Neil McEvoy

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 ♦

Mar 072017
 

Neil McEvoy

There’s no question that Neil McEvoy divides opinion, both within his own party, Plaid Cymru, and also within the wider community. The one place where opinion seems to be united is in the Labour Party, where people universally hate him. In many ways he is the enfant terrible of Welsh politics, a role that has gone unfilled for far too long.

Now you know me, in my book, being hated by ‘Welsh’ Labour is no bad thing, and can very often be a mark of distinction given the odious bastards we find in that corrupt and self-serving gang of liars, crooks, bigots, careerists and BritLanders. (‘BritLanders’ are sad cases who delude themselves that Britain or the UK is something other than England by another name.)

Neil McEvoy’s latest mention in the headlines is due to an appearance last week before something called the Adjudication Panel for Wales over an allegation of bullying. Now as kangaroo courts go, this one could make it from Cardiff to Bangor in a single hop, because the whole process was a stitch-up from start to finish. The charge hinges on an uncontested remark, the issue being to whom it was directed.

Leaving Cardiff Civil Justice Centre with a constituent in July 2015 after an unsuccessful appeal against eviction for non-payment of rent McEvoy said, “I can’t wait until May 2017 when the restructure of the council happens”. He maintains that he was talking to his constituent, the council official thought it was directed at her, and that it could be construed as a threat to her job if and when Plaid Cymru was running the council. (Which in July 2015 seemed a very unlikely prospect.)

Those of us of a certain age, who have enjoyed the company of ‘colourful’ characters, and frequented the kinds of “low dives” our mothers always told us to avoid, may think that as threats go – and even if it was directed at the council official – this was mild to the point of being innocuous. There was no weapon involved, not a hand was laid, there wasn’t even a swear word employed! And it would appear that the official took the same view . . . but then the Labour Party got to hear of it.

Although unwilling to press charges, the official, under pressure now from her ‘Welsh’ Labour Party employers, changed her mind. Maybe it was spelled out to her that if she didn’t co-operate then she could lose her job a lot sooner than May 2017, and it wouldn’t be Plaid Cymru handing her her P45.

For we are dealing here with the Labour Party in Cardiff, where the bullying of women is rampant, perhaps even party policy. For as Neil McEvoy said in the article I’ve linked to –

Seven female councillors have resigned from Labour in Cardiff. Seven!

So Why Was Neil McEvoy Stitched Up?

This section begins in the same vein as the first; Neil McEvoy was stitched up because he’s made a lot of enemies, a hell of a lot of enemies. It’s no exaggeration to say that in the past few years he might have pissed off more people than me! And while Neil McEvoy and I might not agree on much, I suspect that when it comes to pointing the finger at those Wales would be better without, then we’d be pointing in the same directions many a time. Where to start?

As I’ve already said, and as should be obvious, he is detested by the Labour Party with a particular vehemence for two main reasons: first, until 2003 he was a member of that party, and second, since then he has been an opponent who’s landed many damaging blows. Being elected to Cardiff city council and the Notional Assembly are just the more obvious of those blows.

Recently Neil McEvoy has served on the Public Accounts Committee, which has been looking into the workings of our housing associations, and he’s been asking awkward questions, and in other ways annoying people. For as I’ve explained, housing associations, especially the favoured and rapidly expanding Wales and West Housing, are just the Labour Party by another name.

Over the years he’s asked many more awkward questions of the Third Sector in general. Which means there are thousands of people in Wales living high on the hog of public funding who’d like to see the back of Neil McEvoy. (Preferably with a knife between his shoulder blades.)

Then there’s Deryn. You haven’t heard of Deryn? Well, it’s a kind of lobbying or PR company, made up of insiders that is so good that it wins contracts without even having to tender for them! Neil McEvoy has been asking why Ofcom Wales awarded a contract to Deryn and whether this was connected to the fact that two of Deryn’s senior people sit on the Ofcom advisory board for Wales.

But you mustn’t think he’s picking on Deryn alone, for last year he asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to copy Westminster and Holyrood by introducing legislation to regulate lobbyists. But when we have firms like Deryn, stuffed with politicians, former politicians, spads and other insiders, we can’t realistically expect the ‘Welsh’ Government to do anything.

I could go on, but take my word for it, Neil McEvoy has pissed off a lot of people who are taking the public and/or the public purse for a ride. These people are ‘insiders’, by which I mean, they belong to the Cardiff or Bay ‘bubble’. That self-contained world where people tell themselves that everything across Wales is hunky-dory because they are doing well.

A bubble wherein we find lazy incompetents promising not to attack each other for being lazy and incompetent, then dressing this up as some laudable ‘consensus’. It’s nothing of the kind. It’s third-raters deluding themselves they’re achieving something and it’s a cruel deception practised on the Welsh people.

Neil McEvoy exposes this ‘consensus’ for what it is, and threatens to shake this cosy world apart. Do you still want to know why he was stitched up?

Why Neil McEvoy Embarrasses Plaid Cymru’s Leadership

To understand just how cosy this ‘consensus’ really is, just take a look at the leading lights in Deryn. You’ll find representatives of ‘Welsh’ Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives. (It’s only a matter of time before Ukip’s Neil Hamilton gets the call. Christine will be delighted!)

In talking of ‘consensus’, it is the relationship between Labour and Plaid Cymru that goes a long way to explaining the Plaid leadership’s reaction to recent events. Because Plaid’s leadership dreams wet dreams of a coalition with Labour and so reality – in the form of Neil McEvoy – must not be allowed to intrude. Without a formal coalition then Plaid likes to kid itself that more can be achieved by co-operation than by confrontation – with ‘Welsh’ Labour!

All of which results in Plaid Cymru being reluctant to attack Labour. Labour knows this, and laughs at Plaid’s naivete. And this, boys and girls, is the truth about the ‘consensus’. Neil McEvoy understands this better than most.

Beyond the one-sided or imagined cosy relationship another explanation for the party leadership’s attitude to Neil McEvoy can be explained by the special interest groups that make up Plaid Cymru. I’m now referring to those who join Plaid for no other reason than to promote socialism, environmental issues, LGBT politics, the Welsh language, feminism, etc. On the McEvoy issue it is clearly the feminists driving the agenda – those same Plaid Cymru ‘feminists’ who were silent as the Cardiff Labour Party behaved like a gang of latter-day Bluebeards.

To explain what I mean about special interest groups, and in particular, feminism, let me remind you of something I covered back in November 2015, in a compendium post, scroll down to the section ‘Sophie Howe, More Labour Cronyism’.

The eponymous Sophie Howe is a lifelong Labour Party member, the daughter of a one-time councillor in Cardiff, who worked as South Wales Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, her boss being former Labour MP Alun Michael. When she couldn’t land herself a safe seat a totally new post, Future Generations Commissioner, was created for her.

This news was greeted by Jocelyn Davies, then a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, with the tweet below. For a feminist like Davies, this squalid example of Labour cronyism could be excused – because Sophie Howe is a “strong woman”. God Almighty!

This blind spot that so many Plaid leaders have for Labour – and, more generally, those on the left – manifests itself in many ways. One example I ran across a few days ago was on the blog of Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid candidate for Clwyd South in 2016.

In his latest post Mabon deals with Welsh language education in Dyffryn Ceiriog, and asks in the title ‘Was Llangennech a stand alone issue? No. Here’s why . . . ‘ He tells of a local bigot opposing Welsh medium education, but he doesn’t lay into him because this bugger is “solidly left of centre”, a trade unionist and, presumably, a member of the Labour Party.

Yet the article makes a direct comparison with Llangennech, and if there’s one lesson to come out of Llangennech it is that the Labour Party, and socialists like Gary ‘Poumista’ Jones, have schemed and connived, been guilty of lies and intimidation, all to thwart kids getting a Welsh education. Some of them linked up openly with Ukip, and less openly with even uglier elements further to the BritNat right.

Listen, Mabon; the real message from Llangennech is that anti-Welsh bigotry comes from across the political spectrum, it is not an ideological issue. Because if we follow your logic, then I, being on the political right, am less acceptable to you than this bigot on the left. Know your friends. More importantly, know your enemies.

I didn’t enjoy writing that because Mabon is a good boy. But some things have to be said.

Let me finish by saying that I don’t really know Neil McEvoy; for all I know he could be an utter cad, or perhaps someone who bites the heads off fluffy lickle bunny wunnies.

But I do know why he was stitched up. And I know who stitched him up. And I’ve explained why many in Plaid Cymru are uncomfortable with him – it’s because he threatens their ludicrous ‘consensus’ that is nothing more than an excuse for inertia and betrayal.

Some people, myself included, regard him as a breath of fresh air, others clearly view him as something more destructive, perhaps a whirlwind. Either way, I sense that he is forcing Plaid Cymru to confront its relationship with ‘Welsh’ Labour in a way that no one has done for some time.

Which is good, for I believe that Plaid Cymru either needs a revolution from within to re-focus the party, or else it needs to be killed off and replaced by a new party that will better serve the Welsh national interest.

Wales is the poorest country in Europe, due to Labour’s corruption and incompetence, aided and abetted by Plaid Cymru’s insane belief in ‘consensus’. Anything will be an improvement on this.

♦ end ♦

Jan 082017
 

I’ve argued many times that Wales is in a bad way, a condition I described in a recent blog as “a basket case country with a begging bowl ‘economy'”. We’re at the bottom of every table measuring the state of the nation – PISA results are woeful, GVA figure are terrible and the number of economically inactive people is worrying.

Devolution has achieved nothing; in my more cynical moments I think it’s just a distraction, or a placebo.

All that seems to matter is that the money keeps rolling in to prop up the edifice and keep the politicians and their legions of cronies in jobs; with Labour trying to soothe away every damning statistic or latest piece of bad news with yet more platitudinous bollocks. Despite having had almost 18 years to improve things, the truth is that ‘Welsh’ Labour has made things worse.

The only conclusion to draw is that the party is either incapable or unwilling to improve things for our people. (Or maybe that devolution is designed to fail.) Which makes you wonder why so many Welsh people have stuck with Labour for so long. But now, after a hundred years of failure, I sense that more and more people realise that these clowns will never deliver a democratic, prosperous and confident Wales.

Despite Labour’s countless shortcomings there always seemed to be little point in looking to Plaid Cymru for meaningful change. (Regular readers will know my views on that score.) Though that said, one new face among Plaid politicians has caught my eye, I’m referring now to South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy.

Let me make clear that I have never met Neil McEvoy, but it’s obvious from a distance that he’s cut from a different cloth to most Plaid politicians. He comes from neither the cultural nationalist wing nor from the Left-Green wing. He seems to be a man with both feet firmly planted in his own community, not looking to save the planet or pander to Guardianistas. This rootedness makes it almost inevitable that he confronts Labour head-on, and exposes the corruption at the heart of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

In addition, he seems to be that rarity among Plaid politicians, a street fighter, a species of which Labour has always had plenty, but dear parchus Plaid always found rather, well . . . not neis.

I find this refreshing, because as I’ve always argued, there are too many in Plaid Cymru who allow outdated and discredited ideology to dominate their thinking, and then they pile one mistake on another by lining up with their Guardianista friends in seeing the Tories as the enemy. But the biggest party in Wales, and therefore the real enemy of Wales, is Labour.

As I said just now, McEvoy fights Labour on their own turf. And it’s working. In the May 2016 Assembly elections voters in the working class estates in the west of Cardiff turned out to get him within 1,000 votes of unseating Mark Drakeford, Labour Health Minister at the time. That means that the former seat of Rhodri Morgan, head of the Morgan dynasty, is now a key marginal for the next election.

Understandably, this has sent Labour into something of a panic, and it’s not solely attributable to the votes McEvoy’s taken from them. For example, since being elected AM he’s called for an official Welsh register of lobbyists. When Carwyn Jones said lobbyists had no access to Labour Ministers McEvoy produced photographic evidence of Labour Ministers meeting with lobbyists. Backtracking followed, and Jones had to confirm that lobbyists do have access, just not formal access. In other words, and like so much else with ‘Welsh’ Labour, it’s all done in the shadows.

I’m also glad to report that McEvoy has been asking questions about David Goldstone and his influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s property deals. Questions that other politicians should have been asking a long, long time ago. He exposed the scarcely believable loss of £1m on just 2 shops sold by the ‘Welsh’ Government, without a valuation, in Pontypridd. (My 9-year-old grandson could have got a better deal than that! Come to think of it, so could his kid brother.)

UPDATE, 13.01.2017: We were paying for Goldstone’s trips to Cardiff, and his stays at the Hilton Hotel.

Now I hear he’s chasing up something unearthed by the Public Accounts Committee, on which he sits. It seems Cardiff Aviation at St Athan doesn’t pay rent; one suggestion being that someone, somewhere, possibly belonging to a certain political party, gave the OK for Cardiff Aviation to enjoy the St Athan facilities rent free. Then there’s an issue with planes being unable to land in fog, which it seems lost Cardiff the EasyJet link. And if that’s not enough to get the bruvvers worked up, allegations of institutionalised corruption have been made against Cardiff’s Labour-controlled council.

Despite that litany of nasal intrusions what may have really marked the South Wales Central Member’s card with ‘Welsh’ Labour is his objection to the billions likely to be made on the Cardiff Local Development Plan. Labour campaigned on the promise to protect Cardiff’s green fields. As soon as they were elected they announced plans to build on most of them. Contrived population projections from the English Planning Inspectorate (dealt with more than once on this blog) being used as the justification.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the land has already been sold off at knock-down, agricultural prices. Read my posts Pies, Planes and Property Development and Pies, Planes and Property Development 2.

Make no mistake, there is something very shady about the Cardiff LDP, and challenging it will make you a target. Though I don’t think anyone expected Labour to be so desperate as to try to tarnish McEvoy a racist for his objections (a default position for Labour politicos), with even the First Minister getting involved. Bizarre in the extreme given Neil McEvoy’s multi-ethnic family background.

So deeply under Labour’s thick hide has Neil McEvoy managed to wriggle that I have it on very good authority (a former Labour councillor) that up to a third of Labour group meetings in Cardiff are dedicated to plotting his downfall. I was unable to confirm if voodoo dolls and pins are involved.

So no one should be surprised that he’s now being investigated by Wales’ Public Services Ombudsman in a desperate attempt to find him guilty of bringing the Council into disrepute – after trying to stop a bedroom tax eviction! How could anyone be charged with bringing a Labour council into disrepute!

The ‘charge’ seems to be that he was overheard saying that he can’t wait for Cardiff Council to be re-structured after May’s election. ‘Welsh’ Labour’s hope is to get the Local Government Panel to ban him from council elections – for talking about a policy of restructuring! The PSO, Nick Bennett, is hardly politically neutral himself (see my previous article here).

The article linked to reminds us that in an earlier existence Bennett was the business partner of an up and coming Labour politician who went on to become a Minister. Combine this with his lobbying for the tobacco industry and his role in huge wage increases for executives at Community Housing Cymru – the umbrella group for our housing associations (of which he was then CEO) – and it all tends to tarnish his credentials as an impartial arbiter of behaviour in political and public life.

Nick Bennett is an insider, he’s part of the ‘machine’, and in a working democracy he would never have been appointed Public Services Ombudsman.

But things go beyond run-of-the-mill political corruption when we remember that twice in the last 12 months Neil McEvoy has been burgled. In 2016 he came home from a public meeting about a landfill site to find the house ransacked by intruders, but while they took a great deal of trouble to break in they ignored the money, jewellery and pocket-sized iPads. Preferring to rifle through his paperwork, stealing some documents.

And McEvoy’s ‘Welcome to 2017, you bastard!’ was an office burglary, with valuable items once again ignored, but papers rummaged through and locked drawers broken open. This is simply too much of a coincidence not to be coordinated.

When the two burglaries are linked to the persistent allegations of the stalking of his sister, with the boys in blue refusing to interview independent witnesses, to the mass theft of placards during his election campaign (some removed by a Labour-controlled housing association!), we begin to get an understanding of the breadth, the depth, and the bitterness of the campaign against him.

I cannot think of any Plaid politician who has got under the skin of Labour in the way Neil McEvoy has – too many haven’t even tried. No Plaid politician before has ever stood up in the Assembly and named just some of the Labour cronies earning huge salaries in the public and third sectors. And no other Plaid politician has had the guts to take on the corrupt land deals that the Labour Party waived through.

One bad apple may spoil the barrel, but one good apple doesn’t save the cider either. Plaid is still too cosy with the liberal, statist, anti-Brexit, ‘Isn’t Trump ghastly’ elite, so embittered since they learnt what ordinary people really think of them and their ideas. But whether you support Plaid Cymru or not, if you believe in honesty and democracy, then you should support Neil McEvoy.

If devolution is ever going to be more than a chimera then at the very least we need more AMs prepared to take on the corrupt establishment and stand up to the vested interests. If that establishment can be so rattled by one ballsy Plaid politician then it makes you realise what effect a few more could have.

But from where I’m sitting too many in Plaid’s hierarchy seem to be ‘uncomfortable’ with Neil McEvoy. Because there have always been people in Plaid Cymru reluctant to make a ‘fuss’, terrified of actually succeeding, some have even worked to undermine the party when success threatened.

By comparison, the Labour Party in Wales has always been ruthless in maintaining its hold on power in order to support its networks of cronyism and corruption. Labour has been so dominant for so long that people seemed resigned to these abuses, but times are changing, and with Labour losing electoral support – getting just a third of the vote in last May’s Assembly election – there’s a growing perception that a century of political control – and the power of patronage that goes with it – may be coming to an end.

Which is wonderful news for Wales, but this fin-de-siècle moment is not with us yet. The system is decayed and rotten, like a dangerous tree, but while we are trying to push it over there are still many people reliant on it for sustenance, and they’ll fight dirty to keep it standing. But it will fall, that’s now certain; so it’s up to us to make sure that when it comes down it topples on the right people.

Let it be clearly understood – in case any lawyers read this – that I am not for one minute suggesting that the Labour and Unionist Party was implicated in the break-ins suffered by Neil McEvoy. No, sir. It could well be that these offences were committed by an insomniac with an insatiable urge to read political documents by torchlight. If so, then that person clearly needs help.

If there is no help available then I shall set up the Welsh Insomniac Burglars Aid Society and whack in a grant application for a couple of mill to tackle this horrendous problem; then it’ll be a new motor . . . a few months of wine-tasting in Argentina, maybe go watch Boca . . . apartment down Mumbles . . . conferences in St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Rio . . . Why not? That’s how Labour’s Third Sector operates.

I’d have to use a false name of course, and pretend to be an English Labourite luvvie who’s just arrived in Wales.

end ♦

May 082016
 

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

Dwyfor-M

CLICK TO ENLARGE

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

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

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

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

Frank Wykes

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

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

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

Mid and West Wales

CLICK TO ENLARGE

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

Hamiltons

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

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

*

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

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

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

Hello, Hello, Hello

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

PCC Dyfed Powys

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~

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

Nov 082015
 

HOOKED ON FUNDING

Drugs is big business, as this recent case reminded us, and drugs generates lots of money for people other than drug dealers. Even the UK government has acknowledged that drug dealers buy cars, houses, boats, bling, foreign holidays, etc., etc. On top of that, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ keeps cops, lawyers and prisons in business. And as if that wasn’t enough, we then have all those who’ve found jobs ‘helping’ drug addicts.

There must now be thousands of agencies, large and small, operating locally, at Wales level, UK level, which often overlap and duplicate each other’s work and, in total, receive billions of pounds in funding from various sources. The only losers in this situation are of course the drug addicts – but ‘it’s their own fault anyway’. A strange attitude to take towards those who keep this ship afloat.

Of course, the only other blot on this landscape of economic win-win is that those involved in manufacturing, importing and distributing drugs tend to keep their assets offshore, or under granny’s mattress, and therefore pay no tax. But since when have such practices ever troubled UK politicians, of any party?

If you wanted to be utterly cynical, you could argue that there are now so many people dependent on the drugs trade that if the ‘War on Drugs’ was, by some fluke, won, then it might have a seriously detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Drugaid

I am indebted to Brychan for reminding us that among the big players in Wales in the ‘helping drug addicts’ racket is The South Wales Association For Prevention Of Addiction Ltd (Charity No 265008), more usually known as Drugaid. Its four trustees are Professor Neil Frude, Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf, Mr William George David Smith and Mrs Linda Hodgson. As well Prof Frudeas being trustees of the charity these four are also the only directors of the cash-rich Newport-based company of the same name (No 01073381).

Professor Frude appears to be a somewhat unorthodox psychologist and one-time stand-up comedian, who runs the Happiness Consultancy in Berkshire. He is also an external professor at the University of South Wales and has some connection with Cardiff University. Though his main income is said to be from his work for BUPA, which no doubt contributes greatly to Frude’s personal happiness.

Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf is a retired lady of 79, who may live in Newport, or she may live in Oxford. I’m told that she recently got an OBE for her work with the Girl Guides. (When I tried to ‘work’ with Girl Guides during my Sea Scouts days all I ever got was ‘Get lost, you dirty sod’!) Miss Scarf is also said to be ‘big’ in the Anglican Church. When I read that it made me think of John Major’s old ladies cycling to Evensong after a skinfull of warm beer. Ah!

William George David Smith seems to be a chartered accountant in Cardiff and Linda Hodgson may, or may not, live in Porth, in the Rhondda. The contact and director for Drugaid is a Caroline Phipps from God knows where but currently domiciled in Caerffili. All in all, a typical ‘Welsh’ Third Sector outfit, made up of willing locals and those who can sniff out easy money from 500 miles away.

Drugaid first saw the light of day in Cardiff, in 1972, brought into this cruel world by the Reverend Peter Keward, and christened South Wales Action to Prevent Addiction (SWAPA). Since when it seems to have moved to Newport and concentrated its activities in the central and eastern Valleys, even into prosperous Monmouthshire. And despite what the outdated ‘About Us’ page says, Drugaid is also spreading west, yea unto Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. In fact, the organisation now covers the whole of the south, from the border to the Irish Sea . . . apart from Cardiff and Swansea Bay, perhaps having been warned off the two main cities.

In figures submitted to the Charity Commission Drugaid had income for the year ended March 30, 2014 of £2,727,668 and expenditure of £2,789,439. It had 78 employees and 30 volunteers, so we are dealing here with a sizeable operation, and it’s still growing, currently advertising to fill 8 vacancies. (Here in screen capture.)

What does Drugaid actually do?

This is the tricky bit. Drugaid seems to work with ‘partner’ bodies, these include GPs, health services, various other Third Sector bodies, and the ‘National’ Probation Service (for Englandandwales). The latest available accounts show that these ‘partners’ (excluding local health boards and councils) put £1.74m into the Drugaid pot y/e 31.03.2014, with a further £606,397 coming from our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government. So where does it go?

Drugaid income

Well, £1.83m went on wages and salaries, then there was ‘Hire of equipment and services’ (£211,870), ‘Motor and mileage costs’ (£88,151), ‘Light and heat’ (£80,287), ‘Telephone’ (£42,249), ‘Other operating leases’ (£162,854), ‘Sundries’ (£160,807), ‘Depreciation’ (£91,902), etc., etc. Apart from ‘Needles’ (£31,949), it’s difficult to identify any direct spending on those the charity is supposed to be helping, but let’s remember, this is a major employer, pushing towards 100 employees. (The two columns show y/e 31.03.2014 on the left, 2013 on the right.)

Drugaid spending

If one wished to be unkind it would easy to dismiss Drugaid as yet another charity where almost all the funding goes on salaries and administrative costs. A grotesquely bloated organisation, currently expanding beyond its ability to cope with this expansion and, as a result, not achieving a lot. Hardly surprising perhaps for a charity overseen by a stand-up comic.

I say that because in searching the Drugaid website I could find nothing boasting of ‘outcomes’, that word so beloved of Third Sector organisations, used in describing successes, numbers of ‘clients’ helped. Then my hopes soared as I saw ‘Drugaid Annual Review‘ . . . but the last one was posted in 2011! How is anyone – funders, for example – supposed to know whether Drugaid is actually doing any good? Or is Drugaid just part of some Third Sector merry-go-round where ‘cases’ get moved on from one agency to another with each agency taking its cut?

Drugaid gobbledegook

Another indicator that all may not be well is something else I found on the website, an invitation to tender, worded thus: “Drugaid is currently reviewing the provision of Supervision to our employees.  Following feedback from staff, a review of our Supervision Policy and research into best practice in Supervision, Drugaid has decided to redefine the supervision that is offered to all staff to provide a more inclusive, productive and efficient means of providing this vital support to all who work for us.”

Oh sorry, the closing date for that tender was 20th of February 2013!!! This is getting worrying. If the website is anything to go by, Drugaid is in one hell of a mess – but remember, this is an organisation that’s still expanding! Here’s a screen capture of the 2013 invitation to tender, because I guarantee it won’t be on the website much longer.

What else do we know?

I’ve already mentioned that in addition to the charity there is also a private company, limited by guarantee, with the same directors as are trustees of the charity. The company has a net worth of £1.1m, and £1.2m in cash.

Having also mentioned the situations currently vacant, it may be worthwhile focusing on one of these, the job in Merthyr catering for veterans. This caught Brychan’s eye due to a difference in legislation between Wales and England. Here in Wales, the Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Wales) Order 2001 specifies that anyone who finds himself / herself homeless after leaving the armed forces is categorised as a priority for social housing. The Homelessness Act 2002, which applies to England only, allows local authorities there to reject applicants on the grounds of ‘no local connection’.

Given what we already know about the operations of the Third Sector and social housing bodies, and how lax legislation allows – even encourages – the importation of ‘clients’ from England, it demands no great leap of the imagination to envision Drugaid bringing in English ex-service personnel with drugs problems. Does this go some way to account for the recent expansion, both in personnel numbers and geographical reach?

Whatever Drugaid is doing, or supposed to be doing, it doesn’t seem to do it well. Nowhere does it give figures for those it has helped, as a result there seems to be no way whatsoever of gauging its success.  The percentage of its income spent on salaries and administrative charges is ludicrous, and should be unacceptable to its funders. The website, Drugaid’s window to the world, is an absolute shambles, full of gibberish and out-of-date pages. There has been no Yearly Review posted since that for 2011. How the hell can an organisation in such a state be allowed, even encouraged, to expand?

Finally, and being guided by the latest accounts, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Drugaid is no more than a glorified needle exchange. As such, it does not deserve the excessive funding it receives. It is surely time for partners and funders to review their support for Drugaid.

*

NEIL WOOLLARD, ANOTHER UPLANDS COUNCILLOR GONE MISSING?

Following on the recent news of the departure from Swansea of Uplands councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, which itself followed on the departure last year of his friend Pearleen Sangha, I now hear that another Labour councillor from that ward may have disappeared.Phil Tanner

The name I’m hearing is Neil Woollard, an interesting character, Woollard, for in addition to his day job, and his council work, Neil and some friends are the Rag Foundation, a popular folk ensemble. The group’s repertoire draws heavily on the songs of Gower folk singer Phil Tanner (1862 – 1950), a man whose life covered the ending of south Gower’s ‘island’ status, those centuries when it had more in common with Somerset than with north Gower. I’ve even read somewhere that Woollard is Tanner’s grandson, but to my knowledge Tanner had no children, certainly none are recorded.

What I’m hearing is that Woollard is employed by ‘a company involved with the Swansea tidal lagoon’, yet for some reason this means that he now lives in the Cardiff area. Though this might not be as odd as it sounds, for the company behind the lagoon is based in Gloucester, so maybe he’s chosen to live somewhere roughly half way between Swansea and Gloucester. But I’m only guessing. My source is however adamant that Woollard now lives somewhere in the Cardiff area.

While Woollard’s attendance record at council meetings has not taken the dramatic turn for the worse we saw with Bayliss (and why should it, for Bayliss is further away, in Bristol), there has still been a marked decline. In the period 14.05.2015 – 06.11.2015 his attendance record was 30%, but for the six-month period before that it was 60%.

So the question on Woollard is roughly the same as I asked for Bayliss.Is he still able to properly discharge his duties as councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea? If not, then there must be a by-election, not another lengthy period – as we saw with Sangha – of the Labour Party staying schtum or, when pressed, maintaining that he’s still, ‘livin’ down by ‘ere, mun’ and that nothing has changed.

Dylan Thomas’s old neighbourhood is now an area of flats and houses of multiple occupation, with a largely transient population of students and drifters, but that is no reason for this transient and footloose lifestyle to extend to the Labour councillors elected to represent the ward.

UPDATE 19:25: I am now informed by one of my alert readers that Woollard is actually working on the proposed Cardiff tidal lagoon, as Head of Local Engagement. The Cardiff Tidal Lagoon bio blurb makes it clear why Woollard was recruited – his contacts within the Labour Party.

Neil Woollard Tidal Lagoon

Strangely, or perhaps not, there is no mention that Woollard is a Swansea councillor. What do the rules say about elected councillors canvassing other councillors, AMs and ministers on behalf of a private company? And how should people back in Swansea feel about one of their councillors working on what could be viewed as a rival project to the Swansea tidal lagoon? Serious questions here for Woollard and Labour.

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SOPHIE HOWE, MORE LABOUR CRONYISM

Earlier this year I wrote about Sophie Howe, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales. Well now her Labour cronies have given her another well-paid job, this time as Future Generations Commissioner, a flim-flam post created, it would appear, for no better reason than to pander to the Green lobby . . . and of course to create another cushy number for one of the insiderest of Labour insiders.

Howe is the daughter of a Labour councillor, who herself became a councillor at 22, she also worked as a Research / Casework Assistant for both Julie Morgan MP and Sue Essex AM, before moving up to do similar work for Julie Morgan’s husband and First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and then his successor in that post Carwyn Jones, before most recently becoming No 2 to former Labour MP Alun Michael in February 2013, after he became the PCC. She was hoping to find a safe seat for the May General Election, but failed, so this post could be viewed as a consolation prize. But I have no doubt that a safe seat will be found for her before 2020, so no one should expect her to see out the ‘seven-year term’ of this job.

Her father, Peter Howe, followed her into the office of Julie Morgan to, eventually, become office manager. A correspondent insists that Howe was a bully, a failing overlooked by his adoring daughter who was otherwise so interested in protecting women from male bullying. Though in this instance the suggested ‘trigger’ might have been jealousy, as the woman being bullied had been selected to stand for Cardiff City Council . . . whereas Peter Howe had been overlooked.

Sophie Howe

Reactions to the appointment varied. Tory leader Andrew R T Davies did his ‘Confused but Mildly Outraged of Cowbridge’ act while others were less charitable. Among them a rising star within Plaid Cymru, councillor Neil McEvoy. On a lighter note, Llanelli Plaid Cymru councillor Ruth Price made a Sharon Stone comment which unfortunately allowed Howe’s defenders to focus on this merry quip rather than on the appointment itself.

Howe’s boss, PCC Alun Michael, went into full feigned outrage mode and was quoted as saying, ‘There is no place for comments of this sort in a civilised society and it is particularly unacceptable in Wales.” What utter bollocks. A civilised society is judged by far, far more important things than an off-the-cuff remark like this. Among them, openness in public appointments. You sanctimonious little prick!

For her pains Ruth Price also took stick from her own party, including a Twitter DM from Llanelli Assembly candidate Helen Mary Jones. In fact, among Plaid’s big-wigs there seemed to be considerably more support for Sophie Howe than opposition. It even seemed to be decided by an individual’s attitudes to a Plaid coalition with Labour next year. Here’s what Plaid Cymru regional AM Jocelyn Davies tweeted almost as soon as the announcement was made public.

Jocelyn Davies tweet

Well, well, there was me thinking that this Sophie Howe appointment was about Labour cronyism corrupting the public and political life of Wales, a reminder that Wales is a one-party state, but no! – it’s a wimmin issue. And everything’s OK cos our Sophie is “a strong woman”. Is Jocelyn Davies standing again next year?

Using this rationale, perhaps it would have been acceptable for a misogynist communist to have sent Hitler a telegram in 1933, saying, ‘Good to see a strong man in charge, Mein Fuhrer‘ . . . before he was dragged off to the concentration camp.

It’s said that Sophie Howe is a lawyer, if so, she’s never used that training for anything other than political purposes. Every job she’s ever done has either been working directly for the Labour Party, or else was gained through her Labour Party connections. Consequently, there is no way of gauging this woman’s real ability because there has never been any politically impartial assessment. She should never have been appointed Future Generations Commissioner.

*

SAM WARBURTON, CAPTAIN CARDIFF

The Rugby World Cup circus has departed, the ball has gone from the castle wall, and despite all the hype and expectation, we didn’t win the bloody thing, again. Yes, I know, we had lots of injuries, and biased refs (no, sorry, that was Scotland), but what struck me was that even when it was all over the ‘Welsh’ media couldn’t stop being . . . well, the Cardiff media.

Soon after the Final final whistle two of Wales’ great rugby pundits weighed in in the Wasting Mule to tell us that Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, is the best player we’ve got, and the only one who’d make it into the World XV to take on the tourists from Mars. First, on October 29th, it was former Wales captain Gwyn Jones, and a few days later, on November 1st, it was the turn of rugby correspondent Andy Howell.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Warburton is a fine player, it’s just that the Cardiff media is besotted with him. Sometimes it’s possible to pick up the Llais y Sais and find him on the front page, a few of the sports pages, and a couple of inside pages. It’s bizarre, because it’s quite obvious that on the field of play – and I suspect in training and elsewhere – the national team is actually led by Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar. Whereas Warburton, on the field, is almost silent, and certainly no captain. So is it a ceremonial role?

This adoration of Sam Warburton does not extend beyond Wales, or perhaps beyond Cardiff. Shown by another report I picked up around the same time, sandwiched between the two I’ve quoted, this being the six-player shortlist for the Rugby World Player of the Year. Who do we see on the shortlist – Sam Warburton, surely? No, the only Welshman there is Alun Wyn Jones. Suggesting that people outside of Wales have a better perspective on Welsh rugby than many inside Wales.Dan Biggar

This corrupted view of various players’ qualities is due to the fact that the Wasting Mule, and to a lesser degree the BBC and ITV, see a great part of their role in being to promote the city of Cardiff, and anyone or anything that can in turn be used to promote Cardiff. This can not be done with Biggar or Jones because both come from Swansea, which is the worst of all possible alternatives. So it has to be wall-to-wall Warburton.

Of course it was the Welsh Rugby Union not the media that made Warburton captain, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Warburton regarding himself as British rather than Welsh makes him the perfect captain for hard-line Unionists like WRU Chairman David Pickering, for whom Wales flickers into life only on the rugby field. A kind of sporting Brigadoon.

Why Wales coach Warren Gatland falls into line with this nonsense is no great mystery. He knows Alun Wyn will sing the anthem lustily enough for both himself and Warburton, and put himself about for the full 80 minutes; he also knows that Biggar will cajole and inspire his team-mates for as long as he’s left on, so if it keeps the WRU suits and the Cardiff media happy why not play along with the charade of a figurehead captain?

*

WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT US?

Lying in bed the other morning, picking my nose and flicking bogies around the yet-dark room, I got to thinking about devolution, as you do when engaged in activity so conducive to deep, analytical thought.

It occurred to me that devolution, coupled with EU poverty funding, higher education, local government and other fields, have created in Wales tens of thousands of jobs in management roles for English administrators and others of moderate or even dubious ability who would struggle to land jobs offering anything like the same salaries and pension benefits in the private sector.

I’m thinking here of civil servants attached to the ‘Welsh’ Government and its various agencies, so many of the officers in our twenty-two local authorities, those innumerable managers in our seven health boards (plus the hospitals, clinics, centres, etc), housing associations beyond counting, third-rate academics in a higher education sector that ceased serving Welsh needs almost half a century ago, third sector organisations and other bodies too numerous to mention that have either come into existence since devolution or else have set up a ‘Welsh’ presence by transferring in staff.

Looking at it this way, devolution has been of more benefit to perhaps 30,000 members of England’s middle class than it has to 2.5 million Welsh. And most of this generosity is paid for out the Welsh public purse. But hey! that’s how colonialism operates.

May 012014
 

‘Jac writing about Cardiff!’ I hear you exclaim, before dropping your coffee in your lap. Yes, and I’m not even going to gloat over certain sporting matters. I’m writing this post because the Cardiff LDP could have implications well beyond the city itself. Before getting down to it let me acknowledge that the post was inspired by Councillor Neil McEvoy’s article on Daily Wales. I only know Neil through social networking but he seems the type of energetic and awkward (in the best sense of the word) politician Wales needs. The kind of man who enjoys making life difficult for those who think their decisions should be accepted without question.

First, a brief explanation. Every local authority has to produce a Local Development Plan telling us how it proposes meeting the future needs of its area in terms of population growth and housebuilding. This is done with the ‘guidance’ of the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Statistics and projections are supplied by StatsWales via the Knowledge and Analytical Services of the same London department. Both the PI and KAS have civil servants based in Cardiff, which allows the ‘Welsh’ Government to claim that it alone is responsible for planning matters in Wales. In this, as in so much else, I fear, the ‘Welsh’ Government deludes itself and misleads the rest of us.Cardiff LDP Map

Local Development Plans across Wales cover the period 2006 – 2026 and are at different stages of acceptance and adoption, so the Cardiff Plan is already way behind schedule. Something else worth saying about LDPs is that they were first compiled before the figures from the 2011 Census became available (from July 2012). Which is odd, seeing as the Census results contradicted many of the assumptions and projections on which the LDPs were predicated.

One of the great mysteries of LDPs in Wales is why they were pushed through even though it was known that the presumptions and calculations on which they were based could be undone by the findings of the 2011 Census. It’s not as if the 2011 Census sneaked up on us, everybody knew it was coming, so why not wait for the hard facts it provided. It’s almost as if certain interests wanted to rush the LDPs through before the figures used could be proved wrong by the Census.

The Deposit LDP for Cardiff can be found here and if you scroll down the page you’ll find a link to the Background Technical Paper on Population, Households and Dwellings. On page 17 of the latter document you’ll find the table below. According to this table the population will increase by 71,612 between 2006 and 2026; resulting in 42,363 new households requiring  41,132 new dwellings. These figures are interesting, but even more interesting is the source for the 2026 figures, the ones used to determine how many new dwellings Cardiff will ‘need’. The Population figures for 2006 and 2011 come from the Office for National Statistics’ Mid Year Estimates (MYE). The Household figure for 2006 comes from StatsWales because household projections are contracted out by the ONS to Knowledge and Analytical Services (i.e. StatsWales). But the all-important 2026 figures are attributed to the “Edge Report”, so what is this? Well, it refers to Edge Analytics, “the specialists in demographic modelling”.

Cardiff LDP summary table

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Which then raises the question: ‘Why would Cardiff council recruit expensive consultants? The council already employs thousands of people, it has access through electoral rolls, council tax ledgers, planning and other data to a wealth of information about the city and its people; and all this can be supplemented by the population projections and other figures provided free by the ONS and StatsWales. So why employ outside specialists?

I’ll leave that question for a while to focus on the most recent national projection released by StatsWales / KAS, which says that the population of Wales in 2026 will be 3,238,000, an increase of 164,000 on 2012. At the 2011 Census Cardiff’s population of 346,090 accounted for 11.3% of Wales’ total. So 11.3% of 164,000 would mean Cardiff’s population increasing by 18,532 to 2026. This, I concede, is unrealistic, so let us assume an increase in Cardiff of double the Welsh average, giving a figure of 37,064 and a population in 2026 of  383,154. This, I think, is reasonable, because if we see anything more, such as the 30% of Wales’ total population increase predicted by Edge Analytics (or Cardiff city council), then the rest of the country needs to start asking serious questions of the ‘Welsh’ Government about investment levels and employment opportunities in other areas of Wales.

Cardiff LDP 4

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Which may give us one reason Cardiff city council decided not to use official figures – they didn’t allow for a big enough increase in the city’s population. (Though, in fairness to them, it seems that Edge did suggest reducing certain of the counci’s predictions – see panel – but the council rejected these recommendations!) Although we have the national projection to 2026, StatsWales / KAS needs to pull its finger out and produce the breakdown by local authority, no matter how unwelcome that will be to certain people connected with Cardiff city council.

Having dealt with population projections the other big issue is the number of new homes the council extrapolates from that figure. To be exact, 41,132 to cope with a projected 71,612 more people. Many factors go into determining how many new dwellings will be needed but the two principal considerations are household size, that is, the average number living in any dwelling; and new households forming, that is, people leaving the parental home to live alone or with a partner, marital break-up, etc.

The current average household size for Wales is 2.31 though higher for Cardiff due to its much younger age profile; and there has been a reducing rate of new household formation for a number of years, even before the recent economic crisis. (See the panel above.) One factor is that more people in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents, as this article explains. Another factor will be the changes in benefits payable to, for example, young single mothers. Finally, we need to consider the 3% of the population living in communal establishments, not households. Add it all up and it makes the claimed 42,363 new households from a population increase of just 71,612 difficult to accept, perhaps suggesting that it contains an element of wishful thinking or speculative housing. I would have thought that Cardiff had seen enough of the latter in recent years. Worse, to stick with the housing figure knowing that the population increase itself is exaggerated could mean that the whole exercise is driven by speculative housing interests.

Other factors also need to be considered in explaining why both the population and household projections are unrealistic. First, the city’s student population of some 37,000 accounts for many houses of multiple occupation (HMO), the large number of buy-to-let mortgages, and also helps push up Cardiff’s household size. But there is surely a limit to how many students Cardiff can attract without standards falling and / or too many students alienating the resident population. Second, the population increase figure between 2001 and 2011 was heavily influenced by immigration from the ‘new’ EU states, mainly Poland. The Poles are going home, and they will not be replaced because there is no large country poised to join the EU.

Cardiff LDP Household gibberish

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I conclude that the true purpose of the Cardiff LDP is to increase the size, and importance, of the city at all costs, with one eye on speculative building. This to be done with no heed paid to damage inflicted on the city’s own green spaces nor the economic health of the wider region and Wales. To achieve this grandiose aim the LDP then has to pick and choose which statistics suit the purpose and, indeed, which recommendations of is own consultants can be used. This is one reason Edge Analytics was retained – to serve as a whipping-boy or scapegoat if the opposition got organised – ‘Our consultants advised us . . . ‘. But as we’ve seen, the council was very selective in what it accepted from its consultants.

This all results in hundreds of pages designed to confuse the curious and discourage those minded to oppose the LDP. Partly achieved by passages of near-gibberish, such as the one reproduced in the panel above. There were not “346,100 households in Cardiff” in July 2012, that was the city’s population (though I don’t recognise the figure). While the 2008-based household size projection for Cardiff is actually 2.36, so I have no idea where the 2.35 and 2.33 figures quoted come from. Edge Analytics? Though it may be worth remembering that the smaller the household size then the more new dwellings that will be ‘needed’.

In many respects the Cardiff Local Development Plan is no worse than other LDPs I have looked at, such as those for Carmarthenshire, and Denbighshire. The main difference being that with Cardiff it’s difficult to detect the behind-the-scenes insistence of the Planning Inspectorate on building more houses than an area needs, presumably because Cardiff city council, unlike many other authorities, needed no encouragement. Consequently the Cardiff Local Development Plan is a compendium of carefully selected statistics plus ‘statistics’ that seem to have been plucked from thin air. As a work of the imagination it might be worth entering it for some literary award. But it should never be implemented; for to do so would be damaging both for Cardiff and for Wales.

STOP PRESS: Last night there was a referendum in the Fairwater-Pentrebane area of Cardiff on the LDP. The question posed was: ‘Do You Think That The Deposit Local Development Plan Should Be Adopted For Cardiff?’ The result: Yes 31 votes (2%), No 1,311 votes (98%) Turnout 13.55%. Read about it here in Daily Wales.