Swansea

Feb 252015
 

After my previous post, Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, I have been giving more thought to the subject, and doing a little digging; which has led to a disturbing possibility presenting itself. By which I mean that someone, perhaps even someone local to Swansea Bay, is trying to sabotage this project for their own selfish reasons.

Treading carefully, I have decided to present this post as a combination of incontestable facts, presented as FACT: and limited to the paragraph in bold type following, interspersed with paragraphs containing deductions, assumptions or informed guesswork, before concluding with a reasonable hypothesis extrapolated from what has gone before.

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FACT: The past week or so has seen a number of stories in the media unfavourable to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project. The first appeared in The Telegraph on February 15th, written by Energy Editor, Emily Gosden, and repeated in the Western Mail and WalesOnline on February 17th, about Cornish villagers up in arms over plans to quarry granite for shipping to Swansea Bay. Ms Gosden was at it again on February 21st, attacking on another front with this report arguing that the electricity generated by the tidal lagoon would be hideously expensive. This piece used as its source a submission produced by Citizens Advice.

So we see negative attention suddenly being paid to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. The really damaging attack of course came from Citizens Advice.

FACT: Those familiar with recent goings-on in Wales will recall that there was a plan to throw a massive barrage across the Severn Sea from Penarth to Weston-super-Mare. The company behind this project is, or was (it may be in liquidation), Hafren Power. A number of its leading figures left, the former chief executive to form Severn Tidal Energy.

Hain Spanglefish

CLICK TO ENLARGE

FACT: The leading political backer of the Severn Barrage project was, and remains, Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath. In fact, Hain resigned from the shadow cabinet in May 2012 to concentrate on promoting the project. In June 2013 the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee killed off the barrage proposal with a very critical report. Mr Hain attributed the rejection of his project to the influence of Bristol Port, one of whose owners, David Ord, was a substantial donor to the Conservative Party.

The Spanglefish website devoted to Peter Hain (from which the panel above is extracted) suggests that Hain hopes to resurrect the barrage project when there is a Labour government in Westminster. There is of course a general election in May. The website also suggests that ‘Welsh’ Labour is backing the barrage project.

FACT: In a WalesOnline article from September 2013, linked to above, and again here, “Mr Hain said that while he was convinced the project has no future at present, he hoped it could be resurrected under a future Labour Government.” While this article, from just last month, reported, “He (Hain) remains hopeful that the stalled Severn Barrage project, potentially creating tens of thousands of jobs, could be resurrected”.

Haywod Linkedin

LINKEDIN PROFILE (Click to enlarge)

FACT: The CEO of Citizens Advice is Gillian Guy, who is also chair of the Audit Committee of the National Audit Office.

FACT: Dr Elizabeth Haywood, aka Mrs Peter Hain, and another backer of the barrage project, was on the Remuneration Committee of the Wales Audit Office from July 2011 to March 2014. Since January of this year she has had a personal interest in electricity matters by becoming a non-executive director of Scottish Power Energy Networks Holdings Ltd.

Severn barrage

THE ONCE AND FUTURE SEVERN BARRAGE?

Given that the Wales Audit Office is probably no more independent of the National Audit Office in London than the ‘Welsh’ Government is of Westminster it is entirely reasonable to assume that Dr Haywood of Hafren Power and Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice are known to each other. And would be known to each other even if I’m being unduly cynical about the relationship between the two bodies. (For cynicism is not in my nature!)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood are both committed to the Severn barrage project. Additionally, Peter Hain has publicly voiced his opposition to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

If the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon goes ahead, and is successful, others will be built. This will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of any Severn barrage, or any other major tidal barrage anywhere under the jurisdiction of the Westminster government. It seems to be a case of either / or but not both.

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The Severn Barrage project never went away, it has been lying dormant (much like the company behind it, Hafren Power). A cynic – something I’ve already made clear (if only parenthetically), I am not – might interpret the above information thus:

There are two very good reasons for supporters of the Severn Barrage to attack the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project at this time. First, they are hoping for a Labour victory on May 7th, so in anticipation of that, now is a good time to ‘resurrect’ their project, as has always been the intention. Further, the rival tidal lagoon project is currently at the critical stage of waiting for the Planning Inspectorate to recommend acceptance or refusal to the UK government, after which there is a further three-month period during which the UK government must say yea or nay. So why not kill two birds with one stone by trying to influence the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate and the outgoing UK government, while also reminding a Labour government-in-waiting of the economic bounty that could be lavished by a Severn barrage? And doesn’t it tie in well with all the recent talk of a Cardiff – Bristol city region (with poor old Newport as the spread in the sandwich).

Hain barrage

HAIN QUOTED IN ARTICLE (BY MARTIN SHIPTON) IN WALESONLINE JANUARY 21, 2015

The barrage is said to have, or possibly had, powerful supporters, among them, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and the Notional Assembly. And of course, the Western Mail / WalesOnline, which will support anything that has Labour backing. Making this the ideal time for ‘Welsh’ Labour to clear up the confusion over whether a motion supporting the barrage was passed in the 2014 conference, as is suggested by the Peter Hain tweet below from March 29, 2014. (For some reason I’m blocked from Hain’s Twitter account!) The current briefing against the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon also provides ‘Welsh’ Labour with an opportunity to make clear its position on the project. The same opportunity naturally extends to the Labour MPs and AMs around Swansea Bay . . . though of course we already know where Peter Hain stands.

Hain Labour tweet

PETER HAIN TWEET FROM MARCH 29, 2014. (SUPPLIED BY ‘STAN’)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood obviously have considerable experience and contacts in business and politics; in addition, they have a company, Haywood Hain LLP, that specialises in ‘Media and Political Communications’.

I fear there may be more to the recent attacks on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project than concern for the tranquility of a Cornish village, or a commendable regard for electricity consumers being ripped off. Big money is at stake, and – speaking for our hypothetical cynic – it could be that certain persons of influence are trying to kill off a very worthwhile and beneficial project for the Swansea Bay region.

Any further information to admin@jacothenorth.net

UPDATE 26.02.2015: As predicted above, Peter Hain has used the report produced by his wife’s former colleague to rubbish the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and promote the Lazarus Severn barrage in this piece. I know none of us think much of Llais y Sais, but does it have to be so predictably obsequious and revolting!

Aug 282013
 

Plaid Cymru’s relationship with the Green Party has ranged from what appeared to be full coalition through local understandings to what at other times appeared to be no linkage whatsoever. The prime mover of co-operation between the two parties was Cynog Dafis, who was elected as the Plaid-Green MP for Ceredigion in 1992. His majority cynog-caroline-bbcwas 3,193. But the results from neighbouring constituencies made it clear that the Green vote – had the parties stood separately – would have been far less than that majority. To the north, in Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Bill Pritchard got just 471  votes; whereas to the south, in Carmarthen, the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate! Making it clear who was benefitting from this alliance. Not only did Plaid Cymru not need the Green vote, what this misalliance taught us was that many or most Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate. I shall explain why in a moment.

Now I hear of another local alliance forming, this time in the area that used to be covered by Lliw Valley District Council, those communities to the north and west of what might be termed Swansea ‘proper’: Clydach, Pontarddulais, Gowerton, Gorseinon, Pontardawe, etc. The threat of Underground Coal Gasification in the Burry Inlet or Loughor Estuary has aroused some local residents to voice their protests, but few of these seem to be, well . . . genuinely local. This has somehow got linked with protests against new housing planned for the area.

The flyer below (click to enlarge) was handed out at the recent Pontaddulais Show by local members of Plaid Cymru, advertising a new “coalition of individuals and organisations under the Greenspace Cymru banner”. Ok, so we know Plaid is involved, but who else is part of this ‘coalition’? Greenspace Cymru is said to have a Facebook page but I can’t find it. So let me hazard a guess that the local Plaidistas have jumped into bed with a bunch of English nimbys and a shower of Greens, again. So why am I writing about this obscure local issue? PLliw flyerartly because it’s on my old home patch, but also because it has wider ramifications.

Let’s start with the housing. This not Ceredigion or Denbighshire; few of these homes will be bought by retirees, good-lifers, or commuters to English cities. What’s proposed is just more infilling between Swansea and Llanelli. The majority of these houses will be bought by people already living in the region. That being so, for Plaid Cymru to become part of this ‘alliance’ is weird. Then there’s the gas. With oil supplies finite, the Middle East in constant turmoil, the example of falling gas prices in the USA, and wind power and other ‘green’ energy exposed as a waste of money, shale gas, or whatever you want to call it, is going to happen. I have argued that we should fight to have control of this resource devolved to Cardiff Bay, but if this proves impossible then we have to make the best of it, we must ensure that Wales, and Welsh people, get the maximum benefits.

So why do I hate the Greens? In Scotland there is a genuine Scottish Green Party, and it supports full independence. Here in Wales, we have a rag-bag collection of hippies, good-lifers and other zealots forever dictating to us, thinking they can grant themselves planning permission – even in a National Park. They don’t like to be reminded that they’re in a country other than their own. (This is why so many of them were hostile to the electoral link-up with Plaid Cymru.) Yet for some perverse reason many in Plaid Cymru still view the Greens as kindred spirits. Which often results, as we see today in Lliw Valley, in the party supposedly representing the interests of the Welsh people lining up with Greens who don’t give a damn about us Welsh, and nimbys who want to see zero development in Wales lest it interfere with their comfortable lives. The kind of Fleece Jacket Fascists I dealt with a while back.

Tilting at windmills is all very well in its place – God knows I’ve done enough of it! – but if Plaid Cymru wants to be taken seriously as a political party it should choose its friends more carefully and remember whose interests it’s supposedly serving. Going overboard for wind turbines and other renewables was a mistake. One doesn’t need to be a Mail or Telegraph reader to know they’re expensive and they don’t deliver. That mistake is starting to be remedied. Rhun ap Iorwerth’s support for Wylfa B was another step in the right direction. A further positive is Helen Mary Jones stepping down as party chair. But if Plaid Cymru is going to oppose the new homes that Welsh people need, and the jobs that building them will create; plus cheaper gas prices and the jobs extracting the gas will provide, then the party will take yet another wrong turning.

Jul 222013
 

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere in recent days of a video discovered on YouTube that advises Londoners to leave the Great Wen for other cities and areas under the ‘Out of London‘ scheme. The video itself focused on a man who had used the programme to move to Swansea. So view the film first and then I shall look at a few of the issues raised by this and other recent cases that have come to my attention.

Update 19:20: Credit where it’s due. I now learn that the video was discovered by the Welsh National Rights Movement and brought to the attention of a wider audience following the launch meeting of the Swansea-Llanelli branch in Gorseinon on Saturday afternoon.

The first thing to notice is I suppose that this man almost certainly does not work. If you think about it, few people are going to give up a job in London to move to Swansea or anywhere else. Which means that this scheme is aimed at the unemployed (and the unemployable), the long-term sick and disabled, and other ‘non-productive’ elements of society. Amongst these will be many criminals and other undesirables. Just as well that the video was presented by a pleasant young lady of mixed race, rather than a white man, or else more people might see this project for what it is – social engineering.

That being so, where is the benefit to Wales in encouraging people like this to move here? Obviously they will not be contributing anything in taxes, their spending power will be limited, they will become a burden on an NHS service that in Wales is already close to complete collapse. Accepting people like this is therefore insane. Though note that the man used as the example in the video seems acceptable enough . . . but of course those who made the video wouldn’t show a problem family, or an ex-con.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the London boroughs involved in this project are linked with housing associations in Wales. Swansea has more than its fair share of growth-obsessed housing bodies run by greedy and irresponsible people with no regard for the communities in which they are based. I am in no doubt that these housing associations get paid a nice bonus for taking in Londoners – and others – who, due to the problems I’ve just mentioned, then become a liability for someone else. Basically, Wales.

At its worst, this social engineering project, this population transfer, can result in the kinds of tragedy I highlighted in my recent post, Neighbours From Hell.

You will note that the video also says that moves can be arranged through private landlords. This is important in areas where there may be responsible social housing providers or a lack of social housing provision. Something brought home to me a week or so ago in a post on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. This particular post dealt with demographic and other changes observable in Bridgend county from the 2011 Census findings.

Nantymoel is a former mining community in the north of the county, and one of the poorest wards. Yet the 2011 Census showed a sharp rise in the percentages of both the English-born and English-identifying elements of Nantymoel’s population. Clearly, there has been an influx of English people . . . into an area with little work. Also, with very few social housing units. But cheap house prices. Other figures, such as the higher than average percentage of households with dependent children and lone parent households, suggest that the ward has seen an influx of a mostly young population from outside of Wales into private rented accommodation. Property that may even have been bought by London boroughs or English social housing providers.

While we can see the advantages in this scheme for London and other parts of England, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that too many Welsh politicians, at both local and national level, will also support this kind of influx. For a falling population is always interpreted as a sign of political failure – as we have recently seen in Detroit – so anything that can keep up the numbers in places such as Nantymoel will be welcomed.

Something else that struck me in the video was the section showing the collaborating areas outside of Out of LondonLondon. These are listed on the right of the ‘still’ I grabbed. (Click to enlarge.) While English counties, towns andOut of London 2 cities are listed individually, for us there is just ‘Wales’. Yet the leaflet ‘Out of London’ shows Swansea and Cardiff. (Click to enlarge.) So what is the real picture; is it just our two major cities or does the scheme operate across Wales? Note also that the leaflet suggests the areas to which Londoners are being moved have a surplus of social housing. I don’t know the situation in Cardiff but there’s certainly no surplus in Swansea. If there was, why are Coastal Housing, Grwp Gwalia and the rest throwing up new properties everywhere? Or is this specifically to meet demand from London and other parts of England?

Finally – and I’m sure you’ve noticed! – this scheme for London boroughs to get shot of what they consider to be the undesirable and economically unviable does not extend to Scotland. Why? Is it due to legislation in Scotland that insists on housing providers meeting local need, not engaging in schemes profitable for them but adding an extra burden on services already buckling under the strain? If so, then we need such legislation in Wales.

P.S. This post is in a sense an update on a post from last November, The London Clearances. There I linked to a story in the Guardian, which specifically mentioned Merthyr Tydfil as one of the places where “London councils have acquired rental properties”. Note also that while last November’s Guardian story dealt with ‘homeless families’, the more recent video appeals to anyone “registered for social housing in any London borough”. That’s the new capped welfare legislation kicking in.

Regrettably there are no comments with this earlier post. This is due to Google Blogger killing my previous blog, and although I was able to salvage the posts themselves they came without the comments. That’s Google for you.

Apr 032013
 

YOUR NON-LOCAL LABOUR PARTY

I have written recently – and at some length – about the changing composition of the Labour Party back in my home town. (See postings for February and March.) No longer do we see dockers, tinplate workers and other toilers selflessly contributing to the running of the ugly lovely town. Instead we see, increasingly, what may be termed ‘professional politicians’.

By which I mean, people who began their political involvement in school; so much so that these activities distracted them from their studies and precluded entry to a good university, which then resulted in them coming to Swansea, where they continued their political activities, even extended them, to also act as gofers for local politicians. The next step then is to branch out on one’s own, either in Swansea local politics or else by starting one’s negotiation of the labyrinthine innards of the Labour Party. It goes without saying that almost all those of whom I speak are Englanders. Such as young Simon Darvill, who was recently elected chairman of Young Labour.

So what is going on inside Labour? With the ilk of Prescott being phased out we increasingly see a party made up of besuited and smarmy career politicians who’ve never done a ‘real job’, and consequently have to rely on focus groups and other means to learn what ‘ordinary people’ think. (Then pretend they care.) This is clearly true at the UK level, increasingly so at the Welsh level and now, it seems, filtering down to local government level. (That the trend is less obvious in the Valleys is largely due to the lack of universities there.) But this trend does not seem to be confined to Wales.

The Labour leader of Newcastle city council appeared a few weeks ago on Newsnight and I was surprised to see (and hear) that he is from southern England! Is the Labour Party in such a poor state that Tyneside, one of its traditional bastions, can no longer produce its own leaders? Or is there another explanation? Is the control freak Labour Party now training cadres to be sent out around ‘the country’? We know that ‘parachuting’ in parliamentary candidates is common practice, but has it filtered down to lower levels of government?

NO JOBS FOR THE BOYOS

Whenever a multinational company starts smooching politicians and communities in order to get planning permission to erect wind turbines it invariably does so promising jobs. The company hoping to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair (see February posts) is German company RWE Npower Renewables. Looking through the jobs advertised on its website I see that apart from those on offer in Germany, there are vacancies in Reading, Swindon and Iverness (sic). None in Wales.RWE

The RWE website also provided news of a conference held to discuss the worrying resistance in Wales to wind turbines. Did you know that consent rates for onshore windfarms is 67% in Scotland, 40% in England, but only 18% in Wales? Isn’t that something to be proud of! So a meeting – sponsored by RWE – was called in January to see what could be done to break this Welsh resistance. Read an account of the meeting here. Note also who was in attendance.

THE POVERTY PARTY

Today the wife and I took a spin to Rhuthun, a town we both like. (Though a socialist of my acquaintance thinks it’s ‘chintzy’!) En route, and because our area escaped the worst of the snow, we were surprised to see the white stuff still piled up on Bala High Street. And of course, being a woman, she complained when I pulled up alongside one of the piles and gave her instructions to go buy me a newspaper. “Can’t open the door”, she moaned. “What’s the bloody window for, woman?”

On the way home, instead of taking the direct route back to Bala, I decided to head over towards Cerrigydrudion (and there join the A5). Boy! even today, after a week of sunshine, the drifts were still massive, and in places encroaching onto the road. I began to get some appreciation of what the people of the north east had been through recently, especially the farmers. After getting home I switched on the BBC 1 Welsh News, in time to hear Alun Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, defend the Welsh Management’s decision not to give financial aid to the farmers who had lost stock in the recent snowfall.

He justified the Assembly AM'sdecision with the following words: “You don’t create a strong business base by throwing public money at every problem you face”. Just think about that for a minute. This is a spokesman for a Labour administration, and a Labour Party that has done precisely that – throw public money at problems – since the Assembly came into being fourteen years ago. So what’s different about the farmers? Well, for a start, farmers don’t vote Labour, unlike the parasites who make up our Third Sector. To many within Labour the Welsh countryside should exist as envisioned by former AM Jane Davidson – a place of recreation and retreat for the English middle classes. Welsh farmers are brutes who threaten this idyll with, bulls . . . blocked paths . . . speaking Welsh . . . commercial milking parlours . . . noisy tractors . . . just being there, basically.

Labour, the party that keeps Wales poor in order to blame the Tories and stay in power. What a bunch of lying scumbags they are. And to think, until today’s imbecilic and insulting utterance, Alun Davies seemed one of the more acceptable Labour AMs.

Jan 222013
 

Once upon a time . . . in a big city in Englandland lived four friends, Jacqui, Jenni, Jimmi and Maximilian. They’d been friends since they’d first met, some ten years earlier, at Lowestoft University (formerly Suffolk Fish-boners’ Polytechnic). They weren’t happy in the big city. For one thing, they didn’t like the work they did, nor the people they worked for . . . or even the people they worked with. What they really wanted was to work for themselves and to live somewhere nice, perhaps in the country.

One Friday evening, the four friends were having a candle-lit dinner in Jimmi’s basement flat and, just before Jimmi opened another bottle of Lidl’s famed Afghan red wine (‘£2.99 for 3! This month only!’), Jenni piped up with, “Do you remember Primrose . . . was in college with us . . . real swot, got a 2/2?” The question got a mixed response, but undeterred Jenni went on, “Well, she runs some charity or something, down in Wales, catering for trans-sexual trawler men. I was thinking we might do something like that.” This information was greeted with a more interested response, and it was Maximilian who articulated the thoughts of the other two, “Sounds good, but . . . Wales!” “Yes”, answered Jenni, “It’s not that bad, honestly. Let me explain”. And she went on.

“You see, the way Primrose explained it to me there’s oodles of money being dished out in Wales to anybody who can come up with the right idea. What you have to do is find a ‘niche market’ that no one else has thought of. Once you’ve identified it, and set up your group, you apply for the grants.” “Like trans-sexual trawler men, you mean?” interjected Jimmi. “Exactly”, she replied, “We’d be working for ourselves; and it wouldn’t be like running a real business . . . y’know, capitalism and all that . . . ripping people off, taking money for nothing. We’d be helping people . . . wouldn’t we?” The others nodded thoughtfully.

“The other thing Primrose said was that Labour Party connections help. Well, Max is a member . . . and we’ve all helped out in some way or another over the years. I mean, we share the values, right?” Jimmi gave a half-hearted clenched fist salute before contributing, “Yeah, this could work. But how do we identify a niche market?” There was a silence for a moment before Jacqui – who up until then had been under the table doing something – patted her hair into place and made her contribution.“There must be a list somewhere of all the groups currently being funded, so we avoid these and think up something really imaginative that’s not on the list. Simples!” This met with general approval, and it was decided that Jenni should make a trip to Wales to learn more from Primrose, do a little networking, and get the lie of the land.

So off Jenni went to Wales. Rather than travel all the way to Pembrokeshire – where Primrose had her ‘Mission’ for sexually confused net yankers – they had decided to meet in Swansea. Primrose was waiting on the platform, excitedly waving her Andean recycled llama wool scarf as the train pulled in. They hugged and kissed effusively, attracting much attention. Then, as they gaily waltzed out of the station, they were confronted by the harsh realities of modern Wales . . . in the form of a foul-smelling beggar shouting, “Gis a tenner for a cuppa, you slag!” They both moved quickly away from her, and as they pulled away saw many others of the same type, drinking from bottles, fighting, urinating and generally making mayhem. They jumped into the nearest taxi and sped off to an agreeable little bistro down Mumbles.

Once safely ensconced at a table overlooking the bay, and waiting for their Indian filter coffee to arrive, Jenni felt safe enough to ask, “What the hell was that all about up at the station?” Primrose grimaced before explaining. “Well, thing is . . . homelessness is something of a cottage industry in Swansea. The way it works, right . . . you argue that there’s many homeless people in the city, so you get funding . . . then – and this is the clever bit – you make Swansea attractive to homeless people from all over the place. Bingo! More homeless equals more funding; more funding attracts more homeless; which then results in more funding. It’s what we in the Third Sector call a virtuous circle.

“Now a few more things to remember. First, get to know your local Labour councillors and officials. Second, make sure you put ‘Cymru’ (it means ‘Wales’) in the name of your organisation. Third, employ somebody with a Welsh accent to answer the phone, maybe give the odd interview (otherwise certain people will try to undermine the good work we’re doing). Fourth, identify a disadvantaged group that didn’t even realise it was a group (let alone that it was disadvantaged), then start a campaign saying how this group is losing out. Fifth, finally, and most importantly! don’t ever succeed in solving the problem you’re being funded to deal with. Because if you do that, the funding stops and you join the ranks of the unemployed”.

The following Friday it was dinner again at Jimmi’s. Jenni explained what she’d learnt in Wales and the discussion was soon in full swing. All sorts of ideas were aired for the new group – someone wondered if gay and lesbian ramblers were catered for. Or could they get funding for bar staff to get breast implants. (Or was that sexist?) Jenni reminded the others that ‘Helping people back into employment’ was a very popular area for funding, but all possible angles seemed covered: black and ethnic minorities, battered wives, east Europeans, defrocked vicars, etc. There was even a group in Cardiff getting funding to help find employment for Vietnamese waiters with speech impediments – of whom there were two! (Possibly one, if the European-looking one is in fact – as many suspect – named Evans, and comes from Brecon.) It was then that Maximilian had his moment of inspiration. “Wait! I’ve just thought of a group not covered in all these lists we’ve been looking at. How about – wait for it! – holistic car mechanics? Instead of all those spanners and stuff, we train car mechanics to repair cars holistically. What about that?” The others looked nonplussed to begin with but their faces changed as they gave the idea more thought. Eventually it was enthusiastically agreed (even by Jacqui under the table). They would set up the Holistic Car Mechanics’ Co-operative Cymru and unveil it after meeting with the local Labour hierarchy in Cwmscwt, with whom they had made initial contact, Cwmscwt being where they had decided to set up base camp.

And lo! it came to pass. The founders of HCMCC changed trains in Cardiff and soon arrived in Cwmscwt, with its long rows of terraced houses climbing up the sides of the valley. It was raining. They looked for a taxi outside the station, but all they could see was a burnt-out car and a few supermarket trolleys in only slightly better condition. So they trudged up the hill to their guest house. After freshening up, they went down for tea. They were greeted by the proprietrix, Mrs Lucrezia Leyshon who, after scanning the signing-in book, felt confident enough to suggest, “From away, are ew?” Not entirely sure how to respond, they simply nodded. In a desperate attempt at conversation Jimmi informed Mrs Leyshon that in a couple of hours they would be in the Labour Club meeting with Councillor Josef S. Lloyd. This seemed to leave the good woman unimpressed, for after extracting another bogie, and flicking it at the cat, merely responded with, “Mmm . . . I yeard ʼe was out.” Unsure what to make of this remark, or indeed, what to make of the taciturn Mrs Leyshon, the group tucked in to their guinea pig and cockle pie with feigned gusto.

It was still raining as they walked up the hill towards the Lord Tonypandy Memorial Labour Club. The proud banner fluttering above the building carried the inspiring motto – ‘It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault’. Upon enquiring at the bar they learnt that Councillor Lloyd was waiting for them in the committee room, along with a couple of other local party officials. As the representatives of HCMCC made their way across the large bar area towards the committee room they couldn’t help but feel the many eyes (some in working pairs) scrutinising them. For the lack of scar tissue and the full complements of natural teeth betrayed them as strangers, as did the four unbroken noses.

They reached the door of the committee room unmolested, though not without many ribald and sexually explicit remarks being directed at the women. (Jimmi and Max certainly hoped they were directed at the women.) They knocked on the door, and were invited in. Seated at a table before them were, in the centre, a large man with a bulbous nose and a curiously shaped ear; to his right, an even larger man bearing a number of tattoos and other adornments; and on the other side, a skinny, rather gormless looking youth with a lazy eye. The man in the centre spoke: “I am Councillor Lloyd; this gentleman on my right is David, our branch secretary, and this young man on my left, is Klarence . . . um, my, er (clearing his throat), sister’s boy. Now then, ʼow can we ʼelp ew?”

The four missionaries explained their plan to use holistic car mechanics as a means of encouraging local youths to take responsibility for their lives; to lay off the drugs and the booze, to desist from thieving, impregnating the local females, and in other ways blighting society. (Though it should be said that most local youths would have thought that, far from blighting society, the activities listed were all that gave meaning to their otherwise empty lives.) All the while Councillor Lloyd nodded sagely, “I loves it, I loves it! ʼOlistic car mechanics. Nobody’s thought of that scam before . . . scheme! I meant to say scheme. I can’t see no problem” the local worthy continued. “Sounds just the kind uh thing they loves to fund. We’ll be ‘appy to join ewer organisation”. The four were not sure how to take this last remark, so it fell to Maximilian to ask, “How do you mean, ‘join’? What exactly will you be doing in our organisation?” Before Maximilian could continue Councillor Lloyd was on his feet . . .

After a pause that took in a quizzical, even pitying look at the putative Board of HCMCC, he continued: “Ew don’ understand ʼow it works, do ew? Le’ me spell it out. Ew people comes ʼere lookin’ to get ew ʼands on funding. Fair enough! We controls the fundin’. People like me puts in a good word, ew gets ew fundin’. In return, ew shows ew gratitude by puttin’ me on the books . . . and Dai by here, and Klarence. Ew scratches our backs, we scratches ewers. Tidy!” Slowly it dawned on our four ingénues that they were lumbered with Josef Stalin Lloyd, his minder, and his nephew. (Klarence was by now making Jacqui slightly uneasy. He was staring at her and drooling but she couldn’t be sure if he was also winking because of the eye.)

And so it came to pass that the Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru received £2.3 million in EU Structural Funds and – because it was such an “imaginative scheme” (local Labour AM) and a worthwhile idea – another £750,000 from one of the Welsh Government’s own funds. Councillor Lloyd was paid a fee for ‘advisory services’, but these ‘on book’ figures made no mention of the other payments. And the expenses claims were things of great imagination and no little literary merit. (As the auditors confirmed in the unpublished codicil to their report.) Josef Stalin Lloyd went on to become Leader of the local authority, a position from which he was able to provide for both his henchman and his simple-minded kinsman.

No cars were holistically repaired. No local youths were ever trained to perform this miracle. Jenni became a local Labour councillor. Jacqui had a breakdown, but recovered enough to ‘pull down’ more grants for her Indonesian Massage treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome, a ‘technique’ she had picked up while a guest at Doctor McLoony’s Retreat in Aberdeenshire. Jimmi took to the bottle and eventually went to live with a Chinese herbalist in Trimsaran. Only Maximilian ever made it back to Englandland. He had thought of writing a book about their experiences in Wales, but soon realised no one would believe it.

No matter; for a great purpose was served. The Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru, and countless similar ‘projects’, allow civil servants in Cardiff to report to civil servants in Brussels that over one billion pounds of EU funding has been well spent, with remarkable ‘outcomes’. The wheel will turn and more funding will arrive. To be spent in exactly the same way. So keep voting Labour. Keep sending the message to those wicked Tories up in Lundun. We don’t want their type down by ‘ere. For Labour is more than capable of wrecking Wales on its own.