Mar 282017
 

Brexit

In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.

In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .

A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.

The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.

Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.

Maybe he or she is one of the ‘progressives’ I wrote about in the post in which I explained why I was voting for Brexit, people on the political left who regard themselves as morally and intellectually superior to those holding different views.

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Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.

I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.

As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.

Getting Personal

The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.

The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.

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These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.

Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.

Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.

*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.

Independence

All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.

I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?

For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.

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So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.

These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.

But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.

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‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.

A Chorus not a Drone

Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.

There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.

Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.

It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.

Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.

Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.

♦ end ♦

Feb 272017
 

I’ve been away. No, not in the pokey, or on holiday, but hors de combat due to a malfunctioning computer, one that had served me well for many a year but finally gave up the ghost. After first buying myself a dud – hoping I could replace my old one on the cheap! – I eventually splashed out on a tidy machine that might accompany me to that stage of life where I can walk around in slippers all day, dishevelled and with a vacant look on my face. (‘So what’s new, Jac?’)

While I’ve been away things have turned quite nasty in Llangennech over the language controversy at the local infants school. Or rather, the nasties behind the opposition to Welsh language education were exposed for pallying up to the English Defence League and for inviting down Neil Hamilton the Ukip AM (and of course his wife-minder).

The day the Hamiltons came a-visiting. Fourth from the left is Neil Hamilton, on his right we find Michaela Beddows, and in the pink-ish trousers, we have Christine Hamilton.

Seeing as many of those opposing Welsh medium education are either Labour Party members, activists, or candidates in the May council elections the Ukip revelations didn’t do the bruvvers any favours. Action was belatedly taken after Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards wrote an open letter to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Had he not taken this course we would probably still be waiting for the deadbeats in Cardiff to act.

Inevitably, the Labour Party hit back, using the Wasting Mule and, more surprisingly, Private Eye. The former a regular and willing accomplice against ‘them nationalists’, the latter almost certainly misinformed. The outrage that followed the disgraceful Wasting Mule piece resulted in an apology the very next day, and I’m sure someone will put the Eye straight as well.

The day following the apology, Saturday the 25th, there was another article, this one making it clear there was no connection between the school dispute and incidents of tyre slashing in the village, as the original WM article had alleged. Though that original piece had been written by a woman who is said to have ‘a problem’ with the Welsh language. Which I suppose makes her an ideal Education Editor.

While I would love to have written up the daily revelations and developments from Llangennech and beyond I know I couldn’t have done it better than Cneifiwr, who has kept us informed of every twist and turn. I suggest you start with Jacques, Jacqueline & Neil on February the 11th and bring yourself up to date from there. Also worthy of mention is Caru Cymru, which may be a new blog, it’s certainly new to me.

Instead, I shall try to look beyond Llangennech in the hope of putting events there into a wider perspective . . . with a few digressions along the way. (Humour me!)

Before moving on, it’s worth linking to this essay by Dr Huw L Williams, which makes it clear that Labour’s hostility to the Welsh language is not currently confined to Llangennech. He suspects that Labour in Cardiff fears that Welsh medium education is less likely to provide voters for the party, and this explains the reluctance to meet the demand for Welsh medium education. Or, to put it another way, kids from bog-standard schools taught by unmotivated teachers are more likely to vote Labour.

Stripped of its various interpretations and grotesque characters Llangennech reaffirms what I have always known about the Labour Party in Wales. Anyone in any doubt about my feelings could do a lot worse than read Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, which I penned in March 2014.

As I argue there, to understand ‘Welsh’ Labour we need to go back a century or more, perhaps as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. Those decades when – to quote Gwyn Alf Williams – the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales could no longer meet the manpower demands of the industrial south, which resulted in Wales experiencing a great influx of workers from England and elsewhere, especially Ireland.

Up to this point the great majority of Welsh people, both those who remained in the rural areas and those who had left for the industrial belts, supported the Liberal Party, and this persisted into the twentieth century, but the Liberal Party was linked with the nonconformist chapels, which in turn tied in with the Welsh language. To further complicate matters there was Cymru Fydd, which pushed for some sort of Home Rule for Wales. All of which tended to make the Liberal Party unattractive to recent arrivals.

This hostility to the ‘Welsh’ Liberal Party was perfectly articulated by Alderman Robert Bird of Cardiff at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation when he declared “You will find, from Swansea to Newport, a cosmopolitan population who will not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas!”. Bird of course was English, and though a prominent nonconformist he opposed his own party’s policy of Disestablishment. I often think of the arrogance implicit in Bird’s statement, and of my eight Welsh-speaking great-grandparents living in and around Swansea, and the thousands upon thousands like them who did not belong to any “cosmopolitan population”, being more closely linked with their relatives in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.

Alderman Bird strikes me as yet another of those we’ve suffered throughout our history; people who know nothing about us, who don’t have our interests at heart, yet tell us what’s best for Wales.

Courtesy of National Library of Wales

The Labour Party found many converts among the English, the Irish and others simply because these found the Liberal Party to be ‘too Welsh’. Though this was never a black and white issue, many Welsh went over to Labour early on, and immigrants – though many fewer – took up the Liberal cause. For example, many of the Irish in southern Wales originally supported the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party before switching to Labour. Explained in this essay by socialist academic Dr Daryl Leeworthy.

(For some unfathomable reason I’m blocked from his Twitter account. Can you believe that! Infamy! Infamy! etc.)

From its early days this Labour Party of Englandandwales exhibited certain attitudes towards all things Welsh. At its worst it seemed that we Welsh were regarded no differently to other ‘primitives’ around the empire who had to be saved from themselves through stern paternalism. In our case, the best medicine was the English language, for many in the Labour Party agreed with the authors of the Blue Books who in 1847 had decreed that the Welsh language led us into all sorts of immorality while also impeding our educational and economic advancement.

As time passed it became convenient to pretend that almost all Welsh workers had embraced the Labour Party from the outset, but this was not true, as I recall from my own childhood. My paternal grandparents lived in Landore, and my grandfather, who’d worked at the Mannesmann tube works, was a deacon in Siloh Newydd. My grandmother’s working class credentials were equally impeccable. They supported the Liberal Party.

(‘The Mannesmann’ figured prominently in the lore of the Lower Swansea Valley when I was growing up. While working on the Evening Post Dylan Thomas covered boxing matches at the Mannesmann Hall. The plant ended its days owned by Stewarts & Lloyds.)

This was the 1950s, remember, and my grandparents’ rejection of the Labour Party was not unusual, even in a working class community like Landore. I concede that their adherence to the Liberals owed much to their age, their religious beliefs and the fact that they spoke Welsh. But that only tells us that there would have been many more like my mamgu and tadcu forty and fifty years earlier.

And I suspect that their parents might have agreed with Cymru Fydd rather than with Alderman Bird, their bollocks-spouting and self-appointed ‘representative’.

However it came about the decline of the Liberal Party and the unquestioned hegemony Labour achieved over the Welsh working class gave us the party we know today.

A ‘hybrid’ party still containing the twin strands of its early days: those who reject almost everything Welsh other than harmless, apolitical diversions such as sport, and the ‘Welsh’ element, which believes that Wales and Welshness extend beyond the rugby field.

This fault line has always resulted in ‘tensions’, but devolution, even the discussion of devolution, exposed the divide vividly. The campaign ahead of the devolution referendum in September 1997 brought out some of the worst anti-Welsh aspects of the Labour Party.

Neil Kinnock was particularly offensive, which may be understood, given his background, but his hysterical vilification of things Welsh was almost matched by his wife, who comes from a totally different, and Welsh, background. (A reminder of how the Labour Party can corrupt.) What we also see in Neil Kinnock is the ‘package’ I’ve referred to in other posts.

I think I first used the term after a visit to Pembrokeshire where I’d encountering the new county flag. When I made enquiries into its origin I saw a name with which I was familiar, a man who had campaigned against devolution, in 1979 and 1997, who had argued to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire!’ (because Dyfed was too Welsh) and had then helped devise a county flag to avoid flying the Ddraig Goch.

Show me someone who’s hostile to the Welsh language and I’ll show you someone who is probably opposed to devolution and almost anything likely to distinguish Wales from England – even if it will benefit Wales. In the 1979 devolution debate Neil Kinnock trotted out ridiculous stories of schoolchildren in Ynys Môn wetting themselves because they were unable to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet, coupling his contempt for the Welsh language with his opposition to devolution.

Alderman Bird was another. As a nonconformist and a Liberal he should have welcomed the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales. In rural areas poor, Liberal-supporting people were being forced to pay tithes to a church they did not attend in order to support clergymen who didn’t speak their language. And being evicted from their farms when they refused to pay the tithe. Yet Bird opposed Disestablishment, probably because he viewed it as being ‘a Welsh thing’.

A great-grandfather of my wife, a John Jones, was arrested for his part in the Llangwm riot of 1887. John was related by some convoluted route to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Newtown mail order pioneer. (We really should know more about Pryce from Llanllwchaiarn but, as he was a successful Welsh businessman who brought prosperity to his area, it serves the interests of both our colonial masters and our native leftists to ignore him.)

Courtesy of Casgliad y Werin

And so it is today in Llangennech. A gang of shouty, anti-Welsh bullies with strong links to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is opposing the teaching of Welsh – and don’t fall for the bullshit about ‘choice’, there are many English medium schools within easy travelling distance. Llangennech is on the outskirts of Llanelli, a large town.

For many people the most remarkable aspect of this saga is that people belonging to what many believe is still a socialist party should be so ready to mix with Ukip, and be quite open about it. Some of those opposed to Welsh language education in Llangennech have even flirted with elements further to the right. How do we explain this? I believe that as with most irrational fixations hatred for things Welsh clouds the judgement.

To understand that just follow the rantings of Jacques Protic, or someone like K Clements of Llangyfelach, who writes regularly to newspapers bemoaning the fact that we are starving and dying because of the billions spent on the Welsh language; his hatred for things Welsh is coupled with an intolerant Britishness usually confined to the extreme Right, Ibrox Park, and the Six Counties. Here he is, in a letter to the Evening Post, demanding that Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy be summarily executed for not singing GSTQ.

Another ‘hybrid’ party is of course Plaid Cymru. The dividing line here is between the nationalist/culturalist wing and the Green-socialists, with the latter in the ascendant for the past thirty years, to the detriment of the party, of Wales and of Welsh nationhood.

The reason Wales has suffered is because these eco-friendly leftists seem to have great difficulty focusing on Wales and Welsh issues. They’re forever trying to save the planet or else getting agitated over some issue far away over which they cannot possibly have any influence. Recent examples would the election of President Trump and the decision of the Welsh people to leave the European Union.

Many of this persuasion view their party as a regional outrider for ‘progressive’ forces elsewhere in Britain and beyond. Exemplified by this tweet by Leanne Wood I picked up on a few days ago. She’s responding to a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn, rebuking him by saying that they should “build alliances needed to defeat Tories”.

The realities are that Plaid Cymru has just three MPs in a 650-member House of Commons, so the chances of Plaid being an influential part of any anti-Tory coalition are slim. What’s worse is that here in Wales it’s not the Conservative Party that rules the roost but Labour; through its councillors, and its Third Sector, and the overpaid shysters to be found everywhere from academe to housing associations, all of them part of a system that has had almost a century to embed itself into, and corrupt, Welsh public life.

Yet Ms Wood and her ilk can blind themselves to all of this, for they view the Labour Party as fellow-socialists. Comrades in the crusade to cleanse Wales of initiative, pride and corrupting prosperity. For only through the begging bowl shall we attain the socialist nirvana of freedom from material possessions.

And of course, if we can’t afford to drive cars, or heat our homes, then Wales will be doing more than its share to save the planet, and that will please Plaid’s friends in the Green Party and the wider ‘environmental’ movement. They’ve got it all worked out!

Yes, I know, Plaid Cymru did eventually get involved in the Llangennech dispute, but they could hardly avoid it any longer seeing as the party had been targeted by the anti-Welsh crew, but even then Plaid waited until those clowns had shot themselves in the foot by inviting down the Hamiltons.

During my wee break I got to thinking about Llangennech and associated matters. I concluded that this is not really about language, or education; nor is it ideological or party political. To put it bluntly, this is a conflict of identities, a struggle that pits Welsh identity against an increasingly aggressive and intolerant English or British nationalism. (There is no meaningful distinction.)

These attacks on us and our identity come from both Left and Right, and indeed from those who otherwise regard themselves as liberal. As this recent tweet from Huw Edwards to Robert Peston reminds us. Which is why I say that ideology and party politics have no place in what must from now on be a national struggle fought on all fronts.

If we lose this struggle, then we lose our Wales; what will remain will be nothing but a hollowed-out geographical area called ‘Wales’, containing a couple of English provincial cities, a few other towns, post-industrial regions offering cheap housing for agencies relocating the rejects of England, and rural parts serving as recreation and retirement areas. In fact, this is the path Wales is already following.

But of course we’ll still have the ‘national’ rugby team, with the feathers on the shirt, so everything will be just fine.

Plaid Cymru, with its split personality, conflicting loyalties, and failure to focus on what matters, will not win this fight. Plaid Cymru won’t even join the fray for fear of upsetting the ‘liberals’ Huw Edwards talks of, and others with whom Plaid’s leadership has over the years become far too pally. Something new is needed.

This ‘something’ can only be effective if it is broad-based, national, free of ideology, and prepared to defend Wales, Welshness and Welsh interests against all threats. The first step must be trying to counter the pernicious influence of the BBC, ITV and the print media.

Which is why in future this blog may spend less time exposing lying politicians (of whom there are just too many) or crooks milking the public purse (ditto) to concentrate on the national picture and promote a nationalist message.

Stay tuned!

♦ end ♦

Jan 292017
 

THE DRUGS RACKET

Once upon a time, in a city far, far away, a clergyman came up with the idea of a charity to help those addicted to drugs. This charity has – like so many others! – recently moved to Wales, it now gets lots and lots of funding, and is quickly taking over the Welsh ‘rehabilitation’ racket.

The Kaleidoscope Project is a company and a charity that began life in 1968 in Kingston-upon-Thames, London. In 2013 it relocated to Newport, Gwent, to share premises at Integra House with The South Wales Association For Prevention Of Addiction Ltd. This outfit, usually known as Drugaid, is also a company and a charity and wouldn’t you know it – I wrote about Drugaid in November 2015, read it here.

Even though Drugaid now has a partner to share the load its funding has increased. For if we look at the most recent accounts, for y/e 31.03.2016, we see that income for the year was £6,200,222, against just £2,698,651 for the previous year (page 11). And of that £6m+ total no less than £3,102,866 went on salaries (page 22), with a further £950,363 going on “partner charge salaries” (page 20). Does this refer to Kaleidoscope? Throw in all the other charges and expenses and you have to wonder just how much goes on treating the ‘clients’.

Turning to the 2016 accounts for Kaleidoscope, we find a similar picture. Total income for this Englandandwales operation was £6,855,603 against £4,973,281 for 2015 (page 9). Yet salaries totalled £5,018,767 against £3,561,817 for 2015 (page 17).

As with so many Third Sector bodies we see that seventy or eighty per cent of the income is spent on salaries, wages, pensions, expenses and other staff costs that appear to have little to do with treating drug addiction or alcohol dependency.

Something else you will have noticed is that by adding the figures for Drugaid and Kaleidoscope we see that their combined income almost doubled in a year, going from £7,671,932 in 2015 to £13,055,825 in 2016. Has there been a massive increase in drug addiction or alcohol dependency? I don’t think so. So how do we explain this increase?

One way of explaining it might be through expansion, into GwentDyfedPowys, the Central Valleys, and The North where Kaleidoscope is working with CAIS, an organisation exhibiting the same pattern of an expanding budget most of which goes on staff costs.

And even though the Kaleidoscope website doesn’t say so, I hear that Kaleidoscope now has an interest in 39 St Mary Street in Cardigan. The mortgage on this property had been held by Cyswllt Contact of Aberystwyth, which finally went belly-up last November (though the mortgage may have been inherited by Drugaid before the final collapse). The link for the Cyswllt website now takes us to this other English outfit.

So since moving to Newport in 2013 Kaleidoscope has been able to pull down many millions in grants and loans from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s civil servants and also from local authorities. It has spread like a rash across the country apart from Swansea and Cardiff. Significantly, Drugaid has no presence in these cities, either.

Somebody’s taking the piss here (and it’s not for urine testing!). An English-based, English staffed, cross-border agency is rapidly expanding in the addiction-dependency-homeless racket, raking in millions in Welsh public funding every year – most of which goes on salaries – yet there appear to be no safeguards in place to ensure that Welsh funding isn’t used in England or that English drug addicts aren’t being imported!

Kaleidoscope’s move into Wales is yet another example of Welsh-based bodies being replaced by English counterparts. Which of course further integrates Wales with England, and further exposes the sham of devolution, and ‘Welsh solutions for Welsh problems’.

Though let me make it clear that I do not believe that our politicians are directly culpable. The problem is at the level of senior civil servant/local government officer and Third Sector management. The former taking their orders from London and the latter believing they must operate in an Englandandwales framework.

Our politicians are guilty for not stepping in to put a stop to these squalid shenanigans.

SWANSEA LABOUR PARTY (always good for a laugh!)

Until May 2012 Swansea council was run by a coalition led by the Liberal Democrats whose leader was Chris Holley. In a campaign of dirty tricks waged by the local bruvvers one tactic was particularly naughty – even for Labour.

It was alleged that secret talks had taken place between the Lib Dem-led coalition and the Tories, with promises of increased spending in Conservative-held wards if an ‘understanding’ could be agreed. The matter was referred to the police, the CPS and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The three councillors named were Holley, his Independent deputy John Hague and Conservative councillor Paxton Hood-Williams.

Nothing came of the inquiries. Read a report here from BBC Wales, and note the curious fact that the original story of October 2011 attributed the referral to the council’s chief executive and that it took four and a half years before the correction was made!

We shall never know how much public money and police time was wasted investigating this spurious allegation, but what the hell, this is how Labour does politics, the cost is irrelevant when pursuing a vendetta.

Now it appears that Labour is doing something very similar to what it falsely accused Holley et al of doing, in that it’s buying votes. I’m told that Labour councillors were instructed some time ago to improve their chances of re-election in May by giving money they’d been allocated for environmental improvements to high-profile local groups. Among the recipients are said to be the street markets in Uplands and Morriston. Should this be investigated?

peas from the same pod

The deeply divided Swansea Labour Party – which now insists that ward branches report back each and every thought and deed – is also demanding that all candidates in May adhere strictly to Comrade Corbyn’s Ten-Point agenda for Britain and that all new candidates be loyal to Momentum.

Absent from the glittering array to be presented to Swansea’s electors will be John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss. Although he quit the ugly lovely town some time ago John Boy has managed to hang on as an Uplands councillor.

Now he plans to stand in Cardiff and I look forward to reporting on his defeat, after which he might slink back over the border and never trouble us again.

UPDATE 02.02.2017: More information reaches me insisting that a deal was done, a deal that included the coalition offering to support Paxton Hood-Williams’ nomination to chair the council’s Child and Family Overview and Scrutiny Board.

Also, I have received a copy of an e-mail from chief executive Jack Straw to René Kinzett, leader of the Conservative council group at the time, in which Straw clearly says that he is referring the matter to the Ombudsman. We must assume that’s what he did, so why did the BBC make the ‘correction’? Read the e-mail for yourself.

For those wondering about ‘Rocking’ René, this post from April 2013 might help. Thankfully, Kinzett is now long gone from Swansea. Here-today-gone-tomorrow councillors are clearly not the sole preserve of the Labour Party.

LLANDOVERY YMCA

This is another subject about which I’ve written a number of times. If you want to catch up, start with The Impoverishment of Wales (scroll down) and then Ancestral Turf.

It’s a familiar tale. Middle class English people move to a small rural town and wonder how the locals managed without them. They then set about ‘improving’ things and providing ‘services’. Of course, this impulse to serve the inhabitants of one’s adopted home is not unconnected with the ready availability of moolah, and the salaries and pension pots it provides.

While the YMCA seems to be a focal point for these activities there have been other ventures. One worth mentioning would be the bunkhouse, launched in 2013 and bust by 2016. But what the hell, it’s only money, and with the system we have in Wales there’s plenty more where that came from.

But now I hear of something more worrying than just ripping off the public purse.

As you might guess, the YMCA caters for children and young people. Which explains the concerns many involved there have over the husband of one of the leading lights. A man who is said to spend a lot of time ‘hanging about’ the place. For I’m told that this man is currently on police bail accused of sexual offences against children, with his wife away from work on the pretext that he’s unwell and she’s looking after him.

She wants to return, but, for obvious reasons, this is being opposed. To complicate matters, there is a Big Lottery People and Places grant of £500,000 waiting in the wings.

My position is this: there can be no further investment in Llandovery YMCA of any kind and from any quarter while the wife of the alleged paedophile is still involved. There should also be a thorough investigation by those agencies that have hitherto given such unquestioning support: the ‘Welsh’ Government, Mark James Carmarthenshire County Council, and of course the Big Lottery Fund. One question might be, ‘given that he likes hanging about the building has the man in question ever had a DBS check?’

The unacceptable option would be to ignore what’s happening in Llandovery to save embarrassing certain people in positions of authority.

PUBLIC SERVICES OMBUDSMAN WALES

A curious tale has reached me about the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

To cut a long story short, a dispute between neighbours was taken to Cardiff council, and then one of those involved, unhappy with the way the case had been handled by the council, took the matter up with the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. At which point things took a strange turn.

When he later asked to see the documentation that had passed between the council and the Ombudsman the complainant was informed that this correspondence was “exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act or DPA” (Data Protection Act). Explicitly mentioned in justification for not providing the information requested was Section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (reproduced below).

If we look at part (1), then if (a) or (b) applied it would be easy for the Ombudsman’s office to quote the relevant ‘enactment’ or ‘obligation’. They chose not to. As for (c), there was no court case so I fail to see how contempt of court can be applicable. Which leaves (2), on which you can make up your own minds.

The Ombudsman’s office eventually relented, to the extent that they were prepared to release a single document – but only if the recipient signed a gagging order! Which makes you wonder what secrets could possibly be contained in correspondence between Cardiff council and the Public Services Ombudsman discussing a relatively minor dispute.

My understanding is that information provided under the FoI Act is considered to be in the public domain. It’s reasonable to assume that this does not apply with the Data Protection Act, and that this explains why the correspondence was released under the DPA rather than the FoI Act.

This case raises more questions than answers. Not least, is Nick Bennett the PSO for Wales a law unto himself, above and beyond the control of those who appointed him? Or, given that he was appointed by a Labour government, and Cardiff is a Labour-run council, is this a bit of quid pro quo?

Has anyone reading this had a similar experience? Can anyone offer suggestions on how to challenge this decision?

MAKING USE OF THE FOI ACT 2000 (by ‘Big Gee’)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities. More information HERE.

It does this in two ways:

•   public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and

•   members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

The Act covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in Cymru (Wales), England and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. Information held by Scottish public authorities is covered by Scotland’s own Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Public authorities include government departments, local authorities, the NHS, state schools and police forces. However, the Act (unfortunately) does not necessarily cover every organisation that receives public money. For example, it does not cover some charities that receive grants and certain private sector organisations that perform public functions.

Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.

Why is this of interest to us?

Obviously, by our very nature, as a blogging site that deals specifically with political and politically associated subject matter in Cymru, we often have a need to prise information from the sources referred to above, who do not necessarily publish or release information that is often of public interest or benefit. Information is power, public bodies retain power by holding on to information, the public gain power by accessing information. The process also holds authorities in check and makes them accountable.

How do we presently make FoI requests?

At present, any individual or body can make a direct request for information by letter or e-mail to the public body they require information from. Alternatively there is a web-site run by a voluntary group called ‘What Do They Know’. That site covers all of the UK, it is only one of it’s kind in the British Isles. This excellent web-site does all the donkey work for anyone who wishes to use it. It has a database that covers thousands of public bodies. Anyone wishing to use it can simply choose the organisation they want information from. The site then allows them to post their request on-line. The request is automatically forwarded to the selected authority. All replies are sent back to the site and are automatically displayed for public viewing. The requester is notified of the reply and is given the opportunity to proceed as they see fit with the request. The site also sets deadlines for replies and offers the opportunity for the requesters to ask for an internal inquiry within the authority they made their request to. The site also allows the requester to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner, if the situation requires that action.

The only drawback with the ‘What Do They Know’ site is that it has to deal with requests on various levels, throughout the UK. By virtue of the sheer numbers involved, it does not bore down to all parish/ community levels, especially in Cymru. Although many of those small ‘parish’ authorities do not have e-mail contacts that can be used, so they are generally overlooked. We could help rectify that.

How can we improve on this service In Cymru?

The software that powers the ‘What Do They Know’ site is readily available from Alaveteli. Whilst it takes a considerable amount of technical know-how to set up a FoI site, the ones involved with the Jac o’ the North blog site have that technical expertise.

What we would like to explore is the viability of setting up a ‘sister’ site to the Jac o’ the North blog site. It will hopefully provide a FoI service to the citizens of Cymru. It’s database will contain contact information for FoI departments within authorities and the public bodies that serve Cymru, from Y Senedd (the Welsh Assembly) down to local parish/ community councils, where possible. This will fill the gap not provided by the current ‘What Do They Know’ web-site.

The initial work is the heaviest, which entails not only setting up and customising the proposed site, but the harvesting of information for it’s database. In order to achieve this we need a ‘team’ put together to achieve that very important primary step in the process. When the site is up and running it will require minimal supervision, maintenance and moderation.

All those interested in being involved in this project can either contact the Jac o’ the North’s web-master, or contact Jac directly. We will keep you posted of our progress.

A FoI web-site specifically customised for use within our own country would be a huge boost to the availability of information to the ordinary man and woman across our communities.

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