WalesOnline

Apr 082017
 

A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):

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There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.

At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.

Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?

Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.

Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?

“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?

The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.

There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.

Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.

Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.

It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.

Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.

In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.

John Michael Imperato

Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.

You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.

Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?

UPDATE 10:10pm: Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.

Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.

The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.

Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.

Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.

Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.

those with strong stomachs may click to enlarge

Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?

P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.

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The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.

Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.

This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.

Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.

An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!

Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.

Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.

And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.

Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.

This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.

No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.

And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.

I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.

As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.

UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!

UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.

Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.

UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?

UPDATE 2:45pm 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads ‘Page not found’.

♦ end ♦

Nov 142016
 

When I first heard of the Circuit of Wales project back in the early part of 2013 I was somewhat sceptical of its chances of success, and the reasons for my scepticism were set out in Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train? 

Despite being doubtful that the project would ever materialise I was (in the even-handed manner for which I am rightly acclaimed) also critical of some of those raising objections to the CoW, not least the environmentalists who seem to oppose anything that might benefit those who live permanently in Wales.

For various reasons that I don’t have the space to analyse here, the project has ‘drifted’ somewhat since my original post, and in recent weeks we have witnessed attacks on the Heads of the Valleys Development Company (HOTVDC) and its Circuit of Wales from what might, at first sight, appear to be unconnected sources. So let’s look at these attacks and see if we can make sense of them.

ebbw-vale

A long-time critic of what could be the economic salvation of the region is Conservative MP David Davies, who represents the neighbouring constituency (to Ebbw Vale) of Monmouthshire, perhaps the most affluent area in the country. It’s reasonable to assume that those who vote for Davies don’t want anything noisy on their doorstep, attracting people who will drive through their area to get to the circuit. So while not wishing to be unfair – for there may indeed be more to it – I suspect that nimbyism with a dash of snobbery lies behind the attacks from that direction.

But as I say, Davies, chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster, has been a consistent critic, and no doubt he’d argue that he’s just doing his job. And his job has been made easier for him by some strange spending of the millions already invested by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

But the criticism of this project comes from beyond leafy Monmouthshire and its well-heeled inhabitants, from those who cannot be dismissed as nimbys or snobs.

On November 1, after regular sniping from its news broadcasts, BBC Wales made a frontal assault using its Week In Week Out series with A Safe Bet? (Video available here for a while.) There was little pretence at impartiality. Anyone watching this programme with no knowledge of Wales, and how it works, would have concluded that the Circuit of Wales is a complete waste of money and should be ditched immediately.

I admit that Michael Carrick, the man behind HOTVDC, doesn’t always instill confidence, and he has certainly made mistakes. Even so, it appears to me that critics have too often been playing the man rather than the ball. By which I mean, the project needs to be considered on its merits; after all, Einstein being a philanderer didn’t undermine his Theory of Relativity.

The attacks have continued, culminating today in a front page lead continued on page 2 plus an editorial in the Wasting Mule. All written by my old mucker, Martin Shipton.

The justification for today’s attack seems to be that the HOTVDC used the Silverstone circuit in England in 2015 and 2016 to host MotoGP races that it had contracted to host at the Circuit of Wales, and had lost money. Now with the best will in the world, I detect an element of having your cake and eating it in this criticism.

Because those attacking the HOTVDC for making a loss at Silverstone – due to the Circuit of Wales not being completed – are the very same people who have been doing their very best to derail the CoW project altogether!

circuit-of-wales-wm-editorial

click to enlarge

As for losing money by going to Silverstone, even before reading the response from the HOTVDC I knew the answer. The owners of the Silverstone circuit creamed off the profits, from the hot dog stands to the champagne hospitality suites and from the Ducati baseball caps to the sales of £300 leather biker boots.

A child could work that out, and a younger sibling could add that those profits would have accrued to Ebbw Vale if the Circuit of Wales had been operational, as would other benefits to the area from those visiting for a few days.

God Almighty! Break somebody’s leg and then criticise him for limping.

So how do we account for this recent onslaught from BBC Wales and the Wasting Mule? I suspect there are two, linked, answers.

First, just last month, it became clear that the project had a good chance of proceeding without needing to be underwritten by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Even so, this report from WalesOnline still manages to put a negative spin on the news with, “However, without approval on underwriting from the Welsh Government, the project will effectively be dead as there is little private sector appetite to take a 100% risk exposure position.”

Though I’m a little nonplussed by the phrase “approval on underwriting”. If the writer means underwriting, why not just say that rather than employ such a convoluted phrase? Though with heavyweight backing from Aviva and Kleinwort Benson underwriting from the ‘Welsh’ Government may no longer be needed . . . and it may be this realisation that has triggered the recent attacks.

The article in question was written by Siôn Barry, of whom I shall have more to say in a moment.

Second, if the Circuit of Wales goes ahead then it will challenge the thinking behind the Cardiff Capital Region project. Which, in its simplest terms, is as follows: As many jobs as the Region’s architects can get away with are to be concentrated in Cardiff, as are the Region’s sporting, recreational, cultural and other facilities. So that people from the Valleys will come into Cardiff to earn their crust, and they will come back into Cardiff to be regularly relieved of a great part of that crust.

Which makes it anathema to those behind the City Region that places like Ebbw Vale should be allowed anything as grand as a race circuit, ‘Bloody hell, people will go there spending their money rather than going into Cardiff. Where will it end? They’ll all want something!’

Now the Wasting Mule, despite its hyperbolic claim to be ‘The National Newspaper of Wales’, is, as we all know, a Cardiff newspaper, and the mouthpiece of those seeking to enrich the city at the expense of the rest of Wales. This explains today’s editorial.

The Wasting Mule does not want the Circuit of Wales to progress even if it has 100% private funding, for fear it might limit Cardiff’s ability to enjoy the full benefits of the City Region scam.

Consequently, the final paragraph of Shippo’s editorial is a direct appeal to his friends in the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government to put obstacles in the way of HOTVDC, perhaps to use environmental or other planning ruses. We can be sure that representations are also being made through more ‘private’ channels.

Fundamental to the Cardiff Capital Region project is the Metro system – for how else are people from Merthyr, Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and other outposts of the empire to reach the City of Milk and Honey? Since 2010 the job of promoting the Metro has fallen to a Mark Barry, some might go so far as to say that the Metro is his idea.

metro-network

After working for the Welsh Development Agency (2002 – 2003) he has maintained good connections with the ‘Welsh’ Government. Though some might suggest a conflict of interests in the following roles:

  • Owner of M&G Barry Consulting (Sept 2009 – Present) His Linkedin profile tells us that M&G Barry Consulting was set up to promote the Metro project.
  • Board Advisor for Transport and the Economy for the Cardiff Business Partnership (Oct 2010 – Oct 2013)
  • Founder of the private sector Metro Consortium (Aug 2011 – Nov 2013)
  • Metro Development Director and Advisor to the ‘Welsh’ Government (Nov 2013 – Jan 2016).

(Though seeing as M&G Barry has been going since September 2009 I would have expected the website to be up and running by now. But then, I suppose it’s not looking for business, it’s a one-trick pony.)

I’m telling you this because of course Mark Dafydd Barry is the brother of Siôn Barry, Business Editor of Media Wales, and this explains Siôn Barry’s regular plugging of his brother’s Cardiff Metro scheme, and of course his hostility to the Circuit of Wales.

Yet another example of the incestuous relationship between politics, business, media and academe in Cardiff is provided by the fact that since April this year Mark Barry has been Professor of Practice in Connectivity at Cardiff University, “Exploring the wider economic and regional benefits of the South Wales Metro”.

Though some might think that’s an odd post – created specially? – for a man who did his degree at Manchester in Physics and The Analysis of Science & Technology and who, for many years after leaving university, worked in software design. In fact, Barry seems to have neither qualifications nor experience in the fields of transport and communications before he was granted his vision of the Cardiff Metro . . . and sold it to his former employers at the ‘Welsh’ Government. 

This defence of Cardiff’s interests tells us why the Wasting Mule is hostile to the Circuit of Wales, while BBC Wales’ attitude can be explained by the fact that it has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper.

The Circuit of Wales is a real test for the ‘Welsh’ Government, in a number of ways.

First, and most obviously, it is a massive project, promising thousands of jobs, in an area that badly needs those jobs and the economic boost they’ll bring to the wider economy.

Second, it is becoming clear that for those who believe Cardiff must be the hub for all investment in the south east the Circuit of Wales poses a challenge, partly of itself, and partly because it might encourage other distant towns to question their allotted status of dormitory settlements.

The issue can’t be funding alone. Certainly not for the ‘Welsh’ Government which, it is rumoured, will give more than £100m so that near-bankrupt Aston Martin can relocate in the Vale of Glamorgan, very near to Cardiff. And then there are the hundreds of millions of pounds squandered on the Third Sector for what often seems to be no other reason than providing jobs for Labour cronies and hangers-on. Communities First, which has spent over £300m would be a good example.

aston-martin

Then there are the hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller projects that have cumulatively swallowed up more money over the years than Aston Martin, Communities First and all the others we know of. Read this puff from 2013, and then read this from just a few days ago. This project was a non-starter, doomed from the outset – but what the hell, it’s only public money!

What’s worse, is that one of the women involved in this doomed venture, Gill Wright, featured in Ancestral Turf, a post I wrote in September 2014. She belongs to a network of people in the Tywi valley – all of whom seem to be English – who appear to be in competition to dream up ever more ludicrous ‘schemes’ for milking the Welsh public purse. And it works – for they get grant after grant that benefits no one but themselves!

The other woman involved with setting up the Level Crossing Bunkhouse in Llandovery, Jane Ryall, is a ‘social enterprise advisor’. So not only do our funding bodies attract all manner of grant-grabbers to take advantage of the easy money, they also pull in those who are now living off those who are living off the Welsh public purse. And it’s all dressed up as economic activity. What a system!

And how can we forget the land deals that were so beneficial to Sir Gilbert Stanley ‘Stan the Pies’ Thomas yet so damaging to the public purse? For those who need to be reminded, read my posts Pies, Planes & Property Development and the sequel – with the same stars! – Pies, Planes & Property Development 2.

So any reticence on the part of the ‘Welsh’ Government to supporting the Circuit of Wales can’t be due to a fear of wasting public money, or a worry that some malcontents might suggest a lack of financial rectitude. For ‘Welsh’ Labour is inured to such criticism.

The Circuit of Wales offers tangible benefits for thousands of our people and a whole region of our country. Which is why the ‘Welsh’ Government needs to put aside its Cardiff bias, ignore the fact that there may be few sinecures in it for Labour Party cronies, and for once – just once – suppress its suspicion of business and entrepreneurship.

Help it happen!

~ ~ ~ ♦ end ♦ ~ ~ ~ 

UPDATE 17.11.2016: Would you Adam and Eve it! Shippo has returned to the attack on the Circuit of Wales, and what’s more, now he seems to be having a go at my old mate Neil! Bloody hell! where will this end? (Though I note there was no mention of the Brothers Barry.)

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-17-2016

I can’t provide a link because the article doesn’t appear to have been uploaded yet to WalesOnline’s appalling and almost unnavigable website.

UPDATE 24.11.2016: Shippo mounts another attack, this time using a spokesman for the Silverstone circuit.

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-24

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Oct 272016
 

Oh, the joy! the euphoria! Didn’t you feel the surge of national pride, the collective Cymric breast heaving, positively heaving, at the joyous news? – Lonely Planet declares ‘North’ Wales to be the bestest al fresco fun fair around.

Well, obviously, it didn’t use those words (© Jac o’ the North), but that’s what it amounted to. Though the front page of Wednesday’s Wasting Mule seemed a little confused as to where exactly it was talking about (nothing new), believing that the award had gone to the whole country. Thankfully, page three made it clear that ‘North’ Wales was the recipient.

wm-lonely-planet

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So what exactly has ‘North’ Wales won? Well, it seems that northern Wales came fourth in the Top Regions category of the best destinations to visit in 2017. (The other categories being countries and cities.)

Northern Wales came fourth in the section subtitled “offbeat destinations demanding our attention”. Mmm, anyone who’s visited Betws y Coed or Caernarfon, Llangollen or Beddgelert, will find the use of that word ‘offbeat’ rather bizarre (and I haven’t mentioned the coastal resorts!). But, anyway, read the Lonely Planet piece for yourself.

So what are the other “offbeat destinations” with which north Wales was competing? In first place came Chocquequirao, “hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley . . . the last Inca refuge from the conquistadors”. Which makes this Andean location sound fascinating, and a worthy winner.

Second was Taranaki in New Zealand, which is certainly off the beaten track, confirmed with Lonely Planet‘s description it being a “remote location”. I shall return to the matter of tourism in New Zealand in a minute.

Then, one place ahead of ‘North’ Wales, we find the Azores. Described by Lonely Planet as the “next Iceland” and as a result we are warned, ” . . .  the secret won’t last: the Azores have seen a 31% increase in tourism over the last 12 months, so visit in the 2017 sweet spot before things really take off.” 

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Now I don’t know much about the Lonely Planet publication other than that it gets a lot of publicity – certainly here in Wales, for every time we get a mention it seems to merit a big news splash – but who pays it any real attention? Maybe its target audience, which I’d guess is the English middle class and its gap year offspring. (I belong to neither category.)

And that’s because, I suspect, Lonely Planet sees its role in identifying ‘offbeat destinations’ before – as seems to be the fear with the Azores – these idyllic locales are discovered by hoi polloi demanding ‘El fish and chips, Pedro – and pronto!’. Without, I hope, sounding snobbish, this is perfectly understandable.

tourism-stats

Courtesy of Visit Britain

In September, Mrs J and I took one of our regular trips to Scotland, and no matter where we went, from the Robert Burns Museum to Sweetheart Abbey to Threave (origin, tref) Castle, we met tourists from all over the world, but nowhere we went was overwhelmed in the way that parts of Wales so often are.

Of course Edinburgh can feel a bit ‘crowded’, but it’s bustling and cosmopolitan, it’s energising . . . and a hell of an improvement on being surrounded by miserable Brummies on a wet Sunday in Barmouth. These people milling around Princes Street and the Royal Mile are also spending lots of money (helped by the fact they’re not slumming it in ‘a caravan down the beach’), and when they go home they’ll tell their friends how wonderful Scotland is.

Scotland gets a better class of tourist, and certainly more overseas tourists. These even spend more per head (heid?) than overseas tourists to Wales. The figures for 2015 bear this out, for we see that while Scotland saw 2.6 million visits from overseas Wales welcomed just 970,000. In Scotland, the average spend per head was £651, compared with £422 in Wales. Giving a total overseas spend in Scotland of £1,695m against our £410m, less than a quarter of Scotland’s income.

There is of course a historic explanation for this. When railways became capable of transporting large numbers of working class people in relative comfort, and for prices they could afford, this advance placed Wales, unlike Scotland, within reach of many of England’s cities and industrial regions. Though that does not explain why we should still be providing holidays on the cheap, going for quantity rather than quality, 150 years later.

There are other, perhaps equally prosaic, explanations for Scotland attracting more overseas tourists and fewer English day-trippers than Wales. Distance being a pretty obvious one. Also, Scotland is much larger than Wales, with a greater variety of scenery. Scotland has airports with regular long haul flights to destinations around the world. Finally, Scotland has a beautiful and historic capital city.

But none of these explain the lack of ambition in the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry. Nor should they be accepted as excuses.

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After my Caledonian digression let me return to what I hinted at earlier when mentioning Taranaki, second among the ‘Top Regions’. A friend of mine has visited New Zealand a few times; it’s not cheap, but then, he’s a wealthy bachelor. I remember him telling me about one particular trip to the Southern Alps. He had to book in advance, prove he was healthy and insured, and as they liked the cut of his jib he was taken on a trek through the mountains lasting a few days.

The Southern Alps are protected by various National Parks and other forms of legislation to the point where the chances of a coachload of drunks turning up and making nuisances of themselves is close to zero . . . unlike on Snowdon, for example.

snowdon-tourists-caption

Returning to the Lonely Planet review of ‘North’ Wales we see that what got us noticed was zip wires, wave machines and subterranean trampolines. It seems logical to conclude that if we have more of these, and maybe a water chute running from the top of Cader Idris down to Dolgellau, or Talyllyn, we might achieve the coveted third place next year. Dare we dream of second place!

Grouped with the last refuge of the Incas, the as yet unspoilt Azores, and the majesty of the Southern Alps, a few big boys’ toys scattered about the north seem laughably incongruous, and unworthy. Especially when you read under the ‘Responsible Travel’ heading, “At Lonely Planet sustainable and responsible have always been parts of our vocabulary.” ‘Sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ are words that have never tarnished the lexicon of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

Which I suppose exposes the central contradiction of tourism – ‘Come see this awe-inspiring place . . . and by so doing, help despoil it’. Which explains why I admire the New Zealand approach that realises beautiful and irreplaceable environments and landscapes such as we find in the Southern Alps need to be protected from tourism.

If the Southern Alps had been in Wales they would by now have been extensively and thoroughly ‘developed’, suffering regular visits by twat-like politicos spouting bollocks so vacuous and inane as to make Vacuity and Inanity rise up in indignation. But on the bright side, there would be local employment – collecting garbage.

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When you look around Wales at the ugliness tourism has inflicted, the anglicisation it has brought, the environmental degradation, the social disruption, you have to ask what sort of people are we to have allowed this.

The answer is that we remain what we’ve been for maybe 800 years – a people with no real control over our country. Tourism is a perfect example, not only does it serve England’s interests, but ‘Welsh’ tourism is largely run by, and therefore profits, English people. Why should they give a toss about wrecking our homeland?

What’s best for England will always prevail over the best interests of us Welsh, and devolution has entrenched this system of exploitation even more firmly. I recently coined a term for this phenomenon, devocolonialism. In a future post I shall expand on what I put out recently in a tweet.

devocolonialism-tweet

I feel this needs to be done because anyone believing that devolution has achieved anything positive for Wales needs a cold shower of facts.

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ END ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

Mar 012015
 

As regular readers will know, I have been having problems from the Wales Eye blog and the Western Mail / Wales Online, they’ve been misrepresenting what they find in my blog and, when that isn’t enough, they’ve just told blatant lies. The story of my relationship with Wales Eye unfolds, chronologically, in the following posts: Cymrophobia and the Many Identities of Jacques Protic (14.08.2013);  Wales Eye & Jacques Protic – a Marriage Made in Hell (11.09.2014); Wales Eye, Jacques Protic and North Wales Police (21.10.2014); Seeking a Latter-day Waldorf T. Flywheel (19.01.2015); I Must Be Doing Something Right! (28.01.2015); Now I KNOW I’m Doing Something Right! (03.02.2015); Helping A Man In A Hole (05.02.2015).

Things came to a head recently with Plaid Glyndŵr’s petition on social housing, for which I provide a link in my sidebar. The assault started with a strange tweet from Martin Shipton, chief reporter at Llais y Sais, on the afternoon of January 26th, asking for my phone number in order to discuss “your housing petition”. When I received the Shipton tweet I was unaware of the Wales Eye piece, because of course it hadn’t yet appeared, so I innocently and helpfully tweeted Shipton back, explaining my relationship with the petition.

Shipton request combined

Overnight the Wales Eye article by Phil Parry was published saying, “A website which urges a policy of Welsh homes only for Welsh people has been reported to the police for inciting racial hatred, Wales Eye can reveal”. Martin Shipton said the same thing in the Western Mail / WalesOnline, and despite what I’d told him, he began his piece with, “The Wales Eye news website discloses that the Jac O’the North blog has been reported to South Wales Police after launching a petition” Significantly, perhaps, the WalesOnline article soon became (and remains) unavailable.

In the hope of getting redress I contacted the legal department of Trinity Mirror, the company that owns Llais y Sais, on Februay 2nd. On the 25th I received an e-mail from a Paul Mottram, which said:

“I refer to your Wales Online apology 1complaint dated 2nd February and apologise for the late reply.

The Western Mail has obtained a statement from the police saying the following: ‘South Wales Police was contacted by a member of the public who was concerned at the language used in a blog posted under the name of ‘jacothenorth’.

The content of the blog was scrutinised and no offence was committed.

The reporting person has been spoken to and given assurances that no criminality has taken place’.

Media Wales would be happy to publish the fact that no offence was committed on the walesonline website to resolve this issue.

If that is satisfactory, I will arrange for it to be published.”

Eventually Mottram anWestern Mail apologyd I agreed on the wording that appeared on the WalesOnline website on Friday the 27th of February and on page 2 of the following day’s edition of the Wasting Mule. You can read both on the left (click to enlarge).

You may find the synchronicity in this episode noteworthy, for the Wales Eye piece by Parry was posted on Tuesday, January 27, and the WalesOnline version was timed at 06:30 on the same day. I should imagine that the Wales Eye piece appeared in the early hours, otherwise Shipton would have been quoting from a blog post that hadn’t yet appeared! There was obviously collusion, the proof being the tweet from Shipton asking about the petition. In fact, Shipton is almost acting as Parry’s researcher!

Yet the two accounts differ significantly in their conclusions. The Wales Eye piece, after relating – yet again! – the horrors endured by ultra bigot Jacques Protic, and how he was failed by GogPlod, ends thus:

“Now, it appears, the target of the Jac O’ the North website is incomers (presumably a reference to the Plaid Glyndŵr petition) and this has led to another police inquiry.

Perhaps this one will be the last.”

Whereas the WalesOnline article by Tub O’Lard ends like this:

“It is understood that South Wales Police will not forward the complaint about Mr Jones to the Crown Prosecution Service.”

So Shipton already knew that the police were not taking the complaint seriously when he wrote his piece, and seeing as he and Parry were collaborating so closely, Parry must also have known, but he chose not to say because to have done so would have undermined his attack on me. Worse, he pretends to believe that the complaint will lead to action resulting in the closing down of my blog, and yet . . .

Parry gives the game away that he knows the police have thrown out the complaint with the caption he attaches to the petition link he lifted from my blog. (My intellectual property.) For in it he says: “Petition calling for social housing for Welsh Wales Eye petitionpeople which was investigated by the police”. Not is being investigated by the police but ‘was’. Clearly Parry knew when he wrote his nonsense that the police had thrown out the complaint. But maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe all that mattered was that a complaint had been made, which allowed Parry and Llais y Sais to write their libellous bollocks.

The lies written by Parry and Shipton referred specifically to the Plaid Glyndŵr petition, but if you look at the reply I got from Trinity Mirror, it reads: “The content of the blog was scrutinised (by police) and no offence was committed”. So if this really does mean the blog, rather than the petition, are we now talking of two complaints, or more than two? Worth asking because Parry also got his knickers in a twist over the old FWA photographs on my blog, with Shipton again acting as his ‘researcher’.

Yet despite him knowing, and finally admitting, that the police were not taking the original complaint against me seriously, Parry can’t resist upping the ante in his February 4th posting, Arms Race, with:

“An earlier probe by a Police Constable and Inspector of South Wales Police into alleged racism on the blog was aborted for lack of evidence.

But now the police have received more information after several complaints about inflammatory comments and decided to take action.FWA combined

A complainant was contacted by a senior officer who said several similar protests were made to the police following the revelations about the petition and a decision has been reached to pursue the inquiry.”

What ‘racism’? Does he mean the petition? But the only group mentioned in the petition are the Welsh! ‘Inflammatory comments’. Does he really mean comments, things said by visitors to my blog? What possible ‘revelations’ could there be about a simple, self-explanatory, 21-word petition in plain English?

So if Phil Parry is to be believed (yes, I know), people are queuing up to report me to Plod! Rubbish of course, but still, we must consider the various possibilities here, which appear to be: 1/ South Wales Police misled Trinity Mirror, which means that the clarification published on Friday is unreliable. 2/ Phil Parry is privy to everything the police are doing and is therefore the only one who really knows what’s going on. 3/ Phil Parry is an obsessive fantasist who’s taken an intense dislike to me. 4/ Somebody is pulling Parry (and possibly Shipton’s) strings, and perhaps protecting Trinity Mirror’s interests by getting Parry to write the bilge leaving Llais y Sais able to argue that it’s merely relaying what someone else has written. Make up your own minds. If it helps, no police officer, from any force, has ever been in contact with me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to South Wales Police; it can be found here, together with the first page of the reply. Which says, in essence, ‘We can’t give you the informtion you request because that would breach your data protection rights’! There were a few other pages and a form for me to officially ask if they hold any information on me. But what’s the point, I’ve been through this rigmarole before with North Wales Police over the Protic allegations.

Looking at the four options I’ve posited above, I choose number four, because I can’t believe that Parry and Shipton believe what they’re writing. No rational and balanced individual could possibly think that a petition asking for social housing to be allocated (but not exclusively) to Welsh people ‘incites racial hatred’. And do they really believe that the authorities would be interested in photographs taken almost half a century ago of men who are now almost all dead! Or that those same authorities care that I knew these men? Or to put it another way, when it comes to my support for the FWA, or my respect for John Jenkins, do Parry and Shipton seriously believe that they’re telling the police, MI5, or anyone else, anything they haven’t known for decades? So why bother?

This is not journalists breaking stories, this is history lessons spiced up with lies, hyperbole and silly, time-wasting complaints to the police for a contemporary purpose. Another example of the desperation on display is Parry quoting my playful references to alcohol having been consumed in some of the scenes depicted in those 1960s photographs, as if this somehow damns me! Effectively saying, ‘Oh my God! look at this – a group of young men in the late ’60s, and they used to drink!’ What it really shows is that Phil Parry will use anything, however innocent or banal, in his pathetic and increasingly desperate attempts to blacken my name.

Consequently, the only conclusions I can draw are that either Parry and Shipton have lost all sense of proportion and the instinct for what makes a good story (in which case they shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard), or that this is some kind of a silly game, in which they are no more than pawns.

Feb 252015
 

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

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

*

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

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

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

Hain Spanglefish

CLICK TO ENLARGE

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

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

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

Haywod Linkedin

LINKEDIN PROFILE (Click to enlarge)

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

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

Severn barrage

THE ONCE AND FUTURE SEVERN BARRAGE?

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

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

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

*

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

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

Hain barrage

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

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

Hain Labour tweet

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

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

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

Any further information to admin@jacothenorth.net

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

Feb 032015
 

As you might guess, this (originally short) post is a follow-up to my previous one, I Must Be Doing Something Right. It seems that Phil Parry at Wales Eye and Martin Shipton at Llais y Sais just won’t let go . . . though their persistence is not to be compared to slavering pit bulls, more like drowning men clutching at straws. FWA combined

Yesterday afternoon I received a tweet from Fat Boy, you can see it for yourself on the right, together with my response. (Click to enlarge.) Yes, I was flippant, partly because I have difficulty taking the man seriously and also because I’d caught some bug that had me in bed by seven o’clock. I should have guessed that this was the prelude to another attack on me but, as I’ve said, I was feeling rough and on my way to bed.

Refreshed by fifteen hours of sleep I powered up my computer this morning to learn that after I’d gone to bed Shipton had tweeted again, this time about paramilitary Shipton JJ combinedactivity and John Jenkins. His tweet and my response can be found on the left. (Click to enlarge.) What was it all about? I soon found out thanks to an e-mail from a supporter directing me to a tweet from Phil Parry at Wales Eye. (Below.) Again, I replied, and again, the response was somewhat flippant because, quite frankly, and with the best will in the world, I regard the man as an arsehole.

Anyway, it seems I am a “controversial commentator” (thank God for that!) and I support a paramilitary organisation. Which organisation would that be? I certainly support the various Kurdish militias fighting their people’s many enemies, but somehow I don’t think Parry is thinking of the Kurds. Given Lard Boy’s tweets yesterday we can safely assume that tomorrow, Wales Eye will run a World Exclusive! that I, Jac o’ the North, Swansea Jack, Royston Jones, supportWales Eye paramilitary combed the Free Wales Army . . . an organisation that ceased to exist around 1970.

This Earth-shattering news will be taken up by media outlets around the globe, Muscovites will stop complete strangers in a Red Square blizzard to ask, ‘Have you heard about that bastard Royston Jones supporting the Free Wales Army?’ And the response will be, ‘That’s nothing, I’ve heard he used to go drinking with that Cayo Evans in Lampeter’. Before they both shuffle off safe in the knowledge that President Putin would know how to deal with the likes of me. Then again, the coverage might be limited to Fat Boy at the Western Mail. In fact, I’m prepared to bet that the uptake will be limited to Llais y Sais.

So what’s going on here? It started off with Wales Eye, from out of a clear blue sky, attacking me in this concoction on September 2nd. A week or so later Wales Eye ran another piece about the persecution fantasies of Jacques Protic due (allegedly) to something I’d written about him, and this resulted in a North Wales Police enquiry. Then Wales Eye told us that I had been reported to South Wales Police for launching a ‘racial hatred’ petition . . . a petition that I did not launch. (But, understandably, Wales Eye neglected to tell us exactly who reported me.) This lie was then repeated almost verbatim by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail, and in WalesOnline, even though I’d put him straight. (See below.) Now it seems I am to be ‘outed’ as a supporter of paramilitary activity, a member of the Free Wales Army, and an admirer of John Jenkins. (Thank God they don’t know about that statue in Aber’!)

Shipton request combined

What sort of an arrangement is this that sees one of Wales’ most respected journalists (though not respected by me, obviously) acting as researcher for a vindictive blogger? Does Trinity Mirror plc pay Shipton’s salary for him to behave in this demeaning manner? But then, Shipton and Parry are both Labour, and Trinity Mirror has a record of supporting the Labour Party in Wales; who can forget the short-lived Welsh Mirror that crept from under a stone in the wake of Labour’s failure to gain a majority in the first Assembly elections of 1999? This rag was nothing but a platform for Paul Starling Parry, Shipton compositeto spew his hatred for all things Welsh, dressed up of course as ‘combatting the evils of nationalism’.

With an election approaching, is Trinity Mirror doing ‘Welsh’ Labour another favour by targetting me? For those tempted to answer with, ‘You’re not important enough, Jac’, I would answer that I’m obviously important enough for the chief reporter of Llais y Sais to sift through my blog postings, check my photographs, and to monitor my tweets, looking for anything that could be presented as remotely incriminating. It’s clearly a concerted attempt to discredit me and, by extension, what I write. So why is it happening?

Anyway, the whole point of writing this was to prepare my easily shocked readers for the news that tomorrow, on the Wales Eye blog, ace investigator and top notch political analyst, Phil Parry will break the news that I supported direct action. This will then be relayed by his fat friend over at Llais y Sais. And that, my friends, just about sums up the dire state of what today passes for ‘the Welsh media’. Stop Press: Here’s Parry’s World Exclusive!, in pdf format (saving you having to pay to read it). Oh, yes, make sure you’re not eating anything, otherwise you might choke laughing.

P.S. To save certain ‘journalists’ unnecessary delving into my past I shall set the record straight on a few things.

  • I did not sink the Titanic, honest!
  • I may have met Gavrilo Princip at a social event.
  • I was not responsible for the Wall Street Crash.
  • I played no part in the invasion of Abbysinia.
  • I never served in the SS . . . well, not before 1944, anyway.
  • I was never a hippy in the 1960s (though I did wear flares).
  • I did not kill JFK, it was the New Orleans Mob (I was with the Chicago Outfit).
  • I had no hand in the break-up of the Beatles.
  • I was nowhere near Watergate.
  • I have no idea where Jimmy Hoffa is buried (God bless him).
  • I did not invade Las Malvinas The Falklands.
  • I had no involvement in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • I am not related to Slobodan Milosovic (try Protic on that one).
  • I was never formally introduced to Saddam Hussein.
  • I did not vote Yes in last September’s Scottish independence referendum.
  • I have recommended you both for the very highest awards your profession can bestow.
Jan 282015
 

I had hoped to have a few days off after posting my previous piece but would you believe it – Wales Eye is having a pop at me again, this time helped by the Wasting Mule. It began – though I had no way of knowing it at the time – with a Twitter message from Martin Shipton on Monday about the link at the top of my sidebar, to which I replied. See the exchange for yourself below.

Shipton request combined

I thought no more of it until yesterday morning when I was alerted to the fact that there was a piece about me on the WalesOnline website, though the article was soon ‘pulled’. Fortunately it’s available here in pdf format. Despite what I’d told Fat Boy, he begins his piece thus: “The Wales Eye news website discloses that the Jac O’the North (sic) blog has been reported to South Wales Police after launching a petition”. Why write that when he knew I had not launched any petition? A few tweets Exchange with Shipton 1were exchanged yesterday, you can see them on the left where they appear in chronological order. (Click to enlarge.) A revealing phrase, “predominant language”.

Anyway, the origin of this ‘story’ was obviously Phil Parry over at Wales Eye. Regular readers will know that I’ve had a run-in with Wales Eye over infamous bigot Jacques Protic and him (allegedly) reporting me to North Wales Police. All the relevant information and links are available in my recent post Seeking a Latter-day Waldorf T. Flywheel. I assume Parry has been kicking cats and plotting his revenge since that piece appeared on January 19th. So what exactly was Parry saying? Seeing as the Wales Eye blog hides behind a pay wall, and to save you wasting your money, the article is available here in pdf format.

                        *

The opening paragraph, which contains the essence of the ‘story’, says: “A website which urges a policy of Welsh homes only for Welsh people has been reported to the police for inciting racial hatred, Wales Eye can reveal”. It goes on to say that “an investigation was undertaken by a police constable and inspector” of South Wales Police. The rest of the piece is rehashed nonsense about Protic and old comments taken out of context. Let us focus on this first paragraph.

Obviously, seeing as it’s not my petition, my website is not “urging” anything, I merely offer visitors to my blog the chance to sign a petition I support, and which I have signed. The petition does not argue for “Welsh homes only for Welsh people”, it merely says that Welsh people should have social housing that has been paid for with Welsh public funding . . . is there an objection to that? Now, moving on to “racial hatred”. The only nation mentioned in the petition is the Welsh, so whoever is making this mischief is reading something into the petition that isn’t there.

Elsewhere in the Wales Eye piece there is a graphic of some houses in Kidwelly explained by, “In another post, endorsed by the blog with a re-tweet, families from London who took houses from a Welsh housing association were called ‘perverts'”. WalesOnline says it this way: “In another Twitter posting, re-tweeted by the blog, families from London who took houses from a Welsh housing association were called “perverts”. An aerial picture singles out a number of homes and the tweet says: “Just in one small Welsh town all these houses were allocated to perverts from London by a Welsh housing association.”

Note that this, like the petition, is something else that did not originate with me. Parry is getting pretty desperate now, so here’s the truth. The case referred to is one of a paedophile gang living Dennis' Kidwelly tweetin Kidwelly that was imprisoned in 2011. Here’s a report on the case from the Daily Mail. Here’s a blog post I wrote around the same time. At the risk of frightening Parry and Shipton with facts, here they are: These people had moved – or been moved – from London; they were housed in Kidwelly by a Welsh housing association (Grwp Gwalia); they were all found guilty of paedophilia and other sexual perversions in a court of law. So what is the issue here? The caption to the picture in the tweet is 100% correct. Parry seems to take offence because the tweet calls them “perverts” – so what would he call them, the perfect neighbours? Or maybe he doesn’t like the fact that it was re-tweeted 21 times.

The reason Parry uses this case – which he obviously hasn’t researched – is because it concerns Welsh social housing being given to English people who are labelled “perverts”; which he hopes to use as an example of ‘racial hatred’ in order to confer something resembling credibility on his hysterical reaction to a perfectly reasonable petition. Trouble is, for Parry, that these people weren’t called “perverts” because they were English, they were called “perverts” because they were . . . you paying attention, Parry! Shipton! – PERVERTS.

Here’s an update on the case from last September. Note the English flag outside Colin Bately’s house – for he was a patriot! Complete with two rottweilers. Just think, Welsh housing associations are taking in people like this, knowing what they’re like, because this gang had Phil Parryconvictions before they moved to Wales.

Anyway, I don’t fancy wasting much more time on Parry and Shipton, I’ll just conclude with the final lines from Shipton’s contribution to this joint-venture into fantasy. He says: ‘”Mr Jones said: “Not my petition. I’m just promoting it for Plaid Glyndwr.” It is understood that South Wales Police will not forward the complaint about Mr Jones to the Crown Prosecution Service.’ This was obviously added after the piece had been written, otherwise he wouldn’t have started by saying I’d “launched” the petition. But it also raises other questions.

For example, seeing as Parry and his fat friend were in cahoots over this attemped smear, and the pretext was the ‘racist’ petition, why was I / my blog reported to the police when they both knew it was not my petition? Because even before my tweet to Fatso on Monday the most cursory check would have shown who actually launched the petition. Are these people really journalists!

“South Wales Police will not forward the complaint about Mr Jones to the Crown Prosecution Service”well, I am relieved; I feared I was bound for the Colonies! But will the police charge whoever made the complaint against me with wasting police time? Come to that, who did report me, for Wales Eye neglects to tell us. Now, I wonder . . .

 *

The truth is – as any perceptive reader will have guessed – these attacks on me have nothing to do with Protic or petitions, it’s an exercise in black propaganda, or to put it an another way, mud slinging. Done so that anyone Googling ‘Royston Jones’ or ‘Jac o’ the North’ in future will turn up crap like this by Parry and Tub O’Lard. And see that I have been reported to the police. Done to discredit me and, by extension, anything I write. So who’s behind it?

Well, my guess is that it can explained by what I write about. My usual targets are the Labour Party and the Third Sector, which is simply an extension of the Labour Party. It may be no coincidence that this latest attack from Wales Eye comes just days after the latest – possibly final – edition of Cambria magazine became available, which contains my article on housing associations, in which I ask why we have so many of them, and why these quasi-private companies receive so much public funding, and why so much of the money they’re given ends up over the border.

Another subject I’ve touched on recently is Canoe Wales and the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn. Today I received the response from Sport Wales to an FoI I’d submitted about funding to Canoe Wales. Read it here. In a poor country where so much needs to be done, how can anyone justify wasting almost two million pounds in just five years on canoeing, an activity that has little or no Welsh involvement? (And there’s almost certainly public funding from other sources.) That’s how Wales is run today, but you aren’t supposed to know. Ask yourself, are you going to get the truth from the BBC, or ITV, or the Western Mail?

I know how corrupt this country is, and I’m beginning to understand just how much money is squandered year after year on a system of sham devolution designed to encourage colonisation and managed decline rather than make Wales a better country for those who belong here. That’s why I have enemies. Enemies so desperate to discredit me they’ll even use clowns like Parry and Shipton. What will they try next?

P.S. Don’t forget to sign the petition!

UPDATE: In the personal attack on me in his latest post Phil Parry refers back to the Jacques Protic case. I have covered most of the angles in this recent post. Parry seems to think he’s on a winner with this, and keeps bringing it up, almost showing off. What I’m saying can perhaps be explained by this extract.

Wales Eye NWP docs

The “inquiry” referred to is a North Wales Police investigation into me or my blog for nasty things it’s claimed I said about Jacques Protic. Reading the extract in the panel, a number of questions arise.

  • By what route did Phil Parry obtain internal police documents; did they come directly from the police, did they come from Protic, or from some third party?
  • As the officers involved in the “inquiry” were first named on Wales Eye on September 10th last, and North Wales Police was made aware of this in my letter received (and acknowledged) on September 17th, we must assume that NWP has no objection to the contents of confidential police documents being aired on a blog.
  • That being so, what is the relationship between Parry and the North Wales Police? Is he working for them, or are the police merely a conduit for some other agency?
  • Even if Parry has no relationship with North Wales Police, then we still need to know why NWP has allowed confidential documents, naming and embarrassing its officers, to be in the public domain for over four months.
  • I wonder what the police response would have been I’d got hold of internal police documents and splashed them on my blog?

I believe it’s time for a little honesty from those involved in this ongoing smear campaign against me.

Apr 252014
 

A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.

Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)

Wales tourism stats

Click to Enlarge

The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.

Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.

Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.

(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)

The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)

Tourism table

Click to Enlarge

A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc  – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.

Furthermore, reReliant Robinmember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.

Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.

Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.

The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.

Feb 052014
 

There was a piece in today’s WalesOnline by Graham Henry telling us that Wales needs a few hundred thousand more dwellings than are currently planned. I don’t know who fed him the story, but I suspect the Wales-based statisticians of the Knowledge and Analytical Services, who answer to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London. I say that because anyone doing serious journalism on housing projections and Local Development Plans would be bound to mention the Planning Inspectorate. Not mentioning this executive agency of the DCLG is rather like discussing the current upheavals in Welsh rugby and ignoring the role of the Welsh Rugby Union.

What is perhaps worse is that this omission allowed the article to be read as if Welsh local authorities are solely responsible for deciding how many new homes will be built. They are not. That power rests with the Planning Inspectorate, which does not hesitate to regularly insist that councils increase the number of new homes to be planned for. Councils accept these diktats because they simply cannot afford to challenge them, with the Planning Inspectorate backed financially by the UK government.Household projections Carmarthenshire

As the WalesOnline article focused on Carmarthenshire let’s look at the county’s Local Development Plan (of October 2013). Go to section 5.4.7 and we learn that the council anticipates an increase in population from 175,063 in 2008 to 192,740 in 2021, and a projected increase in households in the same period (5.4.8) of 15,197. (The 2011 census gave Carmarthenshire’s population at 181,227.) That the number of new households is not much smaller than the projected population increase is due partly to new families forming, partly to in-migration but mainly to projected smaller household size. In fact, before I started investigating housing and planning in Wales I hadn’t appreciated the importance of the household size figure. Yet it’s difficult to make sense of LDPs and other demands for housing without understanding the relationship between population growth and household size. Put simply, a household means a dwelling. If the projected population increase for an area was 20,000, and average household size was four persons, then a council would need to plan for the building of roughly half the homes needed if the household size was only two persons. Smaller households = more dwellings.

The table above right (click to enlarge) is taken from a June 2011 document, Population and Housing – Revised Topic Paper 2, used to inform the Carmarthenshire LDP. It tells us that the statisticians predict massive increases in the following types of households: single people, couples, and single parents with children. The figures come from, Household Projections for Wales (2006-based), which sees household size in the county drop from 2.25 in 2006 to 2.04 in 2021. Though seeing as this Topic Paper was produced in 2011 it’s strange that it used the 2006 figures rather than those for 2008, which predict a slightly higher average in 2021. It should be pointed out here that the Office for National Statistics has “sourced out” household projections to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. This being the department to which the Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS) answers.

Living at homeSo how reliable are these household size projections? Not very. The 2011 census tells us there were in Carmarthenshire 78,800 households of one or more persons. If we divide this into the population figure of 181,227 it gives us a household average size of 2.30. Obviously this is not exact, but even so, it is higher than the KAS estimate for 2011 0f 2.17. Other information suggests that, far from falling, household size may actually be rising. For example, this recent report tells us that an increasing number of young adults are living at home with a parent or parents, and that this trend was observable before the economic downturn. (See panel, left.) Then, the UK government plans to cut housing benefit for under 25s rather than reduce universal pensioner benefits. Both measures are bound to increase household size. And, as a consequence, reduce the need for new housing.

No one reading this must think that I’m talking only of private, open market, dwellings, for these projections also apply to social housing, which is covered in the Housing (Wales) Bill (see recent posts). This legislation, handed down by the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, will ‘harmonise’ the provision of social housing in Wales and England. In other weopposebedroomtaxwords, anyone qualifying for social housing in England will automatically qualify for social housing in Wales. Which, when added to the UK government’s welfare reforms (such as the ‘bedroom tax’), might explain the Carmarthenshire household projections in the table above . . . if Carmarthenshire is being prepared for an influx of single mothers and others from the Great Wen.

Before concluding I must return to private housing in order to bring to your attention the remarkable transformation that occurs between statisticians’ projections and housebuilders’ planning applications. As we have seen, statisticians argue for ever smaller household size, due to more and more people living alone and an increasing number of childless – usually retired – couples. One team of academics employed by the ‘Welsh’ Government (or someone) told us that, “Of the projected net increase of 269,000 households between 2006 and 2026, 66 per cent are one-person households and 21 per cent one-parent families. ‘Couple’ households contribute 16 per cent of the total increase in households”. (Numerate readers will have noted that these three categories alone add up to 103 per cent!) Which should result in the vast majority of properties built being one- and two-bedroom dwellings – but they’re not. The latest figures available, July – September 2013, tell us that 62.6% of completed dwellings in Wales were three- and four-bedroom houses!

Clearly, a deception is being practised. On the one hand, the UK government and its Wales-based statisticians predict – against increasing evidence – smaller households in order to bump up the number of new properties needed. But then, the Planning Inspectorate, working with housebuilders and others, takes the ‘new dwellings needed’ figures, transforms them into much larger dwellings, and forces Local Development Plans on our councils. We are being made to build social housing to meet an English demand, and also private housing, from Carmarthenshire to Denbighshire, to accommodate a wealthier English influx. All part of a wider strategy of colonisation.

The Local Development Plans for Carmarthenshire and other local authorities were rushed through before the underpinning ‘statistics’ could be invalidated by: a) the consequences of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and b) the 2011 census. Almost as if the Planning Inspectorate and the statisticians knew they had only a short ‘window’ in which to force their plans on our local authorities. Now that we have more reliable statistics the Local Development Plans thus far adopted are invalidated. They must be revised. From now on we must plan for Welsh need and Welsh need only.