Mike Stevens

May 082017
 

COUNCIL ELECTIONS

THOSE WE HAVE KNOWN

Before starting any analysis let’s look at a few individuals who have appeared on this blog recently.

First, Gary @poumista Jones in Llangennech. Gary was heavily involved with the school dispute, siding with those who would like to kill off the Welsh language. He came top of the poll, but the fact that his running mate, Jacqueline Seward, came third, some distance behind the leading Plaid Cymru candidate in this two-seat ward (see here), suggests that there was not an ‘overwhelming majority’, as claimed, supporting the position espoused by Michaela Beddows, Rosemary Emery and others trying to disguise bigotry as ‘choice’.

Ergo Gary’s victory must have contained a considerable personal vote unconnected with the school dispute, which can only be attributed to the free publicity I’ve given him. I therefore expect a few bottles of best quality Argentine Malbec to be delivered in the very near future.

Though many observers fear that Gary’s political career may not prosper, for not only can he do joined-up writing, it is even rumoured that he has read a book! Intellectual snobbery like that is frowned upon in the Llanelli Labour Party.

In Tywyn, there were incredible scenes as Mike Stevens – aka George M Stevens – was carried shoulder-high along the High Street to cries of, “Good old wassisname!” and “Where’s the free beer we were promised, you bastard?” after romping home with 29% of the vote.

Here in the Bryncrug / Llanfihangel ward that man of mystery Royston Hammond will remain an unknown quantity after losing, though given that hardly anybody knew him to begin with 22% of the vote in a two-horse race may be regarded as quite acceptable.

In a nutshell, the local government picture in Wales now is a patchwork, shown well in these excellent maps by Siôn Gwilym (@siongwilym) that take the election results down to ward level. They show us that all parties have their areas of strength but that with just a few outposts elsewhere ‘Welsh’ Labour is largely confined to the south and the north east.

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Now let’s take a quick tour of the country.

ALL ABOARD THE CHARABANC!

In Carmarthenshire there was a split between Llanelli and the rest of the county where Plaid Cymru dominates. Llanelli voted like Swansea, where Labour actually gained a councillor, partly due to Plaid Cymru being almost absent from the city. On the other side of the Bay things were not so good for Labour, with Plaid Cymru gaining seven seats, Independents gaining one seat, and even the Lib Dems gaining a seat in Neath Port Talbot.

Digression: Staying in this area, Labour hanging on in Llanelli throws up, or regurgitates, an interesting possibility for whenever the ‘Welsh’ Government finally gets around to tackling the local government reorganisation Wales so badly needs. Let me explain.

It is taken as read that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will combine, if only for the obvious reason that they already form a contiguous urban-industrial-commercial entity with the linkages being strengthened all the time. For example, Amazon’s massive ‘Swansea Fulfilment Centre‘ is in fact in Neath Port Talbot, and Swansea University’s new campus is also over the line. But what of Llanelli, the westerly component of this conurbation, separated from Swansea only by Afon Llwchwr?

Obviously Llanelli is not a unitary authority, but when local government reorganisation was discussed a few years back Swansea council’s preferred option (2 1 (i)) was a merger with NPT and Llanelli. I discussed it in Councils of Despair in December 2014. What’s more, this seemed to be the preferred option of the Labour Party in Llanelli. Given the clear dissonance in voting patterns between the town and the rest of the county it’s reasonable to assume that this remains Labour’s favoured option locally, and perhaps nationally.

For it would give ‘Welsh’ Labour a new authority of roughly half a million people, some sixth of Wales’ population, and with a guaranteed Labour majority in the new council chamber. With Labour taking hits and losing seats almost everywhere else this ‘Greater Swansea’ authority could provide it with a new base from which to fight back.

The picture for Wales is that Labour did well in the southern cities, but less well beyond those cities, where Plaid, Independents, and even the Cynon Valley Party won. The north east was another curate’s egg. In the northern metropolis of Wrexham, Labour now holds just 12 out of 52 seats in a town the party once dominated, but gained 3 seats in neighbouring Flintshire to remain the largest party, though without an overall majority. In Denbighshire Labour lost 6 seats and the Independents lost 4, the winners being the Conservatives (+8) and Plaid (+2).

Coming back to the south, it would appear that the further north one went, away from the glitz of Cardiff, the more likely electors were to be pissed off with how that glitz contrasts with the deprivation around them. Two former ‘Donkey Labour’ councils – Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent – will now be run by Independents, with even the council leader losing his seat in Merthyr. (Though due to the death of a candidate the Merthyr voting is not yet finished.)

One reason Labour did so well in Cardiff was that by and large the expected city-wide threats from Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats did not materialise. Certainly, Neil McEvoy topped the poll in Fairwater, and the other Plaid Candidates in this three-seat ward also got elected. In fact, in the Cardiff West constituency, of which Fairwater is part, Plaid got 23,832 votes compared with Labour’s 25,890, but for some reason the party hierarchy has decided that Cardiff West is not a target seat! Maybe this is further punishment for McEvoy, or maybe it’s another example of Plaid Cymru sabotaging any threat of success.

The only council where Plaid Cymru will have a majority of councillors is, as before, Gwynedd. But Plaid will be the largest party in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn, having increased its number of councillors on all three authorities. Plaid even gained another seat in Pembrokeshire, but Independents of various hues still hold 35 of the 60 seats. Which leaves just Powys and Monmouthshire.

In Harri Webb’s Green Desert the ruling Independents took a bit of a hiding, losing 17 of their 47 seats and overall control of the council, with just about everybody feasting on the downed beast, including the Greens, who now have a councillor in Wales. Though the new Green councillor confirms that the Green Party of Englandandwales is about as Welsh as UKIP (probably less so). Moving down to eastern Gwent we see that the Tories won a further 6 seats and now control the council.

To believe some mainstream media outlets the Tories swept the board in Wales, but the truth is that they control just one Welsh council, out of 22, and have fewer councillors than Plaid Cymru, or the Independents, a label that covers everything from Odessa sleepers to the Country Landowners’ Association. Though this being Wales, porkies also had to be told about Labour’s performance.

The headline to the picture below taken from the BBC Wales website – apparently supplied by the man who lost to Corbyn in the leadership contest – suggests that Labour swept the board in the Rhondda. The truth is that Plaid Cymru got more votes and more seats.

(I’ve asked this before, but who is the valkyrie hovering over Smiffy?)

One final thing – Wales is now a UKIP-free zone. The party held two seats, apparently, one of them in Ceredigion where Gethin James represented Aberporth. He must have known the game was up because he stood last week as an Independent – and still lost! Who the other one was I neither know nor care.

SCOTLAND

In Scotland, the Tories swept the board, crushing the SNP in the process . . . in the dreams of the mainstream media. Let’s look at the facts. The SNP is the largest party in Scotland’s four biggest cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. Allowing for re-drawn boundaries, the SNP now has more councillors than at the last local elections in 2012 (says BBC Scotland’s Brian Taylor).

The truth might be that the SNP is at a ‘plateau’ of support from which it’s difficult to make further progress, but the party’s support certainly isn’t collapsing as some would have us believe.

Yes, the Tories made gains, so let me give my interpretation of why that happened. And the bigger picture of the political realignment I see taking place in Scotland. If I’m right, then what’s happening is further proof of the strength of the SNP. First, a trip down memory lane.

When I was a much younger man, barely out of my teens, I worked for a construction firm for a while, first at the Mond Nickel refinery in Clydach, later building a gas plant in north west England. The site boss was a Protestant from Belfast and almost all his supervisors were either from his background, or else they were Scots.

Listening to the boss and his inner circle was quite an education. For example, I learnt about the links between the shipyards in Belfast and those on the Clyde. Those shipyards where foremen wore bowler hats. Those shipyards where it could be so difficult for a Catholic to get a job. I could hear this talk and then buy the Connolly Association’s Irish Democrat being hawked around the site by Irishmen of a different persuasion.

This was my introduction to the complex interplay between Ireland and Scotland, Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Republican/Nationalist. I soon realised that anyone who thought the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers was just about football knew nothing. It also made me understand why Conservative candidates in Scotland stood as Unionists, and it had nothing to do with the SNP.

There has always been a strand of Unionism in Scotland that is indigenous but also linked to Ireland, through Orange Lodges, Glasgow Rangers Football Club, the Presbyterian Church and other elements. Unlike Wales where what passes for Unionism is little more than a passive acceptance of English superiority and an excuse for street parties.

The power and influence of this tradition is partly due to so many Scots viewing the Union as a partnership of equals that began in 1603 when James VI rode south to become king of England. It has been reinforced over the centuries by the position of Scots in Ulster threatened by Irish nationalism, and in the nineteenth century from the disproportionate role played by Scots in building the British empire.

Those Scots who have now decided that independence would be the best option are therefore not ‘breaking away’, nor are they ‘separatists’ (deliberately offensive terms), many of them see it as dissolving a business partnership that no longer serves Scotland’s best interests.

Yet the residual power of this Unionist sentiment and the prospect of a second independence referendum explains why working class or unemployed Unionists/Rangers supporters living on some shitty housing scheme are now prepared to vote Conservative. It’s because the Tories are the Unionist party. Anyone who tries to read more into the growth of Conservative support in Scotland is wrong.

The Conservative Party in Scotland is now assuming the role of the Unionist parties in the Six Counties. It therefore needs to be very careful that it doesn’t also become the mouthpiece for the kind of prejudice and hatred we saw when BritNat Nazis rioted in George Square on 19 September 2014 following the independence referendum.

This realignment means that Scottish politics is being stripped of considerations of class and ideology and forming around the simple question, ‘Do you want independence?’ Those who do will support the SNP, an increasing number of those who do not will support the Conservative Party.

This tells us how the SNP has transformed Scottish politics, and how the new, bipolar configuration leaves little space for the Labour Party; a party further damaged because few believe it can provide ‘progressive’ politics within an increasingly regressive state.

‘LADY’ KATE CLAMP

Another way in which Wales differs from Scotland is that we have so few aristocrats living here, which means that I rarely get the opportunity to report on one. So where would I be without ‘Lady’ Kate Clamp, who has graced this blog before. She is the proprietrix of Happy Donkey Hill, formerly and for centuries known as Faerdre Fach.

Those who have yet to encounter this woman may care to watch her in glorious colour and surround sound. I’m not sure which Swiss finishing school she attended, but the signs of good breeding and education abound in this monologue.

The reason I’m writing about her again is that I hear she’s been hiring local workers, promising them cash in hand, and then refusing to pay. One excuse she’s used is that the payments have to go up to London to be authorised – so why advertise cash in hand? These aristocrats, eh!

As I’ve pointed out previously, her father, Michael D Gooley, major donor to the Conservative Party (£500,000 in the final quarter of 2014), is the owner of Faerdre Fach not her, and he has recently bought another property nearby. Dol Llan being a substantial old house just outside Llandysul which ‘Lady’ Clamp is again claiming to be hers, to the extent of trying to make a few quid by selling off bits of it.

If you’ve recovered from the monologue I linked to above you might care to visit her Facebook page, which is where I found it. There you’ll experience more of the same, for it seems no one ever meets ‘Lady’ Kate’s exacting standards . . . which I suppose is her excuse for not paying.

Though if I was Derrick Hughes I might consider having a word with my solicitor after having my professional reputation damaged on Facebook. I wonder if he got paid?

Whichever way you look at her – and I wouldn’t advise looking for too long! – this woman is a phoney. She claims to own property that is in fact owned by her multi-millionaire daddy. She plays the role of the country lady while looking for excuses to cheat people out of money she owes. Her monologues betray her as a foul-mouthed, self-pitying drunk. No wonder no one who knows her has a good word to say for her. Her only ‘friends’ appear be on the internet.

What a tragedy it is that people like this are taking over our country and behaving like a colonialist elite, changing old names and wrecking properties that for centuries have played a role in Welsh communities. It’s surely time for us to stop being so polite, and welcoming. A judiciously delivered ‘Fuck off!’ can avoid so many misunderstandings.

♦ end ♦

May 012017
 

BIGOTRY WRIT LARGE

Last Friday I was sent photographs of a leaflet that had been distributed in Trawsfynydd. The accompanying message was that they were handed out by a guy in a Mercedes.

The contents of the leaflet fit a pattern I became familiar with long ago. ‘Plaid Cymru’ or ‘Gwynedd Council’ is attacked but the real target is us, the Welsh people. That’s because having the natives running things really upsets a certain kind of English mindset, it challenges what they believe to be the natural order of things. Such people will not be satisfied until we are fully assimilated and every vestigial memory of our identity is destroyed.

Or maybe, as with Jacques Protic and other swivel-eyed obsessives, the real target is the Welsh language, which they blame for everything from infant mortality rates to potholes, with Plaid Cymru or Gwynedd just collateral damage, along with Labour, for Protic also targets ‘closet nationalists’ like Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. (A ‘closet’ in which both remained forever secreted.)

For Welsh medium education is also targeted in this leaflet, with defamatory references to an ‘English Not’, ‘language police’, and the suggestion that Welsh words are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words. A kind of Fast Show Channel 9 weather forecast with Poula ‘Skorchio’, but without the humour or any other redeeming features.

This opposition to ‘Gwynedd’/’Plaid Cymru’ can take bizarre forms. Around twenty years ago I recall a notable anti-Welsh campaigner arguing for local government reorganisation so that we might enjoy a council stretching along the Cardigan Bay coast because, it was argued, a coastal community had more in common with another coastal community 70 miles away than with a settlement 10 or 15 miles inland.

To understand the calculation behind this, mentally link Barmouth with Borth rather than with Blaenau Ffestiniog or Bala.

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After putting the leaflet out on social media I received a message on Saturday morning telling me that there were two persons involved, a man and a woman, and they’d been observed in a cafe in Trawsfynydd discussing the council election with other customers, and handing out what looked like the leaflet in question. One of the pair was the Independent councillor for Llangelynin ward, Louise Hughes. It made sense because I’d recently seen her in Tywyn driving a Mercedes.

Her male companion was described as being around 60 years of age, with dark/greying hair but not bald, quite tall, with wrinkles, and “scruffy”. Has anyone seen a man answering this description in the company of Councillor Louise Hughes?

I telephoned Louise Hughes around mid-day on Saturday and she admitted that she’d been in the Trawsfynydd cafe and, yes, she had handed out leaflets, but she became rather evasive on the nature of the leaflets and suggested she was doing it for someone else.

The reason she gave for being in the cafe was that she and her companion were on their way to canvas for Liberal Democrat Councillor Steven Churchman in Dolbenmaen ward, where he is opposed by a Plaid Cymru candidate. I am not suggesting that Churchman has any part in this despicable episode, so I invite Councillor Churchman to comment and make his position clear.

Louise Hughes also stood for Westminster in 2015, when she got 4.8% of the vote. She has stood for the Assembly twice, in 2011 and 2016. The first time was under the Llais Gwynedd banner, when she came in a respectable third, on 15.5% of the vote, but in 2016, standing as an Independent, she was fifth, with just 6.2%. So her star appears to be waning.

One of the names on her nomination paper from 2015 is George M Stevens, which might pass unnoticed until you realise that it’s her pal and political mentor, UKIP-leaning Councillor Mike Stevens. Why he should be so shy about using the name by which everyone knows him is a mystery.

Stevens it was who came up with the barmy scheme to have a local authority that would make Chile look fat. He has come up with many other barmy schemes, such as the cod and crow banner for Tywyn, which he used as an excuse to remove our national flag from Tywyn promenade (in case it frightens the tourists).

When he’s not being an annoying colonialist twat Stevens runs his own printing business in Tywyn, Genesis, which is very useful for someone who feels he has a vital message for the deluded masses unaware of the Plaid Cymru tyranny they live under.

Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that Mike Stevens printed the glossy and otherwise expensive leaflets being handed out by Louise Hughes and her scruffy companion in Trawsfynydd, and their allies in Dolgellau, such as MM and ARE.

What I am saying, and I say this quite clearly, is that this leaflet contravenes electoral and possibly other law, and those who wrote, published and distributed it, could be prosecuted, on the following grounds:

  • It describes itself as “a special Plaid Cymru Election edition”. Obviously it was not produced by Plaid Cymru. The party may care to take this up with the electoral authorities, or the police, or both.
  • It is election material, in that it is designed to influence how people vote on May 4th, yet it carries no imprint other than “Printy McPrintface”. This is definitely illegal, and not remotely funny.
  • Given what this leaflet says about an ‘English Not’ operating in Gwynedd schools and other references to the Welsh language it borders on being a hate crime.

On Thursday we have an election in our ward of Bryncrug-Llanfihangel. Our sitting candidate, local woman Beth Lawton, is being opposed by a Royston Hammond of Llanegryn. The response has been one of confusion because no one seems to know Hammond.

The confusion is partly caused by the fact that he doesn’t live in our ward, for Llanegryn is in Louise Hughes’ Llangelynin ward, so why doesn’t he stand in that ward, which he must know better – if only marginally – than the ward he’s standing for? Louise Hughes is now returned unopposed.

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Well, the word in the local thés dansants is that Hammond and his wife Mercia are very pally with Louise Hughes. So it’s reasonable to assume that a deal has been cut to give Hughes a clear run – and time to distribute the vile leaflets – while Hammond tries to give the gang another councillor in a neighbouring ward.

On his leaflet Hammond says “I have run my own companies”. True, but it may not be the kind of record he should boast about. Here’s the list from the Companies House website. One company he’s recently been involved with was SHS Inns Ltd of Blackburn (latterly, Southampton), which was liquidated last year.

The only company that he’s been involved with that appears to be still standing is H.I.S.&S. Ltd. (Formerly known as Hammond Industrial Services Ltd.) Though Hammond himself resigned as a director 31 December 2015 his wife remains a director. Hammond appears to have been replaced in April 2016 by Susan Salt, who was also involved with them in the ill-fated SHS Inns Ltd.

The figures for H.I.S.&S. Ltd are not good. The balance sheet up to 31 July 2016 shows total assets of -£14,305 against a figure for the previous year of £4,481. There appears to be one (depreciating) asset, possibly a vehicle, which contributes £10,786 to the value of the company, down from £18,114 the previous year. The true picture might be even worse, for these figures are taken from an unaudited return.

APOLOGY: In last year’s Assembly elections I voted for Louise Hughes, partly because I knew that the sitting AM Dafydd Elis Thomas was leaving Plaid Cymru. Now that I better understand her and the company she keeps I assure you it will never happen again. I shall henceforth do my best to atone for my mistake.

BAY OF PLENTY

No, this has got nothing to do with New Zealand, or rugby, or the forthcoming Lions tour. Now read on.

Another curious publication was brought to my attention on Friday, this one being put through letter-boxes in the City of the Blest. It’s available here on a website that does not allow downloading. So I’d catch it while you can, for it may not be up for much longer.

The magazine is called ‘Vision Swansea Bay’, described as an “independent magazine” which “is independently funded and published by an association of local residents and business owners.” The first few pages are innocuous enough, the City Deal, Swansea University, the tidal lagoon, then comes a double-page spread on the council elections – which is all about the Labour Party.

For example, “Think Jeremy Corbyn is a loser? Oh dear, you’ve been brainwashed”.

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Turning to the back cover provides the clue. For here we find a plug for the Aspire Foundation, an organisation for go-getting women. The Aspire Foundation website is registered to a Dawn Lyle, of Swansea, who just happens to be a Labour stalwart.

This is her:

In addition to mentoring young women, she has a company called iCreate Ltd. (There are a few other companies to be found for Dawn Muriel Lyle on the Companies House website.)

Another group with which she’s involved is Swansea Bay Futures Ltd, a company limited by guarantee and packed with local worthies, including academics and of course politicians; among them Meryl Gravell, the soon-to-retire Emissary on Earth for His Omnipotence Mark James; while among the mortals we find Rob Stewart, Labour leader of Swansea council, who we met just now in ‘Vision Swansea Bay’.

In her self-penned bio you will have noticed that, “Dawn is a motivational speaker for girls and school-leavers, and is passionate about raising aspirations and increasing opportunities for young women in Swansea and beyond.” Which presumably means that she goes around schools giving inspirational talks. For this she would need local education authority approval – no problem when Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are Labour controlled and she’s an “active member of the Labour Party”.

And it’s reasonable to assume that she gets paid by her friends in these Labour-run local authorities. Which means that what we have here is just a new slant on Labour cronyism. This woman, who modestly describes herself as “one of Wales leading women entrepreneurs”, might struggle without Labour Party patronage.

But what of those involved with the Swansea Bay project, who represent all political parties and none; how do they feel about the brand being used to promote the Labour Party just a week before a council election? Feedback I’ve already had suggests storm clouds may be gathering.

And who’s paying for it, is it Swansea Bay Futures? Is it the Labour Party? According to the imprint, “VISION is independently published by an association of local residents”! (That word ‘independent[ly]’ again!)

Are we to believe that a group of residents met up, maybe in an Uplands coffee house, and for no better reason than having time on their hands, decided to bring out a magazine; most of which consists of regurgitated ‘news’ available elsewhere, with the only departures being plugs for the Labour Party and a full-page ad for Dawn Lyle’s company?

You can buy that or you can believe my interpretation, which is that Dawn Lyle and Swansea Labour Party have subverted a cross-party or non-party body (and perhaps used its resources), to bring out a crude and obvious plug for a worried Labour Party just ahead of an election. Lay your bets!

If I’m right then this magazine is Labour Party electioneering material with a false or misleading imprint. An offence.

LEE WATERS AM

The Assembly Member for Llanelli has become something of a celebrity in some political circles, partly due to his support for the ‘protesters’ whose knuckles dragging outside Llangennech school have so disturbed the children they claim to be speaking for, and partly because of the widely-held belief that, despite being the AM for Llanelli, the man has never lived in that town.

To my knowledge, no one has ever made a formal complaint, or asked for an investigation into whether Lee Waters might have committed an offence, so I decided to do it myself.

First, I wrote to a couple of departments in the Assembly (the website not making it clear who to contact) and was eventually advised by the office of the Standards Commissioner that I should take my complaint to Paul Callard of Dyfed Powys Police, who “is the single point of contact on election matters”.

I telephoned Mr Callard on Friday. (Busy day, Friday.) He confirmed that any complaint should be addressed to him, and that time was running out, because there is only a year from the date of the election – 5 May 2016 – to make a complaint.

Fundamentally, my complaint hinges on the fact that the nomination paper submitted by a candidate must give the ‘Home Address’. Waters gave as his home address last year 25 New Zealand Street, Llanelli, when all the evidence points to him living in Barry.

It doesn’t help Waters’ case that if you read the list of nominated candidates from last year you will see that two of them knew the law, and complied with it, stating that they did not live in the constituency. Though I guarantee that, like Waters, they stayed in Llanelli at times during the campaign.

My letter was e-mailed to Mr Callard at Dyfed Powys Police this morning. You can read it here.

UPDATE 04.05.2017: After telephoning him at around mid-day yesterday I was told by Mr Callard that I would receive an answer later in the day, and it arrived at around 3:45. According to Mr Callard the year allowed in which to make a complain starts from the date on the ‘Statement of Persons Nominated’, in this case 8th April. So my complaint was too late.

Which would appear to be the end of the matter. But at least I tried, which is more than can be said for anyone else. I won’t make that mistake again.

♦ end ♦

Oct 062015
 

GREENWOOD FOREST PARK

Last Saturday, overcome with an uncharacteristic bout of generosity, I took a couple of grandchildren (plus wife, to look after them) on a day out to the Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon. Obviously an ancient Welsh name for the area, to be compared with Oakwood, and Folly Farm, and Plonkers’ Playground. Whereas along the coast, we invariably find ‘Sands’ in the name, so as to make it clear to even the stupidest potential visitor that these places are near to the sea: Golden Sands, Sunny Sands, Happy Sands, et-bloody-cetera.

For what it is, a few slides, some sorry-looking rabbits, pedal ‘go-karts’, one small roller coaster, archery and donkey rides, I suppose Greenwood is OK. But I couldn’t help but notice there seemed to be no locals employed there. Or let me put it this way, I don’t doubt that those working there live locally – they must do – but I didn’t hear one local accent. And let’s remember we’re a few miles outside Caernarfon, near the village of Bethel where, until very recently, everyone spoke Welsh. (Though, chwarae teg, all signs were bilingual, so that would satisfy Cymdeithas yr Iaith . . . if that organisation still exists.)

As you might expect, I made a few enquiries about Greenwood. It’s owned by husband and wife Stephen and Andrea Bristow and seems to be quite healthy, in financial terms. Which may not be surprising, given some of the grants Greenwood has received. For example £25,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) for signage (without which perhaps the signs would have been in English only). Greenwood is now lined up for another grant from the TISS, this time for £250,000, for a few more slides.

Tourism Investment Support Scheme

I don’t know about you, but 311 jobs claimed by the ‘Welsh’ Government as the dividend for an investment of fourteen million pounds seems like a pretty poor return. Especially when not all of the 311 were new jobs, some were ‘safeguarded’; in other words, they were jobs already in existence that we must believe would have been lost without this investment. Either way, it works out at around £45,000 per job.

And remember, this being Wales, there are probably other funding pots claiming to have created or ‘safeguarded’ the very same jobs. Also remember that we’re discussing tourism, so many of the jobs created / ‘safeguarded’ will be seasonal . . . but you aren’t supposed to know that, so forget I mentioned it.

In 2013 Greenwood was ranked the ninth most popular (paid for) attraction in Wales, and a year later it saw 146,000 visitors. Divide 146,000 by 365 and you get 400 a day, and it’s not much more impressive if you go for a six-month ‘season’ giving 800 visitors a day. But then, there’s always the grants.

*

COED Y BRENIN

On the way home from Greenwood we stopped at the visitor centre in Coed-y-Brenin, north of Dolgellau.

There was obviously some kind of mountain biking event being held because the place was full of mud-caked hearties and fitness fascists; nothing but rippling calf muscles and machines the cost of which could support a family of Andean peasants for a lifetime (and put the eldest boy through college). Conspicuous consumption was everywhere, from the fancy motors with the bicycle racks on the back to the £200 shades. But that wasn’t the only reason I felt a little uncomfortable, for it soon dawned on me that our family group might be the only Welsh people there . . . in the heart of Meirionnydd.

I later learnt that the event was the Trek Coed y Brenin Enduro, and although the results do not use the ‘Country’ column a quick glance through the names suggests that Welsh participation was minimal. I further suspect the event into which I stumbled was organised by Mountain Biking Wales or possibly Dyfi Events. Though the Coed y Brenin forest, and indeed the visitor centre, is owned by Natural Resources Wales, and therefore all paid for out of the Welsh public purse.

Coed y Brenin and Greenwood are examples of the ‘Playground Wales’ phenomenon that sees indecently large amounts of Welsh public funding used to encourage strangers to see our homeland as nothing more than their playground; an arrangement for which we pay, but from which we derive little if any benefit.

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WHOSE COUNTRY IS THIS?

Don’t misunderstand me, there is little intrinsically wrong with responsible tourism from which the indigenous population benefits without it being overwhelmed or having its environment degraded. But in Wales we have the worst kind of exploitive and damaging tourism, one that interprets people queuing to climb Snowdon as a tribute to the ‘success’ of Welsh tourism rather than a warning of impending environmental disaster.

That’s because no one will concede there might be a limit to the number of tourists Wales can comfortably cope with, which in turn is partly due to the fact that the money tourists spend here works its way back to England, unlike money spent by English tourists overseas. So the more the merrier, and sod the consequences!

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, what we experience in Wales is to all intents and purposes English tourism. Most of the businesses taking the money are English owned, most of those employed are English, the vast majority of the visitors are English and, as I’ve already said, the money they spend in Wales will make its way back to England in VAT and other taxes, utility bills, payments to suppliers, etc., etc.

The extent of how ugly, alien and exploitive tourism in Wales has become is laid bare by people like Chris Osborne, chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance. Osborne, like many of the English running tourism businesses in Wales, believes that if all towns and villages, mountains and rivers, had English names then people like him could make even more money. To put it as he did in this article, Wales should have “accessible names” and “accessible messages”. (Fair enough. How about, ‘Fuck off, you arrogant, colonialist bastard!’. Is that “accessible” enough?)

Playground Wales

It might be comforting if Chris Osborne was an isolated example of those involved in tourism who view Welshness, and indeed Welsh people, as an obstacle to them exploiting Wales. But he appears to be the authentic and unadulterated voice of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

To prove the point, here’s another star performer. Back in July Irene Laird, who has imposed herself on Rhosgadfan, near Caernarfon, was found guilty of racially-aggravated assault and racially-aggravated threatening behaviour, for calling a local woman a “Welsh c—“. The report can be found here. The bit that really struck me was that, ‘when the racial abuse was mentioned by a probation officer to Laird “there was no recognition such behaviour was inappropriate and no element of remorse”’! That is very, very revealing.

That tirade would have been bad enough in any circumstances, but this woman, with her husband, runs a tourism business, Welsh Dragon Tours – which seems to be still in business! (I wonder if they’ve had any grant funding?) When you’re on their website, check out the ‘Testimonials’. They are all from untraceable overseas visitors, with not one from these islands, which set my bullshit sensors all a-quiver.

Here’s a sample: “Ten out of Ten for Everything. Mrs A, Tel Aviv, Israel”. “The scenery was stunning!  Thank you very, very much for all the attention given us over those 4 days. Miss M, Malta.” “Thank you very much for showing us around your wonderful scenic country. Mrs F, Yokohama, Japan.” I suspect that in addition to being an anti-Welsh bigot this woman might also be a falsifier of testimonials. Pins and maps come to mind.

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‘IT’S OUR WALES NOW’

What we see with Osborne, Laird and others is them trying to promote tourism as if Wales was just a scenic part of England. Welsh people, the Welsh language, Welsh place names and other manifestations of a separate identity expose the fact that it is not, and it also exposes them for the interlopers they are. This goes a long way to explaining why these people are hostile to expressions of Welsh identity, and this hostility takes a number of forms.

A few years ago, while sauntering along Tywyn promenade (I enjoy a good saunter), I noticed that one flagpole was, as usual, flying the union flag, but the other, where the Welsh flag had been, now flew a yellow and blue flag carrying what looked to be a fish and a bird. I made enquiries and learnt that new flag was that of Tywyn, and had been dreamed up by local businessman and infamous Britlander Mike Stevens, in his self-appointed role as driving force of the Tywyn Chamber of Tourism and Commerce. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, and the Welsh flag was restored.

Stevens argued that his sole motivation in designing a new flag was to represent and promote the town. Not, as some unkind souls might suggest, an excuse to get rid of the Dragon. But the boy got form for oblique attacks on things Welsh. In this incident, Cyngor Gwynedd quite rightly placed warning signs on Tywyn’s new sea defence island.Cadfan's stone Stevens doesn’t like bilingual signs, but he can’t say that, so he has to make himself look silly with contrived and implausible complaints.

Mike Stevens is now a county councillor, elected by those that tourism has encouraged to settle in Tywyn, to the point where they now make up a majority of the population. A picture replicated across ‘tourist’ Wales.

Around Tywyn now you will see another flag, made up of a rising sun and some goats, said to be the flag of Meirionnydd. Predictably it is favoured by those who have no concept of, and no roots in, Meirionnydd. It’s just another excuse – like the Pembrokeshire flag and others – to avoid flying the national flag of Wales.

In defending his contrived banner Stevens argued that the raven it carried was the “historic emblem of Tywyn“. In fact, the Raven belongs to the Anglo-Norman Corbet(t) family, but in the local church you will see, on St. Cadfan’s stone (see panel on right), the oldest example of written Welsh, possibly from the 7th century. Much older than any Corbet(t) connection, but of course it’s Welsh, and therefore of no interest to Stevens and his ilk.

You mustn’t think that this ugly attitude to all things Welsh, this belief that rural and coastal Wales was a desert ere the arrival of the English tourist, is confined to people like Ukip-leaning Mike Stevens, for this prejudice infects others. Brought home to me a couple of years back in an exchange of letters in the Cambrian News with a Greenie named Andrew Currie, who wrote, “He (moi!) has also missed the fact that coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times.” My response to Currie was not published, but you can read it here.

What a frightening and insulting mindset we see exposed here. It is nothing less than the traditional justification for colonialism, along the lines of, ‘Well, yes, there were natives living here before we arrived but the silly buggers couldn’t do anything for themselves, and now they wouldn’t be able to manage without us’.

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TOURISM OR WELSHNESS? YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH

For some 50 years we Welsh have been subjected to one of the most sustained and successful propaganda offensives in history. We have been brainwashed into accepting that tourism is the economic salvation of the greater part of Wales, that we Welsh derive huge benefits from tourism, and that there are no downsides whatsoever. I think it’s time we woke up to reality.

Tourism as practised in Wales is nothing but colonialist exploitation. People from a neighbouring country come to exploit our country, and not wishing to be reminded of our existence, or their position as incomers, they seek to deny and destroy what is indigenous in order to promote a sanitised and more “accessible” West Anglia. Not only do those claiming to represent us welcome this exploitation, this discrimination, this ‘cleansing’, they are even prepared to fund it!

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The very survival of Welsh identity is jeopardised by tourism and the influx it encourages. Consequently, Wales needs a national debate on tourism. A debate informed by facts and independent research, not more propaganda from the tourism industry’s sponsored academics. If we are denied that debate then we must decide how we defend ourselves against this threat. For it is the greatest, the most serious threat, the Welsh nation has ever faced.