John Jenkins

Mar 132017
 

In which I try to explain how Plaid Cymru became a serious political party in the 1960s, why it was derailed in the 1980 and 1990s, and how we’ve ended up with a self-emasculating party that sees no role for itself other than as Labour’s little helper.

BLOWN INTO THE LIMELIGHT

I can write about the 1960s with some authority because I was there, I was involved, and I knew many of the players. Most weekends would see a gang of us pile into a hired transit van to attend some rally or protest, and there were real issues for us to focus on; we had Tryweryn (plus the other drownings), Aberfan, the Investiture – how could anyone not believe that Wales would be better off if she was independent?

There was a widespread perception among those I mixed with of there being a broad nationalist front, with Plaid Cymru as the political wing. Many people I knew were members of both Plaid and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society), I even knew people who were members of Plaid, CyIG and the Free Wales Army. There was most definitely ‘overlap’.

Though Plaid’s leadership, Gwynfor Evans especially, attributed the bombing campaigns to MI5 and sought to distance the party from them. Whatever the response, the truth is that in the 1960s Plaid Cymru rode the coat-tails of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru and the FWA to became a serious political party, winning Carmarthen in the 1966 by-election and pushing Labour close in subsequent by-elections in the Valleys.

‘That Charles is a lovely boy, Mam . . . I think I’m in love!’

The lesson was clear, get the people to focus on Welsh issues, particularly exploitation and injustice, and Plaid Cymru would reap the electoral reward. Without the reaction to Tryweryn and the protests of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, it’s unlikely that Gwynfor Evans would have beaten Gwilym Prys-Davies in Carmarthen. And Gwynfor’s victory in July 1966 is often cited as the inspiration for Winnie Ewing winning the Hamilton by-election for the SNP in November 1967. Can we go so far as to attribute the impending independence of Scotland to the greed and insensitivity of Liverpool Corporation?

Plaid Cymru’s leaders don’t like being told that the party owes its boost in the 1960s to Owain WilliamsJohn Jenkins and Cayo Evans, but the party certainly lost impetus when MAC and the FWA were broken up. With little to excite and involve the voters Plaid Cymru’s support in the 1970s fell back in the south, but the party entrenched itself in the west and the north, appealing primarily now to Welsh speakers, a trend that damaged its appeal outside the Fro Gymraeg.

Again, I speak from personal experience, having stood as a Plaid Cymru candidate for both Swansea city council and West Glamorgan county council in the mid 1970s. I’d knock on a door, introduce myself as one of the local Plaid Cymru candidates and often get the response, ‘Sorry, love, we don’t speak Welsh’. There was rarely hostility, more the feeling that whatever Plaid Cymru might be (and few knew, or cared), it was definitely a party for Welsh speakers only. Plaid Cymru in the 1970s and 1980s was a national party with a very narrow appeal just bumbling aimlessly along.

PLAID GOES LEFT, AND GREEN, AND DISAPPEARS UP ITS OWN ARSE

Nineteen-seventy-nine was a significant year in Wales for three main reasons.

On March 1st, St David’s Day, Wales rejected the Labour Party’s devolution proposals, with just 20.26% in support. Despite it being a Labour initiative most Labour politicians, led by Neil Kinnock and George Thomas, campaigned vigorously and viciously against devolution.

Then on May 3rd Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives were elected to power in Westminster, with the party gaining 32.2% of the Welsh vote and eleven of the thirty-six Welsh seats. In the general election of 1983 – and despite the war in the south Atlantic and the losses suffered by the Welsh Guards on the Sir Galahad – the Tories still gained 32% of the Welsh vote. From a high point of 11.5% in the general election of 1970 Plaid Cymru’s share of the vote slipped to 8.1% in 1979 and 7.8% in 1983.

Finally, on December 11th, we saw the first holiday home arson attacks by Meibion Glyndŵr.

Plaid Cymru continued to bumble along, going nowhere. The party was so rudderless, so unattractive to voters outside of the rural west, that the MG campaign was unable to give the boost that MAC and the FWA had done in the 1960s, possibly because holiday homes were not an issue in the areas where Plaid needed to grow. Plaid Cymru was a weak party of dispirited members, ripe for change, or takeover . . . preferably not a takeover by nationalists.

Gwynfor Evans stepped down as president in 1981 and a new generation stepped into his shoes. First, Dafydd Wigley, who’d been elected MP for Caernarfon in 1974, and then, more significantly, from 1984, Dafydd Elis Thomas, who’d been elected in the same year for the neighbouring constituency of Meirionnydd.

Now things begin to get strange. Because although the obvious problem was that Plaid Cymru was not getting enough support from the anglophone Welsh, under Dafydd Elis Thomas the party started reaching out in other directions, primarily to the hairier fringes of the Left, and to even more hirsute elements of the environmental movement. It will be noted that none of these new ‘allies’ had a snowball’s chance in hell of increasing Plaid’s vote in Swansea East or Merthyr or Wrecsam.

Another in Plaid’s hierarchy keen on ‘reaching out’ was Cynog Dafis, who believed there was common ground between Plaid Cymru and the Greens. These Greens were of course overwhelmingly English and many of them were openly dismissive of Welsh identity. As far as they were concerned, they had moved to ‘the country’, not to someone else’s country.

The Plaid-Green Summer Solstice Conference, Pontrhydfendigaid, 1991

This contempt was returned in kind, for most Plaid Cymru supporters had no time for the Greens, and some, especially those involved in farming and other activities, thoroughly detested these arrogant interlopers who threatened their livelihoods. Yet to Cynog Dafis the hippies and the rest were “those who had moved here to live for progressive and enlightened purposes”.

This episode provides us with an example from thirty years ago of Plaid Cymru’s leadership being out of step with the party’s rank and file, and of course the wider population. Guilty of going off on tangents that did nothing to address Plaid Cymru’s fundamental problem. I wrote a few years ago about this rather silly flirtation with the Greens in Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of Englandandwales.

AN AMERICAN FRIEND

When he was Plaid’s head honcho Dafydd El’s consort was an American named Marjorie Thompson. An interesting woman from an impeccably WASP-Republican background who, after a stint as assistant to a Republican Congressman, crossed the Pond and soon joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, rising to be chair of that body. More remarkably, perhaps, she also served as chair of Scottish CND, though this is not mentioned in her Linkedin profile.

I’m not sure when her relationship with DET began but it lasted some seven years and intrigued observers. Having served her time among the ‘progressives’ in CND and other groups Ms Thompson eventually joined Saatchi & Saatchi, Margaret Thatcher’s favourite ad agency, in 1997, and returned ‘home’, as it were, by joining the Conservative Party in 2009.

I seem to recall that there was interest at the time in a brother of Marjorie Ellis Thompson who, it was alleged, worked for a US intelligence agency. But I could be mistaken, it was all a long time ago. Maybe someone remembers?

By 1992, after all the changes, and all the ‘reaching out’, Plaid Cymru’s percentage of the vote in that year’s general election barely moved. Nevertheless, the party did hold its three seats in the north west and Cynog Dafis added Ceredigion and Pembroke North, almost certainly due to the thousands of bearded ones turning out to vote for him.

Though the only constituency that saw an official Plaid-Green alliance was Monmouth, where the candidate Mel Witherden got 0.8% of the vote, the lowest Plaid vote in the country. Witherden was quite open in stating that many Greens were anti-Welsh in a racist and colonialist way.

Plaid was now firmly located on the political left, it was a ‘welcoming’ party concerned with all manner of ishoos and -isms, and more interested in the opinions of Islington than with what people were thinking in Islwyn.

DESIGNED TO FAIL

Plaid Cymru, the party I joined in the mid-’60s because it – and I – wanted to make Wales a better place for the Welsh people, had become a regional rainbow alliance for which nationhood and independence were dirty words. Wales no longer mattered except for the votes and seats it provided that then allowed the Plaid leadership to rub shoulders with other ‘progressives’.

This party had no chance of winning seats outside of the Welsh-speaking areas, where most of Plaid’s voters supported the party for cultural reasons, and didn’t really care about Plaid’s policies (even if they knew what they were). If this electorate had one concern it was the influx that was breaking up communities and slowly destroying a Welsh way of life.

Plaid Cymru had no intention of making a stand against colonisation; in fact, as we’ve seen, Plaid’s leadership was happy to co-operate with elements of this influx. Never was an electorate taken for granted and treated with such contempt as Plaid Cymru’s rural voters. It’s no exaggeration to say that Meibion Glyndŵr spoke for these people better than Plaid Cymru.

Courtesy of BBC

Plaid Cymru was successfully subverted in the late 1980s and early 1990s into a political party that would never get more than 10-12% of the vote in UK general elections and therefore pose no threat to the integrity of the UK state. It would have been easy to interpret this catastrophic re-alignment to foolishness, were it not for the removal of Dafydd Wigley in 2000.

In the first elections to the new Welsh Assembly in May 1999 Plaid Cymru gained 28.4% of the constituency vote (Labour 37.6%) and 30.5% of the second or regional vote (Labour 35.4%). In addition to predictably winning its western, rural seats the party also won Llanelli, Rhondda and Islwyn. This result sent shock waves way beyond Wales.

In June 2000 an internal plot removed Dafydd Wigley, persuading him to cite health grounds for ‘his’ decision. Seventeen years later he leads a full life travelling up to London regularly to sit in the House of Lords and is actively involved in many other, more worthwhile, activities.

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

In my previous post I wrote of the strange case of Plaid Cymru councillor and AM Neil McEvoy, stitched up on a ludicrous ‘bullying’ charge by the Labour corruption machine and then, instead of being supported by his party, he found Plaid’s leadership siding with Labour and assorted organisations on Labour’s Third Sector payroll such as Welsh Women’s Aid.

In that post – and if you haven’t read it then I urge you to do so – I talked of the ‘consensus’, a delusion prevalent among Plaid Cymru’s hierarchy that they and ‘Welsh’ Labour are natural allies in the fight against the forces of darkness. This results in Plaid Cymru refusing to take Labour on in the way that the SNP has so successfully done in Scotland. But it goes deeper than that, and it’s more sinister.

Like all advanced states, the UK has a ‘permanent government’ which may or may not be made up of military brass, top businessmen, intelligence chiefs, senior civil servants and others. Whatever their attitude towards the Labour Party – and this will vary depending on who’s leading Labour – they understand full well that Labour is the bulwark against Welsh nationalism simply because it’s the largest party in Wales.

Equally, those I’m talking about understand that due to its corruption and incompetence, and the quality of its elected representatives, Labour in Wales is highly vulnerable, and must therefore be protected from any threat to its hegemony. The best way of doing this is from within. From within Plaid Cymru.

It’s no coincidence that Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru’s most successful ever leader, was removed when the party he led threatened to dislodge Labour in the Valleys. And no coincidence that it was done with a palace coup.

Now Neil McEvoy, a politician from a different mould to most other Plaid MPs and AMs, is gaining popularity in working class Cardiff, so he is stitched up by Labour and hung out to dry by his own party.

To achieve this control over Plaid Cymru the permanent government doesn’t need many on the inside, just enough, in senior positions, to ensure that the right kind of left-liberal losers are recruited and promoted, and that nationalists, or anyone threatening Labour’s domination, is sidelined.

THE DOG IN THE MANGER

Since the Neil McEvoy affair blew up I have spoken with people I know inside Plaid Cymru and they are surprised, annoyed or outraged by the actions of the party leadership. No one I have spoken to supports the party leadership. The confusion extended to surprising quarters, like Martin Shipton in the Wasting Mule. Plaid’s leadership must know that they’ve got this one badly wrong.

But then, this is exactly how Plaid Cymru has been programmed to react in a situation like this. As I said earlier, Plaid Cymru was “subverted in the late 1980s and early 1990s into a political party that would never get more than 10-12% of the vote in UK general elections”, achieved by the simple expedient of taking the party in directions that made it unattractive to the great majority of Welsh voters.

Update that figure for devolution and we are talking of less than 25% in Assembly elections. Anything higher sets the alarm bells ringing in the marbled corridors of the permanent government. And action is taken.

 

Plaid Cymru since the bright young things took control has been a party promising everything to everybody . . . and delivering nothing, apart from minor concessions allowed by our masters to delude the rank and file that their leaders can deliver, and that the long-heralded ‘breakthrough’ is just around the corner. The ‘breakthrough’ that never comes . . . and was scuppered from within when it threatened to happen.

But perhaps Plaid Cymru’s most useful role has been as a dog in the manger party, because for as long as Plaid is in place, gaining just enough votes, it blocks the emergence of an alternative that could confront and defeat ‘Welsh’ Labour.

MY MESSAGE TO PLAID CYMRU MEMBERS

Whether you accept my theory or not, you know that your party is going nowhere. Which means that you are probably confused or disappointed by the treatment of Neil McEvoy, your party’s most effective politician.

You know that ‘Welsh’ Labour is there for the taking – so why is Plaid Cymru propping up this stumblebum party?

Or ask yourself why your party is so unattractive that Ukip got more votes in the last general election. And not just in Clwyd, but in Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymni, Swansea East, etcCome on! wise up!

My belief remains that Plaid Cymru has been compromised. For appearances’ sake, and to block the emergence of a credible alternative, it is allowed a certain level of support, in return for which it must deal with anyone threatening to upset the status quo.

To make Plaid Cymru the party it should be, the party most of you want it to be, you need to give our people the message of hope they want to hear. But to achieve this you must remove the deadwood at the top of the party.

Plaid Cymru needs a new leadership prepared to put the interests of Wales and the Welsh people first, no matter what other parties, the commentariat, or the ‘progressives’ of Islington, may say.

♦ end ♦

Feb 032015
 

As you might guess, this (originally short) post is a follow-up to my previous one, I Must Be Doing Something Right. It seems that Phil Parry at Wales Eye and Martin Shipton at Llais y Sais just won’t let go . . . though their persistence is not to be compared to slavering pit bulls, more like drowning men clutching at straws. FWA combined

Yesterday afternoon I received a tweet from Fat Boy, you can see it for yourself on the right, together with my response. (Click to enlarge.) Yes, I was flippant, partly because I have difficulty taking the man seriously and also because I’d caught some bug that had me in bed by seven o’clock. I should have guessed that this was the prelude to another attack on me but, as I’ve said, I was feeling rough and on my way to bed.

Refreshed by fifteen hours of sleep I powered up my computer this morning to learn that after I’d gone to bed Shipton had tweeted again, this time about paramilitary Shipton JJ combinedactivity and John Jenkins. His tweet and my response can be found on the left. (Click to enlarge.) What was it all about? I soon found out thanks to an e-mail from a supporter directing me to a tweet from Phil Parry at Wales Eye. (Below.) Again, I replied, and again, the response was somewhat flippant because, quite frankly, and with the best will in the world, I regard the man as an arsehole.

Anyway, it seems I am a “controversial commentator” (thank God for that!) and I support a paramilitary organisation. Which organisation would that be? I certainly support the various Kurdish militias fighting their people’s many enemies, but somehow I don’t think Parry is thinking of the Kurds. Given Lard Boy’s tweets yesterday we can safely assume that tomorrow, Wales Eye will run a World Exclusive! that I, Jac o’ the North, Swansea Jack, Royston Jones, supportWales Eye paramilitary combed the Free Wales Army . . . an organisation that ceased to exist around 1970.

This Earth-shattering news will be taken up by media outlets around the globe, Muscovites will stop complete strangers in a Red Square blizzard to ask, ‘Have you heard about that bastard Royston Jones supporting the Free Wales Army?’ And the response will be, ‘That’s nothing, I’ve heard he used to go drinking with that Cayo Evans in Lampeter’. Before they both shuffle off safe in the knowledge that President Putin would know how to deal with the likes of me. Then again, the coverage might be limited to Fat Boy at the Western Mail. In fact, I’m prepared to bet that the uptake will be limited to Llais y Sais.

So what’s going on here? It started off with Wales Eye, from out of a clear blue sky, attacking me in this concoction on September 2nd. A week or so later Wales Eye ran another piece about the persecution fantasies of Jacques Protic due (allegedly) to something I’d written about him, and this resulted in a North Wales Police enquiry. Then Wales Eye told us that I had been reported to South Wales Police for launching a ‘racial hatred’ petition . . . a petition that I did not launch. (But, understandably, Wales Eye neglected to tell us exactly who reported me.) This lie was then repeated almost verbatim by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail, and in WalesOnline, even though I’d put him straight. (See below.) Now it seems I am to be ‘outed’ as a supporter of paramilitary activity, a member of the Free Wales Army, and an admirer of John Jenkins. (Thank God they don’t know about that statue in Aber’!)

Shipton request combined

What sort of an arrangement is this that sees one of Wales’ most respected journalists (though not respected by me, obviously) acting as researcher for a vindictive blogger? Does Trinity Mirror plc pay Shipton’s salary for him to behave in this demeaning manner? But then, Shipton and Parry are both Labour, and Trinity Mirror has a record of supporting the Labour Party in Wales; who can forget the short-lived Welsh Mirror that crept from under a stone in the wake of Labour’s failure to gain a majority in the first Assembly elections of 1999? This rag was nothing but a platform for Paul Starling Parry, Shipton compositeto spew his hatred for all things Welsh, dressed up of course as ‘combatting the evils of nationalism’.

With an election approaching, is Trinity Mirror doing ‘Welsh’ Labour another favour by targetting me? For those tempted to answer with, ‘You’re not important enough, Jac’, I would answer that I’m obviously important enough for the chief reporter of Llais y Sais to sift through my blog postings, check my photographs, and to monitor my tweets, looking for anything that could be presented as remotely incriminating. It’s clearly a concerted attempt to discredit me and, by extension, what I write. So why is it happening?

Anyway, the whole point of writing this was to prepare my easily shocked readers for the news that tomorrow, on the Wales Eye blog, ace investigator and top notch political analyst, Phil Parry will break the news that I supported direct action. This will then be relayed by his fat friend over at Llais y Sais. And that, my friends, just about sums up the dire state of what today passes for ‘the Welsh media’. Stop Press: Here’s Parry’s World Exclusive!, in pdf format (saving you having to pay to read it). Oh, yes, make sure you’re not eating anything, otherwise you might choke laughing.

P.S. To save certain ‘journalists’ unnecessary delving into my past I shall set the record straight on a few things.

  • I did not sink the Titanic, honest!
  • I may have met Gavrilo Princip at a social event.
  • I was not responsible for the Wall Street Crash.
  • I played no part in the invasion of Abbysinia.
  • I never served in the SS . . . well, not before 1944, anyway.
  • I was never a hippy in the 1960s (though I did wear flares).
  • I did not kill JFK, it was the New Orleans Mob (I was with the Chicago Outfit).
  • I had no hand in the break-up of the Beatles.
  • I was nowhere near Watergate.
  • I have no idea where Jimmy Hoffa is buried (God bless him).
  • I did not invade Las Malvinas The Falklands.
  • I had no involvement in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • I am not related to Slobodan Milosovic (try Protic on that one).
  • I was never formally introduced to Saddam Hussein.
  • I did not vote Yes in last September’s Scottish independence referendum.
  • I have recommended you both for the very highest awards your profession can bestow.
Nov 292013
 

That Different Country

The title is of course a reference to the past. Because the pictures are all of friends and comrades, taken over the past half century. Some by me, others by the late Rhobert ap Steffan ('Castro'), while the rest are of unknown origin. When I started writing the captions I realised that I was having to use 'the late' far too often. So, in the interests of brevity, and to stop me feeling so old and bloody miserable, I have dropped 'the late'.

Another 60s protest
Another 60s protest
Cayo 1
Cayo 1
A Meeting in Machynlleth
A Meeting in Machynlleth
Cayo Evans, Portrait
Cayo Evans, Portrait
Census Campaign 2001
Census Campaign 2001
10th anniversay of Cayo Evans' death
10th anniversay of Cayo Evans' death
John Jenkins
John Jenkins
Gwynfor Evans Confronts 'The Ugly Face of Nationalism'
Gwynfor Evans Confronts 'The Ugly Face of Nationalism'
The Lamb 1
The Lamb 1
Machynlleth march
Machynlleth march
The Lamb 2
The Lamb 2
Gareth ap Siôn
Gareth ap Siôn
A Study in 1960s Transport
A Study in 1960s Transport
In a Bar a Long Time Ago . . .
In a Bar a Long Time Ago . . .
Equestrian Study
Equestrian Study
Me and 'Corpse' Corrigan
Me and 'Corpse' Corrigan
Dalis and Tony
Dalis and Tony
Dennis Coslett, Portrait.
Dennis Coslett, Portrait.
Railway Inn, Killay
Railway Inn, Killay
At an Undisclosed Location
At an Undisclosed Location
Yet Another 60s Protest
Yet Another 60s Protest
The Lamb 3
The Lamb 3
Magnificent 7 (of 9)
Magnificent 7 (of 9)
Don't Know Where, Don't Know When
Don't Know Where, Don't Know When
Young Gun
Young Gun

The title is of course a reference to the past. That’s because the pictures are all of friends and comrades, taken over the past half century. Some by me, others by the late Rhobert ap Steffan (‘Castro’); while the rest are of unknown origin. When I started writing the captions I realised that I was having to use ‘the late’ far too often. So, in the interests of brevity, and to stop me feeling so old and bloody miserable, I have dropped ‘the late’.

I am slowly organising the photographs I’ve accumulated into collections and galleries and will make them available on this site as they’re done. Eventually I hope to have them all catalogued and available via this blog or perhaps on a separate site.

If anyone has information to add, such as names, dates, corrections, even, then please get in touch. Also contact me if you have photos to contribute. If they’re in good nick then please e-mail me a copy. If not in good nick, then how about about letting me work on it? (The original will be untouched.)