many of the English running tourism businesses in Wales, believes that if all towns and villages, mountains and rivers, had English names then people like him could make even more money. To put it as he did in this article, Wales should have “accessible names” and “accessible messages”. (Fair enough. How about, ‘Fuck off, you arrogant, colonialist bastard!’. Is that “accessible” enough?)

Playground Wales

It might be comforting if Chris Osborne was an isolated example of those involved in tourism who view Welshness, and indeed Welsh people, as an obstacle to them exploiting Wales. But he appears to be the authentic and unadulterated voice of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

To prove the point, here’s another star performer. Back in July Irene Laird, who has imposed herself on Rhosgadfan, near Caernarfon, was found guilty of racially-aggravated assault and racially-aggravated threatening behaviour, for calling a local woman a “Welsh c—“. The report can be found here. The bit that really struck me was that, ‘when the racial abuse was mentioned by a probation officer to Laird “there was no recognition such behaviour was inappropriate and no element of remorse”’! That is very, very revealing.

That tirade would have been bad enough in any circumstances, but this woman, with her husband, runs a tourism business, Welsh Dragon Tours – which seems to be still in business! (I wonder if they’ve had any grant funding?) When you’re on their website, check out the ‘Testimonials’. They are all from untraceable overseas visitors, with not one from these islands, which set my bullshit sensors all a-quiver.

Here’s a sample: “Ten out of Ten for Everything. Mrs A, Tel Aviv, Israel”. “The scenery was stunning!  Thank you very, very much for all the attention given us over those 4 days. Miss M, Malta.” “Thank you very much for showing us around your wonderful scenic country. Mrs F, Yokohama, Japan.” I suspect that in addition to being an anti-Welsh bigot this woman might also be a falsifier of testimonials. Pins and maps come to mind.

*

‘IT’S OUR WALES NOW’

What we see with Osborne, Laird and others is them trying to promote tourism as if Wales was just a scenic part of England. Welsh people, the Welsh language, Welsh place names and other manifestations of a separate identity expose the fact that it is not, and it also exposes them for the interlopers they are. This goes a long way to explaining why these people are hostile to expressions of Welsh identity, and this hostility takes a number of forms.

A few years ago, while sauntering along Tywyn promenade (I enjoy a good saunter), I noticed that one flagpole was, as usual, flying the union flag, but the other, where the Welsh flag had been, now flew a yellow and blue flag carrying what looked to be a fish and a bird. I made enquiries and learnt that new flag was that of Tywyn, and had been dreamed up by local businessman and infamous Britlander Mike Stevens, in his self-appointed role as driving force of the Tywyn Chamber of Tourism and Commerce. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, and the Welsh flag was restored.

Stevens argued that his sole motivation in designing a new flag was to represent and promote the town. Not, as some unkind souls might suggest, an excuse to get rid of the Dragon. But the boy got form for oblique attacks on things Welsh. In this incident, Cyngor Gwynedd quite rightly placed warning signs on Tywyn’s new sea defence island.Cadfan's stone Stevens doesn’t like bilingual signs, but he can’t say that, so he has to make himself look silly with contrived and implausible complaints.

Mike Stevens is now a county councillor, elected by those that tourism has encouraged to settle in Tywyn, to the point where they now make up a majority of the population. A picture replicated across ‘tourist’ Wales.

Around Tywyn now you will see another flag, made up of a rising sun and some goats, said to be the flag of Meirionnydd. Predictably it is favoured by those who have no concept of, and no roots in, Meirionnydd. It’s just another excuse – like the Pembrokeshire flag and others – to avoid flying the national flag of Wales.

In defending his contrived banner Stevens argued that the raven it carried was the “historic emblem of Tywyn“. In fact, the Raven belongs to the Anglo-Norman Corbet(t) family, but in the local church you will see, on St. Cadfan’s stone (see panel on right), the oldest example of written Welsh, possibly from the 7th century. Much older than any Corbet(t) connection, but of course it’s Welsh, and therefore of no interest to Stevens and his ilk.

You mustn’t think that this ugly attitude to all things Welsh, this belief that rural and coastal Wales was a desert ere the arrival of the English tourist, is confined to people like Ukip-leaning Mike Stevens, for this prejudice infects others. Brought home to me a couple of years back in an exchange of letters in the Cambrian News with a Greenie named Andrew Currie, who wrote, “He (moi!) has also missed the fact that coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times.” My response to Currie was not published, but you can read it here.

What a frightening and insulting mindset we see exposed here. It is nothing less than the traditional justification for colonialism, along the lines of, ‘Well, yes, there were natives living here before we arrived but the silly buggers couldn’t do anything for themselves, and now they wouldn’t be able to manage without us’.

*

TOURISM OR WELSHNESS? YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH

For some 50 years we Welsh have been subjected to one of the most sustained and successful propaganda offensives in history. We have been brainwashed into accepting that tourism is the economic salvation of the greater part of Wales, that we Welsh derive huge benefits from tourism, and that there are no downsides whatsoever. I think it’s time we woke up to reality.

Tourism as practised in Wales is nothing but colonialist exploitation. People from a neighbouring country come to exploit our country, and not wishing to be reminded of our existence, or their position as incomers, they seek to deny and destroy what is indigenous in order to promote a sanitised and more “accessible” West Anglia. Not only do those claiming to represent us welcome this exploitation, this discrimination, this ‘cleansing’, they are even prepared to fund it!

name change 1

The very survival of Welsh identity is jeopardised by tourism and the influx it encourages. Consequently, Wales needs a national debate on tourism. A debate informed by facts and independent research, not more propaganda from the tourism industry’s sponsored academics. If we are denied that debate then we must decide how we defend ourselves against this threat. For it is the greatest, the most serious threat, the Welsh nation has ever faced.