Not for the first time on a Sunday evening me and the wife settled down to watch a new series, and not for the first time she found herself on her own after 15 or 20 minutes. For I’ve just given up on another Sunday television series, this time The Village, on BBC 1. Tonight, as before, it seemed as if somebody in the distant past had hit on a formula – lost England, sensitive boy, mysterious woman, a few weirdos, etc – and now the formula is being flogged to death.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker myself for ‘the England that is lost’. Two of my very favourite poems deal with a similar theme; Goldsmith’s Deserted Village and Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. A few decades later comes Cobbett, who may have got a few things wrong in Rural Rides, but thunders and fulminates his prejudices in a way that few since have been able to equal. (And I for one envy.) But of course, these are works of genius, written by men who cared and felt . . . not ‘writers’ banging stuff out with one eye on the US market.
I say that because it’s glaringly obvious that the England being presented in these Sunday evening nostalgia-wallows must resonate with our transatlantic cousins. It must correlate with their preconceptions of Ye Olde England. In fact, I’ve mentioned writers, but these bloody things are now so formulaic that there could be a computer program doing it all. As I write this an electronic intelligence could be churning out She Was Only An Ostler’s Daughter But She Knew Where To Get Her Oats.
The other thing that causes the old grey matter concern is why Larkrise meets Downton seems to be the dominant ‘drama’ genre on prime-time television. For a start, it’s questionable how real these depictions of bygone England are, outside the misconceptions of Elmer and Lulu-Belle in Cincinnati. So what sort of an England do these ‘dramas’ portray? Perhaps most obviously, it is a very structured society, in which everyone knows their place. There is an Empire on which the sun never sets. Johnny Foreigner is either patronised or given a jolly good kicking. And there are never – how can I put this? – ‘persons of colour’ in these works. Everyone is white, English and Christian. That’s it! – this is Ukip TV!
For this ‘drama’ format is nothing less than a form of national escapism for our English neighbours. These regular Sunday fantasies are the England many of them would like to return to. If Monsieur Farage was put in charge of the BBC (and the way things are going, who’s to say he won’t?) we’d probably have some mustachioed old fart in the 1890s, with uncanny foresight, warning that ‘England’ should never enter into any political or economic union with her continental neighbours.
All of which I can understand. Those English who don’t believe that the X Factor is the most important thing happening are confused and worried by a country clearly on the slide. What I cannot understand is why this nationalistic and escapist dross is forced on us Welsh. Haven’t we got a computer program of our own that could produce something better? Perhaps even writers?
1/ Today the WM managed to run a front page story (continued inside) on what the rest of the media knows as the Swansea measles epidemic (even making an international disaster alert site!) . . . but the Mule managed to cover the story without mentioning Swansea! Instead, the writer, Julia McWatt, wrote the report in terms of health board areas, which would have meant nothing to most people. Suggesting the story may have been written up from press releases by someone not familiar with the area involved. Though I’ve noticed over the years that the Mule is rather good at not mentioning Swansea, even in stories that obviously concern the city. Either that, or it gives a clunky reference that betrays the source of the story as being outside of Wales, as with the next example.
2/ For also in today’s issue (‘Business in Wales’ section) was a piece about house prices in UK cities – what is it with the Mule and property values? (Click to enlarge.) There was absolutely nothing of Welsh interest in the story, no Welsh references whatsoever, until the final paragraph, which said, Swansea in South Wales came in 11th place on the “most affordable list”, with prices at 4.43 times average local earnings. Though as it wasn’t in quotation marks, I assumed that the last paragraph was written by the claimed author, Siôn Barry. Almost certainly this piece was lifted from some external source, but Siôn Barry is Welsh so why would he think it necessary to tell his readers that Swansea is in “South Wales”!
And while most of us would regard Swansea’s relatively low house prices as a good thing, knowing how the Mule sees these matters – forever eulogising over property prices soaring beyond the dreams of locals in places like Solfa and Abersoch – this piece may have been an attempt to portray Swansea unfavourably. Moving on, and saving the best for last . . .
Unfortunately, this piece turned out to be one of the worst timed articles in journalistic history, for on the very day it was published, young Eli Walker was undergoing scheduled surgery, which means he won’t be playing for anyone for around three months. Now if there’s one thing I thought we could depend on it was the Wasting Mule’s rugby coverage. You know, more spies inside the Welsh game than the KGB used to have at Oxbridge. But if the Wasting Mule no longer has its finger on the pulse of Welsh rugby then what is there left to believe in? Oh! the anomie!
28.03.2013: They just keep coming!: Today’s issue gave us another gem, this time in the Letters pages. A writer warns of the damage done to peat bogs by wind turbines and makes a reference to Mynydd y Gwair, on the northern outskirts of Swansea. (Dealt with here, here and here.) Yet it was reproduced by the Mule as “Mynyddy Gwais”! How the hell can a rag calling itself ‘the National Newspaper of Wales’ allow such an obvious mistake to appear?
As from next week Scotland will have just one police force dealing with everything from Glasgow gangsters to Shetlands’ sheep rustlers. Scotland, with approaching twice the population of Wales and almost four times the land area. Here in Wales we shall plod on justifying four separate police forces on the grounds that Holyhead is nothing like Fishguard, while Llangollen and Brecon might as well be on different planets. OK, so policing is not a devolved issue. But it should be; and it could have been if New Labour had given us a more respectful and workable form of devolution.
As with police forces, so with our 22 councils, a system that has run out of defenders yet staggers along because the Labour Party fears the consequences of culling so many of its councillors. Then there are 7 health boards (plus their impotent ‘shadows’, the health councils). How can the Welsh Management argue it is building a national health service when it fragments decision-making so that those responsible for health in one region look over the border rather than seek, or demand, solutions within Wales?
And how can we ignore the Third Sector? In answer to an FoI I was recently told that the Welsh Management is funding no fewer than 30 schemes across the country ‘helping people back into employment’. Do we really need 30 such schemes in a country the size of Wales? Why not put that money into creating real jobs rather than using it to disguise the fact there are so few jobs . . . and to hell with the hangers-on in the Third Sector, however loyal they may be to Labour.
One issue here is clearly unnecessary duplication. A problem that is almost inevitable in a country dominated by an outdated Statist ethos. For why have one person doing a job when you can have two, and thereby create the illusion of two jobs? A system administered by politicians and others who are good at spending money but have no idea how to generate it, beyond begging.
Responsible for this mess (at least within Wales) is the Labour Party, today driven by little more than the political equivalent of an ancient blood-feud, revived periodically to remind voters of how evil the Tories are. About the only other thing helping Welsh Labour hang on to its vote is the distance it manages to keep – in the public imagination if nowhere else – between itself and its ideology-free masters in London. Done by keeping Wales poor, blaming someone else, then, ostentatiously managing the poverty it must perpetuate to maintain its political grip. The poverty that is then used to justify the colonial relationship with England. As the flowchart explains.(Click to enlarge.)
Having saved most of our people from the corrupting influence of prosperity, and convinced too many of them that the noblest ambition is humbly accepting poverty, in a colony that can aspire to nothing more, the brothers and sisters then frolic and posture on the moral high ground, from where they survey their fiefdom, ‘Caring Wales’. Where everyone is welcome, and everything will be paid for . . . for something will turn up.
(In fact, if you want to delve into literature to explain this Welsh Government then Wilkins Micawber, hoping something will turn up, and Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers, are almost unavoidable. Carwyn Micawber and Edwina DuBois?)
But over the horizon I see threats to this idyll. One being that down in the amoral lowlands of Tory England plans are afoot that might prove a test for Labour’s vision. David Cameron has promised legislation to deny social housing to immigrants until they have lived in England for at least 2 years. If enacted, this legislation would apply only to England. So what will be the Welsh Management’s response? The immediate impulse will be to flaunt their moral superiority by not enacting similar legislation. Which will mean . . . what?
Well, if you’re coming from Bangladesh, then no doubt you’d prefer to move to an English city where there are other Bangladeshis. But if the only social housing available is in Bargoed or Blaenau Ffestiniog, then some will inevitably settle for those towns. Pretty soon, the Welsh Management and its cronies in the Third Sector will realise that the moral high ground can be a very expensive neighbourhood. Unless, of course, the UK Government – partly to offload a few ‘problems’ and partly in order to hold Wales up as an example of why not to vote Labour – is prepared to fund it all. For keeping Wales poor serves the interests of both Conservatives and Labour. Knowing they have no chance of winning a majority in Wales the Tories may even view funding Labour’s lunacies as money well spent.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Wales is potentially a very wealthy country. That we are poor today is due to the colonial relationship with England, aided by the corruption and self-interest of the Labour Party, and ‘policies’ such as actually funding our ‘brain drain’! Yet unfortunately Labour faces no real threat, because the party that once hoped to topple Labour has revised down its ambitions. The best it hopes for now is to be a very junior partner to the party destroying Wales. Which means the opposition must come from somewhere else
CARDIFF: The council of our capital city is advertising for an ‘adviser’ to the council leader . . . though not in Wales, for the advertisement appeared in the Sunday Times. Which I assume means that knowledge of Cardiff, or Wales, is not required. As this article makes clear, the news has provoked a debate to which a number of people have made interesting contributions.
Local Government consultant Jeff Jones wants to see full-blown political appointees as in the USA. Which is where we’ve been heading since New Labour came to power in 1997 and took on what were clearly political appointees as ‘special advisers’ to the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet members. Though this was never a satisfactory arrangement, partly due to these appointees’ ambivalent relationship with the civil service and, towards the end of Blair’s tenure of No 10, advisers for Blair and Brown being engaged in almost open warfare. Plaid Cymru’s Neil McAvoy also sees this danger and makes the same point while generally endorsing Jeff Jones’ argument.
One problem here is the ambiguity surrounding the exact status of this ‘Head of Cabinet Office’ post. Given that Cardiff is controlled by Labour we can safely assume that whoever is appointed will be a Labour Party member or supporter. Yet we shall be asked to believe that the post is politically neutral. Another worry for me is that the post was advertised as offering an opportunity to ‘shape policy’. Now, with Caerffili and Carmarthenshire fresh in our minds, do we really want more unelected people exercising control over our local authorities?
The answer to this and many other problems in local government is to give us eight new authorities with no more than thirty full-time councillors per authority. Attract a better quality of councillor prepared to make the council a job and a mission rather than using it as an excuse to earn beer money from handing out contracts and planning consents to friends, family, and those belonging to the same organisation.
CARMARTHENSHIRE: Today’s Wasting Mule carried an incredible letter from Siân Caiach, former Plaid Cymru luminary, more recently Plaid’s nemesis in Llanelli. (Standing as an independent in 2011 she gained 2,004 votes, while Plaid Cymru lost to Labour by just 80.) That aside, what she says in her letter is so damning of both Carmarthenshire County Council, and the Welsh Government, that answers must be forthcoming to explain the lie upon lie that almost destroyed one of the area’s traditional industries. No, more than that, part of its culture. And the culture of a wider area. How many of us used to enjoy a packet of cockles on a Saturday night as the sellers made their way from pub to pub, jostling with the ladies trying to make us feel better about ourselves (and to banish or sublimate our carnal thoughts of them) by buying War Cry?
It is difficult to imagine the pond life running Carmarthenshire – whether that be the Nazi-Soviet pact nominally in charge, or he who breaks butterflies on wheels – being so utterly and bastardly irresponsible as to do what is alleged by Siân Caiach, just so they could build yet more houses in the county, for yet more English colonists. But if that is the case, then we can almost guarantee that the English Planning Inspectorate is lurking somewhere in the shadows.
CYMRU: In my post of February 18th I told you I had submitted two Freedom of Information requests. One asking how many publicly-funded bodies we have in Wales ‘helping people back into employment’, and the other asking how much we are paying for Tŷ Hywel, formerly Crickhowell House, so central to the scam that was the regeneration of Cardiff docks. The reply to the first of those FoIs was dealt with here a few days ago. I now have some answers to the second FoI, and boy! do they make interesting reading!
First, let’s recap. Crickhowell House is an office block in Cardiff Bay, built in the late 1980s by Associated British Ports. (Head honcho, Lord Crickhowell, formerly Nicholas Edwards MP for Pembrokeshire and Secretary of State for Wales from 1979 to 1987.) The building cost some £11m to build and no one wanted to buy or lease it until 1993, when the Tory-controlled Welsh Office under David Hunt helped out his old friend, Lord Crickhowell, by taking out a 20-year lease on the building for the use of the Welsh Combined Health Services Authority. Crickhowell House was far too big and the WCHSA never used much more than a third of it. You will probably remember that from 1999 to 2006 Crickhowell House was used as the Assembly building. The lease was said to be worth just over £2m a year plus maintenance and other costs. So this Tory old pals act takes us from 1993 to 2013.
Next, when the deal was done with Associated British Ports to lease for 150 years, and for just £1, the land on which the Senedd today stands, it was rumoured that Ron Davies secretly agreed to extend the lease on Crickhowell House for a further 5 years. So that would have been another £10m+. It was even being suggested there was an option to extend the lease further. So in order to get at the facts I submitted my FoI. The answers to which may be read here.
The facts are that Tŷ Hywel is leased until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m + VAT. Yet the total figure given, in response to my question, “What will be the total expenditure, since 1993, of leasing,improving and maintaining Tŷ Hywel?” the answer given is £40,654,093 (from 1999), which can’t be right, can it? By my calculations, at £2.3m a year the lease from 1999 to 2032 comes to £75.9m. Add in the six years from 1993 to 1999 and it’s closer to £90m! And that’s without VAT, maintenance and all the other costs! I’d like you to give some thought to these figures, see if they, literally, add up.
The reply contained the names of two bodies that I just had to check, because they were new to me. The first was the Assembly Commission, described as “the corporate body of the National Assembly for Wales”. And Crick Properties, who now own Tŷ Hywel. The Assembly Commission is made up of the Presiding Officer and four other AMs with various portfolios. Today’s Commission members are shown in the panel (click to enlarge) though it would have been Dafydd Elis Thomas who led the Commission when it decided to extend the lease on Tŷ Hywel in 2007. Crick Properties turned up little on Google, apart from this intriguing snippet on Slugger O’Toole. But given the name, it must be reasonable to assume a connection with Lord Crickhowell.
Another thought struck me as I digested the astronomic figures for Tŷ Hywel. We like to pride ourselves in Wales on the fact that we rejected Private Finance Initiatives. But remember this; in addition to £2.3m + VAT per annum lease, the Assembly Commission is also responsible for upkeep and renovation of the building. So if Tŷ Hywel, a building that will end up costing us well over £100m – yet is said to have sold in 2009 for £31m – is not a PFI, then what is? And bear in mind that the sale price in 2009 was greatly inflated by the fact that the Assembly Commission had agreed – in 2007 – a lease extension to 2032. Which means that had they refused to extend the lease, then the Assembly Commission might have been able to buy the building for considerably less than £31m.
So there you are, mes enfants; three stories which, in their own way, paint a depressing picture of public life in Wales today. Lies being told, public money being squandered, the interests of the people ignored and democracy treated with contempt. Why do we bother playing this game we can’t win? And if we could win it, would the victory be worth it?
The leader of the Labour gang now running Swansea council is David Phillips who, despite the name, is English, and from Liverpool. It seems he came to Wales to take a job with Customs and Excise, in Pembrokeshire, some 40 years ago. Leaving after little more than 20 years service he drifted up to Swansea and became an adviser on VAT and similar issues to small businesses. For personal and council purposes Phillips has always signed himself ‘David Phillips AIIT, MInstD’.
The first set of letters stand for Associate of the Institute of Indirect Taxation. Though some unkind souls – even within his own party – questioned whether he should be using this ‘qualification’. Not least because in August last year the Institute of Indirect Taxation merged with the Chartered Institute of Taxation. (You must have seen it on the News!) It was also suggested that his membership of said body had lapsed years before the merger.
The Institute of Directors on the other hand is extant and going strong. A global body catering mainly for those on the boards of large companies . . . odd, because Phillips the tax adviser was never much more than a one-man band. There was also the problem that claiming to belong to this organisation, and perhaps having shared a fat cigar with these oppressors of the proletariat, did not go down well on the barricades with the more right-on members of Swansea Labour Party.
Anyway, things came to a head recently when an FoI was lodged asking for clarification of these letters and whether the Great Leader was entitled to flaunt them. The response was swift and Ealing-esque. Staff at the Civic Centre swung into action deleting AIIT and MInstD from all publications, physical and electronic. So we can safely assume that Phillips was not entitled to use these letters.
Leaving me to ask: What sort of man tries to impress people with letters after his name that he is not entitled to use? (And should such a man be a council leader?) Having been responsible for the expense, will Phillips now recompense the council tax payers of Swansea for council staff having to spend time covering up his little ‘oversight’?
STAYING IN SWANSEA . . .
Intelligence reaches me of regular deliveries of wind turbines through the docks, bound for Brechfa Forest, Mynydd y Betws and other sites. These turbines are coming in from, Spain, China, the USA and Denmark. On foreign-crewed and foreign-owned ships that do a quick turnaround, thereby denying the local bars and massage parlours a chance to lighten the sailors’ wallets.
The turbines then cause massive traffic problems as they are transported on specialist haulage units brought in from outside of Wales, to be erected by construction crews also from outside of Wales. Once up, they will be milking the subsidies making massive profits for their foreign owners. Often on land owned by government agencies (Forestry Commission) or English absentee landlords (Duke of Beaufort). And of course, once erected, they will not provide any employment. So who in Wales – dockers apart – benefits from these rapacious, ugly monsters? I link this with the above story because of course Swansea Labour Party is in love with wind turbines, and recently voted to inflict them on Mynydd y Gwair.
Of perhaps greater concern is a rumour circulating locally that not all the wind turbines arriving in Swansea docks and / or being erected in Wales are new. If so, is any agency empowered to monitor these turbines, check that they are up to scratch? And seeing as the effective working life of a new turbine was recently lowered from 25 to 15 or 16 years, what is the life expectancy of a second-hand machine? How could it be calculated? And who’s going to remove them and engage in genuine environmentalism – by repairing the damage done – when they cease to be of use?
Around the middle of 2010 the Welsh Management launched its Genesis Cymru Wales 2 programme. Yet another ‘back to work’ scheme, this one aimed at female single parents, NEETS and others; the programme partly funded by the European Social Fund and administered by local authorities. Here’s a link to the scheme in Pembrokeshire. Reading the blurb brings on an attack of deja vu because I’ve read it so many times before: the usual mix of pious hopes, unattainable objectives and Third Sector jargon designed solely to justify wasting spending EU funding.
Genesis never delivered what it promised and so it was no surprise when, in January, it was announced that the scheme was closing early after failing to meet its targets. This brought on a Freedom of Information request in which I asked:
How many groups, bodies, schemes etc in Wales arebeing funded by the Welsh Government or other bodies to ‘help people back into employment’?
How many people are employed by these organisations?
How many of these running and employed by ‘back to work’ agencies are Labour Party members?
The reply may be found below (click to enlarge). In the 2007 – 2013 Programme the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) funded no less than 30 schemes across Wales. Genesis was targeting: “females”, “lone parents (male and female)”, “individuals who find it difficult to find or access work due to health problems”, “16 – 18 olds who are not studying, training or working”, “individuals over the age of 50”, and “black and ethnic minority groups”. Fairly comprehensive – so who were the other 29 schemes targeting? And why do we pay taxes for Jobcentres and other government agencies to do the same work?
In fairness, I didn’t expect an answer to question 3 (though I bet it could quite easily be calculated). But the answer to question 2 is rather worrying. We are dealing here with large amounts of EU funding administered by the Welsh Management. This money has to be accounted for. The EU will want to know how it was spent; this I know from having dealt with WEFO myself. Yet I’m being told that, ” . . . the Welsh Government does not hold information on how many people are employed by these organisations . . . If this cavalier approach to using someone else’s money is typical of how things are done then it explains a lot.
First, it helps us understand the chronic duplication in these ‘back to work’ schemes, and explains their abject failure to deliver. Next, distributing funding after the manner of an inebriated seafarer is why Wales is so attractive to charlatan brothers and sisters from over the border. Then, after reading this, doesn’t it become easier to explain Awema and other rip-offs? Finally, what the Genesis episode shows us yet again is how EU funding has been squandered on Labour’s cronies and Leftist or New Age ‘schemes’ that have done nothing to improve the condition of of our people.
Footnote: Consider also this scheme, targeting exactly the same groups as Genesis. Is it a successor to Genesis, or was it running simultaneously? And is this the same group in an earlier incarnation? If so, how did a bunch of holistic ‘healers’, helping victims of sexual abuse, graduate to the big time and the ‘back to work’ racket?
During the week leading up to a big rugby match the Wasting Mule fills countless pages with increasingly hysterical pieces. Then, on the day of the game, the dam breaks to release a tide of bullshit that sweeps up all the hyperbole, ludicrous allusions, tenuous linkages and absurd analogies in its path to fill the pages of Saturday’s edition. And so it was before the England game.
Nowhere better than on pages 2 and 3, where one might normally expect to find news. Instead, on Saturday, we were treated to, ‘Seven Welsh icons to inspire us to a 7-point win’. A strange, beyond eclectic, choice of ‘icons’. For those of you who missed this contribution to national arousal here are the seven ‘icons’, with a few comments.
1 Jade Jones: Don’t know much about the girl, or her ‘sport’, taekwondo. I think she won something in last year’s Olympics (none of which I watched). Probably chosen because she’ll be fresh in people’s minds due to Boris’s Olympics. As for being an ‘icon’, surely it’s too early to tell. How many will remember her in 30 years?
2 Owain Glyndŵr: (Spelled without the accent in the Mule.) Described, yet again, as “self-styled Prince of Wales”. Curious. Owain was – and still is – accepted by the Welsh people in a way that Charles Windsor is not. So why is Glyndŵr depicted as the pretender, or the usurper, while we are asked to accept Carlo as the real thing?
3 Aneurin Bevan: Many of my socialist friends would applaud Nye’s inclusion. Which might be to miss the point of this article. For the Bevan section contained a passage of unadulterated bollocks that exemplifies perfectly what I’m saying here. Consider this: “Wales could be feeling the pressure of a Six Nations decider at home versus England. In fairness, anyone would. But Nye Bevan is a lesson of the things that can be achieved through sheer determination and adherence to their values”. This reminds me of that scene in Little Big Man where the old Indian recalls meeting the Great White Chief, and being told to ‘strive to endeavour to persevere’, or similarly patronising drivel.
4 Barry John: What a surprise! A figure from the recent past who might actually have been an influence on some of those taking the field on Saturday. Or possibly their fathers. No complaints here. But plenty with the next one.
5 Our Regiments:” . . . there can be no greater embodiment of Welsh pride, of commitment and professionalism than those serving in the Welsh regiments”. No greater embodiment of pride and commitment . . . to Britain, which, essentially, means England. So here, on the morn of the big game against England, the Wasting Mule seeks to whip up Welsh patriotism by urging loyalty to England, and her monarch, her army and her other institutions! A perfect example of what I discussed in the previous post: Welsh patriotism confined to sport, to be turned off once the celebrations are over, and always subordinate to an over-arching British loyalty. Eighty-minute ‘patriotism’.
6 Shirley Bassey: Now, with the best will in the world, I can’t quite figure out how Shirl gets on this list of inspirational Welsh icons. We all love her, but I cannot imagine Gethin Jenkins in the dressing room before kick-off working his men up into a frenzy with, ‘We goin’ out there to hammer them English, right – an’ we gonna do it for Shirl!’ I can only conclude that with no one else on the list from Cardiff the Cardiff-centric Mule had to find someone, anyone; it might as well have been Ivor Novello Davies.
7 Henry VII: This section made the inevitable comparison between the ‘Welsh’ victory at Bosworth over a larger English army and our rugby team facing an unbeaten and much fancied England. Fair enough. But then it also highlighted one of the Mule‘s many failings. For to believe whoever wrote this, our ancestors followed Henry to Bosworth because he’d been born in Pembroke. Wrong. The Welsh supported Henry because he was one of the Tudors of Penmynydd. It wouldn’t have mattered if he’d been born in Paisley or Paris, he was a Tudor, the Welsh regarded him as one of their own, and that’s what mattered. What this shows is complete ignorance of how important lineage was to our forefathers and how much emphasis, even today, we Welsh place on who ‘your people’ are, and to whom, you ‘belong’.
There was more; page after unrelenting bloody page of it; but as many of you will be suffering from hangovers I’ll spare you. Trouble is, tomorrow could be even worse. So adjust your woggle and Be Prepared! Or buy another paper.
As the media reminds us unremittingly, there is a rugby game in Cardiff on Saturday between Wales and England. Though, if one wanted to be cynical – and I often do! – then, seeing as ‘our’ team is the creation of the Welsh Rugby Union, it could be argued that what we shall actually see is a team representing England and another team representing a corrupted interpretation of Welsh identity.
Why am I picking on the Welsh Rugby Union? Well, basically because the WRU has always been a bastion of the forelock-tugging element in Welsh life, those for whom pride in Wales and Welshness are permissable up to the point where it’s acknowledged that Welshness is a subordinate identity to what they might describe as Britishness but is, in reality, Englishness. They are what the Irish might call ‘shoneens’.
This attitude was exhibited at the very formation of the Welsh Rugby Union when, instead of adopting a Welsh emblem, the founders went for a central European badge with a motto in German that represents the heir to the English throne. The WRU has continued in this obsequious vein for well over a century. Most recently with its introduction of the Prince William Cup, competed for between Wales and South Africa! (Most of whose players over the years have been republican Afrikaners, or Boers.)
But let’s focus on Saturday’s game. England are going for the Grand Slam after beating Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy. Having lost only to Ireland, Wales can deny England this prize, and also win the Championship themselves, if they beat England by seven points. So why am I not transported to paroxysms of frenzied patriotism, ignoring all else? Because that’s what they want. Rugby in Wales is bread and circuses twenty-first century style: Permissible patriotism and sanctioned Sais-bashing (up to a point).
‘Patriotism’ and national sentiment turned off and on like a tap. While the tap is running, and just like in the ancient festivals of misrule, we Welsh are allowed to get above ourselves, say and do things that would normally be frowned upon. But once the tap is turned off, it’s back to normal; to the normal condition of our country. For ask yourself, if we stuff the English by thirty points will it make Wales less poor? When the cloud of euphoria has evaporated will we find that England is no longer exploiting our water and other resources, not covering our country in wind turbines, has stopped dumping her undesirables on us?
Wales doesn’t need 80-minute ‘patriots’; Wales needs commitment for 365 days a year. Even so, enjoy the game, but remember, even a Welsh victory will be nothing more than a harmless and enjoyable distraction from, rather than the answer to, Wales’ problems. They’ll still be there when you sober up.
A few hours before the game, at mid-day, I hope to be at a rally outside the Senedd. A number of groups have combined to organise a protest against the Local Development Plans being forced on our local authorities by the English Planning Inspectorate acting in the name of the Welsh Government. In fact, no less than 320,000 new homes.
There is no indigenous demand for this number. Most, especially in rural areas, will be unaffordable to all but a few Welsh people. In fact, all rural areas of Wales already have an oversupply of housing, both private and social, so why are we being told to build more? The answer is inescapable – to accommodate yet more English colonists.
This is why organisations including Cambria Band, Cyngor Pobl Gogledd Cymru, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, Cymuned, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh National Rights Movement will be represented at the rally. They will be calling for a new approach to planning in Wales, based on what we need. Radical, I suppose, but only in a colonialist context such as we find in Wales.
So if you’re in Cardiff on Saturday, rather than getting tanked up on Brains and faux patriotism, why not come down the Bay to experience the real thing? Among people who’ll still be patriots next week. Learn about what really matters in this country; the things that will be important long after most people have forgotten what happened at the Millennium Stadium.
The contributions being made to the Silk Commission by our masters from London, and other recent statements, make it clear with what contempt we Welsh are regarded. Let’s start with some examples from the recent 114-page submission to the Commission by the UK Government. First, in arguing against a separate prison system for Wales the document lists four insurmountable obstacles. These are:
There is no male prison in North Wales
There is no female prison in Wales
There is no high security prison in Wales
HMP Usk and Prescoed takes prisoners from England
All true, of course. Though when I read that I thought I’d mis-read the argument; thinking these were reasons for having a separate prison system. But no, the UK Government has, in all seriousness, listed these shortcomings of its own system, this clear evidence of neglect, as justification for persisting with that system! Using that ‘argument’ no deficiencies would ever be remedied. ‘We can’t give you the power to build a road from A to B because there is no road from A to B’. As for taking prisoners from England, well . . . um . . . couldn’t this facililty just stop taking prisoners from England. Maybe take some of the Welsh prisoners in English facilities?
Later in the document, at page 104, water is discussed, and this is what it has to say in justification of the current arrangement: “This area is inevitably complex. Put at its most straightforward, this is because the border between England and Wales does not reflect the river basins or river catchments which span the boundary. The water and sewerage industries are undoubtedly one of the most complex areas in terms of the Welsh devolution settlement.”
And you thought it was simply a matter of us being ripped off! Silly Billy! It’s all to do with basins and catchment areas. You know, like with the Nile, where Egypt rules the waves all the way upstream. Or the Danube, for everybody knows that Romania controls all the water resources right back to the river’s Black Forest origins, because of the international laws relating to river basins, catchment areas, etc., etc. As the map shows, only one country is seriously disadvantaged by this basins and catchment areas bollocks. And only one benefits hugely from it. No prizes for guessing.
This section on water provides quite a few laughs, I recommend it. Possibly also something to worry about. Because if I’ve read the document properly then there is a draft Water Bill knocking about of which part of the submission, 22.29, says: “This is a change from the current approach to regulation of the water sector in that it removes the powers of the Welsh Ministers to determine the size of the market which may be served by the new entrant licensees.”So here we have the Silk Commission, looking into more powers for the Assembly and the Welsh Government, yet the Wales Office can actually submit a document that makes reference to taking powers away from Wales!
Other recent gems from London included the statement made in January by Damian Green, the Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice in Englandandwales, who said that there is “no real appetite” for devolving to Wales powers over police and criminal justice. That is, no appetite in Wales. Nonsense of course. As explained by Syniadau in this excellent post.
This reminded me of Peter Hain (so much does) and his fatuous arguments against holding a referendum on increasing the Assembly’s powers. The referendum that was held on March 3rd 2011 and won by a margin of two to one. Hain had always argued that we weren’t ready, that a referendum held too soon would be lost, and would damage the devolution process. As late as February 2011 Hain was blaming Plaid Cymru (In coalition with Labour at the time) for the referendum being held so soon, and fearing a low turnout which would invalidate the result. Hain’s thinking on the referendum even got a mention in WikiLeaks.
Allow me a wee digression before I proceed. Believe me, it is not without relevance to the subject under consideration. I recall watching some years ago a self-congratulatory bash held by the chief constables of the four Welsh forces. Some top cop was on his feet effusing about this and that. He glanced towards the chief constable of Gwent and made some insane reference to the “special conditions” of Gwent. Obviously a feeble attempt at justifying that conundrum which has foxed greater minds than his – why should Gwent have a separate police force. But it made me think . . . ‘What “special conditions”? Is Gwent an alpine state? Is the population Buddhist? Spanish speaking, perhaps?’ The scene brought home to me yet again what idiots people make of themselves when trying to justify that which either cannot be justified, or else that for which they cannot give the honest answer.
And so it is with the intellectual quality of the arguments laid out above. They would embarrass a 12-year-old. But they are what we expect from politicians looking for excuses because they can’t give their true reasons. They all boil down to the same thing: ‘It’s in England’s interests that these powers be withheld, but we’ll try to kid you that we’re doing it for your benefit’.
When you realise that; when you understand that these bastards are lying through their finely polished teeth, you have to wonder how they view us Welsh if they expect us to believe this bollocks. They must think we’re a bunch of knuckle-dragging primitives. And then you remember your history . . . or rather, their history. For the English and their native allies have always pulled this stunt – ‘You aren’t ready to do things for yourselves. Trust us and we’ll look after you . . . and of course your resources.’ ‘Mother England’ and her ‘children’. I think it’s time we told the old slag she’s never been our mother, so stop squandering our inheritance and go stand on your own two feet.
The Welsh Government has just received ‘2020’, a new report on the future of tourism compiled by the Tourism Sector Panel. I’ve been taking an interest in tourism for quite a few years and I’ve read a lot of such reports; this one, I’m afraid, was just another off the same production line. Summed up by what is grandly called “A new vision and ambition” Which says . . .
Like I say, I’ve read a lot of such documents over the years and this one is just another mish-mash of platitudinous bollocks and pious hopes. What does the ‘vision’ say? In essence: ‘In the next decade tourism in Wales will carry on much as it has for the past century. It will serve England’s needs and to hell with the lack of economic benefits accruing to the Welsh and the social and cultural damage incurred.’
For that’s always been the bottom line of ‘Welsh’ tourism – it was always English tourism taking place in a scenically more attractive, adjoining country that happened to be called ‘Wales’. Because it takes place in our country we Welsh are then expected to be proud of the fact that so many people – the vast majority of them English – want to come here. With the added joy that many more wish to move here permanently, for tourism is the main driving force behind English colonisation.
I won’t deny that in the early days of tourism, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Welsh people did benefit, but those days are long gone. What we have now is tourism run by strangers for strangers. You know how bad things are when there are English mountain guides in Wales! (Can you imagine going climbing in the Alps and learning that your guide is Jeremy from Reading! Sorry, I’d want somebody who’d been born and bred there; could read the weather . . . and the names of the streams and other features.)
Perhaps worse, our treacherous and incompetent politicos, devoid of ideas and energy, take advantage of tourism and present it as an ‘industry’, the ‘economic salvation’ of rural Wales, no less. These politicos pretend they put a lot of work and money into making tourism what it is today. Rubbish! Tourism in Wales would carry on even if the Welsh Government ignored it. Day-trippers would still infest the resorts of the north coast. Brummies would still flock to their mobile homes along Cardigan Bay. Walkers and climbers would still come here because we have the scenery and the topography. Nothing would change because we have no real control over it. It is, I repeat, English tourism that just happens to take place in Wales.
It needn’t be this way. It’s done differently in Scotland. If the political will was there we too could have a tourism industry that served us, without the destruction of our identity and despoliation of our homeland.
Before making direct comparisons, let’s familiarise ourselves with the figures for Scotland in 2010. For a start we see that Scotland earns only slightly less from English visitors than from Scots holidaying at home, £1,471m against £1,002m. In 2010 the ‘domestic markets’ provided 84% of Scotland’s tourists but only 65% of her income. A fuller breakdown of Scotland’s markets and spends can be found below. Curiously, Wales is half way up the table in numbers of visitors, but nowhere to be seen in the ‘spend per head’ column. (Surely there can’t be that many Cardis going to Scotland on holiday!)
Where Scotland scores heavily, and what shows up the real difference between the two countries’ (see table below), is in income from overseas visitors. Wales’ figure of 879,000 overseas tourists is dwarfed by Scotland’s total of 2,341,000, almost three times what Wales sees. Translated into hard cash, Scotland earned, in 2010, £1,444m against Wales’ £328m a year later. With the spend per head figure for overseas tourists in Scotland £616 to Wales’ £373. Not good, is it? And remember, most businesses in Scotland catering for tourists are owned and staffed by Scots. Another unfavourable comparison.
From whichever angle one looks at it, it soon becomes clear that Wales is simply being used by England to provide cheap holidays and breaks. The slogan might as well be: ‘Come to Wales, you won’t be expected to spend much’. Because this is so we have to encourage more and more low spending English tourists just to stand still . . . with all the attendant cultural and social damage already referred to plus the sheer numbers at certain times of the year slowing traffic and in other ways damaging the wider economy; bringing added expense to local authorities and similar agencies; plus adding strain to already stretched health services.
Let us be honest. If Wales was starting out today to develop a tourism industry to benefit Wales and Welsh people it would be a lot different to what we are now suffering. You don’t need to be an economist, or even a nationalist, to realise that Wales should be targeting overseas tourists for all sorts of reasons. Here are just a few:
Overseas tourists spend more money per head than ‘domestic’ tourists; over twice as much in Wales and nearly three times as much in Scotland.
Overseas tourists are more likely to want serviced accommodation (hotels, etc.) or quality self-catering, thereby creating jobs.
Overseas tourists are less likely to want to buy a holiday home, or to settle here, so they will not inflate property prices and place excessive demand on our housing stocks.
Of course the defeatist argument will run, ‘Ah yes, but Scotland can attract more overseas tourists because she has a higher international profile than Wales . . . whisky, golf, kilts, Braveheart . . . ’. Agreed. And mightn’t one way of remedying foreigners’ ignorance of Wales be to attract them here first as tourists? If Bangor University can attract so many students from China in such a short time why can’t Gwynedd attract their parents as tourists? Why don’t we at least try?
The new publication is yet another afraid or unable to think outside the box or challenge the orthodoxies that prevailed when Rhyl was still a vibrant tourist resort and Coney Beach was filled with miners. An ugly combination of anglophilia and economic illiteracy – ‘More tourists good; fewer tourists bad’. (Even when it could be fewer tourists spending more money!) The Tourism Sector Panel does not dare articulate it, but nevertheless believes that Wales’ only real function is to serve as a destination for low-spending English tourists. All the while refusing to even consider that there might be downsides to tourism in Wales.
Low-spending tourists result in second-rate facilities, low wages, and a race to the bottom. For a country becoming poorer year on year this ‘strategy’ is not only unhelpful, it exemplifies perfectly the lack of ambition to be found in those who rule us and those who advise them. Left to the likes of these, in ten or twenty years time Wales will be receiving food parcels and old clothing from Albania and Bulgaria. But don’t worry, for Wales will by then be an even cheaper destination for English tourists.