Ukip

Feb 272017
 

I’ve been away. No, not in the pokey, or on holiday, but hors de combat due to a malfunctioning computer, one that had served me well for many a year but finally gave up the ghost. After first buying myself a dud – hoping I could replace my old one on the cheap! – I eventually splashed out on a tidy machine that might accompany me to that stage of life where I can walk around in slippers all day, dishevelled and with a vacant look on my face. (‘So what’s new, Jac?’)

While I’ve been away things have turned quite nasty in Llangennech over the language controversy at the local infants school. Or rather, the nasties behind the opposition to Welsh language education were exposed for pallying up to the English Defence League and for inviting down Neil Hamilton the Ukip AM (and of course his wife-minder).

The day the Hamiltons came a-visiting. Fourth from the left is Neil Hamilton, on his right we find Michaela Beddows, and in the pink-ish trousers, we have Christine Hamilton.

Seeing as many of those opposing Welsh medium education are either Labour Party members, activists, or candidates in the May council elections the Ukip revelations didn’t do the bruvvers any favours. Action was belatedly taken after Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards wrote an open letter to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Had he not taken this course we would probably still be waiting for the deadbeats in Cardiff to act.

Inevitably, the Labour Party hit back, using the Wasting Mule and, more surprisingly, Private Eye. The former a regular and willing accomplice against ‘them nationalists’, the latter almost certainly misinformed. The outrage that followed the disgraceful Wasting Mule piece resulted in an apology the very next day, and I’m sure someone will put the Eye straight as well.

The day following the apology, Saturday the 25th, there was another article, this one making it clear there was no connection between the school dispute and incidents of tyre slashing in the village, as the original WM article had alleged. Though that original piece had been written by a woman who is said to have ‘a problem’ with the Welsh language. Which I suppose makes her an ideal Education Editor.

While I would love to have written up the daily revelations and developments from Llangennech and beyond I know I couldn’t have done it better than Cneifiwr, who has kept us informed of every twist and turn. I suggest you start with Jacques, Jacqueline & Neil on February the 11th and bring yourself up to date from there. Also worthy of mention is Caru Cymru, which may be a new blog, it’s certainly new to me.

Instead, I shall try to look beyond Llangennech in the hope of putting events there into a wider perspective . . . with a few digressions along the way. (Humour me!)

Before moving on, it’s worth linking to this essay by Dr Huw L Williams, which makes it clear that Labour’s hostility to the Welsh language is not currently confined to Llangennech. He suspects that Labour in Cardiff fears that Welsh medium education is less likely to provide voters for the party, and this explains the reluctance to meet the demand for Welsh medium education. Or, to put it another way, kids from bog-standard schools taught by unmotivated teachers are more likely to vote Labour.

Stripped of its various interpretations and grotesque characters Llangennech reaffirms what I have always known about the Labour Party in Wales. Anyone in any doubt about my feelings could do a lot worse than read Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, which I penned in March 2014.

As I argue there, to understand ‘Welsh’ Labour we need to go back a century or more, perhaps as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. Those decades when – to quote Gwyn Alf Williams – the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales could no longer meet the manpower demands of the industrial south, which resulted in Wales experiencing a great influx of workers from England and elsewhere, especially Ireland.

Up to this point the great majority of Welsh people, both those who remained in the rural areas and those who had left for the industrial belts, supported the Liberal Party, and this persisted into the twentieth century, but the Liberal Party was linked with the nonconformist chapels, which in turn tied in with the Welsh language. To further complicate matters there was Cymru Fydd, which pushed for some sort of Home Rule for Wales. All of which tended to make the Liberal Party unattractive to recent arrivals.

This hostility to the ‘Welsh’ Liberal Party was perfectly articulated by Alderman Robert Bird of Cardiff at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation when he declared “You will find, from Swansea to Newport, a cosmopolitan population who will not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas!”. Bird of course was English, and though a prominent nonconformist he opposed his own party’s policy of Disestablishment. I often think of the arrogance implicit in Bird’s statement, and of my eight Welsh-speaking great-grandparents living in and around Swansea, and the thousands upon thousands like them who did not belong to any “cosmopolitan population”, being more closely linked with their relatives in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.

Alderman Bird strikes me as yet another of those we’ve suffered throughout our history; people who know nothing about us, who don’t have our interests at heart, yet tell us what’s best for Wales.

Courtesy of National Library of Wales

The Labour Party found many converts among the English, the Irish and others simply because these found the Liberal Party to be ‘too Welsh’. Though this was never a black and white issue, many Welsh went over to Labour early on, and immigrants – though many fewer – took up the Liberal cause. For example, many of the Irish in southern Wales originally supported the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party before switching to Labour. Explained in this essay by socialist academic Dr Daryl Leeworthy.

(For some unfathomable reason I’m blocked from his Twitter account. Can you believe that! Infamy! Infamy! etc.)

From its early days this Labour Party of Englandandwales exhibited certain attitudes towards all things Welsh. At its worst it seemed that we Welsh were regarded no differently to other ‘primitives’ around the empire who had to be saved from themselves through stern paternalism. In our case, the best medicine was the English language, for many in the Labour Party agreed with the authors of the Blue Books who in 1847 had decreed that the Welsh language led us into all sorts of immorality while also impeding our educational and economic advancement.

As time passed it became convenient to pretend that almost all Welsh workers had embraced the Labour Party from the outset, but this was not true, as I recall from my own childhood. My paternal grandparents lived in Landore, and my grandfather, who’d worked at the Mannesmann tube works, was a deacon in Siloh Newydd. My grandmother’s working class credentials were equally impeccable. They supported the Liberal Party.

(‘The Mannesmann’ figured prominently in the lore of the Lower Swansea Valley when I was growing up. While working on the Evening Post Dylan Thomas covered boxing matches at the Mannesmann Hall. The plant ended its days owned by Stewarts & Lloyds.)

This was the 1950s, remember, and my grandparents’ rejection of the Labour Party was not unusual, even in a working class community like Landore. I concede that their adherence to the Liberals owed much to their age, their religious beliefs and the fact that they spoke Welsh. But that only tells us that there would have been many more like my mamgu and tadcu forty and fifty years earlier.

And I suspect that their parents might have agreed with Cymru Fydd rather than with Alderman Bird, their bollocks-spouting and self-appointed ‘representative’.

However it came about the decline of the Liberal Party and the unquestioned hegemony Labour achieved over the Welsh working class gave us the party we know today.

A ‘hybrid’ party still containing the twin strands of its early days: those who reject almost everything Welsh other than harmless, apolitical diversions such as sport, and the ‘Welsh’ element, which believes that Wales and Welshness extend beyond the rugby field.

This fault line has always resulted in ‘tensions’, but devolution, even the discussion of devolution, exposed the divide vividly. The campaign ahead of the devolution referendum in September 1997 brought out some of the worst anti-Welsh aspects of the Labour Party.

Neil Kinnock was particularly offensive, which may be understood, given his background, but his hysterical vilification of things Welsh was almost matched by his wife, who comes from a totally different, and Welsh, background. (A reminder of how the Labour Party can corrupt.) What we also see in Neil Kinnock is the ‘package’ I’ve referred to in other posts.

I think I first used the term after a visit to Pembrokeshire where I’d encountering the new county flag. When I made enquiries into its origin I saw a name with which I was familiar, a man who had campaigned against devolution, in 1979 and 1997, who had argued to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire!’ (because Dyfed was too Welsh) and had then helped devise a county flag to avoid flying the Ddraig Goch.

Show me someone who’s hostile to the Welsh language and I’ll show you someone who is probably opposed to devolution and almost anything likely to distinguish Wales from England – even if it will benefit Wales. In the 1979 devolution debate Neil Kinnock trotted out ridiculous stories of schoolchildren in Ynys Môn wetting themselves because they were unable to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet, coupling his contempt for the Welsh language with his opposition to devolution.

Alderman Bird was another. As a nonconformist and a Liberal he should have welcomed the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales. In rural areas poor, Liberal-supporting people were being forced to pay tithes to a church they did not attend in order to support clergymen who didn’t speak their language. And being evicted from their farms when they refused to pay the tithe. Yet Bird opposed Disestablishment, probably because he viewed it as being ‘a Welsh thing’.

A great-grandfather of my wife, a John Jones, was arrested for his part in the Llangwm riot of 1887. John was related by some convoluted route to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Newtown mail order pioneer. (We really should know more about Pryce from Llanllwchaiarn but, as he was a successful Welsh businessman who brought prosperity to his area, it serves the interests of both our colonial masters and our native leftists to ignore him.)

Courtesy of Casgliad y Werin

And so it is today in Llangennech. A gang of shouty, anti-Welsh bullies with strong links to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is opposing the teaching of Welsh – and don’t fall for the bullshit about ‘choice’, there are many English medium schools within easy travelling distance. Llangennech is on the outskirts of Llanelli, a large town.

For many people the most remarkable aspect of this saga is that people belonging to what many believe is still a socialist party should be so ready to mix with Ukip, and be quite open about it. Some of those opposed to Welsh language education in Llangennech have even flirted with elements further to the right. How do we explain this? I believe that as with most irrational fixations hatred for things Welsh clouds the judgement.

To understand that just follow the rantings of Jacques Protic, or someone like K Clements of Llangyfelach, who writes regularly to newspapers bemoaning the fact that we are starving and dying because of the billions spent on the Welsh language; his hatred for things Welsh is coupled with an intolerant Britishness usually confined to the extreme Right, Ibrox Park, and the Six Counties. Here he is, in a letter to the Evening Post, demanding that Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy be summarily executed for not singing GSTQ.

Another ‘hybrid’ party is of course Plaid Cymru. The dividing line here is between the nationalist/culturalist wing and the Green-socialists, with the latter in the ascendant for the past thirty years, to the detriment of the party, of Wales and of Welsh nationhood.

The reason Wales has suffered is because these eco-friendly leftists seem to have great difficulty focusing on Wales and Welsh issues. They’re forever trying to save the planet or else getting agitated over some issue far away over which they cannot possibly have any influence. Recent examples would the election of President Trump and the decision of the Welsh people to leave the European Union.

Many of this persuasion view their party as a regional outrider for ‘progressive’ forces elsewhere in Britain and beyond. Exemplified by this tweet by Leanne Wood I picked up on a few days ago. She’s responding to a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn, rebuking him by saying that they should “build alliances needed to defeat Tories”.

The realities are that Plaid Cymru has just three MPs in a 650-member House of Commons, so the chances of Plaid being an influential part of any anti-Tory coalition are slim. What’s worse is that here in Wales it’s not the Conservative Party that rules the roost but Labour; through its councillors, and its Third Sector, and the overpaid shysters to be found everywhere from academe to housing associations, all of them part of a system that has had almost a century to embed itself into, and corrupt, Welsh public life.

Yet Ms Wood and her ilk can blind themselves to all of this, for they view the Labour Party as fellow-socialists. Comrades in the crusade to cleanse Wales of initiative, pride and corrupting prosperity. For only through the begging bowl shall we attain the socialist nirvana of freedom from material possessions.

And of course, if we can’t afford to drive cars, or heat our homes, then Wales will be doing more than its share to save the planet, and that will please Plaid’s friends in the Green Party and the wider ‘environmental’ movement. They’ve got it all worked out!

Yes, I know, Plaid Cymru did eventually get involved in the Llangennech dispute, but they could hardly avoid it any longer seeing as the party had been targeted by the anti-Welsh crew, but even then Plaid waited until those clowns had shot themselves in the foot by inviting down the Hamiltons.

During my wee break I got to thinking about Llangennech and associated matters. I concluded that this is not really about language, or education; nor is it ideological or party political. To put it bluntly, this is a conflict of identities, a struggle that pits Welsh identity against an increasingly aggressive and intolerant English or British nationalism. (There is no meaningful distinction.)

These attacks on us and our identity come from both Left and Right, and indeed from those who otherwise regard themselves as liberal. As this recent tweet from Huw Edwards to Robert Peston reminds us. Which is why I say that ideology and party politics have no place in what must from now on be a national struggle fought on all fronts.

If we lose this struggle, then we lose our Wales; what will remain will be nothing but a hollowed-out geographical area called ‘Wales’, containing a couple of English provincial cities, a few other towns, post-industrial regions offering cheap housing for agencies relocating the rejects of England, and rural parts serving as recreation and retirement areas. In fact, this is the path Wales is already following.

But of course we’ll still have the ‘national’ rugby team, with the feathers on the shirt, so everything will be just fine.

Plaid Cymru, with its split personality, conflicting loyalties, and failure to focus on what matters, will not win this fight. Plaid Cymru won’t even join the fray for fear of upsetting the ‘liberals’ Huw Edwards talks of, and others with whom Plaid’s leadership has over the years become far too pally. Something new is needed.

This ‘something’ can only be effective if it is broad-based, national, free of ideology, and prepared to defend Wales, Welshness and Welsh interests against all threats. The first step must be trying to counter the pernicious influence of the BBC, ITV and the print media.

Which is why in future this blog may spend less time exposing lying politicians (of whom there are just too many) or crooks milking the public purse (ditto) to concentrate on the national picture and promote a nationalist message.

Stay tuned!

♦ end ♦

Dec 212016
 

Well, boys and girls, it’s that time of year. Those of you who haven’t done a runner with the Christmas Club money will be relaxing at home wrapping your bottles of Old Sheepshagger with festive ribbons before immediately opening them, feigning joy and surprise, then getting quietly pissed. For now, as Christmas approaches, we tend to look back and contemplate the year past, before looking forward to 2017. Why should I break with tradition?

This year saw the revolt of the Hitherto Ignored, and 2017 will see those who’ve done the ignoring swear to change their ways. This is explained by the angst and confusion now being experienced by ‘progressives’. (I laugh every time I type that word!) For these exalted and superior beings always justified their vacuous spoutings and their laughable posturing on the grounds that they were the voice of the inarticulate Mob.

This year the Mob has found its own voices and, surprise, surprise, its spokesmen are not Leftists and liberals. Which means that those self-appointed spokespersons are now left high and dry, exposed as speaking for none but themselves. This has made them angry and bitter, to the extent that some of them now slag off as ‘fascists’ those they so very recently eulogised and patronised!

Truly is it written, ‘Hell hath no fury like a ‘progressive’ made to look an utter twat!’

Let us start this review with May’s Welsh Assembly elections. (Check the results here.) Labour’s share of the vote continued to decline, down 7.6% in the constituencies and 5.4% in the regions). The Tories did marginally better with figures of -3.9% and -3.7%. For the Lib Dems the figures were -2.9% and -1.6%. The parties to increase their share of the vote were Plaid Cymru +1.3% and +3.0% and, most spectacularly, Ukip, +12.5% and +8.5%.

Despite all the noise they make, and all the publicity they’ve had (including some from me), the Green Party of Englandandwales achieved the mighty totals of 2.5% of the constituency vote and 3.0% of the regional vote. The latter figure being less than the 4.4% won by the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party on its first outing.

The single most noteworthy result was of course Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood taking Rhondda from Labour heavyweight Leighton Andrews. Though given the imperfect electoral system Labour today is still in control of the Assembly after getting a third of the votes cast.

For anyone interested, I told you my voting intentions in Assembly Elections 2016 and picked through the bones in Assembly Elections 2016: Hopes and Ashes.

Next came the EU referendum in June. Again, I made my position clear before the event with EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! Even so, I was rather surprised to be on the winning side.

Then, in November, our cousins across the Pond elected Donald Trump to be their next president. I can safely say ‘our cousins’ because, as Welsh people, there is a greater likelihood of us being related to those who voted for Trump than to those who voted for Clinton. Unpalatable though that may be to many Leftists among us.

Meanwhile, our continental cousins almost elected a nationalist president in Austria, and followed that up by giving the Italian establishment a kicking in voting out Signor Renzi via a referendum.

Liberals and socialists interpreted these results as disasters, some of the more overwrought viewed them as the first steps on the road to the Fourth Reich. In truth, the Leftists should have asked themselves why so many millions of ordinary, decent people detest them, their politics, their media and their distant, out-of-touch systems so much that they were prepared to vote for a self-obsessed buffoon, a gang of saloon bar hearties, and a clown.

Next year sees elections in France, Germany, Netherlands and other countries. In France, the Left is hoping that the victor will be François Fillon, the presidential candidate who takes a hard line on Islam, hopes to do away with the 35-hour working week, wants to abolish wealth tax, is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, and is a great admirer of both Margaret Thatcher and Vladimir Putin. Because it’s a straight fight between him and Marine le Pen of the Front National.

This gives you some idea of how far the political pendulum has swung in the Western world, because socialists in France wrote off the chances of their candidate – whoever it might be – a long time ago.

In Germany Dr Merkel (or Frau Sauer) is under pressure for a number of reasons, not least her decision to open Germany’s borders to refugees. It went well for a while, German guilt for WWII overcoming reasonable apprehensions that most of those arriving seemed to be able-bodied young men and were not coming from Iraq and Syria, but from North Africa, the Sahel, Pakistan, the Balkans . . . mmm, were these really refugees?

The ‘Willkommenskultur’ soon began to dissipate, and disappeared almost entirely after the truth eventually leaked – despite the best efforts of politicians, police and media – about the rapes and other sexual assaults that took place on New Year’s Eve in Köln, Hamburg and other cities. The recent attack on a Christmas market in Berlin dealt it another blow.

Another factor contributing to the evaporating sympathy for the ‘refugees’ was that Angela Merkel had hoped to take them in, garner the kudos, and then, with rather less publicity, offload as many as she could onto neighbouring countries. These countries, quite rightly said, ‘You invited them, you look after them’.

Immigration is clearly a major issue in the Western world; it has influenced the votes of 2016 and it will do the same in 2017. So let us be thankful that calling someone a ‘racist’ can no longer close down debate. Equally, that wanting an honest discussion on how to deal with Islamic terrorism can no longer be dismissed as ‘Islamophobia’.

I suspect that the rise of Islamic extremism over the past couple of decades has played a big part in undermining the Left in western countries, and this of course contributed to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. For two main reasons.

First, the Left – certainly its more extreme and vocal elements – has a default position dictating that it must always support the West’s enemies, on the grounds that these are bound to be victims of Western colonialism or ‘oppression’. Pure evil, intolerance, racism, etc., are crimes of the white man, and the white man alone.

Those promoting this nonsense tend to be celebrities, students (and others equally gullible or brainwashed), plus of course members of ethnic and other minorities. This has inevitably alienated many white people, to the point where they now view socialism and liberalism as ‘luxuries’ they cannot afford, or else as viewpoints hostile to them, attacking who and what they are.

Second, in the recent US presidential election liberals and Leftists around the world rallied to Hillary Clinton, yet her financial links with the Gulf states – countries where stoning is practised, where women aren’t allowed to drive, where immigrant labour equals slave labour – undermined her liberal credentials while exposing the gullibility of the ‘progressives’ who supported her.

Slowly but surely, more and more people are waking up to the hypocrisies of the liberal elite, and the lies of its manipulative media. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

‘But what has this to do with Wales?’, you mumble through a mouthful of mulled wine whilst absent-mindedly stroking the maid’s derrière. Well, it’s quite simple – do you really think that politicians and their mainstream media only tell porkies about faraway lands and our more distant cousins? Of course not.

First of all, let’s consider this island known as Britain or, when six counties of Ulster are added, the United Kingdom. Now the big political debate at the moment is what kind of Brexit we should have. Should it be hard or soft? Should it be red, white and blue? (Don’t ask me what these mean, I haven’t got a clue.) Should there be a West End musical version?

The truth is that the type and the timing of the EU exit is irrelevant, a distraction. I say that because the United Kingdom is going down the tubes no matter what. And if things are bad in the UK then they’re even worse in Wales. Let’s look at a couple of recent news items to explain what I mean.

First, education. The Pisa rankings (for 2015) released earlier this month tell us that the UK came 27th in maths, 22nd in reading, and 15th in science. Within the UK, Wales came bottom across the board.

Then last week, we learnt that our GVA figure for 2015 again confirms our position at the bottom of the UK heap. Gross value added figures measures money generated per job within an area, which explains why Cardiff has the best figure for Wales (£22,783), though much of it will have been generated by commuters living outside the city. Overall, Wales accounts for 5% of the UK population but is responsible for only 3.4% of the UK economy.

As the report I linked to (by BBC Wales’ Sarah Dickens) also tells us, “It would be wrong to say Wales has a strong economy purely because unemployment is relatively low. Only 72.9% are employed – lower than the UK figure of 74.4%”. Which tells us that Welsh politicians crowing over Wales having a lower unemployment rate than the UK as a whole are talking their usual bollocks. The truth is that more of us are economically inactive and too many of us are doing shitty, low paid jobs.

These dire figures don’t say a lot for devolution, nor for ‘Welsh’ Labour, which has run the show since 1999. Things are bad, and getting worse. There is no other interpretation unless you’re a politician or some other kind of professional liar. These figures also tell us that the EU funding given to the poorest parts of Wales since 2000 has been wasted by ‘Welsh’ Labour. So it won’t be missed.

(22.12.2016: I didn’t expect support from this quarter, or so quickly, but Victoria Winckler of the Bevan Foundation says – among other things – that too much EU money was used to replace UK government, ‘Welsh’ government and local authority funding, with the result that, because it wasn’t spent on new projects, people saw little improvement.)

But then, I’ve always argued that devolution is a chimera. Now I have been vindicated by no less than the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns. When he announced that Air Passenger Duty would not be devolved to Wales (i.e. Cardiff airport) he was quite open about the decision having been taken to protect the interests of Bristol and other English airports. This, remember, is the Secretary of State for Wales and the MP in whose constituency we find Cardiff airport!

More recently, more honesty; when his department underwent something of a face-lift and dropped the dragon which had suggested the Welsh Office exists to serve Wales. Why anyone should get worked up about this is beyond me. Would you rather be lied to? Is that more comforting?

Face it – Wales is screwed, good and proper. All that matters is that enough money comes in to keep the politicians and their cronies in jobs that no one would miss, and the rest of us in a state of resigned acceptance. A basket case country with a begging bowl ‘economy’. Nothing will improve because there is no force for real change. Plaid Cymru gave up decades ago and threw in its lot with the English Left and the colonialist system.

The party’s position was summed up recently by leader Leanne Wood, when she stated, without any hint of irony or sarcasm, that “We’ve got no problem in attracting people here to retire” (0:31) before going on to express concern about the high levels of elderly people in Wales!

Which means that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with the inevitable burden placed on our NHS and other services. Or that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with locals being outbid for homes in rural and coastal areas. I suppose it also means that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with the anglicisation of Wales. But what it really means is that Plaid Cymru, more than at any time in its history, is a party that has completely lost its way. It is now an irrelevance.

For a start, Plaid Cymru has lost touch with the Welsh people. We voted to leave the EU, yet Plaid Cymru carries on as if we voted the same way as Scotland. We didn’t. And the reason we didn’t is that Plaid Cymru isn’t even a pale shadow of the SNP.

The voters that Plaid has been trying to detach from Labour for decades – in the Valleys, on Swansea Bay, the north east – voted for Brexit and they are also turning to Ukip, yet Plaid is in denial. Plaid Cymru the socialist, environmentalist, statist, EU friendly party has lost the plot. Big time.

And because Plaid Cymru has lost the plot due to its socialism and its inflexibility on certain issues, and because some within the party now regard as crypto-fascists many of those who were once viewed as potential converts, they risk driving many of our people towards Ukip and, worse, alienating them to the extent that they begin to think there is no alternative to Englandandwales.

In many respects, Plaid Cymru is now viewed as part of the out-of-touch, liberal elite that drove so many people into the arms of Farage, Trump, and others yet to arise. That is some achievement.

Which is why Wales needs a new voice that speaks for the nation and the national interest. A voice that is ideologically flexible but immovable in its defence of the Welsh people. A voice that will never say, ‘We have no objection to being colonised’.

This is the task for 2017.

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Nov 282016
 

PART 1: ‘THE BEAUTIFUL GAME’

This autumn has seen a succession of spats between the football associations of the ‘home’ nations and FIFA the international governing body of the game over displays of poppies, which FIFA deems to be a political symbol. These disputes reached something of a fever pitch last week when FIFA laid a number of charges against the Football Association of Wales (FAW) linked to the game against Serbia on November 12 (which I attended).

Press reports suggest that one of the charges was that fans had worn poppies in their coats! Which, if true, is insane. For not only would such a charge infringe personal liberty but also open up a vat of worms for those having to decide what qualifies as a political symbol. (At the game I wore a discreet Glyndŵr flag lapel badge.)

serbia-ticket

Consider Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world, intertwined with Catalan identity and the independence movement. Everywhere at their stadium you will read it spelled out for you – Mes que un club (more than a club). Their big rivals are of course Real Madrid, the club of ruling Castille, the club of the monarchy, and the multi-ethnic – but definitely unified – Spanish state.

Last week Barcelona played in Glasgow against Celtic, an intense, occasionally tetchy, but nevertheless enjoyable game that saw the magnificent Celtic fans waving their Irish tricolours and singing their Irish rebel songs. Across town you’ll find arch-rivals Rangers, whose fans wave union flags and sing ditties such as The Billie Boys (‘Up to our knees in Fenian blood, etc’).

There are hundreds of other clubs in the world with an intensely partisan identity that is overtly and unmistakably political, or even ethnic. Until very recently only Basques were allowed to play for Bilboko Athletic Kluba and even though that rule now appears to have been relaxed Athletic Bilbao and the other Basque clubs retain an intensely nationalistic ethos. (Though Celtic and Rangers may be unique in that the fans are animated by the history and politics of another country.)

Come to that, what about international games, such as the one between Wales and Serbia that caused FIFA’s representative such concern? As with every competitive international game there were national flags, and national anthems – aren’t they ‘political’? Come to that, national teams, the raison d’être for FIFA, are obviously political because they represent nation-states or, in the case of Wales, a nation without a state.

Whereas on the other hand, the Serbs might argue that Serbia is a nation-state but too many Serbs are stranded outside the homeland, in Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo. And yet, Kosovo, a breakaway province of Serbia, handed over by NATO to Albanian gangsters was, in a blatantly political decision, admitted to both FIFA and the European governing body, UEFA, in May 2016. Too late to qualify for the World Cup Finals in Russia in 2018, which is just as well, because Russia doesn’t recognise Kosovo.

In other words, football at club and international level has always been political. Whether it’s the England team giving a Nazi salute in 1938, the so-called ‘Football War’ between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969, or German football fans welcoming refugees (last year). So for FIFA to try to punish Wales for individuals making the personal decision to wear a poppy is absurd. Worse, it could be dangerous; for does FIFA now wish to dictate what people wear to football matches?

Early in the second paragraph I qualified my criticism of FIFA with “if true”, partly because I find it difficult to believe that anyone would try to dictate what football fans wear, and partly because it could be that what FIFA meant by ‘fans in the stand’ was the display organised by the FAW, not far from where I was sitting with my son and grandsons. (Being aware of this stunt in advance I was praying that our section of the crowd wouldn’t be involved. Taid being thrown out could have spoilt the night even more than the late Serbian equaliser.)

This stunt was arranged by placing cards on seats which, when held up, combined to give the image of a big poppy. This was rather naughty of the FAW, and very silly. Naughty because it forced people to be part of something about which they might have had reservations, and silly because it was sticking two fingers up to FIFA, which had already warned the FAW that the players should not wear poppies on their shirts, nor should there be other displays. But then, the Sun, the Daily Mail and other good friends of Wales said it should be done, so that presumably made it OK.

faw-poppy

Now if it is this display of poppies organised by the FAW that FIFA is objecting to, and if it results in points being deducted and Wales not reaching the World Cup Finals, then I believe that the officials of the FAW will have failed us all and should consider their positions.

I say that because the duty of the FAW is to manage the game in Wales in the best interests of the member clubs, the national team and the fans, not to jeopardise the best interests of Welsh football by falling into line with the cynical and engineered poppy frenzy.

Personal freedom is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, and must be defended. And that’s why FIFA is wrong if it charges the FAW for individual fans choosing to wear a poppy in their lapel. But considerations of personal freedom also put the FAW in the wrong for forcing individuals to be part of that poppy display.

I think we’re entitled to answers, from both FIFA and the FAW.

PART 2: “SQUEAKY BUM TIME”

Demanding that everyone, including footballers, wears a poppy for the weeks leading up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday is quite recent, maybe no more than a decade old. Here’s a photo from a Scotland v England game played on Saturday November 14, 1999, the day before Remembrance Sunday. There are no poppies. There was no one-minute silence before the game.

It’s fitting that the photo comes from 1999, and was taken in the home city of Sir Alex Ferguson, the great Manchester United manager, because that year almost certainly marks the start of “squeaky bum time” (a period of nervousness and uncertainty) for those who were soon promoting the poppy and what they wanted it to stand for.

england-v-scotland-1999

Because 1999 was the year of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The SNP got 28.7% of the vote and 35 out the 129 seats in Scotland, while in Wales Plaid Cymru achieved 28.4% of the vote and 17 out of 60 seats. So even though Plaid Cymru did better than expected there was nothing for our masters to get overly concerned about in either country, yet within the establishment there were those who already feared where devolution might lead.

September 11, 2001 saw the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, soon followed by retaliatory US and UK air strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. To be followed by ground troops. January 4 2002 saw the first US soldier killed by enemy fire. The conflict dragged on.

The USA and UK invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein in March 2003. All kinds of reasons were proffered to justify this aggression but none were convincing. It was regime change linked to oil, and another ‘All be home by Christmas’ intervention that dragged on, and on.

Then, in July 2005, London experienced suicide bomb attacks that killed 52 people, and carried out by British-born Islamic terrorists. These bombings were the most extreme expression of the growing anger within Muslim communities in Europe and the USA at the West’s military interventions in the Islamic world.

The May 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament saw the SNP’s share of the vote climb to 32.9% of the vote, giving it the most votes, and with 47 seats (one more than Labour) it was now the largest party. Squeaky bum time was really upon us (or them).

By the end of 2007 it became clear that the Western world was entering a period of economic turmoil. It was equally clear that the recession had been caused by irresponsible lending by banks and mortgage institutions coupled with the imaginative trading of debts and other worthless packages. As with Afghanistan and Iraq, it was the USA and the UK leading the way, with other countries quick to blame ‘the Anglo-Saxon economic model’ of quick-buck trading having no concern for the wider economy, let alone society as a whole.

By 2010 everyone knew that the UK was up shit creek economically, with the public purse bailing out criminally irresponsible banks. The public turned against banks and the City of London. The UK was still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaeda had been overtaken by the much more ruthless ISIS, which had support from young British Muslims.

To cap it all, the Monarchy started losing what had been its 90+ per cent approval rating. I suspect this started with the death of Princess Diana in 1997, made worse by divorces and scandals, with the prospect of Charles becoming king viewed with concern in certain quarters.

So our elite consulted that well-thumbed manual, ‘Cunning Plans For When Things Go Pear Shaped”. And there, in among chapters headed, ‘Blame Somebody Else’, ‘Start A War’, ‘Scapegoat A Minority’, ‘Do A Runner With The Loot’ and ‘Pray For Divine Intervention’ they found ‘Whip Up A Frenzy Of Faux Patriotism’.

This explains why, in the mid to late noughties the largely neglected poppy saw the first drops of revivifying water and became the symbol not of sacrifice in war but of British identity and ‘pulling together’. The UK media played its role with an enthusiasm almost unknown in democratic societies.

Could it get any worse for the establishment? Yes it could, for in May 2011 the SNP took 44% (+13%) of the vote and 69 seats, giving it a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament. There would now be a referendum on Scottish independence.

Television companies responded by going into overdrive in promoting British unity. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 television programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516!

Which brings us to where we are today. To the point where the now regular autumn hysteria has reached absurd proportions. Here are a couple of examples.

On the evening of Friday November 18 I watched a televised football game (Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa) and I couldn’t understand why the players had poppies on their shirts a week after Armistice Day and five days after Remembrance Sunday. Then the commentator told us it was to commemorate the last day of the Battle of the Somme!

So are we now compelled to remember every date that someone, somewhere, deems significant? And if so, where does this end? Can anyone remember any other instance of poppies being worn after Remembrance Sunday?

Nowhere is the poppy cult more slavishly followed than at the BBC. It is now obvious that from mid or late October no one is allowed to appear on any BBC programme without a poppy. (Though Evan Davis on Newsnight held out longer than most.) So terrified is the Beeb of falling foul of the Sun and the other directors of the national mood that anything that moves is liable to have a poppy pinned to it.

But this fear of manufactured British patriotism can bring its own problems, such as when someone at The One Show pinned a poppy on the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. This outraged some for “trivialising the sacrifice of millions”, but as Dara Ó Briain suggested, it might have been satire, somebody having a pop at the poppy fascists. Here’s how the story was covered in Heatstreet, MailOnline, The Express, and the Huffington Post.

cookie-monster

As the BBC discovered with the Cookie Monster, when you’re dealing with poppy fascists it’s difficult to do the right thing. Perhaps the rule for broadcasters should be to pin a poppy on everything that breathes irrespective of whether it wants to wear one or not. Which might result in an apologist for ISIS appearing on Newsnight  or Channel 4 News wearing a poppy.

PART 3: CUNNING PLANS GANG AFT AGLEY

What I hope I’ve explained is that the past decade has seen a poppy cult engineered to engender a sense of Britishness, patriotism and unity, in order to counter threats from within and without; also to divert attention away from military blunders and other cracks in the façade of the British system that had led people to question the roles of the armed forces, the Monarchy, the City of London and other institutions.

To some extent this has worked. For example, the first referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014 was ‘won’. Then, the prince who many would like to see accede to the throne instead of his father has knocked out a few sprogs, and the ‘Ah!’ factor always works for the House of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.

Yet the success of this strategy is now causing problems that the Elite had not foreseen. You’ll note that I’m talking now of an ‘Elite’, so let me explain myself. Perhaps the best way is to refer back to my post EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! where I wrote of an Elite that opposes “nation-states, national identities, local governments, languages other than English, regional tastes and peculiarities. In fact, many of the things you and I cherish.”

Those behind the relentless promotion of the poppy are linked to that global Elite. They opposed Scottish independence and they were against Brexit, for they believe in the Elite’s agenda of globalisation and mass migration as these drive down wages and help destroy the national identities that are viewed as an obstacle to globalisation.

The problem is that for most English people ‘Britishness’ and ‘Englishness’, ‘Britain’ and ‘England’, are synonyms, and the English make up almost 80% of the UK’s population. Which has meant that by clumsily promoting the poppy and British nationalism as a short-term fix for assorted problems the Elite unleashed insurgent English populism that resulted in UKIP and Brexit, and may now take us on a journey no one foresaw.

This revolt against the Elite is not confined to the UK. Donald Trump is President-elect of the USA. François Fillon is the Centre-right’s candidate against Marine le Pen, and he will fight that election on a platform that Donald Trump would approve: making friends with Putin, cracking down hard on Islamic extremists, opposing same-sex couples adopting children, etc.

When the French go to the polls in April to elect a new president it will be a choice between a weak and demoralised Left on the one side, while the alternatives are the Hard Right and the Very Hard Right. Then, between Fillon and le Pen, attitudes to the EU could be the main and defining difference.

The liberal, globalist, ‘do your own thing’ consensus we’ve lived with since the 1960s is almost dead. Accidentally killed by an Elite that over-reached itself, assisted by a Left that had been allowed to dictate the social agenda (because it complemented the ambitions of the Elite) but so detached itself from the concerns of most people that ‘liberal elite’ is now a term of abuse.

For me, it’s one of the great political ironies that an annual propaganda exercise to defend established interests favouring the EU, centrist politics, globalisation and unrestricted immigration has breathed life into forces representing their very antithesis. But so fitting.

♦ end 

Oct 172016
 

October 17th 2016

First Minister,

You may have read my previous post, ‘Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd‘. If not, then I suggest you read it, if only to help you understand what follows.

Your government gives a great deal of public money to housing associations. These bodies are largely unregulated and, as a consequence, a law unto themselves. (One reason so many of them run into ‘difficulties’.) For example, Pembrokeshire Housing – a body that receives a great deal of money from the public purse – funds its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes in the building of private houses for sale.  

The emergence of this particular scandal is due entirely to dedicated individuals rather than to the media, politicians, or those answerable to you who claim to be overseeing the Registered Social Landlords you so lavishly fund.

Now it emerges that housing associations funded by your government are leasing – perhaps also renting – property from Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that is registered in a tax haven to hide the identity of those behind it, also to escape UK regulations and of course to avoid paying UK tax.

On Sunday, the Guardian told us that Arron Banks, funder of Ukip, friend of Nigel Farage and financial backer of his recent Leave.EU campaign, also makes use of Gibraltar. (Read it here.) When I read the story bells rang because details of Banks’ Gibraltar connection seemed familiar to me.

That’s because both Link Holdings and Arron Banks use Parliament Lane Nominees as directors, and both also use STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries. (Check Link Holdings’ company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar to confirm this.)

Coincidence? Probably, but the Guardian article raises the possibility that Welsh housing associations, funded and supposedly regulated by the Welsh Government, could be leasing properties from Arron Banks.

Despite the blog post I refer you to focusing on Swansea this problem is not confined to that city, or to Link Holdings. To begin with, Link Holdings owns property across southern Wales, so it’s reasonable to assume that RSLs in other areas have an arrangement with Link. Then, knowing that Link is one of many offshore companies owning property in Wales makes it equally reasonable to assume that housing associations have dealings with companies other than Link. (Read this.)

It doesn’t matter which possibility we consider, neither does your government or the housing associations involved any favours. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd could be owned by Arron Banks, or it could be owned by the Mafia, the Moonies, or money-launderers, we just don’t know.

Successive Labour administrations in the Assembly have told us they believe in ‘openness’, they’ve also reminded us how responsible they are in their handling of the public purse. You now have an opportunity to prove that these claims are more than empty rhetoric.

Unless, that is, you see nothing wrong with housing associations passing on public funding to property companies registered in tax havens. But I find that difficult to believe.

I also believe that no right-thinking Welsh politician would sanction what I have explained here, so we are entitled to know who is behind Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. We are also entitled to know if you and the housing associations involved are unable to identify who is behind this company.

Someone also needs to explain why the Welsh Government allowed publicly-funded bodies to do business with companies registered in tax havens. Before, finally, promising that such behaviour will be brought to an end.

It’s clear from the Link Holdings case, from what’s happening in Pembrokeshire, and from other evidence, that the social housing sector is in one hell of a mess. A well-funded but almost completely unregulated mess.

The answer to this problem lies in genuine reform, not in encouraging housing associations run by Labour Party members to take over faltering RSLs in order to increase Labour’s stranglehold on Welsh public life. (I am of course referring here to the recent Wales and West takeover of Cantref.)

Let me conclude by suggesting that you, First Minister, practise what your party preaches about openness and concern for the public purse by making sure that no more of our money reaches secretive companies registered in Gibraltar or any other tax haven.

END

UPDATE 18.10.2016: I have now decided to write directly to the First Minister. Here’s my letter.

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 . . .

Apr 022016
 

Yes, I know, Port Talbot isn’t the only Tata plant affected by the company’s decision to put its UK operation up for sale, but it is the biggest, and serves as useful shorthand.

Rather than giving instant remedies or exposing my ignorance by trying to discuss EU regulations on state aid, or the impact of carbon tax and business rates, let alone the statistics on Chinese steel production and exports, I shall stick to my comfort zone by considering political responses and impacts, winners and losers, and also the possible outcomes.

But first, let me indulge in a little reminiscing.

*

I grew up just around the Bay from Port Talbot steelworks and I can remember the plant in the mid-’60s when it employed 20,000 men and the wages paid earned it the soubriquet ‘Treasure Island’. Much of its steel went on to the tinplate works at Trostre in Llanelli and Velindre on the north side of Swansea (where I worked for a short while). Velindre is long gone, but Trostre has struggled on and is now in the same position as Port Talbot.

And if you’ve driven past and think the smells and the smoke of Port Talbot are bad nowadays, then you should have seen it in the ’60s and ’70s. It wasn’t just that the steelworks produced more smoke and smells back then, there were other plants nearby making their contribution.

Just up the road, on the Swansea side of the steel plant, in Baglan Bay, we had one of the largest petrochemical sites in Europe, employing another 2,500 men. A couple of miles inland there was the Llandarcy oil refinery with the same number of employees. Then there was the Tir John power station taking us up to the eastern outskirts of Swansea, where the East Side made its contribution to the shit and the smell with the never-to-be-forgotten Carbon Black plant.

Llandarcy

This spewed out such filth that it resulted in regular protests by local housewives, who couldn’t put washing on the line to dry without it being covered in a dust that also got indoors and clung to everything.

My first-hand experience of Carbon Black came through a summer job I took when at Coleg Harlech. I was employed to sweep the floors inside the plant, where the filth lay inches thick. I was provided with a brush and a rudimentary face mask . . . and that was it. I handed in my brush after a few hours and went to a nearby pub to ease my throat.

The whole area from the east side of Swansea over to Neath and down to Port Talbot was a complex of heavy industry, a nightmare for any proto-Green. And yet, if we add in Swansea docks, the ancillary jobs in transport and other fields, this triangle of smoke and smells provided tens of thousands of well paid jobs for semi-skilled and unskilled men. Most of these jobs have gone, and will never be replaced.

I had many friends and family members working at these various plants, and of course at the steelworks, and not just for the then owner, the Steel Company of Wales. For example, there was a boy I met in Penlan school with whom I became good friends (after the introductory fight); his family had come down from Kilmarnock and his father worked for British Rail in the steelworks’ marshalling yards, said to be the biggest in the world after those at the Chicago stock yards.

Then there was a friend of ours in the post-school era working in the steel works. One night he went over to Port Talbot to hear a promising young singer named Tom Jones. On the way back into Swansea, driving along the Jersey Marine in his Wolseley 1500, he was somehow thrown from his car, which then rolled over onto him. I think Keith was the first close friend I lost.

*

THE POLITICAL DIMENSION

The Conservatives

I suppose the Tories’ attitude was summed up accurately and succinctly by Paul Mason when he wrote, ‘Steel Crisis; they do not give a shit’. There are a number of reasons for this being true beyond the Tories being wedded to a blind and unthinking neoliberalism.

The future the Tories envision for the UK is of smart people doing clever things and making lots of money in clean environments with the economy topped up by sheikhs and oligarchs investing hundreds of billions in property and other deals that can be accomplished with a signature. Fundamentally, it’s a fantasy world in which people make lots of money doing very little, certainly not from producing anything other than hi tech gadgetry or financial packages that no one can understand.

There is no place in this vision for steel works and towns like Port Talbot. Such places are alien to Old Etonian politicians. Not only are they distant in terms of miles, and in considerations of social class, they are also distant in time, because they belong to the past, they have no place the glittering future I bewitched you with in the previous paragraph.

Gold cars

Of course, one of the major problems with this vision is that it’s very London-centric, extending only as far as the Home Counties in which many of the new elite will be living. Because you can bet that Sheikh Mohammed bin Slaveholder al Head-chopper is unlikely to be looking for a £30m mansion in Llanelli or Scunthorpe any time soon. Which explains attempts to placate the increasingly resentful natives north of Watford with ‘beads’ like HS2 and talk of a ‘northern powerhouse’.

On a more pragmatic, electoral level, the Tories have nothing to lose in towns like Port Talbot or any similar community in Wales, Scotland or England. You can’t lose support or seats if you haven’t got any to start with. So the truth is, as Paul Mason says, the Tories don’t give a shit.

Unconvincing expressions of concern will be heard, money will be doled out – there might even be a short-term nationalisation – but this hiccup will not be allowed to interfere with the march towards the post-industrial Bright Tomorrow, in which the sons and daughters of today’s Port Talbot steelworkers will be City traders or internet tycoons . . . or, more likely, working just up the road at the vast Amazon warehouse, on the minimum wage, with one toilet break a week.

Though it will be interesting to see how the local Tories deal with the steel crisis in the Assembly election campaign. Who will they blame?

*

The Labour Party

For Labour the steel crisis is much more complex and worrying. Not least because it was the equally laissez-faire New Labour governments that helped get us into this mess by nodding through British Steel’s merger with Koninklijke Hoogovens of the Netherlands in 1999 to form Corus, and then twiddling their thumbs when Corus was bought by Tata Steel of India in 2007.

The New Model Labour Party of Citizen Corbyn seems rather more concerned than the party led by Blair and Broon, but there’s little they can do out of power. Though in fairness to young Owen ap Dai ap Smith he didn’t wait for the fat lady to sing before putting the boot in, here he is at the start of February accusing Cameron and Osborne of kissing China’s arse!

Another scion of an anti-Welsh Labour family, the Boy Kinnock, actually took himself off to Mumbai, where the Tata board was deliberating. Quite what he hoped to achieve beyond a little self-promotion is a bit of a mystery. But then, showboating was always part of his father’s political repertoire, though I advise the young ‘un to avoid beaches with incoming tides.

Labour logo

Closer to home, our self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ can only be compared to rabbits caught in the headlights. There are a number of reasons for this. One, they have no experience of business, let alone business on this scale. Two, they simply aren’t aren’t up to the challenge intellectually. Three – and for this they are probably thankful – they don’t have the power to do anything.

That said, this announcement comes at a good time in the electoral cycle for ‘Welsh’ Labour, with Assembly elections just over a month away they can blame the ‘heartless’ Tories for everything and hope that voters don’t remember their party’s role in this tragedy.

And as usual there will be a cynical appeal to the ignorance and confusion of many Welsh voters as Labour – despite being impotent in Cardiff and in opposition in London – urges people to vote for Carwyn and the gang so that Labour can ‘save Port Talbot’.

*

Plaid Cymru

The steel crisis should be Plaid Cymru’s Christmas, Easter and St David’s Day all rolled into one. It gives them the chance to attack both major parties, English rule, and foreign ownership of Welsh assets. Thus far, I can only assume that Plaid is waiting its chance, holding its cards close to its chest . . . or maybe it doesn’t realise it has these cards.

I would suggest that rather than asking for anything absurd or impossible – such as demanding that the ‘Welsh’ Government nationalises the steel industry – Plaid Cymru should gather the evidence on the merger and the take-over that Labour allowed to go through when in power, and the Tories’ opposition to the EU raising tariffs on Chinese steel, the refusal by both parties to reduce energy costs for plants like Port Talbot, and compare those betrayals of the Welsh people with what Plaid Cymru would do if it was in power down Cardiff docks.

And stressing a betrayal of the Welsh people should be Plaid Cymru’s approach, rather than going all socialist and linking arms with Labour and the trade unions. Because unless Plaid Cymru’s voice is distinctive, and distinctively Welsh, then there’s really no point to Plaid Cymru, in this debate, or any other situation.

*

Liberal Democrats

I know I’m normally harsh on the Lib Dems, but over the years it’s been difficult not to be harsh, and at times almost impossible to take them seriously. And then, in my more mellow moments (not always induced by alcohol!) I think, ‘Weeel, maybe they’re not too bad’. ‘What brings this on?’ you ask.

To start with, there’s Kirsty Williams, the LD leader in Wales. Things have been tough in recent years for her party but she’s stuck with it and deserves a break. She’s a gutsy woman who I’m warming to.

Another LD AM who’s impressed me is William Powell. For one thing, he turns up at Cilmeri in December, where we rarely see Plaid politicians and never Labour or Conservative. (Nor UKIP, come to that!) And then there was the petition I submitted to the Assembly asking that it do something to stop chief executives taking over councils.

Petitions Committee

It was clear that Powell recognised the importance of this issue but the two committee members who ‘discussed’ my petition, Labour’s Joyce Watson and Plaid’s Elin Jones, couldn’t dump it quickly enough. Powell might get my second vote on May 5th.

But I digress.

On the specific issue of the sale of Tata’s UK operations, the Lib Dems – in the shy, retiring form of Peter Black – have called for the Notional Assembly to be recalled. Which might sound like a good idea until we remember that the Assembly is impotent, and what calls itself the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a collection of buffoons. A recall would be nothing more than a pointless gesture and a platform for narcissistic buggers like Black.

In many ways the Lib Dems’ position should not be a lot different to that of Plaid Cymru – ‘A pox on both your houses!’ So I would suggest that Kirsty leads her troops forward with all guns blazing . . . hoping few will remember that her party kept the Tories in power between 2010 and 2015, during which period the problems that have brought us to this crisis were allowed to build and build.

*

The Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales

They won’t like me for saying this, but I know that the Greenies were secretly jumping for joy when they heard that all those smelly, polluting steel plants are to close. But of course they can’t admit that.

What they can do, apparently, is write stupid letters to the press, such as the one below that appeared in Friday’s Wasting Mule. The writer seems to believe that the Port Talbot steel works can be powered by wind turbines, solar panels and fairy dust.

Then again, it could have been a piss-take, for Friday was April 1st.

Green steel

I issue these rebukes with a heavy heart, fearing that I might lose some of the many friends I’ve made in the Green Party over recent years. Oh yes.

*

UKIP

If any political party is crass and insensitive enough to make cheap political capital out of tens of thousands of people losing their jobs, then of course that party is UKIP.

Not only does the steel crisis give M. Farage et Co the chance to go nuclear on ‘Europe’, it also provides the opportunity to put the boot into Conservatives and Labour, with the cherry on top being the chance to have a go at the Chinese, the Indians, and just about anybody else they can think of.

UKIP will I’m sure argue that this steel crisis thingy would never have happened if everything was still managed by those splendid chaps down the clubhouse. Better decisions are made after six or seven drinks and a few cigars – everyone knows that! Don’t laugh, a lot of people will believe them.

A few months ago UKIP was predicted to win anything up to nine seats in May’s Assembly elections then, more recently, I’ve seen polls suggesting that support is slipping. The steel crisis could put them back to where they were earlier in the year, and the Tory-supporting media transferring the blame onto the EU might even take the UKIP vote in Wales to new heights.

However you cut it, UKIP is the party with most chance of gaining in May’s elections from the steel crisis.

*

SNP

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me.

There were a couple of steel plants in Scotland, admittedly much smaller than Port Talbot, that were saved from closure in the past few weeks thanks to decisive action by the Scottish National Party government. Here’s a report from the Guardian.

But this action didn’t please everybody. Here’s a more recent report from the Labour-supporting Daily Record (the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror) telling us that the Labour-controlled Community union is ‘questioning’ the deal.

To explain . . . there are elections in Scotland on May 5th also, and the SNP is almost guaranteed to win by a landslide. So one interpretation of this bizarre intervention by Community is that embittered Labour supporters are prepared to sabotage the Scottish steel deal for short-term political advantage.

Surely Labour wouldn’t do that?

Oh, yes, and remember, the Boy Kinnock was chaperoned on his trip to India by representatives of the same trade union. Whose interests were they looking out for – the steelworkers or the Labour Party?

*

EU Referendum

Speaking of the EU reminds us that on June 23rd we have the referendum on whether to stay in or to leave. The fate of the steel industry is bound to influence the way many people vote, especially in Wales. And seeing as Wales gives us the paradox of many Labour voters reading English Tory newspapers then prolonging the crisis can only help the Brexit cause.

Thinking more obliquely, this realisation that the steel crisis could decide a currently too-close-to-call referendum might prompt the EU into action; and if Cameron is serious about staying in the EU, then he might have to discreetly explain to his Chinese chums that – until the referendum is won – he might need to sound a little ‘hostile’, even agreeing to raise tariffs on Chinese steel imports.

When you consider all the possible ramifications you realise that, serious as the crisis in the steel industry is for those directly – or even indirectly – involved, the closure of Port Talbot and the other plants could have long-term and far-reaching implications that overshadow the loss of jobs.

In many ways Prime Minister Cameron is the one to watch, because with the EU referendum complicating things, him not wanting to be seen as a callous toff, yet having to protect the interests of his mates in the City by not offending the Chinese, the next few weeks could be interesting for those who like to watch nifty footwork.

As the Chinese themselves are reported to say, ‘May you live in interesting times’. (Though some say it’s delivered as a curse, not a blessing.)

 

Feb 232016
 

Last Saturday night, whilst yet again sacrificing my sobriety for the Argentine economy – a very nice Viñalba Patagonia Sauvignon-Merlot – I rummaged through the various images and tables I’ve compiled over the years and came across one I decided was worth putting out again, on Twitter. It was very well received. (Possibly because I can’t be sure I’ve ever used it before.)

In fact, it took wings. At the time of posting it’s up to 7,444 Impressions, 1,230 Total engagements, 720 Media engagements, etc., etc. Must be one of the most popular tweets I’ve put out. Anyway, those who missed it can see it below (click to enlarge). It takes various statistics from the 2011 Census and locates them on a map of the 22 local authorities.

Where born, identification, language by LA

Some of the feedback I got tried to link the large numbers of English people resident in certain areas with the increase in support for Ukip. In fact, this seems to be a common explanation for the rise of Ukip in Wales, used by nationalists and even those of a more British orientation. In this interpretation, Ukip is another form of English nationalism, just a bit less virulent and less openly racist than the British National Party.

Yet I knew this couldn’t be true because of the support for Ukip in the Valleys, at both the May 2014 European elections and the 2015 UK general election. But even so I thought it might be worth going back to the 2011 Census to compile a table showing the various factors that might prove / disprove this theory, or otherwise explain what’s happening.

Before unveiling the new table you can remind yourselves of the 2014 Euro election results with the table below that I produced at the time (click to enlarge), the results of the 2015 UK general election are here, and an analysis can be found in my review of that contest here.

Euro votes 2014

The statistics I’ve used to compile the new table are, first, the different labels people chose to use when identifying themselves in terms of nationality; then, whether born in Wales or England, and finally, the Ukip vote in the 2014 Euro elections.

It had to be done this way because the Census stats are given by local authority area, with the Euro vote available by the same divisions. The 2015 UK general election results were of course given by constituency, and while most constituencies can be grouped within local government boundaries there are some that straddle council borders, one being Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, which makes aligning constituencies with council areas very difficult.

Even so, the pattern is consistent. Those areas that gave support to Ukip in 2014 also gave support in 2015, though at roughly half the 2014 level in percentage terms, 13.6% against 27.6%. (Also worth bearing in mind is that the turnout for the Euros was 32% and for the 2015 general election 65%.) This was entirely predictable, more noteworthy, and a better guide to the increasing level of support, was that the Ukip vote went up from 2.4% in the 2010 general election to 13.6% in 2015.

As I started collecting the figures and adding them to the new table, it soon became apparent that there isn’t a single answer to explain the rise of Ukip in Wales – there are two!

First, and as I suggested above, in the Valleys authorities, with their small percentages of English residents, most Ukip support must come from people who identified in the 2011 Census as ‘Welsh Only’. (The same can be said to some extent of the cities.) Which might be seen as holing below the waterline the idea that Ukip is nothing more than an English nationalist party, or at least suggesting that other factors are at work in the urban areas of the south.

Birth, identification Ukip

Yet the more rural areas do tend to support the ‘English nationalist’ interpretation, especially in the north. Travelling along the coast from west to east we see that Ukip topped the polls in 2014 in Conwy (with 30.2%), Denbighshire (27.0%), and Flintshire (32.7%). Given the makeup of the population in this region it is entirely reasonable to assume that the majority of Ukip’s support comes from those identifying as English or British, with most of these born in England.

Elsewhere we find results that may have been shaped by other factors. For example, Ukip’s relatively low vote in Ceredigion (20.2%) can perhaps be attributed to indigenes and academe combining to reject M. Farage. The same factors may have been at work in Gwynedd, where Ukip saw it’s worst result (19.8%). Perhaps the Welsh language also played a part. Back in the north east, it has been suggested that the Wrexham figure (32.4%) was influenced by the large numbers of EU migrants in the town.

Others may see pointers I’ve missed, or simply choose to come to different conclusions. But we can be sure that a party that gained the same 30.2 per cent in areas as diverse as Conwy and Blaenau Gwent is in one sense a national party, and in another sense, a party appealing to two different constituencies in the same country.

If I wanted to be provocative (though as you know it’s not in my nature) I could argue that Ukip is the only truly national party in Wales. That Ukip is the only party with support across the country, from golf club Blimps on the Costa Geriatrica to the helpless and the hopeless in the Heads of the Valleys.

Who’s to blame for this? Obviously Plaid Cymru. First, for lacking the balls to oppose the colonisation of our rural areas. Second, for being so utterly insipid, so ‘Let’s-cwtch-up-to-Labour’, that the party has no appeal for thousands upon thousands of people in the south who are pissed off with Labour and seeking another party to vote for.

That these desperate people, these ‘Welsh Only’ identifiers, have found Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru says more than words could ever say, and everything you need to know about Plaid Cymru.

Maybe for next Christmas some enterprising and politically astute manufacturer of novelties will have crackers containing the puzzler:

Q: Who is responsible for the popularity in Wales of the English nationalist Ukip?

A: The ‘Welsh nationalist’ Plaid Cymru!

Next time you hear a Plaidista get on their high horse and adopt a tone of moral superiority vis-à-vis Ukip, trying to tell us what a parcel of rogues they are, remind them who created this monster.

Dec 232015
 

Yes, I know, it’s Christmas, the season of goodwill to all men, but it’s only a temporary distraction from the realities of life in Wales. And that life is, quite simply, colonial.

The gullible among us believe that devolution has made things better. I’m at a loss to understand why anyone should believe that. We are poorer today – relative to other parts of this scepter’d isle – than we were in 1999. Devolution is a complete sham in which a bunch of appalling mediocrities, denizens of an outlandish building down Cardiff docks, are unwilling to admit, or too stupid to see, that their ‘advisors’ are nothing but conduits for policy directives from London.

If the directives don’t come via civil servants then we often hear about them by other means. We know that the Conservative regime wants to roll back the devolution process, just in case, at some future date, someone might decide to ignore the ‘advisors’ and use the powers gained for the benefit of Wales. So after thinking about it for a moment it was no real surprise to hear a man no one has heard of, representing a body no one knows about, suggest co-opting MPs into the ‘Welsh’ Government.

This was such an insane, anti-democratic suggestion, that it took many people by surprise. My first response was, ‘Who the fuck is Martin Warren, and what does the governance of Wales have to do with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales?’ Then my cynical mind started turning and I realised that a professional body like this will almost certainly have ‘links’ with the Conservative and Unionist Party. What if they’re being used as a cat’s paw?

What I mean is that now the idea’s been publicly mooted, who’s to say that some time next year the Crabb won’t come out with, ‘Suggestions have been made . . . ‘ or ‘After considering proposals to include MPs . . . ‘ and use it to parachute a few Tory MPs into Carwyn’s multi-talented cabinet.

Santa complete copy

But note the organisation coming out with this bollocks, particularly note that it’s yet another Englandandwales outfit . . . the accountants have obviously taken no account of devolution. (Like hundreds of other bodies.) As we approach the seventeenth year of devolution Wales is more firmly integrated with England than ever before. And being integrated further every year, while Scotland – even without independence – pulls further away, in order to serve her own interests rather than England’s.

Next year sees the Assembly elections. Despite the lack of a Welsh media, increasing numbers of our people are finally waking up to the harsh reality that voting Labour achieves nothing. It only makes things worse. Plaid Cymru should be the major beneficiary of this new awareness (even if not to the same degree as the SNP). But if Ukip and Tories, Lib Dems and Greens benefit from this disillusionment more than – or even as much as – Plaid Cymru, then the time will have arrived to consider new means by which the nation’s interests are to be defended. 2016 must be Plaid Cymru’s last chance.

Some readers will consider my Christmas montage a little harsh, even unseasonal, but the realities don’t change because of some fat guy in a Coca Cola outfit. I shall return next year, refreshed and sobered up, loins girded, restocked with vitriol, ready to launch yet more trenchant attacks on the colonial system destroying our homeland.

In the meantime, and to prove that I’m not a complete and utter Scrooge . . .

Nadolig Llawen

 

Jun 092015
 

Yesterday the ‘Welsh’ Government announced that is has taken the troubled Betsi CadwaladrGwynedd SW Wards merged University Health Board into special measures. (The Tawel Fan scandal being the last straw.) Today we learnt that the chief executive, Trevor Purt, has been suspended. And yet . . . despite everything that has been said and written about the health service in Wales generally, and the northern part of the country in particular, there are a couple of issues, or contributing factors, that no one is willing to address. To explain what I’m referring to, I can do no better than quote a recently elected Tory MP, James Davies, now representing the Vale of Clwyd.

This is what the Daily Post had to say about him a month before the election, and here’s Dr Davies’ maiden speech in the House of Commons on June 2nd. The same two themes crop up in both pieces and also figured prominently in his election campaign; one is his concern over the state of the NHS in Wales and the second is the decline of Rhyl. The first of those he blames on the Labour regime down Cardiff docks, which is the easy way out and no more than we should expect from a Tory politician on the Costa Geriatrica. As for Rhyl, well, he doesn’t actually blame anyone, he just seems to believe, rather vaguely that, well, something should be done. Among his suggestions is a new Sun Centre. Of course, that’ll solve all the problems.

Being a GP, Dr Davies must be aware that one of the major reasons for the poor standard of health and other services in his area is the demands placed on those services by a) large numbers of elderly people moving into Wales and b) the white trash, problem families, drug addicts and other substance abusers, plus all manner of criminals, being dumped in the towns along our northern coast. Rhyl being the worst example. Dr Davies knows all this but he cannot say it because, as an England-worshipping Welsh UnionisAge, where bornt he is psychologically and emotionally incapable of viewing England as anything other than a paradise inhabited by superior beings with which Wales enjoys a one-sided relationship, with everything good that we enjoy emanating from England, and everything wrong with Wales our own fault. This is the Unionist mind-set (of both right and left), though it’s sad to see this self-loathing displayed in a seemingly intelligent man of just 35 years.

Which leaves James Davies in the position of wanting to discuss, and demand remedies for, problems for which he cannot admit major contributory causes. The Vale of Clwyd constituency is located in Denbighshire, where only 42.7% of the 65+ age group was born in Wales, yet we are asked to believe that the obvious influx of elderly people from outside of Wales has no impact whatsoever on the performance of the NHS locally. (In my area, less than one third of the 50+ age group is Welsh born! See map and table.) I’d hate to think that this inability to link cause and effect is indicative of how he works as a doctor. ‘Yes, Mr Smith, you’ve definitely got cirrhosis of the liver, but we’ll ignore your three bottles of whisky a day’. Much of Davies’ support would have come from elderly English voters angry at the standard of the local health service, but of course oblivious to the fact that their moving to Wales in such numbers contributes to the declining health service they’re complaining about. Nor can Doc Davies be honest about the reasons for the state of the NHS because he’s after the votes of those causing the problem! It’s altogether fitting that this flight from reality is taking place so close to where Alice in Wonderland was written.age, place of birth

But it’s not just James Davies who is unable to face the truth. It’s all the other politicians, and the media. With the latter doing its already tarnished reputation no good by tip-toeing around the elephant in the room. All terrified of speaking the truth for fear of making the front page of the Daily Mail or some other rag and being vilified as ‘racist’ or, what is much worse, ‘anti-English’. And fearing said rag going into overdrive with ‘ . . . veterans of Dunkirk . . . “the few” . . . Welsh all supported Hitler anyway . . . We’ll Meet Again . . . have to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet . . . fucking immigrants . . . fucking Jocks . . . good bloke, that Farage . . . blahdeblahdeblahdebritnatbollocks’.

Last night I put out a few tweets on this subject which were well received, being favourited and retweeted. The one discordant voice belonged to a Plaidista named Rhydian Fitter, who seemed unable to make the connection between tens of thousands of elderly English people moving to our rural and coastal areas and deteriorating heath provision. “I don’t see the connection”, protested young Fitter. Of course not. As a loyal member of Plaid Cymru you must follow the party line that pretends the colonisation of Wales is notRhydian Fitter happening (and, er, if it is, then it’s a good thing), a line that is little different to that of Dr James Davies, and is also the line enforced by the Daily Mail. Let us hope and pray for Plaid Cymru’s demise to begin next May. Plaid Cymru has had nothing to say to Welsh people – as Welsh people – for over thirty years, you can’t run on empty for ever. If I thought it would help put Plaid out of its misery, I’d even consider voting Ukip . . . despite Nathan Gill.

To conclude, and here I make no apologies for repeating myself. People living in other parts of the country, particularly the south, may be tempted to think that the problem dealt with here is restricted to the rural north and west, because English people don’t retire to Merthyr or Newport. Don’t kid yourself! The ‘Welsh’ Government has a fixed amount to spend on the NHS and other services, when so much of that has to be diverted to the areas suffering the strain of the geriatric influx, or the dumping of undesirables, then clearly, there will be less to spend in Merthyr and Newport, Swansea and Cardiff. We are all paying for the refusal – of all concerned – to acknowledge one of the major factors contributing to the crisis overwhelming the Welsh NHS.

Dec 272014
 

Despite fierce competition from Channel 17 in Albania and the Nova Scotia Parrot Breeders’ Monthly Jac o’ the North is delighted to have secured exclusive rights to First Minister Carwyn Jones’ end-of-year Review. Enjoy!

                                *Carwyn Jones 9

Hello there, I’m Carwyn Jones, you may not know me, but I’m the First Minister of Wales. More importantly, I also run the local branch of the Labour Party (along with Owen Smith MP and a few other people). I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas, I know I did. It gave me a chance to put my feet up and relax for a change, after another hectic and hugely successful year in Wales. Let’s go through it month by month.

P.S. Jac has kindly added some pictures showing me at work, so click on them to make them bigger.

      *

JANUARY: The Dylan Thomas Centenery Year got off to a wonderful start when documents were found at Transport House showing that Dylan was a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, joining the party in 1938 while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Not only that, but a previously unknown poem also came to light. Here’s a brief extract showing both his mastery of pomes and stuff and also his commitment to the party he loved: ‘I’ve always been ronk Labour / Its meeCarwyn Jones 2tings are never missed; / Its nostrums are adhered to, / Even when I’m pissed’. The second verse is playfully romantic: ‘I love the Labour Party, / It’s meetings are such fun, / The branch secretary’s a honey, / I wouldn’t mind giving her one’. Chokes me up, it does. And I bet it brings tears to the eyes of all poetry lovers.

FEBRUARY: It was brought to my attention that some foolish people are campaigning to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, possibly even go on to Bangor. It should be obvious to everyone that if you’re travelling by rail from north to south (or even south to north) then the existing route via Norwich is clearly the best option and gives people hours, days even, of extra working time. As the old English saying goes, ‘East to west is always best (especially in Wales)’. Who can argue with this tried and tested legitimisation of colonialism?

MARCH: I was surprised to receive from Mr Sargeant and his friends in the Planning Inspectorate a report saying Wales needs one million new homes by 2025. In fact, I said to him, “This seems like a lot, Carl”. But then it was explained to me that this number is due to our soaring birthrate fuelled by the booming Welsh economy which can only be attributed to 15 years of wonderful WelshCarwyn Jones 3 Labour controlling the Assembly. So when you look at it like that it makes perfect sense. In fact, a million may not be enough. (Which is what the Planning Inspectorate is already suggesting.)

APRIL: The London media, at the behest of the Coalition government, said terrible things about the Welsh NHS, so let me put a few things straight. The reason Mrs Rhian Evans of Llanrwst’s baby was delivered by the men re-possessing her three-piece suite was not because we had no ambulances available, it was because she tried calling for one in Welsh! Another calumny (a posh word taught to me by Mrs Hutt) being bandied about is that people have to wait ages before being seen by a doctor. Mr Bowen Owen of Ystradgynlais – fleeting cause celébrè of the right-wing English press – would not have spent three weeks in the waiting room if he’d told staff he was deaf. (And it goes without saying that patient confidentiality is our watchword.)

MAY: No, not Mrs May up in London, over whom certain men fantasise. (Ych a fi!) I’m thinking of the European elections, which Labour won with a stonking majority when almost 10% of those elligible to vote in Wales voted Labour. There’s no arguing with a victory of that mCarwyn Jones 4agnitude. Though of course some nit-pickers did try, saying that Ukip got nearly as many votes as us. But that’s to miss the point, because – and I’m not talking about Europe here – on the issue that really matters, Labour and Ukip are gobbing into the same spittoon.

JUNE: Unkind things were also being said about our higher education sector, so let’s put the record straight. To suggest that some of our universities are lowering entry requirements and cutting corners in pursuit of money is both insulting and incorrect. The fact that Aberystwyth now accepts students with two F grades and a new toothbrush should not deflect from the excellent work being done there by the very popular Ms April McMahon and her loyal and supportive staff. As for Glyndŵr university, degrees were not – as was alleged – being sold in Turkmenistan, far from it. The truth is that a Welsh university broke into new markets by respecting local traditions. In this case, courtesy demanded that certain local dignitaries be allowed to take away examination papers and return them at a time of their own choosing. When it was accepted that the fruit of the potentates’ loins Carwyn Jones 7had completed the papers unaided, with everything above board due to the process having been overseen by invigilators provided at said potentates’ expense. How could anyone question such an arrangement?

JULY: Even though I was on holiday with Mrs Carwyn and the kids I couldn’t stop thinking about the job. One day, whilst sipping a mint julep (with shaved ice, natch), I was forced to concede that there are ‘issues’ in local government. That said, all the problems in Caerphilly were clearly the responsibility of the previous Plaid Cymru administration. If they had paid the chief executive a decent whack then there would have been no need for him to conspire arrange to have a massive salary increase from Mr Gezwell Kirby and his Band of Bruvvers in the incoming Labour administration. While down in Carmarthenshire the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru made a terrible mess of things. Later in the year, the leader of Swansea council had my full support . . . until the coup, after which the new leader had my full support. The bottom line is that everywhere you look around Wales you see the same problem – everything going to pot because people won’t let the Labour Party run things unhindered. (Or the chief executive, whichever applies.)Carwyn Jones 8

AUGUST: I went to the National Eisteddfod, held this year in Llanelli. As you can see from the photograph, I was mobbed by hordes of young Labour activists. (Phwoar!) While there I made a firm commitment to defend the Welsh language at all times . . . unless it meant contradicting the Planning Inspectorate, annoying the Secretary of State, pissing off Labour MPs, interfering with the colonisation strategy, damaging the profits of Wimpey, Redrow, Persimmon, etc., or alarming anyone in London. Those minor caveats aside, let there be no questioning of my firm resolve to do everything I can to ensure that Welsh-speaking communities survive and prosper.

SEPTEMBER: First, I summoned all the world’s leaders to a NATO summit in Newport so I could tell them how to deal with ISIS, Putin, Salmond and assorted threats to our perfect Western system. (Thankfully, no one realised there were any ‘protests’ in Newport because they were sabotaged organised by Ms Bartolotti of MI6 the Green Party.) Next, I flew (from Bristol) to Scotland to confront the aforementioned Alex Carwyn Jones 1Salmond and frustrate his dastardly plan to make Scotland democratic, fair and wealthy. (Jesus! think of the trouble that would have caused!) Due to some very nifty work backstage and in the wings (by those I dare not name) the referendum vote was an emphatic and overwhelming No. It was so emphatic and overwhelming that support for the Scottish National Party has now collapsed as Scots have come to their senses and flock to join the Labour Party. Mr Salmond himself is a broken man, and has abandoned all political ambitions to open a barber shop in Kirriemuir.

OCTOBER: Due to the thousands of new businesses that were created by Welsh Labour with the first two rounds of EU Structural Funds, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that came with them, those nice people in Europe wisely gave us another two billion pounds to continue with our wonderful work. We are open to imaginative suggestions on how to use this money. Applications containing words or phrases not unlike those here listed stand a good chance of scuring funding: ‘eco-‘ / ‘community space’ / ‘CVs’ (as in ‘help with completing . . . for non-existent jobs’) / ‘enviro-‘ / ‘Labour Party’ (as in, ‘I am a member / supporter . . . ‘) / ‘self-esteem’ / ‘Green’ / ‘multicultural’ / ‘holistic’ / ‘LGBT’ / ‘social enterprise’ / ‘England’ (as in, ‘recently moved frobucket 3 am . . . ‘) / ‘raiki’ / ‘not-for-profit’ / ’empowerment’ / ‘real job’ (as in, ‘never had a . . .’).

NOVEMBER: After reading that every Norwegian is now, theoretically, a millionaire, due to the success of Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, I decided we must have one in Wales. (Though I have reservations about using the term ‘sovereign’.) Starting in January, groups of highly-trained financial analysts will be touring the country with state of the art buckets taking up a national collection. So give granny a good shake, slash open the sofa and chairs, and give whatever you can find to Welsh Labour because, deep inside, you know we’ll use it wisely.

DECEMBER: Mr Vincent Tan has made such a favourable impression on Cardiff City fans that we decided to capitalise on his popularity and fast-track him into the Assembly. He’ll be taking over Vaughan Gething’s seat of Kerdiff South and Penarth. We haven’t told Vaughan yet, it’ll be a surprise! . . . a hell of a surprise seeing as we’ve spread a rumour that he’s my annointed successor! (Well, laff!!)

*

2015: I look forward to 2015 with great optimism. Due to the wonderful work of the Welsh Government’s Bread and Circuses Division our boys will either win the Rugby World Cup or fail heroically; either way, if celebrated properly (with the help of our wonderful Welsh media), it should then give us a majority in the Assembly elections of 2016. As if that wasn’t enough, a string of blockbusters will be filmed at Valleywood: cruise liners will make their first, serene appearance on the Llangollen canal; the roar of F1 cars will be heard at the Circuit of Wales; Cardiff International airport will enter an exciting partnership with Bristol and be re-named Bristol (West); thousands of jobs will be created at the Margam Superpit; Llanelli town centre will become the favoured location for post nuclear holocaust movies; and Rhyl will be twinned with any other shit-hole desperate enough for the connection.

Cardiff airport

Take my word for it, 2015 is going to be a great year in Wales. Everywhere you go you’ll hear shoe-shine boys and beggars, bailiffs and food bank staff, whistling that old Harry Secombe number, Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Labour.

Nov 272014
 

Last Thursday found me entertaining visitors from the USA in Rhuthun, a pleasant town I’m rather fond of, where I was amazed to see a few people still wearing poppies. Even stranger, there were large poppies fixed to lamp-posts! (This, remember, was November 20th.) This reminded me that the of wearing of poppies may originally have honoured The Glorious Dead, but nowadays the poppy is used to relentlessly promote British unity and patriotism. Understandable, I suppose, for social cohesion is always desirable, but the growing economic disparities defeat that object, leaving the poppy exposed as a fig leaf behind which a corrupt and increasingly reviled elite seeks to hide.Cameron poppy

A political elite supported by a media that is looked upon by the rest of the world’s journalists with a mixture of awe and revulsion. Led of course by the BBC, the State mouthpiece that played such a prominent role in seeing off the threat of Scottish independence in September. Following behind is the print media, those newspapers that have hacked phones, paid bent coppers, etc., then denied doing anything wrong before – after being exposed – arguing that everything they did was in the public interest.

As I say, events in Scotland have played a big part in influencing the recent behaviour of the UK media and the output of the ‘entertainment industry’. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 separate programmes that had ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516! Yet we are supposed to believe that the threatening political situation in Scotland had nothing whatever to do with this upsurge in patriotic productions south of the border. Read more about it here.

This discredited elite and loathsome media also promote ‘Remembrance’ with a considerable degree of coercion, one only has to watch television in the weeks leading up to November 11th to realise that no one is allowed to appear on UK television without a poppy. The poppy must appear everywhere, from footballers’ shirts to newspaper front pages. (There’s something rather odd about seeing German and Argentine Premier League footballers with a poppy on their shirts.) The only Premiership player I’ve seen with the courage to refuse was James McClean, when with Sunderland (now with Championship side Wigan). Something else I’ve noticed is that the commemoration of ‘Armistice Day’ now seems to start around mid-September.

I make that observation because when I was a boy people would wear poppies on November 11th (or the Sunday nearest to that date), these were then either placed on graves or left on the mantlepiece, perhaps for next year; but now, like Christmas, the whole thing starts earlier every year. And just as sybarites of your acquaintance insist they wouldn’t really bother with all the over-eating and getting steaming drunk “if it was’t for the kids’, so the sinister and discredited elements I’m referring to want us to believe that the poppy cult is motivated solely by respect for The Fallen. I say cult because that’s what it has become. If anyone doubts what I’m saying, then just recall the Tower of London display this year and the crowds turning up to worship at the ‘shrine’.

Stepping back from that exercise in overkill we can see the bigger picture and the poppy cult as just one tactic in a wider strategy. For with the unity of Britain beset by threats as diverse as the SNP and jihadism, yet with nothing in modern Britain able to serve as the focus for a unifying loyalty, a discredited establishment is forced to employ the past, and to exploit those beyond all criticism. (The wisdom of which is questionable, given that those who died on the Western Front can be seen as victims of the same discredited establishment.)

poppy fig leaf

Of course, this promotion of an unquestioning patriotism that tolerates no criticism has its risks. Such as encouraging those on the uglier fringes of English / British nationalism into believing that this State-sponsored nationalism shows approval of their stance on various issues – not least immigration – which then results in the kind of behaviour we saw in George Square, Glasgow the day after the independence referendum. By waving Union flags on every conceivable occasion, by making endless programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title, the British elite and its media encourage the extreme Right to think its beliefs are being endorsed or gaining acceptance. Which leads on to another problem.

For many of these SuperBrits are Nazis, and admire the army that killed so many British soldiers. I have never quite understood the reasoning at work here, does the English extreme Right think Britain should have made common cause with the Nazis in World War Two, maybe fought alongside them against the RusWhite vansians? It’s obvious there are many who see no contradiction in being a Nazi and a British patriot, as we saw in George Square, with people bawling out Land of Hope and Glory before yelling Sieg Heil! This confusion probably explains the nutter who gave a Nazi salute at the Remembrance Day service in Wrecsam. He may genuinely have believed that a Nazi salute is an acceptable way to show respect for Britain’s war dead. Think about that.

This ‘confusion’ presents a dilemma for our masters. Because I believe there are sinister forces within the establishment who think that in a shit-hitting-the-fan scenario, with Muslim neighbourhoods becoming no-go areas, Scotland declaring independence, social unrest among the English underclass, the thugs of the BNP and Britain First, Rangers fans and assorted other misfits would make ideal foot-soldiers, so we mustn’t be too hard on them. But it’s playing with fire.

Another problem for the British establishment presented by White Van Dan and his ilk is that while the Unionist elite desperately seeks ways to defeat Scottish nationalism, to combat the alienation of ethnic and religious minorities, and hold the UK together, the English Right is circling the wagons. It wants as little as possible to do with foreigners of any description or complexion, and the ‘scrounging’ Celts can also sod off if they so wish. How far can the British Unionist establishment go in appeasing those who want nothing less than an English England, and are as ready to see Britain dismembered as any Scottish nationalist? It’s a circle that cannot be squared without convincing English nationalists that Scotland and Wales are little more than subject territories, with the predictable consequences . . . in Scotland, anyway.

This dilemma almost certainly explains the swift removal from the shadow cabinet of Emily Thornberry last week. You may recall that during the Rochester and Strood by-election (won by Ukip) Ms Thornberry tweeted a photograph (shown above) with the caption, ‘Image from Rochester’. She was accused, among other things, of being “snobbish”. It would be difficult to prove in any court of law what Ms Thornberry meant by that tweet, it all depends on what you read into it, but Mrs Thornberry’s party leader, and the media, decided she had insulted the patriotic English working class and so she had to go. A curious decision for a political party that no longer understands the working class; but then, with Ukip on the rise Ed Miliband must pretend he’s a soul-mate to car dealer and cage fighter Dan. Incidentally, Dan says he put up the flags for the World Cup and just forgot to take them down. Reminder: England started packing their bags to come home on June 24th.

poppy fig leaf

Something that must be ignored by the establishment is that The Glorious Dead of previous generations were prepared to die for a country they loved and an establishment they believed – despite a few black sheep – was basically honest and doing its best for the country. They even believed what they read in their newspapers, and heard on the ‘wireless’. None of this applies today, which is why so many people are searching for political, religious and other alternatives, and why the poppy has become a fig leaf behind which a discredited elite tries to hide its obvious and multiple failings. And when it’s not poppy time then it’s sport, or royal weddings / pregnancies, or any other Great British Bollocks.

Britain today displays many of the features associated with civilisations in a state of terminal decline. The imperial family is not respected as once it was, too many have brought on it shame and ridicule. Few pay any attention to organised religion, other than ‘subversive’ faiths from the farther reaches of the empire. The political elite is distrusted as never before, perceived by the masses to be liars interested only in lining their own pockets. The money-lenders are crooks and the merchant class avoids paying taxes. With the result that the gulf between rich and poor grows year on year. The capital still prospers while provincial cities decline, and one of the more important provinces threatens to break away altogether. The masses grow restless and look to new leaders, back-slapping populists who can be found in the taverns and the wine shops. These are clearly dangerous times for the established order, so it must pretend to listen to the masses, promise to be strong against the foreigner, provide bread and circuses, while recalling the days of glory and urging the restless masses to be more like their unquestioningly loyal fathers.

That paragraph could have been about the decline and fall of imperial Rome (or France just before its Revolution) but I am of course writing about modern Britain, and I didn’t need to make up anything. As we know, things turned out badly for Rome and they’ll turn out badly for Britain’s discredited elite. The Britain I grew up in is disappearing before my eyes, and as with Rome, the collapse is not due to the barbarians at the gates (or indeed within the walls), it is due entirely to a corrupted, self-serving elite having become divorced from, and contemptuous of, the great majority of the population (though there’s some irony in the Daily Mail reminding us of this). This situation can persist only until enough of the ruled realise the true nature of those PX*2956596ruling them. We have almost reached that point.

The more one looks at modern, shyster-run Britain, with its never-ending scandals that must result in splurges of ever more contrived and unconvincing calls to patriotism, the more we should appreciate Dr. Johnson’s prescience in making the constantly re-forged link between patriotism and scoundrels.

And what of Wales? There will be those who argue that everything is fine, relax! chill out! while others will tell us we can all be rich and happy by replacing the incumbent shysters with a different crew of shysters. Of course we can. Others may pretend that devolution will save us. Well, we’ve had fifteen years of devolution and unless you’re a property developer in Cardiff or a Third Sector grant-grabber then you haven’t seen any benefits. Next year could give us a coalition government with the Tories linking up with the friendly face of fascism. Isn’t that something to look forward to? Wake up, the only hope for Wales is to start disentangling itself from the disaster unfolding before our eyes. That disaster is England.

I would readily honour the memory of those who lost their lives in combat if doing so hadn’t become politicised by those for whom I have no respect. Perhaps Wales should have a different poppy, one to honour the dead without being associated with those seeking to exploit the dead.

Oct 312014
 

‘Surely you’re not going to write favourably about Ukip, Jac?’ I hear you plaintively inquire. Well, yes and no. What I’m going to try to say is that if we learn the right lesson from Ukip’s recent success then that lesson can be used for the benefit of Wales. So let’s first remind ourselves of what the party achieved in the May European elections. (Click on table to enlarge.)

The party won 27.6% of the vote, against just 15.3% for Plaid Cymru and only 28.1% for Labour. And for those who used to argue that the Ukip vote came almost entirely from disaffected Tories, the Conservative vote held fairly steady at 17.4%. If you wanted to be even more dismissive, and self-deluding, then you would have written off this success as the kind of protest vote in which people indulge at Euro elections. It was not. It was much, much more. ‘Something’ was happening. It was observable then and it has become unmistakable since May.

Euro votes 2014

So what was the response from the other political parties to the Euro results? Initially, there was a stubborn refusal to accept the changed landscape of Englandandwales politics. (Ukip is irrelevant in Scotland.) Precious, simpering Leftists and liberals held their noses at the very mention of Ukip, as if it were unwholesome and repugnant, while many leading Tories tended to see Ukip members as oiks, the products of minor public schools. But that soon changed.

Because more recently we have seen  the defections of a couple of Conservative MPs (with more expected to follow). One of those MPs, Douglas Carswell, has already won for Ukip the Clacton seat he vacated when he resigned from the Tories. While on the same night, at the Heywood & Middleton by-election in Greater Manchester, Labour held on to one of its ‘safe’ seats by getting just 617 votes more than Ukip. Ukip is odds-on favourite to win the Rochester and Strood by-election next month when another Tory defector, Mark Reckless, stands for his former constituency.

Finally, and very reluctantly, the other political parties have been forced to accept that something very worrying is happening, and it’s no flash in the pan. The growing contempt for Westminster and the ‘established’ parties is manifesting itself in increased support for what voters see, and welcome, as an ‘outsider’ party, an untainted, maverick presence that can shake everything up – and articulate their concerns. And there is one issue more than any other on which Ukip has captured the public imagination – immigration.

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As I have made clear more than once on this blog, the biggest threat facing Wales is not fracking, or the lack or primary legislative powers, but the steady and engineered colonisation witnessed by every one of us every single day. It is taboo to raise the subject of English colonisation, and it results in being shouted down as a ‘racist’, or else have it pointed out that there is nothing that can be done about immigration due to EU laws on free movement of labour. Another argument employed is that as citizens of the UK English people are perfectly free to move to Wales.

Ukip’s success, and it’s focus on immigration, has not only legitimised immigration as a subject for debate, but it has even changed the terms of reference. To the extent that even Ed Miliband, the nerdy and disconnected leader of the Labour Party, now agrees that something needs to be done about immigration. This, remember, is the same Labour Party that not so long ago was in favour of unrestricted immigration in order to create a multiracial society. A policy that they believed would lead to better race relations(!) and of course, more votes for Labour.

The Conservative Party has always talked tough on immigration, accused Labour of being ‘soft’, but since regaining power in 2010 has done nothing itself to curb the flow. That’s because today’s Tories are not the patriots one would have found in the Conservative Party in earlier generations; the current crop contains too many of the selfish and short-sighted who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. In the view of such people immigration equals cheap labour, which in turn helps to depress wages more generally. Therefore, no matter what they might say for public consumption, and to hang onto their seats, if immigration is good for them and their friends then they aren’t going to knock themselves out doing anything about it.

This is the split one finds on the Right across the Western world. On the one hand, there are those that oppose unskilled or non-professional immigration. Then there are those that appreciate the economic benefits unskilled migrants can bring to farmers and others, using well-rehearsed arguments such as ‘locals don’t want these jobs’. Finally, there is the extreme Right that opposes virtually all immigration. Most Conservative MPs today belong to the second category but, under the increasing threat from UPlaid logokip, are being forced to adopt the rhetoric of the third. To the extent that a government minister this week talked of English communities being “swamped” by immigrants.

So Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip for bringing immigration to the forefront of political debate. What’s more, the debate now is not about legal rights – for ‘Europeans’ have legal rights to be in the UK – but effects on the host community. If ten per cent of the population of Peterborough being immigrants is legitimate cause for concern, then fifty per cent of the population of Powys being English should be cause for immediate action.

The other reason true Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip is for exposing the sheer bloody uselessness of Plaid Cymru. Last May, in the kind of election in which people say, ‘What the hell!’, Ukip was able to get more votes than Plaid Cymru; worse than that, Ukip gained the ‘soft’ Labour, or non-voter, vote in the south that Plaid Clymru claims to have been chasing for half a century. Plaid Cymru can now look forward to coming fourth at the 2016 Assembly elections.

Ukip has opened a door, but Plaid Cymru won’t go through because it’s afraid to point up the hypocrisy in the position of English politicians and media being outraged when a few thousand poor people turn up in a prosperous English town to take the low-paid jobs, yet condemn us as ‘racist’ for drawing attention to wealthy English people buying up our homeland and, in the process, destroying our very identity! No, instead, Plaid Cymru snuggles up to a party the SNP has all but destroyed in Scotland and cobbles together election pacts with the Green Party of Englandandwales and it’s colon representatives here.

With events in Scotland threatening the Westminster consensus on another front there has never been a better time for a radical Welsh party to make a breakthrough. Plaid Cymru is not that party. It never was. It looks jaded, even part of that now-detested Westminster consensus. Maybe that’s the price you pay for being ‘respectable’ and ‘responsible’, being written about favourably in the Guardian and the New Statesman. And Wales pays the price.

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Having got that off my chest, let me end on a lighter note, with something I’ve wanted to say about Ukip for a long time – I find Nigel Farage and his gang incredibly funny. Let me explain.

As a child growing up in the 1950s one sub-species of humanity then to be observed was the somewhat louche individual who favoured cavalry twill trousers and a badge-embazoned blazer, or a sports coat. For neckware there was the choice of regimental / old school tie, cravat or bow tie, and above that a moustache he hoped would help him further promote the image of a man who’d done his bit of derrFarage T-Ting-do, don’t y’know. The favoured mode of transport was a sports car, in which our specimen would cruise around hoping to pick up ‘crumpet’. Despite his natural habitat being the Home Counties and certain areas of west London, this fascinating creature could even be found in Swansea, often at the more acceptable ‘watering holes’ on Gower or in Mumbles drinking half pints in glasses with dimples and handles. (Never a straight glass!) These they would obtain by marching into a pub demanding to be served with ‘A half of your very best bitter, squire’. (It should be noted that during this period many innocents were elevated to the ranks of the squirarchy without ever understanding how or why.) They seemed a hearty crew exhuding bonhomie and guffawing at lame jokes about ‘shirt-lifters’ and ‘darkies’ while slapping each other vigorously on the back. They were almost a stock character in English films of the period, played by none better than Terry-Thomas. In a yet earlier age many of them might have been remittance men.

Remittance men

Anyway, the point I’m making is that I had assumed this sub-species of homo britannicus (‘Homo’, geddit? nudge, nudge) had been rendered extinct by the decline of the English sports car industry, or Rock ‘n’ Roll, or loss of habitat, but I was wrong – they were just hiding, biding their time, and now they’ve re-emeged from the collective apoplexy of the golf club and the piss-take pageantry of the masonic lodge – as Ukip! This realisation has been quite disconcerting for me, even disorientating, though it brought memories flooding back. I suppose younger readers will suspect that the creatures I’ve described never existed. Believe me, boys and girls, they did – just look at Farage and his chums and you’ll get some idea of what they were like!

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Of course, nothing I’ve written here changes my opinion of Nathan Gill, the Ukip MEP for Wales. (Pick up the story from here.) He is still a lying shite. He and his brothers-in-law – possibly others – are unscrupulous, hypocritical, exploitive bastards prepared to make money out of desperate immigrants from the ‘Europe’ they claim to hate, and then hide away the cash-in-hand income from the tax authorities. When they aren’t exporting dangerous used tyres to West Africa, that is. Don’t y’know.