May 312017
 

MERGERS AND GROWTH

One of the ways I combat ennui (and hangovers) is by visiting websites such as Companies House and seeing what I can turn up, because it’s possible to search for an individual’s name as well as a company name. For example, is Carwyn Jones a director of the Come And Get It, Big Boy! massage parlour in Nantyffyllon? (Of course not, how could you think such a thing! Ach y fi!)

This is what I was doing when one thing led to another and I turned up something rather interesting, or disturbing, possibly both. Let me explain.

As you may know, Coleg y Drindod/Trinity College in Carmarthen merged a few years ago with Swansea Metropolitan University and St David’s College Lampeter to give us (deep breath), University of Wales Trinity St David. Among its developments is a £300m new campus in SA1, on the city side of Swansea University’s new Bay Campus. This is an area where Jac and his mates, long, long ago, used to dodge the docks police to go fishing. I got to wondering who was running the show.

UWTSD’s new waterfront campus in Swansea

The UWTSD itself has a Royal Charter, which means there are no details available on the Companies House website. However, there is information available for Trinity University College, and there, among the directors, we find Mark Vincent James, ‘Local Government Chief Executive’. I experienced a ‘Eureka!’ moment, for I had searched the CH website for the Carmarthenshire CEO before, but had drawn a blank because there are so many Mark Jameses out there. But now, armed with the ‘Vincent’, where might it take me?

If you type ‘Mark Vincent James’ into the Companies House website search, you come up with two appointments; one, as we’ve seen, is Trinity University College, but the other is Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd. The other directors of this company being Mark Philip Carter and Steven James Corner. The address given for the company and the three directors is, 4 Regents Canal House, 626 Commercial Road, London, England, E14 7HS, a nondescript commercial building in Limehouse.

I could find no other Welsh link for Carter, whose business activities seem to focus on Brighton, but Corner threw up some very interesting revelations.

CORNERING A MARKET

Among the companies of which Steven James Corner is a director are: Century Wharf (One) RTM Company Ltd, Century Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd, and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd. RTM means Right to Manage, a system that allows leaseholders to organise themselves and run, for example, their block of flats. Explained here. The companies’ numbers probably refer to different blocks, but all at Century Wharf in Cardiff Bay.

If we rummage through the other directors of these RTM companies we see a ‘Mark James’, sans Vincent, with the ‘Occupation’ box left blank, and an address in Essex. But, believe me, this is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. For one thing, the date of birth is the same as on the entry for Trinity University College, June 1959. And of course, we have already established the connection with Steven James Corner through Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd.

Century Wharf

Having established a double connection between Corner and James I began to think a little more about Corner and wonder what else he might be up to. So I went through the list of companies with which he’s linked. One is Regents Canal House Ltd, which explains why Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd is registered there.

Another company with which Corner has been linked since it was set up in September 2003 is Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, which is also registered at Regents Canal House. Among the more recent additions to the board of this company we find a Michal Swiatek, who is Polish, and 37 years of age. Here’s his Linkedin profile.

Mr Swiatek can also be found at the Squarefoot estate agents, which has an office in the Bay, and also one on 198 Cowbridge Road East. Although called Squarefoot, it’s registered with Companies House as Square Foot Estate Agents Ltd, using the Cowbridge Road East address. Among the directors we find a ‘Steve Corner’, who is of course, Steven James Corner, though the address given for him is in Brighton.

Another Polish connection with Squarefoot/Square Foot is the website. For if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on ‘Site by: Orth Multimedia‘ you are wafted through the ether to 4-200 Rybnik ul. Wodzisławska 112 tel. 660 091 847.

Let us return to Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, for now things begin to get a little disturbing.

YIDDISHE MAMA

This Confirmation Statement, from the Companies House website, dated 15 February 2017, and shown below, tells us that Property Matters (Britain) Ltd has two shareholders, each with 100 shares. They are, Michal Swiatek and Imaginative Property Group Ltd. The next and obvious question – what is the Imaginative Property Group Ltd?

The answer is that the Imaginative Property Group Ltd was Incorporated 10 June 2013, with the Registered Office Address given as 98 Davaar House Ferry Court, Prospect Place, Cardiff, Wales, CF11 0LB. Again, in Cardiff Bay. The real surprise comes when we look at the directors for while, predictably, we find Steven James Corner, we also find Barbara Kahan. So who is she?

Barbara Kahan is listed as an appointee against no fewer than 22,576 companies according to Companies House, and 25,802 according to the Times. ‘How can that be?’ you ask. I asked myself the same question as I Googled ‘Barbara Kahan’. What I came up with is very worrying. For this 85-year-old woman is said to allow her name and status as a UK citizen be used by Israeli crooks.

Here’s a link to the Times report (paywall, unfortunately), and here are the details on the FinanceFeeds website, both from December.

There isn’t even the defence that Imaginative Property Group was an off-the-shelf company, lying dormant for a while until Corner came along. For the Companies House website makes it clear that Corner and Kahan were both appointed on the day of the company’s Incorporation, 10 June 2013. Kahan immediately stood down leaving Corner as the sole director and shareholder.

It should also be pointed out that the original name of the company was Scorn Properties Group Ltd, based at Regents Canal House, before the name was officially changed, 11.10.2013, and the address changed to the current Cardiff location, 06.06.2016.

Which means that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who can be linked to a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused of acting as a front for Israeli crooks!

MAN ABOUT THE BAY

Once I knew what I’ve just told you, I began to wonder exactly what James and Corner might be up to, so I asked around, made enquiries with contacts in Cardiff. Here’s what I’ve been told.

It was obvious that they’re involved in property in Cardiff Bay. Given the names of three of the companies it was also reasonable to assume that Century Wharf is involved somehow, and so it is, for I’m told that Mark James owns a property there.

My feedback also suggests that James owns property in Prospect Place, which is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, in a seventh-floor flat with a 125-year lease in the name of the company.

A name we find listed with Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd is Warwick Estate Property Management Ltd, which seems to be concerned with management and maintenance of buildings of multiple occupation, for we also find it with the three Century Wharf RTMs.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I discovered about Corner was his foray into soft furnishings. For he served as a director of Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd, a company formed by a Kathleen Bowen, who seems to live in Gorseinon, but had her shop across the mighty Llwchwr in Llanelli. I use the past tense because the company was struck off in December 2016.

Corner was appointed as a director on 20 May 2015 – but why? Is he an expert on curtains and cushions? But of course, by May 2015 he was in business with Mark Vincent James, and the shop was in Carmarthenshire, so maybe James asked him to get involved. If so, why?

Answers on a postcard, please, to . . . .

But enough of dusty documents, let us focus for a while on human beings.

FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE?

Among the snippets of information that winged their way to Château Jac was one telling of a connection that made no immediate sense. For someone believes that a young Polish woman is working as a manager of properties with which James and Corner are involved, and she may be living in one of these properties herself.

The name I was given is Patrycja Nowak who, my informant added, is connected with the Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV), which is a constituent part of the University of Wales Trinity St David. And indeed, we find her on the ‘Staff’ page. (Since removed, but fortunately I screen captured it, and you can read it below.) As you might expect, I began to wonder about Ms Nowak, so I started Googling.

As far as I can see there is just one Patrycja Nowak living in Cardiff. Another source linked Ms Nowak with an incident in which a woman had fallen from the seventh floor of a block of flats in Hansen Court. By pure coincidence, Mark Vincent James owns a property at Hansen Court, which is on Century Wharf, though he appears to have bought it last year.

Further enquiries suggested that Ms Nowak might also be known as Patrycja D Nowak.

I say that because White Pages gives us two recent addresses in the Bay for a Patrycja D Nowak. One is in Davaar House, which you’ll remember is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, that company set up with the busy old lady, Barbara Kahan. While Hansen Court is of course where we have established Mark James owns a property, and where a 23-year-old woman fell(?) from a balcony four years ago.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that this Patrycja D Nowak is the same woman as the Patrycja Nowak who worked at the Wales International Academy of Voice. And if they are one and the same, then the 192 site suggests that she may now have moved to Brighton.

Which is entirely plausible, given that Brighton addresses have cropped up time and again in this enquiry, Steven James Corner himself has given Brighton addresses, and ere it slipped down the back of the sofa forever even the Llanelli soft furnishings business had a Brighton address.

Steven James Corner’s Companies House entry for Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd

UPDATE 01.06.2017: Thanks to a source I now have Land Registry documents for two more properties leased by Mark Vincent James in Cardiff Bay. They are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House, the latter address being where Ms Nowak lives, or lived. And the same building in which we find the Imaginative Property Group Ltd, formed by Steven James Corner and Barbara Kahan. This gives us three properties in Cardiff Bay leased by Mark Vincent James. Are there more?

Also note the involvement, on both title documents, of Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd of, Unit 9, Astra Centre, Edinburgh Way, Harlow, Essex, England, CM20 2BN. The Astra Centre again, where the three Century Wharf RTMs are registered. Though I’m surprised not to see Steven James Corner listed among the directors. Though another familiar name is there, Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?

To begin with, we now know that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is branching out into the property business in Cardiff Bay, and he’s doing so in partnership with a man who has done business with a very questionable individual who may be laundering money for gangsters and terrorists.

Then there’s the Polish connections, are they entirely coincidental?

If Mark James owns or leases properties in the Bay then some might suppose that he expects Corner et al to help him maximise the income from his properties. If so, then in return maybe Corner would expect James to use his undoubted influence for the benefit of his new friends and business partners.

One suggestion is that Corner and others have ambitions to take over the lucrative contracts for cleaning, maintaining and repairing buildings in the Bay . . . whether the residents want them to or not. A clue may be found in another company, formed in February, Housekeeping and Cleaning (UK) Ltd. Corner’s partner in this new Cardiff-based venture is Richard James Godfrey, who seems to specialise in modern Mrs Moppery.

Whatever lies behind the connection between Mark Vincent James and Steven James Corner and his associates, a council chief executive teaming up with property dealers concerns me, and should be of concern to others.

Something else I find truly odd – given what we hear about networks and grapevines in Cardiff Bay – is that Mark James has been able to launch himself as a property tycoon, keeping pretty racy company to boot, and yet no one seems to have known about it!

Even odder (perhaps the stone in my shoe), was Corner’s detour to Llanelli and the soft furnishings business – what the hell was that about?

Something we’ve learnt – or had confirmed – is that the redevelopment of Cardiff docks has sucked in public funding to benefit, originally, Lord Crickhowell and his friends in Associated British Ports, and then, smaller property speculators, most of whom have descended on Cardiff from outside of Wales. What benefits have we seen in Cwmbran and Corwen?

Now Cardiff looks forward to the Champions League Final on Saturday between Juventus and Real Madrid. Of course, the city is too small to host an event of this magnitude, which explains the exorbitant rates being charged for accommodation. We can confidently assume that owners of flats down the Bay will be making a killing, among them perhaps . . .

I wonder if Patrycja has a ticket for the game?

♦ end ♦

Nov 082015
 

HOOKED ON FUNDING

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

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

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

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

Drugaid

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does Drugaid actually do?

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

Drugaid income

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

Drugaid spending

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

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

Drugaid gobbledegook

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

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

What else do we know?

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

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

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

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

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

*

NEIL WOOLLARD, ANOTHER UPLANDS COUNCILLOR GONE MISSING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Woollard Tidal Lagoon

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

*

SOPHIE HOWE, MORE LABOUR CRONYISM

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

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

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

Sophie Howe

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

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

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

Jocelyn Davies tweet

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

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

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

*

SAM WARBURTON, CAPTAIN CARDIFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT US?

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

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

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

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