Feb 292016
 

I’m off to Swansea this weekend, treating myself and the wife to a wee break. (Well, actually, the wife’s paying for the hotel.) I shall visit relatives and friends and go watch the Swans playing Norwich (son’s treating me!). So it will be at least a week until I put up my next post.

In the meantime, enjoy these tit-bits from hither and yon and have a good St. David’s Day. I might pop over to Wrecsam for the parade there, or maybe down to Aber’.

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DAWN BOWDEN AM?

Some of you will know by now that Dawn Bowden has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Merthyr and Rhymni in May’s Assembly elections. If you haven’t heard – and even if you have – you’re probably wondering who the hell she is.

Around this time last year I also got to wondering, because I was told that she’d Dawn Bowden 3been promised a place in the Assembly, and although the seats suggested were Islwyn and Caerffili, my source was adamant that her elevation would be stitched up with a women-only shortlist. This prompted me to make enquires, resulting in a mention for Ms Bowden in my post ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers. And lo! it came to pass . . .

On the right you’ll see two screen-captured Twitter profiles for Ms Bowden, the ‘Before’ image taken at around 19:30 on Saturday, the ‘After’ around 00:30 on Sunday. (Thanks to ‘S’ for tipping me off.) There are significant changes in the second profile.

First, the reference to loving the unions is gone. Second, she has changed out of the Brizzle City shirt – a dead giveaway for her origins. Third, she is no longer a socialist. (Rhodri Morgan’s ‘clear red water’ seems to be flowing the other way at the moment.) Fourth, she has removed the reference to @Carrageryr, aka Martin Eaglestone, her current beau and another Labour insider. Gone with the reference to Eaglestone is the mention of being step-mother to his children by an earlier wife in Gwynedd. (Or at least I assumed they were his.)

The new profile was obviously put up in a hurry; such a hurry that she couldn’t tell us the full title of her job with UNISON or even get the spelling right for the party she represents. Maybe the champagne had gone to her head. No doubt everything has been put right by now.

Dawn Bowden is obviously a Labour loyalist first and foremost, knowing little about Wales, and even less about Merthyr. Just another Labourite on the make who’s come through the system of Unions and Third Sector, the kind of woman who’s always banging on about ‘the people’ but rarely gets to meet them because she lives in a Labour cocoon where she only mixes with her own kind.

Her success in Merthyr came about because the sitting AM, Huw Lewis, surprised quite a few people last month by suddenly announcing he was standing down. I won’t go into the reasons for this decision, suffice to say that they are of a delicate and intimate nature, the kind of messy personal relationships of which Ms Bowden and Martin Eaglestone have experience.

The other two women on the Merthyr and Rhymni shortlist were Carol Estebanez, who is also from that magic land, ‘Away’, and also helps prop up a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party having serious problems finding Welsh candidates of any quality; and then there was Anna McMorrin, who worked as an advisor to the dickheads down Cardiff docks and who is / was having an affair with Alun Davies AM former Natural Resources Minister.

The decision to impose an all-women shortlist in order to guarantee Ms Bowden her promised seat did not go down well with the bruvvers in Merthyr. Misogynists almost to a man who see La Bowden as the beginning of the end, for not only do the long shadows of council merger creep ever closer, but in the distance can be heard the heavy tread of the Westminster executioner coming to take an axe to the Merthyr constituency.

There’s nothing here to surprise anyone who knows how the Labour Party operates in Wales, but I still have three questions:

1/ Is ‘Welsh’ Labour now an official branch of UNISON?

2/ How much of the donkey vote will turn out for this latest parachutist?

3/ Will the Merthyr bruvvers – and, indeed, the disgruntled local sissters – canvass for Dawn Bowden?

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OXBRIDGE AND THE WELSH CRINGE

The aforementioned Huw Lewis is still the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Education Minister, and something (else) that causes him sleepless nights is the fact that so few of us aspire to Oxford and Cambridge universities. To listen to him and others who talk through their back heads the Welsh education system should be geared to getting as many as possible of our young people to Oxbridge.

So I was intrigued to see this item on the BBC website by Gareth Jones, a producer with BBC Wales, talking about the Oxbridge ‘success’ rate of his old school in Swansea, Olchfa Comprehensive. Though what I found most interesting, and disturbing, was that hardly any of those who went from Olchfa to Oxford and Cambridge returned to Wales.

Olchfa

And yet, this is how it must be in a colonial relationship. Wealth gravitates to the centre, where power and influence is also concentrated. The peripheries provide raw materials and manpower, holiday destinations and other benefits for the centre. This is how it was in Rome and every empire since.

Which means that Huw Lewis and all the other cringers, all those desperate to show ‘our English friends’ that we’re (almost) as good as them, want us to pay for our brightest and best to leave Wales and never return – and we are expected to be ever so grateful! This, remember, is ‘the Welsh Government’.

Here’s a better suggestion, Lewis . . . Why don’t you and your half-wit, forelock-tugging colleagues try to shake off your inferiority complex and start putting Welsh interests first. And to give you a clue where to start, subsidising a brain drain does not serve the Welsh national interest.

And if you aren’t serving the Welsh national interest then you really have no right to call yourselves ‘the Welsh Government’.

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TOURISM PAYING ITS WAY

Regular readers will know that I have firm views on tourism in Wales. Basically, I believe that it is a colonialist activity from which few Welsh people benefit, and that it is also destroying Welsh identity. In fact, from a patriotic perspective, I see nothing to be said in favour of the tourism Wales suffers today.

This unregulated and destructive ‘industry’ is doing irreparable harm to our homeland. Just look at the photograph below showing hordes of tourists swarming up to the summit of Snowdon, having been brought up almost all the way by the vile little train. Shouldn’t we be treating our beauty spots and our iconic mountains with more respect? Perhaps we would, but of course we Welsh have no control over the tourism ravaging our country.

Snowdon tourists

In Italy they do things better. With tourism taxes in various locations that suffer from too many gawpers and clickers. The latest moves are to limit the numbers of visitors to the Cinque Terre area. And as the article I’ve linked to tells us, big cruise liners are now banned from the Venice lagoon.

Elsewhere, in Italy and other countries, tourists are expected to put money into the public purse, not just the pockets of those taking the tourists’ money, who may be foreign companies or individuals from outside the country. The article I used tells us that such economic pragmatism is not limited to Italy, for “Bhutan doesn’t limit its number of tourists, but it does force them – through package tours – to spend $250 a day in high season ($200 in low), which apparently funds education, healthcare and so on.”

Here in Wales, when the subject of a tourist tax was mentioned last year, a spokesman for the industry was quite receptive to the idea – “providing the cash raised was ploughed back into the sector”. Er, no.

Wales has a problem with tourism. We have too much of it causing too much damage and bringing too few benefits to Welsh people and Welsh communities. So let’s tax tourism, thereby reducing the unmanageable numbers, and invest the money raised in those areas suffering the worst.

One way of using this income would be to help young locals buy homes in areas where tourism, and the resultant irruption of good-lifers and retirees, has priced them out of the property market. But it would be insane to ‘invest’ the money raised from tourism to encourage more tourism!

Of course the argument usually employed against a tourism tax is the same one used against raising council tax on holiday homes, which is that such measures would reduce the numbers of tourists coming from England.

I have given this argument a great deal of thought. It has caused me many a sleepless night. But for the life of me, I don’t get it. Because from where I’m sitting, Welsh people and Welsh communities seeing financial and other benefits from fewer tourists is a win-win situation.

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 IS ‘WELLNESS’ A SYNONYM FOR PRIVATE HEALTH CARE?

Those of you lucky enough to live in James-shire, the entertainment capital of Wales, may already be aware of the goodies coming your way in the very vague form of the Wellness village, or the Wellness centre, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. I say ‘very vague’ because even if you are aware of it, I guarantee you don’t know who’s involved and what it’s all about.

Meryl

MERYL GRAVELL

There are so many interlinking and overlapping organisations involved with this project that I shall not attempt to list them, let alone guess at how they might be connected. Instead, I refer you to a piece that appeared on the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board website in December 2015, and this article from last week’s Llanelli Herald which quotes the one and only Meryl Gravell, Mark James’ plenipotentiary extraordinary to us mere mortals.

If I was cynical (and I thank God I’m not!) I might suggest that what’s happening is this: The leisure centre is being demolished and a new one built; but to get as much lolly as possible bells and whistles are being added in order to promote the project as a ‘Wellness Centre’ incorporating a health centre, a hotel and conference centre, facilities for various ‘therapies’, etc.

Which could result in some poor bugger struggling down there with a bad back, going through the wrong door and finding himself confronted by a Siberian shaman; or perhaps getting legless with a bunch of middle managers down for a conference.

And if I wanted to be really, really cynical I might wonder who is involved in this project that isn’t among the many bodies named. For even the most trusting soul might have his or her suspicions raised by this document on South Llanelli, adopted by Carmarthenshire County Council in December 2014, which has this to say of Delta Lakes (on page 25): “Other related uses (eg healthcare /service sector – social and/or private health care) may also be considered appropriate”.

“Private health care”! Can we hypothesise that the undisclosed ‘partners’ in this project might be private health care providers? Though let me say that I have no objection in principle to private health care. Who can possibly object as long as such companies build hospitals and other health facilities using money provided by investors, banks, and those subscribing to private health care schemes?

But this is Wales and, more importantly, Carmarthenshire, so there must be a possibility that a company providing private health care has been wooed to Delta Lakes with the promise of spanking new facilities funded with public money, sixty million pounds of it.

And this being Wales it will also be trumpeted as a great coup that BUPA or Spire has chosen to ‘invest’ in Llanelli and Carmarthenshire. The massive investment from the public purse that underpins and explains this ‘coup’ will of course be downplayed if not excised entirely from the hyperbolic narrative.

So I suggest that instead of trying to confuse the public, those behind this project explain it better, and give us the names of all the ‘partners’. If only to allay the suspicions many hold.

Because Carmarthenshire in recent years has seen too many projects pushed through in secret. Loans have been made (and lost), and planning permission has been granted, on a nod and a wink. Small wonder that some ask if backhanders might explain this curious methodology.

And seeing as this Delta Lakes project – whatever it is – has the enthusiastic support of Mark James and Meryl Gravell we’re also entitled to ask if the council’s favourite business adviser, Robin Cammish, is involved.

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A LITTLE HOME IN THE WEST – RENTED FROM AN ‘INVESTOR’?

I like a man who can’t be fobbed of with flim-flam and bullshit, and one such man is regular correspondent Wynne Jones down in Cardigan. Not only is Wynne alert to flim-flam but he’s also very well organised, knowing what questions to ask and to whom they should be directed.

Not so long ago, after receiving information from Wynne, I wrote about Pembrokeshire Housing and its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes, first in Social Housing, Time to End This Lunacy (December 14), and then with Mill Bay Homes, Tai Ceredigion, Answers Needed (January 03).

To briefly explain, Pembrokeshire Housing is a publicly-funded – £27m since 2008 in Social Housing Grant alone – housing association or Registered Social Landlord (RSL). Mill Bay Homes, a ‘subsidiary’ of Pembrokeshire Housing builds and sells properties on the open market, with the money made from this activity going to the parent company for it to invest in more units of social housing . . . or at least, that’s the theory.

But as Wynne found out in a recent reply from Helga Warren, Head of Housing Funding for the ‘Welsh’ Government, Pembrokeshire Housing has yet to see a penny of the money Mill Bay Homes has made from five private developments! Admitted in the extract below, taken from a larger document (click to enlarge).

Wynne Jones Helga Warren

 

 

 

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, Mill Bay Homes advertises its properties as ideal investments for Buy-to-let landlords. Some reading this might think it odd for the subsidiary of a publicly-funded RSL to be encouraging such activity, I certainly think there’s something not right here.

Especially when we realise that Mill Bay Homes also administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Help to Buy – Cymru scheme, intended to help people, presumably young people, buy their first new home. Inevitably, Wynne and I wondered if ‘investors’ had been allowed to avail themselves of the Help to Buy scheme.

Ms Warren came to the rescue with this assurance: “Help to Buy is operated by Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd. They carry out extensive checks on behalf of Welsh Government as part of the affordability calculations for any potential buyer. As part of this assessment customers are advised that buy-to-let investments are strictly prohibited under the scheme. Scheme documentation clearly indicates that any fraudulent application for Help to Buy (Wales) assistance could be liable to criminal prosecution. Any fraudulent claims uncovered as part of our monitoring and governance arrangements, will always require immediate repayment of the shared equity loan assistance”.

Read it carefully. There is ‘advice’, there is ‘documentation’, but there seem to be no real checks. As things stand, someone from outside of Wales could buy a new property from Mill Bay Homes, taking advantage of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and use it as a holiday home – because nobody is checking. It is a system yelling to be abused.

But even this is only part of the much wider problem we have with housing associations, which in Wales have received, since 2008, close on £800m in Social Housing Grant alone. Then there’s Dowry Gap funding projected to cost £1.3bn and Welsh Quality Housing Standard funding of an estimated £1.7bn. Finally, there’s the Housing Finance Grant totalling £120m.

These are huge amounts of money in a poor country like Wales, so surely the ‘Welsh’ Government insists on every penny being accounted for . . . umm, no. The ‘Welsh’ Government dishes out the cash and seems to say something along the lines of, ‘If you get a chance, you might want to send in a report telling us how you’ve spent the money. No need for any nonsense like differentiating capital from revenue, or explaining where the money’s actually gone, all we need is good news to use as propaganda and to justify us giving you the money in the first place’.

There is no official oversight or monitoring. Housing associations regulate themselves. No one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to give a damn as to whether or not billions of pounds of public funding are being properly spent.

Keep up the good work, Wynne.

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‘EVERYTHING MUST GO’ SAYS CYNGOR CEREDIGION PwC 

Someone else with whom I’m in contact down west tells me of a curious partnership that has developed between Cyngor Ceredigion and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). It seems the council has retained bean-counters PwC to identify areas where cuts can be made – for a fee of 16% of identified savings.

And as in neighbouring Carmarthenshire, openness and telling the public what you’re doing in their name comes very low down on the list of priorities, with things being stitched up at private meetings.

Though this report from the ‘Nazis’ Cambrian News is able to tell us that by late January the council had already paid PwC £963,630. If my maths is up to it, this must mean savings already of over £6m. (And this must be delicate or even dangerous work, because it looks as if the reporters need to use pseudonyms.)

When you come to think about it, it’s a bloody strange system. This company is paid by cuts it identifies. So let’s say Ceredigion spends £100m a year on education, PwC could argue that, ‘The little buggers have all got iPads and smart phones nowadays – let them get their education from Google and Wikipedia‘, and make themselves a quick £16m! I could do that!

Then again, maybe there’s a simple explanation for it all.

Cuts have been forced on our local authorities by the Labour regime in Cardiff docks, and every time cuts are announced rural – i.e. non-Labour – councils take the hit, with Labour-voting councils being protected from the worst.

Now it just so happens that PwC is a major donor to the Labour Party. This article from the Guardian (12.11.2014) explains that Labour received £600,000 of advice from PwC on forming its tax policies – from a company that specialises in tax avoidance schemes. This article from the New Statesman (19.02.2015) tells us that, apart from trade unions, PwC is Labour’s biggest donor.

Ceredigion PwC

I was surprised to find no mention of Ceredigion on the PwC website

As we all know, few individuals and no companies give large sums of money to a political party without expecting something in return. I guarantee that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is no exception.

Can’t you just imagine the phone call from London to Cardiff: ‘Listen now, Carwell, PwC have been very generous to the party, so we’d like you to put some business their way, some out-of-way place where nobody’ll ask too many question. Got that?

Though that still might not explain why a non-Labour authority would agree to go along with this lunacy, so maybe the responsibility lies within Ceredigion. Can you help?

                                             ———————————————————————

Of course, none of our local authorities would need to cut services if the ‘Welsh’ Government wasn’t so profligate with it’s meagre resources; especially with the funding it showers on housing associations and the Third Sector, money that the ‘Welsh Government loses all interest in once it’s been handed over.

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Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy St. David’s Day

 

Feb 232016
 

Last Saturday night, whilst yet again sacrificing my sobriety for the Argentine economy – a very nice Viñalba Patagonia Sauvignon-Merlot – I rummaged through the various images and tables I’ve compiled over the years and came across one I decided was worth putting out again, on Twitter. It was very well received. (Possibly because I can’t be sure I’ve ever used it before.)

In fact, it took wings. At the time of posting it’s up to 7,444 Impressions, 1,230 Total engagements, 720 Media engagements, etc., etc. Must be one of the most popular tweets I’ve put out. Anyway, those who missed it can see it below (click to enlarge). It takes various statistics from the 2011 Census and locates them on a map of the 22 local authorities.

Where born, identification, language by LA

Some of the feedback I got tried to link the large numbers of English people resident in certain areas with the increase in support for Ukip. In fact, this seems to be a common explanation for the rise of Ukip in Wales, used by nationalists and even those of a more British orientation. In this interpretation, Ukip is another form of English nationalism, just a bit less virulent and less openly racist than the British National Party.

Yet I knew this couldn’t be true because of the support for Ukip in the Valleys, at both the May 2014 European elections and the 2015 UK general election. But even so I thought it might be worth going back to the 2011 Census to compile a table showing the various factors that might prove / disprove this theory, or otherwise explain what’s happening.

Before unveiling the new table you can remind yourselves of the 2014 Euro election results with the table below that I produced at the time (click to enlarge), the results of the 2015 UK general election are here, and an analysis can be found in my review of that contest here.

Euro votes 2014

The statistics I’ve used to compile the new table are, first, the different labels people chose to use when identifying themselves in terms of nationality; then, whether born in Wales or England, and finally, the Ukip vote in the 2014 Euro elections.

It had to be done this way because the Census stats are given by local authority area, with the Euro vote available by the same divisions. The 2015 UK general election results were of course given by constituency, and while most constituencies can be grouped within local government boundaries there are some that straddle council borders, one being Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, which makes aligning constituencies with council areas very difficult.

Even so, the pattern is consistent. Those areas that gave support to Ukip in 2014 also gave support in 2015, though at roughly half the 2014 level in percentage terms, 13.6% against 27.6%. (Also worth bearing in mind is that the turnout for the Euros was 32% and for the 2015 general election 65%.) This was entirely predictable, more noteworthy, and a better guide to the increasing level of support, was that the Ukip vote went up from 2.4% in the 2010 general election to 13.6% in 2015.

As I started collecting the figures and adding them to the new table, it soon became apparent that there isn’t a single answer to explain the rise of Ukip in Wales – there are two!

First, and as I suggested above, in the Valleys authorities, with their small percentages of English residents, most Ukip support must come from people who identified in the 2011 Census as ‘Welsh Only’. (The same can be said to some extent of the cities.) Which might be seen as holing below the waterline the idea that Ukip is nothing more than an English nationalist party, or at least suggesting that other factors are at work in the urban areas of the south.

Birth, identification Ukip

Yet the more rural areas do tend to support the ‘English nationalist’ interpretation, especially in the north. Travelling along the coast from west to east we see that Ukip topped the polls in 2014 in Conwy (with 30.2%), Denbighshire (27.0%), and Flintshire (32.7%). Given the makeup of the population in this region it is entirely reasonable to assume that the majority of Ukip’s support comes from those identifying as English or British, with most of these born in England.

Elsewhere we find results that may have been shaped by other factors. For example, Ukip’s relatively low vote in Ceredigion (20.2%) can perhaps be attributed to indigenes and academe combining to reject M. Farage. The same factors may have been at work in Gwynedd, where Ukip saw it’s worst result (19.8%). Perhaps the Welsh language also played a part. Back in the north east, it has been suggested that the Wrexham figure (32.4%) was influenced by the large numbers of EU migrants in the town.

Others may see pointers I’ve missed, or simply choose to come to different conclusions. But we can be sure that a party that gained the same 30.2 per cent in areas as diverse as Conwy and Blaenau Gwent is in one sense a national party, and in another sense, a party appealing to two different constituencies in the same country.

If I wanted to be provocative (though as you know it’s not in my nature) I could argue that Ukip is the only truly national party in Wales. That Ukip is the only party with support across the country, from golf club Blimps on the Costa Geriatrica to the helpless and the hopeless in the Heads of the Valleys.

Who’s to blame for this? Obviously Plaid Cymru. First, for lacking the balls to oppose the colonisation of our rural areas. Second, for being so utterly insipid, so ‘Let’s-cwtch-up-to-Labour’, that the party has no appeal for thousands upon thousands of people in the south who are pissed off with Labour and seeking another party to vote for.

That these desperate people, these ‘Welsh Only’ identifiers, have found Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru says more than words could ever say, and everything you need to know about Plaid Cymru.

Maybe for next Christmas some enterprising and politically astute manufacturer of novelties will have crackers containing the puzzler:

Q: Who is responsible for the popularity in Wales of the English nationalist Ukip?

A: The ‘Welsh nationalist’ Plaid Cymru!

Next time you hear a Plaidista get on their high horse and adopt a tone of moral superiority vis-à-vis Ukip, trying to tell us what a parcel of rogues they are, remind them who created this monster.

Feb 182016
 

This post examines two important votes being held in 2016; the Welsh Assembly elections on May 9th and the EU referendum on (possibly) June 23rd.

First, we shall look at the elections to our beloved and respected Assembly, wherein may already be found talent dazzling to the point of being a hazard to pilots (not that many of those intrepid aviators will be heading for the local airport) before moving on to consider the anticipated EU referendum

WELSH ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

At present, Labour has 30 of the 60 seats, and is almost certain to lose a few, the only questions are, which ones, and to which other party or parties will those seats be lost?

To help you make comparisons I have compiled the table below, which shows each party’s percentage of the vote in 2011 compared with the percentages predicted by the latest available poll. You will note that the figures in the recent poll do not add up to 100, this is almost certainly due to respondents stating their intention to vote for the kind of minor parties that combined to give us the ‘Other’ figure in the 2011 results.

Assembly elections poll

These poll figures look credible for Labour but rather odd for the other parties due to little or no difference between the constituency votes and the regional list votes. Even so, the poll confirms that Labour will be the biggest loser and Ukip the biggest winner.

Though the level of Ukip’s support is rather surprising seeing as the party keeps choosing unknown or unattractive candidates (the one often mutating into the other) and in other ways shooting itself in both feet. It begins to look as if Ukip’s leaders could be filmed sacrificing Romanian migrants on Aberystwyth promenade, bollock naked with their nether regions painted bright green, and still not lose support.

As for the other parties, it’s very much a case of little or no change which will, after almost a year of Tory government at Westminster, be a relief to the Conservatives; an even bigger relief to the Lib Dems following their near-extermination in the last May’s UK elections; but a major disappointment to Plaid Cymru, who should be the main beneficiary of Labour and Lib Dems losing support.

Though looked at from another angle Plaid’s level of support might pleasantly surprise some. Let me explain. The Party of Wales would have us believe that it’s a radical party, offering change, improvement. Yet down in Carmarthenshire, where Plaid became the larger party in a coalition last year (after the ‘Independents’ refused to work with Labour any more), Mark James, the tyrannical and vindictive chief executive, carries on as if nothing has happened!

The other party to be disappointed by the poll findings will be the Green Party of Englandandwales. Despite claimed increases in membership, and Welsh people being spotted in the ranks, it seems that the Greens still have difficulty in attracting support. But then, this is a party so English, so frightfully middle class in its membership and support, that it makes the Tories look like a Welsh proletarian rabble.

As I’ve been predicting for some time now, after the Assembly elections we shall probably see Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru. Though if by some some electoral miracle Labour can cobble together a coalition with Lib Dems and Greens that leaves Plaid Cymru out in the cold, then Plaid will be condemned to another five years of impotence. A period the party may struggle to survive.

Ukip will do very well. In June last year I predicted the Kippers would gain 7 seats, and in October I upped my estimate to 10. (The latest poll suggests 9.) If, as is now being predicted, the EU referendum is held in June, and that EU campaign overshadows the Assembly elections, then Ukip will be the only beneficiary because all the other parties are pro EU and will be singing the same song.

And here’s a thought to cheer you all up. If the Assembly elections are indeed dominated by the EU referendum debate then it is not inconceivable that Ukip could win seats in ‘volatile’ constituencies that in May will be five- or even six-cornered contests. Gaining a percentage of the vote in the low to middle twenties could do it.

‘Nathan Gill, AM for Ynys Môn’ has a certain ring to it, n’est pas?

Gill of course is currently an MEP, which is a handy link to the next part of this post.

THE EU REFERENDUM

THE BIG PICTURE

When I was young and idealistic, the matinee idol of the nationalist fringe, I considered myself to be quite the ‘European’. With my study of history, my admiration for Charles de Gaulle, being avowedly anti-communist, and after reading The American Challenge, I persuaded myself that a strong Europe was needed as a bulwark against both the USSR and the USA.

I still believe I was right, but the world has moved on. For a start, the Soviet Union is no more, and its demise was the cue for the USA to begin its advance in eastern Europe, first with its war on Serbia and then by gradually encircling Russia with newly signed up members of NATO. Have you ever stopped to think how weird that is?

NATO started life in 1949 as an alliance to deter the Soviet Union from invading western Europe (if indeed the USSR ever had that intention). It was a Cold War organisation, from the era of Dr Strangelove, which should have ceased to exist along with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, yet NATO has expanded since the Cold War ended. This is bizarre.

Strangelove

Unless of course you understand that the USA (and to a lesser degree, the ‘West’) must have enemies. Now this presents a problem for a country bordered only by friendly and peaceful Canada to the north and to the south by a third world state where the strongest armed forces appear to be those of the drug cartels.

Clearly this lack of a credible threat is an inconvenience to the military-industrial complex, neocons, the National Rifle Association, big corporations, news media, and politicians looking to make a name for themselves. So ‘enemies’ have to found elsewhere, which has resulted in a succession of ‘threats’ being exposed since the Second World War. These are often pantomime villains of dusky hue, with difficult to pronounce names, and living in far-off lands of which most Americans know very little. Plus of course we have the post WWII constant – USSR / Russia.

At this point many of you will be wondering why, in a section headed ‘The EU Referendum’, I’m banging on about NATO and US foreign policy. There are two principle reasons.

First, a single political unit allows the US – as we are now seeing with TTIP – to gain preferential access to the richest market on earth through influencing just a few people. The danger here should be obvious to all. Second, the EU is viewed by many US policy-makers as a sister-body or even an extension of NATO. It’s no coincidence that NATO and the EU have marched east almost hand in hand.

Let me try to explain the NATO-EU link with the table I’ve compiled below. It gives the dates that eastern European countries joined first NATO and then the European Union. And it has always been in that order (sometimes simultaneous), but never is EU membership allowed before joining NATO.

The delay in Albania’s accession to the EU can be explained by the fact that the country is a ramshackle land with large parts, especially the area bordering the Serbian province of Kosovo, controlled by people-smugglers, drug-traffickers, organ-harvesters and a motley assortment of old-fashioned vendetta-pursuing, blood-feuding bandit chiefs. Albania’s chief export is gangsters.

NATO

An exception to the NATO-followed-by-EU rule is of course Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952. No surprise then to learn that there have always been voices in the upper reaches of the EU arguing in favour of admitting Turkey. ‘Bridge to the Islamic world’ and other bollocks has been spouted in support of this idiocy. The truth is that the USA wants to reward its faithful ally – and currently chief Bear-baiter – so it periodically applies pressure on the EU to let Turkey join the club.

Turkey, that backward, Islamist state where the security services bomb their own people. Turkey, the country that persecutes its fifteen million Kurds and has a very ambivalent attitude towards ISIL. Turkey, that just a century ago introduced the world to the concept of holocaust with its butchering of the Armenians.

In the ongoing conflict in Syria the USA has encouraged Turkey to provoke Russia, and although the US may belatedly be trying to rein in its proxy, there remains the possibility that this dysfunctional country could start World War Three. If Russia does retaliate to Turkish provocation then we (and here I have to mean the UK), as fellow-members of NATO, are Treaty-bound to line up with Turkey.

How do you feel about going to war with Russia because Turkey has done something stupid and deliberately provocative?

THE VIEW FROM WALES

Leaving aside these wider concerns, what should be our approach to this referendum from a purely Welsh perspective?

‘Wales does well out the EU’ is a mantra trotted out by those urging us to vote to stay in. ‘Does well’ is just a euphemism for hand-outs, we export little. In other words, we get EU grants because we are so bloody poor. Which makes this ‘argument’ just another defence of begging-bowl politics, an acceptance of Wales’ poverty and deprivation.

And what has happened to the billions we’ve received in EU funding? Where are the great infrastructure projects? Where is the multi-skilled workforce we’ve trained? Where are the successful indigenous companies the funding was used to start? Nowhere to be seen, bois bach!

That’s because the greater part of this windfall has been wasted on the shysters and parasites of the Third Sector. Most of whom – unsurprisingly – seem to have Labour Party connections. 

If the UK left the EU then the UK government would have to make up the lost EU funding. If it didn’t, we’d have to go without the Third Sector. (Don’t cry!) And if the UK government didn’t make up the shortfall, then it might cause a few more people here to wake from their slumbers.

Looking further afield, the UK leaving the EU would have far more serious repercussions for England, more specifically south east England, and to be very, very specific, the City of London. Because if the UK left the EU then many of the banks, investment houses and other financial institutions would decamp for Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, etc.

This would result in tens of thousands of very well paid jobs being lost to London, and a few hundred thousand more would be lost in a knock-on effect. So just spare a thought for all those Lamborghini salesmen, tailors, high-class hookers, hairdressers, tattooists, coke suppliers, estate agents, jewellers, etc., etc.

eu_logo

Remove the City of London from the balance sheet and the economy of England heads south very fast. With the City of London creating less wealth the UK economy must suffer, and despite the malaise being centred on London we can be sure that – as ever – the Old Etonians will see to it that peripheral areas suffer most.

This should serve as another wake-up call to the slumberers who unquestioningly believe that London rule is best for Wales.

Another argument used is that we must vote to stay in the EU to prove how different we are to England (assuming the English vote to leave). A position that invariably cites the fact that Scotland will definitely vote to stay in. Let’s look at this argument in a bit more detail.

First, Wales is not Scotland. The obvious stated, let me add that many hundreds of thousands of Scots will vote to stay in the EU for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the EU itself. It’s all about promoting independence, hoping that England – or Englandandwales – votes for Brexit.

Should there be a vote south of the border to leave the EU, and should that decision lead to Scottish independence, then it will reverberate here no matter how Wales voted. Scottish independence will concentrate minds in Wales no matter how it comes about and will make redundant whatever views may have been held in Wales when Scottish independence was just a vague possibility.

So let me spell it out. How Wales votes in the EU referendum is almost unimportant. The vote is being hyped up in Wales by those posturers who like to regard themselves as ‘progressive’, and done in order to show how superior they are to the ‘xenophobes’ who want to leave the wonderful EU. Smug, precious, and self-deluding bollocks!

CONCLUSION

There is no party standing in the Assembly elections for which a nationalist can honestly vote. That being so, there is an argument to be made for voting for any party that might help weaken the regional socialist party that for decades now has done so much damage to the Welsh cause.

Personally, I probably won’t bother voting. There’s a temptation to toddle along to the polling station and scribble ‘None of the above’ on my ballot paper, but that’s always struck me as a bit desperate unless part of an organised campaign.

When it comes to the EU referendum I shall definitely vote to leave the EU. That’s because the EU we know today is a great disappointment for someone of my age who genuinely wanted to see a strong and democratic Europe play a leading role in the world.

Instead, we have a byzantine nightmare that I suspect no one properly understands, a monster created by bureaucrats that seems to have been subverted to serve US economic and strategic interests rather than working for the good of Europeans.

And yet, I could still be converted to a united Europe, a European army, a European diplomatic corps . . . but my Europe would need leaders of stature, not the anonymous, paper-shuffling committeemen we are cursed with today.

If only the General would come back . . .

Feb 162016
 

While I’m getting myself sorted after the enforced lay-off (and also watching PSG v Chelsea), here’s something to be going on with, something I’m happy to endorse and promote.

Happy because I have argued for many years that devolution is a dead-end or, as the press release below refers to it, the “crumbs of constitutional change”. (With it becoming clear in recent months that even these ‘crumbs’ are now in danger of being reclaimed.)

The alternatives facing Wales are stark: either we have independence or else we continue to allow third-rate politicians to feel important doing nothing more than doling out funding while Wales is in truth run by civil servants and others following a counter-devolution strategy that will eventually see Wales assimilated into England.

What you’ll find below is information on YESCymru and that organisation’s launch rally on Saturday. The first part takes the form of answers sent to Gair Rhydd, which I understand is a magazine produced by Cardiff students. (That right?)

The second part is the press release issued for Saturday’s rally, listing the speakers and giving other information including contact details.

 

What is the organisation?

Yes Cymru aims to help gain independence for Wales, in order to improve the way our country is governed. We believe in an inclusive citizenship, which embraces and celebrates the fact that everyone who chooses to make Wales their home – regardless of their background – are full citizens of the new Wales.

Our group will promote independence for Wales through a range of activities, including educational activities and materials, and events aimed at engaging communities throughout Wales to make the case that Wales, like so many other nations throughout the world, would be better running its own affairs, as part of a wider European and international family. Our organisation is open to all who believe in independence for Wales.

Who is it set up by? Is it a party political?

Yes Cymru was set up by a number of individuals and established as a grass-roots movement. We held our first rally prior to the Scottish referendum in Cardiff, where around a 1,000 people attended supporting Scottish Independence. Last year we held a Rally in Cardiff prior to the General Election in support of Welsh “Home Rule”.

Yes Cymru’s aim is to build a community led, cross-party grass roots movements to work towards an independent Wales. We welcome contributions and membership from all sections of society and the political spectrum in order to help achieve this goal, and help create a united Wales wide approach to raising the issues concerned with Independence. In the past members from Plaid Cymru, Welsh Labour, Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Green Party have spoken at our events.

The organisation has just been opened to members at the end of last year, and our membership is now nearing 100. Our 1st AGM will be held in Cardiff on 20th February where officers to the central committee will be elected from our membership.  Full details will be made public following our AGM, and published on our website.

This is the principle Plaid Cymru was set up, how is this movement any different?

Yes Cymru is different to Plaid Cymru as we are a cross-party non-party grass roots movement which aims to inform people and facilitate debate within Wales, aiming to gain support from across the political spectrum. We are not a political party. Our supporters are members of several political parties, and none.

Will you achieve anything considering the polls?

Polls have put the desire for an independent Wales at various levels over the years, depending on the exact question asked, and the options provided. Prof. Roger Scully of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre puts support of Welsh Independence at around 10-15% Like those campaigning for independence in Catalonia, Corsica, Scotland and many other nations, we recognise that this is not something we can achieve overnight. It is worth mentioning that in 2009-2011 the Yes vote in Scotland was consistently polling at just over 20%, it is know just under 50%.There has never been an independence campaign in Wales, and the case has never been made. We aim to rectify that.

Fundamentally self-determination and independence is a fundamental right of all peoples throughout the world, and as such we are determined to help bring about an independent Wales which would best serve all the citizens of Wales.

At our official launch in Cardiff on February 20th, Liz Castro will be coming over from Catalonia to speak. Liz is an Author, Publisher, and Executive Committee member of the ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana – the grassroots movement for Catalan independence)  responsible for International Affairs.

Last year, Liz Castro received the most votes during the elections for the National Secretary of the ANC. The ANC has over 80,000 members and over 150,000 followers on twitter and a similar number of page likes on Facebook.

*

PRESS RELEASE – 09/02/16 – YesCymru

Vision for an independent Wales not crumbs of constitutional change

YesCymru’s aim is to gain independence for Wales to improve the way our country is governed. Many are talking about UK independence from the European Union, and about Scottish independence, but what about Wales? The recent Daily Mail headline asked “Who Will Speak for England?”. With Scottish independence all but inevitable, the question for us when such momentous changes are taking place is “Who will speak for Wales?”.

YesCymru has been open to members since the beginning of the year. The official launch will be held at 2.00pm on the 20th February 2016 followed by our first AGM, at The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff.

YesCymru will campaign for independence through direct political engagement and activities as seen in Scotland and Catalonia. We should not underestimate the pace of change and appetite for independence once it is on the political agenda.

At our official launch in Cardiff on February 20th, Liz Castro will be travelling from Catalonia to speak. Liz is an Author, Publisher, and Executive Committee member of the ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana – the grassroots movement for Catalan independence) responsible for International Affairs. Last year, Liz Castro received the most votes during the elections for the National Secretary of the ANC, which has over 80,000 members.

YesCymru spokesperson, Iestyn ap Rhobert, said:

“Every generation we are told that Wales is too poor to be independent, but every generation under Westminster rule sees Wales getting relatively poorer. We encourage the people to be ambitious for Wales. If independence is good enough for Ireland or Denmark, it’s good enough for Wales.

Like those campaigning for independence in Catalonia, Corsica, Scotland and many other nations, we recognise that this is not something we can achieve overnight. Between 2009 and 2011 the Yes vote in Scotland was consistently polling at just over 25%. It is now nearing 50%. There has never been an independence campaign in Wales, and the case has never been made. We aim to rectify that.”

The speakers at the rally will be:

  • Liz Castro – Author, Publisher, and Executive Committee member of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) responsible for International Affairs.
  • Shona McAlpine – A Campaigner that has been instrumental in establishing and campaigning for a number of organisations supporting Scottish independence over the past decade.
  • John Dixon – Keen blogger on several issues including Welsh Independence.
  • Representatives of the Yes Cymru group.

There will also be entertainment by the popular singer and songwriter, Caryl Parry-Jones and an introduction to a new booklet on the same format as ‘The Wee Blue Book’ that was so influential during the Scottish independence referendum. People will also have the chance to help shape a Constitution for an Independent Wales.

[END]

Notes:

  • Yes Cymru is a cross-party non-party grass roots movement, and is open to anyone who believes in an independent Wales.
  • We held our first rally prior to the Scottish referendum in Cardiff, where around a 1,000 people attended supporting Scottish Independence.
  • Last year we held a Rally in Cardiff prior to the General Election in support of Welsh “Home Rule”

For more information:

Iestyn ap Rhobert: iestynap@hotmail.co.uk / post@yescymru.org /

http://yes.cymru/ / http://www.facebook.com/YesCymru/ / http://twitter.com/yescymru

Feb 152016
 

I am delighted to report that my PC has been repaired. Though obviously it will take a few days for me to catch up, a process not helped by the fact that it’s half-term (which sees me taking wife and grandchildren to Aber’ tomorrow), plus there are Champions League matches this week, and in addition, I started re-reading Le Morte D’Arthur while my machine was out of action. (Man of culture, by ‘ere, boy.)

This return to the fray will I’m sure be the cause of great rejoicing among my many admirers and followers in the Labour Party, the Third Sector, Cardigan Castle, Plaid Cymru, the colonial establishment, Swansea council, the tourism industry, Ukip, housing associations, Rhyl, the Planning Inspectorate, the UK Government, the ‘Welsh’ media, our AMs and MPs, etc., etc.

My next post – which I hope to have up before the end of the week – will look at various (and ostensibly unconnected) votes to be taken this year. In chronological order these are: the elections to our notional Assembly, the referendum on the UK’s EU membership, and the US presidential race.

 Posted by at 22:01 on 15/02/2016  Uncategorised
Feb 012016
 

My computer seems to have given up the ghost. Difficult to know when I’ll be back in business.

 Posted by at 11:06 on 01/02/2016  Uncategorised