Carmarthenshire Council: Litigious, Vindictive, Dysfunctional, Secretive, Dictatorial, And Now, Anti-Welsh.

A lot has been written about Carmarthenshire council in recent years. Little of it complimentary. I have more than once referred to the Labour-Independent coalition running the council as a ‘Nazi-Soviet pact’. Though in fairness to both, the council is actually controlled and run by one of its employees, the chief executive, Mark James. This despot has a penchant for litigation, so I’d better be careful what I say . . .

Another regular complaint has been over the way the council has been cosying up to an evangelical church – the Towy Community Church – lavishing upon this crew funding, property and, most worryingly of all, responsibility for delivering certain services . . . to the vulnerable, the desperate . . . that’s right! – those most likely to succumb to proselytising. Just the way Green Pastures and so many other religious ‘charities’ operate. The Towy Community Church also keeps bad company, being linked with Mercy Ministries, who believe in demonic possession and other ‘evils’ that would have been familiar to the Inquisition or the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. One reason suggested for this odd linkage is the fact that Mark James himself belongs to yet another happy clappy, hunt-the-demons assembly, Living Word Church, and he often pops in for services at the TCC.

Living Word

What is it with the Labour Party, the secular and ‘progressive’ party that I grew up with, the Labour Party that promised us the sunlit uplands of rationality and progress, that it now associates with ranters wanting to drag us back to the Middle Ages? Anyway, moving on to the reason for this post.

Discover Carmarthenshire, the tourism arm of the council, recently put out a “video” (video!) advertising Llanelli to potential visitors. Then, “As part of the department’s research, the draft was sent to a family member of one of the members of staff, who works as a civil servant in Sheffield. She shared it with 10 of her colleagues”, reported the Evening Post today. The response from the Yorkshire audience was that the young boy doing the voiceover was “too Welsh”. Oh dear! So Discover Carmarthenshire found someone else, less Welsh, to do the voiceover.

Before considering the issues involved here it might be worth stating that as the story circulated on social media and in other ways the Evening Post seemed to hurriedly re-write it, with the council adding that the reason the boy was difficult to understand was because he had lost his front teeth . . . in which case, why use him in the first place? As the day went on the Evening Post also slipped in a quote from Plaid Cymru. At 3pm the Evening Post online Jonathan-Robertsversion stopped taking comments. At this point it might be worth reminding ourselves that the editor of the Evening Post is now Jonathan Roberts, former editor of what became Carmarthenshire Council’s out-house rag, the Carmarthen Journal.

Our first thought has to be for the boy involved. One minute the lad gets his moment of glory, the next he’s told, ‘Piss off, you’re too Welsh’. Or how was it explained to him? And what effect will it have on him, and his self-confidence? Here’s a young Welsh boy, in his own country, his own town, and he’s being told that it doesn’t pay to sound – or to be? – Welsh.

Someone in England doesn’t like the sound of a Welsh boy’s voice, so a Welsh local authority cravenly surrenders to that bigotry. If it was a Welsh person who took that decision then they should be ashamed of themselves. If, as seems likely, it was an English person, then what right have you to pass judgement on how we speak? Whose country is this? But whoever made the decision, it was an insult to all of us who speak with Welsh accents. Most especially, to the people of Llanelli.

Some time ago Llanelli town councillors discussed the possibility of the town breaking away from the county, it may now be time to re-visit that option. This insult should be used by all political parties claiming to represent Llanelli to force the ‘Welsh’ Government into ringing down the curtain on the insulting farce that is Carmarthenshire County Council.

Dressing On The Right

This post was originally intended as a follow-up to my post earlier this month on the Welsh Livery Guild. In the post I’d planned I was going to mention that The Welsh Livery Guild is not alone in being an outfit of the costumed Brit Unionist royalist Right. I intended mentioning two other organisations that have made an unwelcome appearance – or reappearance – in Wales, the Orangemen and the Legion of Frontiersmen.

I shouldn’t have to explain about the Orange Order and the part it’s played in Irish – and to a lesser extent, Scottish – history, but maybe a bit more needs to be said about the Frontiersmen. Formed in 1904, in the wake of the Second Boer War, and in imitation of the admired Boer mounted infantry, the Frontiersmen enjoyed a brief popularity, even respectability, before the death-blow fell – Western armies stopped using cavalry except for ceremonial purposes. To which might be added the disappearance, or diminishing acceptance, of the ‘gentleman adventurer’. From then on it was a struggle for the Frontiersmen to justify their existence. With the result that in recent decades, certainly in the UK, this outfit has increasingly attracted sad buggers who enjoy dressing up. (Here is the ARRSEPedia entry.)

Click to Enlarge

Here’s what purports to be the official website of the Legion of Frontiersmen GB. As you’ll see, there’s a homepage, and, er, that’s about it. Though note that they describe themselves as being made up of ex-military, ex-police, even ex-civil service(!), who collectively form “an organisation of Civil Defence volunteers”. Bear that in mind, for it will help explain the circumstances in which they see themselves operating. There’s even a TwitterTweet presence @FrontiersmenGB which seems to be nothing more than retweets. As I write this, the most recent of them is about a launch of the Mumbles lifeboat! Finally, there is also an Independent Overseas Command.

Normally, this penchant for dressing up and playing soldiers would be harmless enough, laughable even. But then, as I started making a few enquiries into the recent activities of the Frontiersmen in Wales I ran into a name I’d recently seen linked with the Welsh Livery Guild. And I saw others, who should have known better, also lending credibility to these Walter Mitty types. But of greater worry to us should be that Wales is specially favoured, with Countess Mountbatten’s Own Frontiersmen Welch Command. Though, confusingly, there may be another Frontiersmen outfit in Wales, the Welsh Auxiliary Corps of Volunteers.

You’ll note that the ARRSEPedia entry (above) is made by the ARmy Rumour SErvice or ARRSE. Here’s a link to an interesting thread on ARRSE from which I have plucked the piece on the left, though whoever posted it does not give the source. (Click to enlarge and read carefully.) Here’s a further thread from ARRSE.

WarlowNow if we read the extract on the left, it refers to a big get-together – or “Investiture” – for Frontiersmen and friends at All Saints Church, Penarth on March 5th, 2006. Among the good and great we see the name of “Commander John Curteis the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of South Glamorgan”. This can only be Commander J M D Curteis RD FCA DL who went on to become Master of the Welsh Livery Guild in 2009/10. The Brigadier Alun Thomas-Evans referred to seems to be the same man as this Freemason. Maybe readers will recognise other names from the host in attendance.

Among them Earl Kitchener, the mayors of Penarth and Barry, the local sea cadets, Gorseinon College band, and the ghost of Queen Victoria. (OK, I made up that last one.) What were these people thinking of to lend ceredibility to this bunch of inadequates! Or maybe they view the Frontiersmen differently. Just look at who was involved. The British Legion, the Freemasons, various Jugend groups, the Welsh Livery Guild, Unionist political parties . . . and it all takes place – where else! – in an Anglican church. If you want to find the underpinnings of the British State, and the interconnectedness of the different strands, here they are for you. How many more organisations are there like the Welsh Livery Guild and the Frontiersmen?

For all I know, these clowns in the Frontiersmen may be legally entitled to own and train with weapons. It’s a worrying thought. Especially when we put it into the wider picture. Going back to the Welsh Livery Guild for a moment, I note that Brigadier R E L Jenkins CBE DL, Master in 1998/99, (and another Deputy Lieutenant) is, or very recently was, Director of Movements for the British Army. Which fits with my rather disturbing theory.

Forget ‘civil defence’ and ‘natural disaster’, what I fear we have here is a network of like-minded groups organised to step into the breach if the great unwashed get too stroppy, or if events in Scotland or Wales take an unacceptably un-Unionist tack. These paramilitary and semi-secret groups are linked by an adherence to an extreme variant of the ‘Queen and Country’ outlook. Which means that no matter how many Welsh symbols they choose to use, no matter how much of the Welsh language they employ, these bastards are our enemies. They may be little more than a secret army-in-waiting. At least, that’s how I believe they see themselves.

Dennis Coslett, portrait
Commandant Dennis Coslett FWA

I note that on its website the Welsh Auxiliary Corps of Volunteers ” . . . offers support to the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales”. Was such an offer ever formally made? If so, what was the official response? Funny when you think about it, isn’t it . . . I can recall back in 1969 Cayo Evans and the Free Wales Army boys getting arrested and banged up for (among other things) wearing unauthorised uniforms. There were other arrests in 1990(?) of the Meibion Glyndwr Colour Party for a similar offence. So why can some in Wales wear contrived or illegal uniforms with impunity?

There can only be one answer. Despite the bollocks about us all being equal before the law, in practice, it all comes down to which side you’re on. If you support the English monarch, the Union, and all that goes with it – including the colonial status of Wales – then you can ponce about in a uniform that would bring tears to the eyes of the most emotional costume designer for a Ruritanian operetta. You can also give yourselves ludicrous ‘ranks’ (even impersonate military officers), award yourselves pretty medals, and nobody’s gonna touch you cos you’re on-side. Making Britain not a lot different to a third world country or a totalitarian state.

Footnote: I should explain, for those perhaps too young to know, that in the old days, when a young man about town (such as I once was) went to measure for a bespoke suit, the tailor, when taking the inside leg measurement, would ask, “Which side does Sir dress?” In other words, ‘Which side do you prefer to have them hang?’ It seemed an appropriate title for this piece considering the pricks I’ve been dealing with.

The Leaving Of London 2

More information has come to light that justifies another post on the subject of encouraged population movement out of London, and indeed, from other parts of England. To begin with, after seeing the video in the previous post a number of people contacted Swansea council. This was part of the response received by one inquirer.

“The information film I believe you are referring to relates to an old scheme called LAWN (London Authority Waiting List Nominations).  A video clip about the scheme has been circulated by email in recent days and we have received a number of enquiries about this. I can confirm the scheme is no longer operating in Swansea and has not done so since early 2007 . . .

 . . . There are currently no plans for large-scale transfer of individuals and households from London waiting lists into our own housing stock and we are not engaged in dialogue with London Councils to this effect. We have contacted our Housing Association partners locally who have confirmed the same”.

Now everything said by that Swansea council representative could be completely true . . . and totally misleading. Let’s start with the first paragraph. LAWN is the official or alternative name for the ‘Out of London’ scheme dealt with in the video. As this document, Housing mobility schemes, from the House of Commons Library, tells us, the LAWN scheme was privatised in February 2004 to a company called Scout Solutions UK, who cocked-up and soon lost the contract. The LAWN project is next administered by Housing Moves, also by Housing Partners which operates much more widely and claims to have formed “partnerships” with 660 councils and housing associations across the UK, all “finding innovative answers to difficult social housing mobility HomeSwapperproblems”. I haven’t had time yet to go through all Housing Partners’ “products”. (Right.)

Let’s go back briefly to the House of Commons Library document. If you follow the highlighted passages you’ll read (Page 6, ‘General Transfers’): “The (Housing Mobility) Taskforce (2010) recommended that transfer applicants should not have to compete alongside new applicants for local authority housing”. This seems to say that a social housing tenant transferring from say, London to Swansea, gets priority treatment. Was this recommendation adopted? The document also mentioned four other agencies engaged in social housing moves: HomeSwapper, House Exchange, Abritas (which seems to be a software company, like Scout Solutions), and Locata.

But it’s not just social housing. Here’s another interesting scheme I unearthed, the HomeStart Scheme, operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This gives people the chance to move into private rented accommodation. With funding provided for train tickets to view properties, a 12-month tenancy, deposit (bond) and rent paid in advance, plus financial help with removals. So let’s say someone from Kensington and Chelsea takes out a private rent in Ceredigion, but doesn’t like it . . . no probs, cos after 12 months they’ll qualify as ‘local’ and can demand social housing! And we can be sure that K & C isn’t the only council operating this scheme.

A very similar scheme is The Fresh Start Scheme, described as “A private renting out of London scheme”. If I’ve read the leaflet put out by Hackney Council properly, then it even urges Londoners to find their own property or area. Other London councils operate this scheme.

There clearly exists a bewildering plethora of schemes to get the unemployed and unemployable, the sick and disabled, and the economically unviable out of London. And there are other schemes I haven’t mentioned! Clearly, there’s a hell of a lot of duplication here. Duplication means money wasted. In the old days you put your name down for a council house and waited your turn . . . maybe had a quiet word with a councillor or two. Now Welsh social housing providers are linked into a UK-wide network that does not serve Welsh interests

City of WestminsterFurthermore, this ‘national’ network means that anyone can apply for a property anywhere, which, on one level, is perfectly acceptable, if people wish to move voluntarily. But when it’s tied in with regional disparities in wealth and property values, and there is a strong element of legal coercion involved, then it simply provides mechanisms for the richer parts of the UK to relocate their unwanted populations onto the poorer areas.

This would be bad enough were it happening within England, but when, fourteen years into devolution, it allows England to off-load problems onto poor Wales, then it becomes unacceptable.

Here are a few other points worth remembering:

  • There have long been in existence mechanisms for relocating criminals although, as you can imagine, getting information on such schemes is almost impossible, not least because of the involvement of the Probation Service for Englandandwales. I have dealt with this problem here and here. More recently in Neighbours From Hell.
  • These moves out of London are one-way tickets, as the video used in the previous post makes clear. Spelled out again by Ealing council: “Before joining this scheme it is important that you are sure you want to move out of London. If you decide you want to come back to Ealing later on, it is unlikely the council will be able to help you.” Make no mistake! These schemes are designed to get the ‘unproductive’ out of London for keeps.
  • Another advantage of taking a private rent is that the shittier the accommodation the quicker one qualifies for social housing in an area with which one may have no links. This is both an incentive to slum landlords and encouragement for those prepared to put up with shitty conditions for a short time.
  • Also remember that anyone qualifying as ‘homeless’ immediately goes to the top of the queue. In the area where I live the favourite trick is to come into the area, rent a small, totally inadequate caravan, then demand social housing and all the accompanying benefits.
  • The schemes listed above, and the conditions in which they operate, will soon be overwhelmed when the new rules start to bite. I’m talking now of the benefit caps and ‘spare room’ legislation.

Finally, returning to the statement from Swansea council, let’s look at the second paragraph I’ve used. There are currently no plans for large-scale transfer of individuals and households from London waiting lists into our own housing stock . . . “ There may be no “large-scale transfers” planned, but there is a steady influx due to all the schemes that the council and various housing associations operating in the city have signed up to. I suspect that “large-scale” was used here to cloud the issue.

Anyway, Swansea is just one council out of twenty-two. But this statement takes no account of English local authorities buying property in Swansea, or elsewhere in Wales. Nor does it consider English councils doing deals with private landlords in Swansea, and all over Wales. And it certainly doesn’t take account of the activities of charities, such as the YMCA and Green Pastures, dealt with in two recent posts, here and here. Putting it all together, there are certainly dozens, possibly hundreds, of schemes and organisations bringing into Wales people we don’t need, don’t want, and would be better off without.

This influx of a benefit dependent population, many of whom are criminals, or have alcohol or drug ‘dependency’ and other problems, is an increasingly widespread problem in Wales that more and more people are becoming aware of. It’s now time that the ‘Welsh’ Government got to grips with an issue that is costing Wales a great deal of money we can’t afford.

The Leaving Of London

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere in recent days of a video discovered on YouTube that advises Londoners to leave the Great Wen for other cities and areas under the ‘Out of London‘ scheme. The video itself focused on a man who had used the programme to move to Swansea. So view the film first and then I shall look at a few of the issues raised by this and other recent cases that have come to my attention.

Update 19:20: Credit where it’s due. I now learn that the video was discovered by the Welsh National Rights Movement and brought to the attention of a wider audience following the launch meeting of the Swansea-Llanelli branch in Gorseinon on Saturday afternoon.

The first thing to notice is I suppose that this man almost certainly does not work. If you think about it, few people are going to give up a job in London to move to Swansea or anywhere else. Which means that this scheme is aimed at the unemployed (and the unemployable), the long-term sick and disabled, and other ‘non-productive’ elements of society. Amongst these will be many criminals and other undesirables. Just as well that the video was presented by a pleasant young lady of mixed race, rather than a white man, or else more people might see this project for what it is – social engineering.

That being so, where is the benefit to Wales in encouraging people like this to move here? Obviously they will not be contributing anything in taxes, their spending power will be limited, they will become a burden on an NHS service that in Wales is already close to complete collapse. Accepting people like this is therefore insane. Though note that the man used as the example in the video seems acceptable enough . . . but of course those who made the video wouldn’t show a problem family, or an ex-con.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the London boroughs involved in this project are linked with housing associations in Wales. Swansea has more than its fair share of growth-obsessed housing bodies run by greedy and irresponsible people with no regard for the communities in which they are based. I am in no doubt that these housing associations get paid a nice bonus for taking in Londoners – and others – who, due to the problems I’ve just mentioned, then become a liability for someone else. Basically, Wales.

At its worst, this social engineering project, this population transfer, can result in the kinds of tragedy I highlighted in my recent post, Neighbours From Hell.

You will note that the video also says that moves can be arranged through private landlords. This is important in areas where there may be responsible social housing providers or a lack of social housing provision. Something brought home to me a week or so ago in a post on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. This particular post dealt with demographic and other changes observable in Bridgend county from the 2011 Census findings.

Nantymoel is a former mining community in the north of the county, and one of the poorest wards. Yet the 2011 Census showed a sharp rise in the percentages of both the English-born and English-identifying elements of Nantymoel’s population. Clearly, there has been an influx of English people . . . into an area with little work. Also, with very few social housing units. But cheap house prices. Other figures, such as the higher than average percentage of households with dependent children and lone parent households, suggest that the ward has seen an influx of a mostly young population from outside of Wales into private rented accommodation. Property that may even have been bought by London boroughs or English social housing providers.

While we can see the advantages in this scheme for London and other parts of England, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that too many Welsh politicians, at both local and national level, will also support this kind of influx. For a falling population is always interpreted as a sign of political failure – as we have recently seen in Detroit – so anything that can keep up the numbers in places such as Nantymoel will be welcomed.

Something else that struck me in the video was the section showing the collaborating areas outside of Out of LondonLondon. These are listed on the right of the ‘still’ I grabbed. (Click to enlarge.) While English counties, towns andOut of London 2 cities are listed individually, for us there is just ‘Wales’. Yet the leaflet ‘Out of London’ shows Swansea and Cardiff. (Click to enlarge.) So what is the real picture; is it just our two major cities or does the scheme operate across Wales? Note also that the leaflet suggests the areas to which Londoners are being moved have a surplus of social housing. I don’t know the situation in Cardiff but there’s certainly no surplus in Swansea. If there was, why are Coastal Housing, Grwp Gwalia and the rest throwing up new properties everywhere? Or is this specifically to meet demand from London and other parts of England?

Finally – and I’m sure you’ve noticed! – this scheme for London boroughs to get shot of what they consider to be the undesirable and economically unviable does not extend to Scotland. Why? Is it due to legislation in Scotland that insists on housing providers meeting local need, not engaging in schemes profitable for them but adding an extra burden on services already buckling under the strain? If so, then we need such legislation in Wales.

P.S. This post is in a sense an update on a post from last November, The London Clearances. There I linked to a story in the Guardian, which specifically mentioned Merthyr Tydfil as one of the places where “London councils have acquired rental properties”. Note also that while last November’s Guardian story dealt with ‘homeless families’, the more recent video appeals to anyone “registered for social housing in any London borough”. That’s the new capped welfare legislation kicking in.

Regrettably there are no comments with this earlier post. This is due to Google Blogger killing my previous blog, and although I was able to salvage the posts themselves they came without the comments. That’s Google for you.

Welsh Livery Guild: All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go?

Here I am, a man of ‘mature years’, who has lived in Wales all his life, who has always taken a close interest in what goes on, and yet this little country of ours can still throw up organisations of which I’d never heard. This time in the form of the Welsh Livery Guild, which came into being in 1992. (The founders had hoped to start a livery company, but the City of London said Nay.) My attention was drawn to this outfit by a route I choose not to elaborate on, for reasons that might become clear later in this article.logo

Let’s start with the Guild’s website. Well, in design, it’s very basic, amateurish even (black writing on a dark green, patterned background!); and poorly written. Be that as it may, the website tells us that the Guild is organised with a Master, a Senior Warden, a Junior Warden, and a Deputy Master who together appear to make up the Court, (which may, or may not, include the Past Masters). This Court is served by fourteen Assistants, a Chaplain, a Clerk, a Treasurer, a Beadle, a Master’s Steward, a Senior Warden’s Steward and a Junior Warden’s Steward. What possessed a bunch of grown men, coming together towards the end of the twentieth century, to set up a fancy dress club complete with a bloody Beadle! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against grown men dressing up, ‘some of my best friends’ and all that . . . But this is supposed to be a Welsh organisation for the twenty-first century, yet the only template it could think of was both English and medieval. That says a lot.

MasterWhat else do we learn from the execrable website? One thing that struck me about the Past Masters was the disproportionate number of military men who’d filled the role. Of the seventeen Past Masters between 1992 and 2011 seven were military men. A very high figure when you remember that (at least) two of those Past Masters were women. The current Master is a Lancashire lad. The miltary is also well represented in current roles, with a colonel and two majors among the Assistants, the Clerk is a Squadron Leader and the Treasurer a Commander.

Then there’s the Cardiff-centricity of the Guild. If you look at the organisation’s Calendar for 2012/13 you’ll see that of the twenty-eight events and gatherings listed just five are held outside of Cardiff. That is appalling for what purports to be a national organisation. The Guild visits Bridgend a couple of times, but Swansea is obviously a step too far. Then there are a couple of safaris to the north, and a WWI battlefields tour! Which I suppose makes sense given all the military men involved with the Guild. The miltary theme was also present in a January get-together where a talk on Rorke’s Drift was given at the Firing Line Museum, Cardiff Castle. Though it’s not all blood and guts. One of those northern safaris revolved around a carol service last December. Followed by sherry and mince pies at the home of Liveryman John Solbe, or to give him his full name – and why not! – John Frank de Lisle Guerin Solbe, a big shot at the English cathedral in St. Asaph.

I’m sure I’ve whetted your appetite, and now you want to join, go on – admit it. Well you can’t. For as it says on the relevant page, “Admission depends on professional attainment and citizenship. Membership is for life, so that the knowledge and experience of several generations is Dai Lewisavailable for the benefit of the Livery’s objectives.” So there! Membership is by invitation only and for life! Holy Moley, what is this, the Mob! While that might rule you out from becoming a full Liveryman, there might yet be hope for you as a Freeman, or associate member. (What are the women called – Liverywomen, Freewomen?)

So apart from poncing about in costume, revisiting someone else’s glory, or engaging in festive chit-chat in Llanelwy, what exactly does this Welsh Livery Guild do? To believe the website, the Guild exists solely to administer its Charitable Trust, which gives out grants, scholarships and awards to promising youngsters in fields as diverse as scaffolding and cello playing. But I don’t buy that. There are countless organisations doing the same bloody thing, we don’t need another. And even if we did, why should it model itself on medieval English Guilds, and contain so many military men? No, this is Al Capone, ‘philanthropist to Chicago’s poor’. In other words, a ‘front’, or public face, for something less commendable. Maybe something more sinister.

My view is that this is a kind of top notch – but ostensibly open – freemasonry, organised on a London-Cardiff axis, and operating across Wales. Hiding behind the Charitable Trust is the organisations’s true purpose. Given its membership we can safely deduce that it is both royalist and Unionist. That being so makes a nonsense of its claim to be serving the best interests of Wales. What we should be asking is, ‘How much influence does the Welsh Livery Guild exercise, both in Cardiff and London’?

Finally, as a post script, I suppose the Guild’s logo needs to be interpretated for those – unlike me – without a grounding in heraldry. The lion (on the right) has obviously just killed a bishop, which explains why he’s wearing a mitre. The three stars stand for the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. And the waves underneath are a reminder of Rule Britannia.

Nechayev and the Revolutionary Catechism

Over the years I’ve read a great deal of nineteenth-century Russian literature. It was a golden age: giving us not just Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, or my personal favourite, Dostoyevsky, but so many others who are perhaps less well known to us in the West: Turgenev (Fathers and Sons), Lermontov (A Hero of our Time), Aksakov (A Russian Gentleman), Kropotkin (Memoirs of a Revolutionist) and Herzen (Childhood Youth and Exile).

Outstanding literature from and about a people that seem to be very much like us, and yet are different. Maybe it’s this uncertainty about Russia and Russians, and their relationship to ‘Europe’, that gives their nineteenth-century literature its appeal. Here was a Christian country on the edge of Europe that freed its white slaves around the same time as the USA freed its black slaves. (Or at least, President dostoevsky310Lincoln ‘freed’ the slaves in Confederate-held territory.) An absolute monarchy where opposition was ruthlessly crushed, either by execution or else by being banished to Siberia, the almost incomprehensible emptiness that soon became a byword for exclusion, or a living death.

As I discovered in my long-ago reading tsarist Russia was a complex country where, for example, distance was measured in versts (1 verst = 3,500 feet). Why, I asked myself, did a country as vast as Russia use a measure of distance shorter than an English mile? And why were there so many bloody aristocrats? Answer: it went with the job. If you moved high enough up the imperial bureaucracy then, instead of getting the equivalent of an OBE, you reached the ranks of the nobility. Which I suppose is not really so strange when you recall that hereditary peerages were still being awarded (and sold) in England at this time, plus, of course, knighthoods. And while Church Slavonic could be equated with liturgical Latin, there was nothing in the West to compare to the Old Believers . . . or the Cossacks . . . and Tatars . . .

Yet there were comparisons to be made with other periods of great artistic creativity. For just as the Italian Renaissance took place to a backdrop of intrigue and butchery, so this great outpouring of Russian writing seemed to be prompted by the turbulence of the times. The French invasion forms the theme to Tolstoy’s War and Peace (and also inspired Tchaikovsky to write the 1812). With the empire expanding east and south there were constant frontier wars that saw new lands being conquered and exotic peoples brought under the rule of the Romanovs. This expansion brought Russia into contact with older empires such as Persia, China and Turkey. The British was another empire expanding Russia came into contact with; the bear and the lion amusing themselves playing the ‘Great Game‘. While in Europe there were the Poles, the Finns and other reluctant subjects to keep in check. But more than anything else, it was the political situation in Russia proper that inspired so many of her writers.200px-Nechayev

Perhaps even its staunchest defenders knew that the tsarist system was indefensible, but were too afraid to say so. Others were not. If we start with the romantic and doomed Decembrists of 1825 and end with the communist takeover of 1917, we have almost a century of opposition taking many different forms. All the great writers I’ve mentioned flourished within this same time frame. Yet of all the idealists, reformers, dreamers and revolutionaries one man stands out for his single-minded ruthlessness: the Anarcho-Nihilist, Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev. Let a couple of examples explain what I mean. In 1869 he got fellow-conspirators to sign a petition . . . which he then handed to the police, in order that the brutal treatment they’d receive would harden them! A comrade – Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov – who disagreed with Nechayev was strangled, shot and thrown into a frozen lake through a hole in the ice.

It would be easy to dismiss Nechayev as a lunatic, best forgotten. And indeed, he might have been forgotten had it not been for his legacy, Catechism of a Revolutionary. This remains one of the most chilling documents ever written. It is Nechayev’s manual, telling anyone who reads it what he or she must do, and become, to be the perfect revolutionary. The very first sentence tells you what to expect – “The revolutionary is a doomed man”. But this was a man who practised what he preached. While languishing in the Peter and Paul fortress prison his comrades wanted to break him out, but he told them to focus their energies on assassinating the Tsar. When General Potapov, head of the Okhrana, the tsarist secret police,Black Panthers offered him a deal if he turned traitor, Nechayev struck him across the face. As punishment, his hands and feet were chained, until the flesh began to rot.

Inevitably, Nechayev made it into a number of books. Most famously, The Devils (aka The Possessed), by Dostoyevsky. Though the Catechism itself might have been forgotten if it wasn’t regularly resurrected by fresh groups seeking radical change. Among them Young Italy, the Black Panthers, the Red Brigades. So read the Catechism for yourself, see how you measure up. Ask yourself, ‘Do I want to meet Nechayev’s standards’. The answer will almost certainly be ‘No’. (If it’s ‘Yes’, I don’t know you. Understand!) His one time associate Vera Zasulich who, in 1878, shot and almost killed Colonel Trepov, the police chief of St. Petersburg, said Nechayev “was not a product of our world but a stranger among us”. Many would agree.

The Catechism is available here in PDF format.

YMCA ‘Wales’ And The Green, Green Pastures

Anyone who hasn’t read the previous post should do so before reading this. Pay particular attention to the comments, for therein lies great wisdom.

In that previous post on the planning application from YMCA Wales for new housing in Penrhyndeudraeth, I asked, “By what route did land in Gwynedd become the property of an organisation based in Swansea? But even if the YMCA owns the property, since when has this organisation been involved in property development?” I asked these questions because, even at first glance, the YMCA seemed an unlikely property developer.

Subsequent enquiries, and information received in the form of comments, now persuade me that my initial surprise at the YMCA going into competition with Wimpey and Redrow was justified. For it now looks as if the YMCA is acting as a cat’s-paw for another organisation that, for reasons I hope to explain, would prefer not to show its hand. So how best to draw the threads together, for this is pretty complicated?

In my previous post I noted that even though the organisation is called ‘YMCA Wales’ the only YMCA association or branch affiliated in the north is a tin shack in Trawsfynydd; otherwise there’s nothing further Flint YMCAnorth than Rhayader. Though out of a total of nine full-time YMCA Wales employees mentioned in the 2011/12 Report  two are based in “Flintshire”. Which I suppose raises the question, why is YMCA Wales paying for staff at unaffiliated associations? When I Googled ‘Flint YMCA’ this is what came up. Which now raises the obvious question, what is Green Pastures?

The answer can be found at the Green Pastures website. Green Pastures describes itself as a “Christian Social Enterprise” providing accommodation for the homeless. For the purposes of what might be afoot in Church homelessPenrhyndeudraeth, perhaps the important thing to know about Green Pastures is that it operates through franchisees, or ‘partners’. This panel from the website (click to enlarge) might give an idea of how this franchise system operates. The full page, and the video, can be found here.

Before leaving the Green Pastures website, I was struck by the distribution of the ‘partners’. Looking at the map (click to enlarge) we can see that GP is a largely northern English organisation, but with only one ‘partner’ further north than Harrogate. Then there is a cluster around London, plus a few outposts, one in Bridgend, the Well Christian Centre, another “Elim Pentecostal Church”. Surprisingly, there are four more ‘partners’ in the north east: the New Life Church in Green Pastures partners mapHolywell (which describes itself as “a church and a charity); EBVenture in Mold (no website); the Riverdee (sic) Church in Holywell; and the YMCA in Flint (again, no website). This cluster on the border explains why Green Pastures, despite being a very northern English outfit, and catering for the homeless, can manage without a presence on Merseyside other than Southport, nearer to Blackpool Tower than Liverpool Pierhead.

Some of you may now be thinking, ‘This is all very interesting, Jac, but pray tell – what has it to do with Penrhyndeudraeth!’ I’m coming to that, but first, let’s recap. There is a clear link, via Flint, between YMCA Wales and Green Pastures, yet another group in the homelessness racket. I say ‘racket’ because you mustn’t run away with the idea that the members of these sects are giving the homeless the clothes off their backs, or taking them in under their own roofs. No, it’s a business; a very lucrative business and someone else invariably picks up the tab. In Wales, the Welsh Government, your local authority, various other agencies. So let’s return to Penrhyndeudraeth. (I remember, vaguely, spending a wonderful and very drunken night there with the late, great Barrie Edwards of Harlech, complete with harp and penny whistle.)

Well, thing is, there just happens to be a church in Penrhyndeudraeth called Capel Fron. Once a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist chapel, now commandeered by happy clappies. In fact, Capel Fron is very typical of the kind of church that becomes a ‘partner’ to Green Pastures. Last November a new Pastor took over, by the name of Pete Campbell. He was ordained by Pastor Pete Day of Southport, which by an amazing coincidence is also Pete Cunninghamhome to Pastor Pete Cunningham, “co-founder of Green Pastures”, mentioned in this recent Southport Visiter report. Though the path has not always been smooth, as the same organ reports here.

What, I suppose, completed the circle, was learning that Pete Campbell, the new pastor in Penrhyn’, has Swansea connections. ” . . . Pete Campbell . . . was a worker at Townhill Baptist Church, Swansea. Both he and his wife Rachel have been ‘Relay’ workers with UCCF in the Swansea area.” (UCCF is the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship.) So we can assume that young Pete went to university in Swansea then, like too many others, stayed on for a while, making a nuisance of himself. (On the plus side, he didn’t become a Labour councillor.) I would wager my collection of Buddy Holly records that during his time in Swansea Predikant Piet had dealings with YMCA Wales.

So this is how I think it stacks up. YMCA Wales has applied to erect housing in Penrhyndeudraeth. (But remember, you don’t need to own the land in question to put in a planning application.) It may be being done this way so as not to draw attention to Capel Fron and Green Pastures. For given the link of Pastor Pete of Capel Fron with Swansea (and, almost certainly, YMCA Wales), and then the link between YMCA Wales and Green Pastures, a hardened old cynic like me is bound to assume that Green Pastures is the driving force with YMCA Wales merely fronting the project. If so, then these properties for which planning permission has been applied, and / or others planned for the same site, might be catering for the local homeless. And if there’s a shortage of local homeless, then prayers will be answered and homeless people will turn up from foreign lands, speaking in strange tongues.

I may be wrong on some details. And it could be just an incredible series of coincidences. But I think the time has come for some honesty from YMCA Wales, Capel Fron, and Green Pastures. It is also time for local politicians and media to start asking what exactly is going on. One thing I’m sure of: it is not a straightforward case of YMCA Wales applying to build private housing on land it owns in Penrhyndeudraeth.

CONCLUSION: As I’ve been saying for years . . . Wales has a Third Sector completely out of control and excessively large because the funding available has attracted grant-grabbers and shysters from over the border, who have often had to import the problems to justify the grants! An insane system only possible because of the weakness and connivance of successive ‘Welsh’ Governments.

There are rural areas of Wales – even urban areas such as Carmarthen – now experiencing an invasion of unwelcome Christian sects. In some cases congregations are moving en masse. These sects have primitive and reactionary attitudes to many issues, from evolution to homosexuality. They believe in the ‘laying on of hands’, the ‘casting out of demons’, and similar practices the rest of us believed were left behind in medieval times.

They often to try to hide their true nature by doing ‘good works’ which, when examined more closely, are invariably paid for out of public funds, and always serve as a front for proselytising. For the ‘good works’ they specialise in serve up a regular supply of weak and vulnerable people, desperate for support and open to suggestion. We should not be welcoming these sects into Wales. No local authority, and certainly not the ‘Welsh Government, should be funding or in any other way helping these groups. Nor should our elected bodies have anything to do with organisations, such as YMCA Wales, that work with these sects.

YMCA ‘Wales’, Another Trojan Horse At The Trough

This post, and my interest in the YMCA, was kicked off by a piece in my local weekly, the Cambrian News. (Click to enlarge.) YMCA Wales wants to build four houses on land it claims it owns in Penrhyndeudraeth; land the Penrhyn housinglocals believe was given to the community in 1918. After reading it I asked myself a couple of questions. By what route did land in Gwynedd become the property of an organisation based in Swansea? But even if the YMCA owns the property, since when has this organisation been involved in property development? No obvious answers presented themselves so I made enquiries into YMCA Wales.

First stop, the YMCA Wales website, and the Annual Report for 2005/6, the earliest available. The most recent being the Report for 2010/11. Now I’m no accountant or auditor, but a few of the figures drew my attention so I extracted them from the Reports to make this little table. (Click to enlarge.) I’d be interested to hear how others interpret these figures, and indeed, the full Accounts. Before leaving the Reports I must say that as we’re in the second half of 2013 the 2011/12 Report should have been available on the website Figuresa long time ago. In fact, I get the impression that the website has not been updated for quite some time.

Using the 2011 Report, I tried to find out about the people running YMCA Wales. It wasn’t easy. What quickly became clear is that the staff is overwhelmingly English. Though there seem to be fewer of them listed on the website than in the 2010/11 Report. Most noticeably, the 2011 Report lists four “Housing and Training” Officers, but none are shown on the website. Among those who do appear is Greg Woolley, in the modestly monikered job of “Global Youth Worker”. (Today Swansea, tomorrow the world?)

The composition of the Trustees displays the same bias – one of them, Stephen Harrison, even lives in England. Another, Peter Joignant, is the man to see about “private housing development”. (Useful for projects like Penrhyndeudraeth.)  Though in fairness, and in contrast to the Trustees named in the 2011 Report, the website suggests the YMCA has recruited a couple of indigenes to give some local colour. In addition, the YMCA has had the sense to use the old trick of having a Welsh figurehead, in the ample form of Sir Roger Jones OBE.

So what does YMCA Wales do? Well, it does a lot of things. Some predictable, others not so, and some downright worrying. Let’s start with the holiday business . . . yes, I did say holiday business, outdoor pursuits to be exact. In 2006 the YMCA bought from the Youth Hostels Association Penycwm outdoor centre in Pembrokeshire. The first thing the YMCA did was change the name to ‘Newgale YMCA Outdoor Education Centre’. Predictably, this being the outdoor pursuit business in Wales, the staff at Newgale is almost all English. And to judge from the testimonials on page 10 of the 2011 Report those attending Newgale also come from England. Typical ‘Welsh’ tourism.

The way in which Newgale is used reinforces the suspicion that YMCA ‘Wales’ is yet another Englandandwales outfit that uses Wales in a blatantly colonialist manner: to provide jobs for its English employees, holidays for English delinquents, housing for English criminals (see below) . . . with much of this funded by the Welsh public purse. The suspicion of an England focus was strengthened by a reference on page 9 of the 2010/11 Report to Ofsted. This is the Office for Standards in Education . . . an England-only body. In Wales we have Estyn. Why would a supposedly Welsh organisation be quoting a body that only operates in England?

Young tearaways from Wolverhampton enjoying themselves on the Pembrokeshire coast is bad enough, but I was more concerned to read “YMCA Wales has a partnership with East Jerusalem YMCA and Lebanon YMCA for the past three years”. (Report 2005/6.) What business is it of YMCA Wales to be sticking its nose in a very fraught political situation? Returning to Wales, my worst fears were confirmed when I read about the YMCA’s “partnership” with the National (Englandandwales) Probation Service. “We accommodate those with no local connection, have exhausted most supported housing projects due to their offending behaviour / support needs, and provide move-on from hostels to ensure continuity for those seeking bail or parole”. (Page 7, 2005/6 Report.) The only way to interpret this is that the YMCA is bringing dangerous criminals with no Welsh connections into Wales.YMCA Rhyl

Finally, just how much of Wales does YMCA Wales cover? On the website there is a drop-down list of ‘Local Associations’, but other than a tin shed in Trawsfynydd, none of those listed is north of Aberystwyth. (And nothing in Aberystwyth.) So what about Aberystwyth, Holyhead, Bangor, Llandudno, Rhyl, Wrecsam? I Googled ‘YMCA Rhyl’ and ‘YMCA Wrexham’. These are what came up. (Click to enlarge.) It suggests that the YMCA associations in the north are affiliated to YMCA England! If so, what is the point of YMCA ‘Wales’? And why does the ‘Welsh’ Government fund YMCA branches that are so contemptuous of YMCA WrexhamWales that they choose to affiliate to YMCA England?

The bottom line is that most of those working for YMCA ‘Wales’ are Third Sector grant-grabbers who moved to Wales when they realised how much public funding was on offer. Claiming to help ‘young people’, the ‘homeless’, people with ‘problems’, etc., etc. In other words, duplicating the work of a dozen or more similar bodies claiming to do the same work with the same funding. Now that the ‘Welsh’ Government has been told by the EU that the next round of Structural Funds must not be wasted on the Third Sector, let us hope that the next few years sees these and all the other carpetbaggers making their way home.

The YMCA Wales empire is – as you might expect – run from the YMCA building on Swansea’s Kingsway. This same building was home until very recently to Awema. So how could the ever-alert Naz Malik, tireless campaigner against ‘racism’, not see the discrimination, exploitation, misuse of public funds, taking place under his very nose? O tempora! O mores!

FOOTNOTE: I’m no nearer understanding what’s going on in Penrhyndeudraeth, but I know quite a bit more about YMCA ‘Wales’. And now, so do you.

UPDATE July 9: I am indebted to Y Cneifiwr for directing me to the Charity Commission website, where he’d found the 2011/2 Report, lodged with the Commission on March 7th. (So why hasn’t it been put up on the YMCA Wales website?) I leave it to others, better qualified, to interpret it.

Though one thing I did investigate was the Flint connection. YMCA Wales has just nine full-time employees. Two in Swansea, one in Cardiff, four at the Newgale YMCA Outdoor Education Centre in Pembrokeshire, and two in Flint. So what do they do in Flint? The answer seems to be that the YMCA is working with an evangelical church providing accommodation for (and doubtless proselytising to) the homeless of Merseyside. Though despite having only nine full-time staff and six part-time, the wage bill for 2011/12 came to £441,174, up from £413,185 in 2010/11 when there were more staff!

Looking at the bigger picture, the YMCA is, as a comment to the original post says, a one-trick pony. Its only real asset, major income stream, and security for bank loan and overdraft, is the Newgale Centre. Other than that it relies on grants, mainly from the Welsh Government, and income from Probation and Bond schemes. So, like a few dozen other Third Sector outfits in Wales, the YMCA uses Welsh public funding to provide holidays for young English delinquents and accommodation for their criminal elders.

It’s a good job Wales is a wealthy country, and can afford this generosity!

The Co-op – No Welsh Dividend

It’s strange how things work out sometimes. In a blog last week I drew attention to the declining percentage of Welsh people in the population of Wales. While in a blog I enjoy Radnorian made the point that very Co-op 3soon it would be possible to drive from the border to the Cardigan Bay coast without passing through a single community where we Welsh are in a majority. That’s a frightening prospect, but with the Welsh born percentage of the Powys population down to 49.8%, and that of Ceredigion on 55.3%, that reality can’t be far off.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when something dropped through my letter-box providing yet further evidence of the unfolding tragedy, and from the strangest source – the Co-op! It came in the form of a booklet (cover above right, click to enlarge) telling me that I Co-op 1have a Mid Wales Area Committee looking after my interests and, further, I have a chance to elect new members to that Committee. Whoopee!

Opening the booklet, I saw the names of the eleven current Committee members with, on the facing page, the names of the six people contesting the five vacancies, three of them serving members and three new faces. (Left, click to enlarge.) You know me, I just had to do some digging, to find out who these people are. The eleven members of the current Committee are listed below left, (click on name for more information). The three new applicants are shown in the panel on the right. (Ditto.):

You’ll note that many of the existing members state their ‘ethnicity’, presumably because the Co-op is keen to encourage “diversity”  or, as the booklet puts it: “The Co-operative Group is committed to supporting our elected bodies in becoming more representative of the members and communities that we serve”. Which is a load of politically correct bollocks, on a number of counts.

From my searches, or their own evidence, I can only confirm that two of the existing Committee are definitely Welsh. Two more may be Welsh, but the other seven are not Welsh. One doesn’t even live in Wales, but qualifies for the Committee because he runs a store on this side of the border! I also suspect that Co-op 4the three new faces trying for election are all English (but, in fairness, one has learnt Welsh). So how can an overwhelmingly English Committee be representative of Mid Wales; and how does the Co-op feel about this group falling so far short of its own pious diversity targets?

Though talking of diversity – and taking it ad absurdum – I suppose the Co-op would be quite happy to have a Mid Wales Committee made up of three English, two Black, three Asian, an Inuit, a Kalahari bushman and an extra-terrestrial . . . and neither notice nor care that there was no Welsh representation.

Moving away from politics, and ‘ethnic profiling’ (the Co-op’s term, not mine), the composition of the Committee also suggests that it’s made up of compulsive ‘joiners’, or else people with a drum to beat – such as Jeremy Thorp, who is “active in environmental campaigning”; or Neil Hirst, who graduated to the Co-op from having worked for the Communities First Programme in Blaenau Gwent (which seems to bear out all I’ve been saying about the Third Sector). Then there’s Louisa St. Bartholomew-Brown Morgan pushing Fair Trade. Though not too assiduously by the look of it, for no one has a worse attendance record at Committee meetings . . . but then Louisa’s the only non-white on the Committee.

But perhaps the biggest worry is that this Committee fails in its very raison d’etre. Because looking at all those listed above I cannot see one who could be described – and I’m not being patronising here – as an ordinary housewife, or a working mother, or your average pensioner. In other words, those groups that together make up the great majority of the Co-op’s customers. So, again, I ask, just how “representative” is this Committee, a body that even has Co-op employees on it?

Truth is, this Committee represents neither Mid Wales nor the majority of the Co-op’s customers. It is simply a talking-shop for activists, the self-important, and those with time on their hands. Its only useful purpose is to give the Co-op a chance to indulge in a phoney ‘Listening to YOU‘ PR exercise. My advice to the Co-op is this: get rid of these pointless bloody committees and use the money saved to either bring down your prices or increase the dividend for loyal customers like me. Or possibly sort out your banking arm.

Welsh Labour: One Big, Happy, And Incestuous Family

Two important and encouraging pieces of news today, and both damaging to the Labour Party or, as its local manifestation prefers, ‘Welsh Labour’. I welcome this because all my life I have dreamed of seeing the Labour Party broken, its control over our country destroyed.

It has become evident to me of late that – perhaps due to English politics being so dull – a number of England’s political commentators have begun to look over the border, and they’ve been amazed at what they’ve found. Basically, a third world country on their very doorstep. Not just poor, but also corrupt. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve had Mark Easton of the BBC trek to darkest Blaenau Gwent, his filmed visit followed by a blog posting which in turn prompted a response from Sarah Bees. (Who she?) In addition, there has been increasing notice taken by important bloggers such as Guido Fawkes, most recently with this piece about the Michael dynasty. Then, to fill my my cup to overflowing, today we heard of collars being felt in Caerphilly, a Labour fiefdom again since last year’s elections. Oh happy day!

Without stating it, Mark Easton’s little film was a condemnation of the Labour Party. The party that has controlled the Heads of the Valleys for a century and the Welsh Assembly since 1999. The party that chooses to use Welsh deprivation to blame the Tories and garner votes, then provide funding for its cronies in the Third Sector. In fact, anything but tackle the problem – cos there ain’t no mileage in that for Labour.Alun Michael

Turning to the Michael clan, it might be worth reminding younger readers that once upon a time Alun Michael was top man in the Assembly, before Rhodri Morgan took over. In fact, Alun Michael was pushed into the job by his bosses in London so that Rhodri Morgan couldn’t take over. It may have been this episode that made Michael realise that selection processes and the will of party members could be overridden. (Though it did not work out for him in the Assembly.)

Last year Alun Michael resigned as MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, and ensured he was succeeded by Steven Doughty, the son of a long-time friend. Michael stood down to run for the newly-created post of Police and Crime Commissioner for the South Wales Police area. He was elected. His son, Tal, standing for the North Wales Police area, was not so fortunate. But the boy done bounced back . . . now he is the Labour Party candidate for Anglesey in the August 1 Assembly by-election to replace Ieuan Wyn Jones. Though dark mutterings are being heard from the bruvvers about a stitch-up. Oh, and did I mention that Tal’s wife Mary (Wimbury) is the Labour candidate in Aberconwy for the 2015 elections to the imperial parliament? (Competition at last for the Kinnock clan!)

Alun Michael is the stereotypical Welsh Labour politico. After migrating to the Lesser Wen from the frozen north he worked for a short time as a reporter before becoming a yoof and community worker for 16 years. In 1972, aged 29, he was made a JP. A year later he became a councillor, and in 1987 became MP for Cardiff South and Penarth following the retirement of Jim Callaghan. So he seems never to have done a ‘real’ job. After a lifetime spent climbing the greasy pole he must feel the party owes him a few favours.

Returning to Caerphilly, more fun and games. It emerged a while back that the council, or a small caucus of councillors, had agreed to greatly increase the salaries of the chief executive and 20 other senior officers . . . this done at the suggestion of the chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan . . . with the decision ‘taken’ at a meeting at which he was present throughout. Now readers outside of Wales might find this way of doing things a little odd, but bear with me, we are talking Welsh Labour here (to help you, just think of those comforting TV programmes about criminals getting caught due to their own stupidity). Then there was the business of the car payment allowances. Anyway, things came to a head today when the already suspended Mr O’Sullivan was arrested, as was his deputy. As yet, no Labour councillor has been arrested. As yet.

Anthony O'SullivanI’ve thought about this case, and tried to visualise what happened, but it’s not easy. O’Sullivan and his gang are all, theoretically, employees of the council, made manifest in the collective and impressive bulk of the ruling Labour group on Caerphilly council. This being so, they should have submitted a request for salary increases and argued their case in the normal way. But no, something totally different happened. Maybe something like this: ‘Me an’ the boys been talking . . . we’ve decided we’re worth more than you are paying us. So you’re gonna make us an offer we can’t refuse. Capice?’ (Or have I watched the Godfather too many times?)

Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but when I put this together with other Labour news from around the country, such as Swansea’s anybody-but-locals council, or the Nazi-Soviet pact running Carmarthenshire, I can’t help but feel a little frisson, for I see the monolith cracking. I see a party unable to find local candidates with IQ higher than waist measurement; a party that ‘controls’ councils that are in fact run by the employees (most from outside Wales); a party that capitalises on Welsh deprivation to ‘send messages to London’ rather than dealing with that deprivation; a party happy to ally itself with closet Tories; a party now further to the Right than it has ever previously been; a party refusing to do what’s best for Wales lest it succeed, and excite nationalist passions; a party reliant for support on the most dispirited and uncritical element of the nation.

It would be tempting to look at the situation now and compare it with the political scene a century ago. Then, the Liberal Party came to the end of its long reign in Wales and was replaced by Labour. Labour today is perhaps in a worse position than the Liberals were a hundred years ago. After all, the Liberals had an up-and-coming David Lloyd George. Labour has no one of that stature, or political cunning. But perhaps the real difference is that today we have a party dead on its feet, devoid of ideas, believing in power for its own sake and nothing more, that can continue to dominate Wales because there is no viable or attractive alternative.