Steven Churchman

May 202017
 

I had planned to focus on the UK general election, but it’ll have to wait as I feel that an update is merited to the ongoing case of the anonymous leaflets distributed in Gwynedd prior to the council elections earlier this month.

A PICTURE EMERGES

I first dealt with this glossy, 4-page leaflet in Dirty, Dirty Politics, but at the time I was only able to provide you with copies e-mailed to me and almost certainly taken with a phone. I have since received a copy of the leaflet and I’m now able to provide a scanned version. (Click on the image to enlarge.) I also provided an update in Elections 2017 (scroll down).

Perhaps the main reason I’m returning to this subject is because information I’ve subsequently received makes it clear that these leaflets were distributed far more widely than I had originally thought, and may even constitute something of a campaign. Let me remind you how it began.

I was sent copies of the leaflet on Friday, April 28th, with a message saying that they had been handed out in Trawsfynydd by a guy driving a Mercedes. I was able to establish that the car in fact belonged to Councillor Louise Hughes, who represents the Llangelynin ward on Gwynedd County Council as an Independent. Louise Hughes told me when I phoned her the next day that she had stopped in Trawsfynydd on her way to Garndolbenmaen to canvass for the Lib Dem candidate in Dolbenmaen ward, Steven Churchman.

Then someone else got in touch to say that the leaflets had also been seen in Dolgellau, and a few individuals were named as likely distributors. Later, I heard they’d turned up in Blaenau Ffestiniog. More recently, I have been told of these leaflets turning up on Llŷn, and there seems to be a pattern emerging.

We shall look at the wider consequences, and the possible scale of this activity, later.

SO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ABOUT IT, JAC?

I have sent a letter to North Wales Police, and accompanying the letter was a copy of the offending leaflet together with a copy of the Electoral Commission’s factsheet, the clear and concise Election Material and Imprints – Great Britain. I reproduce the relevant passages of the leaflet below.

The page reproduced above makes it clear that Hughes and her gang constitute a non-party campaign organisation, which makes the leaflet election material – in that it seeks to influence people against a particular party – and as such it should carry an imprint, which it clearly doesn’t. (Believe me, ‘Printy McPrintface’ will not be accepted as an imprint by the Electoral Commission.)

On Thursday I received another e-mail from the Electoral Commission which said, “It appears that the material you have provided does not contain an appropriate imprint. However, as it is not clear from the material you have provided who has actually produced and distributed the leaflet, the Commission needs to consider the likelihood of being able to establish the source of the material in deciding how to progress this matter. Therefore, if you have any information as to who may have produced and distributed the material, (including the locality and volume of distribution), please could you provide this.”

I responded with the information requested and also quoted from my letter to the North Wales Police:

“There can be no doubt that Councillor Louise Hughes was distributing unlawful election material in the period preceding the council elections earlier this month. How many others were involved in the distribution remains to be established, but I’m sure Councillor Hughes can give you their names.”

I continued:

“As for who printed and published these leaflets, I’m sure Councillor Hughes can also tell you that. What seems clear to me is that the leaflets have been professionally produced, which suggests that they are the work of someone with access to commercial printing materials and equipment, or may even have been produced by a commercial printer.”

I now believe that we are moving in the right direction, though I still worry that North Wales Police might look for excuses not to get involved. They might try to interpret it as a political squabble, ‘Six of one  . . . ‘. It’s not. The law has been broken. The law in question being the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

WIDER STILL AND WIDER . . .

When my attention was first drawn to this leaflet I assumed it was the work of a few anti-Welsh bigots – camouflaging their swivel-eyed hostility to ‘all that Welsh nonsense’ with attacks on Plaid Cymru – just the usual suspects letting off steam before council elections.

Hughes and her “scruffy” companion were – as she told me – handing the leaflets out in the cafe in Trawsfynydd simply because they’d stopped there en route to Garndolbenmaen. Some leaflets had even been left with the saintly Churchman, who claimed to have destroyed them, but also admitted, “I quite like Louise Hughes”.

We now know that the leaflets were distributed from Dolgellau to Pwllheli. I’ve had no reports as yet from the north of the county, Bangor, Caernarfon, and other places, but if you’re targeting Plaid Cymru’s control of the county council it makes sense to cover the more populous parts of county.

Before leaving Garndolbenmaen, it’s worth mentioning that another source insists Hughes’ scruffy companion was seen on polling day, hanging around the polling station in Pentrefelin, which is on the A497 from Porthmadog to Pwllheli but in the Dolbenmaen ward. He is said to have been handing out copies of the leaflet, which if true, is almost certainly illegal. I’m awaiting further information.

The feedback I’ve had says that the leaflets were available in a number of “retail outlets” in Pwllheli. Which may be significant, for the town produced an interesting result on May 4th when the sitting Plaid Cymru councillor for Pwllheli North, Michael Sol Owen, lost to Independent candidate, Dylan Bullard, on roughly the same turnout as in 2012. If less than fifty people had voted differently then Owen would have been re-elected.

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Now Dylan Bullard may be a splendid fellow, who has never heard of Louise Hughes and her gang. But whoever distributed those leaflets in Pwllheli did so with the intention of damaging Plaid Cymru, and if they succeeded then Bullard is the beneficiary whether he acknowledges it or not.

Some reading this are now shouting, ‘But this is all supposition, Jac’. Is it? What we know for certain is that the leaflets exist, they were widely distributed prior to the council elections, and they were intended to damage Plaid Cymru’s election chances. The only imponderable is the degree to which the leaflets succeeded.

UPDATE 21.05.2017: Councillor Dylan Bullard has been in touch to say, “At no time prior to or during the local elections were these pamphlets available in any of the ‘retail outlets’ I frequent in Pwllheli, indeed a quick survey of certain towns people would suggest your feedback to be overwhelming wrong.” A sweeping statement.

He may be right, he may be wrong. But if he’s right, then I find it strange that leaflets should have been available at Bargain Booze and the shop-filling station (maybe other places) in Criccieth yet those responsible did not travel a few miles to Pwllheli where there was such a finely-balanced contest taking place.

When pressed to offer an opinion on the leaflet’s contents, Councillor Bullard said: “I have briefly read the pamphlet and can assure you that I do not agree with what is written and neither would any decent inhabitant of Pwllheli.”

CONCLUSION

What might earlier have been dismissed as a few odious malcontents spreading their bigotry is no longer a valid interpretation of what happened in Gwynedd prior to the council elections. For we now know that it was more organised and widespread than that.

Not only did the recent activity cover a considerable geographical area, but the leaflet proudly announces, “this is the 6th edition of Tales With A Twist”. So were the other five produced prior to earlier elections? Will one appear before the June 8 UK general election?

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The fact that six of these leaflets have been produced and distributed makes it look like an ongoing conspiracy to influence the democratic process by an organised but secretive and law-breaking group. Therefore those involved must be exposed and punished.

In addition, there are features of this latest leaflet that are just crude racism: the suggestion that Welsh verbs are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words; the allegation that children are punished for speaking English in Gwynedd schools; and the reference to ‘English Not’ signs being made by ‘Waldio Priciau’.

This of course is the insulting reaction we hear from a certain English mindset whenever it’s confronted with another culture or identity. This mindset also believes that the natives are always corrupt . . . and so it is with those behind issue 6 of Tales With a Twist, which accuses Plaid Cymru of electoral fraud.

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Those responsible for this leaflet must feel there is an audience for their views, so let them give that audience a chance to express its contempt for all things Welsh through a new party, a kind of UKIP specific to Wales, a party for which there is only one permitted language and only one acceptable identity. A party committed to turning Wales into a greener and pleasanter England . . . without the immigrants.

But before they have that opportunity I hope that North Wales Police and the Electoral Commission do their jobs. Both have enough evidence now to begin proceedings against those responsible for the leaflet and the violations of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

♦ 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 ♦