I am delighted to offer you something different, a piece by Jeremy Wood on an obscure publication relating to the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Jeremy and I have never met but we have corresponded for quite a few years, having had a mutual friend in the late Rhobert ap Steffan (‘Castro’) who visited Patagonia a number of times over many years.
With the 150th anniversary of the arrival in 1865 of the first Welsh migrants to Patagonia looming, an English translation of a long-forgotten document has recently come to light. The pamphlet was written by Hugh Hughes (Cadfan Gwynedd) in 1862, when the emigration project was being pilloried in the Welsh and English press, in an attempt to address the criticisms and explain the project in detail. It was unearthed by Jeremy Wood, who lives in Esquel in Welsh Patagonia, in the Welsh museum in Gaiman in Patagonia. A number of copies of the Welsh-language original exist, but all are in museums, universities and libraries and the document has never been published on the internet nor have any detailed studies of it been published. Jeremy Wood digitally remastered the original work in Welsh and worked with Cynog Dafis, who produced an excellent English translation.
The first part of the “brochure” explains why the Welsh should leave Wales and set up their own colony overseas. Hugh Hughes was a passionate Welshman and didn’t pull any punches. He filled the first 19 pages with anti-English invective of such intensity that its publication would surely test England’s anti-discrimination laws today. He put forward a passionate case for the capability of the Welsh to run their own country and addressed individually the major criticisms raised in the press. He then went on to quote more than 20 reference works from explorers, sea captains and settlers to give the potential emigrants a good idea of what sort of place they’d be settling in.
When one reads Hughes’ account of the sorry plight of Welsh citizens having to give up their language to have any chance of progressing in life and having to live under the thumb of the English in all walks of life, one wonders what our politicians have been doing for the last 150 years. His predictions of increased English dominance were remarkably prescient. But nothing much seems to have changed and the lessons we could have learned, we have ignored.
Had Hugh Hughes actually told the truth about Patagonia (he Bowdlerised almost every reference he quoted and made up the rest!), few would have been brave enough to sign up for the first voyage on the Mimosa. But, of course, the Welsh did emigrate to Patagonia and their language and culture is still very much alive there. Hugh Hughes was, and still is, a Patagonian hero. We could do with men cast from the same mould in Wales today.
A trilingual version of Hugh Hughes’s pamphlet is due to be published next year. In the meantime, feast your eyes on some of the extracts taken from the first few pages of the book. Stirring stuff, indeed!
More figures have just been released from the 2011 Census by the Office for National Statistics. Here’s a link to the Nomis website from where I extracted the figures I’ve used in my tables. If you get the hang of it you can kind of pick and choose the statistics and combinations, or areas, you want. Anyway, let’s start with the all-Wales figure, showing the age breakdown and the country of birth.
(I should explain that the ‘Total’ column, one in from the right, includes those born everywhere from Chile to China. The percentage figure in the right-hand column shows the figure for that age group as a percentage of the total population figure. So that the 25 – 34 band makes up 11.7% of the total population of Wales. Clear?)
There are a number of interesting features to be seen here, not least the fact that between the youngest and the oldest age bracket the Welsh born percentage drops by almost twenty percentage points. Which obviously makes monkeys out of those who still deny there’s a problem. Elsewhere, the ‘spike’ in the 16 – 24 sector for English born is accounted for mainly by students, which then explains the subsequent drop in the 25 – 34 segment. Predictably, there is a marked increase in the percentage of English born in the population from the age of 50, which of course is explained by retirees.
More interesting is the 35 – 49 range, where we see an increase of nearly four points on the 25 – 34 group. Interesting because of course these are neither students nor retirees. This increase is partly accounted for by English people moving to Wales to take up employment, and partly by the influx of the benefit-dependent population I have dealt with before.
What these figues show (when compared with previous censuses) is that Wales has an ageing population. This is due to: a) Welsh people living longer and b) English people retiring to Wales. Which might be acceptable . . . were Wales a wealthy country, with a large working age population, a robust and efficient heath service, a reliable ambulance service, etc. Wales has none of these things. Yet for unfathomable reasons those who claim to be running this country do nothing to curb the influx of elderly people to a poor country with a health service on the point of collapse.
That is the national picture. Locally, or in my locality, the figures are even more depressing. Here’s a table showing the same breakdown used in the previous table for the five south western wards of Gwynedd. (Anyone in any doubt of where we are should click to enlarge the map.) Again we see that in the 0 – 15 age bracket the Welsh born element is well over 80%, but by the time we reach 65+ the Welsh percentage has fallen to 31.6%! What the hell has happened? Well, the giveaway is the fact that in the 65+ age bracket the Welsh born (and in this age group they are far more likely to be Welsh and Welsh speaking) are outnumbered more than two to one by the English born. The Welsh born are in a majority up until the 25 – 34 segment then, due to the factors mentioned earlier – always more pronounced in rural and coastal areas – the Welsh born percentage drops to 40% in the 35 – 49 bracket. And of course, in a rural area like this you can throw into the mix the emigration of the educated and / or ambitious Welsh. The picture is very much the same in other rural and coastal areas.
No doubt others would interpret these figures differently. Those working for Age Concern and similar bodies, or the anti-Welsh bigots who haunt the internet and social networking sites, could all risk a scorched arse by putting a positive gloss on a draining influx that turns us into a minority in our own country, and county. For even though I’m not native to Meirionnydd I now belong to the Welsh born minority in this part of Gwynedd. Down to 43.9% and dwindling.
It would be nice to report that politicians are aware of the problems faced by areas like this and are doing something to help. But no. Tywyn’s largest employer, Halo Foods, was recently given £365,000 by the ‘Welsh’ Government to move to Newport, Gwent. There is today no economic strategy for vast swathes of Wales . . . nothing beyond wind turbines, tourism and granny farming. If you’re Welsh, and young, the message is simple – ‘Get out, there’s nothing for you here. This is no longer your country’. Unless, of course, you want to be part of that great local growth industry – wiping wrinkly English bottoms.
I am indebted to Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndwr (south Pembrokeshire and nationalist) for bringing to my attention a recent snippet about one of my favourite subjects – social housing.
It’s not easy to make sense of the report on the BBC website, for the headline talks of a ‘Post’ while the article (click to enlarge) gives no further information on any such new post. The article talks of both renting property and buying, but without giving any clue as to what the scheme is supposed to achieve. In fact, the article confuses more than anything else. It’s journalistic gibberish.
Even so, we must assume that Ceredigion council, with the help of the ‘Welsh’ Government, plans to introduce a scheme that will help local people rent or buy property in “their local community”. But we already have ‘affordable housing’ and social housing, so why do we need yet another scheme? One answer might be that locals seem to be at the back of the queue every time, as priority for social housing is given to people from over the border, the bigger their ‘problems’, or their families, the better.
Which explains why we keep revisiting this issue – the problem is not being solved. For example, here’s a link to a similar story from 2010, again concerning Ceredigion. When you have a problem that just about everyone can see for what it is, and when it is discussed endlessly, with repeated promises to remedy the problem, but nothing improves, then you have to ask what the hell is going on. Here’s my interpretation. First, there is a deliberate and concerted strategy at work to colonise Wales with English settlers. This includes those who cannot afford to buy a home . . . even those who may not want to move to Wales! But benefit-dependent families can’t be choosers, so they are being shipped in whether they like it or not.
The ONLY answer to this problem is to change the rules so that in the allocation of social housing being local – i.e. Welsh – outweighs any number of ‘problems’, or kids. Our politicians, especially the so-called ‘Welsh’ Government needs to get a handle on this issue. A start could be made by reining in the civil servants, such as those at the Housing Directorate, who are doing so much damage with the rules they set. Ostensibly working for Wales but in reality answering to London. Simply changing the points system would achieve more than any number of new posts, and it would be far cheaper. It would also save us the regularly regurgitated flim-flam. Moving north . . .
In 2010 Gwynedd’s stock of council housing was transferred, following a tenants’ vote, to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd. Although I’m no longer a tenant (having gratefully bought my house under the Right to Buy scheme) I take an interest in CCG. One of the first things I noticed was that the new outfit’s vehicles were registered in Essex (maybe a deal with Ford) and they sport ‘UK’ plates. How difficult would it have been to ask for ‘Cymru’ plates, this is Gwynedd, after all?
The new housing association of course inherited part of the Gwynedd workforce, but we see less and less of CCG’s own workers as jobs are increasingly contracted out. Initially, it seemed that these jobs were contracted out to Gwynedd firms. More recently, to firms in other parts of the north, and now to firms from outside of Wales altogether. I noticed this recently with vans in my village for two companies in particular: Lovell of Staffordshire and DNA Plastering & Tiling Ltd of Wigan. (I can find no website for DNA, which was only incorporated as a company in December 2011!) As might be expected, I contacted Cartefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, or rather, I initiated a Twitter exchange. (Click to enlarge.)
Now, in fairness, Lovell does have a ‘regional’ office . . . in Altrincham, for the ‘North West and North Wales’. In its defence, CCG argues that of the 144 Lovell workers on CCH contracts 124 live in North Wales. I have no way of checking that. But even if it’s true, how many of them are Welsh? Even if they’re all Welsh, Lovell remains an English company with profits – from work in Wales – going back over the border.
When it comes to DNA CCG throws in the towel with: “We monitor our contractors & subcontractors closely and set targets to ensure local people are employed whenever possible”. ‘WHENEVER POSSIBLE!!’ God Almighty! this is supposed to be a Welsh company; it takes money from Welsh people, yet it feels under no obligation to provide Welsh people with jobs! Nor does it feel it has any responsibility to the local economy of which it is part, and upon which its tenants rely!
More than likely, what has happened here is that the main contract was given to Lovell, who have then sub-contracted some of the work to DNA. But this is what happens when the main contract is awarded to an English company, which will use the sub-contractors it regularly employs. Though the body awarding the main contract can insist that the sub-contracts go to local firms . . . obviously CCG couldn’t be bothered. Better still, and to avoid any such problems – award the main contract to a Welsh company, or keep it in-house.
I live in a small, relatively isolated village, so I can only report what I have seen with my own eyes, the problem may be much more widespread. Something is clearly wrong at Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd. It is now surely time for local politicians to take an interest – for it is their constituents, and the local economy, losing out as a result of CCG awarding contracts to English firms (irrespective of whether they employ a few Welsh workers). At the very least I would expect our local politicians to query the tendering process at CCG. Establish whether it takes into account the benefit of keeping money in the area, and that this ensures ‘weighting’ that results in accepting higher tenders from local firms. Speaking of ‘weighting’, does the tendering process also take into account the environmental impact of workers from England travelling to work in western Wales?
I can’t help feeling that, one way or another, social housing providers are now part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. A review of how social housing is delivered in Wales is long overdue.
As you know, I’ve been home in Swansea for a few days. I was actually staying in Llanelli but the new roads make getting to Swansea a doddle. The problems start once you get to Fforestfach, and all the out-of-town stores. From there on, through Fforestfach Cross, on to Sketty Cross, past Singleton Hospital and on to Mumbles seems to be one long traffic jam. In addition, the major east-west route down town is undergoing ‘work’ that’s causing a lot of disruption and anger. Among those mightily pissed off is former Wales rugby skipper Colin Charvis.
Add to that the near permanent road works on the Jersey Marine (the main artery from the M4 into the city centre from the east), the shambles at the river bridges, and the extra pressure on that stretch of road from the new university campus, the SA1 development and other projects filling the gap between Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, and you can understand why some people start twitching nervously when they read ‘Swansea city council’ and ‘major development’ in the same paragraph. In short, with it’s dying city centre, traffic chaos, drug problem, reliance on the public sector for jobs, Swansea is a shambles, and a terrible indictment of successive councils.
But Thursday’s issue of the Evening Post carried what I assume is a regular column by the present leader of the council, David Phillips, a scouser who drifted into Swansea via Pembrokeshire a few years ago. It can be found here, and merits comment. The article is accompanied by a photograph of Phillips at the Swans’ new training facilities, reminding us of the old political rule – if you’ve run out of ideas get yourself photographed with children, animals, a worthy cause, or else try to associate yourself with some local success story that in reality has nothing to do with you. Second, according to Phillips the biggest problem in Swansea is litter. Reminding us of yet another old political rule: give yourself some breathing space by finding an issue – like litter – that nobody will argue against. A final observation: at the time of checking this story on the Evening Post website – some 48 hours after it was posted – there had been not a single comment or recommendation. Which says a lot about the political vision and spellbinding prose of David Phillips.
Elsewhere in Thursday’s Post I stumbled across another familiar face, Councillor Mitchell Theaker, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. (Click to enlarge.) Theaker is one of the ex-students from God knows where that help keep the Labour Party in power in Swansea. The report begins: “Youngsters are urging Swansea Council to support plans to make the city the UK capital of children’s rights”. It goes on to quote a 10-year-old saying, “We need rights to help us learn, get along and have a safer life. It will make Swansea a better place for children”. Have you ever read such bollocks! The Labour Party appoints a gimmicky cabinet post for children and young people that can only be justified by indoctrinating and exploiting kids, giving them silly titles and putting words in their mouths they have no way of understanding. Which reminds us of another important political lesson. If you hear the waters of Shit Creek lapping in the near distance, and find yourself bereft of any mode of propulsion, then gimmicks can be a useful smokescreen . . . especially if they involve children, etc., etc.
Swansea at present is suffering under a Labour administration made up of people from somewhere else who do not know Swansea, and don’t really care. All that seems to matter is that Labour is in power, stopping somebody else being in power – it’s just a political game with little or no relevance to the people of Swansea. This could be proven in the coming months if, as some predict, Phillips’ position is threatened by the recently elected former MP and public school Trotskyite, Bob Clay, another Englishman who knows sod all about Swansea but, like all the others, wants to be on the council to play silly games.
As if that wasn’t enough coverage of the local Labour Party, the Post had yet more, in the dispiriting form of Mike Hedges, former council leader and now AM for Swansea East. (Click to enlarge.) Unusually for today’s Swansea Labour Party, Hedges is actually from the city, Plasmarl, to be exact. I say that because earlier this year in an exchange on Twitter he suggested that I didn’t like him because he was from Plasmarl. I had to inform him that my late father, Idwal Jones, was born and bred in Plasmarl (played for Cwm Albion). The reason I don’t like Hedges is because he’s a Labour machine man who failed Swansea as council leader and is now failing her as an AM; a man with the charisma of a week-old lettuce, a hang-dog expression and a George Thomas voice, who puts loyalty to his gang of carpetbaggers above loyalty to his city and his country. But I digress.
Hedges’ half-page of wit and wisdom told us that in his considered opinion Swansea does not need a mayor. Really! Are we expected to believe that Swansea would be a worse place if run by an individual with ability, vision and energy; someone who knows and cares about the city; someone unwilling to play silly political games? It seems Hedges wants us believe that Swansea should aspire to nothing better than the incompetence of the shower we now see in County Hall. Proving what I said just now; his loyalty is to The Labour Party, not to Swansea, not to Wales.
Clearly Swansea Labour Party needs all the help it can get. For it would struggle to organise an evening of merriment in a building for the manufacture of beer. What passes for Labour’s ‘strategy’ to improve the city can be summed up thus: employ gimmicks and distractions; hope that the success of the Swans and the Ospreys results – somehow, anyhow! – in spin-off investment (then claim the credit); pray for good weather to bring tourists to Mumbles and Gower. With such a brilliant, proactive strategy the bruvvers must have been delighted when Jonathan Roberts took over as editor of the Beans on Toast, to give them the kind of uncritical support the Communist Party of the Soviet Union used to enjoy from Pravda. Something I predicted back in April, but I take no pleasure in being proved right.
As I’m going away for a few days I didn’t want to leave an old story on my front page, so here’s a little something to tide you over until I return.
You may recall that a few times recently, such as in the recent post, Cymrophobia and the Many Identities of Jacques Protic, I’ve referred to ‘the package’, and explained it by inviting readers to ask themselves: ‘How many people do I know who are rabidly hostile to the Welsh language but favour greater devolution?’ the answer is of course few, if any. For an individual’s views over a range of seemingly disparate topics will inevitably be consistent when those topics are in reality linked.
Over the years this has been brought home to me in a number of ways. One I recall was the ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire’ group. On the face of it those involved in this group were likeable old rustics cruelly deprived of their birthright by callous and unthinking bureaucrats. Then came another round of local government reorganisation in 1996 and they got their wish. But it didn’t end there . . .
For the truth is that the BBP crew, concentrated south of the Landsker, were uncomfortable in Dyfed for a specific, but unspoken, reason. Having to share the county with those buggers in the north was bad enough, but being lumped in with Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion was just too much to bear. Dyfed was just, well, too Welsh. I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when I first saw the county flag.
A luminary of the Bring Back Pembrokeshire campaign was Councillor Peter Stock. That victory won, in 1997 Cllr. Stock turned his attentions to leading Pembrokeshire’s Just Say No campaign. As you might have guessed, Stock was also involved in devising the Pembrokeshire flag. Now I’m sure that Cllr. Stock and his gang would argue that this was all motivated by nothing more sinister than love for their native sod. Possibly, but another interpretation has to be that what we see here is a consistent rejection of things that are Welsh, or ‘too Welsh‘.
The attitudes of Peter Stock’s gang in Pembrokeshire comprise a ‘package’ exhibiting itself consistently over decades. Revealing its true nature through seemingly disparate issues that are in reality – and, especially for them – linked. This is due to their mindset being fixed, to the point where their responses can be predicted. Those who wanted to break up Dyfed because it was too Welsh were guaranteed to be opposed to devolution.
While Pembrokeshire provides this excellent example of a ‘package’, I’m now going to move on and consider the ‘codes’ mentioned in the title. These can sometimes appear reasonable and even of some merit, until they are ‘decoded’. Further consideration exposes the fact that very often what is being argued is nothing but a defence of England’s interests. Much of what remains can be dismissed as insulting twattery. Let’s look at a few examples.
Starting with a post I wrote earlier this month, The Trouble With Devolution . . . , prompted by a stupid remark made by Governor-General, David Jones. Ostensibly addressing the prospect of devolving responsibility for stamp duty to the ‘Welsh’ Government Jones argued that we should consider the “implications” of such a move on the UK. In other words, on England. More specifically, English Tory voters with holiday homes in Wales. In fairness, Jones was pretty honest about his priority, others are less so.
A story regularly regurgitated by our media is that of rising house prices and large numbers of English moving to our rural and coastal areas, without making the connection. This is then presented as something to be welcomed on the grounds that a) rising property values is a sign of increasing prosperity, and b) we Welsh should be flattered that so many English want to move to our country. A double insult, completely overlooking the fact that fewer and fewer of our people – trapped in a low wage economy – can afford these properties.
Staying with housing, here’s another gem: ‘If we weren’t building (big, expensive) houses in the countryside young Welsh people would have nowhere to live.’ This one was much favoured by Dai Lloyd Evans, former hetman of Ceredigion council. Insulting nonsense with a dollop of personal greed thrown in when uttered by profiteering landowners like Dai Lloyd Evans.
‘Better off together’. This posits the view that we Celts are better off being ruled and robbed by England than by being independent. The statement itself is such obvious bollocks that it constitutes an insult to the intelligence of anyone to whom it is addressed. The real exposure comes when the person uttering this nonsense is simultaneously agitating for UK withdrawal from the European Union.
‘Water is a natural resource, it would be immoral to charge for it’. Overlooking the obvious fact that oil, gold and countless other valuable commodities traded globally are also ‘natural resources’. Twattery spouted solely to defend England’s interests.
‘I’m not opposed to the Welsh language’ . . . just the ‘compulsory’ teaching of the language, or the ‘expense’ of bilingual forms and signs, etc. Translation: ‘I hate the Welsh language and I wish it was dead, but obviously I can’t say that publicly’.
‘I’m a good / proud / patriotic Welsh person’. As a rule of thumb, anything that follows such a preface can usually be dismissed as a load of anti-Welsh bigotry.
When arguing for Welsh firms to be given contracts in Wales and Welsh workers jobs, to have this vehemently condemned as ‘Racism‘. This response clearly prioritises the interests of England and the English, while also traducing the term ‘racism’. Doubly ironic when heard from the likes of those who oppose ‘them immigrants coming ‘ere an’ takin’ our jobs’.
‘Wales is too small and poor to survive on her own’. Of course she is. So is Switzerland, and Finland, Norway and many other small countries. (Once the Jocks realise this they’ll definitely vote No.) When you hear crap like this you have ask yourself, ‘Does the person saying this believe it? If so, then you are confronted with an idiot. If not, then a liar. Either way, ignore them and move on.
I’m sure those reading this can think of many more ‘codes’ that I haven’t mentioned. One would obviously be the suggestion that devolution is doomed to fail and independence would be a disaster because we Welsh are somehow less intelligent than other peoples. Obviously this cannot be stated openly, so what’s the most imaginative way you’ve heard it phrased?
P.S. As I don’t have a laptop, tablet, iPad, or fancy mobile phone, I may be late in allowing or answering comments. Must find one of them buildings with books . . . what are they called? Or one o’ they fancy caffs.
Following my earlier post on ‘mappex’ I received an e-mail from a trade union official acting on behalf of Councillor Gez Kirby . . . who is also a trade union official, with the same trade union. The e-mail came, ostensibly, from a Darren Williams, who is Acting Wales Secretary for the Public and Commercial Services Union. For the same outfit he also serves as National Officer for the South West. (Pembrokeshire?)
To recap: In February 2009 someone using the name ‘mapexx’ went on a BBC Wales message board making the comment shown here. (Click to enlarge.) Now of course, ‘mapexx’ could be a complete fantasist, making it all up in order give some credibility to his / her obvious contempt for the Welsh language. But there must also be a possibility, perhaps a strong possibility, that ‘mapexx’ was, as he / she says, a census enumerator, and even did follow-up interviews. If so, then ‘mapexx’ has broken the contract of his / her employment and may have committed a criminal offence. Consequently, we have every right to expect that the Office for National Statistics, and indeed the Public and Commercial Services Union (representing the staff at the ONS), would want to find out the truth, and to identify ‘mapexx’. But following my complaint to the ONS in March 2009 I had a brush-off letter and heard nothing more.
What I said in my post of September 2nd was, ” . . . there are enough grounds to suspect that Councillor Gez Kirby, an employee of the Office for National Statistics, abused his position to post comments on a BBC blog, under a spurious name, claiming to be using confidential information gained through his employment.” (“Grounds to suspect”, Mr Williams.) I would welcome having those suspicions dispelled. But that can only be done by identifying ‘mapexx’ and establishing that it is not Gez Kirby. Darren Williams’ e-mail to me, plus my reply, can be found here.
UPDATE 25.09.13: After writing the above and the earlier piece on the mysterious ‘mapexx’ I also wrote to the Office for National Statistics. Yesterday I received a reply. You can read both the e-mail from the ONS – Room 101! – and my reply below. Quite honestly, I think that what the ONS is saying is a load of old bollocks. Here’s why:
An organisation with the resources and reputation of the ONS should – if it so desires – have no problem in getting the information from the BBC, or anywhere else, needed to identify ‘mapexx’.
An organisation like the ONS, dealing with sensitive information entrusted to it, should be duty-bound to hunt down someone like ‘mapexx’.
Yet here we are, over four years on, and the ONS admits it has made no progress. Perhaps because identifying and prosecuting ‘mapexx’ would result in embarrassing publicity.(The same disincentive applies to the Public and Commercial Services Union.)
UPDATE 07.10.2013: I have now received another e-mail from Ms Byard at the Office for National Statistics in Newport. This, together with my reply, can be found below. If anyone has problems then this correspondence can be accessed here in PDF format.
Regular readers of Welsh blogs, Tweeters and others, will be familiar with the name ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch‘, one of the many anti-Welsh trolls to be found in those spheres. Though of course, to believe him, he’s not anti-Welsh at all. When it comes to the Welsh language he’s just against the teaching of it, and the displaying of it . . . in fact his attitude seems to be that Welsh should – like homosexuality in the 1950s – be restricted to consenting adults in private. He is, predictably, also opposed to devolution and many other things, but insists that he loves Wales. It’s just . . . well, he doesn’t like anything that makes Wales different to England. Even if it benefits Wales. When he’s pinned down, the truth is that his ‘Wales’ must be no different to England in any important respect. Well, maybe a rugby team.
‘Cliffoch’ came on mighty strong to my post yesterday on my Tumblr blog. This was a harmless enough report on the squashing of the Severn Barrage project. I can only assume that he was animated by the reference I made to ‘Howell Morgan’, who had posted a comment to the WalesOnline version of the story. There, and in various tweets, he called me a coward, a cretin and a few other things my Mam would never have called me. I admitted I am no hero, but still confirmed that my name is Royston Jones and asked Cliffoch to give us his real name. He declined. (All this can be found on the Tumblr blog.) So I decided to make enquiries myself. The first stop was obviously the IP address, which gave me a German or German-Swiss provider and located ‘Cliffoch’ in Switzerland. Next, overnight, ‘Colwyn’ was able to provide two links. The first (left) to a geneology site and the second (below) to a petition to the Assembly asking for Welsh speakers to have their tongues cut out . . . sorry, sorry, I’ve mis-read that, the petition is against the compulsory teaching of Welsh. (I.e. any teaching of Welsh.) It now seems likely beyond peradventure that ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch’ is Christopher Stephen Clifford, born – or “originally born” (as he puts it) – in Neath, working in Zurich, but with a home base in the Aberavon constituency.
What I find remarkable is that here we have a man who claims to have a Welsh-speaking mother, to have spent a lot of time when young with a grandmother who spoke more Welsh than English, who claims to have bilingual children, who has lived for years in a country with four official languages, and yet is so intolerant of another language – his maternal language – in Wales. Either this man is a liar, or his head is seriously screwed up. Or could his time in multilingual Switzerland have made him into what he is today? Another absurdity is that ‘Cliffoch’ is forever spouting how the Welsh language deters investors. Yet he lives in one of the most prosperous countries on earth, where people speak German, French, Italian and Romansch, with yet more languages spoken by the many immigrant groups. Multilingualism doesn’t seem to have done Switzerland any harm, yet we dumb Taffs are expected to believe that teaching Welsh will impoverish Wales! As if the Labour Party hasn’t already done that!
STATEMENT: I have spent a lot of time recently on a bunch of scumbags I’d rather have nothing to do with. It is demeaning, distasteful and distracting, and I don’t intend to do any more of it. There are far bigger fish to fry in Wales, organisations and individuals doing far more damage than the individual ranter. So in future I shall be focusing on more important issues than swivel-eyed Brit bigots. People who hide behind regularly changing pseudonyms that makes tracking them down akin to chasing one’s tail. Worse, perhaps, treating them seriously gives them a respect they don’t deserve, but of course it’s what they crave, so don’t engage with them, just let them talk to each other. When you are unfortunate enough to encounter one of them, just wipe the shit from your shoe and move on.
A story in the Daily Telegraph has been getting attention on Twitter and elsewhere. It appears that the Treasury in London is considering giving power over stamp duty (on property purchase) to the ‘Welsh’ Government. (Though if I’ve read the article correctly, it seems that others in the Treasury are arguing against the move!) The (pro-transfer) Treasury would appear to be considering implementing a change proposed by the Silk Commission, set up to look into the devolution settlement and recommend changes it feels might be necessary or welcome.
There would be nothing surprising in the Treasury handing over such power, for it has long been suspected that the Conservative Party would be happy to transfer to Wales authority over the raising of existing taxes. Which if you think about, makes perfect sense. If we raise £100m then this same sum will be deducted from the block grant . . . with the expense of raising and administering the tax transferred to Wales. So we’ll end up out of pocket.
Irrespective of whether there is discord at the Treasury among the unnamed, one name we do encounter in the Telegraph article is that of David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales. Doing what Tory Secretaries of State have ever done – put England’s interests first. For while he may urge caution because of the consequences ” . . . . for the whole of the UK . . . ” this – as he well knows – is disingenuous. The legislation will have no effect on Scotland, so he is thinking solely of England. More importantly, those Conservative voters with second homes in Wales.
Just remind yourself that this post of Secretary of State for Wales exists, so we have always been told, to defend Welsh interests. Increasing stamp duty on second homes would result in more properties coming within the financial reach of local buyers, so shouldn’t David Jones be supporting such a measure? Yes, but only if you fall for the old deception that a Secretary of State for Wales is ‘the voice of Wales in the Cabinet’. In reality, he, and every other Secretary of State, Conservative and Labour, has been the voice of the Cabinet in Wales. Little more than a governor-general with instructions to keep the natives in check.
Elsewhere in the article we were treated to another quote, this time from “a Tory source” which first reminded us that England and Wales (or Englandandwales), ” . . . in many respects form a single economic region”. Yes, we’re aware of the problem. Before going off the rails a bit with, “The border areas are highly populated . . . “. What! Travelling north from Chepstow the border is sparsely populated until one reaches Wrecsam. Which suggests that this ‘Tory source’ is probably from the north or the north east . . . perhaps David Jones again, this time incognito.
One thing I find really sad about this little tale is that the Conservative Party within Wales has made great strides to detoxify itself, to become more Welsh, and then along comes Dai Jones talking like a Tory politician of the 1980s. Such progress has been made in Wales that the party has managed to make itself unattractive to Beata ‘Britannia’ Brookes and Rod Richards, both offloaded onto Ukip. David Melding often sounds a better Welshman than many in Plaid Cymru. Then comes the reality check in the form of David Jones.
Though in fairness, things would be little different if the Labour Party was in power in London. For this episode only exposes, yet again, the fundamental problem with devolution. England agrees we can have devolution just as long as it doesn’t disadvantage England. Which is almost impossible. If Wales was to act in her own best interests – as does every other country – then we would be charging a fair rate for water and other exports. Were we growing a healthy economy then Welsh companies could only expand at the expense of English rivals currently taking advantage of the lack of indigenous competition.
In a nutshell . . . The problem with devolution is that the ‘Welsh’ Government only has power to decide spending priorities of the block grant given by London. Due to the prevailing socialist ethos, this results in much of this money being squandered in order that our politicians can claim the moral high ground. Though this is defended as making Wales a fairer and “more equal” country. Which I suppose has some truth, for we’re all becoming poorer.
Compounded by the fact that we have a Labour Party in control of Wales that sees a virtue in poverty! We are said to enjoy the only administration in Europe that has a Minister for Tackling Poverty. But making a virtue, or a political weapon, out of poverty is so entrenched in Labour thinking that we also have to suffer a Third Sector that exists to glorify and capitalise on poverty, and of course, by so doing provide a few thousand jobs for Labour cronies! As if that wasn’t bad enough, many in ‘Welsh’ Labour seem fearful of making Wales successful lest this excites nationalist passions!
Further exacerbated by the problem that too many policy decisions attributed to the ‘Welsh’ Government are in fact made by civil servants and ‘advisors’ of whom we know next to nothing, beyond the fact that few of them are Welsh, and many of them answer directly to London. The Planning Inspectorate, the Housing Directorate (social housing), the Wales Rural Observatory, are just a few of the bodies involved.
While on the other hand, London will never grant powers that could improve the economic standing of Wales because to do so would, in too many instances, result in England or English consumers of Welsh resources being disadvantaged, or else – as stamp duty explicitly shows – work against the interests of English people taking advantage of Wales’ relative poverty and colonial status in relation to England.
Put it all together and it exposes devolution as a chimera; a worthless sop to Welsh sentiment designed to fail on almost every practical level. Which is what we have seen since the Welsh Assembly came into being. By almost every important criterion Wales is poorer today than she was in 1999, not just in absolute terms but relative to England, Scotland, and almost every other part of Europe.
Consequently, the current model of devolution is indefensible. To persist with it can only be viewed as a collective delusion, or the worst form of national masochism.
A few years ago I used to enjoy visiting the excellent BBC blog of Betsan Powys until it was overrun by Unionist bigots. To the point where Ms Powys couldn’t write about the illegal trade in ivory, or EU plum quotas, without these loonies blaming it all on the Welsh language, or devolution. No matter what the subject, their only response was to spout the same robotic messages of hate towards all things Welsh. Among these bigots was one signing as ‘mapexx’. Some of mapexx’ contributions can be found on this page from the blog, scroll down to comments 8, 18, 24, 27, 35, 44, 45, 54.
Pay particular attention to number 35. Here, presumably providing evidence for his / her anti-Welsh language views, mapexx says: “Before you say I am wrong, keep one thing in mind, I WAS a Census enumerator in the 2001 census, and am already signed to be one again in the next census. I was also engaged to do a follow up series of interviews with many across the south east Wales area. I found very very little, in the way of fluency to any level, beyond a few simple words.” (A fuller extract can be found right. Click to enlarge.) The only conclusion to be drawn is that mapexx was an enumerator in the 2001 census, and was to be one again in 2011. Whatever he or she might have been, it was also clear from these and countless other comments that mappex belonged to the rabidly anti-Welsh wing of the Labour Party, all dressed up as opposition to devolution, ‘extremism’, and unspeakable things being forced down the throats of innocents.
Now after reading this very indiscreet and worrying comment I wrote to the Office for National Statistics. For quite obviously enumerators are sworn to a code of secrecy. Regretably I can’t find my letter to the ONS, but I do have a copy of the reply. It can be found here. Soon after the exchange of letters with the ONS mapexx stopped making his / her odious contributions and disappeared. I may even have tipped off mapexx that I was going to write to the ONS. I can’t recall. Maybe someone can find such a comment. Certainly, another regular contributor to the blog drew attention to the indiscretion. Finally, note that the ONS says it has not yet started recruiting enumerators for 2011. Yet mappex already knows he / she will be working on the next census. How can that be? (A suggestion will be found below.) Anyway, time passed, and I almost forgot about mapexx.
Then, today, a letter appeared in the Wasting Mule, and it was as if the gates of memory swung ajar. (That’s poetic, that is.) The letter can be seen left. (Click to enlarge.) It is from Labour councillor Gez Kirby of Caerffili. Let me explain that at the same time mapexx flourished and gained notoriety Kirby was also appearing on blogs and elsewhere saying . . . well . . . very much the same things as mapexx. Kirby and mapexx were almost kindred spirits. Both didactic and pedantic, ‘I’m smarter than you’ types. Coming out with the sort of comments you get from a clever boy who’s been to university and believes this allows him to talk down to people. Or am I being unfair on Kirby? Does the man in the photo look the kind of cocky bastard I’m describing?
The letter in today’s Mule prompted me to visit Caerfilli council’s website and, in particular, Kirby’s information. Where I found, in his Declaration of Member’s Interests, the interesting fact that he works for the Office for National Statistics. (Click here and scroll down.) Following a lead on the council website I did some more Googling and came up with this. Which tells us that Kirby is an ONS representative for the Public and Commercial Services Union. (See panel below left.) Incidentally, something else I learnt from the Caerffili website is that Kirby was elected to the council last year with just 18.74% of the vote, making him the least popular – by some distance – of the three successful Labour candidates in Pontllanfraith ward.
A little more digging told me that Kirby had also belonged (in 2004) to the Population and Migration Theme Working Group of National Statistics. Though these minutes suggest that Kirby was not a great success, for they begin with him apologising for incomplete minutes of the previous meeting! This group seems to deal with population movements, such as the influx we are experiencing into Wales. I can’t help wondering if an anti-Welsh bigot like Kirby isn’t ideally suited for this group, especially if it does more than merely study and report. I’d appreciate more information on this group.
I am not for one minute – heaven forfend! – suggesting that Councillor Gez KIrby is mapexx. In fact we can prove it. All we need to do is find another reasonably articulate, anti-Welsh bigot, based in the south east, who likes to spout his odious views on blogs and in newspapers, is a staunch supporter of Israel, and has strong connections with the Office for National Statistics. There must be hundreds satisfying those criteria . . . Well, dozens, surely? Some? Any?
And even though I’m sure there is no connection between the real-life anti-Welsh bigot, Gez Kirby, and the anti-Welsh troll, mapexx, I would still expect the Office for National Statistics to investigate the possibility – remote though it may be – that someone working for them used a widely-read blog to disseminate confidential information gained carrying out his duties for the ONS. (Of course, the more likely possibility is that mapexx lied about the findings in order to give his / her bigotry some credibility. So which is worse from an ONS perspective?) And if I was Kirby’s employer I’d wonder how much work he does for the ONS . . . when he’s not doing union work, council work, tweeting, networking on Facebook and Linkedin, and posting God knows how many comments in God knows how many names, to God knows how many blogs. (No wonder he can’t get the minutes ready.) Hang on! he works for a government department, I am his employer!
I would also expect the Public and Commercial Services Union to make enquiries, so as to establish beyond any shadow of doubt that their representive, councillor Gez Kirby, is / was not mapexx.
Normally I would also be asking the Caerffili Labour Party to do something, but I feel that shower has more than enough problems to worry about at the moment. I’m not a complete bastard!
Ok, all joking aside, and to leave no one in any doubt as to what I am saying. I believe that there are enough grounds to suspect that Councillor Gez Kirby, an employee of the Office for National Statistics, abused his position to post comments on a BBC blog, under a spurious name, claiming to be using confidential information gained through his employment. That being so, his employer and others, such as Caerffilli council, have no alternative but to establish – through the BBC, internet servers and other channels – whether Councillor Gez Kirby was ‘mapexx’. If so, then disciplinary action must be taken.