Intriguing rumours reach me from the Land of my Dreams. They concern manoeuvering to succeed Martin Caton, current MP for Gower, in 2015. Caton is a decent enough cove, I’m assured, if unassuming and happy to be naught but lobby Gower 2010fodder in the greater scheme of things.

To set the stage, for those unfamiliar with the area . . . As the name suggests, the Gower constituency covers the peninsula of the same name, but seeing as this area is thinly populated the electorate is to be found on the western and northern outskirts of the city, from Mumbles through Gorseinon to Clydach. (Reminding us of the old Lordship of Gower.) Though other communities in Cwmtawe that were formerly in Gower – e.g. Pontardawe, Ystalyfera, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen – have now been moved to the Neath constituency, making Gower less solidly Labour.

The whispers wafting up on the southern breeze tell me that two of those with aspirations to replace Caton are Fiona Gordon, who represents the largely transient population of Castle ward, and Andrea Lewis, a “self-employed female vocalist”, who represents Morriston ward. Ms Gordon is said to be ‘in with’ the pink gin English student set and their patron, council leader, David Phillips. But things may not be that straightforward.

For even though il Duce is the leader of the city council, and Gower is one of the three Swansea constituencies, the seat is represented down Cardiff docks by the redoubtable Edwina Hart. It’s her patch, and she will not take kindly to outside intervention, particularly as it is further rumoured that Redwina has her own favourite to replace the beleaguered Caton. Who might it be? The breeze whispers the name Christine Gwyther.

For those with short memories . . . Christine Gwyther was AM for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire from 1999 to 2007. Alun Michael – briefly First Minister – made her Minister Alun Michaelof Agriculture. An odd choice, for as can be imagined, Gwyther’s vegetarianism did not go down well with farmers, and she was dismissed in 2000, soon after Rhodri Morgan replaced Michael.  She lost her seat to the Tories in the 2007 elections and failed to regain it in 2011. The poor woman suffered a further setback when, in 2012, she stood for the post of  Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys, losing narrowly to unknown Tory, Christopher Salmon.

Now if Redwina has decided to throw her weight behind Gwyther then it renders hopeless any ambitions or machinations from other quarters. Better men than Phillips have tangled with Hart and come off second best.

Of course all this might be just tittle-tattle, but it throws up intriguing possibilities. With Labour’s hold on Gower under serious threat from the popular Conservative candidate and current regional AM, Byron Davies, it presents ‘Welsh’ Labour with all sorts of problems. Though if I was a Labour supporter (now there’s a thought!), none of the likely lasses I’ve mentioned would exactly fill me with confidence. So, looking on the bright side . . . those of us with the best interests of Wales at heart should hope for some very bitter in-fighting that leaves ‘Welsh’ Labour even further weakened. And gives Gower a Conservative MP in 2015.

UPDATE 01.11.13: It now appears that Fiona Gordon may be out of the running, possibly promised one of the consolation prizes made possible by the funding released by Il Duce’s culling of the scrutiny committees.

It was remiss of me not to mention that Gordon is the daughter of Alana Davies, former Bridgend councillor who lost her Porthcawl East seat last year to an Independent, despite a swing to Labour elsewhere in the borough. Alana’s personal website is an excruciating example of its kind; ‘Here’s me with Gordon Brown . . . Hilary Benn . . . Carwyn Jones . . . Dennis Skinner’.

Fiona Gordon’s Linkedin profile tells us that she is ‘Pilot Project Co-ordinator’ at Bridgend County Borough Council. I think we can safely assume that this has something to do with education. By one of those curious coincidences one comes across every so often, Mumsie also earns a crust in education, and formerly held the Labour History groupportfolio for Children and Young People on Bridgend council. Perhaps she was in post when Fiona was appointed Pilot Project Co-ordinator. As I say, coincidence, nothing more.

Staying in Bridgend, a new name in the frame for Gower is said to be councillor, Christina Rees, who is also fourth on the list of Labour candidates for next year’s European elections. Fight it out girls!

UPDATE 03.11.13: Someone just referred me to this (click to enlarge). Is it true? If so, why is there nothing in the Welsh media? If it is true, why was it done almost secretively, with the news broken on the Labour History Group Twitter account? And as Andrea Parma asks – who is she? The only Liz Evans I can find is this one, vice chair of Woking constituency Labour Party – is that her? Very odd.

A Jack Take on the Welsh Cricket Debate

When I was a boy (yes, a long time ago now) summer meant cricket. We’d play in the park until the park keepers threw us out (remember ‘parkies’?) then it would be any patch of waste ground or even the street. We’d play all day until we were stopped not so much by bad light as total darkness. And it was the same with kids everywhere. Not only that, we’d follow the fortunes of Glamorgan County Cricket Club and, if they were playing in Swansea, we’d try to sneak in to St. Helen’s to watch. Innocents that we were, we even supported the England test team. (Ah!)Hedges Black

But things have changed, I can’t recall the last time I saw kids playing an impromptu game of cricket. Glamorgan is now Cardiff City Cricket Club, and cricket more generally has become a minority sport, kept alive only by ever more garish and desperate attempts to make it ‘interesting’. Necessary, because, with its instant gratifications, modern life has given most people under the age of 50 the attention span of a goldfish; so for these, sitting through a three-day county game or a five-day test, watching men all dressed in white, is akin to being forced to read War and Peace in Russian. So it has to be gaudy colours, shorter and shorter games, more and more sixes, and all the distractionary razzmatazz the organisers can muster to get the goldfish interested. Subtle, it ain’t. Which is not to deny that the game is still big (and thoroughly corrupt) in India and Pakistan, but it’s losing popularity in many former strongholds, such as the West Indies, as those Caribbean islands pass from England’s to America’s sphere of cultural influence.

Some of you will have guessed that I’m dragging you down Memory Lane and various other byways because on Wednesday the Assembly debated whether to support the creation of a national cricket team for Wales, a subject I have dealt with previously. The filmed record of the debate can be found here. There were a number of interesting contributions, not least that from Mohammad Asghar, a man who can recognise a sticky wicket better than most. ‘Oscar’, as he is known to his colleagues in the Conservative Party (and his former colleagues in Plaid Cymru and Labour), was fully supportive of the idea, informing other AMs that he himself had played the game at the highest level before leaving Pakistan. Less surprising was the negativity from other quarters.Peter Black

Let’s start with Peter Black, the Liberal Democrat and regional member for South West Wales. In his spare time he’s a councillor in Swansea. Black is an Englishman who washed up in my home town – like so many of those on the council today – as a student, in the late 1970s. I first came across the name on visits home in the 1980s, when the Liberals were into ‘pavement politics’ – remember that? What it boiled down to was not a lot different to the pestering behaviour of religious sects and chuggers. Anyway, Black’s take on the subject is summed up in the quote on the right, but it merits a few words from me.

He talks of St. Helen’s in the 1960s, which he’s perfectly entitled to do, but of course at this time, he was just out of nappies and living on the Wirral. Whereas I remember St. Helen’s in the ’60s – I was there, son, winter and summer. Talking of St. Helen’s, maybe Black should remind himself how many games Glamorgan play there nowadays. Not many, is it? Here we have a man, elected by the people of Swansea as a councillor and an AM, defending the interests of a body that has treated Swansea abominably due to the fact that he is a self-serving politico who doesn’t really give a shit about the city. Worse, his attitude towards a Wales cricket team is coloured by his own nationality, a truth he tries to disguise by getting his retaliation in first and condemning the proposal’s backers as nationalists. Of course they are, Come December, I’ll be singing rebel songs with ‘Oscar’ at Cilmeri, him resplendent as usual in his FWA uniform.

Mike HedgesThe other contribution that caught my jaundiced eye came from another Swansea politician, Mike ‘Mr. Bean’ Hedges. Of whom I have spoken in the recent past. Squeaked he (or possibly Teddy), “There is a Welsh team which plays in the Minor Counties League”. On that logic, if we didn’t already have a national rugby team, but ‘Wales’ played in the English County Championship, Bean would be quite satisfied! He then goes on to defend the benefits accruing to Cardiff City Cricket Club and the city of Cardiff”! But, again, this is a politician supposedly representing Swansea. TELL US, BEAN, WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE CITY YOU REPRESENT SEE FROM THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT? I’ll help. The answer is sod all, and that’s been the case since Glamorgan County Cricket Club morphed into Cardiff City Cricket Club and abandoned St. Helen’s – so why are you defending it? Because . . . Bean-Hedges belongs to the Wales haters of the Labour Party who cannot tolerate anything that differentiates Wales from England, however beneficial to Wales. Jonathan Edwards MP summed it up perfectly in this tweet.J Ed cricket

So what have we learnt from this debate? In some respects, it had little to do with cricket. It was the usual suspects on both sides lining up on another issue and exposing  ‘the package’. Though those proposing and supporting the creation of a national cricket team belong, by and large, to the ‘positive’ or ‘ambitious’ element of Wales’ population. While those opposing the initiative are drawn from the ‘be happy with your lot’ and ‘Wales can’t do this, that . . .’ element. Though, interestingly, a third element emerged – and not just ‘Oscar’ – of people no one would describe as ‘nationalist’ but who could nevertheless see the benefits to Wales, and her international profile, from having a national cricket team playing in international competitions. On a more parochial level, I was, as you may have guessed, disgusted with the ignorance, or the short memories, of some of those representing Swansea. What has my beloved city done to deserve assholes like this? Cliff ap criced May 1

Finally, as if to prove what I’m saying about ‘the package’, as an illustration of how one can predict reactions to an issue like this from an individual’s known views on related matters, here’s a little contribution to a WalesOnline debate back in May, something I found when Googling. It’s our old friend ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch’ or, as we now know him, Chris Clifford, being true to form in expressing his hatred and / or contempt for anything distinctively or differently Welsh. Though I like the ‘score’!

P.S. More info here from the Welsh Cricket Team blog.

Scotland Referendum: Hold Tight And Enjoy The Ride

I bought the Sunday Telegraph today and read Andrew Gilligan’s piece on the SNP conference in Perth. In fairness, Gilligan conceded that, “Fiscally, there is no question that an independent Scotland could afford to go it alone”, which, I suppose, is progress. Because it wasn’t so long ago that Unionists like him were insisting an independent Scotland would be a pauper state. However, the rest of the piece was the usual combination of slapstick and scaremongering.

By line five of the article the respected leader of the SNP had become “Tubby” Salmond, a condition he was trying to remedy with a diet devised for him by, wait for it! – an Englishman. I found myself asking, ‘Is the dietician’s nationality important?’ and the only answer I could come up with was ‘no’. Maybe it was all too subtle for me, and this was Gilligan’s way of telling us that the Scots need their benevolent neighbours to look after them.

Gilligan introduced more humour (but unintentionally, this time) by reminding us that Scotland’s only oil refinery, at Grangemouth, had suddenly been closed by “its Swiss-based multinational owners” leaving the prospect that Scottish oil “would have to come ashore in England” with all the revenue and other implications for Scotland. Plus the more immediate possibility of fuel shortages in Scotland. Possibilities that may have had Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells salivating over his kedgeree this morning, but if you think about it, then the very idea is silly. An independent Scotland could either buy or take over Grangemouth, or just build a new refinery.

Gilligan conceded though tGrangemouthhat whatever was happening at Grangemouth looked like a “cooked-up dispute” over pay and conditions. Half true (as he may have known). The dispute is definitely contrived, but the pay and conditions angle is a red herring and a pretext. It might help if we look at exactly who owns Grangemouth refinery. The company is called INEOS which as Gilligan says, is headquartered in Switzerland, but he neglected to tell us that its registered office is in the canton of Hampshire. The company was founded by the very unSwiss sounding Jim Ratcliffe, and the only others mentioned in the ‘Leadership’ section of the website are, Andy Currie, John Reece and Jim Dawson. So, while INEOS might operate in many countries it is most definitely an English company.

What we appear to have here, then, is an English company playing politics and possibly trying to influence next September’s independence referendum. With oil figuring so large in an independent Scotland’s projected finances INEOS could be saying, ‘And how are you going to get the oil ashore without the Grangemouth facilities – that we own?’ If so, then the only question remaining for me is whether the UK government, or any of its agencies, put INEOS up to this stunt, and perhaps even agreed to underwrite the company’s losses. With your money.

Now there will be many reading this who’ll dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist. If I am, it’s because there are a lot of nasty things going on out there, and some of the worst of them are done by loveable, fluffy democracies that spend so much time castigating regimes that are more openly corrupt and repressive. This, added to a certain experience of how the bastards operate, leads me to confidently predict that between now and the Scottish referendum we shall be entertained with dirty tricks, black propaganda and downright lies that would make a propaganda chief in a totalitarian regime blush with embarrassment.

What am I talking about? Well, let me give you one of my favourite examples. What comes into your head when you think of Cananda? Wide open spaces, Mounties  . . . not a lot really; truth is, Canada comes over as dull and boring – ah, yes! but a model democracy, surely? Well, yes, until that is the Frenchies start being awkward, then the Canadian federal government, helped by big business, media and Uncle Sam pulls out all the stops to frighten the Quebecois into rejecting independence and / or parties promoting independence.

We’ve all heard the ‘money will flood out of the country’ argument against independence. Well in 1970 it was played out on the streets of Montreal, in what French speakers call a coup de theatre, and in this case, le coup de la Brink’s. (Link to article in French. Difficult to find anything in English on this incident. Hardly surprising.) On April 26th, in the hope of deterring people from voting for the Parti quebecois in the upcoming election for the Quebec parliament the Royal Bank of Cananda – on the instructions of the federal government – sent a convoy of nine Brink’s armoured carsQuebec result to Montreal where they were loaded with bonds and securities before heading off to Toronto.

Maybe it worked. Certainly the PQ vote was not as high as had been expected, or feared. Further, given the skewed electoral system then operating in Quebec the PQ got just seven seats despite winning over 23% of the vote. (Still think Canada is an ideal democracy?)

You want a Welsh example of underhand behaviour by a government? OK, try this. At the first Assembly elections in 1999, under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru came very close to getting more votes and more seats than Labour. There was, understandably, panic within Labour ranks, so the Labour government in London had words with its friends in the media. One result was the arrival of the Welsh Mirror newspaper, nothing more than the English Daily Mirror with articles slagging off Plaid Cymru and regular scare stories and borderline racism from Paul Starling, who also wrote for the New Statesman. Soon Dafydd Wigley was removed, Labour came back strongly in the elections of 2003, the Welsh Mirror went back to being the Daily Mirror, and Paul Starling seemed to disappear.

Which is why I confidently predict that the Scottish referendum campaign will serve up a feast of dirty tricks, black propaganda, psycops and all the side dishes, maybe even some ‘false flag’ stunts. And if it looks like there’s going to be a Yes vote, then it’ll be a real blow-out. It should go without saying that the groaning board I anticipate will not be provisioned by the Yes campaign.

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended

Today marks the centenary of the Senghennydd mining disaster, the worst ever in the UK, that claimed the lives of 440 men and boys. It was commemorated with various events in Senghennydd including the unveiling of a statue remembering all who died in Welsh mining accidents. Idrisyn headstone

Many who died at Senghennydd in 1913 had travelled there from other parts of Wales, but you wouldn’t have known that from reading this morning’s Wasting Mule, which did a panel piece on someone who’d moved from West Sussex! Doesn’t the Mule realise that the whole point of a Welsh newspaper is to cover Welsh news, and other news from a Welsh angle? Senghennydd provided an opportunity for the Mule to live up to its claim to be the ‘National Newspaper of Wales’ by bringing together the various parts of the country; but no, the Mule, as ever, had to look at Wales from an English perspective.

I mention this because I was fortunate enough to take part in a little ceremony of remembrance myself on Saturday. Due to my wife and her sister being collateral descendants of Edward Jones Humphreys of Abergynolwyn who, by the time he died at Senghennydd – and by a route the ladies have yet to establish – was universally known as ‘Idrisyn’. When the local quarry closed he made his way south with his brother (wife’s taid), and their sister, who was there with her husband. (Click to enlarge image.)

The fact is that Wstatueales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries experienced considerable internal migration which, for whatever reason, is often neglected. Too many prefer to concentrate – a la Mule – on migration into or out of Wales. Of my eight great-grandparents four came up to Swansea from the west, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire, places like Meidrim and New Quay. Most of those who came to work in the local Bryneglwys quarry here in south Meirionnydd came from Montgomeryshire, Caernarfonshire or further afield.

Returning to Senghennydd, I cannot avoid saying that I am disappointed with the statue. (Click to enlarge.) Isn’t it a bit, well, unimaginative? Crass, even? And another thing, the two portrayed are obviously survivors of some tragedy or other, so how do they commemorate the dead? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that a statue commemorating the dead has to be composed of corpses, but this statue looks like the kind of ‘heroic’ and inspiring public art that could be found in every shit-hole town in the Urals circa 1965. It’s almost a caricature of communist propaganda statuary. In profile, the miner holding the lamp even has a passing resemblance to Lenin!

Surely the obvious inspiration for any statue commemorating the dead of Welsh mining disasters is that iconic image of the young girl, with the baby wrapped in a traditional shawl, shielding her eyes and looking into the distance. (Click to enlarge.) For these countless disasters may have taken the lives of thousands of mother shawlmen and boys, but once dead they were – as my mamgu would say – ‘out of it’. The real suffering then was that of those who remained, the widows and orphans, so perfectly characterised by that sublime image. And, yes, it is also a memorial to the dead, for doesn’t she represent countless thousands of women and girls looking, waiting, for husbands, fathers, brothers who are never going to return?

So why did the chosen statue have to be so in-yer-face? Did those who made the decision fear that visitors would be bewildered if confronted by anything needing a little thought and reflection? Isn’t that the whole point of art? Even public art?

A lot of sincere people in Senghennydd and the surrounding area have done a wonderful job of giving us another genuinely national institution. Making us all remember an important date in Welsh history, from a time and place that now seem so distant. They should all be proud of what they’ve done. Unfortunately . . . the centre-piece, the statue-memorial, was not an inspired choice. I’m sorry, folks, it was the wrong choice.

Our Ageing Population: Is Anyone Counting the Cost?

I know I did a post on our ageing population quite recently but I make no apologies for returning to the subject because it’s important and it affects us all, no matter what our age. The more elderly people we have in our society, the higher the percentage of the public ‘pot’ that will need to be spent on caring for them, leaving less of that ‘pot’ to be spent on health, education, transport and a host of other areas crying out for investment. The more retired people we have then the more people we need in work, paying taxes to cover the unavoidable (in a civilised society) expenditure on an ageing population.

This fact is universally acknowledged, and is currently causing great concern in some of the most advanced economies in the world, not least Japan. Which goes some way to explaining why the Japanese are pushing ahead in robotics and similar fields. In neighbouring China, there is a real fear that the economic progress made in recent decades could be dramatically slowed, if not reversed, by a growing imbalance in the population, as the single child policy introduced in 1971 starts to take effect, and China faces an ageing population supported by a workforce that is, in relative terms, shrinking.Age, where born

So we have a problem universally acknowledged . . . except, apparently, in Wales. For here, not only do we have an ageing indigenous population, but we also have to contend with the activities of the short-sighted and the selfish who add to the problem by attracting retired and elderly people from outside of Wales. To make things worse, the areas most likely to experience this are often areas losing their own young people, thereby further exacerbating the population imbalance. (With one, rather curious, consequence – the resultant need to attract younger immigrants to ‘service’ the older immigrants!) The map will help explain what I mean. (Click to enlarge. For a fuller breakdown by local authority area look to the table below.) The famous ‘Costa Geriatrica’ shows up clearly on the north coast, while the other areas with large percentages of non-Welsh in the 65+ age bracket are all rural or coastal areas. The region with the highest percentage of Welsh born elderly is the central Valleys and Swansea Bay. Inevitably, the local authorities in this region are also among those with the lowest absolute percentages in the 65+ age bracket.

I often used to wonder about people wanting to spend their later years somewhere other than where they had lived their working lives, their homes. The more I thought about it, and the more I learnt from first-hand experience, the more I realised that there is more than one answer. For a start, it’s worth remembering that many people move prior to their retirement. If you plan to move to Ceredigion when you retire, then it makes sense to spend your final working years there to get acclimatised. Easy enough if you work for an Englandandwales body like the Post Office, or a company with outlets in both England and Wales. For most such organisations have policies of filling vacancies ‘internally’, which means that a vacancy in Aberystwyth or Cardigan could be filled by someone already working for that company or government department somewhere in England. This is frequently what happens; resulting in Welsh people being denied employment, and transfers to Wales creating vacancies in England. Yet another example of the unequal and damaging relationship between Wales and England.

(Of course our enemies – those who argue they want the ‘best for Wales’ and always end up supporting English interests – would tell us it’s a two-way street, Welsh people can move to jobs in England. Of course they can. Just remind yourself of all the government departments headquartered in Wales, all those Welsh supermarket chains with hundreds of outlets in England, those behemoth Welsh banks, global media empires, etc., etc. Back in the real world . . . remember Wales’ population of three million and England’s fifty-three million. And how are Welsh people supposed to get transferred to England if they can’t get recruited in Wales in the first place?)

In addition, many people retire to where they’ve spent regular holidays, especially if they’ve bought a holiday home or a caravan in the area. So tourism plays a massive part in creating the generational imbalance we see in rural and coastal areas. But there are other routes, especially in the older age group, as I learnt from observations made while my late mother was a resident at a local retirement home. New residents, usually women, would regularly turn up, seemingly out of the blue. I’d ask the staff, ‘Where is she from?’ The usual response was, ‘No idea’. So I made further enquiries as to why women with no real connection with an area would suddenly appear in a Welsh retirement home.

The most common reason was that many of these residents, women in their late seventies or eighties, were ‘placed’ there by their families. Let’s say Mrs Blogg of Birmingham had a son in his fifties, due to retire himself in a few years, and planning to move, once retired (or before), to the Meirionnydd coage, place of birthast; well, if mother needed to go into a home then it made sense to put her into a home in Tywyn rather placing her in a Birmingham home and then hoping there was a vacancy for her in Tywyn when he retired.

The simple rule adopted by retirement and nursing homes seems to be, ‘As long as someone is paying the bill, then it doesn’t matter where they come from’. Which I supppose is fair enough, up to a point. But it’s surely short-sighted. Because while the home’s costs may be covered, an elderly person will need attention from many other quarters, so who pays the local doctors’ surgery, the medicines and drugs, the ambulance service, the hospital, etc? Multiply that by tens of thousands, add it to the Welsh elderly, in areas where the undertaker’s hearse – even if horse-drawn – is likely to arrive before the ambulance, and we can see the insanity of allowing into Wales every year thousands of people who have spent their productive years elsewhere.

To put this into some kind of context, a friend of mine in Swansea has taken a few holidays in New Zealand, and would seriously consider moving there but, as he told me recently, at his age (66) he’d need close to a million dollars before he would be allowed in. New Zealand, like many other countries, will not consider non-working immigrants unless these are self-sufficient, with money in the bank, private health care, or other guarantees that they will not be a burden on the country. Here in Wales, we welcome anyone, including those it can be predicted with certainty will be a strain on health and other services.

So why do we allow it? There are three main reasons. First, there are an awful lot of powerful interests making money from people who are close to retirement, or who have retired, moving to Wales. Estate agents, lawyers, house builders, owners of care homes and retirement homes and others. Second, local authorities see this influx as a way of disguising their shortcomings because it maintains or raises population levels. Further, an influx of retired and elderly people does, to some extent, generate its own jobs: hairdressers, taxi drivers, gardeners, etc. All low paid and usually precariously self-employed jobs. Third, we have a ‘Welsh’ Government that is terrified to even debate the subject, for these are English people we’re talking about – what would the Daily Mail say?

Here are some figures that might help you appreciate the problem. The 2011 census told us that 18.4% of the population of Wales was over the age of 65. The figure for England was 16.4% . . . and England is much richer. That gap is widening. While the map shows the obvious problem of the ‘Costa Geriatrica’ there are countless other pockets or concentrations of English born Census age groups Gwyneddelderly. In the five south western wards of Gwynedd (roughly Barmouth to Aberdyfi, see table, click to enlarge) the Welsh born account for only 31% of the over 65s! When the native-born account for less than one third of the population then it should be time to admit there is a problem. Across all age groups, the English born account for 20.8% of the population of Wales. Yet in the 50 – 64 age group the percentage rises to 25.7%; while in the 65+ age group it goes up even higher, to 26.5%.

The fact is that despite the political orientation of this blog what I’m discussing here is not really nationalism at all. It’s not even politics. (And it’s certainly not ageism.) This is economics, pure and simple. Perhaps the most intractable economic problem facing advanced societies today is caring for their ageing populations. Therefore, for a poor country with a health service already close to collapse to allow in from outside of that country large numbers of retired and elderly people is economic suicide. If an ageing population is a serious problem for Germany and Japan then here in Wales it’s a disaster waiting to happen. The truth is that our politicians are too fearful of the backlash from England’s political establishment and media to raise the subject; as a result, we are, effectively, being intimidated into accepting a situation that can only result in further impoverishing Wales. Which is, of course, what many wish to see.

Fleece Jacket Fascists 2

Back at the beginning of August I wrote a piece called Fleece Jacket Fascists, in which I tried to expose those British or Englandandwales organisations that want Wales to be run in the interests of middle class English settlers and visitors. Those working for these fleece jacketorganisations can invariably be identified by their ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket, hence the title. I am returning to the subject for two reasons.

First, one of the issues I dealt with in the earlier post, something that had resulted in a concerted attack by regiments of ‘fascists’, is back in the news. I’m referring now to the planned motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale, a subject I dealt with in June, in this post. The developers are now promising that work will start on the project before Christmas. So who are these developers?

In recent media coverage they have been named as the Heads of the Valleys Development Company Ltd (HVDC), yet it’s difficult to get any further information. For example, I can find no website, nothing really except for snapshots on business information websites. Such as this. The HVDC has its registered office in Cambridgeshire, and appears to have no local directors. Though DueDil suggests that the HVDC is only a subsidiary of the (non-trading) Rassau Track and Leisure Company Ltd., registered at the same Cambridgeshire address. The RTL has a single director, Michael Anthony Carrick, who is also a director and the investment manager for the HVDC.

Despite these companies being little more than shells the enviro-fascists seem to have understood that public opinion was against them and have backed down. Even though one obstacle has been removed I doubt if this £280m project will come anywhere near realising that figure from private sources. Which means it will need a massive injection of public funding, possibly from the third round of EU Structural Funds (beginning next year). Despite that, I can see no grounds to object to such funding . . . as long as the project delivers the promised benefits for local people. That would be a far better way to spend EU funding than wasting it on the Poverty Promotion Sector that creates jobs for Labour cronies but never for those they are supposedly helping.

The second reasonVisit Wales canoeists for returning to the subject of the Fleece Jacket Fascists is that visitors to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Visit Wales website were recently asked to complete a questionnaire on outdoor activity tourism. Excluded from the survey were road cycling, rambling, shooting, horse riding and angling. How do we explain the exclusion of the most popular outdoor activities? The answer almost certainly lies in the picture used on the Visit Wales website to advertise the survey. (Click to enlarge.) That’s right, it’s really just about canoeists, with this fact disguised by throwing in a few other outdoor activities.

We can safely assume that this survey first saw life with lobbying from Canoe Wales, which manages the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, near Bala. Don’t be fooled by ‘Wales’ in the title, or the location near Bala, these are English bodies; it is the English national centre. The clues are all over the website. Such as describing Bala as being in the “heart of Snowdonia”! There is no Welsh on the website. Note also the e-mail address for the Bala site, So we are not just talking about aggressive and confrontational canoeists, we are also threatened with gangs of drunken middle managers hurling beer cans from rafts. Fundamentally, this is about the outdoor activity sector in Wales, which employs few if any Welsh, wanting to make yet more money out of our country by being allowed access to all Welsh waterways, where they will disturb Welsh anglers and do untold environmental damage.

That the Labour Party should support this move is no surprise, for Labour hates real country people. And as I pointed out in the original post, canoeists have always had friends in the Labour Party. Let me quote from that original post: “One (friend in high places) was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and Conwywaterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.”

More surprising is that Plaid Cymru is also said to support opening up Welsh waterways to arrogant and irresponsible English canoeists. The specific names mentioned to me as supporters of ‘open access’ were Leanne Wood, the party leader, and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefrw. I e-mailed both. I had no reply from Leanne Wood, but Rhodri Glyn responded with, “I’m opposed to granting access without accepting responsibilities”. Which, I suppose, could mean anything, or nothing. Though I do hope he means that it’s the canoeists who have to accept responsibilities.

Unlike the situation in Scotland and England 80 per cent or more of angling rights on Welsh rivers are locally owned, by clubs, some of which are over 100 years old. Many of these clubs were formed by miners, quarrymen, steelworkers and others for whom angling provided fresh air and relaxation, and also put food on the table. Now the descendents of those men, the members of those clubs that have maintained our rivers, regularly restocking them with fish that provided not just pleasure for anglers but also prey for kingfisher, otter, and countless other species, are to be brushed aside by Welsh ‘socialists’ pandering to people who think ‘Wales’ is nothing more than their playground.

This is Wales in 2013. Fourteen years into ‘devolution’. It is the patriotic duty of every good Welshman and Welshwoman to oppose ‘open access’.

UPDATE 25.10.13: I have now received a response from Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru. I am glad to say that it is rather more helpful than the earlier response from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, mentioned in the post above. Also, rather more encouraging. Interestingly, Leanne Wood seems to confirm what I had been told – that the so-called ‘consultation process’ seemed designed to exclude those the ‘Welsh’ Government didn’t want to hear from, i.e. anglers and others likely to object to granting open access to visiting gangs of Hooray Henrys with paddles.

I shall maintain a watching brief.

Dear Royston, 

Thank you for your correspondence regarding access to waterways in proposed changes in legislation in Wales, and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Our Environment spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd has already raised his concerns with the Minister on some of these issues.

It’s clear that not enough has been done to ensure that all the voices are heard as part of the pre-legislation process. For example, we have been contacted by numerous groups who were angry at not having been invited to attend consultation events held to discuss the proposed Recreation and Access Bill.

You may recall that the same Minister was responsible for the Marine Conservation Zone debacle when proposals for new highly protected areas were published with little prior engagement of key stakeholders. As a result there was a huge uproar and he was forced to scrap the proposals and start again. I very much hope this is not replicating that shambles.

It is my understanding that a Green Paper will be published by the Government sometime around late 2013/early 2014 outlining their intentions. Whilst this will offer a more formal means of responding to particular proposals I would suggest that you write to the Minister expressing your views now. It’s always better to try and influence the proposals sooner rather than later.

As you can imagine, we will be scrutinising this particular legislation very closely.

Kindest regards,




Leanne Wood

Arweinydd Plaid Cymru ac Aelod Cynulliad Canol De Cymru

Leader of Plaid Cymru and South Wales Central Assembly Member