A GUEST POST BY ‘STAN‘ (with minor contributions from ‘Anon’ and Jac)
THE MURKY WORLD OF ‘WELSH’ LABOUR NEPOTISM AND CRONYISM, CORRUPTION AND MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS; A DEMI-MONDE WHERE IT SEEMS REGULATORS FEAR TO TREAD
When Stephen Kinnock was elected MP for Aberavon in the early hours of Friday, 8 May 2015 it was hardly the shock of the century. Aberavon has had a Labour MP uninterrupted since 1922.
The first was James Ramsay MacDonald, who went on to become the first Labour Prime Minister in 1924. Ramsay was a proper bastard, like many MPs really (but by the dictionary definition not the slang one), and was born into a hard working and poor, working class background – the illegitimate son of a farm labourer and housemaid. A complete contrast to young Kinnock then whose parents could hardly be called working class and who from birth had every chance in life. They will doubtless say thanks to the Labour Party!
No-one has had a lower Labour vote in either numerical or percentage terms than Stephen ‘Boyo’ Kinnock did since Ramsay MacDonald was first elected in 1922. In 1922 Ramsay MacDonald had 14,318 votes and a vote share of 46.6%. In 2016 ‘Boyo’ got 15,416 votes and 48.9%. Political anoraks might like to know that Labour’s peak performance was in 1966 when John Morris secured 33,763 votes and a staggering 75.4% vote share. You could say, “how the mighty have fallen”, or even “how the donkeys have woken up” – but “both” is more accurate.
Another fact is that both men were parachuted into the constituency, neither being a local. Ramsay MacDonald would obviously be a very early example of the “parachute” Labour Party candidate, evidently so successful that the Party seems to have adopted the tactic right up to this day. However, whereas he was indubitably Scottish, it is alleged that Stephen Kinnock is Welsh. Correct that – he must be – because he said in his maiden Commons speech that he was “a global Welshman”.
What is not in doubt was that he was born in Tredegar in 1970 but from 3 or 4 years of age, young Kinnock lived in England. He received all his Primary and Secondary education there. He went to university to study languages in Cambridge and thereafter seemed to go off to find himself, leaving England in 1992 and studying and working in various countries in Europe and even Africa, collecting a wife and eventually children in Denmark. Whereas the Israelites with all their resources took 40 years to find their Promised Land, Kinnock’s such a bright boy(o) that he did it in just over half the time. He returned to the UK after 20 years, in 2012, to work for an environmental consultancy called Xynteo before discovering at the age of 45 (in 2015) his real purpose in life – to live part-time in a flat in Cwmavon, be the MP for Aberavon and more recently to piss off many of his constituents because of his prominent role in the “Chicken Coup” against his democratically elected Labour Party leader.
He speaks five languages fluently, French, Spanish, Russian, Danish and of course English – but not Welsh, despite his mother Glenys being a Welsh speaker.
This polyglot promised to take Welsh lessons if he became Aberavon MP but that’s typical politician speak for you. There’s no time-frame put to it. So he could start them in 2050 if he wanted and still argue he’d kept his word. He may be a global figure but “Welshman”, let’s pass on that. You can’t help feeling it’s a flag of convenience to endear him to the electorate of a South Wales seat.
But anxious to make a good impression, Boyo was soon up and running after being elected even though Parliament wasn’t opened by The Corgi Woman until 27 May 2015. The local constituency office had been vacated by his predecessor, Dr Hywel Francis. First, because all the staff of a retiring MP have to be laid off, new staff had to be employed. No problem there though. Immediately through the door, in fact taking up her employment on 11 May 2015, just a weekend after the voting result itself, was Ms Cari Morgans. Cari had worked for Peter Hain as his Office Manager. So, she presumably pocketed her redundancy money, as was her entitlement, then walked into an equivalent job almost right next door, on a salary range from about £26K – £38K. Being a woman of some experience she is most likely at the upper end of that range. Incidentally, Cari is also the Neath Port Talbot councillor representing the Tonna ward and pulling in £13,300 a year for that as well.
Welsh Labour, naturellement. Nice work if you can get it. There aren’t many people getting paid over £50K a year in Neath, particularly out of the public sector. But there are more than a few in the local Council. And one of these is likely to be Councillor Anthony J Taylor, who has been the Councillor for the Taibach ward since 2008.
Anthony is already the Cabinet Member for Economic Development & Property Services at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. This demanding role (no kidding?) is considered to be full time. It pays a salary of £28,890 per annum. Yet Councillor Taylor is also a Political Advisor for Derek Vaughan MEP. Unfortunately we have no idea whether this is part time, full time, weekends or shifts. Because information on MEPs’ staff is almost impossible to get hold of.
He is a relatively new kid on the block, only leaving Cardiff University in 2001 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His first job was with NPT Council as an Anti Social Behaviour Prevention Officer. Being Neath Port Talbot that’s probably such a stressful job that in less than two years he was recuperating in a job working in Cardiff for Carwyn Jones as a Political Advisor. A lot less stress there then, presumably the most difficult part of the job being trying to stay awake in any meeting longer than five minutes with Carwyn. Can he bore for Wales! Anthony did this for six years, presumably without being caught nodding off, before being recruited by Derek Vaughan in July 2009, when Derek became an MEP. Like Anthony, Derek was an NPT Councillor – in fact, he was Council Leader when he jumped on board the Brussels Gravy Train Express. And what a small, incestuous world this is. It was Anthony J Taylor who acted as Proposer for one Stephen Kinnock in the nominations for the May 2015 General Election. Definitely one to watch!
But let’s get back to Cari (she might be feeling neglected by now). Cari saw some major workplace changes as a result of having a new employer who had lived such a cosmopolitan, privileged lifestyle, hobnobbing it with so many heads of state as the escort of the then Prime Minister of Denmark (aka Mrs Kinnock). And let’s not forget all those senior executives of multi-nationals and global conglomerates in his work at the World Economic Forum. That’s WEF to those who understand what it does, but WTF! to some of us who must wonder just what the hell these exclusive gatherings get up to. Coffee machines were bought in to the Aberavon office, as was a “milk frother“. This latter piece of kit was a complete mystery to his Aberavon constituents and it has been rumoured it was acquired so they would come to his office in their droves just to see this marvellous invention in action. Most people in the constituency are used to their coffee in granules or powder out of a jar, onto a teaspoon, into the mug, boiling water, top up with milk then drink the bloody stuff.
To further reflect his suave, sophisticated, but domesticated image, he bought a sofa for the office too. Or rather – we did. You don’t think they buy these things with their own money, do you?
Now the speed of this recruitment of Cari Morgans displayed an efficiency seldom seen in the public sector, which is usually so bound up in rules and regulations and red tape that it can take three months to draft a letter. So how did this happen? Well, IPSA guidelines (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) for the employment of MPs’ staff are very helpful and set out the procedures to be followed.
And these include “advertise the vacancy and conduct appropriate assessments to ensure you have the best candidate for the role”. Note there’s a tremendous amount of latitude here – it doesn’t say formal interviews and it doesn’t say you need to shortlist. But it does say advertise and it does say appropriate assessments, so these were obviously undertaken here, weren’t they? In which case, if he was asked, you’d hope young Kinnock will tell us – not that we doubt him, of course.
But one thing that Boyo has not done, to his credit, is follow the nepotistic practices of his predecessor, Dr Hywel Francis, as well as his neighbour in the office next door. Because Hywel employed his wife, Mair, as a Senior Parliamentary Assistant. This meant she was able to keep him company in his London work, a nice touch when you are getting on in age, and you feel the cold at night. When she finished along with Hywel in 2015 her salary is recorded as between £40K – £45K.
She would also have been entitled to a redundancy payment to soften the blow of loss of employment. Let’s be honest though, it’s doubtful she would have wanted to continue in her role. Which is just as well because as we shall soon discover, waiting in the wings was another candidate that was eminently suited to the job and who no doubt came “highly recommended” with great references, just like Ms Morgans.
Oh, let’s not forget “the bloke next door”. That happens to be David Rees, the Aberavon AM who occupies the office suite next to young Kinnock’s. Not to be outdone in the nepotism stakes, Rees employs his daughter Angharad Nia Thomas as a Researcher and Communications Officer (part-time) for 22.3 hours a week.
So it’s clear that Boyo has a precedent, almost a Labour Party custom and practice, to employ a close relative. But let’s be fair, an Office Manager’s or Researcher’s salary is chicken-feed compared to what Mrs Stephen Kinnock, aka Helle Thorning-Schmidt gets as Chief Executive of Save the Children International where she has been working since 4 April 2016. She is paid $344,887 USD annually and works out of the UK. That’s nice and convenient for the Kinnocks because they are now able to share a flat that they (or maybe just Stephen) own in Brent, North-West London. Breaking that Dollars figure down into Pounds Sterling she gets £258,816 give or take a few bob. Kinnock gets £74,962 as basic salary, plus expenses. Beers on them then the next time they drop in to Taibach and Port Talbot Working Men’s Club.
Of course, you don’t just need local staff. So to help him out in his Westminster role, and as his Mrs clearly didn’t want the job, Boyo took on a certain Madeleine Jennings as a Senior Parliamentary Researcher. Now guess who Madeleine worked for? You’re getting good at this by now, or you should be. Yes, she too worked for the Orange Baron (when he was just a plain “Orange” patently). Madeleine didn’t stay long with Boyo, leaving in January 2016 to follow her calling to social work.
But someone’s slipped up because she is still listed on the Register of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants, as at July 2016.
Come on Madeleine or Stephen – pull your finger out and get it off there. Madeleine should be well aware of what can happen when you neglect these little administrative matters. After all, her previous boss Peter Hain cocked up big time when he was angling for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, famously forgetting to register or oversee the timely registration of donations. He declared in his memoirs Outside In that it was “the biggest mistake of my political career” to run for the Deputy Leadership. Surely that sums up the measure of the guy? He voted for the Iraq War and subsequently against investigations into it. Yet it’s an unsuccessful leadership campaign compounded by managerial and administrative incompetence that’s a greater faux pas than supporting an illegal war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, countless people maimed and a whole region destabilised with little sign things will ever come right again.
There’s one other thing before this staffing business is wound up. Hain and his office didn’t just stop with Cari and Madeleine in being a source of staff for other MPs. Yet another of his employees, a chap called Matthew Ward, went on to work for Madeleine Moon, the Bridgend MP.
One good thing IPSA has done is investigate those cases of retiring MPs and MPs who lost their seats, and what happened to staff laid off as a result. It found that a total of £925,000 was paid to 125 people laid off before the general election, but each and every one had a job with a different MP within 10 weeks! No doubt some or all of the ex-Peter Hain staff referred to above are in this group.
In the case of these appointments it’s important for the public to have confidence in the recruitment process. But the trouble is that we don’t know whether IPSA procedures are being followed. Because IPSA will not tell you, saying it’s a matter for the MPs themselves. They’ve been asked, in the case of the recruitment of Cari Morgans, and thrown it back as a matter for Stephen Kinnock.
But if MPs don’t ‘fess up, we’ll never know. This is a loophole that needs to be closed. There has always been nepotism and cronyism and there always will be. Therefore, the disinfectant of full transparency is needed so that if it does occur we know that due process has been followed at least in advertising jobs. When these appointments take place behind closed doors it is just not on – because we are talking about a lot of public money here. Providing “jobs for life” for the chosen few in some constituencies. Or rather, most constituencies in Donkey Land in Cymru.
Of course, a sense of perspective is needed. In many cases – we’d like to think all – the best person for the job may be getting it. But when MPs are themselves given the job of hiring and firing the staff they need, it needs to be done by processes that the public can get to the bottom of. IPSA turning its back on checking its own guidelines are being followed is totally unacceptable.
# # # # # # # # END # # # # # # # #