David Davies MP

Nov 142016
 

When I first heard of the Circuit of Wales project back in the early part of 2013 I was somewhat sceptical of its chances of success, and the reasons for my scepticism were set out in Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train? 

Despite being doubtful that the project would ever materialise I was (in the even-handed manner for which I am rightly acclaimed) also critical of some of those raising objections to the CoW, not least the environmentalists who seem to oppose anything that might benefit those who live permanently in Wales.

For various reasons that I don’t have the space to analyse here, the project has ‘drifted’ somewhat since my original post, and in recent weeks we have witnessed attacks on the Heads of the Valleys Development Company (HOTVDC) and its Circuit of Wales from what might, at first sight, appear to be unconnected sources. So let’s look at these attacks and see if we can make sense of them.

ebbw-vale

A long-time critic of what could be the economic salvation of the region is Conservative MP David Davies, who represents the neighbouring constituency (to Ebbw Vale) of Monmouthshire, perhaps the most affluent area in the country. It’s reasonable to assume that those who vote for Davies don’t want anything noisy on their doorstep, attracting people who will drive through their area to get to the circuit. So while not wishing to be unfair – for there may indeed be more to it – I suspect that nimbyism with a dash of snobbery lies behind the attacks from that direction.

But as I say, Davies, chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster, has been a consistent critic, and no doubt he’d argue that he’s just doing his job. And his job has been made easier for him by some strange spending of the millions already invested by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

But the criticism of this project comes from beyond leafy Monmouthshire and its well-heeled inhabitants, from those who cannot be dismissed as nimbys or snobs.

On November 1, after regular sniping from its news broadcasts, BBC Wales made a frontal assault using its Week In Week Out series with A Safe Bet? (Video available here for a while.) There was little pretence at impartiality. Anyone watching this programme with no knowledge of Wales, and how it works, would have concluded that the Circuit of Wales is a complete waste of money and should be ditched immediately.

I admit that Michael Carrick, the man behind HOTVDC, doesn’t always instill confidence, and he has certainly made mistakes. Even so, it appears to me that critics have too often been playing the man rather than the ball. By which I mean, the project needs to be considered on its merits; after all, Einstein being a philanderer didn’t undermine his Theory of Relativity.

The attacks have continued, culminating today in a front page lead continued on page 2 plus an editorial in the Wasting Mule. All written by my old mucker, Martin Shipton.

The justification for today’s attack seems to be that the HOTVDC used the Silverstone circuit in England in 2015 and 2016 to host MotoGP races that it had contracted to host at the Circuit of Wales, and had lost money. Now with the best will in the world, I detect an element of having your cake and eating it in this criticism.

Because those attacking the HOTVDC for making a loss at Silverstone – due to the Circuit of Wales not being completed – are the very same people who have been doing their very best to derail the CoW project altogether!

circuit-of-wales-wm-editorial

click to enlarge

As for losing money by going to Silverstone, even before reading the response from the HOTVDC I knew the answer. The owners of the Silverstone circuit creamed off the profits, from the hot dog stands to the champagne hospitality suites and from the Ducati baseball caps to the sales of £300 leather biker boots.

A child could work that out, and a younger sibling could add that those profits would have accrued to Ebbw Vale if the Circuit of Wales had been operational, as would other benefits to the area from those visiting for a few days.

God Almighty! Break somebody’s leg and then criticise him for limping.

So how do we account for this recent onslaught from BBC Wales and the Wasting Mule? I suspect there are two, linked, answers.

First, just last month, it became clear that the project had a good chance of proceeding without needing to be underwritten by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Even so, this report from WalesOnline still manages to put a negative spin on the news with, “However, without approval on underwriting from the Welsh Government, the project will effectively be dead as there is little private sector appetite to take a 100% risk exposure position.”

Though I’m a little nonplussed by the phrase “approval on underwriting”. If the writer means underwriting, why not just say that rather than employ such a convoluted phrase? Though with heavyweight backing from Aviva and Kleinwort Benson underwriting from the ‘Welsh’ Government may no longer be needed . . . and it may be this realisation that has triggered the recent attacks.

The article in question was written by Siôn Barry, of whom I shall have more to say in a moment.

Second, if the Circuit of Wales goes ahead then it will challenge the thinking behind the Cardiff Capital Region project. Which, in its simplest terms, is as follows: As many jobs as the Region’s architects can get away with are to be concentrated in Cardiff, as are the Region’s sporting, recreational, cultural and other facilities. So that people from the Valleys will come into Cardiff to earn their crust, and they will come back into Cardiff to be regularly relieved of a great part of that crust.

Which makes it anathema to those behind the City Region that places like Ebbw Vale should be allowed anything as grand as a race circuit, ‘Bloody hell, people will go there spending their money rather than going into Cardiff. Where will it end? They’ll all want something!’

Now the Wasting Mule, despite its hyperbolic claim to be ‘The National Newspaper of Wales’, is, as we all know, a Cardiff newspaper, and the mouthpiece of those seeking to enrich the city at the expense of the rest of Wales. This explains today’s editorial.

The Wasting Mule does not want the Circuit of Wales to progress even if it has 100% private funding, for fear it might limit Cardiff’s ability to enjoy the full benefits of the City Region scam.

Consequently, the final paragraph of Shippo’s editorial is a direct appeal to his friends in the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government to put obstacles in the way of HOTVDC, perhaps to use environmental or other planning ruses. We can be sure that representations are also being made through more ‘private’ channels.

Fundamental to the Cardiff Capital Region project is the Metro system – for how else are people from Merthyr, Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and other outposts of the empire to reach the City of Milk and Honey? Since 2010 the job of promoting the Metro has fallen to a Mark Barry, some might go so far as to say that the Metro is his idea.

metro-network

After working for the Welsh Development Agency (2002 – 2003) he has maintained good connections with the ‘Welsh’ Government. Though some might suggest a conflict of interests in the following roles:

  • Owner of M&G Barry Consulting (Sept 2009 – Present) His Linkedin profile tells us that M&G Barry Consulting was set up to promote the Metro project.
  • Board Advisor for Transport and the Economy for the Cardiff Business Partnership (Oct 2010 – Oct 2013)
  • Founder of the private sector Metro Consortium (Aug 2011 – Nov 2013)
  • Metro Development Director and Advisor to the ‘Welsh’ Government (Nov 2013 – Jan 2016).

(Though seeing as M&G Barry has been going since September 2009 I would have expected the website to be up and running by now. But then, I suppose it’s not looking for business, it’s a one-trick pony.)

I’m telling you this because of course Mark Dafydd Barry is the brother of Siôn Barry, Business Editor of Media Wales, and this explains Siôn Barry’s regular plugging of his brother’s Cardiff Metro scheme, and of course his hostility to the Circuit of Wales.

Yet another example of the incestuous relationship between politics, business, media and academe in Cardiff is provided by the fact that since April this year Mark Barry has been Professor of Practice in Connectivity at Cardiff University, “Exploring the wider economic and regional benefits of the South Wales Metro”.

Though some might think that’s an odd post – created specially? – for a man who did his degree at Manchester in Physics and The Analysis of Science & Technology and who, for many years after leaving university, worked in software design. In fact, Barry seems to have neither qualifications nor experience in the fields of transport and communications before he was granted his vision of the Cardiff Metro . . . and sold it to his former employers at the ‘Welsh’ Government. 

This defence of Cardiff’s interests tells us why the Wasting Mule is hostile to the Circuit of Wales, while BBC Wales’ attitude can be explained by the fact that it has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper.

The Circuit of Wales is a real test for the ‘Welsh’ Government, in a number of ways.

First, and most obviously, it is a massive project, promising thousands of jobs, in an area that badly needs those jobs and the economic boost they’ll bring to the wider economy.

Second, it is becoming clear that for those who believe Cardiff must be the hub for all investment in the south east the Circuit of Wales poses a challenge, partly of itself, and partly because it might encourage other distant towns to question their allotted status of dormitory settlements.

The issue can’t be funding alone. Certainly not for the ‘Welsh’ Government which, it is rumoured, will give more than £100m so that near-bankrupt Aston Martin can relocate in the Vale of Glamorgan, very near to Cardiff. And then there are the hundreds of millions of pounds squandered on the Third Sector for what often seems to be no other reason than providing jobs for Labour cronies and hangers-on. Communities First, which has spent over £300m would be a good example.

aston-martin

Then there are the hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller projects that have cumulatively swallowed up more money over the years than Aston Martin, Communities First and all the others we know of. Read this puff from 2013, and then read this from just a few days ago. This project was a non-starter, doomed from the outset – but what the hell, it’s only public money!

What’s worse, is that one of the women involved in this doomed venture, Gill Wright, featured in Ancestral Turf, a post I wrote in September 2014. She belongs to a network of people in the Tywi valley – all of whom seem to be English – who appear to be in competition to dream up ever more ludicrous ‘schemes’ for milking the Welsh public purse. And it works – for they get grant after grant that benefits no one but themselves!

The other woman involved with setting up the Level Crossing Bunkhouse in Llandovery, Jane Ryall, is a ‘social enterprise advisor’. So not only do our funding bodies attract all manner of grant-grabbers to take advantage of the easy money, they also pull in those who are now living off those who are living off the Welsh public purse. And it’s all dressed up as economic activity. What a system!

And how can we forget the land deals that were so beneficial to Sir Gilbert Stanley ‘Stan the Pies’ Thomas yet so damaging to the public purse? For those who need to be reminded, read my posts Pies, Planes & Property Development and the sequel – with the same stars! – Pies, Planes & Property Development 2.

So any reticence on the part of the ‘Welsh’ Government to supporting the Circuit of Wales can’t be due to a fear of wasting public money, or a worry that some malcontents might suggest a lack of financial rectitude. For ‘Welsh’ Labour is inured to such criticism.

The Circuit of Wales offers tangible benefits for thousands of our people and a whole region of our country. Which is why the ‘Welsh’ Government needs to put aside its Cardiff bias, ignore the fact that there may be few sinecures in it for Labour Party cronies, and for once – just once – suppress its suspicion of business and entrepreneurship.

Help it happen!

~ ~ ~ ♦ end ♦ ~ ~ ~ 

UPDATE 17.11.2016: Would you Adam and Eve it! Shippo has returned to the attack on the Circuit of Wales, and what’s more, now he seems to be having a go at my old mate Neil! Bloody hell! where will this end? (Though I note there was no mention of the Brothers Barry.)

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-17-2016

I can’t provide a link because the article doesn’t appear to have been uploaded yet to WalesOnline’s appalling and almost unnavigable website.

UPDATE 24.11.2016: Shippo mounts another attack, this time using a spokesman for the Silverstone circuit.

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-24

click to enlarge

May 162015
 

DAVIES THE DENIER

Reading the Daily Post a couple of days ago I saw that the new MP for Vale of Clwyd, Dr James Davies, campaigned hard on “the decline of Rhyl” and “the NHS”. Which got me wondering . . . how could an anti-devolution Tory possibly benefit from concentrating on these two issues?

The decline of Rhyl is attributable to the growth in cheap, overseas package holidays leading to ‘bucket and spade’ resorts like Rhyl losing their popularity. But this still need not have resulted in the town being surrendered to slum landlords and cross-border agencies to use as a dumping ground for criminals, drug addicts and other undesirables. Such people obviously put a greater strain on local health resources than those who enjoy a less ‘hectic’ lifestyle.DrJamesDavies

Another reason that the health service is under pressure is because large numbers of elderly people move – or are moved by relatives – to Wales. In the area where I live, the coastal stretch between Barmouth and Aberdyfi (including both communities), the 2011 census told us that two-thirds of the population in the 65+ age bracket (which makes up 30.1% of the total population locally) was born in England. (Click here for details.)

A third component becoming ever more apparent is the thousands of people with ‘learning difficulties’ or permanent medical conditions that are being relocated to Wales. This can be attributed to various charities, social housing providers and private landlords lured by the lucre paid by English local authorities and others to take on these vulnerable people, with the burden obviously falling on local services such as health that see none of that money. (This recent piece from Private Eye provides an insight into how councils “package up their vulnerable elderly or disabled people . . . and put them up for online tender”, which can involve moving to another area.)

Given that all these issues put strain on the Welsh NHS, especially in the Vale of Clwyd constituency, and given that all these issues are attributable to our colonial relationship with England, how could an anti-devolution Tory capitalise on them? Who or what did he blame for the problems? The EU? Little green men?

Open your mind to this unbeatable example of surrealist irony: Rhyl drug dealers and the English wrinklies of Prestatyn storming the polling booths to vote for James Davies because they’re angry – bloody angry! – at the decline of Rhyl and the state of the NHS. Only in Wales!

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STAYING IN RHYL

The title to this section does not mean that I’m suggesting people actually stay inKevin John Norman the town (good God!) it just means that this piece is about Rhyl and, in a sense, carries on from the previous section.

I have decided to bow to public demand and compile a new photo collection for my sidebar, to be entitled ‘Residents of Rhyl’. Here’s a specimen who’s been in the news recently for “pleasuring himself” in a public place and will most definitely figure in the new album. (And to think that only last year he was a contender for the ‘Best Dressed Man in Rhyl’ crown.)

For younger readers, ‘pleasuring oneself’ is a rather archaic way of referring to masturbation. Though some sentimentalists may find it rather nice to see these terms of yesteryear being revived.

In his defence, he may have misunderstood the sign for the ‘Pleasure Beach’, perhaps thinking that the ‘Self-‘ bit had fallen off in the wind. And even if it hadn’t, Rhyl and Pleasure in the same sentence would be enough to confuse anyone.

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A PLAGUE OF DAVIESES

Observant readers will have noticed that the three new Tory MPs elected last week are all named Davies. In addition to Jimbo (above) there was Byron in Gower and Chris in Brecon & Radnor. There was already David Davies as MP for Monmouth, and of course there’s Glyn Davies in Montgomeryshire. Which means that five out of the eleven Tory MPs elected in 2015 are named Davies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly is Andrew R T Davies! And who’s the Deputy Leader – Paul Davies!!

This is not good. I mean, having so many Tory politicians in Wales is bad for a start, but that so many of the buggers are called Davies takes us into the scary realm of premonition and plagues. For I seem to recall that there’s an obscure Nostradamus quatrain that predicts all sorts of disasters befalling the land when this happens. I’ll try to dig it out for you.

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STAYING WITH BUGGERS

The late and unlamented George Thomas, Lord Tonypandy, is still making the news. The most recent allegation to surface is that he inappropriately touched a young man on a London to Aberystwyth train many years ago. Well, you’ve got to do something to while away the time, train journeys can be sooo boring.

OK, sorry, but it’s so easy to take the piss, a closet homosexual who gave the game away with his love of the leggings, wigs and all the other nonsense he got to wear as Speaker of the House of Commons and a peer. (Not for nothing was he known as ‘The Danny La Rue of the Rhondda’.) Then there was his truly odious fawning over young Charles Saxe-Coburg-GothaGeorge Thomas during the Investiture period. (Though I bet they never left him alone with the boy!) What’s not so funny is that this bastard was a very influential politician, who had powerful friends and allies, both within Wales and beyond.

When considering cases like Thomas we must remember that all MPs are investigated by the intelligence services. Ostensibly done as security checks this process also uncovers an individual’s likes and dislikes, peccadilloes and weaknesses. Once a weakness is identified, and the embarrassing evidence is gathered, then whoever holds that information has great power over the politician concerned. I think we can be certain that George Thomas’ liking for boys and young men would have come to the attention of such people very early in his political career.

But you mustn’t think that this is a one-sided arrangement, for the ‘victim’ in this situation does not have to worry about being publicly exposed as long as he plays ball. Also, any attempts at blackmailing him will be dealt with. Documents and files can be ‘lost’. People like George Thomas are then free to carry on abusing.

Such arrangements help explain how judges, high-ranking military men, top civil servants, MPs and others could meet regularly for orgies at which young boys were abused and even killed. It was because those involved almost certainly enjoyed the protection of a certain agency and in return did what they were told when those running this agency wanted the favour returned. A practice perhaps developed in Northern Ireland, at the infamous Kincora Boys Home, used for decades as a honey trap.

The United Kingdom is a sick, corrupt and increasingly unequal state. The sooner we get out of it the better.

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REVOLVING DOORS

I am indebted to ‘Stan’ of the Neath Ferret site for this latest news from within the Labour Party on the east side of Swansea Bay. Councillor Ms Cari Morgans, who represents the Tonna ward on Neath Port Talbot council, was the office manager for outgoing Neath MP Peter Hain. She is now office manager for Stephen Kinnock, the newly-elected MP for Aberavon. Seeing as we are dealing here with the Labour Party this switch in masters could only have been effected after a full and open selection process . . . a very speedy selection process indeed.

UPDATE 17.05.2015: I am now informed that jobs for new MPs’ staff should be advertised. (Read this.) This is unlikely to have been done in this case because Ms Morgans registered her interest (as Kinnock’s office manager) with Neath Port Talbot council very soon after Kinnock was elected. Which would have allowed no time for advertising the post and selecting the successful candidate after May 7th. Which suggests that any ‘selection process’ was probably completed before Stephen Kinnock was elected MP for Aberavon, or else there was no advertisement and no selection process at all. Which would almost certainly be wrong, if not illegal.

An MP’s office manager, working outside of London, is paid in the range £26,000 – £38,121. But then, I suppose it’s fair in a way that Ms Morgans gets this salary, because I doubt if Port Talbot will see any more of Stephen Kinnock than the Islwyn constituency saw of his father.

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THE INLAND RHYL?

When I first visited Blaenau Ffestiniog back in the 1960s it was quite unnerving. ‘This can’t be north Wales’, I told myself, ‘with its rows of terraced houses and enormous slag heaps this place belongs in the Valleys’. It was my introduction to the slate-quarrying region of the north west, or what, even by that time, had become the former slate-quarrying region.

The slate industry has all but gone, Blaenau’s population has halved, while successive governments in London and Cardiff have done nothing to halt the decline. One result of that decline is thaCN Brennant Blaenau Ffestiniog now has some of the cheapest, if not the cheapest housing to found in Wales outside of the Heads of the Valleys. Cheap property – as in Rhyl – attracts buyers who have no intention of living in Blaenau themselves but are adept at finding tenants of the kind that local authorities and other agencies over the border will pay a lot of money to get rid of. ‘Out of sight, out of mind . . . and somebody else’s problem’. (So look out Heads of the Valleys!)

This week’s Cambrian News (no, I didn’t buy it) carried the latest story about a thug who’s been dumped in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Read it for yourself by clicking to enlarge the image on the right. In addition to what the report tells us Carl Martin Brennan has stabbed a local boy with a bottle, mugged an alcoholic (though not charged), and beat up his girlfriend. Not a welcome addition to any community, so how did he get to Blaenau Ffestiniog, who ‘encouraged’ him to move from Birmingham?

Last year two local men were jailed for over three years each following a vigilante attack on Brennan. Commenting after their trial Detective Sergeant Gerwyn Thomas of North Wales Police said: “I welcome the sentence and hope it will provide the victim and local community with reassurance that North Wales Police will relentlessly pursue those individuals who commit offences of this nature which fortunately are not common in the area”. Which is not how people in Blaenau see it. They want protection against Brennan, not against local lads who were doing the police’s job in protecting them.

In fact, the people of the town are becoming increasingly angry at the charmed life Brennan leads, they wonder who’s protecting him, and how he manages to stay out of prison. They also wonder what sort of system we live under when two young fathers from their community are languishing in prison while Brennan is still strutting the streets of Blaenau, bullying and intimidating people.

Before this saga causes any more misery maybe North Wales Police should start doing its job by looking out for the people it’s supposed to protect rather than baby-sitting a dangerous and violent criminal, for reasons that can only be guessed at. And maybe it’s also time for Cyngor Gwynedd to stop Blaenau turning into a housing benefit sink-hole full of relocated misfits and criminals. Perhaps the newly-elected MP might have something to say on the matter. I certainly don’t pay my council tax to keep the likes of Carl Martin Brennan in a town where no one wants him.

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‘DON’T AFFECT US ROUND ‘ERE’

What I’ve written about Rhyl and Blaenau Ffestiniog is of course not confined to these towns, the problem of undesirables being shunted from England can be found in Colwyn Bay, Barmouth, Holyhead, Fishguard and countless other communities that have seen better days. As for the influx of elderly people this tends to take place in the more agreeable towns and the countryside, though those that move directly into retirement homes can be found anywhere.

People living elsewhere in Wales, particularly city dwellers, might take the view that this doesn’t affect them a) because they’ve already got enough of their own criminals and b) few people retire to Swansea or Cardiff. Wrong. The NHS could almost certainly be providing a better service in Cardiff, Swansea and other major centres if so much of Wales’ NHS funding was not being diverted to hospitals and services in the west, the centre and the north to treat people, many of whom weren’t even living in Wales 10 years ago. It all comes out of one pot.

Another drain on Welsh funding is housing benefit, that bonus for greedy and unscrupulous private landlords. A few figures extracted from this table I used in my recent post To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit! will explain the problem. Powys has a population (mid-year est. 2013) of 132,705, Conwy’s population is 115,835. Yet last year Powys paid out just £8.66m to private landlords in housing benefit while Conwy coughed up £18.11m. Why the difference? Because Conwy contains Llandudno and other coastal towns. Even starker is the difference between Monmouthshire (92,100 & £6.16m) and Denbighshire (94,510 & £17.65m). What’s the difference here? Rhyl is in Denbighshire. But the whole of Wales is paying for Rhyl and similar towns because the ‘Welsh’ Government has to give more in grants to areas being inundated with undesirables from England and this means less for other councils.

On top of which, there is the endless funding poured into Rhyl and other towns for ‘regeneration’ schemes. And those who’ve been brought over the border and dumped in some slum in Holyhead or Denbigh can then jump the housing queue ahead of locals! Which means that Registered Social Landlords such as housing associations are, in many areas, building far more new properties than the local population needs. And who pays for this? YOU DO, no matter where you might be living in Wales. Because of course the ‘Welsh’ Government gives out Social Housing Grant. In the six years 2008 to 2013 the figure was £692m.

This is colonialism of the crudest and most offensive kind. A large country dumps its criminals, its elderly and other dependent groups on a small neighbour – and then gets the neighbour to pay for all this out its own stretched resources! The dumped-on neighbour is too afraid to speak out for fear of being called ‘unwelcoming’, or ‘racist’. (Though it must be said that there are many who welcome this cross-border trafficking as an anglicising strategy; in addition, there are many doing well out of it, not least ‘Welsh’ Labour’s client class in the Third Sector.)

So while there may be a temptation to dismiss what’s being done to Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog and other places as someone else’s problem, it’s not. It’s YOUR problem because it’s happening in YOUR country and one way or another YOU are paying for it, no matter where in Wales you live.

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‘HA, HA, HA, THEY DON’T HAVE THESE IN AUCHTERMUCHTY!’

To end on a lighter note . . . or is it? Judge for yourselves. We all know that the BBC is now thoroughly discredited as an impartial conveyor of news. Its bias was plain for all to see in the Scottish referendum campaign last summer, not so much party political as thoroughly English and Unionist. Well, it was at it again this week, the culprit being Newsnight, and again, it was having a go at the SNP . . . but hoping to get away with it due to its ‘humorous’ approach.

Newsnight on Monday May 11th ran a piece about the new intake of MPs, but then concentrated entirely on the SNP contingent, and had a laugh showing them struggling with complicated things like revolving doors and ticket machines on the Tube. See it here for yourself on BBC iPlayer and start at 43:20. This strikes me as the twenty-first century equivalent of old Punch cartoons showing African chiefs with bones through their noses visiting the imperial capital and being overawed by English superiority and white man’s magic.

Newsnight SNP