Aberavon

Jul 312016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER, ASSISTED BY ‘STAN

(illustrations by Jac o’ the North)

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

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

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

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

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

Non-dom

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

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

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

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

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

What Johanna did next – a timeline

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

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

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

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

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

Exstrabladet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Kinnock ‘underestimated’ school fees for daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

This tender image is a rarity

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

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

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

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

Kinnocks normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Danish taxpayers pay for Helle and Kinnock’s daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

The state paid Dkr 70,000 per year

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

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

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

Parents paid Dkr 18,000 per year

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

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

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

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

Tax deductions of Dkr 15,000 per year

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

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

Atlantic College

UWC suggestion to parents

UWC’s proposals are as follows:

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

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

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

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

Kinnock on Facebook

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

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

Welsh blogger

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

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

I answered questions

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

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

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Jac says . . . 

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

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

Kinnock family

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

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

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

Mar 312015
 

I AM INDEBTED TO ‘STAN’ OF THE NEATH FERRET FOR HELP IN WRITING THIS PIECE

The name Malik will be familiar to regular readers of this blog if only because of Naz Malik, former boss of race relations charity and Labour agitprop outfit the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA). I have written about Naz Malik more than once, so to refresh your memorNaz Malik rugby fanies you might care to work back from this post of September 8th, 2014, published shortly after the end of Malik’s trial.

One of the major issues exposed by the AWEMA scandal was that of nepotism, though of course this is no crime. Indeed, it’s the cornerstone of the family business; but beyond that sphere the favouring of relatives will be judged on the company’s performance, and investors or shareholders will demand changes in the management if it is felt that nepotism is responsible for declining performance and falling profits. Yet in a publicly-funded body, where the money just keeps rolling in, and with no criteria by which to judge performance, it becomes almost inevitable that nepotism will flourish unchecked.

Nepotism goes some way to explaining what went wrong with AWEMA. At CEO was Naz Malik; then there was daughter Tegwen, whose salary shot up from £20,469 in January 2008 to £50,052 in August 2011 for no apparent reason; while another who worked for AWEMA was Naz Malik’s daughter-in-law Ourania Chatsiou who, along with her sister-in-law, was, bizarrely, among the creditors when the funding plug was pulled early in 2012. Though the major creditor, the ‘Welsh’ Government, recently wrote off most of the £300,000 it was still owed by AWEMA. Naz Malik’s wife, Bronwen, and son, Gwion Iqbal, were also involved with AWEMA, as ‘volunteers’.

AWEMA Charity Commission

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Another thread in the AWEMA saga is the Malik family links to the Labour Party. The patriarch himself had entertained hopes of standing for the party, and could be relied on to use the public profile he’d gained from Labour-funded AWEMA to regularly attack ‘racist’ Welsh nationalists. The aforementioned scion of the House, Gwion Iqbal, stood for the party in the elections to the Notional Assembly of 2011. (There used to be a photo available on the internet of Gwion Iqbal canvassing with First Minister Carwyn Jones, but unsurprisingly it seems to have disappeared.)

Something else that always troubled me about AWEMA was the bland statement made on the Charity Commission website that, in addition to operating in Wales, AWEMA had a presence in Kenya and Pakistan! Remember, we were dealing here with EU and UK money allocated to Wales, and yet no one thought to question why AWEMA claimed to be using that money overseas. One answer of course is that Naz Malik had been born in Nairobi to parents of Pakistani, or pre-Partition Indian, heritage. As had Naz Malik’s sister, Fahro. Or rather, that explains the family’s background; while the lack of concern in official quarters can probably be explained by the Labour Party connection.

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I first became aware of Fahro Malik when I saw a link to a charity called Lynk Reach Ltd (Charity No: 1104188) on the AWEMA website. (Lynk Reach Ltd was removed from the Charity Commission Register on January 14th this year.) Its charitable objective was “To advance the education of children and young people 0 – 25 (sic), primarily but not exclusively in London”. There was also a company called Lynk Reach Ltd (Company No: 04678217) Incorporated on the 25th of February 2003. Strangely, FaFahro Malikhro Malik seems not to have been a director of this company, though among the founders was an Anthony Malcolm Finch, a headmaster, who was Fahro Malik’s husband. Finch wrote an internet restaurant guide and died suddenly in February 2007. Someone who joined the company later was Zoe Samia Malik-Kemp. Lynk Reach Ltd is now dissolved.

A connected company was Lynk Ray Ltd (Company No: 04261595) which pre-dates Lynk Reach Ltd, having been Incorporated on July 30th 2001. The founding directors were Anthony Malcolm Finch and Fahro Malik. This company is also dissolved. Finally, we have Lynk Write Ltd, Incorporated June 19th 2003 (Company No: 04804457). The only two directors were Fahro Malik and Anthony Malcolm Finch. This company is also dissolved. The most recent mention I can find for Fahro Malik is on the London Writers’ Café website, from where the photograph comes.

Fahro Malik has escaped the notoriety of brother Naz and the Swansea branch of the clan, but still leaves behind a failed charity and dissolved companies owing money to some poor bugger. Fahro may also regret involving her other brother, Munir, with Lynk Ray Ltd as a director and company secretary from August 3rd, 2007 until the company dissolved, probably towards the end of June, 2013. That’s right, another brother, of whose existence I was unaware until it was brought to my attention by Stan of Neath Ferret. So what’s Munir’s story?

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Munir Malik is another Labour Party stalwart, and has served a couple of non-consecutive terms as a councillor in Bexley, south east London . . . though since his brush with fame he has been deselected from his Thamesmead East ward. To explain . . .

In addition to the Labour Party, for which he also stood as a candidate in the London region Euro elections of 1999 and 2004, Munir Malik was involved with the Co-op Group, serving as a regional representative before being elevated to the National Board. His wife, Kathryn Smith, another Labour councillor in Bexley, was herself on the National Board of the Co-op Group from 1997 to 2008 and on the Board of the Co-op Bank from 2001 to 2009, where she worked with Paul Flowers, the drug-taking Methodist minister and former Co-op Bank chairman. (Also known as ‘the Crystal Methodist’.) Kathryn Smith left the Co-op Bank in 2009 to stand as Labour & Co-operative candidate for Gravesham in the 2010 General Election. A Munir Malikseat that the Tories had won in 2005 by just 654 votes became a safe Tory seat in 2010, with a majority of 9,312. Labour’s loss of votes may have been connected with Smith being done for drunk driving just days before the poll.

Misfortune continued to dog the Malik-Smith household when Munir Malik was forced to resign from the Co-operative Group Board for telling fibs about his qualifications. To be specific, when running for election to the Board he claimed to be a chartered accountant  . . . ‘Oh no he’s not!’ said the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, ‘and only members of the ICAEW are allowed to call themselves chartered accountants’. Munir sought to explain away this little inconsistency by arguing that what he meant to say was that he had been a chartered accountant . . . until he was struck off for bankruptcy in 1991, and had simply forgotten to prefix his qualification with ‘former’. Something of a habit, apparently, for the ICAEW claimed to have previously warned him to stop claiming to be a chartered accountant. Though Malik countered with: “All my working life has been spent as a former chartered accountant”. Um, yes . . . exactly!

All so predictable, and familiar, for as this Daily Mail piece on the Malik / Flowers fiasco puts it, “Malik belongs to what one insider described as a closed group who have come to dominate the Co-op despite its democratic structure of elected boards” and later, “Former City Minister Lord Myners was appointed to assess the Co-op Group’s system of elections and appointments. He resigned last week in the face of bitter resistance from board members but plans to complete his review”. Sound familiar? Of course it does, for this is another dysfunctional and undemocratic element of the great ‘Labour Movement’, another that preaches democracy but has never seen any need to practice it, especially for its internal procedures. We could be talking here about ‘Welsh’ Labour . . . and we soon will be!

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Piercy Lane

CLICK TO ENLARGE

So where are they now? Well, it seems that the Malik womenfolk have retreated to academia and scholarly pursuits. Fahro Malik, as she told the London Writers’ Café website, is probably researching the family’s journey from the Punjab village of Rohtas via Kenya to Wales and England. Tegwen Malik, Naz’s daughter, is carrying out research in biomimetics (don’t ask me!) at Swansea University, while Naz’s daughter-in-law, Ourania Chatsiou, is also at Swansea Uni, doing post-graduate work. Which serves to remind us, yet again, of the close links between the Labour Party and higher education in Wales, and the mutual back-scratching.

Some of you reading this may be ‘uncomfortable’ with the fact that so many of those dealt with belong to ethnic minorities. Get over it! I’m writing about the Maliks not because of their race, colour or religion but because a) they’ve done wrong, b) they all seem to have Labour Party connections, c) despite the shit they get themselves into, they seem to come up smelling of roses, which, d) allows me to expose, yet again, the squalid relationships between the Labour Party, the Third Sector, academe and other spheres of our national life.

So you mustn’t think that nepotism is confined to persons of Pakistani origin from East Africa, no, no, no, no, no. This is a Labour Party problem, something encountered wherever Labour has power and, more importantly, where Labour has control over funding. For we don’t need to leave Swansea Bay to find celebrated current examples of nepotism encouraged or condoned by ‘Welsh’ Labour where the principals are all of impeccably white and Christian backgrounds.

Let us return to Swansea University, and this time the School of Management. There, the Dean, one Nigel F. Piercy, has appointed his son Niall as Pro-Dean for Research, and his love interest, Nikala Lane, as a Reader in Marketing and Strategy. Partly as a result of this blatant nepotism, and partly by being a bit of an arsehole, Piercy has contrived to alienate just about everybody he is supposed to be working with. Yet his position seems secure.Stephen Kinnock

From the Mumbles Road campus one can look across the bay to Port Talbot where, on May 7th, the electors of the Aberavon constituency will be expected to put on their blinkers, empty their minds, and troop like zombies into the polling stations, there they will grasp the stubby brown pencil on a string and come momentarily to life when they see on the ballot paper the magic name KINNOCK. Tears of gratitude will flow as they recall how young Stephen was not parachuted in – as malcontents allege – but walked all the way from his Copenhagen home to vie for the honour of representing Aberavon (‘it is Aberavon, is it?’) and was chosen only after an open and keenly-contested selection process that lasted months.

Because, boys and girls, that’s how the Labour Party operates, and don’t let anybody tell you different. The Labour Party is, to the best interests of Wales . . . what the Ku Klux Klan is to good race relations, what Japanese cuisine is to whales, what the conquistadors were to the civilisations of Mesoamerica, what the iceberg was to the Titanic, what the driving maul is to modern rugby, what the CIA is to privacy, what Rhyl is to Welsh cultural identity, what the Sinclair C5 was to motoring, what China is to Tibet . . . In short, a disaster.

Jan 262015
 

Despite having spent most of my adult life away from Swansea my dreams still tend to be set there, sometimes they’re about people, and in places, the waking me has all but forgotten. A contributing factor must be that I take a keen interest in my home town, and in recent years I have despaired at the Labour-controlled council, with its – now deposed – leader and his wife, the refugee English and Austrian Trots, and of course the students recruited to the council straight from the grant-processing plant down on the Mumbles Road. (For other posts on this subject just type ‘Swansea Council’ or ‘Swansea Labour Party’ into the Search box atop the sidebar.)

The erstwhile leader, David Phillips, now sulks like Napoleon on St. Helena, cursing those who toppled him (also rueing the massive drop in household income since him and the missus were given the old heave-ho). Let’s hope this gruesome twosome fade from politics and leave Swansea altogether. The Trotskyists, Bob and Uta Clay, are hanging on in there, still dreaming of writing Swansea’s name in the annals of glorious revolution, but as relevant to contemporary politics as Plaid Cymru is to the cause of Welsh independence. But it’s the students I want to discuss here; those bright young things who brought their joie de vivre (or something) to the drab world of Swansea council life.

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First, Pearleen Sangha, Californian councillor for the Uplands ward. It was known for almost a year that Cllr. Sangha was not attending council meetings and perhaps not even living in SPearleen Sangha party girlwansea, but that was OK because she was in Cardiff working for the Labour Party. Obviously, rumours circulated and her position became untenable when, towards the end of September last year, even the Labour-supporting Evening Post began to ask awkward questions. (Click here and scroll down.) She seemed to panic, saying she’d told “the leadership” back in July that she was resigning as a councillor, and assuring us that she had not received her councillor’s allowance since then. Which might have been more convincing if her Twitter account in late September didn’t still describe her as a councillor, or if her council e-mail account wasn’t still open; or if she wasn’t still shown on the council’s own website Pearleen Sangha Californiaas a Labour councillor for the Uplands ward.

When she wasn’t in Cardiff she was back home in California, or campaigning for a No vote in the Scottish referendum, or just gadding about having a good time. I recall voicing my concerns about a US citizen of Indian ancestry and English birth having the temerity to go to Scotland – a country of which she knows nothing – and tell the Scots how to vote. But it didn’t end there, because the other tweet I’vSangha tweete used suggests that her sister Chenisha, presumably also from California, was helping in the Ynys Môn Assembly by-election of August 2013. She knows even less about Ynys Môn than her sister does about Scotland! Ignorance and arrogance aside, whatever else she was doing Pearleen Sangha was not serving as a councillor for the Uplands ward, and while she may not have claimed her allowance after July 2014 she went missing a long time before that.

Chenisha SanghaHaving mentioned Chenisha Sangha, it should come as no surprise to learn that she also tweets. Though I have no idea who Salt Water Taffy is, I can only assume that he is a seafaring gent from one of our coastal districts. Nor do I have any idea as to why she should have thought him disgusting, but I’m glad he won her over. Picture the scene: an invitation to board his lugger, a few jars of grog by candlelight, maybe a softly crooned shanty then, before you know it, she realises that his barque is worse than his bight and starts taking an interest in his tackle. I wish them well.

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More recently, two more of Swansea Labour’s student councillors have departed . . . or at least, announced their departure. First, was Mitchell Theaker, of Cockett ward, who is moving to Dubai where he’ll recruit rich Arab students for Sheffield University. Although he announced his resignation the week before last it doesn’t officially take effect Theaker tweet Dubai, Jan 2015until March 20th – even though he’s already left Swansea to take up his new job in the Gulf! Surely he won’t be claiming anything from Swansea council between the date of leaving and the official resignation date?

Theaker’s card was probably marked last August following the overthrow of his patron, when he unwisely tweeted: “Lots of people devastated to hear David Phillips has stepped down as leader of Swansea Council. A principled and distinguished giant of a man.” Mmm. And although he was councillor for Cockett (which lies between Sketty and Fforestach), he never actually lived in the ward. He was last reported to be living with his boyfriend down the Maritime Quarter.

Another who has announced he’s going but, again, not officially until March 20th, is Nick Bradley, of Townhill ward. He too is off to foreign climes. According to the Evening Post he’s taking up a job in “the US and middle east”. Bradley, a lifelong supporter of West Bromwich Albion, was on the board running Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. The by-elections to replace Theaker and Bradley will both be held on May 7, the day of the UK General Election. The reason for this, according to Bradley, is that it “will save time, money and effort at a point when all focus has to be on the budget and the future of our city”. Which is absolute bollocks.

Uplands by-electionThe reason these by-elections are being held on the same day as the General Election is because Labour’s donkey vote will be out in force and it’s hoped they’ll unthinkingly vote Labour in the council by-elections too. An important consideration when we remember the result in the by-election held in November to replace Pearleen Sangha. (Click to enlarge.) This was won by Independent Peter May, who had formerly held the seat, and lost it, as a Lib Dem. In 2010 he had even been the Lib Dem candidate for Swansea West (which contains the Uplands ward), and came within 504 votes of the winning Labour candidate. With its hold on Swansea West weakening it’s understandable that Labour is taking no chances with its council seats.

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With Sangha, Bradley and Theaker gone, it seems the only ex-student know-nothing (of Swansea) councillor left is John Charles Bayliss, who also represents the Uplands ward. John Boy must be feeling lonely right now, and perhaps vulnerable. Though one rumour I’ve heard Bayliss Twitter picsuggests that he has chanced his arm by asking to be given the council role vacated by Theaker on a Cabinet Advisory Committee, which if true, suggests that he’s counting on his party being desperate to avoid another Uplands by-election after May 7th.

Or maybe it’s a ‘What the hell have I got to lose?’ gambit due to John Boy planning to follow Theaker and Bradley to the Gulf, because before Christmas he was in Dubai with them. His Twitter bio shows them together (Bradley left). Shouldn’t Gays boycott countries where homosexuality is illegal, or go there to protest? They also drink, quite a lot, something else disapproved of by the bearded ones. These three – and Sangha – also bang on about the environment, they all supported further enriching the Duke of Beaufort with wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, but they don’t give a toss about their own carbon footprint when they’re jetting off here and there. There is something very superficial and hypocritical about these people. Their ‘principles’ are for flaunting, not for defending, certainly not if such defence might interfere with their own hedonistic lifestyles.

Thankfully, they’re slowly disappearing from the scene, yet it could have been a lot worse. To become leader of the council after the May 2012 elections David Phillips needed the support of these students and others because he was never sure of Labour’s local stalwarts. Fortunately, his wife, Sybil Crouch, fellow councillor and (inevitably) cabinet member, worked in the university, and so must have been helpful in finding potential candidates. Just think, If Phillips hadn’t been removed when he was he and his missus could have recruited from the university and eventually made his position impregnable.

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This episode in the history of the Swansea Labour Party is symptomatic of a wider malaise within ‘Welsh’ Labour. Basically, the party can no longer find local recruits of a high enough calibre to be candidates, even at council level. Which results in it falling prey to drifters, chancers, entryists, arrivistes, parachutists, and single-issue obsessives such as Bayliss, for whom Gay issues are more important than anything that could improve the lives of my fellow Jacks. Leading to the Labour vote SI Exifbeing very ‘brittle’ in many parts of Wales, as we saw in the Euro elections last May. (Click here for results.)

Yet around the Bay, the bruvvers in Aberavon have had imposed on them the scion of the House of Kinnock. Contrary to what most people reading this may think, if the people of Port Talbot elect Stephen Kinnock in May it will be a splendid result for Labour, for it will confirm that the ‘donkey’ vote is holding firm. But it should also remind us that the priorities of the Labour Party and the best interests of Wales are diverging fast. Wales is currently lumbered with a dominant party devoid of ideas and reduced to what can only be described as dog in a manger politics.

So where are the alternatives? The Ukip surge of last May will not be replicated in a ‘serious’ election such as the UK General Election this coming May, though unless the party implodes before then (entirely possible) Ukip will gain seats in the 2016 Assembly elections. The Lib Dems struggle on and will do well to hold Brecon and Radnor in May. The Green Party of Englandandwales can be written off in most regards other than its potential to take student and other votes in marginals. Plaid Cymru failed to capitalise on Labour’s weaknesses last May and will fail to do so again this May; it’s one hope may be Ukip taking enough Labour votes to let it sneak in, Llanelli comes to mind. Which leaves the Conservatives, amazingly, the party most likely to gain in the medium term from the unconscionably slow death of ‘Welsh’ Labour.

I’m glad I was able to write this post, glad to be able to report that three of those who had somehow found their way onto Swansea council, but had nothing to contribute to the wellbeing of my belovéd city, have now left. This episode could be interpreted as locals retaking control from a gang of ‘We-know-best’ interlopers, something we should encourage all over Wales. It would be nice to think that this would be the end of the story; but given the zombie-like nature of ‘Welsh’ Labour it’s almost guaranteed to happen again, if not in Swansea, then somewhere else. Maybe it’ll be your local council . . . unless it’s already happening.

UPDATE: I have just received this telling me that Councillor John Boy Bayliss has been reported to the council, again. Among his many blind spots is the belief that any shyster who can spin a line containing the words ‘eco’, ‘green’, ‘organic’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ (or any combination thereof) must be given planning permission. Preferably carte blanche to save the poor fellowBayliss fracking having to go through the tiresome planning procedure all over again. Worse, anyone who expresses contrary views must be barred from voting on the matter . . . yet he and his (thankfully departing) friends can be quite open about their predetermination and still be allowed to vote! The panel is an example of what I’m talking about. I’ve already used the word ‘hypocrite’ to describe these buggers, and I have no hesitation in using it again.