A lot has been written in recent years (some of it by me!) about the flawed reasoning used to justify the Local Development Plans forced on our local authorities by the English Planning Inspectorate; this body allowed to act in the name of the Welsh Government and aided by non-Welsh senior officers in our de-democratised councils.
One regular complaint is that previous, undesirable, levels of English immigration are used to justify more of the same. Or that there has been too much input allowed from those with a vested interest in building more new houses. But whatever the exact complaint, it has tended to centre on interpretation, or presentation, rather than on the raw data used. But there may be problems here as well.
Unable to yet make the emotional break with the City of my Dreams, this afternoon I looked through the ward profiles data used to inform Swansea’s LDP. And I found something that brought back memories . . . memories strong enough to make me realise that someone had dropped a rather large testis.
Those of you older than some of the councillors I have been dealing with lately, and who were – also unlike them – living in Wales at the time, will remember that the 2001 census neglected to provide a Welsh tick box. This led to a campaign, organised by the Independent Wales Party, and supported by many others, to boycott the census. The centrepiece of the protest was a ‘coffin’ that travelled the length of Wales collecting census forms that people had refused to complete. After arriving in Cardiff Bay the coffin containing the forms went missing. (And I honestly don’t know where it went.) As I travelled with the coffin for most of the route I can testify to the anger we encountered.
So I was surprised to read in the ward profiles figures given for “People identifying themselves as Welsh” – with the source for this information being the 2001 census! Which, as you can imagine, gave rather odd ‘statistics’. According to Swansea council, using Office of National Statistics data, in 2001 just 15.29% of Swansea’s population identified as Welsh. The 2011 census, which did allow people to describe themselves as Welsh, found that 70.4% chose one or other form of Welshness. Surely someone at the council should have realised that the 2001 figure is rubbish. So why use it without a health warning?
In fairness, the council does admit, “The Profiles (published in July 2012) are a snapshot based on currently available information. They are published in draft form only, as they will need to be updated when the 2011 Census findings are published and as further information becomes publicly available”. Fair enough, but the 2011 census figures have now been out for a few months, so why haven’t these ward profiles been updated? And wasn’t the Swansea LDP based on these wrong figures?
Which brings me to my real worry. If I can find such obviously incorrect ‘data’ from just a quick glance, how many of the other ‘facts’ used to justify LDPs across Wales can be trusted? Is there any independent assessment or evaluation? What about those LDPs, such as Denbighshire’s, planning thousands of new houses not needed by the local population, were they also compiled on faulty data? Did someone look at the 2001 census and say, ‘Only 12% here are Welsh. Let’s build – everywhere!’
Following on from the previous post I have now written to the Welsh Government asking that the Mynydd y Gwair project be ‘called in’ due to the many irregularities attaching to the February 7th vote and other, linked issues.
For if the Council’s legal officers strongly advised Councillor Ioan Richard (of the affected ward) to absent himself from the debate then there were a number on the other side as obviously predetermined to vote in favour as Councillor Richard was to vote against, so were they given the same advice? And if so, why were they allowed to ignore that advice? All explained in the letter here. A further copy, with a covering letter, has been sent to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
Looking at the wider picture, the Mynydd y Gwair case, and what I’ve learnt about the state of the Swansea Labour Party in the past couple of weeks, it fits in with a wider picture of the Labour Party in Wales. It is a party increasingly reliant upon a regular influx of non-Welsh candidates in order to keep up the appearance of strength. What’s interesting, is how it achieves and maintains that influx.
I began this series of posts with a fit of nostalgia by recalling the Labour Party I knew back in Swansea when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s. Few of our local councillors and activists impressed me in a positive way, but at least I knew them. I knew who they were. Or if I didn’t, then the chances were that my father knew them, or worked with one of the Brother’s brothers. Most Labour councillors of that era started their political careers in the trade unions, blue collar trade unions catering for the working classes.
Despite their many shortcomings no one could argue that our local councillors did not know their patch, and did not want the best for Swansea. Looking back to those days, the Labour Party I knew back then was, through the trade unions and other activities, part and parcel of the lives and experiences of those who supported the party. Not so today.
THE ‘PAINTED SHELL’ PARTY
I have chosen this metaphor because the more I think of today’s Labour Party the more I see an empty but cleverly decorated shell where once there had been something less attractively adorned but with more content. A party today still able to rely on the ‘donkey’ vote, but with the problem that ‘donkey’ voters rarely join the party, let alone become candidates. Thus leaving Labour dependent on other avenues for many of its representatives.
One route for that supply, obvious when we consider Swansea, is higher education. With two universities and a few other colleges the higher education sector is a valuable source of council candidates for Labour in Swansea. This applies elsewhere in Wales and may go some way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government is so keen on giving Wales a higher education sector grotesquely and damagingly in excess of what a small country needs.
Then, when we look at another route, the Third Sector, and strip away all the political correctness and touchy-feely nonsense, what we see is naked politics. An overlarge Third Sector such as we suffer in Wales attracts a steady inflow of individuals to take advantage of sinecures, jobs and funding handed out by the party they belong to or support.
Making the Third Sector a system of political patronage, plain and simple. Nothing more than a party in power with money to disburse rewarding its friends and supporters. This kind of mild corruption is found all over the world, but it’s rare to find it practised so blatantly in Protestant Europe. In return for this largesse the Labour Party has a ready supply of candidates.
Which means that since the first round of EU Objective One funding in 2000 the Welsh economy and the welfare of our people have taken a back seat to the Labour Party’s ‘patronage-results-in-candidates’ system. That’s bad enough, but understandable in a selfish kind of way. What’s unforgivable is that both the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have supported this corruption . . . and being the unprincipled chancers or deluded ‘socialists’ they are, would do so again, tomorrow, given the opportunity.
Something else that struck me as I trawled through the available information on Swansea’s new intake of Labour councillors was how many of them belonged to trade unions. Or rather, a single trade union, Unite. And how many are members of the Co-operative party. Which provides another stark contrast with the days of my youth.
For I recall horny-handed sons of toil (unless of course they were shop stewards) who belonged to the TGWU or the NUR, and who drank in the Dockers Club. But today’s skinny latte Labour Party, to maintain the pretence of a link with the hoi-polloi, has union representation from a white collar union that has as members people who’ve never done what most people would regard as work! Somehow I can’t see their names being stitched onto the union banner by candlelight prior to the dawn assault on the bastions of capitalist oppression.
This final observation (no, not the candlelight stitching) brings me to the ugly reality of professional politicians; which is where academe, Third Sector and white collar unions inexorably takes us. To the realisation that we now have a class of people – especially within the Labour Party – who got involved in student politics then, on leaving university became an ‘adviser’ to an MP or AM, or worked for a trade union or a grant-guzzling Third Sector body and, then, without venturing into the ‘real world’ inhabited by un-networked mortals like thee and me, go on to ‘represent’ us in our local authority, or else in Cardiff, London or Brussels.
Throw in the loose canon or crank who nevertheless knows how to play the selection process and you can understand how the Labour Party on Swansea City Council is what it is today: a repulsive collection of carpetbaggers, trendies, oddballs and single-issue obsessives exploiting the indigenous ‘donkey’ vote in order to serve constituencies such as the GLBT community.
I leave you all to consider this. Due to the assorted machinations listed above it could be that the Conservative Party is today, for the first time ever, more representative of the Welsh nation than the Labour Party.
UPDATE 27.02.2013: More information has come to light that has resulted in me making another complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. To explain.
Just before Christmas all Swansea’s councillors received a copy of a book, The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington. The book was sent by the organisation leading the resistance to the Mynydd y Gwair wind turbines, SOCME (Save Our Common Mountain Environment).
One councillor, young John Charles Bayliss (who has cropped up here quite often of late!) was mightily unimpressed with this Yuletide gift. So unimpressed that he was moved to tweet. My interpretation of this tweet is as follows. The reference to “coal” I take to mean that the book should be burned. “#Scientificallyilliterate” is probably his opinion of those who sent the book, or possibly Dr. Etherington. While “#BuggerOff” can only be his response to those who kindly sent him the book. Such ingratitude! (The picture referred to in the tweet is simply the front cover of the book with the SOCME complimentary slip.)
This tweet for me is proof positive that as early as December 11th (and almost certainly long before) Bayliss was predetermined to vote in favour of wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair. That being so, John Charles Bayliss is another councillor who should not have voted on February 7th.
Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because what follows gets a bit complicated. That said, I believe there is now enough evidence to question the legitimacy of the decision taken by Swansea council on February 7th to allow RWE to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, common land owned by the Duke of Beaufort on the city’s northern outskirts. My previous posts this month on Swansea council are, in chronological order, here and here.
Perhaps the first thing to make clear is that the long-serving local councillor, Ioan Richard, was not allowed to vote on February 7th because he had previously shown his opposition to the project. In other words, he’d been open and honest about his position. The same may not be the case for a number of those who voted to grant planning permission.
My attention has been drawn to the fact that RWE’s Renewables Developer for Mynydd y Gwair, Gwenllian Elias, tweets as @gwenll_elias, and among her 59 followers are Councillor Mitchell Theaker (@mitchelltheaker) and Councillor Pearleen Sangha (@PearleenSangha). She reciprocates by following them. (Another Swansea councillor Ms Elias follows is Nick Bradley (@CllrNickBradley) the council’s number one West Bromwich Albion fan.) On the night of (possibly the day after) the Mynydd y Gwair vote, Pearleen Sangha tweeted her joy at the outcome of the council meeting . . . and her tweet was almost immediately retweeted by Gwenllian Elias of RWE! Great minds, eh!
Now this may be harmless enough, perhaps nothing more than contact limited to Twitter. Alternatively, it could suggest that Elias, Sangha and Theaker were known to each other before the vote was taken. In which case it puts a totally different complexion on the matter. For if they knew each other before the vote then, seeing as both Sangha and Theaker voted for the bird and bat mincers, they were as ‘compromised’ as Councillor Richard in that their minds were also made up long before the discussion of the matter, and the vote, on February 7th. If that was the case then they should not have been allowed to vote.
Now let us turn to Llansamlet’s very own advocate of permanent revolution, Councillor Uta Clay, who has come in for a bit of a hammering of late, partly for stoutly defending the Duke of Beaufort’s financial interests, and partly for making silly remarks during the February 7th debate. This letter is just one of a number I am told have appeared in the Evening Post. As the letter suggests, how could this woman, who has only been in Swansea for five minutes, be so silly and insulting as to slur ordinary Welsh protesters as belonging to the “privileged few”. A category to which an English nobleman apparently does not belong! (Is this making sense?)
You also have to ask why, after the local party had the good sense to deselect her, and suspend her and her husband, some unnamed authority representing ‘London’ stepped in to insist the Clays’ suspensions be lifted and she be reinstated as candidate for the May 2012 council elections. What happened to devolution? What happened to ‘Welsh’ Labour?
Someone else who’s only been in Swansea for five minutes is New Zealander Andrew Hore, ‘Elite Performance Director’ at the Ospreys. (Not to be confused with the Andrew Hore who did the dirty on Bradley Davies last autumn) Hore was allowed to speak at the February 7th meeting in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair money machine. RWE sponsors the Ospreys, and a number of councillors are season ticket holders at the Ospreys; others have received ‘hospitality’. Which looks a bit . . . er . . . iffy? Here is a (PDF) link to an interesting exchange between Edwina Hart, a local AM, and Patrick Arran, Head of Legal, Democratic Services and Procurement at Swansea council, in which Ms Hart questions why Hore was allowed to speak at the council meeting. A good question.
Then, today, a letter appeared in the Wasting Mule from a Swansea councillor – one who actually knows the city, and can pronounce Mynydd y Gwair! What Councillor Tyler-Lloyd is (perhaps unwittingly) alluding to is a system now becoming dominant in Welsh political and public life. It begins with civil servants in London or Cardiff issuing diktats. When this is done in London it’s invariably done on the instructions of politicians; when it’s done in Cardiff it’s too often done on orders from London and presented to the self-styled Welsh Government as a fait accompli. (Well, what do you expect? If Welsh Labour won’t stand up to ‘London’ on matters of internal party discipline do you really think they’re going to challenge Sir Humphrey in Whitehall?) These diktats then become Gospel for senior officers in local government who use them – and the threat of the expense involved in challenging them – to silence debate and stifle opposition. R.I.P. Welsh local democracy.
As it takes hold we see this process leading to situations such as that which has been played out in a London courtroom this week, as Fuehrer James of Carmarthenshire County Council sues – with public money – a blogger who dared criticise his regime. Or the cabinet of Labour-controlled Caerffili council meeting behind closed doors to give whopping pay rises to senior officers . . . at the insistence of the chief executive – i.e. the major beneficiary!
The wider and more worrying picture though is of a Wales in which we have the chimera of devolution while the reality sees us Welsh becoming increasingly marginalised and silenced across the land. In the rural areas the picture is stark, and villages and small towns are taken over by English colonists, but even in the city of Swansea we see it happening.
For one interpretation of that vote on the 7th of this month would be thart it was a victory for those who view our homeland as a resource to exploit, or else the political equivalent of a sandpit, somewhere to start one’s political career. On the one hand we had an English lord whose family has been robbing us for centuries, a German company here to milk the absurd subsidies paid for so-called ‘renewable energy’, a bunch of ex-student politicians that include a GLTB fanatic, a Californian, a West Brom supporter, another with an interest in cadets, then there’s a New Zealander working for the local rugby team (most of whose supporters still don’t understand what his bloody job is), and assorted other drifters, misfits and parasites who know fuck all about the city I love.
All these were allowed to speak, despite many if not all having already made up their minds on the issue or, worse, having a vested financial or other interest in seeing wind turbines on lovely Mynydd y Gwair. Yet, the councillor in whose ward Mynydd y Gwair is to be found, who had no financial or other interest, who had been open and honest in his opposition, and who represented the views of the overwhelming majority of his constituents – that is, those directly affected by the industrialisation of Mynydd y Gwair – was thrown out of the council chamber.
Where does this leave democracy, local or otherwise? And given that virtually all those on the one side of this debate were foreign, and almost all those on the other side were Welsh, what does it tell us about our country today? And our place in it?
UPDATE 23.02.2013: Interesting comments to the post from Jeff Jones and James Dunkley. Both question whether Councillor Ioan Richard was given the correct legal advice by the council officer(s). (Jeff Jones is the former leader of Bridgend Council who now works as a local government consultant.) They aren’t the only ones asking these questions. If Cllr Richard was wrongly told to leave the chamber then it must call into question either the competence or the impartiality of the person who gave that advice. (Patrick Arran. See the link in the post to his exchange with Edwina Hart AM.)
Gwenllian Elias, the RWE Npower project officer for Mynydd y Gwair’s CV reads: 2007, left Cardiff University with BSc in Geography and Planning. September 2007 to September 2008 Planner with Newport City Council. September 2008 to August 2009 Planner with City and County of Swansea Council. August 2009 to April 2010 Planning Liason Officer with the Environment Agency. April 2010 to present Renewables Developer with RWE Npower Renewables Ltd. Looks like a planned career course: gain the background knowledge and contacts in the public sector before heading into the private sector and the serious money. And all done in less than three years.
The behaviour of certain councillors at the February 7th meeting, the near certainty of them being predetermined to vote in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair development, plus their established links with RWE’s project officer, has been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for Wales.
I have just watched Week In Week Out on BBC 1 Wales. It dealt with con man Chris O’Neill who was given £125,000 by the Welsh Government to help ex-servicemen get their lives together with his organisation Forces for Good. His imaginative methods included buying a speedboat, a couple of new cars, and gambling . . . presumably in the hope of raising yet more money for needy old sweats.
The obvious question is, why were so many people taken in by such an obvious con man? As a man who knew him for what he was pointed out, someone should have noticed that every time he was asked a tricky question his eyes rolled up into his head as he thought of an answer. There was nothing spontaneous about him. It was all clearly an act. So why were there not even the most basic background checks?
The other question I have may not be so obvious. Given that O’Neill is English, and was planning to bring English ex-servicemen into Wales, why did the Welsh Government – or its civil servants – decide that Forces for Good was a proper use of funding allocated to Wales and presumably meant to be used for those living here?
Forces for Good is being reported as if it’s a scandalous one-off. Those of us who pay attention to these things know better. This case is just another illustration of the incompetence and bias of those allocating the funding given to ‘Wales’. Another reminder that the priority in future must be re-uniting ‘Wales’ with the Welsh.
In a sudden and uncontrollable thirst (for knowledge) I have this very day sent off not one but two Freedom of Information requests to our glorious and inspiring leaders down in Cardiff docks.
One was addressed to Jane Hutt; in which I ask about the leasing arrangements for Tŷ Hywel, or Crickhowell House. The letter to Ms Hutt can be found here, with background information here.
The other request was to Leighton Andrews. This dealt with the multiplicity of organisations to be found in Wales claiming to be ‘helping people back into employment’. Moreover, I expressed my heartfelt concern at the high mortality rate to be found in this sector. The letter may be perused ici.
I now look forward to the replies from both Ministers.
In a previous post I talked of the eclectic nature of the ruling Labour group on Swansea council. Of how it seems increasingly to be composed of people who neither know the city nor care much for it. Strangers who, by one route or another, have washed up on Swansea Bay and are simply using the Labour Party and the council to exercise whatever bee they have in their bonnet.
Dealing with the vote to allow bird choppers on Mynydd y Gwair, ancient common land on the northern outskirts of Swansea, I mentioned one Labour councillor who called the objectors rich, 4 x 4 driving nimbies. The irony of that absurd accusation is that the objectors were local Welsh graziers while the beneficiaries of the council’s planning consent will be the Duke of Beaufort and German energy giant RWE.
So I feel no inhibition in naming this woman as councillor Uta Clay, representing the Llansamlet ward. An interesting woman, Uta. Austrian by birth she’s been in Swansea for some four years, living with her husband, who is perhaps even more interesting. For he is Robert Alan Clay, educated at Bedford School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Better known as Bob Clay, he is the former Labour MP for Sunderland North.
The Clays turned up in Swansea some four years ago, after wearing out their welcome in Hereford. They first lived in a converted barn at Rhydypandy, just outside Morriston, from where they began their political manoeuvrings. These included organising a protest rally at the Brangwyn Hall in October 2010. Also, turning up to council meetings, where Bob Clay, with his booming voice and upper class English accent would regularly harangue and insult Chris Holley, Leader of the then Liberal Democrat-led coalition running Swansea. After promoting themselves so assiduously it was no surprise when Uta Clay was selected, in February 2011, to stand for Labour in the Llansamlet ward in the May 2012 council elections. That the Clays didn’t live in Llansamlet was remedied when they moved there that August.
Not satisfied with her being a mere candidate, Bob and Uta Clay tried to take over the branch completely. These attempts resulted in much disharmony among the comrades, and led to Uta Clay being deselected in November. Welsh Labour got involved, and brokered a deal on the understanding that future election material would only be produced by the local party, and would promote all four Labour candidates in the ward.
This failed to disperse the poisonous atmosphere in the Llansamlet ward which finally resulted in the suspension of the whole branch in January 2012. But a month later peace broke out again and it was agreed that all four candidates (including Uta Clay) could stand in the May 3rd council elections. So that was that? Well, no. In mid-March, and contrary to the agreement brokered by Welsh Labour, a separate leaflet was put out on behalf of Uta Clay. The police got involved due to the attacks made in the leaflet on the sitting Independent councillor. The Clays were again suspended. Now the saga takes a very, very strange twist.
The suspension was lifted after an intervention by the Labour Party in London! According to Uta Clay the unauthorised – possibly slanderous – leaflet was put out by her husband, and was therefore nothing at all to do with her! The Labour Party accepted this, and re-instated her as a candidate!
As a senior Labour Party source put it: “This whole thing stinks to high heaven. The local Labour Party did everything by the book, and had the support of the Labour Party in Wales. But pressure has been brought to bear (from outside Wales) to get these suspensions overturned. It’s an outrage that loyal party members have been treated like dirt to accommodate two people who were campaigning against the Labour Party only a few years ago.”
This being a reference to the Clays campaigning with George ‘Indefatigability’ Galloway and his ‘Respeck’ party in the 2004 European Parliament elections. So why did these two Trotskyists get support from Labour in London to over-rule Welsh Labour and the local party, guaranteeing that Uta Clay stood in the council elections? How often does ‘London’ get involved in ward-level squabbles, and in Wales?
The Clays continue to entertain. Most notably with their involvement in the campaign to stop a second Traveller site being established in the Llansamlet ward. A few months ago they turned up at the official Traveller site asking those living there to move to Felindre or Fforestfach. Bringing with them a typed letter to the council asking for relocation that simply needed Travellers’ signatures. The Travellers complained to the council that Bob Clay had suggested they might “not be safe” if they stayed on the official site. The council reported the incident to the police. You must admit, Travellers complaining of being intimidated is unusual. Equally odd is seeing defenders of the underdog jumping on the anti-gypsy bandwagon.
Which brings us back to last week’s vote on the Duke of Beaufort’s subsidy farm at Mynydd y Gwair. A long meeting during which Uta Clay ‘lost it’ and turned on the objectors in the public gallery, calling them nimbies, saying they were all rich people with expensive off-road vehicles. For these and even more offensive remarks Uta Clay has been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman. But she was not alone.
Also jeering the Welsh objectors were two of Swansea’s ex-student councillors, John Bayliss and his good friend Mitchell Theaker behaving like immature hooligans. Bayliss sits on the council to promote Gay issues, while Theaker confesses an interest in reserves and cadets.
The message I take from this sorry business is that in the matter of the Clays, Welsh Labour meekly submitted to orders from its masters in London. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this happens in other spheres and at other times. Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a puppet regime controlled from London. I have always argued that devolution is a sham, this case provides yet more support for that belief.
Looking at the wider picture, I can’t help but wonder what Swansea Labour stalwarts like Byron Owen, Robert Francis-Davies, Ceinwen Thomas and others feel about their party having been taken over by this freak show of GLBT zealots, manipulative academics, embittered Trots and assorted oddballs who’ve turned up out of the blue. How can this shower possibly be serving a city they do not know, they do not understand, and they do not care about?
Looking beyond Swansea, from Wrecsam to Caerffili to Caerfyrddin, we see the Labour Party failing to attract the quality of member that would have filled its ranks in earlier generations, leaving itself easy prey to entryists and others hoping to use the party to promote their own agendas. Thanks to the ‘donkey’ vote Labour may still appear strong, but it’s increasingly clear that this is a facade, one that can only be maintained at ward, branch and local authority level by surrendering to the sort of people now running Swansea.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a nationalist party to prick this ‘bubble’!
Scientists at the A A Gill Institute for Studies in Cymrophobia have discovered a cure for Welshness. Apparently the discovery was made some years ago, but was kept top secret. Although the news is only now leaking out we understand that the ‘cure’ has been in use for quite a few years, and is proving very effective.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Express Institute head Professor Beowulf Cholmondeley said, “Over the years we have all suffered the annoyance of being on a train and finding oneself sitting next to or opposite some garrulous Taff who wants to talk about rugby, or music . . . or else the little sod just sits there, picking his nose, in that annoying, Welsh way . . . you know.
“Then there’s every parent’s nightmare: one’s darling daughter comes home and informs one that she’s being rogered by some hairy-arsed bastard called Fluellen or Guffin or something. So if only in the interests of more enjoyable train travel and the defence of English womanhood, something clearly needed to be done.”
“The obvious answer would have been to do away with the lot of them. But that sort of thing has had a bad press over the past hundred years or so, and so a re-think was needed. Castration and sterilisation were obviously attractive, but even then, some do-gooders would have made a fuss.
“Thankfully, an old friend of mine, working in Cambridge at the School of Traditional Hallucinogenics, was studying the effects of drinking reindeer urine after the animals had ingested large quantities of fly agaric (amanita muscaria).
“After one particularly intense session of research he had a startling and inspiring vision of a Welsh-free world. The beauty of his vision was that rather than final solutions that bleeding-hearts might find unpalatable, we didn’t have to do anything!” For the beauty of the policy is – wait for it! – just ignore them!
Seeing my somewhat quizzical expression Professor Cholmondeley went on, “Your average Welsh person, for all the noise and banter, is a very insecure creature; this stems from a deeply ingrained sense of inferiority. Consequently, Johnny Taff needs to be reassured that he’s loved, otherwise his self-confidence drains away and he gets very despondent”.
Perhaps noticing that I was still unconvinced, the Professor adjusted his monocle, took another pinch of snuff, and continued, “What I am going to outline is the ultimate refinement of psychological warfare. It is just so bloody clever!
You must have noticed that when Question Time goes to Wales the audience and the panel are overwhelmingly English!” I nodded. “Well, that’s because the makers of Question Time are with us. Welsh people watch QT and wonder what’s happening, they either think they aren’t wanted on Question Time, or that it’s all over for them because they’re now a minority in their own country.
“More generally, the UK, media ignores Wales altogether unless it’s to run anti-Welsh stories telling the Welsh they’re disliked. This results in many of them thinking their kids would have more chance in the world if they lost their Welshness. Like I said, it’s so bloody clever! We’ve even got the Welsh media on-side. Reporters go to Llansheepshagger to do a story with instructions to only interview English people. Result? There are about two million people in south Wales who think everybody living north of Brecon or Carmarthen is now English!
In a nutshell, make the Welsh believe everybody hates them and they’re being over-run, and then – to misquote something one of them once wrote – they WILL go gentle into that good night. We have been implementing this strategy for a few years now and it is working splendidly. And anyway, think about it: aren’t we really doing them a favour? I mean, who’d want to be Welsh if they had a choice?”
I asked if there was any response to this devilishly clever strategy. “No. None at all. That’s the beauty of it. If we were doing something obvious like killing them, or driving them out by force, then there might be a reaction. But what we are doing is so subtle, so intangible, yet so persuasive, that it screws their heads up and takes away their will to resist.
“There is absolutely no way they can fight it . . . unless of course the daft buggers realise we are just playing mind games”.
When I was growing up in Swansea the Labour Party seemed to be everywhere, through the presence of its members and supporters in just about every organisation in the locality. Not least the local council. Though this influence was not confined to the public sector and local government; for at times it was difficult to determine who controlled some local companies, was it those who, nominally, owned these companies, or was it the trade unions? Whatever the answer, jobs, homes, and other ‘favours’ could be gained by knowing a local foot soldier; while being on friendly terms with a ‘capo’ could open many doors.
As I got to know our local Labour activists I found most of them very unattractive. (Maybe I was too idealistic. Or perhaps my standards of personal hygiene were too high.) But for whatever reason, they came across as grubby little men, drunk on what power they possessed, and determined to show off, or abuse, that power at every opportunity. They could mouth the class war slogans but the lack of deeper political understanding was obvious once the debate moved beyond slogans and rehearsed arguments. Equally obvious was the absence of principle. Most seemed driven by greed and envy. I often thought that they didn’t really want to raise up the masses so much as bring down the ‘nobs’. And if they’d won the football pools, or been left a tidy sum by Auntie Bessie in Chicago, then it would have been a case of, ‘The working class can kiss my arse . . .’. In other words, they were victims of circumstance, unhappy with their lot, looking for easy answers . . . and nothing provides more easily digestible answers for the uncomprehending ‘victims of the system’ than socialism.
These thoughts have come to me a few times recently as my attention has been drawn to the composition of the Labour Party in Swansea today. The most striking thing is the almost total absence of class warriors. Strange, really, when one considers that the gulf between rich and poor is greater today than at any time in recent history. The cloth caps have been replaced with the kind of headgear favoured by Afghans or Andean peasants. At times it seems not so much New Labour as New Age Labour.
The Leader is a Liverpudlian and there are many other councillors from outside Wales, even an Austrian. There are students fresh out of college, one from California. Then there are students who graduated in earlier years, including one who lists among his Interests “my beloved West Bromwich Albion”! There are also academics among the Labour group, making it clear that Swansea’s centres of higher education are a vital source of recruits for the local Labour Party. Another Labour councillor, born in Southend, is glad to be “back by the sea once more”. Ah, that’s nice.
One of the young ex-students, elected last year for a bedsit land ward on the west side of the city seems to be solely interested in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans-sexual (GLBT) matters, if his Twitter account is anything to go by. And this, ‘pet issues’ approach to politics, is found throughout the group. Making the controlling Labour group on Swansea council look like an eclectic collection of individuals held together by a belief that they represent ‘progressive’ elements that only the Labour Party can accommodate. Another interpretation would be that the Swansea Labour Party has lost out in a Faustian pact to people who have now taken over its organisation, structures and soul to promote their own agendas.
Don’t get me wrong, a little outside blood is always beneficial, whether to improve the breeding stock, or to introduce new thinking, but there comes a point beyond which the balance tips and the new element ousts the old. This is what appears to be happening with the Swansea Labour Party. It’s almost as if New Labour’s practice of ‘parachuting’ favourites into safe seats has reached down to ward level. Perhaps it has, for a number of these thrusting, ex-student councillors work for local MPs and AMs. A word in the right ear?
Now of course, even if the Labour group was made up entirely of persons born and bred in Swansea, lifelong Swans fans, etc., etc., these would still have their pet subjects, their hobby-horses, but at least they would know and be committed to the city of Swansea. When there are so many in the ruling group on the city council that a) don’t really know or understand the area and b) are pursuing their own agendas, then we have to ask how well that city can possibly be served by such an administration.
And when we add Swansea Labour’s profile to the well-documented – even award-winning (Private Eye) – troubled councils of Carmarthenshire, Ynys Môn, Caerffili and Wrecsam . . . and when we consider rule by cabinet, or the dictatorship of a chief executive; and when we spread this over the absurd number of twenty-two local authorities in a country of just three million people, then we realise that Welsh local government isn’t just in a mess, it needs to be dismantled and built again from scratch. And among the many changes so desperately needed, why not insist on ten years residence in an area before anyone can stand for the local council?
And yet, knowing Swansea as I do, and Wales, and the origins of the Labour Party, maybe what we see in Swansea today is simply the clock being turned back. Let me explain. I grew up in what amounted to a localised one-party state; yet from my grandparents and people of their generation I came to learn that what I regarded as the established order was, to them, something relatively recent in origin. And not entirely welcome.
In the nineteenth century we Welsh supported the Liberal Party, even when most of us were denied a vote. This loyalty was taken with them by rural immigrants to the industrial areas (like four of my great-grandparents, who came up from Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire). Inevitably, the ‘human reservoir’ of south west Wales eventually began to dry up; so by the end of the century the workers needed in the southern industries came increasingly from England’s western counties, Ireland, and beyond. This new wave of immigrants found the Liberal Party less attractive than their Welsh workmates; for to them the Liberal Party was part of a ‘package’ that took in the Welsh language and the nonconformist chapels. This new element in Welsh society rejected that ‘package’ and looked for another political party. It arrived with amazingly good timing in the form of the Labour Party.
Which resulted in many of the older Welsh people in the industrial south in the first half of the twentieth century, especially – but not exclusively – those with roots in the Welsh-speaking rural areas, still regarding the Labour Party as something ‘alien’. For it had no Welsh ‘roots’, Labour had merely appropriated the Merthyr Rising, the Chartist Rebellion in Newport, and other specifically Welsh events as heralds of its own Coming. Ignoring the uncomfortable facts that Dic Penderyn may not have spoken English, and that the Newport Chartists called for a Silurian Republic. Labour to many people of my grandparents’ age and background was an English-Irish concoction that had displaced ‘their’ party. Of course this perception had weakened over time, as Welsh people joined the party. Yet even though they themselves may now have voted Labour – due to it having become the only viable opposition to the Tories – they still felt a certain pang of guilt, knowing that their parents and grandparents would have disapproved.
From the other side, due to its non-Welsh roots, and its rejection of the ‘package’, there was always within the Labour Party, particularly in the south east, a lurking suspicion of Welshness, with undisguised anti-Welshness often breaking to the surface. This has persisted to the present day. It goes a long way to explaining why a Welsh Government refuses to manage Wales in the interests of the Welsh. It explains the squandering of precious funding on the Third Sector shysters of the ‘Poverty Industry’. It explains the defeat of devolution in 1979. It goes a long way to explaining why Wales has no financial institutions of her own, few indigenous industries, and a colonial relationship with England. Only a political party with the origins and outlook of ‘Welsh’ Labour could facilitate and celebrate the exploitation of Welsh resources by arguing that to do otherwise would be to give in to ‘narrow nationalism’.
I didn’t intend to give a history lesson here, but maybe Welsh people, inside and outside the Labour Party, should better understand this schizophrenic monster that bestraddles our country. And remember that for every Cledwyn Hughes there was a Neil Kinnock. For every Gwilym Prys Davies a George Thomas. Of course, this will mean nothing to those I started off writing about. Which, I suppose, proves my point.
UPDATE 08.02.13 Last night Swansea council voted to allow wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair on the northern outskirts of the city. During the debate it was argued that Mynydd y Gwair is a valuable recreation area, where people can walk and enjoy the views looking up towards the Brecon Beacons or out over the Severn Sea. One Labour councillor disagreed. In her Llansamlet ward people can’t afford cars, and so are unable to reach Mynydd y Gwair, which she seemed to think was reserved for rich people with 4 x 4s.
The land in question is owned by the Duke of Beaufort, one of the richest men in England, who owns a great deal of land around Swansea. Four years ago he was paid £280,000 by Swansea council for graciously allowing a new footbridge over the River Tawe, near the Liberty Stadium. The Mynydd y Gwair turbines will be erected – and the subsidies milked – by the massive German company RWE. So to spite the protesting local rich folks – in reality, farmers with old pick-ups grazing sheep on the mountain – the Swansea Labour Party decided to destroy a beauty spot and in so doing further enrich an English lord and a German multinational.
This defeat of the Welsh is doubtless being celebrated today by the brothers and sisters of Swansea’s English Labour Party. They can crack open another bottle of organic llama piss and congratulate themselves on ensuring that in the years ahead vast sums of money will be pumped to such deserving and needy recipients. While those poor souls in Llansamlet, condemned to poverty and public transport, will be paying for it all through rocketing electricity bills.
Yesterday I noticed a story on the BBC West Anglia website about a ‘summit’ to tackle youth unemployment. Not a ‘meeting’ or a ‘conference’, but a summit, no less; the sort of thing that kept us on the edge of our seats during the Cold War. Serious stuff, eh! This particular summit brought together in Newport First Minister Carwyn Jones and Secretary of State David Jones, along with various other loafers with nothing better to do. I quickly realised that this was another case of the clueless getting together for reassurance that political ‘opponents’ were equally devoid of ideas, and all hoping that this gathering might be misinterpreted by an incompetent media as ‘doing something’. The news moved me to Tweet.
Later in the day, on the BBC WA 6:30 news there was a lengthy report from Merthyr (regrettably this seems to be no longer available on BBC iPlayer), about an organisation called Merthyr Youth (MY), a kind of self-regulating youth club for kids from the age of eleven. My doubts about Merthyr Youth began with this poster (left ) on the wall, making me think, ‘Surely kids of 14 (and older) are too young to work. And aren’t they supposed to be getting advice on employment in school and college?’ The more I saw of MY, and its Deputy Director, Jack Law, the more I thought to myself, ‘this looks like yet more Third Sector duplication’ (of work being done by other agencies). A thought strengthened by young Mr Law himself. For although this was in Merthyr, his accent did not suggest Gurnos or Dowlais, or anywhere nearby. All that was missing from the growing impression of this being another example of a problem I commented on very recently was the usual Third Sector funding. So I did a little Googling on Merthyr Youth, and Jack Law. I was not disappointed.
Very quickly I learnt that Merthyr Youth was given £49,300 in December by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to make six short films about the town’s ‘diversity’. (Yet more ‘Everybody but the Welsh’ bollocks?) Jennifer Stewart, head of HLF Wales was quoted as saying, “We are delighted to support this project which will enable young people to research the history of Merthyr Tydfil’s migration and by so . . . ” Hang on! “Migration”! Is she saying Merthyr came from somewhere else? The report also made a number of mentions of “drama” and “musical theatre”. Merthyr Youth also received £300 from the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund “to record an album of songs”! It therefore seems reasonable to assume that other grants have been applied for and, possibly, gained. Though the Merthyr Youth website makes no mention of any funding received.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers, and others knowledgeable on the machinations of the Third Sector, that much of the HLF money will be used to pay a Project Manager. According to the MY website the successful applicant started in the job on December 1st, but the website neglects to name him or her. A rather worrying omission seeing as we are dealing now with grant funding. Another thing, I couldn’t help but notice that the whole application process was rather, well . . . rushed. Deadline for applications on November 16th, interviews November 20th, start job on December 1st.
Makes me wonder how well it was advertised, and for how long. Another curiosity is that there is no mention at all of the post of Project Manager, let alone a name, in the Wales Online piece (linked to above) of December 13th, even though this piece dealt exclusively with the project twelve days after the Project Manager was due to start. Was a Project Manager appointed? If so, who is it? If not, why not?
I made mention above of MY’s emphasis on the performing arts. Which should be no surprise seeing as young Jack is a bit of a thespian himself, being director of the Broken Leg Theatre Company. Now I have no way of knowing what the connection is – if any – between Merthyr Youth and the theatre company, certainly there is no mention of the company on the MY website. So it may be an entirely separate venture to Merthyr Youth. If so, and just in case, I have a word of fatherly advice for Jack. In my studies of the Third Sector I have come across a number of cases in which grants have been awarded to persons running charities or the like who simultaneously run their own companies operating in the same, or a closely associated, sphere. This often leads to, um, ‘confusion’, with funding and equipment given to the charity being used by the private company.
So good luck to Jack, I say. He’s obviously found his niche, and at an early age he’s already learning his way to the troughs. This could be the start of a long career in the Third Sector . . . using money that could be better spent elsewhere duplicating work that others are – or should be – doing. But hey! even though Jack is a mere minnow in a sea of sharks it all helps funders pretend they’re disbursing money ‘imaginatively’; it gives photo opportunities to politicos and other pond life; and it helps the ‘Welsh’ media fill pages and air time. Everybody’s a winner . . .
. . . Until that is you give a bit more thought to those kids in Merthyr. Remember them? That’s what it’s all supposed to be about – the blight of youth unemployment. How many of them do you think are going to get a worthwhile job out of this circus? I guarantee that, as with so much of the Third Sector in Wales, everyone will get a slice of the cake, while those the project is supposed to be helping will be lucky to see the crumbs.
All because of this stinking colonial system that guarantees Welsh poverty; poverty that is then celebrated and perpetuated by our local politicians for their own political advantage. Think about that! Both the London government and the Cardiff government share the goal of keeping Wales poor. Resulting in the grotesquery of ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘fighting for Wales’ by blaming others, ‘sending messages to London’, and funding its charlatan cronies in the Third Sector, rather than actually doing anything to build a Welsh economy.