Jul 312016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER, ASSISTED BY ‘STAN

(illustrations by Jac o’ the North)

Revelations that Stephen Kinnock and his wife Helle Thorning-Schmidt sent their elder daughter Johanna  to private schools are making waves in both Denmark and Wales in a tale so tangled that even Hans Christian Andersen would have cried the Danish equivalent of “WTF?”

So if you are sitting comfortably, let’s begin at the beginning. Well, sort of.

In Denmark private schools are heavily subsidised by the state which provides up to 87.5% of their funding, leaving parents to pay relatively modest fees by UK standards.

Private education has long been a contentious issue on the left of Danish politics, with the Social Democrats  as ambivalent about it as their British counterparts in the Labour Party. Senior Social Democrats who have sent their children to private schools have attracted criticism from sections of the party, but it is not party policy to abolish private education, and unsurprisingly given how many of its top brass use private schools, the party now takes the line that it is a matter of individual choice.

Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt have two daughters, and it was long their policy to keep their children out of the public eye. Their privacy was respected by the Danish press, to the extent that when Johanna’s education became an issue, the press had no recent pictures of the family. As we shall see, that changed when Stephen Kinnock launched his campaign to become Labour’s candidate for Aberavon, and was keen to stress his family values.

Non-dom

Kinnock, now 46, has an impressive back catalogue of controversies, and in Denmark none was bigger than the row over his non-dom status, despite being married to the country’s Prime Minister and having his family home in Copenhagen.

The tax row and the investigations and official inquiries which followed it ran on for years, finally coming to an end at around the time Kinnock was seeking to become Labour’s candidate in Aberavon. For those interested, a summary of this bizarre affair can be found here.

Certainly, media interest in his tax affairs gave Kinnock invaluable experience in how to deal with the press and answer awkward questions. Not only did he escape ever having to pay a penny in tax in Denmark, but the row over his conduct and his tax avoidance did not surface as an issue when he launched his campaign to be selected in Aberavon.

What questions Kinnock did face concerned his choice of school for his daughter Johanna, and here again lack of scrutiny by the UK media and a thick coating of Teflon served the Red Prince well.

The timings of events and revelations are important in forming an understanding of how, possibly with quite a lot of luck, possibly with skillful news management, and possibly a conspiracy of silence from some in the media, Stephen Kinnock and Helle Thorning-Schmidt were able to face elections in their respective countries without their daughter’s exclusive private schooling becoming an issue.

What Johanna did next – a timeline

Johanna Kinnock begins her secondary education at a state school in Copenhagen, but moves “for private reasons” to the rather more exclusive private Ingrid Jespersens Gymnasieskole which she attends between 2010 and 2012.

Fees at the school were DKr 1,500 per month (around £165), although as we shall see, Kinnock later suffered a lapse of memory about how much the family had actually paid.

In 2012 Johanna, then aged 16, is on the move yet again, this time to Hellerup Gymnasium, a state school where she stays for just one year.

2013 – Johanna packs her bags and heads off for the exclusive Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan, where fees are currently £28,600. There she completes her secondary education in 2015, a year when both of her parents fight general elections in their respective countries.

A recent article in the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet (see translation below) suggests that Kinnock and his wife would have paid around £12,000 a year, including a £10,000 voluntary contribution based on his wife’s income as Prime Minister. The rest was paid by the Danish taxpayer under a grant scheme set up to help parents fund the cost of education abroad, and various unspecified “funds and sponsors”.

Exstrabladet

November 2013 – Hywel Francis announces that he will stand down at the UK general election in 2015, and so the race to find his successor begins, culminating in a vote by the constituency party on 22 March 2014.

There were seven candidates, of whom the early favourites were Jeremy Miles, a lawyer from Pontarddulais (now Labour AM for Neath), and Mark Fisher, local Unison official. Miles was understood to have won the backing of six local branches of the party and have had a clear lead over Fisher.

Somehow Kinnock came through with a late run to beat Miles by a short nose (106 – 105) on March 22, after a recount. This article from Left Futures by Jon Lansman – founder of Momentum – gives one explanation for how this happened.

In the run-up to the vote, Kinnock’s opponents began asking questions about Johanna’s schooling in Denmark, apparently unaware that she was by then living and studying just a few miles away at Atlantic College.

The Western Mail first picked up on the story on 19 February:

Stephen Kinnock slams ‘misleading claim’ that his daughter went to a private school

In this article Kinnock, with breathtaking chutzpah, told Martin Shipton that Ingrid Jespersen’s Gymnasieskole had cost only around £80 a month, and he added that she had gone on to “the equivalent of a sixth form college in Denmark which is wholly state funded”, neglecting to mention that she had since gone on from Hellerup Gymnasium to the £28,600 a year Atlantic College.

The very careful wording which obfuscated Johanna’s whereabouts seems to have put the media hounds off the scent, although they quickly discovered that fees at Ingrid Jerspersens Gymnasieskole were twice the level that Kinnock had claimed.

On 1 March 2014 Kinnock was back in the Western Mail to, ahem, “clarify” matters.

Stephen Kinnock ‘underestimated’ school fees for daughter

The newspaper article talks about attempts by Kinnock’s political opponents to undermine his campaign, and quotes Kinnock as follows:

“This was a fast-moving story and I was very keen to clarify some of the misleading things that were being said about my daughter’s schooling as rapidly as possible.”

Note the implication that it was other people who had been saying misleading things about his daughter’s schooling, rather than Kinnock himself.

The very next day, 2 March 2014, a Danish journalist working for Ekstra Bladet quoted a conversation he had just had with Shipton of the Mail:

‘”I have spoken to people in the party, and they are not impressed by his inaccuracies. They believe that this could influence Stephen Kinnock’s chances”, says Martin Shipton who is editor of the Welsh newspaper Western Mail which has reported on Kinnock’s misinformation.’

With three weeks to go to the crucial vote in Port Talbot, nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that Johanna was not in Copenhagen at all but just down the road. Another whole year and a bit later on 8 May 2015, and another Danish tabloid, BT, produced this very illuminating report just as the dust was settling:

This tender image is a rarity

The newspaper notes that Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt had always been careful to shield their daughters from the media, so much so that BT had very few pictures of the two girls in its archive. All of that changed in March 2014 when Kinnock released a family portrait taken for use in his selection campaign, and Johanna is pictured again in the report cuddling up to her mother during the count on election night (7/8 May 2015).

The newspaper comments that this sudden change of tack was a strategic choice to portray the Kinnock Thorning-Schmidts as a family which sticks together, “something which means a lot in Wales”.

BT continues by recalling that Johanna had previously been in the limelight in Denmark when it emerged that she had been sent to the fee-paying Ingrid Jespersens Gymnasieskole, echoing a scandal which broke in 2010 when it emerged that a number of senior Social Democrats had children in private schools.

(Two revealing reports on the Kinnock’s attitude to private education appeared in the Danish publication BT; the first on May 9 2010; the second 11 June 2010; both updated 19 September 2012. The headline of the first translates as, ‘The truth about Helle’s spin’, the second, ‘Helle Thorning’s husband raging against private schools’. Translations (in summary) for both articles can be found by clicking here. Many thanks to our new Danish contact for the links, and to one of the authors of this piece for the translations. Jac)

Kinnocks normal

“Today Johanna attends an international high school in Wales, the UWC Atlantic College, which is close to where Stephen Kinnock  is living”, the piece says in conclusion.

Clearly, some in the media knew of Johanna’s whereabouts before the UK general election and probably before Kinnock was selected as Labour candidate for Aberavon. If the arrangements at Atlantic College had been known about, it is highly unlikely that Kinnock would have been selected, and if his handling of the affair had been known about, it would hardly have been a vote winner in Port Talbot in May 2015, come to that.

Instead, Kinnock based his campaign on family values, his close connections from his time at Xynteo with captains of industry, including Tata Steel bosses, and a promise to bring jobs to the town. Promises which were to evaporate after the general election even quicker than fairy dust.

Revelations that her daughter was attending a Dkr 250,000 a year school in Wales, partly at the expense of the Danish taxpayer, would not have helped Helle Thorning-Schmidt either when she faced voters in a general election on 18 June 2015.

Fortunately no hacks bothered to follow up on BT’s heartwarming report with its tender images.

Although the Social Democrats slightly increased their share of the vote, their coalition partners fared badly, and so ended Helle’s stint at the top.

But there is a happy ending because soon after resigning Helle landed the top job at Save the Children International in London, where her predecessor was reported to be earning £234,000 a year – rather more than the Prime Minister of Denmark.

Even more remarkable was that she landed the job despite coming under fire from, erm Save the Children among others, for implementing policies as prime minister which keep refugee children separated from their parents.

And there matters would have rested had it not been for wicked old Jac o’ the North spilling the magic beans on the whole convoluted saga a year later, with post-factual Kinnock claiming to have been open about his daughter’s schooling all the way along.

Labour and the Danish Social Democrats have come a long way since the days of the Little Match Girl who would now be facing deportation or arrest for pestering passers-by when she could go and get a proper job as a consultant.

*

Danish taxpayers pay for Helle and Kinnock’s daughter

Translation of an article which appeared in Ekstra Bladet  on 30 July 2016.

Danish taxpayers paid Dkr 140,000 (around £16,000) for the two years former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s daughter, Johanna, attended Atlantic College in Wales from August 2013 to June 2015.

Annual school fees at the private school are £28,600 – around Dkr 250.000 – but Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her husband Stephen Kinnock did not have to pay that.

Instead, they paid between Dkr 18,000 (£2,000) and Dkr 88,000 (£10,000) a year to send their daughter Johanna to Atlantic College in Wales.

This information comes from the website of United World Colleges (UWC).

UWC sends 15-20 Danish high school pupils to one of the organisation’s 15 schools every year in  Europe, Costa Rica, India, Singapore, Swaziland, USA, Hong Kong and China.

The state paid Dkr 70,000 per year

UWC’s Danish website shows that the average fee per pupil is DKr 158,000 (£18,000) per year.

The Danish state contributes Dkr 70.000 (£8,000) towards the cost, a further Dkr 70,000 is provided by funds and sponsors, while parents contribute Dkr 18,000 (£2,000) a year.

  • UWC Denmark depends on donations from parents in order to give a place to young people a place at a UWC school, it says on the website.

Parents paid Dkr 18,000 per year

For this reason the organisation asks parents to make an additional contribution above the minimum of Dkr 18,000 per year.

  • UWC  has a limited number of full bursaries. If a household’s total income is less than Dkr 250,000 a year before tax, parents can apply for a full bursary. Other parents pay a compulsory family contribution of Dkr 18,000 per year, the organisation states on its website.

It is therefore clear that the  Thorning-Schmidt/Kinnock family paid a  minimum of Dkr 18,000 a year to send their daughter to Atlantic College in Wales.

UWC asks parents to pay additional contributions beyond the Dkr 18,000 to the organisation.

Tax deductions of Dkr 15,000 per year

  • If parents wish to donate more than the compulsory DKr 18,000 contribution, they may claim tax relief of up to DKr 15,000 per year. It therefore follows, the organisation says, that the more parents who donate money, the more pupils will obtain a place.

UWC therefore suggests that parents pay an additional contribution from their taxable income.

Atlantic College

UWC suggestion to parents

UWC’s proposals are as follows:

Parents with a taxable income of between Dkr 500,000 and Dkr 750,000 should pay between Dkr 15,000 and Dkr 45,000 per year.

Parents with a taxable income of between Dkr 750,000 and Dkr 1,250,000 should pay between Dkr 45,000 and Dkr 70,000 per year.

Parents with a taxable income of more than Dkr 1,250,000 should pay Dkr 70,000 per year.

As Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt earned Dkr 1,439,443.75 (£163,500) in 2013. Depending on her final declaration, she should therefore have paid an additional Dkr 70,000 to UWC.

Kinnock on Facebook

On his Facebook page Stephen Kinnock confirms that his daughter’s place at Atlantic College was partly financed by the Danish state.

  • Johanna’s stay at AC was partly financed under Danish rules governing grants for students studying abroad. The majority of AC’s students and those at other United World Colleges schools are financed by a mixture of state grants and national committees in their respective countries, Stephen Kinnock writes on Facebook.

Welsh blogger

He was reacting to accusations made by the Welsh blogger Jac o’ the North on his blog that Stephen Kinnock hid the fact that his daughter Johanna went to an expensive private school from Welsh voters when he was standing for selection for the Aberavon constituency in the spring of 2014 – a constituency which has returned a Labour MP since 1922.

Jac o’ the North says that Stephen Kinnock would not have been selected if Welsh voters had known that his daughter  Johanna was going to the expensive Atlantic College.

I answered questions

Stephen Kinnock confirms on his Facebook page that his and Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s daughter’s stay at Atlantic College was partly financed by the Danish taxpayer.

  • I was asked about and answered questions about her schooling in Denmark (where she attended the private Ingrid Jespersens School from 2010 til 2012, Ed.), Stephen Kinnock wrote, failing to elaborate whether he would have answered if Welsh journalists had asked him if Johanna had gone to an expensive private school in Wales.

*

Jac says . . . 

I still have difficulty believing that when Martin Shipton of Llais y Sais interviewed Kinnock in February 2014 he was unaware that the subject of the discussion, Johanna Kinnock, was already in her second term at Atlantic College.

Given Shipton’s support for the Labour Party, and remembering that his employers Trinity Mirror also support Labour, it could well be that the news was already circulating about Johanna but – perhaps as a favour to the girl’s grandparents – Trinity Mirror arranged for Shippo to ask the wrong questions in order to ‘settle’ the allegations of her being privately educated.

Kinnock family

But let me, for once, push aside my usual draught of vitriol and drink of the milk of human kindness, (God! I’m going some here) and give Shippo the benefit of the doubt, and more, extend that benefit to all the other journos in Wales.

It’s entirely possible none of you knew that the grand-daughter of the ultimate champagne socialists, Lord and Lady Hypocrisy, whose father was seeking election to a Welsh constituency, was being educated at a very expensive school a few miles outside Cardiff . . . but if so, what does that say about you as journalists?

Maybe you should stick to belittling Welsh identity. That seems to be all that most of you are good for.

Jul 232016
 

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Over the years the Swansea Labour Party has been a reliable source of (relatively) harmless amusement for the toiling masses of the Jack metropolis and beyond, and so it continues. For more tales reach me of back-stabbing and various other self-destructive practices that can only be attributed to utter desperation, possibly anomie. But before the fun starts, I have some sad news.

I have written many times of the party’s student councillors on the west side, fresh-faced yoofs straight out of Swansea Uni, who know little of the city, and don’t care to learn because they’re just using Swansea council as the first rung on the ladder of their political careers. It seems like only yesterday the Uplands ward was blessed with two of them: ‘California Girl’ Pearleen Sangha, and John, ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, while nearby Cockett ward (covering Waunarlwydd and Fforestfach) had Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Theaker.

First Sangha left, to take up a post with the party in Cardiff . . . but pretended she was still in Swansea. Next to go, towards the end of 2014, was Mitch Theaker, taking a job in the United Arab Emirates recruiting for Sheffield University’s International College. Finally, it was John Boy’s turn, though as with the others, there was confusion over exactly when he left to take up his job in Bristol, and whether he was really still serving his constituents back in Swansea. The tale is recounted here in The Case of the Disappearing Councillor

What hastened the departure of all three was probably the casting down, in August 2014, of their patron, council leader, David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips. And even though the newBenito Phillips, Il Duce Abertawe regime was glad to see them go, it still didn’t want them announcing their departures in a way, and at a time, difficult for the Labour Party. By-elections must be carefully timed and orchestrated.

So who’s been selected as the Labour candidate for the by-election caused by John Boy’s departure? Well, it’s ‘Miss Lily Summers’, a trans-sexual of uncertain background, which offers a kind of continuity, for Bayliss and Theaker spent a great deal of their time promoting LGBT causes. So sod the Uplands ward, sod Swansea, Summers will be just another Labour councillor riding a hobby horse.

Don’t get me wrong, an individual’s sexuality and preferences (within reason) don’t bother me one bit. I just object to people making a career out of the hand they were dealt, demanding that I pay them attention, accord them ‘rights’. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Before moving on from Swansea West I hear that the word on the street is that Julie James, the Assembly Member, was instrumental in de-selecting two of the sitting Labour councillors in Cockett, Ann Cook and Andrew Jones. They have been replaced, in time for the 2017 council elections, with a member of her staff and someone who works for Geraint Davies, the Swansea West MP.

In a show of solidarity with his ousted colleagues a third Cockett councillor, Geraint Owens, will not be seeking re-election next May.

While just a hop and a skip away, in the Penyrheol ward, David Cole, the Labour councillor was also airbrushed de-selected for defending his community against the council’s plans to build a new school on a local park. He now sits as an Independent.

UPLANDS UPDATE: While ‘Miss Lily Summers’ of Stoke on Trent (but no fixed abode in Swansea), is lined up to replace John Boy, I neglected to mention that another Uplands councillor has drifted away, this one is Neil Woollard, of whom I wrote here (scroll down). He’s gone to work on the Cardiff Bay tidal lagoon project, which may be undermining the similar scheme for Swansea. He moved from Swansea a while ago and just turns up for the odd meeting to keep getting his £13,000 allowance and avoid a by-election, cos Labour lost the by-election following Sangha’s departure.

With Bayliss and Woollard gone, the balding Summers in, I’ll now give you the other Labour hopefuls for next May. One is the sitting councillor, Nick Davies, who had hoped to inherit the Castle ward seat of Il Duce when it was believed the new regime was giving Phillips the heave-ho, but that was overturned at Labour HQ and so Davies has had to come scurrying back to Uplands. Though he may no longer live in the ward.

Then there’s James White, a retired teacher and something of an unknown quantity. On the plus side, he claims to be “a Swansea boy” and lives in the Uplands ward. (An almost unheard of combination for Labour.) The list is completed with Uzo Iwobi OBE. A Nigerian woman who now lives in Swansea, but not in the Uplands ward. In fact, she’s been asking people to show her around Uplands and ‘introduce’ her to people. Iwobi works in the Third Sector which, as we know, is just another name for ‘Welsh’ Labour.

Read about them all here.

Uplands 4

MOVING ON OVER

Even though the Uplands and Cockett wards are in the Swansea West constituency, and Penyrheol in Gower, things in that neck of the woods are otherwise fairly quiet, certainly when compared to the real action over in Swansea East. Where to start? Why not with the MP, Carolyn Harris?

I wrote a post a few months ago in which Carolyn Harris figured prominently. Read it here. But of course, since then, things have really moved on. So to bring you quickly up to date . . . On July 4th there was a Jeremy Corbyn fund-raiser in the Brangwyn Hall, and in attendance was Carolyn Harris, there to pledge her undying loyalty to Comrade Corbyn, which is no less than we’d expect from a member of his shadow cabinet.

But last Sunday, in Pontypridd, Owen Smith launched his leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn and there was Carolyn Harris, dementedly clapping and hollerin’! Watch the video for yourself. Can anyone identify the Valkyrie giving him the ‘Ah, poor dab!‘ look? (Or maybe she’s spotted something interesting behind his right ear.)

Smith and friends

Though perhaps Harris’ switch is understandable when we remember that there are moves to de-select her by hard left Corbyn supporters, which might also account for her surprising vote against Trident in the July 19th debate. Surprising because as she tells us on her Facebook page, “this was not my intention when I walked into the chamber”! We shall return to the hard left anon, but a little digression first.

One thing that ‘Welsh’ Labour has always been very good at is keeping public money within ‘the Labour family’. Examples abound, and in the case of Carolyn Harris one of the best examples is the £1,654.00 a month paid to Whiterock Consulting for “professional services”. So who or what is Whiterock? Answer: Lawrence Bailey, and this is what I wrote about him in my earlier post on Carolyn Harris:

Lawrence Bailey

(Here’s the link to ‘indecent images’ story.)

In my previous post I gave the impression that Harris was paying Bailey for his professional services, maybe PR work, because that’s what I thought at the time. Now I learn that Bailey actually works for Carolyn Harris, and until quite recently he was based for much of the time in the constituency office on Brynhyfryd Square. (Through the mist I see schoolboys smoking Woodbines in the stinking public lavatory on ‘the Square’ as they wait for the bus to Penlan School. Ah, happy days!)

If Lawrence ‘Libido’ Bailey is an employee of Swansea East Constituency Labour Party, or its MP, why isn’t he on the books, instead of being paid through Whiterock? I think we can all hazard a guess. Though if Whiterock is a contractor or consultant, should Bailey be given the run of the constituency office, and allowed to use facilities, equipment and consumables paid for from the public purse for the MP and her staff?

FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE

As I just hinted, the hard left is out to get Harris, and they don’t come harder or lefter than Bob Clay, former Labour MP for Sunderland North who washed up in Swansea a few years ago. His wife Uta is Austrian and both these confirmed Trots serve as councillors for the Llansamlet ward.

The Clays are actively plotting to remove Carolyn Harris. How do we know this? Because Bob Clay was considerate enough to set it out in a document in January this year. It is headed, ‘To oblige CH to retire’ and contains section headings, ‘Preferred Methodology’, ‘Preparing the Way’, ‘Scope’, and ‘End Games’. In that final section we can read, “The overriding objective is to see the back of CH. However, this would be far easier to achieve if the risk of a scandal did not occur before the Assembly elections” (in May).

I have redacted the names and signatures of two other persons who might be seen as Clay’s co-conspirators, but I prefer to view them as the dupes of an experienced and manipulative politician, a man who learnt his politics in smoke-filled rooms. (God, I miss them!)

Clays

You’ll see that the third sheet is in the form of a letter to ‘David’, who I’m told is Dave Hagendyk, yet another political professional who’s never done a real job. After leaving Cardiff University in 1999 he became a researcher for husband and wife AM team Huw Lewis and Lynne Neagle. Next, in January 2004, he became Head of Policy at ‘Welsh’ Labour. By February 2009 it was time to move on again, this time to become Political Liaison Officer (Wales) with the University and College Union. He was appointed General Secretary of ‘Welsh’ Labour in November 2010, the position he holds to this day.

It would appear from the letter that Clay bore no grudge against Hagendyk despite the latter suspending Uta Clay in 2012. Suspension or worse might now await Bob Clay, for representations have been made to London to have him thrown out of the party. Among the instigators of this move we find, unsurprisingly, Carolyn Harris. This is interesting for a number of reasons.

If, as I’m told, moves are afoot that have “gone way past Hagendyk”, what does this say about the independence of ‘Welsh’ Labour? Also, given that Clay is a Corbynista, and Harris, as we’ve seen, has lined up with Dai Smith’s boy, I suspect that who gets slung out in Swansea East depends a lot on who is leader of the UK Labour Party at the end of September, after the leadership contest.

The secretary of the Swansea East Constituency Labour Party was Ryland Doyle . . . until the beginning of June, when he resigned. The e-mail in which he informed party members of his decision is quite remarkable in its honesty, and what it tells us about the Labour Party.

Ryland Doyle

Though I have to take issue with Ryland Doyle when he writes “Bullies prevail because people do not stand up to them”. Clearly, he did not stand up to the bully Bob Lloyd. So who is Bob Lloyd? In short, he is the Constituency Labour Party treasurer for Swansea East, but his influence goes beyond that.

Bob Lloyd, an ex-councillor, is one of three brothers, the others being Alan, now retired but who may have served as much as 40 years on the council, and David, who was Carolyn Harris’ agent in 2015 and now works in the constituency office. Bob Lloyd’s wife Val was AM for Swansea East from 2001 (by-election) until 2011. Alan Lloyd’s son, Clive, is currently a councillor for the St Thomas ward, (though he lives a few miles away). To describe the Lloyds as a Labour family would be an understatement. They supported Carolyn Harris in her campaign to become MP, were rewarded, and she now relies on them to protect her from those seeking to deselect her.

SWANSEA, LABOUR IN MICROCOSM 

Here ends the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Swansea Labour Party, the gift that keeps on giving. And I hear that Swansea is in such a mess that there are some who look back longingly to the days when there was order, when the trains ran on time – and dream of restoring David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips to power. Avanti!

If you want to know what’s wrong with the Labour Party then you need look no further than Swansea, it’s all here: nepotism; bullying; back-stabbing and de-selections; selfish careerists and immature conspirators; brown envelope Old Labour, hypocritical New Labour and antediluvian hard left; not forgetting the mis-use of public funds plus dilettantes allowed to use the party to promote their pet subject . . . and all packaged up with utter contempt for the people they’re supposed to be serving.

These people are running the wonderful city of Swansea because there’s just no opposition. Things aren’t much better on the national level. When you look at ‘Welsh’ Labour you realise that a half-decent opposition party could have swept the buggers away years ago, as happened in Scotland.

We get the politicians we deserve. And because of that, ‘Welsh’ Labour is a terrible indictment of our nation. 

*

Thanks to ‘Stan’ of Neath Ferret fame, and others whose names I obviously cannot divulge, for helping me prepare this piece. Any more information on the Swansea Labour Party will be most welcome.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jul 162016
 

The past few weeks have been perhaps the most turbulent period I can recall in over fifty years of following politics on this island. This goes some way to explaining why the most recent posts have avoided contemporary politics – things have been changing daily. But now that things have settled down a bit, with Mrs May in No 10, BoJo set to charm Johnnie Foreigner, and the battle-lines drawn in the Labour Party leadership election, it should be safe to resume commenting.

I wish to focus on the Labour Party, partly because many commentators are suggesting Labour might not be with us for much longer, or certainly not in the form we have come to know and love. (There! I’ve said it.) Another reason is that Labour remains the largest party in Wales plus the fact that one of the contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party represents a Welsh constituency.

For as I’ve mentioned, there is currently a struggle going on inside Labour for control of the party that will determine its future direction. A struggle between present leader Jeremy Corbyn and his allies on the one hand, and most of the MPs (and indeed AMs) on the other, represented by the two challengers, Angela Eagle and our very own Owen Smith.

The divide seems to be between what might be described as the Blairite rump of the party pitted against assorted varieties of the Hard Left that joined to elect Corbyn and will, if they are allowed, deselect most of the Labour MPs opposing the leader, plus remnants of Old Labour. Or to put it another way, unprincipled careerists versus unrealistic ideologues and those who’ve been left behind.

OWEN SMITH

Now Owen Smith is a man with quite an interesting background and past. He is the son of Dr Dai Smith, self-appointed chronicler of the Welsh working class. One of those Labour historians who believes Welsh history begins with the Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, Wales was a rural wasteland of Welsh-speaking peasants preyed upon by equally Welsh-speaking warlords and bandit chiefs. In fact, it was a Welsh-speaking hell from which we were saved by industrialisation and then the creation of the Labour Party.

Dr Dai was an academic but also served a stint as “Editor BBC Radio Wales and Head of Programmes (English language) at BBC Wales from 1992 to 2001”, and while at the Beeb he recruited young Owen. Though Owen left in 2002 to become a spad for Paul Murphy, then Secretary of State for Wales.

smith carp1

After failing to win the Blaenau Gwent by-election in 2006, against Independent Dai Davies, he continued with his job as a well-paid lobbyist for Pfizer, before moving on to Amgen, another pharmaceutical company, in 2008.

(By one of those quirks that are almost inescapable when looking into the backgrounds of Labour politicians, Owen Smith, while still at the BBC, recruited a young Lee Waters, who is now the Assembly Member for Llanelli. But Waters has assured me that they were unknown to each other when Smith recruited him. And I believe him. Oh yes.)

Around the time of the by-election Owen Smith gave an interview to WalesOnline in which he appeared to support the Iraq war and favour privatisation in the NHS. Read the interview here. He has since distanced himself from these remarks.

From what I’ve read in the past couple of days it would seem that many people who know him consider Owen Smith to be a bit . . . well, slippery, and perhaps he’s not what he wants us to believe he is. This piece by former ambassador Craig Murray says it all in the title – The Entirely Fake Owen Smith.

Owen Smith is one of New Labour’s chameleon-like smoothies who can change his position on anything at the blink of an eye. What you see is unlikely to be what you get because there are no principles to maintain, no constants . . . other than looking out for Number One. Exemplified by something I found on Twitter.

Owen Smith expenses

THE KINNOCK FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Friday saw the funeral of Jo Cox, the MP murdered a week before the EU referendum. As she was apparently killed by a right wing extremist expressing anti-immigration views many thought her death might swing the referendum in favour of Remain. That it did not tells us that the margin of victory for the Leave vote could have been even greater without this tragedy.

After the killing we heard both Neil Kinnock, former Labour leader, and his son Stephen, now MP for Aberavon (Port Talbot), tell us how well they knew Jo Cox and what a wonderful woman she was. Kinnock senior even likened the sad episode to “a death in the family”. But how did the Kinnocks know her so well?

(Another who spoke warmly of his friendship with Jo Cox, and having worked with her at Oxfam, was Stephen Doughty, the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth. Many believe that Doughty owes his safe seat to family links with his powerful predecessor Alun Michael, now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales Police.

Michael recruited as his deputy PCC Labour councillor [and daughter of Labour councillor] Sophie Howe, who’d served as a spad to first ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. When Ms Howe failed to secure a safe seat for the 2015 UK general election the spurious post of Future Generations Commissioner was created for her as a consolation prize.)

It seems that the connection between the Kinnocks and Jo Cox began in the late 1990s when Glenys Kinnock was an MEP (1994 – 2009) and Cox served as her adviser for two years before moving on to Oxfam and Oxfam International. Later she was also involved with the Save the Children Fund, and immediately before becoming an MP was with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After becoming an MP she shared an office with Stephen Kinnock.

Her husband Brendan also worked for the Save the Children Fund, but had to leave in rather unpleasant circumstances. His boss at the Fund, who also left under something of a cloud, was Justin Forsyth. Both Cox and Forsyth had been advisers to prime minister Gordon Brown, and both arrived at the charity in 2010, soon after Brown lost the general election. Forsyth had also been an adviser to Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair.

Many argue that Forsyth and Cox subverted the charity into ‘Save the Labour Party’ through regular attacks on the coalition and then the Conservative governments. In 2014 the charity – or rather, Forsyth – engineered a Global Legacy Award for Tony Blair, a decision opposed by many, even within the Save the Children Fund.

When Forsyth became a father, it was no surprise to see him congratulated by Baroness Kinnock.

Glenys Kinnock tweet

Her title is quite interesting. Perhaps in a show of socialist or feminist sentimentality Glenys Kinnock refused to call herself Lady Kinnock when hubby Neil was ennobled in January 2005 . . . holding out for her own peerage, which duly arrived in 2009. The Kinnocks are one of the few couples to both be peers.

Forsyth is now Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

To conclude this section it only remains to tell you who is now running the Save the Children Fund on an annual salary of $344,887. It’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark and taker of the infamous selfie with David Cameron and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. She is also known as Mrs Stephen Kinnock, but apparently there’s no room to mention that fact on her Save the Children bio.

Mrs Kinnock StCF bio

LABOUR AND THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

As I’ve mentioned, and as most of you reading this already knew anyway, Stephen Kinnock is now the MP for Aberavon, the Port Talbot constituency. He was selected as the Labour candidate in early March 2014 by, I believe, a single vote, perhaps 106 – 105. Around the time of his selection questions were asked about his children’s education – were they receiving private education?

In this Llais y Sais article by Martin Shipton, from February 2014, Kinnock explains the situation by telling us that his elder daughter, Johanna, 16, had attended a local school in Copenhagen which is mainly state funded but where parents are expected to contribute, in the Kinnocks’ case, it’s around £80 a month. (In a subsequent article, on St David’s Day, and just days before the Aberavon selection committee met, Kinnock confessed he had “unintentionally misled the Western Mail”, in fact, the fees were closer to £160 a month.)

From that local school with its modest fees, Shippo tells us, “Johanna went on to the equivalent of a sixth-form college in Denmark which is wholly state-funded”. We are being told this, remember, in February 2014 . . . yet Johanna Kinnock became a student at Atlantic College in September 2013!

Johanna Kinnock Atlantic College

How do we explain this? Here we have the son of Wales’ most famous political dynasty coming home to rescue us from the wicked Tories, to save Port Talbot steelworks, so surely we’d have loved to hear that the grand-daughter of Lord Kinnock and Baroness Kinnock was also here among us, at the famous Atlantic College.

Why then are we lied to and told she’s at a sixth-forth college in Copenhagen? Could the reluctance to tell us the truth have anything to do with the fact that fees at Atlantic College are £28,600 a year?

Obviously, in February and March 2014 Stephen Kinnock knew that his daughter was in her second term at Atlantic College, and he lied, knowing that to admit she was at an expensive school might cost him the nomination for Aberavon, as it almost certainly would have, given the closeness of the vote.

But what of the Fat Man, and other ‘journalists’ in Wales? Were they genuinely unaware that Johanna Kinnock was at Atlantic College, or did they choose to keep it from us – and perhaps worse, give her father a platform to mislead us – in order to help Stephen Kinnock gain the Aberavon nomination?

People in Denmark certainly knew, as this article from December 2013 confirms. Google Translate charmingly renders it: “Thus, father and daughter be united in the British country where also Michael Laudrup competes as coach in Swansea. Helle Thorning-Schmidt in an interview with Billed-Bladet reported on his farewell with his daughter at the airport: – ‘It was terrible to say goodbye to her. We stood and tudbrølede’, the Prime Minister explained in a double interview with her and her husband”.

Johanna Kinnock Graduation

Johanna Kinnock graduated from prestigious, and expensive, Atlantic College in May 2015 . . . with few of us in Wales ever knowing she was there! No doubt the ‘Welsh’ media will insist it kept quiet to guarantee her privacy . . . but we know the truth.

UPDATE 23.07.2016: Stephen Kinnock has ‘responded’ on his blog to what I’ve written. Read it here. I think ‘evasive’ is the word I’m looking for.

My questions centred on Atlantic College, yet Stephen Kinnock claims that he was only asked about his daughter’s past education in Copenhagen, and this is why he made no mention of Atlantic College. Very convenient. And we must accept that no questioner wondered where the girl was at the time?

The questions were being asked to establish whether Kinnock’s children were at fee-paying schools, an issue that would have embarrassed him, and possibly cost him the Aberavon nomination. The response he gives on his blog is clever, but it’s no answer.

After telling us about the bursaries and scholarships on offer at Atlantic College he has this to say of his daughter, “Johanna’s time at AC was partly funded by a standard Danish state scholarship for students studying abroad.” “Partly funded”, so where did the rest of her £28,600 a year fees (plus other expenses) come from?

There is no doubt in my mind that Johanna Kinnock’s presence at Atlantic College was kept from us – by both her father and the ‘Welsh’ media – in order to help him secure the Labour nomination for Aberavon.

UPDATE 26.07.2016: Here’s a report that just appeared on the BBC Wales website. Maybe this story has legs.

THE DOWN HOME ANALOGY

The great advantage Tory grandees have over Labour politicians is that they don’t have to act, they have no problem saying, ‘Grandfather was a banker and I’m a banker’. But so many in the Labour Party feel the need to play a part in the hope of connecting with those they want to vote for them. Whenever I consider this it brings to mind a somewhat bizarre analogy.

I’m a great fan of Country music, the more authentic the better; I can listen to Hank Williams all night (and often do). The songs he wrote and sang were influenced by his marital difficulties, his drinking, the pain he suffered with his back and the drugs that helped, and all delivered in that haunting, penetrating voice. He’s not singing about anybody else, this is a young man baring his soul, and poor Southern whites in the late 1940s and early 1950s knew it.

We are now up to Hank Williams III, and talented though the grandson may be, he’s too far from his grand-pappy’s upbringing in Alabama. The authenticity of the rural South that gave birth to Country music is, inevitably, missing. It’s gone forever, and to pretend that it can be recreated in a studio or by a PR agency is just self-delusion.

Hank Williams

“My grandfather was a miner” insists Stephen Kinnock. Fine, so was mine, for a while, after coming back from the War (the one to end all wars). But you aren’t asking people to vote for your grandfather, you’re asking them to vote for you, so tell us, Kinnock, who and what are you? And while you’re at it, tell us where your daughter went to school.

This generational disconnect is inevitable, in politics as in other spheres, but it affects the Labour Party worse than other parties because Labour was founded to represent a single class, and now it’s arrived at a situation where the likes of Stephen Kinnock and Owen Smith, the children of peers and academics, have to dig up grandparents in the hope of connecting with that class they don’t really understand. Trying to be what you’re not rarely works.

And worse, the ‘Welsh’ media, knowing who’s in charge, and who pays, with adverts and official notices, to keep Shippo’s ‘paper afloat, play along, doing Labour’s bidding, and failing us.

BANANA REPUBLIC SANS BANANAS

A century of Labour enjoying almost unchallenged power has given us a system of favouritism, nepotism and blatant corruption that is unknown elsewhere in Europe. To all intents and purposes, Wales is a one-party state. Combine the corruption with our relative poverty and Wales deserves to be considered a third world country.

Yet there are those in Wales who do very well for themselves, that’s the whole point of ‘Welsh’ Labour’. Keep Wales poor, blame somebody else, reap the electoral benefits, then divvy up the seats, the sinecures and the funding.

This corruption is known to those at UK level who should intervene but is tolerated because a) there’s little chance of the Tories overtaking Labour and b) those that might overtake Labour are unacceptable. So London turns a blind eye to institutionalised corruption, and allows Labour politicians and thousands of hangers-on to fill their boots.

Those I’m discussing here make up what is often called ‘the liberal elite’, flitting between Public Relations, charity / third sector work, and political office, while preaching at the rest of us and condemning right of centre politicians for securing good jobs in the worlds of finance and business.

But many of those they condemn create jobs and wealth, but the liberal elite is almost entirely decorative, and superfluous, almost a price we’re prepared to pay to make us feel better about ourselves. All sustained by the public purse, either in direct, governmental funding or else donations to charities and foundations. They’re parasitical hypocrites.

It is these, and their control – until recently – of the Labour Party that has led to voters deserting the party, and explains why the post-industrial areas of Englandandwales voted as they did in the EU referendum. Brexit was the disenfranchised of the post-industrial wastelands saying to the liberal elite, ‘Fuck off, you selfish, lying bastards!’

Labour’s control of its traditional followers is now, as I said at the start, greatly weakened. With Labour in real danger of falling apart. Either Corbyn stays at the helm, which probably makes Labour unelectable (because the media and ‘others’ will destroy him), or else Labour will have as leader the uninspiring Eagle or ‘Slippery’ Smith. Corbyn, Eagle, Smith, none will connect with the areas that voted Brexit.

text box

Here in Wales Labour seems marginally more united, but if Labour in England splits, or maybe disintegrates, then there is no way that ‘Welsh’ Labour can escape the consequences. (How many Welsh will vote Labour if there’s no party in England to form the UK government, or even vote Labour in Assembly elections?) As some Russian tsar said of the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century, ‘We have a sick man on our hands’. Keeping him alive artificially would be unkind.

We are a nation badly served in almost every conceivable way, and it’s our fault – nobody else’s – because we’ve accepted it for so long, and elected vermin more concerned with self-advancement than with serving Wales. Nothing will change until we make it clear that we aren’t taking it any more. It’s time to start getting ‘awkward’, and any attempt to limit this awkwardness to the narrow sphere of electoral politics would be the height of folly.

Because from now on all ideologies should be made irrelevant, all that matters is the national interest, because this is the only way to serve the Welsh people. For example, control over our natural resources is obviously in the national interest, so let’s demand that we have that control. And if politicians say, ‘Oh, it can’t be done’ or, ‘But what about England?’ the answer must be –

‘You and your parties do not represent the Welsh national interest, you have never represented the Welsh national interest; so step aside, for we are throwing off you parasites to decide our future for ourselves’.

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Jul 082016
 

Having read the full Chilcot Report on the invasion of Iraq by the USA and the UK – in the original Latin – I have decided to spare my readers that ordeal by giving a succinct summary of what lies behind that disaster and why we are where we are.

However, for the masochists among you, here’s a link to the Executive Summary. This runs to 150 pages, but the full Report is 2.6 million words long, or over four times the size of War and Peace, so don’t even think about reading it.

For all you need to know, read on . . .

1/ The best place to start is with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. From the perspective of the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department at that time, anyone who fought against communism was a ‘freedom-fighter’, be he a drug-trafficking fascist, a mass-murdering psychopath or, as in Afghanistan, a religious fanatic wanting to turn the clock back a few centuries.

And so it came to pass that Uncle Sam ended up funding, arming and in other ways supporting the Bearded Ones in their fight against the Russians. (No, these were not hipsters.)

Beards

In the same year, the major US ally in the region, the Shah of Iran, was forced into exile by another bunch of Bearded Ones. There was further humiliation for the USA when its Tehran embassy was overrun and 66 US citizens taken hostage.

2/ Next, in September 1980, hostilities commenced between Iran and Iraq. Despite Iraq being ruled by a ruthless tyrant named Saddam Hussein, who began his career as an assassin for the Ba’ath Party, the USA decided – on the ‘enemy of my enemy’ principle – to back (the beardless) Saddam.

After massive losses on both sides the inconclusive war came to its end with the ceasefire of August 20th 1988.

3/ Saddam Hussein decided to flex his military muscles again by invading Kuwait in August 1990 – using weaponry supplied by Western powers during the war with Iran. This invasion was widely condemned, and a UN-supported coalition force was organised under US leadership to liberate Kuwait.

A brief military campaign at the start of 1991 saw the Iraqi army expelled and Kuwait restored to its former condition of Western-friendly despotism. However, the coalition stopped short of toppling Saddam, who then took revenge on his Kurdish and Shia subjects, who had been encouraged to rise against him by the USA and its partners with the promise of protection and / or Saddam’s removal.

The US president at the time of the ‘liberation’ of Kuwait was George H W Bush.

4/ With the Russians gone Afghanistan descended into civil war, from which emerged victorious, in 1996, the fundamentalist (and well bearded) Taliban, but nobody paid them too much attention because they were the good guys who’d fought against Ronald Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire‘.

The Taliban takeover allowed Saudi national Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation to return from its four-year exile in Sudan. (Bin Laden was never seen without his beard.) Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim terrorist organisation that views the West as a corrupting influence on the Islamic world, and it announced its war on the West with attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in August 1998.

5/ Unpleasant though these incidents were they were both a long way away, but everything changed with al-Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th, 2001.

In response, Afghanistan was invaded, and it was soon realised that 9/11, as it became known, could also be used as an excuse to remove Saddam Hussein. For by now the US president was George W Bush, son of the president Bush who had lost face by leaving Saddam in power.

Attacking Iraq was a curious decision for many reasons. As I’ve said, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, many of his funders and supporters were Saudis, most of the hijackers on the planes that caused such devastation were Saudis. So if any country should have been attacked in response to 9/11 it was surely Saudi Arabia! But no, for the Saudis and the Americans were friends.

6/ But this time there was to be no UN support, and no grand coalition. Russia, Germany, France and most other countries opposed US action against Iraq. So to give himself a fig leaf / partner George W Bush turned to the UK, and its prime minister Tony Blair. At a meeting on his Texas ranch in April 2002 Bush got Blair to commit the UK to joining with the USA in invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. (Bush and Blair have never been seen bearded.)

Three months later Blair wrote his now infamous memo to Bush in which he promised, “I will be with you, whatever”.

My view has always been that Blair was seduced by the opportunity to play a world role in partnership with the USA, and so he allowed himself to be talked into invading Iraq. A country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and led by a man who was as hostile to the Bearded Ones as Western leaders. (And who understood far better what he was dealing with.)

Fundamentally, the problem may have been that Blair allowed it all to go to his head, he seemed to think that he too was a president, rather than a prime minister answerable to parliament. That he was able to get away with it exposed weaknesses in the UK system that seem to have been overlooked. What steps have been taken to ensure that no future prime minister can behave like a one-man government?

Bush Blair

7/ The planned invasion then had to be justified. Which saw a year or more in which we heard one ludicrous claim after another telling us how dangerous Saddam Hussein was, and what a threat he was to the West. Why! he had missiles that could target British bathers on Cyprus beaches.

This is when we became familiar with the term Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which it was claimed – by the US and UK – Saddam possessed, and was preparing to use. The problem with this assertion was that United Nations weapons inspectors that were in the country, and free to go wherever they wished, could find absolutely nothing to substantiate these claims. That was because the claims were bullshit, and those making the claims knew they were bullshit.

Bush, Blair and their underlings knew that Iraq had no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons but the pretence had to be maintained. In his State of the Union address on January 28th 2003 George Bush said, “If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.” Saddam Hussein was being told to get rid of weapons he didn’t possess otherwise his country would be invaded! Clearly the USA was going to invade Iraq, and sure enough, Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 19th 2003.

8/ The invasion itself went swimmingly, the Iraqi army was soon rolled up and the media showed us grateful Iraqis dancing in the streets and showering their liberators with gifts. British forces were given territory in the Shia heartlands of the south east to control, in and around the city of Basra, not far from Iran. Then it all started to go wrong.

The sudden and complete removal of Saddam’s army and police, coupled with the reluctance of the US and UK military to antagonise the locals, resulted in looting and more general criminality becoming widespread. The political situation deteriorated by the day as the Iranians encouraged the Shia majority to exercise its new-found power through its militias. While Saddam’s now dis-empowered and jobless Sunni supporters grew ever more bitter as they envisioned a Shia-run Iraq.

In the north, the Kurds effectively withdrew from the crumbling state and set up their own institutions.

The truth was that no one in the US-UK alliance really had a clue what might happen after Saddam was toppled. It was all wishful thinking premised on the aftermath of D-Day: Go in, kick out the bad guys, be welcomed as liberators, drink some booze and lay a few chicks, set out the rules for a pro-Western system of government, go home to ticker-tape welcome . . . more booze and chicks.

If only!

9/ What actually happened after the initial welcome was years of fighting between coalition forces and Shia militias or Sunni insurgents. The country fell apart. A major contribution to the upsurge in hostility to the occupying forces was the decline in public amenities, health care and other facilities, this being the inevitable result of the gratuitous destruction of infrastructure by the coalition at the start of the campaign, largely done for the entertainment of the television audience in the West.

Saddam Hussein was unquestionably a bastard, but he wasn’t particularly ideological, and he certainly wasn’t driven by religious zeal, nor was he especially greedy. He certainly liked power and used it as he thought necessary to hold together an artificial and fissiparous country bequeathed by the Sykes-Picot carve-up during WWI.

But as Iraqis were soon to lament, under Saddam they at least had electricity, and a working sewage system, the hospitals had drugs and doctors, there was public transport, kids went to school and on to university. Compared to the ‘liberation’ Iraq under Saddam Hussein began to look like a lost golden age.

10/ Democracy (of a sort) was installed . . . or another way of putting it would be that Shia sectarianism was empowered. For the Shia majority, with its (lavishly bearded) leaders controlled by Iran, now ruled the roost and were determined to make the Sunni – of whom Saddam was nominally one – pay for the years in which they, the Sunni, had ruled that same roost at the expense of Shia and Kurds.

The resentment felt by the Sunni resulted in attacks on the US military, and on Shia shrines and other targets. To cut a long story short, it was the treatment meted out to the Sunni by the USA and the Shia – who were backed, bizarrely, by both the USA and Iran – that created the conditions in which Sunni ISIS could establish itself and flourish.

And that’s where we are today, boys and girls.

CONCLUSION

With no clear plan beyond settling a family score by getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and grabbing Iraq’s oilfields and other assets for vice president Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and other US companies, George W Bush didn’t really know what he was doing. His ally, or perhaps his dupe, Tony Blair, deluded himself that this was some noble crusade against evil. Even today Blair argues that he did the right thing. One’s a duplicitous and devious idiot, the other’s a self-deluding zealot who, like so many who have done great wrong, now finds solace in religion.

Halliburton

They blundered in, blundered about for a few years, wrecking an entire country, strengthening Iran, causing the rise of ISIS, before blundering out, little wiser about the country they’d destroyed than when they invaded.

Add disastrous military escapades like Iraq and Afghanistan to globalisation and immigration and you explain the increasing alienation of the white working class in the USA and in post-industrial regions across Europe. Which in turn explains the popularity of Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders), Brexit, Marine le Pen and a host of other examples showing growing public contempt for what had been the established political order.

President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair told us that by invading Iraq they were making the world a safer place. The world is now infinitely more dangerous, both from external foes and also from internal divisions due to the discrediting of the Anglo-Saxon, transatlantic political and economic model (the latter following the Crash of 2008).

When millions of voters are prepared to put their faith in Nigel Farage you know just how badly Bush and Blair fucked up. That is their legacy.

 

Jul 032016
 

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before (as the actress said to the bishop), but this post is all about another post, on a faraway blog I was unaware of until a couple of days ago. To explain.

I received an e-mail from an anonymous source providing a link to a blog post said source thought might interest me. It certainly did, though I have to admit that the subject matter was beyond my normal interests.

Essentially, the story is about the deliberate poisoning of hawks and ravens on the Glanusk Estate using Bendiocarb, all done to protect the ‘game birds’ reared there. These have been ‘protected’ from their natural predators in order that they might be killed by Hoorays paying handsomely for the privilege.

Mark Coleman rates

killing birds don’t come cheap

Apart from the obvious wildlife crimes there are also safety concerns for those visiting the estate and, perhaps especially, those attending the Green Man Festival held there in August.

Before going any further I suggest you read the article I’m talking about. It’s to be found on the Raptor Persecution Scotland website and the post Mass Raptor Poisoning in Wales: Location Revealed.

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The facts, certainly those that jumped out at me, are as follows:

1/ The poisonings took place in 2012/13 and the birds killed were ravens, buzzards and red kites, the latter having become almost the national bird of Wales since its recovery from near extinction was engineered in central Wales.

2/ As stated, the killings were committed on the Glanusk Estate of the Legge-Bourke family near Crughywel. I quote from the Raptor Persecution Scotland website:

Shan Legge-Bourke was appointed lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne in 1987, was High Sheriff of Powys in 1991, has been the Lord Lieutenant of Powys (the Queen’s personal representative) since 1998 and became Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2015 New Year Honours.

Shan Legge-Bourke’s daughter, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, was nanny to Princes William & Harry and worked as a personal assistant to Prince Charles between 1993-1999.

Shan Legge-Bourke’s son, Harry Legge-Bourke, is a partner in the management of Glanusk Estate and served on the Board of Natural Resources Wales (the Welsh statutory conservation agency) between 2012-2015 (the same time the mass poisoning of raptors was taking place on Glanusk Estate).”

3/ The ‘sport shooting’ element of the estate’s business is run by Mark Coleman Sporting & Game which also has involvement with the Stoke Edith estate just over the border in Herefordshire.

Though it’s not clear exactly what the arrangement is between Coleman and the owners of either estate. Is he employed directly? Does he lease land at Glanusk? While his relationship with the estate may be opaque the article I’m using as my source says that the gamekeepers are employed by Mark Coleman. Again, I quote from the original piece:

“Stoke Edith is a close neighbour of the Sufton Estate. Some of you may recognise that name. In 2010, an under-gamekeeper from the Sufton Estate was convicted of 17 wildlife crime offences, including the use of Bendiocarb to poison raptors (see here, page 25). In the same year, the Sufton Estate Head gamekeeper was convicted of running a cannabis factory on the estate and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment (see here).

Amazingly, according to this article published in Fieldsports magazine: glanusk fieldsport article-1, the Head gamekeeper now at Glanusk Estate, employed by Mark Coleman, is someone with the same name as that convicted Head gamekeeper from Sufton Estate. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?

But Mark Coleman employs another gamekeeper who also has a familiar name. According to this Fieldsports magazine article: stoke edith fieldsport article-1, a gamekeeper employed by Mark Coleman on the Stoke Edith Estate shares the same name as a gamekeeper convicted of killing raptors and badgers on a shooting estate in Herefordshire in 2008. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?”

Mark Coleman

I think it’s important to know the relationships between the Glanusk Estate and Mark Coleman if we are to establish the chain of responsibility and culpability. According to the panel above, taken from the Glanusk website, the shoot has been “passed” to Mark Coleman, but what the hell does that mean? I guarantee he doesn’t own the land.

UPDATE 04.07.2016: I am indebted to ‘STaN’ at the Neath Ferret for drawing my attention to the fact that Mark Coleman’s company is not in the best of financial health. The company’s net worth is over three hundred thousand pounds the wrong side of zero. Read the latest accounts for yourself.

4/ There was a statement put out by Dyfed Powys Police in March which read:

“Dyfed Powys Police take allegations of wildlife crime very seriously and investigates all incidents reported to us. Following information received in 2012 and 2013, relating to the deaths of raptors in Powys, a full investigation was carried out in partnership with the RSPB, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Wildlife Management Team in the Welsh Government. During the investigation a number of search warrants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act were executed and two people were arrested in connection with the incidents. A file of evidence was subsequently submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service who advised that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.”

This statement claims that arrests were made but the Crown Prosecution Service decided against proceeding with a prosecution. We can only speculate as to why there was no prosecution.

5/ Irrespective of whether there were prosecutions there can be no doubt that crimes were committed, so why has the ‘Welsh’ media remained silent over “the most significant wildlife poisoning incident in Wales”, according to the RSPB? Would our hawk-eyed and diligent journos ignore a murder because there had not yet been a prosecution?

6/ And what of the ‘Welsh’ Government? Apart from doling out grants it doesn’t seem to take a great deal of interest in the Glanusk Estate. Grant funding in which Natural Resources Wales is involved, the same Natural Resources Wales of which Harry Legge-Bourke was a Board Member.

Otherwise, Harry seems to be involved in the world of intelligence and security, with the Chelsea GroupBox-It and something given on his LinkedIn profile as Seven Partners, a name under which I can find nothing other than this company in Lyon. He seems to be cashing in on the rise in global terrorism and concerns for security . . . for which shooting some of the stupidest creatures known to Nature may be ideal preparation. (Myself, I prefer fish in barrels.)

Dyfed Powys

Soon after the original post was published the Glanusk Estate made a statement that you can find here, accompanied by a pretty comprehensive demolition by Raptor Persecution UK.

The Estate obviously felt they hadn’t said enough because a further statement was issued on July 3rd. Here it is, again with a robust response from RPUK. In this statement blame for the poisonings is attributed to “a third party” and assures us that there was never any risk to public health.

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To sum up . . .

First off, you mustn’t think there’s anything unusual – other than the scale – about the poisonings at Glanusk, they happen all the time. That’s because there’s serious money in shooting game birds, and wherever we find an area of human activity where there’s big money to be made we’ll find persons ready to cut corners and break the law.

The reason for my interest in this case is due to the status and connections of those involved and the responses, or rather, the total disinterest, of officialdom and others.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting that any member of the Legge-Bourke family laid poison to kill hawks and ravens. And I believe it’s perfectly possible for these crimes to have taken place on their land without their knowing. I suggest we need to start our search for the guilty parties lower down the food chain, with those who had both the motive and the opportunity.

But I am not suggesting that Mark Coleman himself laid poison to kill raptors or carrion feeders. I use the term ‘carrion feeders’ because a poisoned pheasant or raven could become food for badgers, foxes and smaller animals, perhaps even a domestic cat. Poisoning is indiscriminate.

pheasants

But what of those gamekeepers we are told already had police records over the border and, according to Raptor Persecution UK, were brought to Glanusk by Mark Coleman? Would it be reasonable to assume that these were the two arrested by Dyfed Powys Police? Though it may be significant that the police statement makes no mention of them actually being charged.

Do these gamekeepers still work on the Glanusk Estate?

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Even though the Legge-Bourkes didn’t lay any poison they are the indirect beneficiaries of that act because whoever did it acted to protect the shooting run by Mark Coleman who, we can be sure, pays the family a tidy sum to arrange his £11,000+ a day shooting parties.

The poisonings being first noticed in 2012 suggests they may have been done to ensure the successful launch of the venture after shooting re-started at Glanusk in 2010. Also significant may be that Glanusk offers mainly driven pheasant shooting, with limited ‘walk up’ grouse on offer; yet it is suggested that the hope is to expand the enterprise to a driven grouse venture (the only one in Wales). This would allow Mark Coleman to charge his punters even more. And as I said earlier, we are talking big bucks here.

So even though I am not for one minute suggesting that Mark Coleman laid down poison, he too would have benefited indirectly from greater numbers of birds surviving natural predators for him to offer to high-paying shooters.

Then there are other considerations, such as visitors who come and stay but not for the shooting. And how can we ignore the Green Man Festival, which must be another nice little earner for the Legge-Bourkes, and great publicity for Glanusk. Yet this is the kind of event attended by hippies and Greens. (My kind of people!) I can imagine some malodorous and dreadlocked shit-stirrer starting an online petition to move the Festival somewhere else if these killings of buzzards, ravens and red kites had received the publicity they deserved.

The simple and inescapable fact is that a prosecution, and the resultant publicity, could have cost the Glanusk Estate, and the well-connected Legge-Bourke family, a great deal of money. This is why there was no prosecution.

This case is a damning indictment of Wales in 2016. We have a Labour government down Cardiff docks telling us it’s fighting for ‘equality’ and practicing ‘openness’ and yet here we have an example of privilege, deference and feudalism straight out of the medieval period.

If a story about the killing of birds can be kept out of the public domain to protect persons with connections to the English royals what else is being kept from us?

P.S There’s more to come on this story so I suggest you keep up with developments on the website  https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/