Nov 242015
 

Let me start by establishing what I mean by a colony. A colony is a territory or country run in the interests of another country, and for the benefit of the elite or the population in general of that other country. The colony does not need to be far away, nor do its indigenes need to be of a different pigmentation or religion, what matters is the economic and other relationships between the two countries. By which criteria Wales is most definitely a colony of England.

~~~~~~~~~~

Historically, we Welsh had to be conquered and brought under English rule a) because we resisted Anglo-Saxon / Anglo-Norman / English attempts to control the whole island of Britain and b) because we, as the original inhabitants of Britain, served to remind these invaders of our prior claim to their land as well as our own.

For centuries we suffered under a discriminatory legal system then, with the Industrial Revolution, we started to see Wales and the Welsh exploited in a more organised fashion, with the motive this time being profit rather than imperialist aggrandisement. In a modified form this system persists today, and although discrimination may no longer be on the statute book it still exists in myriad subtle forms.

~~~~~~~~~~

Something I was reminded of recently with the re-surfacing of a story I’d been vaguely aware of before. A Welsh businessman named Clive Hughes had planned to build two biomass plants employing hundreds of people, one near Kidwelly, the other on Swansea docks, reported in the panel on the right (click to enlarge).Biomass Swansea docks It seems that Mr Hughes had no help in his endeavours from either Mark James Carmarthenshire council or the ‘Welsh’ Government. In fact, he received no reply after writing to First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The reason this story has re-surfaced is because Clive Hughes was understandably peeved to learn that while his projects were either ignored or refused planning permission, civil servants and councils are now falling over themselves to help Chinese investors build two biomass plants, one on Ynys Môn, the other in Port Talbot, just a few miles from his planned Swansea docks site.

Something Clive Hughes was quoted as saying hints at where I’m going with this example. He said, “I have been fortunate to have enjoyed successful multi-million-pound businesses all over the world – however, I have never been treated so badly as in my home county”.

How do we explain this curious tale of Welsh agencies refusing to support indigenous enterprise while generously supporting foreign investment  – to do exactly the same thing! In a word, colonialism. (Yes, I know the report mentions nimbyism and “opposition from residents”, but believe me, it goes way beyond that.)

Clive Hughes was wasting his time appealing to Carwyn Jones, who is just a figurehead for a form of sham devolution. Wales – as I have said time and time gain – is run by civil servants, invariably masquerading as ‘advisors’ to Carwyn and his gang of deadbeats, and these civil servants take their orders from London. The wisdom for some years in London has been that it is a good thing to ‘open up’ the UK to foreign investment, particularly from China. Once you know that, then it’s easy to understand why no Welsh businessman will be allowed to queer the pitch for Chinese and other foreign investors.

A further example of the colonial economy at work is often articulated as the question, ‘Isn’t it strange how Welsh people (insert here, Terry Matthews, Chris Evans et al, or Clive Hughes) have to leave Wales to be successful?’ Er, no, there’s nothing strange about it, for two very good reasons. First, too many successful Welsh businesspeople might give us natives silly ideas about our ability to do things for ourselves. Second, any successful Welsh business is almost bound to come into competition with English companies. Both are undesirable in a colonial set up.

Of course after making his money in Canada Matthews returned to Wales and built the very successful Celtic Manor resort outside Newport. But the Celtic Manor poses no threat to the colonial arrangement. To begin with, it does not really compete with English rivals in the way that a company chasing consumers in a competitive market would. In addition, with its NATO conferences and Ryder Cup golf tournaments, the Celtic Manor helps integrate Wales with England.

Note that in the piece I’ve linked to about Matthews, Michael Moritz is described as “the richest person in Wales”, which is stretching it a bit. He was certainly born in Cardiff, but left for the USA in his early twenties, made his fortune in Silicon Valley, and never returned. He still lives in San Francisco with his family. Perhaps the most successful business based in Wales, and the only one quoted in the FTSE 100, is Admiral Insurance, started up and still owned by Henry Engelhardt . . . from Chicago. Which is fine, because it confirms that the Welsh must have outsiders to provide them with work.

Let’s end with another feature of the colonial economy, and again, something that draws bewildered comment from people who refuse to see the system controlling the economic life of Wales. I’m referring now to the phenomenon of successful Welsh companies being taken over by larger companies before they can grow too big, with this often resulting in redundancies or even closure of the now subsidiary Welsh operation. If you don’t understand why this happens then you haven’t been paying attention.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Roman system of coloniae settled army veterans and their families in conquered territories and border regions, and was employed for two main reasons. First, to keep an eye on the natives and, if necessary, confront any insurgency until the army arrived. Second, coloniae spread the use of the Latin language and Roman ways of doing things.

This example of settling people from, or loyal to, the ruling country in recently conquered territories and colonies is one that has been imitated globally down to the present day. The British have done it across the world, even to Christian European populations. There was the Irish Plantation, the ‘repopulating’ of eastern Canada after the expulsion of the Acadians (Cajuns), and the flooding of the independent republic of Transvaal with British settlers once it was realised that the land beneath the Boers’ feet contained gold and diamonds.

In more recent times, France sees a steady exodus of loyal French people to Tahiti, New Caledonia, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other specks in the ocean in the hope that these emigres will help the natives see the benefit of maintaining ties with France. While on a bigger scale, and in a much more brutal fashion, China has created all sorts of incentives for Han Chinese to settle in, with the intention of dominating, Tibet and Xinjiang.

So why be surprised that Wales has been undergoing a process of colonisation since the 1960s? A process that has taken many forms, some so bleeding obvious you wonder how they got away with it.

Take the Development Board for Rural Wales, an agency set up – so we were told – to stem the depopulation of the five central counties of Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire, Merionethshire, Breconshire and Radnorshire. It operated by paying English companies to relocate to central Wales, with their workforces (all paid for), while spending many more millions building thousands of new houses for this influx. And while all this cash was being showered on English companies local firms could not apply for a penny of DBRW funding. As blatant a colonisation strategy as Mother England has ever deployed. But Welsh politicians, media, and others still applauded every relocation as ‘New jobs coming to —————‘.

Many countries pay companies to set up in areas needing employment, but I have never come across another case like the DBRW, where a state paid firms to transfer lock stock and barrel, plus workers, to another area. It makes no sense, until you see it for what it was – plain, unvarnished colonisation.

~~~~~~~~~~

The colony of Wales also serves as a receptacle for those who are not making a contribution to the common weal in England. Those in this category range from geriatrics to young criminals and drug addicts. To the point where in some areas of Wales – such as where I live – two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. But, hey! looking after old people is a ‘growth industry’.

Gwynedd SW Wards merged

CLICK TO ENLARGE

If it’s not wrinklies then it’s a feckless white underclass. Some towns have been almost destroyed by this phenomenon, and none have come closer to implosion than Rhyl. This link reports a story of a woman living in Rhyl sent down after police found a dead body and a stash of heroin in her flat. An everyday story of Rhyl folk.

When it’s not drug addicts then it’s paedophiles. So many such deviants from over the border are now turning up in Wales that it just has to be organised, perhaps by the Probation Service. I have written about this problem before, one of the most notorious recent cases was a whole gang of paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly. Read about it and other cases. Within the past few days I have learnt of two more paedophiles who, by some unspecified route, arrived in Wales. This one in Ciliau Aeron and this one in Llanbadarn Fawr.

In the great colonialist scheme of things it really doesn’t matter whether those coming into Wales are sweet old dears straight out of an Ealing comedy or dangerous perverts, they all make their contribution to skewing Welsh statistics in a way that is unflattering to us, put a strain on an already overburdened health service, and of course, make their contribution to anglicising Wales. ‘Poor Wales’, ‘Ageing Wales’, ‘Wales’ Drugs Problem’ writes Phil Space, and intones Jamie Owen, but no one has the balls to really investigate these issues and give us the truth.

But then, in a colony, the last thing you can expect is an honest media.

~~~~~~~~~~

I can’t be absolutely certain when I first realised the media lies (maybe it was when I was first lied about), but the reporting of the Balkan wars in the 1990s was something of a watershed because that coverage was not simply a lie here and there, or some vague and ill-defined bias, it was an unwavering adherence to a propaganda line originating in the Pentagon.

Done in pursuit of a strategic objective dictating that Jugoslavia should be dismembered and Russia’s Serb allies at the core of that State be internationally isolated. To achieve this objective the fascist Croats of the Ustaše, and the gangster Albanians in the Kosovo Liberation Army, were depicted as knights in shining armour, while a blind eye was turned to foreign jihadists killing Serbs in Bosnia, leaving us to focus solely on the beastly Serbs, the only ones guilty of any atrocities.

Obviously, when dealing with ‘internal’ matters the UK media is different, but even here, the bias has long been unmistakable, and especially in television. Just about everyone has noticed the recent plethora of programmes with titles beginning ‘Great British’, in fact, it’s become so obvious that it’s something of a joke. A regular orgy of cringe-worthy ‘patriotism’, on sets bedecked with union flags, and all done in the hope of persuading Scots and other disaffected minorities that it don’t get no better than singing the worst national anthem on earth.

While on another level we see some elements of the BBC – Newsnight comes to mind – becoming almost schizophrenic in their desire to maintain their Left-liberal bias while simultaneously following the BritNat line in the hope of pandering to those in the Tory party who wish to dismantle the Beeb. Though in its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum last year all pretence at impartiality went out the window for the BBC in general, and Newsnight in particular.

Here in Wales, with its recent acquisition of the Evening Post, we have Trinity Mirror taking a stranglehold on the ‘Welsh’ print media. We can now look forward to Swansea’s daily paper, the largest selling Welsh daily, being written in Cardiff. And why not? With the political and economic life of the country being centralised on the capital like some tin-pot dictatorship it makes perfect sense.

Our self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’ is now little more than a desperate amalgam of showbiz news, columnists nobody reads, sport, and a daily promotion of all things Cardiff. To the extent that a new restaurant opening, or a celebrity being spotted in the city, somehow becomes a news item that Llais Y Sais deludes itself will be of interest to people in other parts of Wales. No wonder so few people outside of the Cardiff area buy the bloody thing.

Perhaps the best way to explain how this Cardiff-obsessive system operates is by introducing that famous bullshit duet the Barry Brothers. Mark Barry runs M&G Barry Consulting and gets paid to promote the Metro system and other projects designed to further enrich Cardiff at the expense of the rest of Wales, while brother Siôn is the Business Editor for Media Wales, which of course covers the Wasting Mule. So Mark Barry’s clients tell him what they want promoted, he passes ready-made promos on to brother Siôn, who ensures that they appear in Llais y Sais as ‘news’! This is how low ‘journalism’ in Wales has sunk.

In the panel below (click to enlarge) you’ll see a piece by Siôn Barry that appeared in the Western Mail on Monday (23.11.2015). I’m using it because it brings together a couple of the points I’m making in this post. First, we have another successful Welsh company being taken over. This company is based in Swansea, but it’s left to a spokesperson for the company to tell us that.

Sion Barry Francis Estate Agents

Because the purpose of this business news report is to give a plug to “Cardiff-based business advisory firm Greenaway Scott”. Something Siôn Barry does quite regularly. Here in May 2013, March 2015, May 2015, and there may be other write-ups by Barry that I’ve missed. Puffs for this company have certainly appeared on Media Wales attributed to others. Would a law firm in any other part of Wales get so much free publicity? So how do we explain it – is Greenaway Scott a client of M&G Barry Consulting? And if so, why is Trinity Mirror allowing the Wasting Mule to be used in this way? Whatever the answer, this is not journalism.

On the television front, S4C looks to be on its last legs as the Tories consider that if its funding is withdrawn no one will complain other than those with a vested interest in so doing. There certainly won’t be any protests of the kind that brought the channel into existence.

ITV Wales continues to plod along, a curate’s egg of a channel ranging from the engaging Adrian Masters to reporters and newsreaders who look and sound as if they’d have trouble locating Aberystwyth if they were dropped on top of Constitution Hill.

While over at the Talfan Davies patrimony things get weirder and weirder. The Monday following the Paris outrages Wales Today carried a piece about Islamophobia! Over a hundred people were dead in Paris, killed by Muslim extremists, yet for BBC Wales the real horror was that some Welsh person might say something nasty to a Muslim! Rarely in a human lifetime does one encounter such a corrupted sense of values, such an absence of proportion. The interviewee, living in mortal fear of being shouted at, claimed to have previously been subjected to abuse, but this must of course have happened before the Paris massacres. She was shrouded from head to foot with just a slit for her eyes, so I suppose she could have been an actress. I began to wonder if this interview had been in the can for a while, just waiting for the next killing spree.

Something becoming more regularly noticeable on BBC Wales is the adherence to the Question Time dictum – ‘When in Wales, listen only to English opinions’. Because even when reporting on news items from the Swansea Valley and similar places with very few English residents BBC Wales will find those English residents, and interview them, ignoring locals. There is an echo here of the British media’s attitude when working abroad – find someone to interview who speaks English, even if that person knows sod all about the issue being covered.

Jason Mohammad

In other areas BBC Wales follows the ‘Great British’ line, and few do it more loyally than Jason Mohammad. His recent interview with Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is a gem of its kind. But then, his ‘ethnic’ background, the fact that he speaks Welsh (but is a devoted Brit), makes ‘Jase’ an absolute treasure who will do anything for the cause. Hang on, it wasn’t him in the niqab, was it?

~~~~~~~~~~

Though if you seek an area, an industry, an activity, call it what you will, that ticks all the colonialist boxes, then look no further than tourism. Read Tourism: Creating a ‘Wales’ Without the Welsh.

It is beneficial to the UK economy because – seeing as Wales is tied to England – most of the money spent by tourists in Wales will find its way to England in the form of taxes, payments to suppliers, etc.

‘Welsh’ tourism provides thousands of business opportunities for English people thanks to their greater purchasing power coupled with the unwillingness of some Welsh to engage in the prostitution of their homeland.

Tourism attracts a few million English tourists to Wales every year, many of whom decide to settle here. And even if they don’t immediately settle, then they might buy a little place to use as a holiday home.

Nothing is anglicising Wales faster and more comprehensively than tourism and the colonisation that is its inevitable corollary and consequence. This explains why tourism is being forced on us as ‘the economic salvation of rural Wales’.

Yet we Welsh are expected to accept all this in return for a few thousand low paid, seasonal jobs, and a pat on the head accompanied by, ‘You Welsh should be so grateful that all these English people come here’.

~~~~~~~~~~

Wales in 2015 is a land being ripped apart, with a national identity under the kind of pressure it is unlikely to survive.

Our former mining valleys are now among the poorest and most wretched areas of Europe. But, due to the low property prices – among the lowest in the UK – we can predict that the Valleys will see more bail hostels and properties housing persons and groups that English communities are glad to see the back of. And the ‘Welsh’ Government – plus local politicians – will welcome this, because appearances are everything, and anything looks better than derelict houses and a rapidly declining population.

Our rural and coastal areas have been condemned to serve as recreation and retirement areas for our neighbours because, ‘There’s nothing else around here, is there?’. No of course there isn’t, not after decades of allowing the rural economy to decline, and doing nothing to bring in decent employment, for local people.

And while the Welsh population is engineered into decline, in both rural and urban areas, a new, replacement population is encouraged to move in, not least through building new homes that Welsh people either cannot afford or else will not be allocated. ‘Oh look! the population of Wales is rising – things must be good there’.

And while this social engineering goes on older forms of exploitation persist. English cities steal our water resources, but it’s justifiable we are told because these cities built the dams. Mmm, try going to Iran and claiming the oil because the original infrastructure was built by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

Wales is a colony of England, and we Welsh are still bottom of the pile. The only Welsh who make it – outside certain spheres such as sport and entertainment – are those who submit, or those who collaborate with the colonialist system.

You reading this can either accept this system, or you can fight it; but let no one – certainly not the professional liars in politics and the media – pretend that our relationship with England is anything other than colonial, and designed to eventually destroy Welsh identity.

END

Nov 172015
 

REMEMBERING BUDDY HOLLY

Back in January I posted a piece, Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations, that began in nostalgic-humorous mood before going on to make more serious points about the provision of rented accommodation. The fundamental point I tried to make was that up until about a century ago rented accommodation was provided by the private sector, employers, charities and other bodies, not by local authorities or any other social housing provider. I asked, in view of changes taking place in the housing market, whether we could now be moving back towards that situation, how it might be done, and what benefits it might offer.

In my January piece I made a number of points about the changing nature of housing provision in Wales and, especially, how the proportion of people living in the private rented sector (PRS) was growing, almost unnoticed and, certainly in Wales, unplanned. I used the table below to show the dwelling stock percentages in the four categories: local authority, registered social landlord (RSL), owner-occupier and PRS.

Houses by tenure

I am now able to follow up that January piece thanks to a regular source who has drawn my attention to a recently published report examining the advantages of giving a greater role to the PRS in the provision of social and rented housing. The report is produced by the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) and is entitled The Potential Role of the Private Rented Sector in Wales. I advise you to open the report in another window or browser in order to follow the points I shall pick up on later in this article. But before that, let’s take a fresh look at the RSL sector, using information not previously available to me.

~~~~~~~~~~

WAY OUT WEST

For much of this new information I am indebted to another contact who has looked into the workings of the RSL sector in Ceredigion, an investigation that has unearthed a number of disturbing issues, prompting him to submit important questions to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Unsurprisingly, the civil servants acting as the ‘Welsh’ Government refuse to answer his questions, so he has now taken the matter to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Alas, the PSOW is Nick Bennett, former head of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing associations, so I have warned my contact not to expect any help from that quarter. (Bennett’s appointment was a pre-Sophie Howe illustration of how incestuous and corrupt public life is in modern Wales.)

One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.

Then there seem to be two funding streams for capital projects, i.e. new-build housing, the Social Housing Grant and the Housing Finance Grant. I knew about the first, and I submitted an FoI last year to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much had been dished out under the SHG. I used the answers to compile the table below (click to enlarge). It shows that the figure for the six years 2008 – 2013 is £692.5m. (The explanation for the declining amount paid out in SHG can be found below in other, newer funding streams.)

Social Housing Grant 1

But at that stage I knew little about the Housing Finance Grant. Now I know a little more.

Even though I’m a regular and consistent critic of housing associations one feature of their operations that I have always regarded as commendable is that they raise funding from banks and other commercial lenders. Which means they are not entirely reliant on the public purse. Well, that’s what I thought; the reality is very different, as I learnt from my enquiries into the Housing Finance Grant.

The system works thus: Yes, housing associations find commercial lenders prepared to give them large loans – but then the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me! – repay those loans over 30 years to the lenders, M&G Investments and Affordable Housing Finance, the latter being funding guaranteed by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

(And as the DCLG website puts it, “Borrowers will need to be Registered Providers (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) and classified to the private sector”. Which suggests that housing associations are not public bodies. Or maybe they are, in which case why is a Conservative government putting so much money into public bodies in order for them to build up valuable assets . . . unless they are being fattened up for full privatisation?)

Housing Finance Grant clip

The system of repaying lenders also applies to the ‘Dowry Gap’; housing associations take out loans, paid in lump sums, and the ‘Welsh’ Government repays those loans over 30 years. This explains why Tai Ceredigion has now completed its programme of upgrading its properties but will continue to receive the ‘Dowry Gap’ funding every year. The money is repaying Tai Ceredigion’s loan, which seems to be itemised in the latest financial statement at £23m.

It is even suggested that ‘Dowry Gap’ and WHQS funding is being used – improperly – for capital projects, but financial oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government is so lax that there’s no way of proving or disproving this claim.

All of which means that housing associations, despite the flim-flam about ‘new ways of doing things’ are old-fashioned Statist creations, entirely dependent on the public purse, which explains why they are favourites of the anti-business parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Their only assets, their only other source of income, is of course their housing stock – either inherited from local authorities or built with public funding. So, again, at no cost to them. It’s a ‘new way of doing things’ only in the sense that it’s more opaque than straightforward dollops of public funding.

Seeing as housing associations are entirely dependent on the public purse it’s worth asking, again, why they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Maybe the duplicitous and very expensive way they’re funded provides the answer.

Another point, one that I have raised before – dealt with in my January post, and also here – is the scandalous amount of this public funding that our ‘Welsh’ housing associations spend over the border. In the case of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd it was the insanity of giving its total maintenance contract to English firm Lovell which, from its Cheshire base, recruited its sub-contractors exclusively from north west England.

I’m sure Tai Ceredigion uses local firms to do its work, but I still question why a firm operating on Cardigan Bay should have external auditors based in Birmingham (Mazars LLP) and internal auditors in Hampshire (TIAA Ltd). Both may have offices in Cardiff, but neither is a Welsh company. There are genuine Welsh companies closer to and even in Ceredigion that could and should be doing this work that is paid for with Welsh public funding.

Tai Ceredigion auditors

‘Welsh’ Government funding should carry the stipulation that as much as possible of that funding remains in Wales. This can only be achieved if the funding reaches genuinely Welsh firms, not outside firms with an office in Wales funnelling profits back to HQ, or those seeking to capitalise on the public funding bonanza with a hastily set up ‘Welsh branch’ that is little more than a post-box and a telephone number.

Of course, it would be easy to argue that none of this really matters because all the funding comes, in one form or another, from London. But only part of the Housing Finance Grant comes directly from London, the rest is raised commercially, and the other funding streams – Social Housing Grant, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and ‘Dowry Gap’ funding – seem to be ‘Welsh’ Government initiatives.

Which is worrying, because it gives us a situation in many parts of Wales, perhaps especially in rural areas, where housing associations are on a treadmill of growth and expansion fuelled by this funding – yet there is often little or no local demand for more social housing.

Housing associations are perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the Third Sector, the shadow world that those buffoons down Cardiff docks want us to believe is an economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, all underpinned by public funding. And all unnecessary. As I shall now explain by delving a little more into the Public Policy Institute for Wales report I mentioned earlier.

~~~~~~~~~~

‘THE POTENTIAL OF THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN WALES’

Before diving into the report it might be worth just pausing to see what kind of an organisation the Institute is. It was formed in January last year to “provide the Welsh Government with authoritative independent analysis and advice.” If you look through the names to be found in ‘The Team’, ‘The Board of Governors’, and the ‘Executive Group’, you get the impression that the PPIW is very much a cross-border outfit, containing – on the Board of Governors – people who know Wales such as Gerry Holtham, along with people, such as Will Hutton, who may be very clever and a Newsnight regular but know little about our country. ‘The Team‘, presumably those running the PPIW day-to-day, is disappointingly top-heavy, to the point of capsizing, with apparatchiks and people from the Third Sector.

The Executive Group “is made up of representatives from the organisations that formed part of the consortium that collaborated in the development of the PPIW”. These are ‘our’ universities (including Liverpool but not Glyndŵr!) and Victoria Winkler of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s very own think-tank, the Bevan Foundation.

The report set out to answer three questions, found below.

PPIW report aims

Some Report Findings

The PPIW report confirms that the PRS is growing in every single local authority area, though predictably, Cardiff, with its vast student population and other young singles, outstrips all other areas. In fact, the report tells us that in Cardiff, “owner occupation has actually fallen compared to renting in both absolute and proportional terms”. Table 6 shows that 22.1% of Cardiff’s dwellings are privately rented. The next highest local authority area is Ceredigion with 17.5%, and then in third place comes Denbighshire with 16.5%.

PRS changes

The figures for both Cardiff and Ceredigion are influenced by the student presence while the ‘Rhyl factor’ explains the Denbighshire figure, correlated in Table 1, which tells us that Sir Dinbych lost 870 private households between 2001 and 2011 while the same period saw an increase of 1,468 in the PRS. Other areas saw a decline in the number of private households but nowhere was the fall as dramatic as in Denbighshire.

Staying with Table 6, in percentage and absolute terms Carmarthenshire saw the highest increase in private households due mainly to the saturation housing strategy devised by the Planning Inspectorate and eagerly implemented by those running the council. The same designed-to-attract-English-buyers process can also be observed at work in Powys. (N.B. A ‘household’ can be a person living alone or a family of 10.)

Table 9 tells us that rents in the PRS are always higher than the RSL sector though this varies from area to area. In Blaenau Gwent the average social rent is £61.68 per week, or 89% of the PRS, whereas in Wrecsam, Swansea and Cardiff the percentage drops to 67%, though the average PRS rent in Wrecsam is lower than the two southern cities.

Poor PRS

Of course there is a downside to this unplanned and largely unchecked growth in the PRS, especially in decaying coastal towns like Rhyl, and areas of our cities taken over by students. That downside is the breakdown of community life and an increase in various forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

It could even be argued that there is a case to be made for paying compensation to long-term residents of such neighbourhoods. Compensation to be paid by the ‘Welsh’ Government or the local authority, whoever was responsible for not guarding against such decline or refusing to implement the legislation that could have prevented it.

A Better Way

Happily, the report also makes clear that there are alternatives to endlessly pumping public money into secretive, unaccountable and amateurishly run housing associations, or otherwise allowing the growth of ghettoes of cross-border criminals and misfits housed by slum landlords. To avoid these outcomes the report draws our attention to institutional investment such as pension funds to provide rented and other property, coupled with more imaginative and varied housing options.

In the Appendix the report’s authors look at three examples in the south where the ‘Welsh’ Government is in partnership with the Principality Building Society in a venture called Tai Tirion (or Tirion Group Ltd, Co. No. 08891823) to build over a thousand new homes on brownfield sites in Cardiff, Newport and the Rhondda. Though that said, there is not a lot of progress being made. Not really surprising, seeing as the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved . . .

I say that not out of malice, it’s just the way things are. Institutional investors such as pension funds are viewed with suspicion by Statist ‘Welsh’ Labour. As the report puts it – refer to ‘three questions’ panel above – “the Minister confirmed that the emphasis of the project should be concentrated mainly on (i) and (ii)”.

PRS minister response

To remind you . . . Question iii reads, ‘If the PRS is to be a long term tenure of choice, whether it is likely to be possible to interest institutional money and professional management in the market (i.e. what are the barriers to large scale investment?).’

On reading that you can almost imagine a ‘Welsh’ Labour politician or apparatchik having an involuntary evacuation of the bowels . . . “‘institutional money’! . . . ‘professional management’! . . . people who might understand business! . . . what about our friends in the Third Sector, how are they to sustain their muesli-weaving, skinny latte lifestyles? . . . oh, no, we can’t have that!

So the ‘Welsh’ Government prefers to let the private rental sector grow in a reckless and uncontrolled manner through the activities of Buy to Let ‘investors’ and people who buy dilapidated hotels in Colwyn Bay to house Scouse junkies.

~~~~~~~~~~

CONCLUSION

It is surely obvious that if housing associations are the answer, then the question must have been, ‘What is the most expensive (to the public purse) and least efficient way of delivering rented social housing?’ In the hope of disguising this monumental error we are now encumbered with secretive, unaccountable money pits.

Which would be bad enough if they were at least spending the money on housing Welsh people, but due to the Englandandwales allocation system into which our housing associations are locked a Welsh family is all too likely to discover that the Family from Hell has been given the house next door . . . ‘Hell’ in this case will be Birmingham, or Stoke-on-Trent, or Sheffield, or . . .

Consequently, there is no justification for pouring any more money into housing associations. Especially given that the Conservative government in London is almost certainly planning to do away with them. Or does the ‘Welsh’ Government think this is a devolved matter? Maybe it is, but that won’t count for anything if Westminster forces change through by cutting the block grant. And further undermines the sector with selected benefit cuts.

So my advice to the ‘Welsh’ Government is this: realise that housing associations are an expensive failure. Then, get ahead of the curve by taking control of the social rented sector nationally and looking for the kind of investors mentioned in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, pension funds and others looking for the kinds of large-scale investments that individual housing associations and single sites cannot provide.

To take advantage of this private funding, and to save the public purse a hell of a lot of money, you, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, need to put aside your congenital hostility to business and real money and, for a change, prioritise the best interests of the Welsh people. It’s what you were elected to do – remember?

END

Nov 122015
 

The mythical Wales Green Party is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff between 10:30 and 17:00. I have been given sight of some important documents that shed light on both the Greens’ approach to next year’s elections to the Notional Assembly and the personalities likely to be playing prominent roles in that campaign.

I describe this party as ‘mythical’ because there is no Wales Green Party, all we have is a regional branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. But rather than confuse you as to why I’m writing about something that doesn’t exist, let us go along with the pretence and, for the purposes of this post, pretend that there is a Wales Green Party. (Though of course there isn’t.)

Amelia Womack

Let us start with the recent meeting of the party’s Council on October 10th. Among other things it was agreed that although she is ineligible – not even being a member of the Wales Green Party – UK deputy leader Amelia Womack will be standing for the Assembly next year in the Cardiff Central constituency while also topping the list in the South Wales Central region.

So much for rule books and the party constitution. Though I’m hearing that Ms Womack’s selection has not been universally accepted, and has the potential to cause serious disruption within the party.

Though it could be argued that there is a certain logic at work here. For how can this Womack woman be a member of a party that doesn’t exist? She is deputy leader of the only Green Party in Englandandwales, and is therefore perfectly entitled to stand.

Though the likeliest winner could be whoever tops the list for the Mid and West Wales region, and the one who’s bagged this spot is Alice Hooker-Stroud. It seems Hooker-Stroud has connections with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris (surprise! surprise!), and busies herself with other hippy activities in the area, such as the Machynlleth Housing Coop and the Machynlleth Food Coop.

Alice Hooker-Stroud

But you have to give Hooker-Stroud credit, when it comes to self-publicity this girl is bloody good, as you’d expect from someone in her line of work, Public Relations and Communications. Her Linkedin profile is one of the fullest, most comprehensive, I’ve ever read.

Then there’s the videos . . . believe me, this girl is no shrinking violet, just Google Alice Hooker-Stroud to see what I mean. It should come as no surprise to learn that she is also standing for the leadership of the Wales Green Party, against the dynamic duo of Ashley Wakeling and Anthony Slaughter. ‘Leadership election!’ you cry, ‘what about Pippa Bartolotti?’

Ah, yes . . . I can’t keep the bad news from you any longer, boys and girls – Pippa Bartolotti is standing down! I must admit, I shed a little tear when I heard that news.

Pippa Bartolotti

Here is Pippa’s valedictory report. It tells us just a little of what she’s been up to this year, from opening the Rhwiderin (sic) “Save our Woodlands” fund-raiser to hosting the South Wales Greens summer party. (My invitation must have got lost in the post.)

But don’t do anything drastic, for the lovely Pippa will be standing for the Assembly next year in Newport West, and also topping the regional list for South Wales East. So dry those eyes and put away the tissues!

UPDATE 16.12.2015: The winner is (drum roll!) . . . Alice Hooker Stroud! You will note that in the report I’ve linked to there is no mention of Ashley Wakeling; that’s because he pulled out of the contest at the end of November and resigned from the party. Reading his resignation blog post makes it clear that he was coming under attack from Neath . . . which is where Martyn Shrewsbury is now based . . . and seeing as Shrewsbury is La Bartolotti’s faithful retainer, dare we consider that getting rid of Wakeling was her way of ensuring the successor she prefers? Note that Wakeling was accused of being rather too fond of himself . . . so to prove his accusers wrong he will now stand in the Assembly elections as an independent.

*

In case you can’t make it to the AGM on Saturday, here is a copy of the agenda, to help you follow the international media coverage I’m sure the event will generate. Having flicked through it myself, I urge you to read it, because it’s more than just an agenda, it runs to 29 pages and is also an annual report, a balance sheet, a list of officials and candidates, election results and reports, and much, much more. It is a very revealing document.

For example, it reminds us what a thoroughly English and middle class party the Green Party is with this analysis of its general election candidates in Wales.

Greens ethnic balance

Elsewhere the membership secretary boasts that membership has doubled in 2015, to a high point of 2,850 on September 6, but then has to concede that things have gone into reverse since Corbyn became Labour leader.

Though I found it encouraging to read that the Green Party supports the “greater economic independence of poor countries” . . . but not of course, Wales.

Green Poor Countries

*

Another document of which I have had sight is the Greens’ Strategy document 2015 – 2017. I can also recommend this 28-page document, it’s another fascinating read. I suppose no one should be surprised by this, but for next year’s Assembly elections the Greens will be bringing in lots of helpers from England . . . how will we manage to tell them apart from our ‘Welsh’ Greens?

Anyway, the Greens’ primary objectives for the Assembly elections next year are set out in the panel below.

Green Assembly Aims

Elsewhere in the document we are told that ‘our core demographic remains the left-of-centre “lower class professionals”, likely to work in the third sector or the creative industries’. Plus of course, layabout hippies and other wastrels infesting the Welsh countryside.

Annex 2:5 is good for a laugh. For once the Greens get something right; yes, Plaid Cymru is on a downward trend, and at present it’s still slow. But anyone who believes that Plaid Cymru is a party that wants independence hasn’t been paying attention, or doesn’t know much about Wales, both of which could apply to the Green Party.

Green Plaid Independence

Plaid Cymru also gets a mention in a discussion of election strategies and relationships with other parties.

Greens no Plaid deal

Them bloody badgers!

The final part of the document is taken up with wild hypothesising and guesswork on election outcomes. Here’s an example: ‘Some of the implications are downright weird – for example, in MWW (Mid and West Wales), if the Corbyn bubble continues to expand, we should target Plaid Cymru, but if it bursts, we should target the Lib Dems’.

Believe me, there are some really strange and highly improbable – though very entertaining – calculations in there (some even involve the Socialist Labour Party!), but I shall avoid any snide reference to smoking.

*

I have written about the Greens more than once, most recently about a year ago, with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of Englandandwales (November 10) and More on the Green Party of Englandandwales (November 17). Reading these posts will tell you how I feel about them. The documents I’ve read this week only confirm me in my contempt.

Because those documents reminded us yet again what a thoroughly English party the Greens in Wales are. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of names are given in them, and yet I doubt if more than a handful are Welsh. Alice Hooker-Stroud clams to have attended Llanfyllin High School; maybe she did, but I guarantee she comes from a white settler family.

Alice Hooker-Stroud skype

There is something so ineffably colonialist about the Greens in Wales that I cannot think of any comparison. Not simply because they’re English, but also because of their dictatorial ‘We know best’ attitudes. I cannot think of any party, operating in any Western country, that is so divorced from the indigenous population of that country. So where should we look for an analogy – the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet?

Any Welsh person with concerns for the environment should think long and hard before voting for a party whose members regard him as a quaint and primitive native. And if Plaid Cymru suggests another deal with the Green Party of Englandandwales then that should be taken as final confirmation that Plaid has given up all hope of victory.

UPDATE 12:50: I’ve just been told that Dan Boyle has been appointed to manage the Greens’ Assembly campaign next year. Who is Dan Boyle? Well, he’s an Irish politician, from Cork. In his favour – and unlike the shower we’ve got in Wales – this guy has actually been elected. But he doesn’t know Wales any better than those who’ve appointed him. I hope he knows what he’s let himself in for.

UPDATE 20.11.2015: Predictably, I suppose, this post didn’t go down well in Green circles. To get revenge La Bartolotti revived her attack hamster, Martyn Shrewsbury. Here’s his comeback post. Shrewsbury has served this purpose before as this makes clear. Here’s another account. As these sources also remind us, Shrewsbury very nearly ended up in the slammer. Here’s one report of the case.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are some very ugly people in the Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. When they aren’t fighting each other like ferrets in a sack they’re up to dirty tricks against anyone exposing them for the charlatans they are. Sometimes it’s both.

 

Nov 082015
 

HOOKED ON FUNDING

Drugs is big business, as this recent case reminded us, and drugs generates lots of money for people other than drug dealers. Even the UK government has acknowledged that drug dealers buy cars, houses, boats, bling, foreign holidays, etc., etc. On top of that, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ keeps cops, lawyers and prisons in business. And as if that wasn’t enough, we then have all those who’ve found jobs ‘helping’ drug addicts.

There must now be thousands of agencies, large and small, operating locally, at Wales level, UK level, which often overlap and duplicate each other’s work and, in total, receive billions of pounds in funding from various sources. The only losers in this situation are of course the drug addicts – but ‘it’s their own fault anyway’. A strange attitude to take towards those who keep this ship afloat.

Of course, the only other blot on this landscape of economic win-win is that those involved in manufacturing, importing and distributing drugs tend to keep their assets offshore, or under granny’s mattress, and therefore pay no tax. But since when have such practices ever troubled UK politicians, of any party?

If you wanted to be utterly cynical, you could argue that there are now so many people dependent on the drugs trade that if the ‘War on Drugs’ was, by some fluke, won, then it might have a seriously detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Drugaid

I am indebted to Brychan for reminding us that among the big players in Wales in the ‘helping drug addicts’ racket is The South Wales Association For Prevention Of Addiction Ltd (Charity No 265008), more usually known as Drugaid. Its four trustees are Professor Neil Frude, Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf, Mr William George David Smith and Mrs Linda Hodgson. As well Prof Frudeas being trustees of the charity these four are also the only directors of the cash-rich Newport-based company of the same name (No 01073381).

Professor Frude appears to be a somewhat unorthodox psychologist and one-time stand-up comedian, who runs the Happiness Consultancy in Berkshire. He is also an external professor at the University of South Wales and has some connection with Cardiff University. Though his main income is said to be from his work for BUPA, which no doubt contributes greatly to Frude’s personal happiness.

Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf is a retired lady of 79, who may live in Newport, or she may live in Oxford. I’m told that she recently got an OBE for her work with the Girl Guides. (When I tried to ‘work’ with Girl Guides during my Sea Scouts days all I ever got was ‘Get lost, you dirty sod’!) Miss Scarf is also said to be ‘big’ in the Anglican Church. When I read that it made me think of John Major’s old ladies cycling to Evensong after a skinfull of warm beer. Ah!

William George David Smith seems to be a chartered accountant in Cardiff and Linda Hodgson may, or may not, live in Porth, in the Rhondda. The contact and director for Drugaid is a Caroline Phipps from God knows where but currently domiciled in Caerffili. All in all, a typical ‘Welsh’ Third Sector outfit, made up of willing locals and those who can sniff out easy money from 500 miles away.

Drugaid first saw the light of day in Cardiff, in 1972, brought into this cruel world by the Reverend Peter Keward, and christened South Wales Action to Prevent Addiction (SWAPA). Since when it seems to have moved to Newport and concentrated its activities in the central and eastern Valleys, even into prosperous Monmouthshire. And despite what the outdated ‘About Us’ page says, Drugaid is also spreading west, yea unto Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. In fact, the organisation now covers the whole of the south, from the border to the Irish Sea . . . apart from Cardiff and Swansea Bay, perhaps having been warned off the two main cities.

In figures submitted to the Charity Commission Drugaid had income for the year ended March 30, 2014 of £2,727,668 and expenditure of £2,789,439. It had 78 employees and 30 volunteers, so we are dealing here with a sizeable operation, and it’s still growing, currently advertising to fill 8 vacancies. (Here in screen capture.)

What does Drugaid actually do?

This is the tricky bit. Drugaid seems to work with ‘partner’ bodies, these include GPs, health services, various other Third Sector bodies, and the ‘National’ Probation Service (for Englandandwales). The latest available accounts show that these ‘partners’ (excluding local health boards and councils) put £1.74m into the Drugaid pot y/e 31.03.2014, with a further £606,397 coming from our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government. So where does it go?

Drugaid income

Well, £1.83m went on wages and salaries, then there was ‘Hire of equipment and services’ (£211,870), ‘Motor and mileage costs’ (£88,151), ‘Light and heat’ (£80,287), ‘Telephone’ (£42,249), ‘Other operating leases’ (£162,854), ‘Sundries’ (£160,807), ‘Depreciation’ (£91,902), etc., etc. Apart from ‘Needles’ (£31,949), it’s difficult to identify any direct spending on those the charity is supposed to be helping, but let’s remember, this is a major employer, pushing towards 100 employees. (The two columns show y/e 31.03.2014 on the left, 2013 on the right.)

Drugaid spending

If one wished to be unkind it would easy to dismiss Drugaid as yet another charity where almost all the funding goes on salaries and administrative costs. A grotesquely bloated organisation, currently expanding beyond its ability to cope with this expansion and, as a result, not achieving a lot. Hardly surprising perhaps for a charity overseen by a stand-up comic.

I say that because in searching the Drugaid website I could find nothing boasting of ‘outcomes’, that word so beloved of Third Sector organisations, used in describing successes, numbers of ‘clients’ helped. Then my hopes soared as I saw ‘Drugaid Annual Review‘ . . . but the last one was posted in 2011! How is anyone – funders, for example – supposed to know whether Drugaid is actually doing any good? Or is Drugaid just part of some Third Sector merry-go-round where ‘cases’ get moved on from one agency to another with each agency taking its cut?

Drugaid gobbledegook

Another indicator that all may not be well is something else I found on the website, an invitation to tender, worded thus: “Drugaid is currently reviewing the provision of Supervision to our employees.  Following feedback from staff, a review of our Supervision Policy and research into best practice in Supervision, Drugaid has decided to redefine the supervision that is offered to all staff to provide a more inclusive, productive and efficient means of providing this vital support to all who work for us.”

Oh sorry, the closing date for that tender was 20th of February 2013!!! This is getting worrying. If the website is anything to go by, Drugaid is in one hell of a mess – but remember, this is an organisation that’s still expanding! Here’s a screen capture of the 2013 invitation to tender, because I guarantee it won’t be on the website much longer.

What else do we know?

I’ve already mentioned that in addition to the charity there is also a private company, limited by guarantee, with the same directors as are trustees of the charity. The company has a net worth of £1.1m, and £1.2m in cash.

Having also mentioned the situations currently vacant, it may be worthwhile focusing on one of these, the job in Merthyr catering for veterans. This caught Brychan’s eye due to a difference in legislation between Wales and England. Here in Wales, the Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Wales) Order 2001 specifies that anyone who finds himself / herself homeless after leaving the armed forces is categorised as a priority for social housing. The Homelessness Act 2002, which applies to England only, allows local authorities there to reject applicants on the grounds of ‘no local connection’.

Given what we already know about the operations of the Third Sector and social housing bodies, and how lax legislation allows – even encourages – the importation of ‘clients’ from England, it demands no great leap of the imagination to envision Drugaid bringing in English ex-service personnel with drugs problems. Does this go some way to account for the recent expansion, both in personnel numbers and geographical reach?

Whatever Drugaid is doing, or supposed to be doing, it doesn’t seem to do it well. Nowhere does it give figures for those it has helped, as a result there seems to be no way whatsoever of gauging its success.  The percentage of its income spent on salaries and administrative charges is ludicrous, and should be unacceptable to its funders. The website, Drugaid’s window to the world, is an absolute shambles, full of gibberish and out-of-date pages. There has been no Yearly Review posted since that for 2011. How the hell can an organisation in such a state be allowed, even encouraged, to expand?

Finally, and being guided by the latest accounts, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Drugaid is no more than a glorified needle exchange. As such, it does not deserve the excessive funding it receives. It is surely time for partners and funders to review their support for Drugaid.

*

NEIL WOOLLARD, ANOTHER UPLANDS COUNCILLOR GONE MISSING?

Following on the recent news of the departure from Swansea of Uplands councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, which itself followed on the departure last year of his friend Pearleen Sangha, I now hear that another Labour councillor from that ward may have disappeared.Phil Tanner

The name I’m hearing is Neil Woollard, an interesting character, Woollard, for in addition to his day job, and his council work, Neil and some friends are the Rag Foundation, a popular folk ensemble. The group’s repertoire draws heavily on the songs of Gower folk singer Phil Tanner (1862 – 1950), a man whose life covered the ending of south Gower’s ‘island’ status, those centuries when it had more in common with Somerset than with north Gower. I’ve even read somewhere that Woollard is Tanner’s grandson, but to my knowledge Tanner had no children, certainly none are recorded.

What I’m hearing is that Woollard is employed by ‘a company involved with the Swansea tidal lagoon’, yet for some reason this means that he now lives in the Cardiff area. Though this might not be as odd as it sounds, for the company behind the lagoon is based in Gloucester, so maybe he’s chosen to live somewhere roughly half way between Swansea and Gloucester. But I’m only guessing. My source is however adamant that Woollard now lives somewhere in the Cardiff area.

While Woollard’s attendance record at council meetings has not taken the dramatic turn for the worse we saw with Bayliss (and why should it, for Bayliss is further away, in Bristol), there has still been a marked decline. In the period 14.05.2015 – 06.11.2015 his attendance record was 30%, but for the six-month period before that it was 60%.

So the question on Woollard is roughly the same as I asked for Bayliss.Is he still able to properly discharge his duties as councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea? If not, then there must be a by-election, not another lengthy period – as we saw with Sangha – of the Labour Party staying schtum or, when pressed, maintaining that he’s still, ‘livin’ down by ‘ere, mun’ and that nothing has changed.

Dylan Thomas’s old neighbourhood is now an area of flats and houses of multiple occupation, with a largely transient population of students and drifters, but that is no reason for this transient and footloose lifestyle to extend to the Labour councillors elected to represent the ward.

UPDATE 19:25: I am now informed by one of my alert readers that Woollard is actually working on the proposed Cardiff tidal lagoon, as Head of Local Engagement. The Cardiff Tidal Lagoon bio blurb makes it clear why Woollard was recruited – his contacts within the Labour Party.

Neil Woollard Tidal Lagoon

Strangely, or perhaps not, there is no mention that Woollard is a Swansea councillor. What do the rules say about elected councillors canvassing other councillors, AMs and ministers on behalf of a private company? And how should people back in Swansea feel about one of their councillors working on what could be viewed as a rival project to the Swansea tidal lagoon? Serious questions here for Woollard and Labour.

*

SOPHIE HOWE, MORE LABOUR CRONYISM

Earlier this year I wrote about Sophie Howe, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales. Well now her Labour cronies have given her another well-paid job, this time as Future Generations Commissioner, a flim-flam post created, it would appear, for no better reason than to pander to the Green lobby . . . and of course to create another cushy number for one of the insiderest of Labour insiders.

Howe is the daughter of a Labour councillor, who herself became a councillor at 22, she also worked as a Research / Casework Assistant for both Julie Morgan MP and Sue Essex AM, before moving up to do similar work for Julie Morgan’s husband and First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and then his successor in that post Carwyn Jones, before most recently becoming No 2 to former Labour MP Alun Michael in February 2013, after he became the PCC. She was hoping to find a safe seat for the May General Election, but failed, so this post could be viewed as a consolation prize. But I have no doubt that a safe seat will be found for her before 2020, so no one should expect her to see out the ‘seven-year term’ of this job.

Her father, Peter Howe, followed her into the office of Julie Morgan to, eventually, become office manager. A correspondent insists that Howe was a bully, a failing overlooked by his adoring daughter who was otherwise so interested in protecting women from male bullying. Though in this instance the suggested ‘trigger’ might have been jealousy, as the woman being bullied had been selected to stand for Cardiff City Council . . . whereas Peter Howe had been overlooked.

Sophie Howe

Reactions to the appointment varied. Tory leader Andrew R T Davies did his ‘Confused but Mildly Outraged of Cowbridge’ act while others were less charitable. Among them a rising star within Plaid Cymru, councillor Neil McEvoy. On a lighter note, Llanelli Plaid Cymru councillor Ruth Price made a Sharon Stone comment which unfortunately allowed Howe’s defenders to focus on this merry quip rather than on the appointment itself.

Howe’s boss, PCC Alun Michael, went into full feigned outrage mode and was quoted as saying, ‘There is no place for comments of this sort in a civilised society and it is particularly unacceptable in Wales.” What utter bollocks. A civilised society is judged by far, far more important things than an off-the-cuff remark like this. Among them, openness in public appointments. You sanctimonious little prick!

For her pains Ruth Price also took stick from her own party, including a Twitter DM from Llanelli Assembly candidate Helen Mary Jones. In fact, among Plaid’s big-wigs there seemed to be considerably more support for Sophie Howe than opposition. It even seemed to be decided by an individual’s attitudes to a Plaid coalition with Labour next year. Here’s what Plaid Cymru regional AM Jocelyn Davies tweeted almost as soon as the announcement was made public.

Jocelyn Davies tweet

Well, well, there was me thinking that this Sophie Howe appointment was about Labour cronyism corrupting the public and political life of Wales, a reminder that Wales is a one-party state, but no! – it’s a wimmin issue. And everything’s OK cos our Sophie is “a strong woman”. Is Jocelyn Davies standing again next year?

Using this rationale, perhaps it would have been acceptable for a misogynist communist to have sent Hitler a telegram in 1933, saying, ‘Good to see a strong man in charge, Mein Fuhrer‘ . . . before he was dragged off to the concentration camp.

It’s said that Sophie Howe is a lawyer, if so, she’s never used that training for anything other than political purposes. Every job she’s ever done has either been working directly for the Labour Party, or else was gained through her Labour Party connections. Consequently, there is no way of gauging this woman’s real ability because there has never been any politically impartial assessment. She should never have been appointed Future Generations Commissioner.

*

SAM WARBURTON, CAPTAIN CARDIFF

The Rugby World Cup circus has departed, the ball has gone from the castle wall, and despite all the hype and expectation, we didn’t win the bloody thing, again. Yes, I know, we had lots of injuries, and biased refs (no, sorry, that was Scotland), but what struck me was that even when it was all over the ‘Welsh’ media couldn’t stop being . . . well, the Cardiff media.

Soon after the Final final whistle two of Wales’ great rugby pundits weighed in in the Wasting Mule to tell us that Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, is the best player we’ve got, and the only one who’d make it into the World XV to take on the tourists from Mars. First, on October 29th, it was former Wales captain Gwyn Jones, and a few days later, on November 1st, it was the turn of rugby correspondent Andy Howell.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Warburton is a fine player, it’s just that the Cardiff media is besotted with him. Sometimes it’s possible to pick up the Llais y Sais and find him on the front page, a few of the sports pages, and a couple of inside pages. It’s bizarre, because it’s quite obvious that on the field of play – and I suspect in training and elsewhere – the national team is actually led by Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar. Whereas Warburton, on the field, is almost silent, and certainly no captain. So is it a ceremonial role?

This adoration of Sam Warburton does not extend beyond Wales, or perhaps beyond Cardiff. Shown by another report I picked up around the same time, sandwiched between the two I’ve quoted, this being the six-player shortlist for the Rugby World Player of the Year. Who do we see on the shortlist – Sam Warburton, surely? No, the only Welshman there is Alun Wyn Jones. Suggesting that people outside of Wales have a better perspective on Welsh rugby than many inside Wales.Dan Biggar

This corrupted view of various players’ qualities is due to the fact that the Wasting Mule, and to a lesser degree the BBC and ITV, see a great part of their role in being to promote the city of Cardiff, and anyone or anything that can in turn be used to promote Cardiff. This can not be done with Biggar or Jones because both come from Swansea, which is the worst of all possible alternatives. So it has to be wall-to-wall Warburton.

Of course it was the Welsh Rugby Union not the media that made Warburton captain, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Warburton regarding himself as British rather than Welsh makes him the perfect captain for hard-line Unionists like WRU Chairman David Pickering, for whom Wales flickers into life only on the rugby field. A kind of sporting Brigadoon.

Why Wales coach Warren Gatland falls into line with this nonsense is no great mystery. He knows Alun Wyn will sing the anthem lustily enough for both himself and Warburton, and put himself about for the full 80 minutes; he also knows that Biggar will cajole and inspire his team-mates for as long as he’s left on, so if it keeps the WRU suits and the Cardiff media happy why not play along with the charade of a figurehead captain?

*

WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT US?

Lying in bed the other morning, picking my nose and flicking bogies around the yet-dark room, I got to thinking about devolution, as you do when engaged in activity so conducive to deep, analytical thought.

It occurred to me that devolution, coupled with EU poverty funding, higher education, local government and other fields, have created in Wales tens of thousands of jobs in management roles for English administrators and others of moderate or even dubious ability who would struggle to land jobs offering anything like the same salaries and pension benefits in the private sector.

I’m thinking here of civil servants attached to the ‘Welsh’ Government and its various agencies, so many of the officers in our twenty-two local authorities, those innumerable managers in our seven health boards (plus the hospitals, clinics, centres, etc), housing associations beyond counting, third-rate academics in a higher education sector that ceased serving Welsh needs almost half a century ago, third sector organisations and other bodies too numerous to mention that have either come into existence since devolution or else have set up a ‘Welsh’ presence by transferring in staff.

Looking at it this way, devolution has been of more benefit to perhaps 30,000 members of England’s middle class than it has to 2.5 million Welsh. And most of this generosity is paid for out the Welsh public purse. But hey! that’s how colonialism operates.

Nov 032015
 

A guest post by the erudite, urbane, debonair, well-travelled, and ever well-refreshed, Gareth ap Siôn

The seemingly eternal history of struggle and conflict in the face of suppression of our Welsh national identity is not unique to the Cymric nation. It has been and is mirrored by the crushing of many an isolated society in this still unjust world.

This was sharply brought to mind after a recent visit to Frigiliana, a town situated in the most oriental region of the province of Málaga, which embraces the warm and Ap Sion 1beautiful Mediterranean coast of southern Spain.

Frigiliana is an intriguing place, with a wonderfully interesting history. It was the last bastion of Arab predominance in the Iberian peninsula, after a full 800 years of occupation; but, by 1485, the Reconquista, carried out by the Reyes Católicos had arrived. All other Moorish towns had, by then, been conquered and had forcibly been evacuated and re-populated with a Christian Spanish population. Since the town was so strongly fortified, a deal was brokered and, after the payment of tributes, the Moors were allowed to remain and practice their religion and way of life. They then became known as Mudejares. Peace and a productive tranquillity reigned between the two Spanish communities but, over the passing of time, the perverse side of human nature reared its ugly head, promises were forgotten and the population subjected to an ever- increasing oppression. The Moors were forced to convert to Christianity. The alternative was expulsion to Africa. Those that converted (often in appearance only!), became known as Moriscos.

The repression intensified during the reign of Phillip II. It became especially violent in 1567 when the Inquisition, through the sadistic insistence of the prime iAp Sion 2nquisitor Pedro de Deza, turned the screw tightly. The Moriscos were prohibited from carrying weapons, to talk or write in their own language, to marry ethnic Spanish, to wear traditional clothing or to practice their historic customs. Predictably, all this inspired rebellion, which was then ruthlessly and bloodily crushed. The Moriscos that did not flee were wiped out.

Despite all this, however, the genetic link was not entirely extinguished; to this day hearts in Frigiliana beat proud at the thought of their cultural heritage. The town is now officially designated ‘The town of the three cultures’ – Christian, Moorish and Jewish, and its logo intertwines the symbols of these cultures. After so much conflict, the three religions now co-exist in peace and harmony.

This first photograph is of a statue of the town logo, which combines the Christian, Moslem and Jewish symbols.

Interestingly, for historians, and for visitors such as myself, the council has erected, in obscure positions around the old part of the town, twelve ceramic wall plaques which tell the full tale of the rebellion and its repression. It is a very rewaAp Sion 3rding challenge for determined souls to track them all down (and attempt translation!) during the course of a day’s visit.

Here is the first plaque, which shows the fruitful state of the region before it was subject to siege and devastation.

Here is the translation:-

“The range of mountains that is Bentomiz is part of the constituency of the city of the Velez in the Málaga region. All this land is fertile, with many trees, and abundant, health-giving waters that bisect peaks that reach up to a sky so clear. The lightweight, sturdy and courageous population, the successors of Moorish royalty were the bravest in the kingdom of Granada. There were twenty-two villages of happy and content people, including Frigiliana.” wrote Mármol Carvajal in his “Rebelión y Castigo” (Libro Sexto Cap.XV Málaga, 1600).

The last plaque (above) shows the total post-conquest devastation. (Here is my approximate translation)

“An agonizing silence took over the hamlet of Frigiliana. There was the abandoned mountain, the dead bodies, the living voice of Martín Alguacil:- “If defending our freedom we die fighting, mother earth will receive us and though the graves be hidden, the sky will ever warm them. God does not want to say that the men of Bentomiz dared not die for their country.”

Between plaques one and twelve, which represent Frigiliana at its productive peak and then of the sorry state after all light was extinguished, are ten others which re-stage its swift downfall. These are shown below, listed A – K; to pause, just hold cursor over image:

Frigiliana

Photographs to accompany the guest post by Gareth ap Sion on Frigiliana in Spain

Frigiliana G
Frigiliana G
Frigiliana H
Frigiliana H
Frigiliana I
Frigiliana I
Frigiliana J
Frigiliana J
Frigiliana K
Frigiliana K
Frigiliana A
Frigiliana A
Frigiliana B
Frigiliana B
Frigiliana C
Frigiliana C
Frigiliana D
Frigiliana D
Frigiliana E
Frigiliana E
Frigiliana F
Frigiliana F

 

These plaques tell their own story without real need of further translations. (Very difficult, anyway, considering the medieval Spanish used!)

Sadly, and to anyone with but a minimal knowledge of Welsh history, there are glaringly obvious parallels to Wales as it was before and after the essential, proud, but ultimately unsuccessful Llywelyn and Glyndŵr rebellions. This is well-illustrated in the Welsh bardic poetry of the time.

The immortal Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch wrote an elegy to Llywelyn after his death and the conquest of Wales in 1282, which mirrors the sentiments of the Frigiliana plaques, especially the last one.

Here is a portion of it :-

Poni welwch chwi hynt y gwynt a’r glaw?
Poni welwch chwi’r deri’n ymdaraw?
Poni welwch chwi’r môr yn merwinaw’r tir?
Poni welwch chwi’r gwir yn ymgweiriaw?
Poni welwch chwi’r haul yn hwyliaw’r awyr?
Poni welwch chwi’r syr wedi’r syrthiaw?
Poni chredwch chwi i Dduw, ddyniadon ynfyd?
Poni welwch chwi’r byd wedi’r bydiaw?
Och hyd atat ti Dduw na ddaw – môr dros dir!
Na beth y’n geidr i ohiriaw?

Do you not see the path of the wind and the rain?
Do you not see the oak trees in turmoil?
Cold my heart in a fearful breast
Thou great Creator of the world,
Why are not thy red lightnings hurled?
Will not the sea at thy command swallow up this guilty land?
Why are we left to mourn in vain,
The guardian of our country slain?

Following that, there is nothing else that could be said, is there?

*

Jac writes: I have taken issue with Gareth over what he describes as the “glaringly obvious parallels to Wales”. The Moors that attract his sympathy were themselves conquerors and invaders; the Reconquista was the native Spanish reclaiming their land. (The clue is in Reconquista.) But then, this is the kind of error – ‘The white man is always in the wrong’ – into which socialism, alas, beguiles otherwise sound and sensible Welsh partiots.