Green Party of Englandandwales

Oct 162017
 

CHANGE OF VENUE TO CATER FOR GREAT RESPONSE

The response to the original post, put up last Wednesday, has been excellent. Many, many people have said they’ll be coming and a healthy number of donations has been received. I have also received apologies from those who would have come but for various reasons can’t make it.

For example, an old mate of mine who’s stood for Plaid Cymru many times had already arranged to take his missus to Amsterdam that weekend. But I know he’s serious because he sent £100 to be getting on with. Another who has previous plans is Big Gee.

But what’s really encouraging is that the majority of the messages, and the donations, have come from people I don’t know – and I’ve been around a long time! It tells me that there is out there – in Wales and beyond – a constituency that cares about our country, appreciates the mess it’s in, but has no faith in any of the existing parties to tackle the problems.

In fact the response has been so encouraging that I’ve had to find a larger venue, which is the reason for this update.

The meeting will still be held on November 4th, between 1pm and 5pm, and still in Aberystwyth, but the venue is now changed to the Ocean Room at the Belle Vue Royal Hotel.

So we’ve moved a short distance along the Promenade to a room that holds around 100 people. And if this isn’t big enough then we’ll all go out onto the beach and have an al fresco meeting. I’m sure we’ll find somebody to lead the singing.

The bar will be open, so I repeat what I suggested in the first post, “It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.”

My contribution will consist of little more than thanking everyone for attending before passing the meeting over to the pro tem chairman. So is anyone volunteering for that role, or does someone have a name to suggest? We need someone with experience of controlling a meeting.

Is anyone volunteering to take minutes?

At some point before the end of the meeting we shall also need to select a steering committee until the first AGM at which a full committee can be elected. Again, are there volunteers, or nominees? We shall need a chair, secretary, minutes secretary, press secretary, membership secretary, treasurer, and perhaps six other committee members.

This meeting is obviously difficult to organise because by and large we’ll be a bunch of strangers starting from scratch. So I’m open to suggestions that might facilitate its smooth running.

More good news is that Aled Job has agreed to act as translator and to do it for free as long as we pay to hire the headsets. This means that speakers will be able to use either Welsh or English.

There will be tea and coffee available in the Ocean Room and if we can start at 1pm prompt we can have a break at 2:45, but we must be out by 5pm at the very latest because there’s a wedding party there in the evening and the room needs to be set up for that function.

As you might have expected, my earlier post, and the prospect of a new party that might achieve something for Wales, got the predictable responses from certain quarters.

WAS ONCE A JOURNALIST

Former BBC man Phil Parry waded in with an absurd piece entitled The Royston family, in which he trundled out his oft-repeated lies about me accompanied by various photos including – yet again! – the one of Cayo Evans holding a gun.

This picture from the 1960s, which I’ve published a number of times on this blog, really gets under Parry’s skin, and that of his mate Martin Shipton over at Llais y Sais. A couple of years back Shipton tweeted me thinking I’d back down after he’d publicised my use of the picture, when I didn’t, he seemed confused.

They presumably hoped that being challenged would make me recant. When they realised that wasn’t going to happen, that I was proud to display the picture, it seemed to affect the wiring in their BritNat brains.

For they’re unable to grasp that the FWA is part of Welsh history, and that many Welsh people have fond memories of Cayo, Dennis and the rest, even a sneaking regard. The only ones who still get agitated over the Free Wales Army are anti-Welsh elements trying to dress up their atavism – even racism – as reasoned opposition to ‘extreme nationalism’. Something of which they of course are mercifully free.

Parry I can ignore, and would have, but using that title went a little too far. Attack me by all means, I’m a big boy who can answer back, but ‘The Royston family’ is my wife, children, grandchildren.

Maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing, because writing about him here will probably encourage ten times as many visits to his site as the original posting generated.

THE WEEKLY ‘SPOT THE CHARLATAN’ COMPETITION

Talking of sad buggers brings me to another of my critics, Martyn Shrewsbury . . . if that is his name, because there are all sorts of question marks hanging over ‘Shrewsbury’. At one time he seems to have been using the name Rowlands. It’s alleged there have been other names.

As might be expected, he is one of those for whom the truth is somewhat ‘elastic’, but then, he’s a philosopher! An example of this elasticity came some five years ago when he was almost sent down for lying to creditors.

By profession ‘Shrewsbury’ claims to be a psychologist offering Asclepius Therapy treatment at a Swansea clinic. It all sounds a bit New Age to me, but I could be wrong.

Maybe he’s a traditionalist and uses the swinging pocket watch technique, while intoning, ‘Your eyelids are heavy . . . you have an irresistible urge to hand over your wallet’. (I’m sure Groucho did a good portrayal in one of his movies.)

Politically, ‘Shrewsbury’ belongs to the Green Party of Englandandwales, and has stood numerous times for Westminster and the Notional Assembly, without ever overworking the vote counters.

Some years ago he hitched his wagon to the star that was Pippa Bartolotti, then leader of the Wales region of said party, and served her faithfully, to the extent of smearing her opponents using a host of phoney identities.

Among these were ‘Green Dragon’ and ‘Brig Strawbridge’ (the latter an obvious take on veteran Green Brig Oubidge). All explained here. You know, the more I learn about the Green Party the more vivid becomes the unsummoned image of ferrets in a sack.

How could Plaid Cymru ever consider a pact with a party that is itself split into 57 varieties of two-faced, back-stabbing, self-promoting individuals incapable of co-operating with each other let alone with another party!

Everything about the Greens seems to be transitory, or in a permanent state of confusion. Writing this I referred back to More on the Green Party of Englandandwales, which I wrote in November 2014, but none of the links to Green Party sources work any longer!

The only thing that might be said in ‘Shrewsbury’s favour is that he claims to want independence. Though this claim would be more credible if he didn’t belong to a party that doesn’t even recognise the existence of Wales.

♦ end ♦

May 082016
 

In my previous post I told you that I was going to vote for Independent Louise Hughes as my constituency AM, and that’s what I did. She didn’t win, nobody expected her to win, but she finished fifth in a seven-horse race, above the Lib Dem and Green candidates; the second of those – and bottom of the poll – being Alice Hooker-Stroud, the recently elected leader of the Wales region of the Green Party of Englandandwales. So well done Louise for beating a party leader. (Well, a regional leader anyway.)

Dwyfor-M

CLICK TO ENLARGE

In fact, the poor showing by the Greens was for me one of the highlights of the night. Clearly their electoral appeal has been greatly over-estimated by just about everyone, especially themselves. I don’t think a single Green constituency candidate reached 4% (can’t be bothered to check them all), while on the regional lists, where they might have been expected to do better, they polled just 3%, a drop of 0.5% on 2011.

Not even that grande dame of the local Greens, Pippa Bartolotti, could break through the 3% barrier. What is wrong with the voters of Newport West; they are offered as a candidate the woman who’s led the Greens to the giddy heights they now occupy and yet the fools refused to elect her! Never mind, posterity will I’m sure be gentle on her. For her amanuensis, ex-con Martyn Shrewsbury, is hard at work right now making up excuses for the woman he adores . . . but does she reciprocate? And if so, how? And do you really want to think about it!

The Greens are so adept at self-publicity that we tend to forget what a tiny and insignificant party they really are.

You’ll see from the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency figures above that as elsewhere the new ingredient in the mix was UKIP, whose candidate on my patch, Frank Wykes, got 10.6% of the vote. Wykes describes himself as a Cornishman, which is rather disappointing. And this picture (below) don’t do him no favours either. Looks like it’s been taken from inside the female changing room at the local swimming pool . . . possibly with the same phone used to send the unsettling image to the gendarmerie. Leg it, Frankie!

Frank Wykes

The figures suggest that in Dwyfor Meirionnydd it was the Tories who took the hit from UKIP. (So it’s not all bad news.) Though I note with some anger that candidate Neil Fairlamb labels himself ‘Welsh Conservative’. No you are not! – you are an English bloody Conservative who happens to be in Wales; there is nothing Welsh about you apart from your location. I represent that elite and transcendental band of true Welsh Tories, a man without a port of call, a political Flying Dutchman.

On the regional list I voted Liberal Democrat in the hope of seeing William Powell, a very decent and capable man, re-elected, but again, my hopes were dashed. The four elected on the regional list were Joyce Watson and Eluned Morgan for Labour, Simon Thomas for Plaid and – wait for it! – Mr and Mrs Neil Hamilton for UKIP. I mention them both because although Hamilton N. is, technically, the elected Assembly Member, his missus Christine will be doing the thinking and the talking for him.

What really did for William Powell though was not the calibre of the opposition – couldn’t be, could it! – but the re-election of Kirsty Williams in Brecon and Radnor coupled with the general decline in the Lib Dem vote elsewhere. Sad, but that’s how this Labour-biased electoral system operates.

Mid and West Wales

CLICK TO ENLARGE

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Of course the one result everyone is talking about is Rhondda (make that ‘Rhonnda’ if you’re in UKIP) where Plaid leader Leanne Wood beat the popular and unassuming Labour candidate, Leighton Andrews. Yes, they were dancing in the streets of Treorchy on Friday morning when the result was announced. But then, they’re always dancing in the streets of Treorchy.

Though if you want an illustration of how far the Liberal Democrats have sunk then the Rhondda result provides it. Here the Green candidate got 1.1% of the vote – but still beat the Lib Dem candidate on 0.7%.

The Rhondda result was obviously a victory for a well-respected local candidate, unfortunately Plaid Cymru was unable to repeat this victory elsewhere in the south. Though two results deserve to be mentioned.

First, Neil McEvoy giving Labour a fright in Cardiff West, the first of many frights, I’m sure. Delighted though to see Neil elected on the South Wales Central regional list. I just hope that the Plaid establishment doesn’t ‘get to’ him. Plaid Cymru needs more Neil McEvoys and fewer sons of the manse and masters of cynghanedd, and fewer entryists using the party to promote socialist, environmentalist and other agendas.

And then there was the somewhat overlooked result in Blaenau Gwent. A result that in some ways was more praiseworthy than Rhondda and Cardiff West. There Nigel Copner – a name new to me – came within 650 votes of the winning Labour candidate. In the process local boy Professor Copner increased the Plaid share of the vote by a staggering 31.2%.

Overall, and given the problems being experienced by their rivals (dealt with below) Plaid’s very modest increase in both constituency (+1.3%) and list votes (+3.0%) must be viewed as a failure.

*

For the Conservatives it was also a case of little real change. They must be disappointed to have lost three seats and not to have repeated their 2015 successes in Gower and Vale of Clwyd, though in both constituencies they closed the gap on Labour incumbents who saw support fall away.

And they must be wondering what might have been if local leader Andrew R T Davies had contested the Vale of Glamorgan rather than sticking with the regional list. As it was the Tory candidate came within 777 votes of Labour minister Jane Hutt . . . but the seat might have been won if local farmer Davies had stood. There might yet be repercussions from his decision.

Yet the Tories had to contend with the rise of UKIP and the fact that the party on UK and Welsh levels is split over next month’s EU referendum; then there’s the crisis in the steel industry, the Panama papers, and the fact that many in Wales believe Cameron and Osborne are planning the reintroduction of workhouses.

Putting it all together the party’s showing wasn’t too bad at all. Down just 3.9% in the constituency share of the vote and 3.7% on the regional lists could even be seen as rather good in the circumstances.

*

For the first time UKIP now has Assembly Members, and an interesting bunch they are, who will provide hours of side-splitting entertainment, to the point where many of you will actually miss them when UKIP finally implodes.

Though it might not have come to pass without a favourable alignment in the heavens that saw the Assembly elections precede the EU referendum. Had it been the other way round there might be no UKIP AMs.

Hamiltons

But already the ‘scorpion’ impulse is asserting itself and just days after the elections Christine Neil Hamilton is challenging Nathan Gill for the leadership – yet Gill was anointed by Farage himself! The entertainment has started! Though the leadership challenge can’t take place until Hamilton has taken the Oath of Allegiance (to Mrs Windsor), this is delayed as it’s proving awkward for him to get to Cardiff from his English home.

Perhaps now that he’s back among us we should start using his first given name. To help you become familiar with it, I shall henceforth refer to the new AM for Mid and West Wales as Mostyn Hamilton.

*

The real winner last Thursday was quite obviously the Labour Party. With an aggregate vote of 33.1% Labour gained 49.3% of the seats in what is supposed to be a system of proportional representation. It is nothing of the sort. It is a system designed to give the impression of being a PR system while reinforcing the position of the largest party. A system chosen by Labour to benefit Labour.

Let us hope that with the long promised reorganisation of Westminster constituencies there comes a better PR model. Or if we must stick to the same model, then there must be an increase in the number of regional list seats. In the Scottish Parliament 56 of the 129 seats are regional seats, that’s 43.4%. Here in Wales of course it’s 20 out of 60, or 33.3%. Come to that, why does Scotland have more than twice the number of MSPs for a population well short of double ours?

If, as is predicted, Wales’ representation at Westminster is reduced to 29 or 30 constituencies then this would provide the perfect opportunity to reform the system for Assembly elections. But whatever happens in the future it is now clear that the current system for electing AMs is flawed and discredited. It must be reformed.

Hello, Hello, Hello

I can’t finish without mentioning the Police and Crime Commissioner elections that also took place last Thursday, the results of which have just been announced. Labour took Gwent and South Wales while Plaid Cymru took North and Dyfed Powys.

PCC Dyfed Powys

A very good result for Plaid Cymru, and with Arfon Jones becoming PCC for GogPlod it means that I got one out of three right last Thursday. But then, with my constituency choice being a no-hoper (sorry, Louise), my list choice a long shot, Arfon was always my best chance of getting one right.

I don’t know Dafydd Llywelyn the new Dyfed Powys PCC at all, but someone has been trying to tell me there was something irregular about his selection. The allegation being that he had not been a party member for the stipulated length of time before being selected as a candidate. Surely not!

I would hate to think that Plaid Cymru is slipping into the bad practices of other parties.

~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~

NEXT: Why are housing associations allowed to use public funding to build properties for sale to ‘investors’? And more . . .

Apr 022016
 

Yes, I know, Port Talbot isn’t the only Tata plant affected by the company’s decision to put its UK operation up for sale, but it is the biggest, and serves as useful shorthand.

Rather than giving instant remedies or exposing my ignorance by trying to discuss EU regulations on state aid, or the impact of carbon tax and business rates, let alone the statistics on Chinese steel production and exports, I shall stick to my comfort zone by considering political responses and impacts, winners and losers, and also the possible outcomes.

But first, let me indulge in a little reminiscing.

*

I grew up just around the Bay from Port Talbot steelworks and I can remember the plant in the mid-’60s when it employed 20,000 men and the wages paid earned it the soubriquet ‘Treasure Island’. Much of its steel went on to the tinplate works at Trostre in Llanelli and Velindre on the north side of Swansea (where I worked for a short while). Velindre is long gone, but Trostre has struggled on and is now in the same position as Port Talbot.

And if you’ve driven past and think the smells and the smoke of Port Talbot are bad nowadays, then you should have seen it in the ’60s and ’70s. It wasn’t just that the steelworks produced more smoke and smells back then, there were other plants nearby making their contribution.

Just up the road, on the Swansea side of the steel plant, in Baglan Bay, we had one of the largest petrochemical sites in Europe, employing another 2,500 men. A couple of miles inland there was the Llandarcy oil refinery with the same number of employees. Then there was the Tir John power station taking us up to the eastern outskirts of Swansea, where the East Side made its contribution to the shit and the smell with the never-to-be-forgotten Carbon Black plant.

Llandarcy

This spewed out such filth that it resulted in regular protests by local housewives, who couldn’t put washing on the line to dry without it being covered in a dust that also got indoors and clung to everything.

My first-hand experience of Carbon Black came through a summer job I took when at Coleg Harlech. I was employed to sweep the floors inside the plant, where the filth lay inches thick. I was provided with a brush and a rudimentary face mask . . . and that was it. I handed in my brush after a few hours and went to a nearby pub to ease my throat.

The whole area from the east side of Swansea over to Neath and down to Port Talbot was a complex of heavy industry, a nightmare for any proto-Green. And yet, if we add in Swansea docks, the ancillary jobs in transport and other fields, this triangle of smoke and smells provided tens of thousands of well paid jobs for semi-skilled and unskilled men. Most of these jobs have gone, and will never be replaced.

I had many friends and family members working at these various plants, and of course at the steelworks, and not just for the then owner, the Steel Company of Wales. For example, there was a boy I met in Penlan school with whom I became good friends (after the introductory fight); his family had come down from Kilmarnock and his father worked for British Rail in the steelworks’ marshalling yards, said to be the biggest in the world after those at the Chicago stock yards.

Then there was a friend of ours in the post-school era working in the steel works. One night he went over to Port Talbot to hear a promising young singer named Tom Jones. On the way back into Swansea, driving along the Jersey Marine in his Wolseley 1500, he was somehow thrown from his car, which then rolled over onto him. I think Keith was the first close friend I lost.

*

THE POLITICAL DIMENSION

The Conservatives

I suppose the Tories’ attitude was summed up accurately and succinctly by Paul Mason when he wrote, ‘Steel Crisis; they do not give a shit’. There are a number of reasons for this being true beyond the Tories being wedded to a blind and unthinking neoliberalism.

The future the Tories envision for the UK is of smart people doing clever things and making lots of money in clean environments with the economy topped up by sheikhs and oligarchs investing hundreds of billions in property and other deals that can be accomplished with a signature. Fundamentally, it’s a fantasy world in which people make lots of money doing very little, certainly not from producing anything other than hi tech gadgetry or financial packages that no one can understand.

There is no place in this vision for steel works and towns like Port Talbot. Such places are alien to Old Etonian politicians. Not only are they distant in terms of miles, and in considerations of social class, they are also distant in time, because they belong to the past, they have no place the glittering future I bewitched you with in the previous paragraph.

Gold cars

Of course, one of the major problems with this vision is that it’s very London-centric, extending only as far as the Home Counties in which many of the new elite will be living. Because you can bet that Sheikh Mohammed bin Slaveholder al Head-chopper is unlikely to be looking for a £30m mansion in Llanelli or Scunthorpe any time soon. Which explains attempts to placate the increasingly resentful natives north of Watford with ‘beads’ like HS2 and talk of a ‘northern powerhouse’.

On a more pragmatic, electoral level, the Tories have nothing to lose in towns like Port Talbot or any similar community in Wales, Scotland or England. You can’t lose support or seats if you haven’t got any to start with. So the truth is, as Paul Mason says, the Tories don’t give a shit.

Unconvincing expressions of concern will be heard, money will be doled out – there might even be a short-term nationalisation – but this hiccup will not be allowed to interfere with the march towards the post-industrial Bright Tomorrow, in which the sons and daughters of today’s Port Talbot steelworkers will be City traders or internet tycoons . . . or, more likely, working just up the road at the vast Amazon warehouse, on the minimum wage, with one toilet break a week.

Though it will be interesting to see how the local Tories deal with the steel crisis in the Assembly election campaign. Who will they blame?

*

The Labour Party

For Labour the steel crisis is much more complex and worrying. Not least because it was the equally laissez-faire New Labour governments that helped get us into this mess by nodding through British Steel’s merger with Koninklijke Hoogovens of the Netherlands in 1999 to form Corus, and then twiddling their thumbs when Corus was bought by Tata Steel of India in 2007.

The New Model Labour Party of Citizen Corbyn seems rather more concerned than the party led by Blair and Broon, but there’s little they can do out of power. Though in fairness to young Owen ap Dai ap Smith he didn’t wait for the fat lady to sing before putting the boot in, here he is at the start of February accusing Cameron and Osborne of kissing China’s arse!

Another scion of an anti-Welsh Labour family, the Boy Kinnock, actually took himself off to Mumbai, where the Tata board was deliberating. Quite what he hoped to achieve beyond a little self-promotion is a bit of a mystery. But then, showboating was always part of his father’s political repertoire, though I advise the young ‘un to avoid beaches with incoming tides.

Labour logo

Closer to home, our self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ can only be compared to rabbits caught in the headlights. There are a number of reasons for this. One, they have no experience of business, let alone business on this scale. Two, they simply aren’t aren’t up to the challenge intellectually. Three – and for this they are probably thankful – they don’t have the power to do anything.

That said, this announcement comes at a good time in the electoral cycle for ‘Welsh’ Labour, with Assembly elections just over a month away they can blame the ‘heartless’ Tories for everything and hope that voters don’t remember their party’s role in this tragedy.

And as usual there will be a cynical appeal to the ignorance and confusion of many Welsh voters as Labour – despite being impotent in Cardiff and in opposition in London – urges people to vote for Carwyn and the gang so that Labour can ‘save Port Talbot’.

*

Plaid Cymru

The steel crisis should be Plaid Cymru’s Christmas, Easter and St David’s Day all rolled into one. It gives them the chance to attack both major parties, English rule, and foreign ownership of Welsh assets. Thus far, I can only assume that Plaid is waiting its chance, holding its cards close to its chest . . . or maybe it doesn’t realise it has these cards.

I would suggest that rather than asking for anything absurd or impossible – such as demanding that the ‘Welsh’ Government nationalises the steel industry – Plaid Cymru should gather the evidence on the merger and the take-over that Labour allowed to go through when in power, and the Tories’ opposition to the EU raising tariffs on Chinese steel, the refusal by both parties to reduce energy costs for plants like Port Talbot, and compare those betrayals of the Welsh people with what Plaid Cymru would do if it was in power down Cardiff docks.

And stressing a betrayal of the Welsh people should be Plaid Cymru’s approach, rather than going all socialist and linking arms with Labour and the trade unions. Because unless Plaid Cymru’s voice is distinctive, and distinctively Welsh, then there’s really no point to Plaid Cymru, in this debate, or any other situation.

*

Liberal Democrats

I know I’m normally harsh on the Lib Dems, but over the years it’s been difficult not to be harsh, and at times almost impossible to take them seriously. And then, in my more mellow moments (not always induced by alcohol!) I think, ‘Weeel, maybe they’re not too bad’. ‘What brings this on?’ you ask.

To start with, there’s Kirsty Williams, the LD leader in Wales. Things have been tough in recent years for her party but she’s stuck with it and deserves a break. She’s a gutsy woman who I’m warming to.

Another LD AM who’s impressed me is William Powell. For one thing, he turns up at Cilmeri in December, where we rarely see Plaid politicians and never Labour or Conservative. (Nor UKIP, come to that!) And then there was the petition I submitted to the Assembly asking that it do something to stop chief executives taking over councils.

Petitions Committee

It was clear that Powell recognised the importance of this issue but the two committee members who ‘discussed’ my petition, Labour’s Joyce Watson and Plaid’s Elin Jones, couldn’t dump it quickly enough. Powell might get my second vote on May 5th.

But I digress.

On the specific issue of the sale of Tata’s UK operations, the Lib Dems – in the shy, retiring form of Peter Black – have called for the Notional Assembly to be recalled. Which might sound like a good idea until we remember that the Assembly is impotent, and what calls itself the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a collection of buffoons. A recall would be nothing more than a pointless gesture and a platform for narcissistic buggers like Black.

In many ways the Lib Dems’ position should not be a lot different to that of Plaid Cymru – ‘A pox on both your houses!’ So I would suggest that Kirsty leads her troops forward with all guns blazing . . . hoping few will remember that her party kept the Tories in power between 2010 and 2015, during which period the problems that have brought us to this crisis were allowed to build and build.

*

The Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales

They won’t like me for saying this, but I know that the Greenies were secretly jumping for joy when they heard that all those smelly, polluting steel plants are to close. But of course they can’t admit that.

What they can do, apparently, is write stupid letters to the press, such as the one below that appeared in Friday’s Wasting Mule. The writer seems to believe that the Port Talbot steel works can be powered by wind turbines, solar panels and fairy dust.

Then again, it could have been a piss-take, for Friday was April 1st.

Green steel

I issue these rebukes with a heavy heart, fearing that I might lose some of the many friends I’ve made in the Green Party over recent years. Oh yes.

*

UKIP

If any political party is crass and insensitive enough to make cheap political capital out of tens of thousands of people losing their jobs, then of course that party is UKIP.

Not only does the steel crisis give M. Farage et Co the chance to go nuclear on ‘Europe’, it also provides the opportunity to put the boot into Conservatives and Labour, with the cherry on top being the chance to have a go at the Chinese, the Indians, and just about anybody else they can think of.

UKIP will I’m sure argue that this steel crisis thingy would never have happened if everything was still managed by those splendid chaps down the clubhouse. Better decisions are made after six or seven drinks and a few cigars – everyone knows that! Don’t laugh, a lot of people will believe them.

A few months ago UKIP was predicted to win anything up to nine seats in May’s Assembly elections then, more recently, I’ve seen polls suggesting that support is slipping. The steel crisis could put them back to where they were earlier in the year, and the Tory-supporting media transferring the blame onto the EU might even take the UKIP vote in Wales to new heights.

However you cut it, UKIP is the party with most chance of gaining in May’s elections from the steel crisis.

*

SNP

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me.

There were a couple of steel plants in Scotland, admittedly much smaller than Port Talbot, that were saved from closure in the past few weeks thanks to decisive action by the Scottish National Party government. Here’s a report from the Guardian.

But this action didn’t please everybody. Here’s a more recent report from the Labour-supporting Daily Record (the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror) telling us that the Labour-controlled Community union is ‘questioning’ the deal.

To explain . . . there are elections in Scotland on May 5th also, and the SNP is almost guaranteed to win by a landslide. So one interpretation of this bizarre intervention by Community is that embittered Labour supporters are prepared to sabotage the Scottish steel deal for short-term political advantage.

Surely Labour wouldn’t do that?

Oh, yes, and remember, the Boy Kinnock was chaperoned on his trip to India by representatives of the same trade union. Whose interests were they looking out for – the steelworkers or the Labour Party?

*

EU Referendum

Speaking of the EU reminds us that on June 23rd we have the referendum on whether to stay in or to leave. The fate of the steel industry is bound to influence the way many people vote, especially in Wales. And seeing as Wales gives us the paradox of many Labour voters reading English Tory newspapers then prolonging the crisis can only help the Brexit cause.

Thinking more obliquely, this realisation that the steel crisis could decide a currently too-close-to-call referendum might prompt the EU into action; and if Cameron is serious about staying in the EU, then he might have to discreetly explain to his Chinese chums that – until the referendum is won – he might need to sound a little ‘hostile’, even agreeing to raise tariffs on Chinese steel imports.

When you consider all the possible ramifications you realise that, serious as the crisis in the steel industry is for those directly – or even indirectly – involved, the closure of Port Talbot and the other plants could have long-term and far-reaching implications that overshadow the loss of jobs.

In many ways Prime Minister Cameron is the one to watch, because with the EU referendum complicating things, him not wanting to be seen as a callous toff, yet having to protect the interests of his mates in the City by not offending the Chinese, the next few weeks could be interesting for those who like to watch nifty footwork.

As the Chinese themselves are reported to say, ‘May you live in interesting times’. (Though some say it’s delivered as a curse, not a blessing.)

 

Dec 072015
 

CHINA TO RHIGOS

Not so long ago I wrote about the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project, and developer Vattenfall’s use of bribery to win over or silence the local populace. (Click here and scroll down to the section Vattenfall of Money.) Well now I know the route by which the turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be arriving . . . from China. Yes, China.

Because despite what it says on the Pen y Cymoedd website about, “Siemens, our turbine supplier”, they were not made in Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. We have here a Swedish nationalised industry with a German partner importing wind turbines from China! A journey of some 10,000 nautical miles by the quickest route and taking 22 days at 20 knots. Twenty-two days of a huge ship belching smoke, spilling oil, ‘accidentally’ emptying the bilges, and all manner of things falling overboard.

Though in fairness, it is suggested that these turbines, each in three sections (plus blades and spindle), will be shipped from China to Immingham (the major container port just south of Hull) in one consignment, before being broken down into smaller cargoes for trans-shipping to Swansea. The distance from Immingham to Swansea is 606 nautical miles so if, as suggested, coastal vessels are used, each carrying the component parts of a single turbine, this adds up to a further 92,000 nautical miles (counting return trips)!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

With its turbines shipped in from China to Immingham and then shipped on to Swansea, with a total distance covered of some 102,000 nautical miles (plus 532 return lorry trips between Swansea docks and Rhigos), the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project has the environmental credentials of a dozen coal-fired power stations, each run by a thousand spectacularly flatulent cows. Perhaps we might get a comment on this from La Bartolotti or those competing to succeed her as regional mouthpiece for the Green Party of Englandandwales.

Consider this, also . . . The European steel industry is suffering from Chinese steel being ‘dumped’ on the global market at prices with which European producers cannot compete. These Chinese-made turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be landed in Lincolnshire, yet just a few months ago, and not far south of Immingham, it was announced that steel production will cease at Redcar with the loss of 1,700 jobs, and there are to be more redundancies at Scunthorpe. On top of which, the turbines are to be landed at Swansea docks, within sight of Port Talbot steelworks! Insult upon injury.

The turbines for Pen y Cymoedd are built in a country where environmental considerations are laughed at, then lugged across oceans, around coasts, and up steep gradients, before each of them is implanted in a concrete base the size of a football pitch in what had previously been virgin moorland. These turbines will provide no permanent jobs in Wales and the profits they generate will go to Sweden or Germany. All we shall see is the annual bribe, the pretty beads paid to the backward natives while their land is raped, again.

Let’s face it, ‘Green energy’ is a massive con. And few projects are proving to be a bigger, or a more insulting con, than Pen y Cymoedd. The turbines there will probably have to run for about 300 years just to pay off the ‘debt’ to the environment incurred by making and transporting the bloody things.

UPDATE 21:00: On Friday the 4th, a few days before posting this, I sent an e-mail to Vattenfall at Pen y Cymoedd asking where the turbines for the site were made. This afternoon I received a ‘phone call from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, a charming young lady who was able to give me a few more facts.

First, she confirmed that the turbine towers were made in China, but the blades and the spindles were made in Denmark and Germany. When I asked whether the turbines had come in through Immingham Ms Faull said no, and that on November 22nd she was at Swansea docks to see “64 sections” arrive on the good ship Amethyst from China. Though if this is the right ship, then it does not appear to have docked in Swansea on November 22nd, though at that time it was en route from Spain to the Netherlands.

Whatever, 64 sections represents 16 turbines (they come in 4 sections, not 3 as I thought), so there would still need to be another four similar voyages to bring the rest of them from China. Though Ms Faull was able to confirm that the transformers were landed at Immingham, and moved by road to Pen y Cymoedd. I’m not sure where the blades and spindles were landed, or how they reached Pen y Cymoedd if they weren’t landed at Swansea.

In a part of the conversation I had some difficulty following, Ms Faull said that it had been hoped to build the turbines at the Mabey Bridge works in Chepstow, but Mabey Bridge felt it was not worth taking on workers only to lay them off again after the Pen y Cymoedd contract was completed. There was also mention of the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what role those clowns played I have no idea.

I have sent Ms Faull another e-mail (07.12.2015) to clarify the remaining details.

UPDATE 18.12.2016: I received the reply today from Ms Faull. It reads:

“Many thanks for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

Amesthyst landed on 22nd November and I visited the ship on 24th November. The attached photo was taken at Swansea Docks on 23rd November and 64 tower sections were on board. The remaining tower sections will also come via this route. As I said on the call Mabey Bridge were lined up for the tower manufacture, but subsequently withdrew from the bidding process.

The ship came from China and the only stops required would have been for refuelling and personnel changes.

The blades have not yet been shipped, but 192 of these will come from Denmark, with 26 coming from Canada and will again be off-loaded at Swansea Docks.

The size of the wind farm means that means that the operations and maintenance team of around 30 individuals will be based on-site and early next year the team will make a special effort to recruit skilled individuals locally.

With regards to the transformers, these were manufactured at ABB in Bad Honnef, Germany, each of which weigh in at around 125,000 kg and are around 6 metres wide and 8 metres long.”

Pen y Cymoedd, Amethyst, Swansea docks

So in addition to China, Denmark and Germany, we now have components for Pen y Cymoedd also coming from Canada. The environmental credentials of this project, never good, are now compromised beyond redemption. The jobs referred to “early next year”, for which it is hoped to recruit some locals, is not a “maintenance team” at all, this team is on site solely for the erection and installation of the turbines. Once that’s done there will probably be no jobs at Pen y Cymoedd.

The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm is all about money, it’s not about the environment, or even about the generation of electricity. The hundreds of thousands of miles taken up in transporting the components from around the world, by sea and by land, means that the project’s contribution to the environment is entirely negative even if it were to run at optimum output for centuries. Pen y Cymoedd is the most blatant ‘green energy’ rip-off I have ever encountered.

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ABERYSTWYTH, THE NEXT RHYL?

Some of you may recall reading about five or so years ago that there was a terrible shortage of student accommodation in Aberystwyth, the poor dabs were dossing on the promenade, or else the lack of accommodation had driven them to outlandish places such as Corris where, it was rumoured, locals stared at strangers. Here’s one tale from the BBC in August 2011, and another from Aber Student Media a month later.

To answer this shortage of accommodation there seem to have been three separate responses. One was the university itself embarking on a building programme of ‘student villages’. The second response was that of investors buying up more large properties in the town for student lodgings. Third, local housing associations got in on the act – using public money, of course.

But now I hear that the bubble has burst, leaving the university with under-occupied ‘student villages’ that make 1960s East German architecture look attractive; private investors with Houses of Multiple Occupation suffering a dearth of multiple occupants; and overstretched housing associations . . . for example, the word on the street is that Tai Cantref is already docked up Shit Creek with its crew roistering in local taverns.

Aber student accommodation

What had once been attractive and easy-going Aberystwyth University, three years by the seaside for an undemanding 2:2, started slipping down the league tables a few years ago. In July 2014 the decline was being reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement and by October even the students were getting worried. The continuing decline was reported in May 2015. Inevitably, this resulted in a drop in the numbers of students applying to Aber’ – at the same time as there was more accommodation for them than ever. What to do?

I suggest one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to predict that with so many properties now available in a Welsh seaside town, properties almost all of which are designed to house single people, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start arriving from over the border. (Thank God there’s still a railway line from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.) I’m thinking now of the drug addicts and the petty criminals, and of course those recently released from prison, because some of the bigger properties in the town will be ideal as ‘halfway houses’ and bail hostels. (See ‘Tragedy in Pontypridd’ below.)

All this results from Wales having a higher education sector that is too big, a higher education sector that has been encouraged to grow irresponsibly, with no reference to the effects of this unwarranted growth on host communities. While the universities willingly played along, adopting a ‘stack ’em high’ philosophy dictated by business models and profit margins that inevitably resulted in falling standards. Leaving Aberystwyth caught in a vicious circle, a refuge for third-rate academics and students who can’t gain admission elsewhere, with this inevitably deterring those who can read walls.

And now there may be a heavy price to pay. Which would be sad, because like most people, I’m very fond of Aberystwyth, I’ve had some good times there, drunk and sober. But if Aber’ is on its way to becoming the Rhyl of Cardigan Bay, in order to protect the investments of local big shots and housing associations, who will dare challenge this development?

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A LETTER FROM CEREDIGION

It’s been a while since this blog visited Cardigan Castle, but Lady Tucker and friends have been busy, and the results will take the project even further from the trust’s stated objectives of preserving the place “for the benefit of the people of Cardigan and the nation”.

The main contractors, Andrew Scott Ltd, have long since departed with their loot, leaving a very long snagging list of botched jobs behind them. A professional painter and decorator who visited recently commented that it was hard to believe from the state of some of the paint and plasterwork that the site had been handed over little more than six months ago.

But the departure of Andrew Scott has not meant that building work has ceased. Tucked away behind the main house and a small cottage is an outbuilding which was renovated by Andrew Scott Ltd to serve as a garage for guests staying in the 5 star self-catering East Wing. This is now being converted into accommodation for disabled visitors, and when it is finished early next year, it will join the three B&B rooms above the usually empty restaurant, the East Wing (sleeps six) and the Gardener’s Cottage (sleeps two).

And there are more exciting developments on the drawing board.

The old stable block which was restored from its ruined state at huge expense to serve educational purposes has been ear-marked by Lady Tucker for conversion into yet more tourist accommodation. This will not come cheap, and expect building work to continue well into 2017.

Also offering exciting potential for reconversion into tourist accommodation is a small house over on the eastern fringe of the castle complex.

Converting these buildings will mean ejecting the current occupants, including a popular cynghanedd class, and the removal of the only locally based groups still using the site to be re-housed well away from the castle by mid-2016.

No longer will well-heeled paying guests have to face the awful prospect of mingling with scruffy locals speaking gibberish, and the Cadwgan Trust can get down to the serious business of marketing the place as luxury tourist accommodation and a venue for weddings and corporate jollies. Or what we locals call a posh hotel.

Paving the way for this is a Wedding Fayre on 6 December, a time of the year when all but the most self-obsessed brides and their mothers will have other things on their mind.

Cultural heritage

The cultural bit will be confined to a few events (Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, etc.) in the summer, while as a sideline, non-resident visitors willing to part with a fiver will be allowed in to gawp at the large expanse of lawn and spend a few minutes in the couple of rooms containing exhibitions of old tat. “Look Jeremy, a smashed up old 1940s typewriter which once belonged to the old girl who used to live here!”

After an injection of £12 million plus, including all the funds raised locally and countless thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work, the people of Cardigan will find that just a year after opening, the castle will to all intents and purposes have reverted to being a private fiefdom, this time run by Lady T and her friends from Aberporth.

Spin cycle

Other recent developments include a parting of ways with Equinox, the Cardiff-based firm which tried to steer the castle through the PR catastrophes which dominated much of 2015.

PR is now being handled in-house by Sue Lewis whose portfolio of responsibilities also includes “facilities”.

When not working for Cadwgan, Sue moonlights for the dire Cambrian News, which also employs her hubby to report on local news.

Not long after it ran its notorious “Incomers are Nazis says Plaid candidate” headline, the Cambrian News was at it again with a piece which suggested that Hefin Wyn, the respected local author, journalist and prominent critic of the Cadwgan Trust, had run a campaign of harassment and “virtual persecution” against Glen Johnson, who has resigned from Cadwgan’s board and various committees more often than most of us have had hot dinners.

It subsequently turned out that the newspaper had published these very serious accusations, including a claim that Mr Johnson was having to resign to protect his family, without actually checking the facts or asking the castle’s history man for evidence to back up his claims.

The paper has refused to disclose who wrote the offending article or to hand over to IPSO, the press complaints body, what it says are e-mails citing persecution and harassment it received from Glen Johnson some weeks later.

Whoever wrote the offending article, Sue has clearly been reading a copy of “Teach Yourself PR”, including Lesson One: The Importance of Creating a Narrative because it is now being put about that she feels threatened in Cardigan, and is reluctant even to drive in from Aberporth on her own.

The narrative is that critics of Cadwgan Trust are a bunch of dangerous bigots and fanatics who, we are asked to believe, are lurking behind every lamp post and municipal litter bin between Pendre and Pwllhai in this small market town.

If it’s not the wicked Hefin Wyn and the snipers Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffydd have posted above Siop y Cardi, it’s the stiletto-wielding assassins of Cymdeithas y Chwiorydd and the suicide bombers of Merched y Wawr.

We’ll probably be able to read all about it soon in “Wales’ biggest selling weekly newspaper”.

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TRAGEDY IN PONTYPRIDD

Some of you will have read accounts from the trial of two men recently convicted of murder in Pontypridd. One of the killers, and the victim, were residents at the Morning Star Inn, on Llantrisant Road. (The second killer was said to be of no fixed abode, but I suspect he too has a connection with the Morning Star.) As you might expect, I got to wondering about the Morning Star, and it’s quite a story.

The Morning Star was, until closed after the murder on February 28th, run as both a pub and a bail hostel or halfway house for released criminals. Owned and / or run by “former Egyptian police officer Saad Taha”. Here’s a report from July 2013 of a public meeting organised so that various authorities and local politicians could hear locals voice their concerns about the Morning Star. They relate things they have witnessed first-hand only to be met with a wall of denials and evasions.

According to DePlod despite reports of knife-carrying, discarded needles and bad behaviour in and around the Morning Star “there is little evidence this came directly from the Morning Star”. Of course not, it was pure coincidence. The incredulity increased when I read that Taha wants us to believe that even though these ex-cons are living above a pub, they are not allowed to drink in the pub! I battled through this storm of bullshit and made further enquiries.

In July 2007 there was a planning application (07/1389/10) for a “raised patio / bar extension – beer garden”, and in March 2008 (08/0393/10) for a “rear balcony”. The first application was submitted in the name of a Mr D Watkins and the second in the name of Saad Taha, so is it reasonable to assume that the Morning Star was still being run as a pub in 2007 but the premises changed hands some time in late 2008 or early 2009 and was then run as both a pub and a halfway house? Both applications were withdrawn.

Next, on September 20th 2011, Taha made an application (11/1140/10) for “Conversion of existing bar areas into bedrooms (Change of use).- amended plan received 25/11/11 – reduction in total number of bedrooms from 17 to 16 – amended location plan received on 26/01/12.” With the first floor already being used to house ex-convicts it appears Taha now sought to convert the ground floor (pub) area and even the basement (cellar). This plan was very wisely turned down by RCT council.

But then, on December 14th, 2012, another application (12/1293/09) was lodged, “Application for a Lawful Development Certificate for an Existing use as a public house and hostel.” Which I take to mean that Taha was now asking for retrospective planning consent for a building already being used – without permission – as a hostel. Planning permission was refused.

I find it significant, and rather confusing, that in his rejected planning applications of September 2011 and December 2012 Taha is asking for a “change of use”. Also confusing, is that the earlier of those applications states that there are already 16 bedrooms at the Morning Star, yet according to the WalesOnline report of the July 2013 public meeting the place only has only “seven beds”. Which is right?

Morning Star reviews

So here’s the question. Seeing as retrospective planning permission for a change of use to a hostel was refused in 2011 and 2012, why was the Morning Star allowed to operate as a hostel? Everybody in the area knew what the building was being used for, including the police and the council, so was it somehow allowed to operate as a hostel without the required planning permissions? If not, then perhaps someone at RCT council can direct me to the approval for the Morning Star to be used as a halfway house for criminals.

Another teaser is, who owns the Morning Star? Having checked on the Land Registry website using the correct post code I can find nothing under Morning Star or 59 Llantrisant Road. So we can’t be sure if Taha actually owns the property (as he claims) or if he’s merely an agent for someone else. Presumably Rhondda Cynon Taf council knows who owns this place, and if it is Saad Taha, why doesn’t he register his ownership with the Land Registry? He’s had long enough.

There’s something odd about the Morning Star saga. Not least, how does a former Egyptian copper end up running a halfway house in Ponty? And what checks were done into his background? Where do his ‘clients’ come from? And who supplies them?

Anyway, undeterred by the minor inconvenience of a man being beaten to death on the premises, and before those charged with the murder had been tried, Saad Taha was again thinking of profiting from the Morning Star when, on August 26th this year, he submitted a planning application (15/1170/10) that reads, “Proposed change of use from existing public house and bedrooms to 6 no. self contained flats”. Wording that raises yet more questions.

For example, why does it describe a home for ex-cons as “bedrooms”? Or is this more evidence that no permission was ever granted for the property to be used as a hostel? Though a bigger worry for the local residents should be, who is going to live in these flats? Given the record of Saad Taha, Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and the pooh-pooh police, locals have every reason to be concerned.

Nov 122015
 

The mythical Wales Green Party is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff between 10:30 and 17:00. I have been given sight of some important documents that shed light on both the Greens’ approach to next year’s elections to the Notional Assembly and the personalities likely to be playing prominent roles in that campaign.

I describe this party as ‘mythical’ because there is no Wales Green Party, all we have is a regional branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. But rather than confuse you as to why I’m writing about something that doesn’t exist, let us go along with the pretence and, for the purposes of this post, pretend that there is a Wales Green Party. (Though of course there isn’t.)

Amelia Womack

Let us start with the recent meeting of the party’s Council on October 10th. Among other things it was agreed that although she is ineligible – not even being a member of the Wales Green Party – UK deputy leader Amelia Womack will be standing for the Assembly next year in the Cardiff Central constituency while also topping the list in the South Wales Central region.

So much for rule books and the party constitution. Though I’m hearing that Ms Womack’s selection has not been universally accepted, and has the potential to cause serious disruption within the party.

Though it could be argued that there is a certain logic at work here. For how can this Womack woman be a member of a party that doesn’t exist? She is deputy leader of the only Green Party in Englandandwales, and is therefore perfectly entitled to stand.

Though the likeliest winner could be whoever tops the list for the Mid and West Wales region, and the one who’s bagged this spot is Alice Hooker-Stroud. It seems Hooker-Stroud has connections with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris (surprise! surprise!), and busies herself with other hippy activities in the area, such as the Machynlleth Housing Coop and the Machynlleth Food Coop.

Alice Hooker-Stroud

But you have to give Hooker-Stroud credit, when it comes to self-publicity this girl is bloody good, as you’d expect from someone in her line of work, Public Relations and Communications. Her Linkedin profile is one of the fullest, most comprehensive, I’ve ever read.

Then there’s the videos . . . believe me, this girl is no shrinking violet, just Google Alice Hooker-Stroud to see what I mean. It should come as no surprise to learn that she is also standing for the leadership of the Wales Green Party, against the dynamic duo of Ashley Wakeling and Anthony Slaughter. ‘Leadership election!’ you cry, ‘what about Pippa Bartolotti?’

Ah, yes . . . I can’t keep the bad news from you any longer, boys and girls – Pippa Bartolotti is standing down! I must admit, I shed a little tear when I heard that news.

Pippa Bartolotti

Here is Pippa’s valedictory report. It tells us just a little of what she’s been up to this year, from opening the Rhwiderin (sic) “Save our Woodlands” fund-raiser to hosting the South Wales Greens summer party. (My invitation must have got lost in the post.)

But don’t do anything drastic, for the lovely Pippa will be standing for the Assembly next year in Newport West, and also topping the regional list for South Wales East. So dry those eyes and put away the tissues!

UPDATE 16.12.2015: The winner is (drum roll!) . . . Alice Hooker Stroud! You will note that in the report I’ve linked to there is no mention of Ashley Wakeling; that’s because he pulled out of the contest at the end of November and resigned from the party. Reading his resignation blog post makes it clear that he was coming under attack from Neath . . . which is where Martyn Shrewsbury is now based . . . and seeing as Shrewsbury is La Bartolotti’s faithful retainer, dare we consider that getting rid of Wakeling was her way of ensuring the successor she prefers? Note that Wakeling was accused of being rather too fond of himself . . . so to prove his accusers wrong he will now stand in the Assembly elections as an independent.

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In case you can’t make it to the AGM on Saturday, here is a copy of the agenda, to help you follow the international media coverage I’m sure the event will generate. Having flicked through it myself, I urge you to read it, because it’s more than just an agenda, it runs to 29 pages and is also an annual report, a balance sheet, a list of officials and candidates, election results and reports, and much, much more. It is a very revealing document.

For example, it reminds us what a thoroughly English and middle class party the Green Party is with this analysis of its general election candidates in Wales.

Greens ethnic balance

Elsewhere the membership secretary boasts that membership has doubled in 2015, to a high point of 2,850 on September 6, but then has to concede that things have gone into reverse since Corbyn became Labour leader.

Though I found it encouraging to read that the Green Party supports the “greater economic independence of poor countries” . . . but not of course, Wales.

Green Poor Countries

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Another document of which I have had sight is the Greens’ Strategy document 2015 – 2017. I can also recommend this 28-page document, it’s another fascinating read. I suppose no one should be surprised by this, but for next year’s Assembly elections the Greens will be bringing in lots of helpers from England . . . how will we manage to tell them apart from our ‘Welsh’ Greens?

Anyway, the Greens’ primary objectives for the Assembly elections next year are set out in the panel below.

Green Assembly Aims

Elsewhere in the document we are told that ‘our core demographic remains the left-of-centre “lower class professionals”, likely to work in the third sector or the creative industries’. Plus of course, layabout hippies and other wastrels infesting the Welsh countryside.

Annex 2:5 is good for a laugh. For once the Greens get something right; yes, Plaid Cymru is on a downward trend, and at present it’s still slow. But anyone who believes that Plaid Cymru is a party that wants independence hasn’t been paying attention, or doesn’t know much about Wales, both of which could apply to the Green Party.

Green Plaid Independence

Plaid Cymru also gets a mention in a discussion of election strategies and relationships with other parties.

Greens no Plaid deal

Them bloody badgers!

The final part of the document is taken up with wild hypothesising and guesswork on election outcomes. Here’s an example: ‘Some of the implications are downright weird – for example, in MWW (Mid and West Wales), if the Corbyn bubble continues to expand, we should target Plaid Cymru, but if it bursts, we should target the Lib Dems’.

Believe me, there are some really strange and highly improbable – though very entertaining – calculations in there (some even involve the Socialist Labour Party!), but I shall avoid any snide reference to smoking.

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I have written about the Greens more than once, most recently about a year ago, with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of Englandandwales (November 10) and More on the Green Party of Englandandwales (November 17). Reading these posts will tell you how I feel about them. The documents I’ve read this week only confirm me in my contempt.

Because those documents reminded us yet again what a thoroughly English party the Greens in Wales are. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of names are given in them, and yet I doubt if more than a handful are Welsh. Alice Hooker-Stroud clams to have attended Llanfyllin High School; maybe she did, but I guarantee she comes from a white settler family.

Alice Hooker-Stroud skype

There is something so ineffably colonialist about the Greens in Wales that I cannot think of any comparison. Not simply because they’re English, but also because of their dictatorial ‘We know best’ attitudes. I cannot think of any party, operating in any Western country, that is so divorced from the indigenous population of that country. So where should we look for an analogy – the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet?

Any Welsh person with concerns for the environment should think long and hard before voting for a party whose members regard him as a quaint and primitive native. And if Plaid Cymru suggests another deal with the Green Party of Englandandwales then that should be taken as final confirmation that Plaid has given up all hope of victory.

UPDATE 12:50: I’ve just been told that Dan Boyle has been appointed to manage the Greens’ Assembly campaign next year. Who is Dan Boyle? Well, he’s an Irish politician, from Cork. In his favour – and unlike the shower we’ve got in Wales – this guy has actually been elected. But he doesn’t know Wales any better than those who’ve appointed him. I hope he knows what he’s let himself in for.

UPDATE 20.11.2015: Predictably, I suppose, this post didn’t go down well in Green circles. To get revenge La Bartolotti revived her attack hamster, Martyn Shrewsbury. Here’s his comeback post. Shrewsbury has served this purpose before as this makes clear. Here’s another account. As these sources also remind us, Shrewsbury very nearly ended up in the slammer. Here’s one report of the case.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are some very ugly people in the Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. When they aren’t fighting each other like ferrets in a sack they’re up to dirty tricks against anyone exposing them for the charlatans they are. Sometimes it’s both.

 

Jun 282015
 

Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, has announced that her party will not go into coalition with the Conservatives after next May’s elections to the Notional Assembly. (Read all about it!) From where I’m sitting, this would appear to condemn Plaid Cymru to either impotence or a pact with Labour. Not an attractive choice, Leanne Woodbut then, when you play student politics with a nation’s future, and duck the real issues, you deserve no third option. Though the nation of course deserves a lot better than Plaid Cymru.

If my judgement strikes some as a little harsh, then that’s because, as a nationalist, I have little time for Plaid Cymru. But before dismissing my opinion out of hand let us examine the possibilities for next May’s elections. A good way to start is by reminding ourselves of the results from the Assembly election in 2011 and the two polls since then, the Euro elections of May 2014 and the UK general election of May 2015.

In 2011, Labour gained 30 seats, half of the total, and chose not to go into coalition with another party. They’ve never really come unstuck. Plaid Cymru came third, with less than half of Labour’s vote in both constituencies and regions, and well behind the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats averaged over 9% of the total, while Ukip, who contested only the regional lists, gained a paltry 4.6% of the votes cast.Assembly election 2011

By the European elections of 2014 Ukip had transformed itself into a major force in the politics of Englandandwales (but not Scotland), and was now the second party in Wales, just .6 of a percentage point behind Labour. All the other parties bar the Greens lost ground.

Just seven weeks ago we saw Ukip fall back somewhat, and drop from its second place in 2014 to third, but it still got more votes than Plaid Cymru. In fact, Ukip came second to Labour in a number of Valleys’ seats which, when taken with the increase in the Tory vote, tells us there was a move to the right which, as I suggested in my blog post Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again, might have marked the death of the ‘socialist Wales’ myth. From these recent results it’s reasonable to predict that Labour, with just 30 seats in 2011 and its share of the votEuro election 2014e dropping since then, will not win 30 seats in 2016.

The major changes since 2011 are, quite obviously, the rise of Ukip, then there’s the increase in the Tory vote, and finally the near-demise of the Liberal Democrats. Next year Ukip could, if the heavenly bodies align aright, win a seat or two; though if that doesn’t pan out, and given that the party might get 15 – 20% of the regional vote, then it could pick up 5 – 8 seats.

Labour has in previous Assembly elections gained less than other parties from the regional lists, just two seats in 2011, because it wins so many constituency seats, so the bigger threat to Labour may come at the constituency level. With Labour losing Gower and the Vale of Clwyd to the Conservatives last month, and the Lib Dems losing Brecon & Radnor to the same opponents, there must be a possibility that these resuGE2015lts will be repeated next year. If so, then it would establish the Tories as the second largest party by some margin. This seems predictable because the number of Plaid Cymru AMs is bound to fall, partly because other than Llanelli  it’s impossible to see a seat Plaid could gain (though maybe not if Siân Caiach stands again), and Plaid is bound to lose out to Ukip in the regional allocation. Though if the Lib Dems do lose Brecon & Radnor then that makes it more likely they will be compensated with a couple of regional seats.

Looking at the bigger picture it would not be unreasonable to predict the following result for next year’s Assembly elections: Labour 26 seats (-4), Conservative 17 (+3), Ukip 7 (+7), Plaid Cymru 7 (-4), Lib Dems 2 (-2), Greens 1 (+1). Which would mean that to cobble together an administration Labour would need to go into coalition with Plaid Cymru, which is almost certainly what influenced Ms Wood’s rejection of a deal with the Tories. But this is so short-sighted.

Being a native of the Rhondda Ms Wood must know that throughout the Valleys (and indeed the south) there are tens and tens of thousands of people looking for a Prediction 2016viable alternative to Labour, that’s why they turned out last month and last year to vote Tory and Ukip in Caerffili, Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent and Islwyn, and in the process pushed Plaid Cymru down to fourth place. So why should anyone who doesn’t want Labour in power vote for the party that will keep Labour in power?

There may be another, even less charitable way of looking at this. Over the years I have consistently argued that the Labour Party relies on deprivation in Wales – and blaming the Tories for that deprivation – to keep people voting Labour. This means that Labour has no incentive to make Wales a wealthier country, and this then explains the obscene amounts of public funding wasted on Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, so that they can make an industry out of deprivation and present their parasitism as a form of economic activity.

Could it be that Plaid Cymru, most definitely a begging bowl party, has taken this reasoning a step further? Have those at the highest, policy-making levels of the party calculated that if a poor Wales votes Labour, then a poorer Wales might swing towards Plaid Cymru? Don’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand; just ask yourself, what other hope has Plaid Cymru got of ever becoming a successful party? Well, of course, there is one, obvious route; Plaid could be a Welsh party, focusing on Welsh issues, from a Welsh perspective. But that option was rejected in favour of a slow, lingering death – for both nation and party – decades ago.

Last month I loaned Plaid Cymru my vote because I persuaded myself that doing so was a way of giving a proxy vote to the SNP, a party I respect greatly for confronting the Labour monster head-on, and slaying it. Compare that to what we now hear from Plaid Cymru – ‘A vote for us is a vote for Labour’. How do we explain the difference?begging bowl 1

I can’t help thinking that one explanation for ruling out any pact with the Tories may be Ms Wood’s desire to play to a foreign gallery. I’m thinking now of those Left-Green ‘progressive elements’ Plaid so assiduously courted a few months ago. If so, then it’s another reminder of how divorced from Wales and Welsh issues Plaid Cymru has become. By comparison, the Scottish National Party does not fashion its policies to appeal to audiences in Islington, or the offices of the Guardian newspaper . . . and certainly not Labour HQ!

But if Plaid Cymru wants to talk about poverty, then okay. Let’s talk about the poverty of ambition in the party that has the nerve to call itself The Party of Wales. While the SNP is leading the Scottish people to independence, Plaid Cymru’s ambition extends no further than begging a few more crumbs from England’s table and propping up Carwyn Jones and his gang of deadbeats. Almost fifty years after Gwynfor Evans won Carmarthen Plaid Cymru’s ambition today extends no further than acting as a crutch for the party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock in a system of sham devolution. Now that’s poverty! And total failure.

Nov 172014
 

This time last week I didn’t know a lot about the Green Party, its leading personalities and its internal workings, this week I know a little more; enough to know that Plaid Cymru would be making a big mistake to go into any form of electoral pact with the Green Party.

Let’s start by trying to establish exactly what we are dealing with: is there a separate Wales Green Party (as we are being asked to believe), or do we have just a regional branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales? I believe the answer is definitely the latter. And even if there were a separate body, note how it calls itself the ‘Wales Green Party’, not the Welsh Green Party. Compare that with the Scottish Green Party, which is completely independent of the GPE. This is more than just semantics, for the Scottish Green Party is composed overwhelmingly of Scottish people and supports Scottish independence, but what we have in Wales is mainly English people belonging to an essentially English party.

The evidence for the status of the local Green structure comes from the ‘Wales Green Party’ itself. The party’s candidate in the Uplands by-election in Swansea is Ashley Wakeling (or possibly Ŵakeling) and he made the comment below to my previous post. Now if there is a separate Wales Green Party how the hell is it supposed to operate without a leader? On the other hand, it makes perfect sense if there is no separate Wales Green Party.

Wakeling 'no leader'

The leadership contest referred to, between current leader Pippa Bartolotti and challenger Andy Chyba, will be dealt with later; although I found it odd, and contradictory, that Wakeling should argue that the Greens in Wales need no leader and yet in the same paragraph call for the re-opening of nominatiions!

What became obvious with the many comments made to my previous post is that the ‘Wales Green Party’, perhaps the environmentalist movement more generally, is in a constant state of conflict, riven with personality cults, rival camps and back-biting on a scale I thought had departed with New Labour. Far from being the kind of tension and conflict admired by Harry Lime, from which great things emerge, this appears to be just a bunch of political no-hopers slagging each other off and hampering what little chance there ever was of Green politics having an impact on Wales. I say ‘appears to be’ for there may be more to this than meets the eye.quorate

To bring you up to date, here’s the Green Dragon website report on the Wales Green Party Conference 2014, held last Saturday in Merthyr. I’m referring you to the Green Dragon site because at the time of writing this the official Wales Green Party website hadn’t caught up with its own AGM. According to former Green Anne Greagsby ‘Green Dragon’ is Martyn Shrewsbury of Swansea. Ms Greagsby also alleges that the AGM was not quorate. Another complaining about Green Dragon and the general running of the Green Party in Wales is respected environmentalist Max Wallis. And from other quarters I hear of censorship, stitched-up elections and other practices that suggest the Greens are after the ‘tankie’ vote.

But let us turn to the rivetting leadership contest between Pippa Bartolotti and Andy Chyba. Who are they? Well, it should go without saying that both have come to us from England, though Ms Bartolotti obviously has an Italian surname and claims a Jewish grandfather; whereas Chyba’s ancestry is uncertain.

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Pippa Bartolotti is on record as dismissing the Welsh language as belonging to a “regional identity”, before reminding us that there are far more important things to worry about . . . perhaps finding a decent coiffeur. As regards the status of the so-called Wales Green Party she tends toBartolotti 20,000 members give the game away with this entry from her ‘News’ section (click to enlarge). The ‘We’ quite obviously refers to the Green Party of Englandandwales.

As for “the young man from Cardiff”, I have no idea what she had planned for him, I can only hope that he enjoyed it and has now recovered. In fact, the siren-like and Jaguar-driving Ms Bartolotti may have a thing about young men, for in another entry she admits to chatting up a young man on a train! (This spoof website may be of interest.)

The problem many GreenPippa Bartolottis have with Ms Bartolotti is her somewhat ‘hazy’ background, with periods in the security business and years unaccounted for. There may also be a more general question over her honesty. For example, she has claimed to have started companies – Encrypta Electronics being one – yet it was her ex-husband and his father who started both Encrypta (1985) and Enigma (1986). Encrypta had links with the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, and one of its sub-contractors was AB Connectors of Abercynon, which might explain why in 1997 she was recruited on a part-time basis by the Welsh Development Agency. In 2004 she is said to have represented Encrypta at a security conference in Las Vegas. Among those present was a Lt. Col. Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame.

But, then, for no apparent reason, she gave up the life of business to go on a world tour . . . though where exactly she went, who she met, and what she did, is another source of mystery. According to the Swansea Action for Palestine website Ms Bartolotti lived in Israel for 7 years, which might make sense, given her Jewish grandfather. Though elsewhere she claims to have spent time in India, Cuba and other places which would have made it impossible for her to have spent all seven of her years away in Israel. But anyway, let’s stick with Israel. Here’s a link to a bizarre bit of film showing her making a fuss at Tel Aviv airport, it’s connected with this escapade. Though some ask why Bartolotti was the only one out a group of 40 people allowed through unmolested by Israeli customs, and whether realising her isolation made her cause the scene.

Let’s end on a lighter note. Here’s a link to Come Dine with Me starring the irrepressible Ms Bartolotti. (To view this gem you may need a 4oD player installed.) Shalom!

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Now we turn to Andy Chyba, who was to have been the Green’s lead candidate in Wales for the May European elections. Then he withdrew and urged Greens to support Plaid Cymru! Despite this support for Plaid Cymru Chyba regards Welsh as a “moribundChyba resigns language” and in his resignation piece repeats that he has “no time for the Welsh language”!Andy Chyba

I urge you to read Chyba’s resignation piece, for in it he also admits that he does not want to see an ‘autonomous’ Green party in Wales (as exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland) while conceding that the current set-up of the GPE in Wales is never going to take off. It all sounds very confused, or confusing.

These thoughts were in my mind when I received a Facebook message today from someone offering more information on Chyba. (Addressed to ‘Mr North’!) Suggesting, specifically, that Chyba has a background in the military or the police, and may be operating as a spy. Whether or not there is any truth in these allegations, I still find it intriguing that Chyba’s Wikipedia page was pulled last Friday, when my previous post was receiving so many hits and comments from Greens.

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So we have two contenders for the leadership of something calling itself the Green Party of Wales that is in reality nothing but a regional branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales and both are accused of being tools of the security services. With the accusations against Chyba being perhaps nothing more than retaliation on the part of Bartolotti’s supporters for the aspersions cast against their gal. Should we give these allegations any credence? I think so. Let us consider the bigger picture, from a different perspective.

As I have remarked in a number of recent posts, in the eyes of an increasing number of people Westminster politics is discredited, with voters looking for alternatives to the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In Scotland there is an obvious alternative to the Westminster bawbags in the form of the SNP, which threatens to wipe out Labour, the only party that can maintain the Union. South of the border many in England (and quite a few in Wales) are turning to Ukip. The publicity achieved by the SNP and Ukip can sometimes make us overlook the Greens, who already have one MP and could have a couple more after next year’s General Election.

Alex Salmond has said that he may stand for Westminster next year, and he has already posited the scenario in which the SNP and its allies hold the balance of power. So who will be the SNP’s allies? Well, Plaid Cymru, obviously, but also the Greens. Which makes the Greens of increasing interest to the security services. And how better to gain entry to the higher councils of a party with perhaps 20,000 members than by controlling the leadership election of a ramshackle branch with just a few hundred members, many of whom – as a result of carefully engineered schisms – are disbarred or discouraged from voting? It’s what I’d do if I was a spook. Always go for the weakest link to provide the entry point.

Green Party status

Plaid Cymru would be mad to go into any electoral pact with the Green Party of Englandandwales, either nationally or on a constituency by constituency basis. There is nothing in such a pact for Plaid Cymru because the Greens have nothing to offer, and when views like Bartolotti’s and Chyba’s on the Welsh language become known they can only lose Plaid Cymru votes. Worse, if some of the allegations levelled are correct, then there may be more to Bartolotti and / or Chyba than meets the eye. Even if both are ‘clean’, there is still the worry that there are those who realise the Green brand is not selling in Wales, and now view Plaid Cymru as the best stall from which to promote their wares. Plaid activists should think long and hard about accepting this trojan horse, and don’t leave the decision to your ‘leaders’. They’ve already let you down too often.

Nov 102014
 

As I informed you in MBrig Oubridge 1ay, I have broken with the habit of a lifetime and stopped voting for Plaid Cymru, a party I ceased to believe in decades ago. One of the reasons for my losing faith in Plaid Cymru was its infatuation with the Green Party, and its desire to cover Wales with wind turbines (a position from which it has now retreated). So, as you might guess, among the parties I shall definitely not be voting for in future is the Green Party of Englandandwales. I’m dealing with this subject now because there is talk of another electoral pact between Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Plaid began to get seriously enamoured of the Earth-botherers back in the late 1980s, which was almost certainly connected with the fact that at the June 1989 European elections the Green Party (formerly known as the Ecology Party) gained 99,546 votes in Wales, 11.1% of the total votes cast, and a massive increase of 10.9% on the party’s performance in 1984. In fact, the Green’s total vote was not far behind Plaid Cymru’s 115,062. Someone in Plaid Cymru who could do big sums calculated that if the two numbers were combined then the result would be, well . . . a big number. That’s my take on it, but Cynog Dafis would have us beleve that the links between Plaid Cymru and the environmental lobby go back further, as he explains in Plaid Cymru and the Greens: Flash in the Pan or a Lesson for the Future? which I advise you to read, as I shall refer to it later, and also because I get a mention! (Did I really say that!)

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The first test of this love-in came at the 1991 Monmouth by-election following the death of Sir John Stradling Thomas when Mel Witherden stood as a Plaid / Green candidate. He came fifth, with 277 votes, behind the Monster Raving Loony Party. Admittedly, Monmouth is not ferile ground for Plaid, but the Plaid candidate at the 1987 General Election got 363 votes. (There was no Green candidate in 1987.) In the 1992 general election Witherden stood again, this time winning 431 votes, an improvement of sorts. Though the real significance of Monmouth was what the candidate said some time later. In essence, Witherden confessed that many Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate because, quite frankly, they were anti-Welsh, and displayed crude, colonialist attitudes. Which was no more than many nationalists suspected, and for which some of us had clear evidence. Damning proof of Green attitudes from a Green Party member.

The sort of attitudes Cynog Dafis was to learn about the hard way. In the paper linked to above he talks of meeting leading Greens from Arfon and Meirion, John Nicholson and Chris Busby, who were outraged that community councils in Gwynedd conducted their business in Welsh (which presumaChrisBusbybly prevented them from taking over the meetings), and that their kids were being taught Welsh in schools. Dafis says, “I tried to respond, rather lamely, and through rational defence rather than counter-attack, but I came from the meeting feeling quite shaken”. Rarely does one come across a passage from a leading Plaidista that so perfectly sums up Plaid Cymru’s fundamental weakness when confronted with naked racism and colonialism. In such circumstances “rational defence” will get you nowhere. When faced with colonialist bigotry like that the only response must be: ‘You don’t like Wales the way it is? – then fuck off home!’

(Following the Fukishima nuclear accident in 2011 Busby sought to capitalise by selling his anti-radiation pills online and suggested that the Japanese government was deliberately spreading cancer throughout the country in order to hide or disguise the ‘clusters’! He has a number of companies selling £25 reports, his self-published books and assorted medicinal products that experts believe do nothing except enrich Chris Busby.)

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Despite this insight into the Green colonialist mindset Cynog Dafis stood at the 1992 General Election on a Green-Plaid ticket in Ceredigion and Pembroke North. He gained the seat from the sitting Liberal Democrat MP Geraint Howells with a majority of 3,193. To a number of nationalists at the time, myself included, Howells was a good old stick, a Welshman of the old school, and preferable to Dafis, especially if the latter was going to dance to some hippy tune for the duration of the parliament. Though there remains some dispute as to whether Dafis was ever a joint Plaid-Green candidate, certainly, the official record lists him for posterity as a Plaid Cymru candidate, and some grouplets within the Green Party insist he was never formally adopted. Whatever the truth of his position, Plaid’s leadership, Dafis to the fore, had convinced itself that the party needed Green votes to win Ceredigion, and perhaps other seats.

So were the Green votes influential, even decisive? Well, let’s look at the neighbouring constituencies where no deal was struck to see if they can point us towards an answer. To the south, in the Pembroke constituency, the Green candidate got 484 votes, or 0.8% of the vote. To the east, in Brecon & Radnor, the Green candidate limped in last with 393 votes, or 0.9% of the vote. Moving north, into Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, there the Greens – in the form of Busby’s mate, Bill Pritchard – were ecstatic over their 471 votes and 1.8%.  Though in Carmarthen the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate. The flash-in-the-pan nature of the Green Party’s 1989 Euro election result was betrayed at the first ‘serious’ election, which also told us that Plaid Cymru would have comfortably won Ceredigion and Pembroke North without any pact or agreement with the Greens.

After which it was all downhill, and to cut a long story short . . . in July 1995 the inevitable, yet amicable, parting of the ways came, and here’s an extract from the statement announcing the divorce, taken from Dafis’ document: “‘a bridge was built between the indigenous people of Wales and those who had moved here to live’ for progressive and enlightened purposes”. (I bet you want to read that again!) So condemning Welsh community councillors for speaking their own language is progressive and enlightened! Now if I’d made up that statement in an attempt at ridicule or sarcasm I would be rightly criticised, but a Plaid Cymru luminary who bent over backwards to accommodate a bunch of arrogant, dictatorial and often racist immigrants can write such bollocks without any sense of irony. But that’s all in the past, and I’m not a man to bear a grudge (yes, that is sarcasm) so what of today’s saviours of the planet?

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One worth noting, for the wrong reasons – though I assure you I have no evidence that he sells pills of any description – is that five-letters-a-day (to the editor) man, John Childs, who has opinions on just about everything. I mention him because he has imposed himself on the Treboeth neighbourhood in Swansea, an area close to my heart, and indeed close to where I was raised. I recall my father telling me that, pre-war, once you’d left Brynhyfryd Square and started walking up Llangyfelach Road into Treboeth you automatically switched from English to Welsh. Treboeth was the home patch of Daniel James (‘Gwyrosydd’) writer of Calon Lân. Also where Dewi ‘Pws’ Morris has his roots, and I understand Cynog Dafis himself was born there. Nowadays the name Treboeth is seen in newspapers and other publications on a daily basis when people read the opinionated and offensive drivel of an English environmentalist.

Another who feels Swansea cannot do without him is young Ashley Wakeling (or Ŵakeling?), who is contesting the upcoming by-election in the Uplands ward. ‘So who is he?’ I hear you ask. Young Mr Wakeling is a student, and last year he was the Green candidate back home in Maidstone. Here we have a young Green who knows nothing about the city he’s just moved to, but clearly believes that such ignorance is no obstacle to him standing for election to the body running that city. It’s incredible. I sincerely believe that no one should be allowed to stand for election tMatt Cookeo any local authority until they have lived in the area for a minimum of five years. Why should we demand that taxi drivers have more local knowledge than those getting paid to run a city? Another candidate recently announced was Matt Cooke in Torfaen.

Then we have the much more mature – at 27 – Chris Were, alleged to be deputy leader of the Wales Green Party’, though how one can hold any position in an organisation that doesn’t exist is beyond my ken. Were may be 27 but he prefers to behave like a 12-year-old, as his mocking of Wales testifies. (And the silly boy can’t even spell ‘innit’!) Were was a Green candidate in this year’s memorable European elections, in which the Greens achieved 33,275 votes, or 4.5% of the total, proving yet gain what a blip that 1989 result was that set Plaid Cymru hearts all a-flutter. Ah! those European elections of May 2014, memorable because I sincerely believe that the Ukip MEP elected, a Mr Nathan LeeChristopher Were Gill, will provide hours of enjoyment in the years ahead for those of you in possession of the gift of schadenfreude. (A gift that I, alas, have been denied.)

Finally, and much closer to home, I had a run-in not so long ago with an environmentalist living just up the road. It all started with a couple of letters to the local weekly rag on the subject of raising council tax on holiday homes; one headed, ‘Second home owners keep Gwynedd economy alive’, the other arguing that it would be ‘racist’ to increase council tax, before introducng the spectre of arson. Naturally, I responded, then the following week there was a reply that concluded with a reference to “the burning of second homes by Nationalist extremists”. The two letters mentioning arson are almost certainly phoney, and the second cleverly distorts what I actually said. The exchange can be found here.

The debate rumbled on a bit, and provoked a letter from Andrew Currie, the environmentalist who lives just up the road from me. According to Currie, I had missed the point that, “coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times”. In other words, there was really nothing here until English tourists ‘discovered’ Wales. This is a reminder that the most virulent and outspoken bigotry doesn’t always come from the usual suspects, because what Currie is exposing here is the traditional ‘justification’ for colonialism – ‘They couldn’t manage without us’. The full exchange can be found in this post.

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I can only assume that whoever is gently blowing on the embers of an extinguished love is prompted not by renewed passion but by the very pragmatic consideration that with Assembly elections due in 2016, and Plaid defending a majority of just 1,777 in Ceredigion, the 1,514 votes won by Chris Simpson, the Green candidate in 2011, could be critical for Plaid’s chances of retaining the seat. It might also be worth pointing out that while this figure of 1,514 might look impressive, it should be borne in mind that Simpson was the only constituency candidate the Greens fielded in 2011, so the party concentrated almost all its resources on Ceredigion. A more meaningful assessment of Green support would be that in the (second preference) regional list section they got just 32,649 across the whole of Wales, roughly ten thousand votes ahead of the Socialist Labour Party and the BNP.

This is a party that can deliver, at most, thirty to forty thousand votes across the whole country – and that’s if all Greens are prepared to vote for joint candidates, which of course they aren’t. And not only will joint Green-Plaid candidates alienate most Green supporters, they’ll also piss off quite a few Plaid voters – and there are many more of the latter. A further consideration could be explained as follows. The Greens are an English party attracting English votes, therefore, as few of these votes will transfer to a joint candidate in the event of a pact, it makes more sense to have a Green candidate in Ceredigion, grabbing a thousand or two votes, rather than see those English Green votes transfer to a party that could beat Plaid Cymru.

Crude, electoral considerations aside, the bigger question has to be, why would Plaid Cymru – or any self-respecting party, come to that – want an electoral pact with the Green Party of Englandandwales? A party that refuses to recognise Wales as a country. A party that has members and activists who are positively racist in their attitudes to anything Welsh. A party whose luminaries see Wales as a backward territory ripe for ‘improvement’ by superior beings like them, with we Welsh viewed – at best – as obstructive primitives to be shouted down and brushed aside. Whichever way we look at it, a pact with the Greens could be very damaging to Plaid Cymru, and should call into question the political nous or motives of anyone promoting such a deal.

May 232014
 

I didn’t vote in the European elections yesterday. In fact, this was the first time ever that I failed to vote in an election. Previously, I had always voted Plaid Cymru at Assembly, Westminster and European elections (there’s rarely a Plaid candidate for local elections). I got a bit twitchy as the ten o’clock deadline approached, but after a good night’s sleep I felt much better, like I’d finally rid myself of a bad habit. So why did I do it?

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To begin with – and aTribans readers of this blog will know – I don’t really support Plaid Cymru, I haven’t supported the party for decades. I don’t believe in Plaid Cymru, it’s policies, its leaders, its anything. Which means that since I lost faith in the party I have been voting Plaid Cymru for the wrong reasons: 1/ Because there is no real alternative and 2/ Because I hoped that my vote, and the votes of others like me, would help Plaid Cymru to be viewed – in England – as ‘the voice of Welsh nationalism’ and might therefore get Wales a better deal. But the first reason is totally negative and the second is nonsense, because anyone who studies Plaid Cymru for ten minutes knows that far from being a threat to the constitutional status quo it is actually one of its pillars.

So why did I make the decision at this time? In a word, or if you prefer, an acronym, Ukip. The rise and rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party posed a threat to Plaid Cymru’s European seat and this resulted in social media being alive with desperate pleas to ‘vote Plaid to stop Ukip / Tories / Labour getting a second seat which, again, is a very negative reason for voting for any party, and no better than Labour’s message at every election: ‘(Ignore our appalling record and) send a message to London by voting Labour’. In addition, I was being told that Liberal Democrats I’d never heard of, and equally unknown Greens, were heeding this call and being collectively described as “progressive elements”. Jesus! “progressive elements”; now there’s a truly chilling phrase, from the same Stalinist lexicon as ‘freedom-loving peoples’, ‘enemy of the people’ and all the other phrases earlier generations came to love. Knowing I’d be on the same side as these ‘progressive elements’ was another reason to finally break with Plaid. (Those unfamiliar with my views on Liberal Democrats and Greens should either scroll down to Wales Euro Election 2014: Runners and Riders or click on the link.)

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I’m writing this before the Euro results are declared, I can do this because the actual result is irrelevant to my decision, and to my feelings towards Plaid Cymru. Which can be summed up quite simply – Plaid Cymru is a complete and utter failure. It first lost its way a few decades ago when it turned its back on Welsh issues to adopt some flavour-of-the-month left-liberalism. (This happened around the same time as I have always believed the party was compromised.) The death-knell was rung when it decided that discussion of our survival as a nation was a taboo subject following the mauling received by Councillor Seimon Glyn in the English media, and the humiliation dished out to party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time. (Here’s a report.) Which means that the colonisation of WalPlaid logoes, and our inevitable assimilation into England, is off the agenda . . . of a ‘national’ party!

On the purely political front, Plaid Cymru has now reached a ‘plateau’ on the lower slopes of electoral success from which it is incapable of advancing and will, before long, and inevitably, start sliding back. At the European level, this ‘plateau’ means 1 seat or no seat (of four); at Westminster level; 2 – 5 seats (of 40); and in the Assembly 8 – 18 AMs (of 60). The reason for the inevitability of Plaid’s demise lies in the fact that its support is concentrated in those areas – largely Welsh speaking – targetted for social engineering. The English immigrants to these areas won’t vote Plaid, and the diminishing percentage of Welsh in these areas’ populations will soon realise that Plaid has failed them. Couple these painful realities with the ‘breakthrough in the south’ never materialising and it should become obvious to all that time is running out for Plaid Cymru.

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Over almost fifty years of political activism of one kind or another I have heard all sorts of theories, been made all kinds of offers, and been involved in some pretty weird shit myself, but the more I think about the abject failure of Plaid Cymru the more I remember something I heard that, with hindsight, and looking at the state of Wales and Welsh politics, makes sense, of a kind.

The suggestion was that it might have been better for Wales if Plaid Cymru had never been formed. Because then, Labour would have taken on the mantle of Wales’ defender and been able to do a much better job without accusations of being ‘nationalist’. (I am of course talking here of the Welsh Labour Party of S. O. Davies, Cledwyn Hughes, James Griffiths, Gwilym Prys Davies, Elystan Morgan et al.) Also because it has widespread support across the country and could form a government in London. But as things stand today, Labour – and especially at Westminster level – often takes up positions inimical to Wales’ best interests almost to spite Plaid Cymru and to avoid being seen – or accused of – ‘making concessions to nationalism’. While Plaid, stuck on its ‘plateau’, will never achieve its objectives yet blocks the emergence of a genuine nationalist party. The worst of all possible worlds.

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The real irony is that Labour’s vote in the south, the vote Plaid needs to become the biggest party in Wales, has never been solid. In many cases it is a vote Labour gains due solely to the absence of an attractive alternative of the kind the SNP is, but Plaid Cymru is not. Earlier this year I posted a piece on an opinion poll that showed most people, even Labour voters, were dissatisfied with Labour’s running of Wales – yet most of them still intended to vote Labour. Today I read that Ukip is set to become the second party in the Heads of the Valleys region, because Welsh working class men find Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru. Clearly, much of Labour’s sDragon union jackouthern vote is there for the taking . . . but not by a party with all the appeal of Sinn Féin on the Shankill Road!

Plaid Cymru should now do the honest thing. It should admit that it has been a miserable failure. Concede that it will never become a national party. Then it should apologise for wasting everybody’s time for the past ninety years and promise to disband so that a genuinely national party can arise.

But no. Instead, Plaid Cymru plans to enter into a formal coalition with the Green Party of Englandandwales. With a single stroke of tactical genius Plaid’s leaders not only prove me wrong but guarantee my future support. Where do I join? (Hope I don’t get trampled in the rush.)

May 152014
 

Standing for election on May 22 to Wales’ four European Parliament seats are no fewer than eleven ‘parties’ (I use the term loosely), each putting up the ordained four candidates. Though lEuro Candidates 2014ooking at some of those candidates it becomes clear that their parties have not so much scraped the bottom of the barrel as gone through the barrel bottom and kept going. But that’s just the opinion of a cynical old bastard who long ago lost faith in politicians and political systems. Anyway, form your own opinions as I run through the parties and candidates in alphabetical order. The full list is on the right (click to enlarge). Each section heading contains a link to that party’s website.

BRITAIN FIRST

Despite the name, this crew is fielding candidates in Wales and Scotland only.

Britain First has already gained considerable notoriety by being allowed – by the Electoral Commission – to use ‘Remember Lee Rigby’ on the ballot papers. The party was founded in May 2011 by Jim Dowson, with lead candidate Paul Gosling as chairman. Though one mystery must be why another founder member, former BNP organiser for Wales and 2009 BNP Euro candidate, Kevin Edwards, is not on the list. Following the break-up of his marriage, and after quitting the BNP in February 2011, Edwards moved from Llandybie (near Ammanford) to Llansamlet in Swansea which, along with neighbouring Bonymaen, is where many of the city’s fascists can be found.

Britain First founder Jim Dowson is also ex-BNP and perhaps into fundamentalist Christianity and hostility to Islam more than direct and blatant racism. A former Scottish Calvinist minister who apparently believes in the death penalty for gays and is fanatically anti-abortion, Dowson has also been a busy boy in the Six Counties, founding Protestant Coalition. So it makes sense that Britain First should be standing in Scotland – targetting the Rangers / Orange Order vote – but why Wales, because as far as I can make out, none of them is Welsh.

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTYGary Tumulty

Next we have the (as yet) unsplintered BNP. Top of their list is a man many think should not be standing at all because, in a parallel dimension, Mike Whitby of Wrecsam is disqualified from becoming a member of a county council or similar authority, but this, it seems, does not extend to the European parliament. Number two on the list is Laurence Reid, an Ulster Protestant domiciled in Wales. Jean Griffin at number three is presumably party leader Nick Griffin’s wife or daughter (possibly his French cousin). While the one with the least chance of being elected is Gary Tumulty of Salford . . . unless he guns down all the other candidates. Again, it’s encouraging that none of these people are Welsh.

CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY

As if Britain First and the BNP weren’t enough, this is yet another bunch of anglo-centric, Unionist fanatics, whe believe that the Ninth Circle of Hell is located somewhere in the English Channel. Regarding our little patch of earth, the message may be more muted than that from the clown troupes mentioned earlier, and said with a smile rather than a snarl, but don’t be fooled, it’s the same message – ‘Wales and England are the same country, and that’s how we like it’.

Top of the Tory list is current MEP Dr. Kay Swinburne who, though Welsh, now lives in the tiroedd coll, which seems to agitate the bruvvers who have just selected young Kinnock. Number two is Councillor Aled Wyn Davies of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant & Llansilin (a home of Glyndŵr). Number three is Dr. Dan Boucher who lives in Morriston and does a nice line in self-promotion. Bringing up the Tory rear (and haven’t we all thought about a Tory rear at one time or another?) is Richard Hopkin, a lawyer, who may or may not be the same Richard Hopkin described by his employer as a “pugnacious litigator”. Grrrr! Here’s a link to the introductory video for the lot.

GREEN PARTY

There is a separate Scottish Green Party that has always backed independence, while we have to suffer the Green Party of Englandandwales, a bunch of English middle class colons no different to those in other parties who believe that we Welsh must be told what’s best for us, with our country a laboratory for the policies they’d never be allowed to implement in their homeland. Although standing as a party in these elections their real forte is as a pressure group, where they enjoy influence way beyond their political support by playing on the questionable assertion that people want green policies even if they aren’t prepared to vote Green. Clever, and worth studying. Though Plaid Cymru has mis-read the message and contemplates a formal alliance.

I can’t be bothered to make enquiries about Pippa Bartolotti, John Matthews, Chris Were or Rozz Cutler.

LABOUR PARTY

The usual uninspiring crew that brings home yet again how ‘stretched’ once-mighty Labour is to find candidates for Europe, Westminster, the Assembly, and 22 local authorities. Thank God we don’t have as many quangoes as in the past, and that civil servants have taken over the running of devolution.

Derek Vaughan tops the list as the current MEP, a former trade unionist and leader of Neath Port Talbot council and said to be a ‘tidy bloke’. Vaughan is certain to be elected so the interest is really on the second name on the Labour list, Jayne Bryant, born in Newport, who could also be elected if Plaid and the Tories do badly and the anticipated Ukip surge does not materialise. At number 3 we have Councillor Alex Thomas, who represents the Rhos ward, also in Neath Port Talbot. The no-hoper is Christina Rees, formerly Mrs Ron Davies; not wishing to be reminded of her husband’s behaviour she wrote a book about it, The Davies Diaries, though she did later apologise. Alec Dauncey

Worth noting that there is no Labour candidate from west of Neath or, indeed, from north of  Neath.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Where to start (says he, wishing he didn’t have to)? Those who know me know that I reserve a special kind of contempt for Liberal Democrats and liberals of all kinds. I regard them as smug, wishy-washy wankers.

The Lib Dem quartet is headed up by Alec Dauncey who lives in Aberystwyth. Now Alec may enjoy a skinful of lager and a bag of chips of a Saturday night before throwing up the diced carrots on the way home . . . but I doubt it. To me, the picture shows a professional tree-hugger in a polo neck sweater more likely to be found listening to a cupped-ear folk singer while unwinding with a glass of organic cider. His bio is a gem, taking political prose to previously uncharted depths of vacuity. But it is so typically Liberal Democrat.

Number two is another Englishman, Robert Speht, living in Swansea. This one a wind turbine-hugger with a string of failed business ventures and an unpaid sandwich bill to his name. Speht lives in Mayals, one of Swansea’s poshest neighbourhoods which, because it lies within the fiercely defended borders of Mumbles community council, provided Speht with the chance to use the title ‘Councillor’ after losing his city council seat. Said – even by colleagues – to be unreliable he struck up a weird friendship with Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Lewis when Lewis, having tried all the rest, eventually fell in with the Lib Dems, mainly because they promised him his year in the Mansion House. To understand how unlikely a Liberal Democrat Richard Lewis is just try to imagine Ghengis Khan the pacifist. Lewis was sighted on April 30 entering the Liberty Stadium to hear Nigel Farage.

The other two candidates are Jackie Radford and Bruce Roberts, of whom I know nothing, and care even less.

NO2EU

Don’t be fooled by the name, for this is not another ‘Wogs begin at Dover’ party. It can’t be, for I see the name of Comrade Robert Griffiths topping their list, as he did in 2009. Robert Griffiths, stalwart of the long defunct Welsh Socialist Republican Movement (also, so some would have it, the Workers Army for a Welsh Republic). Robert Griffiths the current General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. (Marxist-Leninist, I believe.) So we’ve obviously arrived on the hard left.

Of the other NO2EU candidates I know nothing . . .

PLAID CYMRU

For Plaid Cymru / The Party of Wales this is a very important election. Opinion polls suggest they might lose their MEP Jill Evans. If that happens, then I can see real soul-searching within a party that has lost its way.

The problem for Plaid Cymru is that Labour in Wales has cleverly painted Welsh politics as a simple picture of them defending Wales against ‘London’ – even when Labour is in power in London. This is what the ‘send a message to London’ (by voting Labour) is all about, even for European and Assembly elections!  Then, because Plaid does little more than promote itself as ‘Labour, but a bit more Welsh, like’, it is, effectively, marginalised. Plaid’s only hope is to get out of Labour’s shadow and re-position itself as a genuinely Welsh party, taking up the issues other parties ignore, and addressing the big issues from an aggressively Welsh standpoint. But it won’t.

In many ways this state of affairs is regrettable, for in Jill Evans, Marc Jones, Stephen Cornelius and Ioan Bellin the party has a strong team. That said, it might still be best for the long term if Plaid was to lose its seat.

Footnote: Plaid’s number 4 candidate in 2009 was the apple of her daddy’s eye, Natasha Asghar. Happy days!

SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY

Formed in 1996 by Arthur Scargill – who is still ‘Leader’ – the SLP is perhaps the only hard left group that would need something bigger than a telephone booth for its meetings. It claims a direct line of ideological descent from James Connolly, and quotes him in its website header. But there were, in a sense, two James Connollys. One, the Edinburgh-born British socialist; the other, the man who returned to his ConwyIrish roots, formed the Citizen Army, and was executed (though wounded) in Kilmainham jail by the British army after the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916. The SLP reveres the former.

Despite being one of the larger minor parties the SLP’s candidates are hardly household names, even in their own households, but here they are anyway. At number one we have Andrew Jordan, who stood in the Cardiff South & Penarth by-election in 2012, a by-election caused by Alun Michael’s strange decision to stand for election as the local Police and Crime Commissioner. Second is Kathrine Jones, of whom I know naught. David Lloyd Jones, number 3 on the list, is probably the man who stood for Conwy in 2005 against the heavyweight trio of Betty Williams, Guto Bebb and Gareth Roberts. He got 1% of the vote, though he still managed to beat Ukip into 7th place. (Which ain’t gonna happen again any time soon.) If these three are relatively unknown, number 4 on the list, Liz Screen, has a slightly higher profile, if only because she stood in 2009, but it’s all relative.

SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN

Not being terribly au fait with the 57 varieties of socialism I’m not quite sure where the SPGB stands – are they Wobblies? Maybe someone can help me out. The SPGB has three branches; Swansea, Cardiff, and that hot-bed of revolutionary socialism . . . Llandudno. I tried to get more information but the SPGB website was down. The SPGB candidates can be found in the list at the top of the page. None of the names mean anything to me. Though if Richard Cheney is the real name of candidate number 2 it’s a strange quirk that he should share a name with Dick Cheney, vice president to George W. Bush and bête noire of the left. Anyway, seeing as Joe Hill was the most famous Wobbly of them all, let’s end this section with Joe Hill, sung by Joan Baez.

UKIP

The stars of the show! Certainly everybody is looking at Ukip, wondering how big an advance they’re going to make, for there’s no question it will be an advance. I did a recent post on Ukip which says most of what I want to say about them, so it only remains to look at their candidates.

Nathan Gill is an English grannyfarmer living on Ynys Môn who stood in the Seiriol ward in last year’s council elections, where he came eighth out of nine candidates. Though his wife(?) came eighth out out twelve in the Aethwy ward. (This being the ward where our old friend Jacques Protic came bottom of the poll.) Number two on the list is James Cole who, in the photograph I link to, is actually wearing a double-breasted blazer! It says he ‘relocated’ to Swansea, but not from where, though he is Welsh. This video by Cole is priceless; he predicts that ” . . . the native Welsh will be a minority in their own country within the next 15 to 20 years . . . “ yet he makes no mention of English colonisation, for he wants us to believe the influx will come from mainland Europe and elsewhere! Caroline Jones from Porthcawl is a former Tory parliamentary candidate who defected a year ago. The fourth candidate has concerns about “huge volumes of immigration”. David J. Rowlands lives in the Gwent valleys, where this is obviously a serious problem. Rowlands is the only survivor from the 2009 quartet.

I find it very disappointing that three of Ukip’s four candidates are Welsh. But then, this may be a ploy used in the hope of disguising the party’s fundamental Englishness.Euro election 2009

SUMMING UP

One unavoidable conclusion is that the European elections are not taken seriously by the electorate. It gives voters a chance to do something silly, which many of them will. The turnout in 2009 was just 30.4%, down 11% on 2004. (Click on panel to enlarge.) This year’s elections could see an even lower turnout. (Here’s the 2009 result by constituency.)

Six of the eleven parties standing can be said to belong to the extremes of left and right (three of each). Few of their 24 candidates have any relevance to Wales and even fewer have any intention of debating Welsh issues . . . even if they could. Some have been honest enough to admit they’re using the elections – and Wales – simply to gain publicity. In some regards the Greens could be added to this group. Leaving us with the four ‘mainstream’ parties, all running scared of Ukip. For this election is all about how well Ukip will do, how that will impact on the other parties, and if we’ll ever have European elections again.

My position is that I’m a European of the Gaullist persuasion, preferring a confederation of independent states – rather than a bureaucrat-led supranationalist entity – serving as a counter-balance to both Russia and the USA (to which we must now add China). The UK (or England) was never going to fit with either version for so many reasons, one being – as de Gaulle always understood – its ties with the USA. I have now reached the stage where I detest what the European Union has become but could never line up with any of those calling for withdrawal. Perversely, perhaps, the loony left and the loony right being on the same side only serves to make the bloated monster a little more attractive. With enemies like some of those I’ve looked at here, who needs friends?