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.

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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 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.

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

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

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

Getting Personal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Chorus not a Drone

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

Mar 182017
 

REFERENDA FOR ALL!

As you know by now, the SNP wants another referendum on Scottish independence, to be held towards the end of 2018, when the terms of Brexit will be known but before its implementation, in the hope that a Yes vote might keep Scotland in the EU without the need to apply for membership.

Within hours of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon asking for her referendum Sinn Féin called for a referendum on re-unifying Ireland. Boosted by the increase in the party’s vote in the recent elections and playing on the fact that there is disquiet on both sides of the border, and in both northern communities, about the possibility of a ‘hard border’ being imposed once the UK leaves the EU.

UK prime minster Theresa May has refused to grant a Scottish referendum, making a vague promise of allowing a vote when the Brexit negotiations are complete and ‘the facts are known’ . . . or perhaps she’ll drag it out in the hope that the SNP loses its majority in the 2021 Scottish elections.

Here in Wales, in response to the SNP’s request Carwyn Jones nailed his colours to the mast of British nationalism by stating that we’re all better off in the UK. Last month declaring that after Brexit the UK could become a ‘mini-EU’. (Does he write this stuff himself?)

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has called for a ‘debate’ on independence if Scotland votes to leave the UK. Many others, especially on social media, are calling for a Welsh referendum.

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My reading of the situation is as follows.

Ms Sturgeon believes that Brexit is the issue to swing things her party’s way, and she may be right, for as we know Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the EU. But will that translate into Yes votes in an independence referendum?

A lot is being made of those in Scotland who voted for independence in September 2014 and for Brexit in June 2016, with Unionists pretending to believe that this group will vote No to independence in a second referendum. Look, I have wanted independence for Wales all my life – and I voted for Brexit. Like 80% of Scots who voted for independence and Brexit my priority is to break the English connection; whether we’re in or out of the EU is almost irrelevant. So stop talking nonsense.

Sinn Féin has nothing to lose because a No vote to reunification would be expected due to there still being a Unionist majority. The party can count on its own supporters voting Yes, and nationalists joining them, but what if enough Unionists are so worried by Brexit that they’ll agree to a united Ireland rather than be outside the EU? There could be enough to be decisive; but whatever happens, Sinn Féin has nothing to lose.

Mrs May is the real gambler in this situation for any number of reasons, here are three. What would the UK Government do if a referendum organised by the SNP in defiance of Westminster returned a Yes vote and the SNP government in Holyrood declared independence? Second, Mrs May is increasingly being compared with Mrs Thatcher, but seeing as Mrs Thatcher’s legacy is toxic in Scotland this is turning Scots towards independence. Third, her own party, plus Ukip bawling in the wings, will demand a tough Brexit, telling them Europeans where to stick it, so delaying the Scottish referendum may be no advantage.

And here’s a final consideration that could screw up the Unionist position entirely. There is increasing acceptance within the EU that it needs to reform, to become less bureaucratic and more more democratic, and to crack down on corruption rather than on whistle-blowers. What if, as a farewell present, the EU, while negotiating Britain’s exit, simultaneously began reforming itself, so as to make it more alluring to Scottish and Northern Irish voters. For we all know how devious Johnny Foreigner can be.

But of course we are concerned with Wales. If Scotland goes independent, and if Ireland becomes one again – two big ifs – then there will be calls for a referendum in Wales. But there are important differences between Wales and the other two. For example, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted, by substantial majorities, to remain in the EU, whereas Wales voted to leave.

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FOCUSING ON WALES

Let us assume that Brexit goes through to satisfy the BritLanders, that Scotland then votes for independence, and that the Irish throw themselves into each other’s arms, or at least, enough of them want a united Ireland to leave the UK as nothing more than Englandandwales. It goes without saying that in such a situation the calls for a Welsh referendum on independence will become louder.

While the position of most Plaid Cymru members can be guessed at, perhaps of greater importance is the position of the other political parties in Wales, especially the Labour Party. If Lord Kinnock is still with us in 2020 – and let us pray that the Grim Reaper ignores him (as we have learnt to) for a few more years – then I can see him leading the fight against Welsh independence. But what of Carwyn Jones and his gang, possibly more representative of today’s Labour voters than Kinnock?

Even with Scotland and Northern Ireland gone, I cannot see ‘Welsh’ Labour supporting the call for a referendum. The party is just too Brit in its outlook on everything, and so hostile to expressions of Welsh identity such as the Welsh language, as we’ve seen in Llangennech and elsewhere. Most recently in Labour’s refusal to back Dr Dai Lloyd’s modest attempt to protect Welsh place names.

On the plus side, the Labour Party in Wales is losing credibility and haemorrhaging support at a rate that is beginning to alarm the rats left on board, who are now turning on each other, with deselections reported from across the land ahead of May’s council elections.

We can guarantee the Conservative and Ukip positions on Welsh independence, and so without Labour Plaid Cymru could be a lone voice. Which will mean that in order to have any hope of winning an independence referendum the Yes campaign – little more perhaps than Plaid Cymru by another name – will need to remove party politics from the debate and appeal to the people on a different level entirely. Basically, raw patriotism.

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WILL AN APPEAL TO PATRIOTISM WORK?

No doubt some reading this will disagree with me and suggest that a Yes campaign could appeal to voters on the grounds that Wales would be better off in the EU, and so if independence is the only way to reach the land of milk and honey then they should vote Yes. The flaw there being that the ‘better off in the EU’ argument was used last year, and Welsh voters rejected it.

No, it would have to be done on the the most basic level, something like, ‘With Scotland and Northern Ireland gone it’s just England and Wales now, so do you want Wales to become part of England?’

And instead of discussing exports of salt marsh lamb to France, or Trixie Grant-Grabber and her friends at the Gurnos LGBT Muesli Knitters Co-operative losing their EU funding, it would be more sensible to use arguments that will resonate with far more people. One that comes to mind is the survival of our national football team. Because it’s not just the BritNats who want to see a UK football team; national associations around the world question why Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national teams when they are not independent countries.

With Scotland independent and Ireland one again maintaining a national football team for Wales will become very difficult, after a No to independence vote it will be virtually impossible. How long before our national rugby team goes the same way? (Yes it’s scaremongering. What do you think the other side will be doing?)

An appeal to patriotism, painting a picture of Englandandwales morphing into England with the loss of our national sporting teams and other badges of our identity, might get 51% of the Welsh vote on a good day after a particularly rousing speech by Carwyn Jones. But 51% of the Welsh vote will not be enough to gain independence due to the strangers in our midst, and I’m not talking here about EU migrants.

At the most recent census in 2011 we learnt that 20.8% of the population of Wales was born in England. The percentage of the population born in Wales was just 72.7%. The figures may be skewed by Welsh mothers having babies in hospitals just over the border, but the effect of our lack of maternity facilities is more than offset by children born to English parents in Wales who do not identify with Wales in any meaningful way.

Perhaps a more telling figure from the census would be that for identification, shown in the table below. There we see that only 65.8% of people living in Wales at the time of the census regarded themselves as Welsh.

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Now it could be that some of these strangers among us would vote for Welsh independence . . . but it wouldn’t be many. They will vote much as the non-French 20% of the population voted in the Quebéc independence referendum of October 1995, overwhelmingly against independence, and enough to secure a hairs-breadth victory of 50.58% to 49.42%.

Which means that given the figures we know, and taking into account other factors, such as the English element in the population being more heavily represented in the older age groups, and therefore more likely to vote, the Yes campaign would need to secure the votes of almost all the ‘Welsh only’ identifiers to win a referendum. Ain’t gonna happen.

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WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

As I hope I’ve made clear, asking for an independence referendum in the next few years will be a mistake. Partly because it cannot be won, but more importantly because a Yes vote of less than 25% could be so demoralising that some people might give up and resign themselves to assimilation into England.

It would make more sense to accept the improved devolution settlement that London is almost certain to offer to soften the blow of us being left alone with our centuries-old abuser. (Yes, London might want a referendum, but if nobody in Wales is asking for it . . . )

The extra devolution we’ll be given will be as flawed and useless as the devolution we’ve known since 1999 unless Labour loses its pre-eminent position in Welsh politics. But to fully capitalise on Labour’s eclipse either Plaid Cymru must re-invent itself as a nationalist party, or be replaced by a nationalist party.

We must grab as much as we can, we must squeeze every last concession out of the London regime, demand anything that can benefit Wales. And don’t be afraid to take to the streets and in other ways show that you aren’t going to be messed around with. I say that not because I’m trying to incite violence but because we have a corrupt and useless political class that will sell us down the river again and again if given a chance.

Once we’ve secured the best deal we can get Wales needs to be ‘stabilised’, by which I mean investment and economic growth needs to spread more evenly around the country, we need to curb colonisation, we need a strategy for the Valleys that goes beyond commuter communities for Cardiff, we need to provide a real economy for our rural and coastal areas instead of being grateful for zip wires and granny farming, we must invest in infrastructure, education and training.

We need to behave as if we were already independent to prepare our people for independence.

We are in the position of being unable to win an independence referendum in the next few years because Plaid Cymru has failed Wales. Plaid Cymru’s dithering and obsession with single-issue politics over the past 40 years has served England’s interests better than it has served ours. 

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