William Powell AM

May 022016
 

This is the post I promised in which I shall tell you who I’m voting for on Thursday and why.

CONSTITUENCY SEAT

I live in the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency and my Assembly Member is Dafydd Elis Thomas, or Lord Elis Thomas if you prefer. I’ve known him for many years, and when I arrived home last Friday afternoon, there he was, large as life, talking to my missus at the front gate. When I got out of the car we had a little chat.

Now I don’t dislike Dafydd, but obviously we don’t see eye to eye on much . . . if anything. Even so, I’ve usually voted for him; but this time round I’m changing. It’s not a single utterance or deed that accounts for this decision, more a build-up of little things with nothing to maintain balance – hence my arrival at the tipping point.

Many of these little disaffections can be grouped under DET’s fondness for the Labour Party. His liking, even preference, for Labour surfaced again a week or so ago when he urged Plaid, Tory and Liberal Democrat supporters to give their second vote in the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner election to the Labour candidate David Taylor. (Here’s a link to information on all five candidates.)

The explanation he gave at my front gate last Friday was the same he gave to the media – it was a calculated attempt to stop the UKIP candidate being elected on the second ballot.

In PCC elections, as in the Assembly elections, we get two votes, and if no candidate gets a majority first time round then the two with the most votes go into the second round, in which the second preferences of the eliminated candidates are allocated. I shall return to the PCC elections, and young Mr Taylor, later.

My Choice

So who am I voting for? (Drum roll!) Well the answer is that my vote will go to a shy, retiring local councillor with whom I have enjoyed many a profound political discourse in the aisles of Tywyn Co-op. I’m referring to Louise Hughes, who is standing as a (genuine) Independent.

Louise Hughes

Some may condemn me for ‘wasting’ my vote and arguing that, even if elected, Louse will be unable to achieve anything down Cardiff docks. I disagree.

What we have down Cardiff docks is a branch office of the London government, run by civil servants answering to their London masters. The politicians we elect may strut and puff, but apart from being allowed ‘gimmick’ legislation every now and again, they have little real control over anything. Much of the legislation the ‘Welsh’ Government claims as its own is nothing but English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ squeezed into the name. Perhaps their only real power is being able to dish out the lolly.

Yet far too much of this funding goes to Labour’s allies in the Third Sector in blatant patronage and cronyism, or else is ‘invested’ – ‘for the good of Wales’ – in Cardiff. One of the most disappointing results of devolved politics is how AMs of all parties end up following the party line and squandering money on Third Sector spongers like these.

Click on the link I’ve provided, scroll down to the second section, and ask yourself who, apart from Jill Tatman and her gang of colons, benefits from all the money they’ve been given? Or to put it another way, would Llandovery be any poorer, any more deprived, if she and her co-conspirators had been denied public funding?

I’m voting for Louise Hughes because if she is elected, and even if she is ignored, she’ll still be speaking for those that elected her. Though take my word for it, Louise can make herself very difficult to ignore.

Finally, and perhaps decisively, there is the dishonesty in Plaid Cymru asking the voters of Dwyfor Meirionnydd to vote for a candidate who could have the Plaid Cymru whip withdrawn if re-elected, and who might be in the Labour Party a few months down the line.

THE REGIONAL LIST

An Assembly Member who has received favourable mention in this blog is William Powell, the Liberal Democrat AM for the Mid and West Wales region. (That I’ve been complimentary to any AM may surprise a number of you.)

There are two reasons for this. First, Powell turns up at Cilmeri for the annual December commemoration of the slaying of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Y Llyw Olaf). You could argue that as a local AM he is obliged to attend. He’s not obliged to attend at all; I believe he comes because he shares some of the sentiments of those, like me, who have been going to Cilmeri for longer than we care to remember.

Perhaps William Powell should be an example to Plaid Cymru politicians whose enthusiasm for Cilmeri tends to waver, and can perhaps even be influenced by ‘Shippo’ down at the Wasting Mule. (Which is what he, his mate Phil Parry, and their Labour cronies would like to believe.)

My second reason for choosing Powell is his response to a petition I submitted to the Assembly a few months ago, and how his response contrasted with that of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee. I dealt with it back in January, in Local Democracy Endangered, here’s a brief summary.

Petitions Committee

I submitted a petition asking the ‘Welsh’ Government to consider intervening when it became clear that a chief executive, acting alone or in concert with others, was subverting the democratic process by acting beyond his powers and / or without consulting the elected councillors.

When my petition was discussed on January 19th the Petitions Committee consisted of Joyce Watson, the Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, and Elin Jones, the Plaid AM for Ceredigion. This is how I reported their ‘consideration’ of my petition:

Watson Elin Jones

I would expect no better from a Labour time-server like Watson, but against my better judgement I still thought Elin Jones might have had a contribution to make.

William Powell clearly understood what my petition was about, and tried to get a discussion going with, “It (the petition) does raise some very serious issues”. To no avail. Mesdames Watson and Jones had no intention of discussing anything that might have discomforted Mark James or embarrassed the ‘Welsh’ Government.

So for these and other reasons, and secure in the knowledge that the Liberal Democrats are very unlikely to gain more than a single list seat in Mid and West Wales, I shall be giving my second vote, my regional list vote, to the Liberal Democrats. Though had anyone other than William Powell topped the list my vote would have gone to another party, or I might not have used my second vote at all.

THE PCC ELECTION

Quite frankly, and despite what Dafydd El professes to fear, I believe the chances of UKIP winning in the second round of the North Wales PCC election are slim, and simply exposes again his Labour leanings. But even if there was a threat from UKIP I cannot see how anyone outside of Labour could possibly be attracted to David Taylor.

Taylor first came to the attention of an incredulous public as an acne-plagued hobbledehoy living somewhere near Rhuthun. This was in 2004, when he set up a website to “undermine Labour rebel Clare Short”. Note that the Daily Post account I’ve linked to tells us that 18-year-old Taylor was already secretary of the Clwyd West constituency party and also sat on Labour’s ‘Welsh’ executive.

The boy was obviously destined for greatness, and it duly arrived when he became advisor to Leighton Andrews AM in 2005. Though he soon embarrassed his party with another childish, and similarly unsavoury stunt, this time the infamous Aneurin Glyndŵr website. Around the same time he tweeted what might have been interpreted as a distasteful reference to the Hillsborough disaster.

Taylor also spent a short period as Special Advisor to Peter Hain, when the Man of Tan was briefly Governor-General, a post he lost in the 2010 general election. But Taylor seems to have stayed on in London as a ‘Senior Political Adviser’ to the Labour Party.

David Taylor canvassing

Since 2012, according to his Linkedin profile, he has been a director of a company called Leckwith, which has undergone a few changes of both name and address. It was originally known as Albacore Associates before morphing, in July 2012, into Westgate Strategy Ltd, before changing again, just a month later, to Leckwith Ltd. There were also physical moves from Cardiff to Newport to London. (Here’s the website.)

It’s reasonable to assume that this PR company was set up to capitalise on Taylor’s proven talent in the field of influencing people and also to exploit his contacts in the Labour Party. Though to judge by the accounts Leckwith has been slow to take off.

Taylor is also a non-executive director of Westgate Cyber Security Ltd of Newport, formerly London. This company also was incorporated in August 2012, but this is not a one-man band, for Taylor has a co-director, one David Wyn Jones, whose business background can be seen by clicking on his name under the ‘Officers’ tab. (Here’s the website.)

Having mentioned Leighton Andrews, I am indebted to ‘STaN‘ of Neath Ferret fame for reminding me that Andrews came quite late to the party, having been a leading light in the Liberal Democrats until just over a decade ago. Here’s a piece by Michael Meadowcroft lamenting Leighton Andrews’ departure. (I kid you not!)

I’ve also mentioned Peter Hain, and for information on the bête noire of the Boers, STaN‘s yer man.

David Taylor is a Labour insider of the worst kind. The type who joins the party before he starts shaving and spends the rest of his life in a cocoon, while determining what’s best for people of whose feelings and aspirations he knows nothing. He is exactly the kind of person – the professional politician – that either turns people off politics or else drives them towards more ‘colourful’ politicians.

Sorry, Dafydd, this is another wrong call. And if it was a straight fight between David Taylor and the UKIP candidate for North Wales PCC, and if I was forced to vote, then I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t vote UKIP.

My Choice

I shall be voting for Arfon Jones as our PCC. As coppers, or ex-coppers, go, Arfon’s not bad, he was our village bobby for a while. And he’s never been afraid to speak out and question his former employer, something we encounter all too rarely.

Arfon leaflet 1

In addition, having served and lived in Gwynedd, and also having spent many years on the other side of the region, Arfon knows the north from Holyhead to Bangor-on-Dee a lot better than most.

He’s also a sociable individual, going for the occasional drink at the Saith Seren, with which he has been long involved, and following Wrexham football club home and away, while not neglecting the rugby. He’s married, with children and grandchildren, in Wales and Scotland, so I wouldn’t hesitate to describe him as a ’rounded’, mature individual of many interests . . . unlike, I fear, David Taylor.

CONCLUSION

Looking at the wider picture, my reluctance to vote for Plaid Cymru at this election (over and above my longstanding criticisms) can be summed up in one word – Labour. And I’m not referring now to Lord Elis Thomas’ as yet unconsummated attraction.

It seems very likely that Labour and Plaid will be in coalition after Thursday’s election. That’s unless Plaid’s nightmare scenario materialises in which Labour can cobble together a coalition with two or three Lib Dem AMs, and possibly even a Green.

Now my views on the Labour Party generally, and ‘Welsh’ Labour in particular, are well known. A clue may be found in the title of my post, Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. I urge you to read it.

What Wales desperately needs is wealth creators, visionaries prepared to take risks and by so doing create jobs and a wealthier country. But such people are frowned on by socialist parties like Labour and Plaid Cymru, for they cannot be controlled like a publicly-funded client class masquerading as an ‘economy’.

So generous is this system now that its fame has spread; spongers and leftie bandwagon-riders flock to Wales to take advantage of ‘our’ generosity. And the funding given to alleviate Wales’ poverty, to educate and train us, to build infrastructure, achieves nothing because it is squandered on a Third Sector the greater part of which achieves nothing beyond generous salaries and pensions for the charlatans involved.

Wales needs radical change; a new national mindset. None of the parties involved in this election provide anything other than tired and discredited ideas dressed up and repackaged. Consequently it matters little what emerges after Thursday.

The Welsh people deserve better. They just need to realise it. Who’s going to make them realise it? And how?

~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~

 

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.

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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.

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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?

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.)

 

Jan 202016
 

You will recall that up until the end of last year I had this widget at the top of my sidebar, asking for signatures to a petition urging the ‘Welsh’ Government to intervene when chief executives get too powerful and take control of local authorities. That petition was ‘discussed’ yesterday by the Petitions Committee.

But before considering the reaction it received from the Committee, it might be worth you reading the petition, the letter responding to the petition from Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services, and my response to his response to my petition.

Here are those documents in PDF format and merged into a single document, so scroll down. Essentially, Andrews says, ‘Nothing to do with us, it’s up to councillors to rein in over-powerful chief executives’. To which I respond, ‘But what if they don’t do it, what then?’

Chief Executive petition combined

I had hoped to download a copy of the video of the meeting, to paste into this post, but apparently this is not allowed. So I can only offer you this link to the ‘discussion’ of my petition.

From his general demeanour it’s pretty obvious that the chairman, William Powell, a Liberal Democrat AM for the Mid and West Wales region, believes that the petition addresses a serious problem and should be given the attention it deserves . . . the other two members of the Committee clearly disagree, and can’t wait to get on to the next petition on roundabouts, though their reactions were revealing.

Joyce Watson, a Labour AM for Mid and West Wales did all the talking, and, boy, was her delivery revealing. She was hesitant, her voice cracked a couple of times, and she swivelled uncomfortably on her chair. As for what she actually said, it was nothing but paraphrasing what Leighton Andrews had written in his letter, about everything being put to rights in the Draft Local Government (Wales) Bill, which is open for comments until February 15th.

I shall of course submit my suggestions, but I’m not optimistic. My reading of Leighton Andrews’ letter is that in the new legislation curbing the power of dictatorial chief executives will still be entrusted to the very councillors who allowed the problem to arise in the first place.

Joyce Watson applied the stun gun to the discussion with, “There is no way we can take this any further forward, and I would recommend closing it”. At which point a little voice could be heard, off camera, squeaking, “I agree”.

This thin and distant voice belonged to the other member of the Committee, Elin Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM for Ceredigion. Ms Jones had kept her head down throughout Watson’s stuttering monologue, riveted to the correspondence before her as if it revealed that Saunders Lewis had been identified as the man on the Grassy Knoll.

Then again, maybe she was just keeping her head down.

To his credit, William Powell tried to breathe life into the dying debate, “It (the petition) does raise some very serious issues” he said, before going to remind everyone that these problems have arisen in “certain councils” in Wales.

Which councils, exactly? Well, let me be frank – and surprise no one – by saying that when I decided to submit this petition I was thinking primarily of Carmarthenshire, with Pembrokeshire in the reign of Bryn Parry Jones not far from my thoughts.

Making the dismissive attitude of Joyce Watson rather surprising, with her being the regional AM for both Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. But as I say, she had obviously been briefed by her Labour superiors.

Equally odd was Elin Jones’ reaction, seeing as her constituency shares a border with both counties. In her case the lack of concern might be explained by the fact that Plaid Cymru is now leading the coalition in Carmarthenshire, and so her party may not want to rock the boat ahead of the May Assembly elections.

Petitions Committee

A mistake. For I suspect that in the run-up to the May elections Labour will try to capitalise, in both Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (which Plaid holds) and Llanelli (where Labour has a majority of just 80), on Plaid’s refusal to rein in Mark James and Meryl Gravell. I can see it now on the hoardings, and plastered over the 198 Llanelli – Carmarthen omnibus: Plaid Cymru – the new broom that refused to sweep!’. It’s what I’d do.

Another factor worth considering from Plaid’s perspective is that very soon after the May elections Plaid Cymru hopes to again be Labour’s little helper in a coalition. Or could Plaid’s refusal to restore democracy to Carmarthenshire be attributable to something else?

I ask because in the age of devolution we have seen a shadowy clique remove Dafydd Wigley, the party’s most successful leader ever. Then in 2007 the party rejected a deal that would have seen a Plaid First Minister lead a ‘rainbow coalition’. And now, Plaid has been gifted the chance to make a name for itself by cleaning up the most corrupt and undemocratic council in Wales, but it does nothing.

It’s almost as if there is, deep within the party, a malign and self-destructive force at work. A successful force, for I predict that Plaid Cymru will lose votes and seats in May, and might even end up as the fourth party in Wales, behind Labour, Conservatives and Ukip.

In the meantime, I shall, as I’ve said, submit my comments to those working on the Draft Local Government (Wales) Bill, and I urge you all to do the same. It would appear that political parties are not much interested in preserving or restoring local democracy, and so the responsibility falls to concerned individuals like us to remind them that it matters.

 

Oct 102014
 

I am indebted to Gruff Meredith of Sovereign Wales for forwarding me a letter he received from the ‘Welsh’ Government. (Below right, click to enlarge.) A letter signed by Carl Sargeant, ‘Minister for Housing and Regeneration’, and addressed to William Powell, the Lib Dem chairman of the Assembly Petitions Committee. It relates to a petition submitted by Gruff asking the ‘Welsh’ Government to introduce a deposit loan scheme for local first-time buyers, which would of course necessitate local occupancy regulations.Sargeant letter

There is nothing revolutionary about local occupancy schemes, such schemes already operate in, among other areas, the Peak District and North York Moors National Parks in England. (Click on images below to enlarge.) The wider problem here is of course one I’ve dealt with many times before – the difficulty Welsh people experience in buying a home in rural and coastal areas suffering from coloniotourism and the resultant colonisation.

You’ll notice that I’ve highlighted two sections. The first refers to ” . . . an under-supply of properties across the UK”. But should this be the concern of a ‘Welsh’ Minister, whose role is restricted to Wales? It can only be of relevance if Wales is tied in to an Englandandwales planning and housing system with Wales being used to help meet England’s demand for housing. Which of course it is, as I have pointed out many times. For not only is the Planning Inspectorate an agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London but other civil servants based in Wales answer to this and other UK government departments. We can be ‘bet-your-house-on-it’ certain that the civil servant who wrote this letter for Sargeant to sign answers to London. Which of course, makes Sargeant an expensive irrelevance . . . as are the others down Cardiff docks, all of them mouthpieces for scriptwriters up in London and their stage managers in Wales.

Peak Districy local occupancyLocal occupancy North York Moors

 

 

 

But you mustn’t think that this ‘make-it-as-difficult-as-possible-for-the-Welsh’ system applies only to the open or private housing market, for it also extends to social housing. This was made clear to me just before Christmas 2010 in an e-mail from Nick Bennett, then chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, who wrote: “There are over two million people on waiting lists for social housing . . . “. Not in Wales, matey! Bennett is a former business associate of recently-resigned minister, Alun Davies, and is now Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. (Click here and scroll down for more information.) This explains why housing associations – sucking up Welsh public funding in order to provide work for English companies – either build more housing than is locally needed, or else allocate properties to English undesirables while locals are left on waiting lists. (Click here and scroll down to the section, ‘Cartrtefi Cymunedol Gwynedd’.)

The second passage I’ve highlighted in the letter signed by Sargeant reads: ” . . . however I would be very keen to hear his (Gruff Meredith’s) views on housing supply and barriers to development in Wales”. What ‘barriers to development’! There are none. Is this an attempt at humour, even sarcasm?

To sum up, local occupancy clauses could easily be introduced, as they have been in many parts of England, but the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to do so, which means that the ‘Welsh’ Government is refusing to serve the best interests of the people it is elected to represent. Though when we remember that Wales is actually run, via civil servants, from London, then this refusal to help Welsh people have homes in their own country is easily explained by ‘London’ wishing to facilitate further English colonisation.

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The overarching issue here, and on which I have regularly written, is that no matter what those mummers down Cardiff docks may like to think of themselves, and despite the image projected to a gullible public, they are powerless, because devolution is a sham, real power still rests with London, just as it did pre-1999. There are examples a-plenty.

Having mentioned Alun Davies, let’s take a look at this video (F/F to 2:04) of a presentation he made before losing his job as ‘Minister for Agriculture’. The background is that someone in London decided to transfer 15% of EU agricultural funding allocated to Wales from Pillar 1, which goes to Welsh farmers, to Pillar 2, which will be spent on the vague and all-encompassing description of “rural development projects”. Which in practice means it will be allocated to Greens, hippies and other pushy colonists to fund ludicrous ‘projects’ that will be little more than non-jobs for those involved. Basically, the Third Sector goes rural. As I say, the sap who had to deliver London’s decision was Alun Davies. Note in the video how he is flanked by two English civil servants, there to make sure he doesn’t fluff his lines or deviate from the script, reminiscent of a Stalin show trial. This is one of the saddest cameos from the era of phoney devolution.

Or how about the M4 relief road? It seems that a carefully-orchestrated clamour arose demanding a new £1bn motorway around Newport, but how was it to be funded? Answer: the London Government would allow its provincial repertory company to borrow the money. To translate . . . the Old Etonians in London told Carwyn Jones he could borrow a billion pounds from their chums in the City of London on condition he gives out construction contracts to major donors to the Conservative Party for a project that, when completed, will faciliate the easier flow of English goods into the richest corner of Wales. In fact, on a visit to London, and in a bout of uncharacteristic extemporaneity Jones had told his scriptwriters that if he wasn’t allowed to get Wales into debt . . . well, he wouldn’t go up to Scotland to line up with the Nazi-Loyalists and others. And lo, it came to pass . . .

M4-relief-road2

The one given credit for overseeing the process and approving the £1bn ‘black’ route is Edwina Hart who, in the current line-up, plays the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, a role for a mature and rounded character actor. Though odd, in a way, that a country with little in the way of economy, science or transport should need such a part at all. But there you are, this is showbiz not real politics. Hart is said to be reluctant to give live interviews, or to defend her decisions, but chwarae teg, that’s asking her to explain what she had no part in deciding. Making it perfectly understandable why she should choose to emulate the great Garbo. (In fact, the rest of the cast could do a lot worse than follow her example when off-stage.)

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Having begun this piece with Carl Sargeant it’s only fair to bring down the curtain with something else he put his name to in January this year. (For those with the stomach for it, the full, three-page letter can be found here.) In this letter Sargeant, who plays the ‘heavy’ in London’s Welsh provincial repertory company, tries to explain the relationship between the ‘Welsh’ Government and the Planning Inspectorate. It is the biggest load of bollocks I’ve read, and believe me, I’ve read some bollocks in my time. Despite that, it also very revealing.

Sargeant Planning Inspectorate

Many times I have read it argued that there are two Planning Inspectorates, one serving England, one serving Wales, with the latter having its own office in Cardiff and answering to ‘Welsh Ministers’. This letter makes it clear there is but one Planning Inspectorate, though we are asked to believe that it has been “. . . empowered by Welsh Ministers to take a range of decisions on their behalf”. But how can those with no power themselves empower others? What this really says is that for the purposes of the Planning Inspectorate Wales is part of England. To disguise this, and allow the troupe of players known as the ‘Welsh Ministers’ to retain some credibility, it allows them the fig leaf of pretending it has been empowered to operate in Wales by them. I also love the second sentence in the extracted paragraph, an encomium for the Planning Inspectorate . . . “openness and impartiality” be buggered!

To disguise the ugly reality that Wales is a colony of England we have a bunch of mouthpieces masquerading as the ‘Welsh Government’. Though they have no control over planning or housing in case they interfere with the colonisation programme. Nor are they allowed to control our natural resources or our economy lest this power be used to serve Welsh interests. Though, and perhaps significantly, they are allowed freedom in those areas London is reasonably confident they will screw up – education, health – so that they can then be held up to ridicule and used to warn English voters of the dangers of the Labour Party in government.

This system cannot be improved, it can only be swept away. And the sooner the better.