Martyn Shrewsbury

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.