Jun 112017
 

Those of you who’ve read Cneifiwr’s latest post, about his canvassing experiences, will I’m sure have enjoyed him waxing lyrical about wrens and shimmering vistas, country lanes and tinkling rills . . . well you’ll get none of that fancy bucolic stuff here. This is the opinionated old git section of the Welsh blogosphere.

Last Thursday gave us what was perhaps the strangest election of my lifetime. Not just because of the result and the way the Tories lost the commanding lead they’d held at the start of the campaign, but also because of the combination of factors not present in earlier elections, specifically, the recent surge of the SNP, the influence of Brexit, UKIP and the realignment of that party’s deserting voters, and post-election, the entrance of the DUP. So let’s consider the bigger picture before looking at the results in Wales.

NORTH OF THE BORDER

The Unionist parties and the London media are cock-a-hoop over the ‘defeat’ suffered by the SNP, but was it really such a defeat? In the 2010 general election the SNP won 6 seats out of a total of 59; in May 2015, following the independence referendum of September 2014, the party won 56 seats, gaining 50% of the vote (an increase of 30%). That was clearly a freak result, that was unlikely to ever be repeated.

On Thursday, support for the SNP was down to 36.9% and 35 seats, leaving it still the largest party, and by some distance. This falling off in support can be explained quite simply – independence and whether or not to have a second referendum is the issue in Scottish politics now. Those who want independence generally voted SNP, while those who are opposed to independence, or remain to be convinced, tended to vote for whoever had the best chance of defeating the SNP candidate. As a rule of thumb, tactical voting accounts for the gains made by Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.

It certainly explains what happened to Alex Salmond. The swing against him was 11.8%, but the swing to the Tory victor was 29%. What happened in Gordon was that the Lib Dems (treacherous bastards even to their own) deserted poor Dai Evans. Yet the Lib Dems still gained 3 seats where tactical voting benefited them.

Though I’m sad to see him go (if only temporarily) I enjoyed hearing Alex Salmond in his concession speech quote from that rousing Jacobite song, Bonnie Dundee with, ‘And tremble, false Whigs, in the midst of your glee, Ye hae no seen the last o’ my bonnets and me!’ Because those who think they’ve seen off the SNP threat, and put Salmond back in his box, should be warned against counting chickens.

Though it’s not always as simple as Unionists gathering behind the candidate most likely to thwart the devilish Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish politics is much more complex and nuanced nowadays, as this BBC piece makes clear. I was particularly struck by the contribution of John Dowson of Dumfries, a lifelong Labour voter, who wants independence, but was thinking of voting Tory because he also wants out of the EU. If he did indeed vote Tory, then his vote will be wrongly counted as a vote against independence.

Because that’s something else you have to understand about Scotland, not everybody who wants independence votes SNP. And how many SNP Brexiteers voted Tory for a hard Brexit, but will vote Yes in another referendum?

OVER THE WATER

When I was a young man, before the Troubles, Northern Ireland was almost a one-party state, and the one party was the Ulster Unionist Party, the UUP. There was no other Unionist Party, UK parties did not contest seats over there, and through gerrymandering, intimidation and various forms of electoral fraud such as personation the Catholic voice was almost silenced. (The Unionist election day call to the faithful was, Vote early, vote often’.)

With the Troubles came a widening divide between the two communities and a hardening of attitudes. One result was the creation in September 1971, by the Reverend Doctor Ian Kyle Paisley, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). From its outset it was more hard-line on the Union and ‘terrorism’ than the rather more patrician UUP, and also more conservative on social issues. Hardly surprising given who’d formed it and its links with his Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

The polarisation reached its inevitable conclusion on Thursday when the UUP failed to win a single seat, as did its Nationalist counterpart, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Sinn Féin won 7 seats, the DUP won 10, and the other seat, North Down, was held by Independent Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon (née Paisley), widow of Sir Jack Hermon, one-time Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

As I write this Theresa May has agreed a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP rather than a formal coalition, but either way, for the Tories it’s stepping back into the nineteenth century, back to an age of John Bull nationalism, Fenians, the rejection of Darwinism, contempt for the undeserving poor and the stoning of poofters.

On the issues of today the DUP wants a hard Brexit but a soft border with the Republic. Talk about having your cake and eating it! So on that issue at least they’re in tune with the Conservatives.

The Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley, founder of the DUP, leader 1971 – 2008

Any co-operation with the DUP shows a) how desperate Theresa May is to hang on to power and b) how ignorant she is of modern Irish politics. For a start, any co-operation between the Tories and the DUP might threaten the Good Friday Agreement, because seeing Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, in Number 10, will raise fears on the Nationalist-Republican side that the UK Government is no longer impartial in its approach to Northern Ireland.

It should also be explained that the 7 Sinn Féin candidates elected will never be MPs because they refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance to the English monarch. This of course affects the arithmetic in the House of Commons and means that with 643 MPs The Conservatives need just 322 votes. So with the Tories having 318, the DUP 10, plus Lady Hermon tagging along, the ‘Understanding’ has 329 votes. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, playing the Orange Card or relying on Unionists may have paid dividends a hundred years or more ago, but in recent times it’s tended to go pear-shaped, as Sunny Jim found out in 1979, and in the twenty-first century the Conservatives getting too close to the DUP might even jeopardise 20 years of relative peace. This could all end in tears.

Given the close cultural, historical and other ties between Scotland and the north of Ireland one might have thought that their London masters entering a Faustian pact with the DUP would be welcomed by the Scottish Tories, but as might be expected, the DUP is against same-sex marriage, and the lesbian leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson, is hoping to get married soon.

Woe! woe and thrice woe!

DOWN BY ‘ERE

LABOUR, ETC

Already, a great deal of nonsense has been spouted by all sides involved on Thursday, so here’s my attempt to give an impartial view. Taking the bigger, Englandandwales picture, it’s obvious to everyone that Theresa May made a massive miscalculation.

The longer the campaign went on the more people turned away from her dalek-like performance and warmed to Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward sincerity. May cannot campaign, she even seems incapable of a genuine smile, or interacting with the Great Unwashed, and yet the Conservative campaign was almost all about her. Quite incredible.

The Prime Minister is clearly on borrowed time. She will never be allowed to lead another election campaign, so her survival might depend to some extent on the pact with the DUP working. One reason she’s still in place is that there’s no obvious replacement. But one will emerge.

That said, this was still a big defeat for Labour, and it’s absurd to celebrate as a victory what is really nothing more than relief at avoiding complete annihilation. Just check the numbers. The Tories may have got the worst possible kind of victory, but Theresa May is still in number 10 and Labour is still in opposition. Which from Labour’s perspective is probably the best outcome.

Because the Labour Party is still at war with itself, and we are now presented with the nauseating sight of former critics changing their position on Corbyn because the slimy, self-serving bastards know a meal ticket when they see one – and this bloke can keep them in a job. (For a number of them, he already has!)

But of course these moderates and Blairites are now even more uncomfortable in a party where the left is strengthened. Will an emboldened Momentum now embark on a campaign of deselections? Which makes you wonder what exactly anti-Corbyn Labour victors were celebrating in the wee small hours of Friday. It can only have been self-preservation and hanging on to a cushy, well-paid job with expenses galore.

Like these two in Port Talbot. Kinnock père hates Corbyn with a vengeance (he reminds him of Derek Hatton), yet here he is celebrating like his boy has scored the winning try against England. In reality, it’s a case of, ‘Tidy, mun, the Kinnock name will continue to shine, boy, one day you’ll be prime minister . . . like I nearly was . . . nearly . . . prime minister . . . Sheffield . . . oh, God! I need a drink’.

This picture is a celebration of personal and family ambition. The Labour Party and what it might achieve for the downtrodden masses is incidental or totally irrelevant, for in the case of the Kinnocks the party’s real purpose is to serve as a vehicle for dynastic ambition. Today’s Labour Party contains more chancers and careerists than at any time I can remember.

PLAID CYMRU

The headline figure is that Plaid Cymru fell back, its vote down 1.7% on 2015. By comparison, the Tories, who we are told were the losers on Thursday, saw their vote increase by 6.3%. Labour’s vote went up by 12.1%, making it clear that in Wales it was Labour that gained most of the former UKIP vote. It would appear that ‘Welsh’ Labour distancing itself from Corbyn paid dividends.

Yes, Plaid gained Ceredigion, but let’s put that victory, by just 104 votes, into perspective. Ceredigion is a seat held by the party at Assembly level, it has been previously held by the party at Westminster level, and was won by an impressive young local after the sitting Lib Dem, or his supporters, were caught telling porkies.

In Arfon, Plaid held on by the skin of its teeth, 92 votes to be exact. How much this result was influenced by the votes of English and other foreign students in Bangor is something we might learn later. Though I have to confess to asking myself many times,‘Who is Hywel Williams?’, because the political firmament remains unlit by his presence. (In fact, I often confuse him with Albert Owen, the Labour MP for Ynys Môn!)

In addition to Ceredigion there were four other seats where Plaid Cymru entertained hopes of success, these were: Ynys Môn, Llanelli, Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent. Here are the results:

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The only comfort Plaid Cymru may be able to draw is that the party’s vote increased in Blaenau Gwent, but in last year’s Assembly election the same candidate, Nigel Copner, came within 650 votes of Labour minister Alun Davies. Furthermore, this is a volatile constituency, won with a handsome majority in 2005 by Independent Peter Law, the incumbent MP who’d left Labour over all-women shortlists.

Following Law’s death, the seat was held at a by-election in 2006 by Dai Davies. In the 2007 Assembly election Blaenau Gwent was won by Law’s widow, Trish, before returning to Labour in 2011. In last week’s election Nigel Copner was helped by Dai Davies.

So maybe there’s no comfort to be drawn from the result in Blaenau Gwent after all.

After the smoke had cleared on Friday Plaid Cymru was back to square one, holding four rural seats where it relies on a socially conservative and largely Welsh-speaking support. It made no progress whatever in the urban and more anglicised areas that make up the greater part of the country. This is a party going nowhere.

Except, maybe, backwards. For in the case of Llanelli, this Westminster seat has been a target for Plaid Cymru since Carwyn James got 8,387 votes against Denzil Davies in 1970.

Then came the 1980s when the bright young things took over, ‘reaching out’ beyond Plaid’s core vote to all manner of minority groups, most of which didn’t give a toss about Wales. Much of this was due to Dafydd Elis Thomas . . . what became of him? But it laid the foundations for the party we see today.

Plaid Cymru’s message is more attuned to the youth vote, the Remainers, the ethnic minorities, of major English cities, than to post-industrial wastelands filled with angry and poorly educated white people who don’t give a toss about trans-gender issues or the latest advances in green technology. Plaid Cymru only gets away with this mis-targeting in the west due to its cultural appeal.

In 2007 Plaid Cymru had the chance to run the Assembly as the largest party in coalition with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The leftists and the wimmin rose up with shrieks of horror at the prospect of aligning themselves with the crypto-fascist, baby-eating Conservatives – and Plaid instead became Labour’s little helper in the One Wales Agreement.

Nothing’s changed, this sucking up to Labour goes on and on, I know that one Plaid politician was recently told to stop using the #redtories Twitter hashtag.

A few years before 2007, Plaid removed its most successful leader, Dafydd Wigley, in a squalid coup.

Though never a member myself, many tell me that Plaid Cymru undermined Cymuned, one of the most promising movements Wales has seen in recent decades, but today just a shadow of what it might have been.

Plaid Cymru is either a party making major strategic errors, or else this is a party that has been compromised. Either way, it’s of no further use to the Welsh nation. As things stand, Plaid Cymru is of more benefit to England than to Wales because it’s every colonialist’s dream of a ‘national’ party.

I often think that if I was running the secret state I’d want a party in Wales just like Plaid Cymru. A party that makes the occasional unimportant gains, can keep enough people enthused with the hope of ‘next time’, and, most importantly of all, act as a block on the emergence of a party that might actually threaten the Union.

Unless Plaid Cymru can reform itself into a truly Welsh party, appealing to the whole country, regarding all other parties as opponents, rather than potential partners, then the time has come for Plaid Cymru to stop wasting everybody’s time and leave the field to those with fresh ideas and a different approach.

♦ end ♦

May 122017
 

SCOTLAND

In my previous post I wrote that there is a nasty side to the upsurge in support for the Conservative Party in Scotland. Imagine my surprise, and pleasure, to read Scottish commentators saying roughly the same thing.

This piece by Mike Small on the Bella Caledonia site talks of “British nationalism combining with a brutal lumpen extremism”. Michael Gray on CommonSpace introduces us to some of the uglier Conservative councillors elected in Scotland on May 4: one who called Nicola Sturgeon a “drooling hag”, one who’s obviously been a member of the BNP, one very confused individual who attacked an SNP opponent for being born in King Billy’s homeland, and another who thinks that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. Yes, there are some beauts here!

Obviously such stars will appeal to the single-issue element now being attracted to the Conservative cause by the party playing the BritNat card, but what of those who might prefer a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio to a piss-warm bottle of Bucky? Will the burghers of Morningside and the denizens of the West End march to the beat of the Lambeg drum? Because one problem for the Tories in attracting the Loyalist-Orange-Rangers-BNP-UKIP vote is that such support risks alienating natural Conservative supporters whose world view is not determined by what might have happened near an Irish river in 1690.

WITTMANN RIDES AGAIN! (Courtesy of ‘The Spectator’)

But perhaps the most worrying consideration of all for the Conservatives might be the effect this new support has on those who backed Labour because of what they wanted it to deliver, rather than because it would stop the SNP. Those Labour supporters who care about a decent health service, class sizes and affordable housing, and want to remain part of the EU. Clearly these will not switch to the new tub-thumping ‘Scottish’ Conservatives.

Ideally, these ‘progressive’ Labour voters want a Labour government in London, but with that looking unlikely for perhaps a decade or more, there’ll be a major re-think. Many will conclude that now the Tories have invoked Article 50, are set to impose measures that make Margaret Thatcher look like a social liberal, then independence is the only option to serve their aspirations. And there could be enough of them to swing the next referendum.

So let the Tories rejoice at their growing strength in Scotland while they may, let them gloat over Labour’s demise, but it could all come at a cost – the delivery of Scottish independence. If that happened we’d need to invent a new word to describe a situation for which ‘irony’ was no longer adequate.

LOOKING BACK TO MAY 4

Miscellany

Lost in the Plaid landslide in Cardiff’s Fairwater ward was our old friend ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, former Labour councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea. Regular readers will be familiar with ‘John Boy’ and, like me, I’m sure, will be wondering where he’s going to turn up next.

Another notable casualty was to found in Wrexham’s Ponciau ward, where Aled Roberts, one-time council leader and former Lib Dem AM, came bottom of the poll in his home ward. While we shouldn’t extrapolate too much from a single result this does not bode well for his party.

Down in Swansea my old mucker Ioan Richard has pissed off his last opponent after 41 years as an elected representative for the semi-rural Mawr ward, north of Morriston. His seat on the council will be filled by Brigette Jane Rowlands, a Conservative. She beat Plaid into second place and Labour into third, with the ‘Other’ candidate coming fourth. Ioan, a good Welshman who – like me – lost faith in Plaid years ago, supported Ms Rowlands because she’s local and hard-working, just like him.

Having mentioned ‘John Boy’ there was an interesting twist in his old ward, where two of the four seats were taken by candidates of the new Uplands Party, which might be a reaction to this area being previously represented in the Labour interest by here-today-and-gone-tomorrow ex-students like . . . well, like ‘John Boy’.

While over in Llansamlet someone else who has appeared on this blog recently, Mo Sykes, got in for Labour, but came last of the four comrades elected. Swept home on a tide of apathy by the ‘donkey vote’.

The Remarkable Rob James

Crossing over to Llanelli, one of the more remarkable results was to be found in the Lliedi ward, where Labour’s Rob James romped home by 20 lengths, cleared the grandstand and kept running. I use that exaggerated analogy because if the Lliedi contest had been a horse race then the stewards might be taking an interest.

Until November or December James was a councillor in Neath – with an appalling attendance record (scroll down) – so few people in the Lliedi ward would have known him. Which suggests that it was the Labour ticket that got him elected . . . in which case, why was his running-mate, a local, ten percentage points behind?

In 2012 there were six candidates and seven last week which, all things being equal, should have reduced the percentage of the vote gained by each candidate this time, which is how it panned out . . . except in the case of newcomer Rob James. In a higher turnout than 2012 it seems that all the extra votes went to James.

Of the previous Labour councillors Janice Williams, a director of the local Polish-Welsh Association, stood down, but hard-working local Bill Thomas was deselected. Which only adds to the suspicion that James is well favoured by persons higher up Labour’s food chain. But even if that’s true, how could it possibly explain this remarkable vote?

He’s obviously done well in Llanelli, but how did Labour in Neath cope without him? I am once again indebted to STaN of the Neath Ferret for bringing us news of Rob James’s old seat of Bryncoch South. You’ll see that with Rob gone the Labour candidates in this two-seat ward came a poor third and fourth to Plaid Cymru.

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Leading me to conclude that either Rob James has magnetism and charisma that have escaped the notice of observers, or there’s some other factor in play of which we are as yet unaware.

Unlawful Election Literature

I have been trying hard to initiate action against those responsible for the vile leaflets distributed prior to the council elections by, among others, Louise Hughes, the ‘Independent’ councillor for Gwynedd’s Llangelynin ward. Catch up with the story here in Dirty, Dirty Politics.

First I contacted the Electoral Commission. On the 8th I received an e-mail from Geraint Rhys Edwards at the EC who wrote, “If you believe an offence has been committed and are prepared to substantiate this complaint through a written allegation, this should be brought to the attention of the police”. So I contacted North Wales Police, who told me it was a matter for Gwynedd Council.

I phoned Gwynedd Council and spoke with Iwan Evans (who I believe works in the legal department), he reaffirmed the Electoral Commission information and gave me the telephone number of DCI Neil Harrison, the Single Point of Contact at NWP. I phoned the number, someone answered and said that Harrison wasn’t there but a message would be passed to him. No contact was made and subsequent calls to Harrison’s number were not answered.

There being no telephone number given on the NWP website I next used the Live Chat service. I was promised a) that I would receive a copy of the exchange by e-mail and b) Neil Harrison would either telephone me or send me an e-mail. I have received no copy and Harrison has made no contact. So on Friday, during my third attempt to get somewhere with Live Chat, I took a screen capture.

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I suspect that North Wales Police know who I am, they know why I’m trying to contact Neil Harrison, and they’re hoping I’ll go away because they don’t want to deal with this case. I shall probably now write to him.

I shall keep you informed as much as I can, for this case is progressing on a number of fronts.

Wrapping Themselves in the Flag

Another old friend, Dennis Morris, ran for Pembrokeshire County Council in Fishguard, and might have won if someone hadn’t spread the rumour that he was a member of Meibion Glyndŵr!

Dennis does sit though on Fishguard town council, and has been fighting for a long time – before he even became a councillor – over which flags should fly on the town hall; the town clerk and others – all outsiders – insist on flying the BritNat flag.

Dennis phoned county hall in Haverfordwest in the hope of clarifying the issue, but was told that the ‘rule’ is that our flag must be accompanied by the other one. He asked to see that rule in writing . . . to be told that it was ‘convention’ . . . and ‘at the chief executive’s discretion’ . . . blah bollocks, blah bollocks.

Dennis would like to see the Ddraig Goch and the flag of St David fly on the town hall of his home town, and so they were once – but for St. David’s Day only. For the rest of the year it’s the situation I’ve explained. In fact, it used to be worse, because until Dennis started making a fuss their flag flew above ours!

Another example of true Welsh sentiment being overwhelmed by the unholy union of settlers and their local allies who don’t deserve to be called Welsh. Do you have to put up with the flag of our colonial masters flying over your community?

LOOKING FORWARD TO JUNE 8

‘Carwyn is our Leader’

Well, no, I’m not really looking forward to June 8, but I can’t ignore it completely. Not least because it’s already looking rather bizarre.

What I mean by that is that ‘Welsh’ Labour has decided to fight a UK general election without mentioning their UK leader Jeremy Corbyn. Yet at Assembly elections this same party mobilises the donkey vote with ‘Send a message to London, keep the Tories out’, in the hope that gullible people will believe it’s a UK rather than a Welsh election and conclude that a vote for a third party will be wasted.

Now there are two schools of thought to explain why ‘Welsh’ Labour promotes Assembly elections as UK elections while treating UK elections as if they are Welsh elections. One says that ‘Welsh’ Labour simply gets confused, while the rival school insists that Labour are lying bastards. After giving the matter a great deal of thought, I have concluded that they’re lying bastards.

As if ignoring your party leader in a general election campaign wasn’t weird enough, there was a piece in today’s Wasting Mule that went for broke. ‘Welsh’ Labour’ rejects the UK manifesto on the grounds that it isn’t really a UK manifesto because “Labour doesn’t stand in Northern Ireland”. Er, no, but it does stand in Wales.

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Semantics aside, who the hell wrote that headline; are we to believe that ‘Welsh’ Labour is detaching itself from reality and the political mainstream to the extent of forming a cult around Carwyn Jones? But, wait, the headline tells us that Labour is ‘reviving’ this cult, so was anyone aware that it had previously existed?

This is worrying. As you read this, deep in the crypt beneath Labour HQ there could be cowled figures, their movements distorted by flickering candles, chanting ‘Carwyn is our leader’ as they raise their sacred daggers over the latest human sacrifice. Maybe a previous sacrifice explains the success of Rob James, cos nothing else can explain it.

And “charisma”, be buggered! Are we talking about the same Carwyn Jones, the tried and tested cure for insomnia? And what’s with all the alliteration? Though if the headline writer wanted a word beginning with ‘c’ then I’m sure most of you reading this could provide one.

Then again, maybe that whole article is a piss-take, because unless ‘Welsh’ Labour breaks away it remains what it’s always been – the local branch of the British Labour Party (not UK because of course Labour doesn’t stand in Northern Ireland). And that’s the truth . . . no matter how much charismatic Carwyn seeks to capitalise on his cult status.

It’s all getting a bit too much, I’m tempted to go to bed until the election is over . . . but I might miss the call from North Wales Police.

♦ end ♦

Apr 232017
 

WHEN WAS YMCA WALES?

The answer to that question is, from the mid-1980s until some time in August or September of 2014, when YMCA Wales went into administration. In the report I’ve linked to you’ll read, “While the head office for YMCA Wales is in the Llansamlet area of Swansea, the majority of the staff are based in West Wales where the charity ran an outdoor education centre at Newgale.”

The “outdoor education centre at Newgale” in Pembrokeshire was YMCA Wales’ prize asset, worth some half a million pounds. Like a restless spirit that refuses to pass over the Newgale website is still available, though of course it hasn’t been updated since 2014.

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From the information I’ve been able to gather it would appear that the Centre was bought in June 2015 for £507,000 by Captiva Holdings of Haverfordwest, and is run by another company at the same address known as The Development Company.

While I’m glad to see that this property (made up of three bunkhouses) was bought by a local company (Land Registry document), I was disappointed when told that all the money raised went to pay off creditors, with the administrators of course taking their cut, rather than it being distributed among the surviving YMCAs scattered about the land.

With the parent body demised, the jewel in the crown flogged off, and the coffers empty, it seems that the various YMCAs left standing affiliated themselves to YMCA England. The clip below is taken from page 3 of YMCA England’s Annual Report 2015/6.

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I put this clip out on Twitter a few days ago and one response likened it to an acclamation of Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria in 1938. For there is something chilling and totalitarian about making the “federation stronger” and adopting “the national brand”, which of course can only mean the English national brand.

YMCA Wales was put into administration at the start of September 2014. Its CEO until July had been Mo Sykes, though she had not been at work for a few months, it’s possible she had been suspended. She certainly left under something of a cloud, to the extent that the ‘Welsh’ Government called Plod in to sniff around.

Courtesy of ‘Third Sector’

The feedback I was getting in 2014 and earlier argued that the real problem lay in affiliated YMCA groups being taken over and asset-stripped in order to a) fund the parent body run by Mo Sykes, b) pay off its debts, c) benefit projects favoured by Ms Sykes or d) any combination of those three.

One of the more bizarre of those projects was YMCA Wales wanting to build housing on land it claimed to own in Penrhyndeudraeth, just south of Porthmadog in Gwynedd. I wrote about this in July 2013 with YMCA ‘Wales’, Another Trojan Horse At The Trough. It soon became clear that YMCA Wales was in fact fronting for an evangelical church, Green Pastures, which has, quite unashamedly, commercialised homelessness, to the extent of seeking investors and partners. I explained this linkage in YMCA ‘Wales’ And The Green, Green Pastures.

A curious feature of this arrangement was the link between Green Pastures and YMCA Flint. To begin with, it appeared that YMCA Flint was not affiliated to YMCA Wales yet YMCA Wales seemed to be paying its salaries; also, there was funding coming from Flintshire County Council.

It only made sense when I realised that Green Pastures, an outfit with a presence all across Lancashire and Yorkshire, was invisible on Merseyside, instead it seemed to be dealing with the homeless of that conurbation through a group of evangelical churches in Flintshire, assisted by the local YMCA.

Another disturbing tale concerned Bargoed YMCA, where Mo Sykes and YMCA Wales displaced the locals who had been running this local outpost. A dispute arose, which went legal, and with perfect Christian timing those who dared challenge Mo Sykes and YMCA Wales were served with a notice to pay £9,800 – on Christmas Eve!

Though perhaps the major casualty was the YMCA Wales Community College, a multi-million pound adult education business that had been going well, expanding year on year. There seem to have been issues in certain quarters over ‘duplication’ and the Community College has since merged with the Workers’ Educational Association Cymru to form Addysg Oedolion Cymru / Adult Learning Wales.

Even though YMCAs in Wales have affiliated to YMCA England that body still brought out a Welsh Manifesto . . . or, rather, a YMCAs in Wales Manifesto 2016, ahead of last year’s Assembly elections. Why? Because the YMCA is a social landlord and a Third Sector body, so it wants to continue screwing money out of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

LLANDOVERY YMCA

Having dealt with the more general picture, I’m now going to focus on a specific example of how a YMCA operates. I’ve written a few times about this subject, trying to explain what a racket it is. Unfortunately, it’s a familiar story and not confined to Llandovery.

It goes something like this: a bunch of incomers/good-lifers get together and wonder how the area – Wales, even – managed without them. This acceptance of their missionary duty is coupled with the realisation that there’s a lot of easy moolah sloshing around. Next step is to get some semi-numerate ‘adviser’ to concoct a business plan, spew forth bollocks about ‘community space’, providing ‘facilities’, blah, blah, blah, then whack in grant applications to all and sundry.

The real purpose of these schemes is of course to further boost the egos of those involved while also providing salaries and pension pots.

You can find these schemes all over the country but certain areas are affected worse than others because a number of factors come into play. One being whether an area receives EU structural funding (pissed away by the Labour Party at a rate which makes the half-time deluge at rugby internationals look like a trickle). Another consideration is how attractive an area is to good-lifers, white flighters, hippies, enviro-shysters and others. Finally, there’s the local council’s attitude towards such parasites.

By way of example, the Heads of the Valleys may qualify for Objective One funding, but Ebbw Vale, Merthyr and other towns won’t attract many belonging to the groups I’ve listed; furthermore, the local Labour hetmen have always been reluctant to see money over which they have any control pass out of the ‘family’.

On the other hand, the more scenically attractive and rural areas suffer greatly from this influx. One such area is the Tywi valley, and one such town is Llanymddyfri. Which is where we encounter Jill Tatman and her friends.

One source of funding made available to Tatman and her gang was Carmarthenshire County Council’s Rural Development Plan: Supporting Rural Carmarthenshire. Here’s a RDP video put out in September 2013, you don’t need to be a nationalist to be struck by the fact that the only Welsh voice we hear is in the introduction.

What we see here explains why the funding allocated to Wales has achieved so little. In the world of funding, dishing out the money so as not to jeopardise next year’s dollop is all that really matters. When the system is run on such lines then funding becomes nothing more than a box-ticking exercise, and money is inevitably wasted.

Thankfully, the Llandovery racket seems to be coming to an end. For I hear that the gang is no longer allowed to use the YMCA name, the Lottery funding may have stopped, and now they hope to keep afloat solely on what they make from room hire. Which means that it might all come tumbling down fairly soon.

It should not surprise anyone to learn that Jill Tatman, educated at a privately run evangelical college in Derbyshire, was for a time a trustee of YMCA Wales; in fact she was personal assistant to the CEO, which probably explains why Mo Sykes became a trustee of Llandovery YMCA, and was almost certainly instrumental in securing the grants and other benefits for her friend Tatman Llandovery YMCA.

WHO’S WHO IN LLANDOVERY YMCA

Those still involved are an interesting crew, and serve to remind us yet again that our rural areas are being ripped apart by a combination of neglect, tourism and colonisation.

  • First of course we have Jill Tatman herself. I hear that the CPS will not be pressing charges against her husband but it’s suggested there are questions about the wisdom of allowing children near the (former) YMCA building in future.
  • Next up is Andrew Barker, owner of the Tŷ Gwyn tea rooms in Llanwrda. He tweets as Pastor Emeritus @barkerswoof. Barker was a teacher in Essex who married one of his pupils, moved to Wales, and now has eight children. A religious cove, our Andrew, who obviously went forth and multiplied.
  • Julie Richards is another ex-teacher, this time from northern England. She taught for a while at Ysgol Pantycelyn, but had to give up teaching due to bipolar disorder. She now helps run the Gwynfe Cat Welfare in Llandovery, which rescues cats . . . from whom or from what I know not.
  • Then there’s the man described to me as “a self-ordained and self-appointed ‘rural pastor'”, Simon Bowkett who runs a charity called Y Grwp or, to give it its full name, Grace Rural Wales Partnership. To judge by the photograph he wears the Horse and Hound clothing no authentic Welsh countryman would ever wear.
  • Another member of this circus may be encountered at the Cibola emporium in Llandovery. Owner Diane Fontenoy supplements her income by fostering children on her farm near Llandovery. I have it from more than one source that fostering is regarded as a nice little earner among the colon population.
  • Moving on . . . Anna Battek-Kosiorowska is – as the name might suggest – Polish, a vet and a friend of Julie Richards.
  • Let’s not forget one of the current trustees, Anne Swift, an elderly spinster, retired barrister and High Tory. Said to be from Gower, but might respond with the Duke of Wellington’s horse and stable analogy if accused of being Welsh. To judge by her Twitter account she has little time for people, being one of those elderly women who is obsessed with cats and dogs.
  • Finally, let’s remember two more seen in the video (at 1:47), Gill Wright and Jane Ryall. They took over the old North Western pub and had it converted into a bunkhouse called the Level Crossing. I don’t know how much public money went into this venture, but however much it was it was wasted. The venture collapsed last year after less than three years in ‘business’.

You will have noticed that a number of those involved are of a religious bent but do not belong to anything most of us would regard as mainstream religion, more the ‘happy clappy’ element, Evangelicals of the kind we met earlier in Penrhyndeudraeth. Nothing wrong with this, or course, but the Land Registry title document for the building makes interesting reading in this context.

You’ll see that the property was transferred to YMCA Wales by the Church in Wales, with certain covenants. I have no reason to suspect that Tatman and her clique hold Bacchanalian orgies in the building so it’s reasonable to assume that the conditions outlined in 2.1 have been adhered to, but what of 2.2?

Clearly the building has been used “other than for residential purposes”, indeed, except for Lee Mattocks – who can be found on the video at 2:53 – living there rent free for two years, I’m not sure the building has ever been used for residential purposes.

Perhaps of more worry should be that the building is said to be regularly used for happy clappy gatherings, which clearly contravenes 2.2 in that these belong to a “religious denomination or sect” other than Anglican.

The latest news is that the remaining Welsh trustees are being elbowed out and Tatman and her gang are seeking new sources of funding.

Though anyone minded to fund these people should insist on a rather more transparent accounting system than the one I’m told is currently in use. For La Tatman is said to pay for things with her personal debit card and then reimburse herself from YMCA funds!

And although there is only one known YMCA bank account some wonder where the £18,000 magically appeared from when that account was running low. Suspicions persist that there may be accounts existing that are unknown to those outside a gilded circle. Perhaps YMCA money is ‘resting’ in personal accounts, away from prying eyes.

RETURN TO LLANSAMLET

Mo Sykes walked away from the wreckage of YMCA Wales and set herself up as a consultant before landing the post of New Beginnings Manager with the Swansea Young Single Homeless Project in November 2016, yet another ride on the Third Sector merry-go-round. SYSHP income for y/e 31.03.2017 was £1,190,550 (down from £1,349,594 y/e 31.03.2012) and salaries took a very hefty £860,031 of that (£994,721 y/e 31.03.2012).

Under her full name of Maureen Patricia Sykes she also started, in December 2015, a company called Clydach Craft House Ltd which appears to be dormant. Her next planned career move is to become a Labour councillor for the Llansamlet ward in Swansea next month, though the website I’ve linked to suggests she’s already a councillor – that’s confidence for you!

(I bet you’re surprised to learn that Mo Sykes is a member of the Labour Party! And this being Swansea, it should go without saying that she’s not Welsh. Sykes is from the Six Counties.)

Llansamlet is a ward I know quite well. I recall my old mate John Ball becoming the first Plaid Cymru councillor in Swansea when he won Llansamlet back in the early ’70s. I sank many a pint with Phil Henri in the Smiths and the Star. And I think the last time I ever spoke with Viv Davies the FWA veteran was in the Smiths. It all seems a lifetime ago now.

click to enlarge

The vacancies in Llansamlet were caused by the departure of Bob and Uta Clay, the Anglo-Austrian Trotskyist duo, of whom I have writ more than once. I shall miss them. But I’m sure Mo Sykes will provide me with inspiration. I can say that because Labour never fails to give me something to write about. Add the Third Sector and it often becomes an embarrassment of riches.

And so we’ve come full circle to Llansamlet. I wonder if, when she’s out canvassing, any local will ask Mo Sykes, ‘What happened to YMCA Wales?’. I’d certainly like to know. Anyone out there with answers is more than welcome to get in touch.

EPILOGUE

When it comes to grant-grabbers I take the view that they’ll always be with us, as will those, with their Labour Party connections, who think that a ‘career’ in the Third Sector puts them on a par with people who contribute to the economy by creating wealth and jobs. But they should be slapped down not encouraged and patronised.

What really concerns me in the case of YMCA Wales is that a body serving our country was wrecked, almost certainly by people with Labour Party connections, and the debris was then hoovered up by YMCA England without anyone raising a murmur. And this was happening 16 years into devolution. Unfortunately YMCA Wales is no isolated example.

It’s a pattern that sees Wales being integrated with England at a faster rate than we’ve known since the Tudors. It shows itself in countless ways, from the England (andwales) Cricket Board to Dee Valley Water being taken over by Severn Trent. Yet the politicians in our Assembly, which is supposed to be serving Welsh interests, say little and do nothing.

When they do put on a show of ‘doing something’, it often turns out to be the kind of thing I wrote about in the previous post – handing Wales over to the likes of Bear Grylls and Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

HOW BUSINESS IS CONDUCTED BETWEEN WALES AND ENGLAND           English businessman to Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure: ‘We’re prepared to take this valuable asset off your hands, but you’ll have to give us a lot of money’. Ken thinks, ‘Yes, sir, anything you want, and we’ll throw in some women too’.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, devolution is a chimera; the civil servants who run Wales change a few words in laws that have already been passed in England, add (Wales), and then get the BBC or Trinity Mirror to pretend it’s all the work of a real government. And while we’re being lied to in this way Wales is either being killed off or sold off all around us.

From now on Wales needs people who will not get bogged down debating whether registration of denture makers should be devolved; now that we can see devolution has failed we must reject it, and push for independence. There is no acceptable alternative.

♦ end ♦

Apr 082017
 

A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):

click to enlarge

There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.

At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.

Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?

Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.

Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?

“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?

The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.

There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.

Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.

Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.

It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.

Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.

In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.

John Michael Imperato

Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.

You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.

Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?

UPDATE 10:10pm: Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.

Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.

The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.

Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.

Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.

Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.

those with strong stomachs may click to enlarge

Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?

P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.

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The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.

Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.

This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.

Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.

An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!

Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.

Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.

And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.

Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.

This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.

No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.

And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.

I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.

As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.

UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!

UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.

Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.

UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?

UPDATE 2:45pm 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads ‘Page not found’.

♦ end ♦

Apr 032017
 

NATIONS

‘The nations and regions of the UK’ is a term used by the BBC and other organisations and it fascinates me for a number of reasons. Primarily I suppose because I can readily identify the former but I’m confused when I read about the latter, especially in a political context. Do you know where these mysterious ‘regions’ are? Let’s start with the relatively easy job of identifying the nations.

There are four nations in these islands. Apart from us Welsh there are the Scots and the English with the three of us making up Britain; and then there are the Irish, with the greater part of Ireland being independent. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK, but as the Troubles made clear, there are two communities there; one that shares its cultural background with the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, and can be called Irish, with the other identifying with Britain, or more particularly Scotland, and insisting it is British.

Which is confusing, because there is no British nation. There is certainly a British state, but that’s a constitutional arrangement. To confuse matters further ‘British’ is a term that was used for centuries by English writers to describe us Welsh and our language, in recognition of the fact that we were the original inhabitants of this island, before the post-Roman Germanic and Irish settlements. (Though this connection is less likely to be made nowadays, for the same English nationalist reasons that ‘Iron Age Britain’ has replaced ‘Celtic Britain’.) So are these people in the northern part of Ireland who claim to British some lost Welsh tribe?

Despite this division into two mutually hostile camps it serves British interests to regard Northern Ireland as one of the nations, on a par with Wales, England and Scotland. Is it not, it is simply a devolved administration, and at some point in the near future it will re-unite with the rest of the island.

I think that settles – for the time being, at least – the nations element of this little piece. Let’s move on.

REGIONS

It seems obvious that if we are looking for the BBC’s regions, then we’ll have to look for them in England. But these regions are arbitrary geographical units, most of which seem to be named after compass points, I see nothing closer to a nation, a geographical area of England where people say – preferably in a distinctive accent – ‘This is my region, I am a native of ————-‘.

At this point you might be tempted to put down your porcelain cup of Darjeeling and wonder aloud, ‘What the fuck is he is on about, why is he writing about the regions of England?’ but please bear with me, for I shall now explain how I believe this is relevant to Wales.

Last Wednesday saw a ‘taskforce’ meet in Cardiff, a gathering of great Labour minds hoping to give the impression that their party has a cunning plan for a new constitutional arrangement post-Brexit.

In attendance were our own Carwyn Jones, former PM Gordon Brown, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour Kezia Dugdale, ex-deputy PM John Prescott, some bloke named Jon Trickett (described as a strategist’), and among the spear carriers were Christina Rees MP and Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle council. While in the chorus we find the Labour candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, his counterpart for the Liverpool City Region, etc.

Clearly, ‘handing more powers down’ is an attempt to cut off the SNP at the pass, by giving Scotland more powers so that people there will say, ‘See you, Jimmy, we dinnae need independence the noo’. (I bet you read that and thought, ‘Bloody hell! Some Scotsman has taken over Jac’s blog’.)

And in the hope of disguising that this is all about preventing Scottish independence Labour must come up with what looks like a more general plan for all “the nations and regions that make up the UK”.

Which is a bit tricky when we can’t locate these regions, which brings us back to the original problem.

THE LESSONS OF HISTORY

Clearly, England does not have established and distinct regions like France, let alone Germany, where many of today’s länder were independent states well into the nineteenth century. It was a similar situation in Italy, though few today mourn the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

By comparison, England was unified by the middle of the tenth century, with London the capital and major city. When William of Normandy invaded in 1066 he only needed to win one battle, kill Harold, and march on London to be ruler of all England. I can think of no other European country of the time that would have fallen so completely, so quickly.

Consequently, what passes for regions in England today are nothing more than broadcasters’ shorthand – the West Country, East Anglia, etc. And yet, there was a time, a brief window, when England was organised into separate kingdoms, or at least, those parts of England that weren’t still under Welsh control.

It was known as the Heptarchy, or Seven Kingdoms, and those of you of a Time Team disposition will go all a-quiver at the mention of the term. It was that period from (roughly) the early seventh century to the early tenth century, and is illustrated in the map. The western areas, coloured in darker green, were the areas still ruled by our ancestors.

Southern Britain C AD 650

That was then, and since then the problem of delineating England’s regions has taxed many great minds, but there was always resistance to formal regions on the grounds that there was something foreign about them, foreign and divisive. Perhaps because her imperial history had taught England how to exploit divisions. So if – God forbid! – some foreign Johnny ever invaded let him find himself faced with a united country. (Though as we’ve learnt, that was England’s weakness in 1066.)

And this resistance to regions persists, so you’d think Labour would have known better after the abject failure of the party’s Regional Assemblies (Preparation) Act 2003. (What do you mean, you ‘don’t remember it’!) This was intended to pave the way, through referendums, for assemblies in northern England. Just one referendum was held, in the north east, in 2004; but the Geordies, Mackems, Smoggies and the rest rejected the offer by 78% to 22%. The whole project was then abandoned.

As I mentioned, one of those attending the taskforce meeting was former deputy prime minister John Prescott, and the northern assemblies project was his brainchild. So this is either a case of some people never learn, or, a good idea is worth persisting with. Take your pick.

WHY IT WILL NEVER WORK

The idea of regions and regional governments is unattractive to most English people; they will probably have an affection for their town or city, the wider locality, maybe their county, but after that it’s England, or Britain. A region is an odd and unnecessary layer to insert.

And yet, if English politicians, and their Unionist allies in Scotland and Wales are to save Britain then they must pretend to believe in devolution, or even federalism, but the problem remains England, it’s just too big. Federalism works in the USA or Germany because no matter how big and rich California and Bavaria might they’re still out-gunned by the rest.

BBC Regions, used by many politicians as a template

So the only way to sell federalism to Scotland is to suggest breaking England up into regions . . . that the English don’t want. But even if you could get enough English to buy into regions that would still leave the problem of London, infinitely richer than any of the other ‘regions’, and it would almost certainly be the seat of the federal government.

And look at the North West region. Liverpool, Manchester and wealthy Cheshire in the south, and in the north . . . lakes and holiday homes? Come to think of it – where’s Cornwall? Will our Cornish cousins accept being subsumed into a South West region run from Bristol?

The Scots would be foolish to listen to Labour’s overtures, or any promise of more devolution. Ask yourself what would happen in the unlikely event of the Scottish Parliament accepting federalism but the English refusing to accept regions – will the UK government force regions on the English? No.

The second reason for rejecting Labour’s proposals is that we’ve been here before, very recently, in fact, just before the independence referendum in September 2014. Remember ‘The Vow’? In the closing stages of the referendum campaign Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, the leaders of the three main Unionist parties ganged together to promise Scotland something within a whisker of independence. This promise may have guaranteed the No vote, and it was then reneged on.

Thirdly, this taskforce is drawn from the Labour Party, which is unlikely to be in any position to offer anybody anything until around 2025. And just look at who’s in the taskforce; Brown, Prescott, Jones, Dugdale – would you trust any of that lot?

I have faith in the SNP. They know that England and England’s Unionist allies in Scotland are not to be trusted. It must be independence; no more crumbs, no more half measures, no more lies.

It would be nice to report that Wales is on the same path. But she’s not. I fear we’re headed in the opposite direction.

end

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.

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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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