I have consistently argued that colonialism takes many forms. It’s not just England ripping off our natural resources, or using our homeland as a playground, there are a thousand and one less obvious ways in which Wales is exploited. Some of them are curious, even bizarre, while others are in ‘sensitive’ areas where we timid Welsh are often reluctant to raise our voices.
Last Thursday, I was sauntering along Tywyn High Street, nosing here and there, when a sign in the newsagent’s window caught my eye. I reproduce it here for you. I agree it’s not easy to read, due to the reflective qualities of glass combined with the professionalism of our local window cleaners. Even so, you should be able to read that a fund-raising event was organised locally by North West Cancer Research . . . north west England, that is.
I got home and tweeted Cancer Research Wales. Today, after the Bank Holiday, I received a reply, and a short exchange of tweets followed. (Just work your way down, and click to enlarge.) The final, unanswered tweet, was me asking Cancer Research Wales if they will be asking for the money collected last Saturday in Tywyn.
This fund-raiser was not a one-off, I have seen similar posters before, and as this one tells us, North West Cancer Research has a Tywyn & District Committee, which suggests regular fund-raising events.
Now a Britlander reading what I have written thus far would perhaps say, ‘Oh, do come on, don’t be so petty. Does it really matter where it goes – it’s all for the same cause!’. A response that would doubtless silence many Welsh people, while deliberately missing a number of points.
First, Tywyn is on the Cardigan Bay coastline, some 86 miles from Liverpool, so it’s reasonable to assume that if there is a fund-raising group for North West Cancer Research in Tywyn then there will be others as we get closer to Liverpool, especially along the north coast.
Unsurprisingly, there is a committee in Mold, covering Flintshire. There is also a Llanfairfechan, Aber and Bangor Committee for Gwynedd and Conwy, and even a Machynlleth Committee to cover Powys. Though, remarkably, for an organisation serving north west England, there seems to be no fund-raising group in Liverpool, where it’s based, or Manchester!
In fact, North West (England) Cancer Research has more fund-raising groups in Wales than in England! Which makes me wonder just how viable North West Cancer Research would be without the money it gets from northern and central Wales.
The North West Cancer Research website tells us that it funds cancer research “at the University of Liverpool, Bangor University and Lancaster University”. So that explains it – the money collected in Tywyn, and Machynlleth, Mold and Llanfairfechan, goes to Bangor university! Well, no, it actually goes to Liverpool, where it is doled out to those three universities.
But wait, Bangor University (despite what many involved with that institution may believe) is in Wales, and we have our own Cancer Research Wales, so why is Bangor University tied up with the Cancer Research group in Liverpool?
You may be thinking the answer is that people from the Machynlleth and Tywyn areas go to Bangor or Liverpool hospitals for cancer treatment. They don’t, everyone I’ve known in the Tywyn area who has needed treatment for cancer has gone to a hospital in the south . . . yet their donations go to Liverpool!
So the question remains: Why is money being collected in Tywyn and elsewhere in Wales for North West Cancer Research when people from those areas go to hospitals in southern Wales for cancer treatment?
But even if people from Machynlleth and Tywyn were going to Liverpool or Bangor for cancer treatment that still wouldn’t justify collections in Wales for North West Cancer Research. Bangor is in Wales and cancer research at the local university should be funded by money collected in every part of Wales by Cancer Research Wales. Any treatment received by Welsh patients in Liverpool could be handled by the usual cross-border arrangements.
Let’s be blunt about this. The Tywyn and District Committee of North West Cancer Research is a hangover from the pre-devolution days of ‘Merseyside and North Wales’. So we can’t criticise old dears in Tywyn or Machynlleth raising money for a good cause, the fault lies with a system that, seventeen years into devolution, still carves Wales up and attaches our dismembered parts to nearby regions of England.
The blame for the persistence of this colonialist hangover lies with our politicians and our civil servants, with those who run our higher education and our health authorities, many of whom are alien and most of whom operate within an Englandandwales mindset.
But then there’s Cancer Research Wales, why does it pretend it’s a national body when it only operates in the south? Has it surrendered all the territory north of Aberystwyth?
While writing this piece connected questions kept arising. For example, I’ve given money to Cancer Research at local funerals (I’m sure you have), now I’m wondering where that money ended up. And if this situation persists in one charity, how many other charities are there collecting money in Wales and sending it to England? But this problem is not restricted to charities.
There are countless other ways in which money leaves Wales. One I was told about last week will never appear in any economic survey or report, it’s just too off the wall. In the Tywyn area, and along this stretch of coast, are many caravan ‘parks’, ugly, depressing places that should be phased out. Anyway, many of the seasonal denizens of these places are now having their groceries and other supplies delivered from ASDA’s Shrewsbury store, 70 miles away!
In fact, ASDA vans from Shrewsbury are now a daily sight in the Tywyn area. It makes you wonder how much money the thousands of people who stay in local caravans really put into the local economy. I bet it’s a fraction of what we are told tourists contribute, but that’s a story for another day.
Like I say, colonialism – i.e. Wales subsidising England – comes in many forms. But you aren’t supposed to know about them. As a loyal little Britlander you are expected to hitch up your union jack underpants and swallow the ‘Wales couldn’t manage on her own’ line.
Thankfully, as Brexit and other recent examples of the expressed popular will have shown, fewer and fewer people believe what they’re told by politicians, mainstream media and ‘experts’. Wales needs more of such cynicism, more questioning of things as they are, if we are to bring about the changes this country needs.
Among those changes is a full range of national institutions serving the whole country; institutions that reflect our nationhood and respect the border. Cancer Research Wales reclaiming the ‘lost lands’, funding research at Bangor University, and becoming a genuinely national body, would be one place to start.
It is with heavy heart, and a tear-streaked visage, that I recount further news of our beloved ‘Welsh’ Labour Party bravely defending its Blairite integrity against socialists interlopers, while a much-loved tribune, hewn from the rock upon which Dowlais stands, struggles with Italian menus worried – nay, anguished! – by the situation back home. Oh, yes.
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You may recall that I referred a while back to the curious situation of people coming together in Swansea, enthused by Jeremy Corbyn, to form an unofficial Momentum group, then trying to link up with the official Momentum, and to individually join the Labour Party, but being told to piss off. To explain.
Most of you probably think of Momentum as the outfit that provides foot-soldiers for Jeremy Corbyn in his leadership contest. For, to use its own description, “Momentum (Est. 2015) is a Labour Party focused organization”. Focused on, but not part of, the Labour Party. It’s possible in England to belong to Momentum without being a Labour Party member.
Here in Wales the situation is different due to Welsh Labour Grassroots being ‘The Home for Momentum in Wales’, and WLG (Est. 2003) being much closer to the ‘official’ Labour Party than Corbyn’s ‘provisionals’ are in England. Here it appears that only Labour Party members are allowed into Momentum / Labour Grassroots.
In this Labour leadership contest, most MPs, AMs, and councillors support Owen Smith, but the rank and file backs Corbyn. Which explains why the hoi polloi are often denied meetings at which they might express their preference, or else meetings are allowed, but controlled by those who succumb to temporary blindness when confronted with a sea of hands for Corbyn. (I’m told a favoured way of dealing with this is, ‘Too close to call, so in the interests of party unity . . .’.)
(If things get really bad perhaps we can expect decisions to be taken at invitation-only meetings. Though it’s rather confusing to see ‘Welsh’ Labour revert to the tactics of its socialist past in order to silence people who are, in the main, er . . . socialists! But then, I can remember when Plaid Cymru was expelling nationalists. Since when it’s simply made itself unattractive.)
Despite it being closer to the Labour Party in Wales than in England Welsh Labour Grassroots / Momentum still supports Corbyn for leader. But when we look at where the support for Corbyn comes from, it tells an interesting story.
Of the nine CLPs that have declared for Corbyn, only two are in the southern urban belt. The single nomination for Owen Smith is in the south, as is the single constituency that decided “not to make a nomination”, while of the seven constituencies where meetings have been cancelled, five are in the south. Clearly, the farther a constituency party is from the grip of the regional HQ in Cardiff, then the more likely it is to go over to the ‘provos’.
Anyway, as I say, many of those in Swansea enthused by Corbyn had not previously been active in politics, and were not Labour Party members so, if WLG / Momentum was reluctant to engage with them, then surely, joining the Labour Party was the answer? Well, no.
Here’s a letter received in response to an application to join the Labour Party made by one of those political virgins. It talks of “inappropriate comments on Facebook” and having “behaved unacceptably at branch meetings”. (I received a very similar response to my application.)
Now clearly, Labour HQ in London does not check on the social media output of every applicant. It must consult the local hierarchy, along the lines of, ‘We’ve had a membership application from a Rhydderch Prydderch of Morriston, should we let him join?’
And the word comes back, ‘Nah, he’s gonna vote for Corbyn’. Now this may be a losing battle, but the Labour establishment in Wales has a clear advantage over the party in England in that Momentum is not entirely independent, and with enough ‘officials’ involved with WLG potential ‘provos’ can be identified and dealt with.
But by over-riding the wishes of most of its members it cannot escape the consequences, whoever is leader.
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Dawn Bowden, the Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has been in the news again, this time pissing off her constituents by telling them what a wonderful time she was having in Italy. I was able to salvage the following snaps from her Twitter account – though for some reason she’s blocked me! (@carrageryr is her partner, Martin Eaglestone, another freeloader on the Labour / trade union / Third Sector gravy train.)
Now I know some of you are thinking, ‘Come on, Jac, she’s entitled to a holiday, after working a three-day week every week since . . . well, since she was elected on May 5 . . . or at least, for the few weeks the Assembly sat before breaking up again on July 18 for its two-month summer holiday’. But, alas, it’s not just the holidays that are pissing people off.
To point you in the right direction, here’s something I recently put out on Facebook and Twitter. (Click to enlarge.)
In addition there is much disgruntlement locally over other issues.
First, it is said, that she was forced on the local Labour Party by the manipulations of fellow trade unionist and Labour Party big-wig, Andy Richards.
Second, despite being elected almost four months ago, there have been no advertisements for staff to run Bowden’s offices in the constituency and the Assembly. This being Merthyr, where the Labour Party elevates nepotism to heights that would make the denizens of Tammany Hall giddy, there are strong suspicions that these posts are already allocated – so why waste time and money advertising them? For those who might harbour suspicions that I’m being unfair to Labour in Merthyr, maybe this post from last July might help convince you, Merthyr: All Aboard the ‘Welsh’ Labour Gravy Train.
Third, it is being said, already, that Dawn Bowden is so bloody useless she makes Gerald Jones MP look competent!
But perhaps, and certainly for me, the true awfulness of this woman, her obvious unsuitability for a seat like Merthyr and Rhymney, is exposed in the letter she wrote to party members explaining why – unlike most of them – she is supporting Owen Smith for leader of the Labour Party. (Click to enlarge.)
To begin with, nobody – not even Smith himself – believes that bollocks about a £200 billion investment fund, Wages Councils, Clause 4 and a 50p tax rate. Smith has to say those things because he’s competing against a socialist. So either Bowden is too stupid to realise Smith is simply electioneering, in which case she is unintentionally misleading party members; or else she knows he’s lying, in which case, she’s also lying.
But worst of all is the final paragraph ” . . . which I know is the way we do things in Merthyr and Rhymney”. And how, exactly, would you know that, Bowden?
You are an Englishwoman. You were only elected to represent the constituency in May (after a rigged selection process). You have never lived in the constituency. You know nothing about the area, its history, or its people and their strong sense of local identity and pride in their area’s radical past. You ‘fit’ in Merthyr about as well as I’d fit in Henley-on-Thames.
You are just another shameless Labour interloper, benefiting from the most corrupt political system in western and northern Europe. Realise that and resign.
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The title of this post is in the form of a question, so what is the answer? Well, taken in isolation, and if there were no ill effects on others, then the Labour Party, especially now as it tears itself apart, could be seen as a farce, and we could all have a good laugh.
But, regrettably, Labour remains the largest party in Wales, ‘Welsh’ Labour runs the Assembly, and that is most definitely a tragedy.
Perhaps the saddest thing I heard from my Merthyr source was that Plaid Cymru seems reluctant to exploit Labour’s obvious vulnerability in the constituency. Even saying, ” . . . if you’re not in the bloody Rhondda or her (Leanne Woods’) inner circle you don’t count for anything”. This strikes me as a cri de coeur rather than a burst of old-fashioned Valleys’ tribalism.
But I can’t leave you all depressed and miserable, so let me cheer you up with the third option, in the salutary and thought-provoking Parable of Jac’s Tooth. (Not for the squeamish.)
While indulging myself last weekend, sinking my gnashers into a chunk of Bourneville, I lost a tooth, or most of it. (Of course my dentist is on holiday, and then there’s bloody Bank Holiday on Monday . . . )
When I cleaned it, and examined it, I realised that the tooth would have fallen out soon without the intervention of Messrs Cadbury. As I ruefully rolled it about my hand I said to myself, ‘Jac, this tooth, rotten to the core, its days of usefulness so clearly numbered, could serve as the perfect metaphor for . . .
According to the 1907 Act, the National Trust was established “ . . . for the purposes of promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest . . . ”
But for which nation?
In Scotland, this question was answered in 1931 by the establishment of a distinct legal organization formed “in order to carry out work and confer benefits in Scotland similar to those carried out in England and other parts of Britain”.
In Wales, this question finds its answer not in any Act of Parliament or of the Senedd but in the experience of visiting a National Trust property in our country. I recommend a visit to “Powis [sic] Castle”.
The magnificent red stone castle near Welshpool was the historic seat of the rulers of Powys – a kingdom with an unbroken history from the Roman civitate of Viroconium (Welsh: Caer Gwrygon; English: Wroxeter), from which the royal court moved to Mathrafal in the early eighth century, and thence to Castell Coch, the red castle, in the early thirteenth century. Today, this castle continues to be known to the National Trust as “Powis Castle”, with their rigid adherence the place names attributed by English cartographers of the nineteenth century (Carnarvon, Llanelly, Powis) and in resolute opposition to the norms of Welsh orthography.
The castle remained in the hands of the descendants of the Welsh royal dynasty of Mathrafal until the late sixteenth century, when it was purchased by a branch of the powerful Welsh lordly family of the Herberts who remained in possession until the early nineteenth century.
Is the Castle presented by the National Trust in the context of this extraordinary and enchanting history? The thousand year story of the kingdom of Powys and the descendants of its ruling dynasty? Nope. Seemingly of no interest to the National Trust.
The main exhibition presents some of the loot acquired by Clive of India, father of the British Raj, famed for his atrocities, maladministration and self-enrichment. This notorious nabob’s connection with the Castle? His son acquired it (by marriage) in the early nineteenth century.
Try asking for a guidebook for the Castle in Welsh as I did during my visit, and you will receive a response from the National Trust staff that is as replete with scorn and derision as it is unproductive.
There is no doubting for which nation’s benefit this property is being preserved by the National Trust. For the fellow-countrymen of Robert Clive, son of Market Drayton, and squire of Esher in Surrey.
As noted above, Scotland’s heritage under the custodianship of the National Trust for Scotland is managed by a board of trustees elected by the Scottish membership of the NTS. The guiding principle by which the NTS carries out its mandate is expressed as follows:-
“Scotland’s rich cultural heritage is not only an invaluable economic and social resource, it is what gives Scotland’s people a sense of belonging and identity; as such it is one of our nation’s most precious assets.”Read it for yourself.
How much longer do we have to wait in Wales for our own extraordinary historical, architectural, cultural and environmental heritage to be preserved, managed and presented by an organization answerable to our nation, and properly equipped and informed to fulfil its mandate for the benefit of our nation?
I agree with everything our guest writer says, and I would go further, adding that a nation with the interpretation of its past entrusted to those with an interest in effacing all memory of that past is as good a definition of colonialism as I can think of.
Some reading this might argue, ‘Ah! but don’t forget, we have Cadw‘. Really! Cadw is little more than English Heritage (West). And then we have the regional archaeological trusts, staffed with third-rate English diggers and their teams of willing young female volunteers, always looking for evidence of Anglo-Saxon settlement.
Returning to the National Trust, it’s not simply what it currently owns that angers me but its perennial acquisitiveness. I’m thinking now of the regular appeals for money to buy a Snowdonia farm – in case someone buys it, packs it up, and takes it home with them? Think about it – we are expected to buy a piece of our homeland for an English organisation! (Yes, that’s another definition of colonialism, and of stupidity on the part of those Welsh who fall for it.)
It is almost twenty years since we voted for devolution, and little if anything has changed in the fundamental relationship between Wales and England. The English National Trust is proof of that. At the very least we need something comparable to the National Trust for Scotland, if only as a stop-gap measure.
This nation should have no trust in the English National Trust or any similar body.
Regular readers might remember that I mentioned Powis Castle in a piece I wrote back in 2012 on nearby Dolforwyn. Here’s a link.
UPDATE 22.08.2016: The page from the Cadw website shown above was very quickly removed. I copied and posted the image late on Sunday night and when I checked at 11am on Monday, there it was – gone!
After answering Monday’s aubade I stumbled down the stairs to meet the day (as Kristofferson put it) and prepared my usual breakfast of nourishing laverbread-flavoured flakes, after which I switched on my computer to see what the night had brought.
I was pretty shocked – and a little confused – to read the tweet at the top of my pile. It was from a previously unknown tweeter using the handle @WKDWax. The tweet was responding to something I’d put out the previous day, when I’d learnt that understaffed and underfunded Dyfed Powys Police is helping Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James pursue his vendetta against blogger Jacqui Thompson.
What really shook me, I suppose, was that @WKDWax seemed quite happy for Jacqui and her family to lose their home, because that was “better than the cost of forcing people to speak Welsh”! I couldn’t understand why anyone should make the connection between Jacqui Thompson – an Englishwoman (who speaks no Welsh as far as I know) – and “forcing people to speak Welsh”.
So who is @WKDWax? The profile pic suggests a woman, and her claim to fame seems to be that she is a “mum of five and a Leonard Cohen fan”, reason enough for anyone to be a bit grumpy of a Monday morning, or indeed any morning if you’re a LC fan.
The clue to her making the unfathomable linkage between Jacqui Thompson losing her home and the Welsh language lies in the fact that her tweet included @Poumista, who is of course Gary Robert Jones, a member of the Labour Party in Llanelli and a campaigner against Welsh language education. I have written of Gary Jones before, in, ‘Welsh’ Labour – The True ‘Nasty Party’, and published a further piece by a guest writer, Llangennech – A Tale of Two Campaigns.
There were a few more tweets, her mentor chimed in, she admitted to being “fascicious” (which threw me for a while), and offered her “appologies”. You can read the full exchange here in glorious Technicolor®.
Knowing that Gary Jones was involved I guessed that @WKDWax was a member of the Labour Party, and sure enough, she is, but a very new member. In fact, she joined at the start of July, simply to support Comrade Corbyn.
It’s reasonable to assume that she met Gary Jones through their involvement in the campaign against the Welsh language being waged by the Labour Party in Llangennech. It would also be reasonable to assume that Labour is now recruiting from the anti-Welsh element in that dispute. (Jim Griffiths would have been so proud!)
Her attitude would also appear to bear out the allegation that Corbyn supporters are aggressive people who like to intimidate opponents. Then again, it could be that she’s against Owen Smith because his name sounds a bit too . . . well, you know, Welsh.
But let us not be judgemental, for this woman has clearly suffered, perhaps being one of those “forced to speak Welsh”. Picture it, gentle reader, taken from her home at three in the morning, thrown into a darkened room where she is strapped to a chair before being beaten mercilessly with a sock filled with Cefn Sidan sand, and shouted at by a demented bard – Siarad Cymraeg!! he screams, over and over . . . Or perhaps while walking along Stepney Street one day she was pounced upon by the Language Police (those bastards are everywhere!), and they issued an on-the-spot fine of 3 goats for speaking the forbidden English. (And if you can’t pay, then it’s the Cefn Sidan sand treatment!)
These things happen! If you don’t believe me then I’m sure you’ll believe my old Serbian mucker Jacques Protic, of whom I have also writ . . . many, many times. Start here with Cymrophobia and the Many Identities of Jacques Protic. Or just put ‘Jacques Protic’ in the Search box at the top of the sidebar to access a veritable library.
This is the man who blames the Welsh language for the weather, and believes that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! Protic is, or was, a member of the Labour Party, but probably not ‘Welsh’ Labour, despite living in Wales. Quite frankly, Jacques Protic is an unhinged obsessive.
Needless to say, soul-mates @WKDWax and Jacques Protic have been drawn to each other, and now follow each other on Twitter. Though oddly, she follows Llangennech Labour but not Llanelli Labour; UK Labour, the Labour Press Team and Red Labour but not ‘Welsh’ Labour. She follows Andy Burnham, John McDonnell, Dianne Abbott, @JeremyCorbyn4PM, even Boris Johnson and George Galloway, but not her local MP or AM, or any other Welsh politician. The pattern repeats itself with her following the Welsh Rugby Union, but not the Scarlets.
And yet, @WKDWax and Gary Jones, plus their allies, belong to the party (nominally) led in Wales by Carwyn Jones who, just a few weeks ago, set the target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050. With so many local authorities in Wales run by the kind of people organising the campaign in Llangennech there’s more chance of me joining the Labour Party than there is of Carwyn’s pious hope being realised.
Let’s remind ourselves of the kind of people lining up with Gary ‘Poumista’ Jones and @WKDWax.
First there’s Michaela Beddows, who was so proud of having humiliated a supermarket checkout girl. As she put it: “ . . . the checkout operator was a complete and utter jobsworth, no personality and pretty gormless, the Till Manager was arrogant, cocky and downright rude, obviously being a till manager has gone to her pretty vacant head – and the Manager of the store was a bumbling buffoon who should grow a pair of balls”. After reading that, you have formed an opinion of Michaela Beddows.
UPDATE 09.10.2016: I should have done this earlier, but there you are . . . WKDwax and Michaela Beddows are one and the same. You may have seen her on last Thursday’s Question Time. If not, then you were very lucky.
Also to be found at the school gates is the Reverend Dr J K Plessis, a priest in the English church, originally from the Six Counties. I’m prepared to stick my neck out and suggest that Plessis is a Britlander, who regards any language other than English (be it Irish, Afrikaans or Welsh) as a threat to the greatness of Britain and her (sadly) diminished empire.
That the Welsh branch of the English Church permits his public displays of intolerance, and his odious references to apartheid, can only be interpreted as support for his views.
And now we know – the one and only Jacques Protic is also involved!
These are strange and ugly people most of us would cross the road to avoid. So let’s stop pretending that we’re dealing with reasonable people who can be be won over with rational and sincere arguments, because we’re not. Those I’m discussing did not sit down for a few hours weighing up the pros and cons before reluctantly deciding against Welsh language education for their children.
These people are instinctively hostile to the Welsh language or anything ‘too Welsh’. I have previously referred to this phenomenon as ‘the package‘, for anti-Welsh views usually come as a boxed set. Basically, these people want to be British or English except for a few guilty hours now and again when the national rugby team is playing.
Their opposition to all things Welsh is atavistic and irrational, a bigotry no different to racism, antisemitism or homophobia, and it should be treated as such. There must be no dialogue with bigots.
On the bright side . . . In Wales now, in addition to Labour’s more publicised struggle of the Corbynistas and the Smiffites, we have a parallel fight between those who believe in Welsh identity and those who reject almost everything distinctively Welsh. Labour in Wales is at risk of falling apart!
A GUEST POST BY ‘STAN‘ (with minor contributions from ‘Anon’ and Jac)
THE MURKY WORLD OF ‘WELSH’ LABOUR NEPOTISM AND CRONYISM, CORRUPTION AND MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS; A DEMI-MONDE WHERE IT SEEMS REGULATORS FEAR TO TREAD
When Stephen Kinnock was elected MP for Aberavon in the early hours of Friday, 8 May 2015 it was hardly the shock of the century. Aberavon has had a Labour MP uninterrupted since 1922.
The first was James Ramsay MacDonald, who went on to become the first Labour Prime Minister in 1924. Ramsay was a proper bastard, like many MPs really (but by the dictionary definition not the slang one), and was born into a hard working and poor, working class background – the illegitimate son of a farm labourer and housemaid. A complete contrast to young Kinnock then whose parents could hardly be called working class and who from birth had every chance in life. They will doubtless say thanks to the Labour Party!
No-one has had a lower Labour vote in either numerical or percentage terms than Stephen ‘Boyo’ Kinnock did since Ramsay MacDonald was first elected in 1922. In 1922 Ramsay MacDonald had 14,318 votes and a vote share of 46.6%. In 2016 ‘Boyo’ got 15,416 votes and 48.9%. Political anoraks might like to know that Labour’s peak performance was in 1966 when John Morris secured 33,763 votes and a staggering 75.4% vote share. You could say, “how the mighty have fallen”, or even “how the donkeys have woken up” – but “both” is more accurate.
Another fact is that both men were parachuted into the constituency, neither being a local. Ramsay MacDonald would obviously be a very early example of the “parachute” Labour Party candidate, evidently so successful that the Party seems to have adopted the tactic right up to this day. However, whereas he was indubitably Scottish, it is alleged that Stephen Kinnock is Welsh. Correct that – he must be – because he said in his maiden Commons speech that he was “a global Welshman”.
What is not in doubt was that he was born in Tredegar in 1970 but from 3 or 4 years of age, young Kinnock lived in England. He received all his Primary and Secondary education there. He went to university to study languages in Cambridge and thereafter seemed to go off to find himself, leaving England in 1992 and studying and working in various countries in Europe and even Africa, collecting a wife and eventually children in Denmark. Whereas the Israelites with all their resources took 40 years to find their Promised Land, Kinnock’s such a bright boy(o) that he did it in just over half the time. He returned to the UK after 20 years, in 2012, to work for an environmental consultancy called Xynteo before discovering at the age of 45 (in 2015) his real purpose in life – to live part-time in a flat in Cwmavon, be the MP for Aberavon and more recently to piss off many of his constituents because of his prominent role in the “Chicken Coup” against his democratically elected Labour Party leader.
He speaks five languages fluently, French, Spanish, Russian, Danish and of course English – but not Welsh, despite his mother Glenys being a Welsh speaker.
This polyglot promised to take Welsh lessons if he became Aberavon MP but that’s typical politician speak for you. There’s no time-frame put to it. So he could start them in 2050 if he wanted and still argue he’d kept his word. He may be a global figure but “Welshman”, let’s pass on that. You can’t help feeling it’s a flag of convenience to endear him to the electorate of a South Wales seat.
But anxious to make a good impression, Boyo was soon up and running after being elected even though Parliament wasn’t opened by The Corgi Woman until 27 May 2015. The local constituency office had been vacated by his predecessor, Dr Hywel Francis. First, because all the staff of a retiring MP have to be laid off, new staff had to be employed. No problem there though. Immediately through the door, in fact taking up her employment on 11 May 2015, just a weekend after the voting result itself, was Ms Cari Morgans. Cari had worked for Peter Hain as his Office Manager. So, she presumably pocketed her redundancy money, as was her entitlement, then walked into an equivalent job almost right next door, on a salary range from about £26K – £38K. Being a woman of some experience she is most likely at the upper end of that range. Incidentally, Cari is also the Neath Port Talbot councillor representing the Tonna ward and pulling in £13,300 a year for that as well.
Welsh Labour, naturellement. Nice work if you can get it. There aren’t many people getting paid over £50K a year in Neath, particularly out of the public sector. But there are more than a few in the local Council. And one of these is likely to be Councillor Anthony J Taylor, who has been the Councillor for the Taibach ward since 2008.
Anthony is already the Cabinet Member for Economic Development & Property Services at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. This demanding role (no kidding?) is considered to be full time. It pays a salary of £28,890 per annum. Yet Councillor Taylor is also a Political Advisor for Derek Vaughan MEP. Unfortunately we have no idea whether this is part time, full time, weekends or shifts. Because information on MEPs’ staff is almost impossible to get hold of.
He is a relatively new kid on the block, only leaving Cardiff University in 2001 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His first job was with NPT Council as an Anti Social Behaviour Prevention Officer. Being Neath Port Talbot that’s probably such a stressful job that in less than two years he was recuperating in a job working in Cardiff for Carwyn Jones as a Political Advisor. A lot less stress there then, presumably the most difficult part of the job being trying to stay awake in any meeting longer than five minutes with Carwyn. Can he bore for Wales! Anthony did this for six years, presumably without being caught nodding off, before being recruited by Derek Vaughan in July 2009, when Derek became an MEP. Like Anthony, Derek was an NPT Councillor – in fact, he was Council Leader when he jumped on board the Brussels Gravy Train Express. And what a small, incestuous world this is. It was Anthony J Taylor who acted as Proposer for one Stephen Kinnock in the nominations for the May 2015 General Election. Definitely one to watch!
But let’s get back to Cari (she might be feeling neglected by now). Cari saw some major workplace changes as a result of having a new employer who had lived such a cosmopolitan, privileged lifestyle, hobnobbing it with so many heads of state as the escort of the then Prime Minister of Denmark (aka Mrs Kinnock). And let’s not forget all those senior executives of multi-nationals and global conglomerates in his work at the World Economic Forum. That’s WEF to those who understand what it does, but WTF! to some of us who must wonder just what the hell these exclusive gatherings get up to. Coffee machines were bought in to the Aberavon office, as was a “milk frother“. This latter piece of kit was a complete mystery to his Aberavon constituents and it has been rumoured it was acquired so they would come to his office in their droves just to see this marvellous invention in action. Most people in the constituency are used to their coffee in granules or powder out of a jar, onto a teaspoon, into the mug, boiling water, top up with milk then drink the bloody stuff.
To further reflect his suave, sophisticated, but domesticated image, he bought a sofa for the office too. Or rather – we did. You don’t think they buy these things with their own money, do you?
Now the speed of this recruitment of Cari Morgans displayed an efficiency seldom seen in the public sector, which is usually so bound up in rules and regulations and red tape that it can take three months to draft a letter. So how did this happen? Well, IPSA guidelines (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) for the employment of MPs’ staff are very helpful and set out the procedures to be followed.
And these include “advertise the vacancy and conduct appropriate assessments to ensure you have the best candidate for the role”. Note there’s a tremendous amount of latitude here – it doesn’t say formal interviews and it doesn’t say you need to shortlist. But it does say advertise and it does say appropriate assessments, so these were obviously undertaken here, weren’t they? In which case, if he was asked, you’d hope young Kinnock will tell us – not that we doubt him, of course.
But one thing that Boyo has not done, to his credit, is follow the nepotistic practices of his predecessor, Dr Hywel Francis, as well as his neighbour in the office next door. Because Hywel employed his wife, Mair, as a Senior Parliamentary Assistant. This meant she was able to keep him company in his London work, a nice touch when you are getting on in age, and you feel the cold at night. When she finished along with Hywel in 2015 her salary is recorded as between £40K – £45K.
She would also have been entitled to a redundancy payment to soften the blow of loss of employment. Let’s be honest though, it’s doubtful she would have wanted to continue in her role. Which is just as well because as we shall soon discover, waiting in the wings was another candidate that was eminently suited to the job and who no doubt came “highly recommended” with great references, just like Ms Morgans.
Oh, let’s not forget “the bloke next door”. That happens to be David Rees, the Aberavon AM who occupies the office suite next to young Kinnock’s. Not to be outdone in the nepotism stakes, Rees employs his daughter Angharad Nia Thomas as a Researcher and Communications Officer (part-time) for 22.3 hours a week.
So it’s clear that Boyo has a precedent, almost a Labour Party custom and practice, to employ a close relative. But let’s be fair, an Office Manager’s or Researcher’s salary is chicken-feed compared to what Mrs Stephen Kinnock, aka Helle Thorning-Schmidt gets as Chief Executive of Save the Children International where she has been working since 4 April 2016. She is paid $344,887 USD annually and works out of the UK. That’s nice and convenient for the Kinnocks because they are now able to share a flat that they (or maybe just Stephen) own in Brent, North-West London. Breaking that Dollars figure down into Pounds Sterling she gets £258,816 give or take a few bob. Kinnock gets £74,962 as basic salary, plus expenses. Beers on them then the next time they drop in to Taibach and Port Talbot Working Men’s Club.
Of course, you don’t just need local staff. So to help him out in his Westminster role, and as his Mrs clearly didn’t want the job, Boyo took on a certain Madeleine Jennings as a Senior Parliamentary Researcher. Now guess who Madeleine worked for? You’re getting good at this by now, or you should be. Yes, she too worked for the Orange Baron (when he was just a plain “Orange” patently). Madeleine didn’t stay long with Boyo, leaving in January 2016 to follow her calling to social work.
Come on Madeleine or Stephen – pull your finger out and get it off there. Madeleine should be well aware of what can happen when you neglect these little administrative matters. After all, her previous boss Peter Hain cocked up big time when he was angling for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, famously forgetting to register or oversee the timely registration of donations. He declared in his memoirs Outside In that it was “the biggest mistake of my political career” to run for the Deputy Leadership. Surely that sums up the measure of the guy? He voted for the Iraq War and subsequently against investigations into it. Yet it’s an unsuccessful leadership campaign compounded by managerial and administrative incompetence that’s a greater faux pas than supporting an illegal war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, countless people maimed and a whole region destabilised with little sign things will ever come right again.
There’s one other thing before this staffing business is wound up. Hain and his office didn’t just stop with Cari and Madeleine in being a source of staff for other MPs. Yet another of his employees, a chap called Matthew Ward, went on to work for Madeleine Moon, the Bridgend MP.
One good thing IPSA has done is investigate those cases of retiring MPs and MPs who lost their seats, and what happened to staff laid off as a result. It found that a total of £925,000 was paid to 125 people laid off before the general election, but each and every one had a job with a different MP within 10 weeks! No doubt some or all of the ex-Peter Hain staff referred to above are in this group.
In the case of these appointments it’s important for the public to have confidence in the recruitment process. But the trouble is that we don’t know whether IPSA procedures are being followed. Because IPSA will not tell you, saying it’s a matter for the MPs themselves. They’ve been asked, in the case of the recruitment of Cari Morgans, and thrown it back as a matter for Stephen Kinnock.
But if MPs don’t ‘fess up, we’ll never know. This is a loophole that needs to be closed. There has always been nepotism and cronyism and there always will be. Therefore, the disinfectant of full transparency is needed so that if it does occur we know that due process has been followed at least in advertising jobs. When these appointments take place behind closed doors it is just not on – because we are talking about a lot of public money here. Providing “jobs for life” for the chosen few in some constituencies. Or rather, most constituencies in Donkey Land in Cymru.
Of course, a sense of perspective is needed. In many cases – we’d like to think all – the best person for the job may be getting it. But when MPs are themselves given the job of hiring and firing the staff they need, it needs to be done by processes that the public can get to the bottom of. IPSA turning its back on checking its own guidelines are being followed is totally unacceptable.
Cantref, or Tai Cantref, is a housing association based in Castell Newydd Emlyn (Newcastle Emlyn) on the border of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. It ran into trouble last year and is now in the process of being handed over to a Cardiff housing association run by a Labour Party member. This after an ‘independent’ investigation by an English management consultancy run by a Labour supporter.
Many of you will know that I’ve written about Cantref’s woes before, so listed below you’ll find the posts in which Cantref has figured. They will help you understand how we arrived at a situation where a housing association using the Welsh language in its day-to-day operations seems to have been handed over to an English housing association based in Cardiff with no concern for the Welsh language at all.
This handover was facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Government ‘committed’ to the Welsh language that, only last week at the National Eisteddfod, expressed the ambition of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Let’s start by conceding that Cantref being up Shit Creek is in large part due to poor business decisions and less than inspiring management. Indicated in this comment to one of my earlier posts.
Even so, a change of management and the injection of a little moolah could have steadied the ship and saved it from being taken over by pirates. So what do we know of these ‘pirates’?
WALES AND WEST
Wales and West is no cuddly housing association but a ruthless and acquisitive business. ‘Association’ was dropped from the name in 2012, which should give you a clue as to how W&W likes to see itself and be perceived by others.
Something else I’ve previously remarked on is the ‘Englishness’ or non-Welshness of Wales and West, and I’m not just referring to language (when compared with Cantref), I’m talking about those who run it. Look through the Board of Management and the Directors’ Team. There seems to be minimal Welsh involvement at the top of this ‘Welsh’ housing group. (Maybe lower down as well.)
Nationality aside, the important figure to note is the chief executive, Labour Party member Anne Hinchey. She’s married to Cardiff councillor Graham Hinchey. Mrs Hinchey you may recall had her staff going around Cardiff during May’s Assembly election campaign making sure none of her tenants had the temerity to display non-Labour posters or placards, and removing any that were found.
Knowing how ‘Welsh’ Labour likes to conflate Plaid Cymru with the Welsh language, and hate both, the thought of this woman taking over Cantref should make anyone concerned for the Welsh language, political pluralism, or just fair play, shudder. But then, as I’ve been telling you for years, this is how ‘Welsh’ Labour operates – when presented with the opportunity it will always encourage nepotism and cronyism to further its political ends.
Mrs Hinchey attends the Vine Christian Centre in Bridgend. Knowing how the devout enjoy each other’s company I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those listed in the Board of Management or Directors’ Team at Wales and West share Mrs Hinchey’s faith? Just a thought.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Like all housing bodies Wales and West survives and prospers due to our generosity, in the form of funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. The main funding comes from the Social Housing Grant. Between 2008 and November 2015 Wales and West was given £65m in SHG alone.
Payments made up to 28.11.2012 are listed as “Capital Grants to Private Sector”, and after that date as “Capital Grants to Voluntary Organisations”. Yet the changes implemented in 2012 by W&W were if anything in the opposite direction, from voluntary to private.
Perhaps even curiouser is why Wales and West should have received funding from the UK Government which is – given that social housing is devolved (so we are told) – in this context the English government. Yet that’s what happened in 2014. So why did the ‘English’ government give money to a Welsh housing association?
The latest communication I’ve received from within besieged Cantref paints a worrying picture of intimidation, but one that also offers some hope. Read it carefully and digest what it says.
Clearly, Wales and West has absolutely no sympathy for the Welsh language. In other aspects, the information above ties up with what I’m told by another contact appeared in the Carmarthenshire Herald last week.
So it might be that things are not yet cut and dried. Because if Wales and West needs 75% approval from stakeholders, and this group includes bodies opposed to the Wales and West takeover, indeed, in the case of Carmarthenshire County Council, a body that itself wanted to take over Cantref, then there might still be hope.
Another of the leading players in this drama remains something of a mystery. I’m referring now to the interim chair at Cantref, Kevin Taylor. (There is currently no chief executive.) It is he presumably referred to above, in the note smuggled out of Cantref, as “Cantref’s english acting chairman”.
According to his Linkedin profile Taylor was employed by Forte Hotels 1977 – 1987 then, from 1987 to 2013, he worked in Bermuda. How did this complete stranger turn up at such a critical juncture in the history of Cantref, just in time to recommend the takeover by Wales and West? Or to put it another way, who parachuted him in?
Note the reference in the message I was sent to it “all being stitched up in a Labour meeting in Cardiff last year”, for it’s easy to see the advantages for Labour in this takeover.
The bulk of Cantref’s properties are in Ceredigion, where Labour got 9.7% of the vote in the 2015 UK general election and 6.5% in May’s Assembly election. And where there is just a single Labour member on the local authority (and he’s in a university town). Consequently, ‘Welsh’ Labour controlling Cantref would give the party influence in an area where it is consistently and comprehensively rejected at the ballot box.
The suggestion that opponents of the takeover are being refused access to shareholders is worrying, as is the allegation there is also a refusal to accept new shareholders. Unfitting behaviour I would have thought for the Christian CEO of Wales and West. But not surprising, for we’re dealing here with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and that’s how they operate.
(I’m also beginning to suspect that in the wider picture ‘shareholders’ might be a way for a clique or political party to maintain control of a housing association, by encouraging ‘their people’ to become shareholders, and then be eligible to join the board of management, while turning away those who are likely to disagree with them.)
The Wales and West takeover of Cantref is less a business deal and more a political manoeuvre, and an assault on the Welsh language. An agenda that would meet with the approval of most members of ‘Welsh’ Labour, despite the pie-in-the-sky promises from the party’s local leadership.
I therefore suggest that if Carwyn Jones wants to be believed when he talks of his party’s commitment to the Welsh language he should step in and call off the Wales and West takeover of Cantref. If he doesn’t, then it’s just further proof of what I’ve been saying for years about ‘Welsh’ Labour.
P. S. A Special General Meeting is to be held on Tuesday August 9th, presumably at the Cantref offices. Why not try to get details and go along there, make your feelings known?
~~~~~~~~~~ END ~~~~~~~~~~
Update 10.08.2016: The worst happened at the Special General Meeting last night, and Cantref is to be taken over by Labour-run Wales and West. Comments to this blog and information received by another route paint a worrying picture of how this was achieved.
First, Wales and West decided not to accept new shareholders – who would have had voting rights – after May 26. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it smacks of how Blairite Labour tried to stop any more Corbyn supporters joining. And Wales and West is run by ‘Welsh’ Labour which, above NCO level, tends to be Blairite.
The other comments made in the anonymous message I received to the ‘Contact Me’ box on my sidebar explain themselves. Plaid Cymru does not emerge from this saga with any credit. Penri James being a local Plaid luminary.
Note also the comment from ‘Simon’, another indictment of those left in charge of Cantref after the dismissals. I urge you to read ‘Simon’s comment carefully because it tells us what a shamble our housing associations are in.
Our old friend ‘Cneifiwr’, in another comment, tells us that those present last night, “were given assurances about local jobs and the use of Welsh”. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t. (Nor, I suspect, does ‘Cneifiwr’.)
Wynne Jones – who knows of these things – reminds us that a business case must be presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government by W&W and approved by the WG before the takeover can be completed. Those are the rules. But given that W&W and the WG are both Labour, I can’t see this being an obstacle.
‘Llyr’ questions Plaid Cymru’s role, wonders why they weren’t more active. They were – but on the side of the ‘enemy’!
Let me end by returning to ‘Anon’, who writes “Hillary jones sold us out to wales and west and the welsh government gave them the wink as they want only five or six rsls in wales”. Hilary Jones of the Bro Myrddin Housing Association was shipped in as Interim Strategic Director, and over a year ago rumours were circulating that she wanted Wales and West to take over Cantref but leave her in charge.
I have argued more than once that we need many fewer Registered Social Landlords. But if we are to have mergers then let them be local, with other housing associations that understand the realities of working in a bilingual rural area. Another consideration is that RSLs need a working relationship with their local authorities.
As a match, Cantref with Wales and West can be compared with Dianne Abbott shacking up with Nigel Farage. It’s so bizarre as to be unthinkable, and certainly unworkable. Or if we are to stick with matters connubial, then perhaps the best analogy is with an arranged marriage, with all that that conjures up.
It’s been an interesting few months here at Jac o’ the North Towers, what with solicitors’ letters, getting mentioned in the London dailies, and generally pissing off those who so richly deserve it. So let’s recap.
My initial suspicion was that the spivs running Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes had gone to Hugh James demanding that their reputations be desullied, but after thinking about it, I wondered whether it might not have been initiated by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Because Hugh James does very well out the public purse, having received over twenty million pounds in the past five years. Significantly, £4.34m of that was in March this year from the Housing Supply Division. (And we can assume there have been further payments in the current financial year.)
Another reason for suspecting those working for the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government is that having dealt with them for a number of years I, and others, have reluctantly concluded that they’re a bit ‘slippery’. This is because those involved with funding Registered Social Landlords (housing associations) have a vested interest in pretending everything’s hunky-dory in order to protect themselves.
Just think about it – you’re a civil servant who gives Cwmscwt Housing Association £20m to build accommodation for anticipated Mongolian refugees, fleeing mad yak disease. The sons of Genghis Khan do not materialise (yaks have calmed down), which leaves Cwmscwt Housing Association in grievous danger of going belly-up and, more importantly, embarrassing you. To avoid this calamity, you either pour in more money in a desperate attempt to save Cwmscwt Housing Association or you have it quietly taken over by another RSL, with the details forever hidden from the public gaze.
Sometimes the attempts at obfuscation are just laughable, but again, it’s a case of doing anything to avoid having to say, ‘Oops, we made a mistake’. Here’s another recent example concerning the aforementioned spivs down in Pembrokeshire and the protection given by civil servants.
In our investigations into Mill Bay Homes we (i.e. Wynne Jones, A. E. and myself) soon realised that this outfit – an Industrial and Provident Society – had filed nothing after the accounts for y/e 31.03.2013. The FCA confirmed more than once that this was the case.
Yet an e-mail I received from Simon Fowler of the ‘Welsh’ Government on July 18th declared: “We have had sight of a confirmation from the FCA that Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes submitted all their regulatory returns by the given deadline.” Had we got it wrong? Should I give up blogging and go back to my former career as a bingo caller?
After a few days scouring local charity shops for my purple jacket and bow tie I was saved further traipsing when, on July 21st, Wynne Jones was told by Nazmul Ahmed of the FCA (‘Supervisions – Retail and Authorisations’) that the accounts for the two missing years (2014 and 2015) had finally been received by the FCA – on June 2nd. Remember the date.
I relayed this news to Simon Fowler, who responded thus: “We are satisfied that the evidence we have seen from the FCA corroborates Pembrokeshire Housing’s story. Pembrokeshire Housing have kindly allowed us to forward you a copy of the letter of apology received from the FCA.” Here’s the ‘evidence‘.
You’ll see that it merely tells us that Pembrokeshire Housing, the parent company of Mill Bay Homes, sent two e-mails on June 8th and 15th – because given the lateness of the returns it was desperate to see them shown on the public register as quickly as possible. But nothing changes the fact that the returns were not received until June 2nd. So the returns were eventually made, 19 months late, and 7 months late.
When I suggested to Mr Fowler that his ‘evidence’ exonerating Mill Bay Homes was nothing of the sort, he replied: “We now consider the matter of closed, and will not respond to any further queries regarding PHA’s submission to the FCA.” Which is par for the course. Catch them out in a lie, or prove them wrong, and one guaranteed response will be the shutters coming down.
And if you thought that was bad . . .
To understand how far civil servants will go to avoid admitting that they, or anyone funded by them, has made a mistake, or broken the rules, then the next example I’m going to give is almost unbelievable. Breathtaking in its contempt for us, the public.
There is a scheme running now called Help to Buy, it’s a UK scheme but known here as Help to Buy – Wales. During our investigations into Mill Bay Homes we learnt that Nick Garrod, a head honcho at MBH, had built a bespoke house for a very good friend of his named Adam Uka. Not only that, but Mr Uka also availed himself of Help to Buy. All here in the title document from the Land Registry.
So A.E. wrote to those administering the Help to Buy scheme pointing out that according to their website, under the Builder Registration tab and the secondary tab FAQs, it says that builders, or ‘Providers’ – in this case Mill Bay Homes and Nick Garrod – “cannot sell to friends and family”.
More questions were asked and a great deal of side-stepping, flim-flam and bullshit came from those entrusted with administering the Help to Buy scheme, but we were assured that no rules had been broken. Which was perplexing. Because the facts seemed indisputable. (And to top it all, Adam Uka had even grabbed a bit more land after the property was completed!)
So what do you think happened next, boys and girls? Did the ‘Welsh’ Government send down to Pembrokeshire a highly-trained team of finger-waggers and tut-tutters to tell naughty Mill Bay Homes they were breaking the rules?
No. What they did was change the rules to remove the reference to ‘friends’ and change it to something much vaguer. So that it now reads:
Isn’t it reassuring to know that hundreds of millions of pounds are poured every year into social housing, that this is overseen by our wonderful civil servants, and spent by bodies like Mill Bay Homes, using public funding to build bespoke, four-bedroom, detached homes for friends of the company’s bosses?
It would be wrong to think of ‘Welsh’ Labour as being just another political party, like the Conservatives, or Plaid Cymru, because it’s so much more than that.
Having run Wales for decades the Labour Party can reasonably be compared to the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It controls the funding and the patronage, it makes the political appointments, and then there’s Labour’s private army in the Third Sector, which provides the party with foot soldiers, mouthpieces and candidates, and into which deposed or disgraced politicians can be absorbed.
Labour being in control of the gravy train predictably attracts those who view the party as ‘the way to get on’. This explains why ‘Welsh’ Labour has always had its Brown Envelope Faction and its Troughing Tendency.
But just as with their counterparts in the old USSR these shysters can be relied on to unquestioningly toe the party line and mouth the slogans because they are not really interested in ideology or policies. It’s all about the gravy train. In fact, from the perspective of those running the show, the brown envelope brigade is less trouble than those who might actually believe in something.
Over the decades Labour has built up a formidable system of nepotism and patronage. And whereas that influence was in many ways restricted to areas or regions where the party was strong, devolution has given us national organisations over which Labour can exercise its baleful influence, and reach those areas previously protected by their rejection of Labour at the polling booth. Devolution, which promised so much, has merely served to strengthen Labour’s stranglehold on Welsh life and, paradoxically, this has been happening while Labour’s support among the electorate dwindled.
If you want to know why support for Labour is dwindling, then consider Swansea. The party there has been wracked by in-fighting and factionalism for years, it has attracted carpet-baggers and single-issue obsessives, to the point where it has almost become a world unto itself carrying on its feuds with neither regard nor concern for the city it is supposedly running. Here’s my most recent post on this shower, Swansea Labour: The Farce Continues.
The latest news is that the Clays, a Trotsyite couple, both councillors for the Llansamlet ward, he English, she Austrian, are stepping down ahead of next May’s council elections. The word is that he – possibly both – have been offered some position by Jeremy Corbyn. Bob Clay certainly seems to be running Momentum in the city. So who’s replacing them?
One is a young woman named Jordan Elizabeth Pugh (aka Jordan Elizabeth), who graduated from Swansea University this year in Social Work. I’m told she’s a single mother, 24-years-old, and originally from the Valleys. Whether she lives in the Llansamlet ward is not known, but even if she does, she can hardly know it well.
The other replacement is Mo Sykes, of whom I have written more than once. (Here, here and here.) Two years ago she left her job with the YMCA in rather mysterious circumstances. Many thought there’d be a court case, but apparently not. Sykes is from the Six Counties, and so she’s another with minimal knowledge of the city.
But that’s not the point, because Sykes and Pugh, ‘Len’ Summers in the Uplands, the student-councillors, the Clays and all the others are not there to serve Swansea – they’re there to keep Labour in power! But as Labour’s support evaporates, and the party gets more desperate, Labour’s representatives take on the appearance of a freak show.
As with similar regimes, ‘Welsh’ Labour must have control of the media, and in Wales this is just so easy.
UPDATE 06.10.2016: I am now informed that, following her appointment as a social worker in the city, Jordan Elizabeth Pugh will not be standing for the council next year. So Labour found her a job by another route.
It goes without saying that the BBC, the state broadcaster, is a disseminator of all things British and – outside the sphere of sport – regards Welshness as a subordinate or regional identity. To understand how bad BBC Wales has become just think Jason ‘Jase’ Mohammad.
As for ITV, I can only repeat what I wrote in Wales Colony of England, last November: “ITV Wales continues to plod along, a curate’s egg of a channel ranging from the engaging Adrian Masters to reporters and newsreaders who look and sound as if they’d have trouble locating Aberystwyth if they were dropped on top of Constitution Hill”.
The immediate threat to S4C seems to have passed, but with the language’s heartlands being destroyed and no one defending them the language and S4C are doomed. A glorious colonialist irony at work here: those with access to the means of exposing and combating the destruction of the Welsh language are funded by the same power that directs the destruction.
In radio, for Radio Cymru read S4C. Radio Wales is Radio West Britain, which leaves only ‘local radio’, most of the output being about as local to Wales as it is to East Anglia.
If that’s not bad enough, then the print media is a true disaster area. We have just a few daily newspapers, most of them very local in their circulation. The biggest-selling Welsh-based newspaper is the South Wales Evening Post, covering the Swansea region. The others are the South Wales Echo (Cardiff and the central valleys), South Wales Argus (Newport and the Gwent valleys), the Wrecsam (or Chester) edition of the Leader, and the Daily Post, a morning ‘paper covering northern and central parts of the country.
The only newspaper available all over the country (if you can find it) is the Western Mail. Now I’ve said a lot about this rag down the years, I’ve referred to it as ‘The Wasting Mule’, ‘Llais y Sais’ (voice of the English). Much of my criticism has been almost good-natured but I now believe we’ve passed that stage, and the time has come to view it for the malevolent influence on Welsh life it really is.
There have been worrying incidents in recent years that have seen the Western Mail go out of its way to defend the Labour Party, or attack Labour’s critics (including me), and one of the worst incidents came to light very recently, and concerned that scion of a famous Labour House, Stephen Kinnock.
The bottom line is that Stephen Kinnock was selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon in March 2014 by 106 votes to 105 because he withheld the truth about his daughter’s private education at Atlantic College. By deliberately asking the wrong questions, Martin Shipton of Llais y Sais was complicit in that deception.
This trickery was almost certainly done to please those multi-pensioned socialists and party legends, Baron Kinnock of Bedwelly and Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead.
If ‘Welsh’ Labour can be compared to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union then the Western Mail is surely its Pravda.
HOW FAR DOES THE INFLUENCE SPREAD?
I’ll finish with another example of how vindictive ‘Welsh’ Labour can be . . . though this case throws up deeply concerning possibilities. I shall have to tread carefully.
Back in April I wrote about the intriguing case of Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East and her reported assault on Jenny Lee Clark, in November 2014. The case made the London dailies, here’s the Sun‘s account of the incident, here it is in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and, finally, Wales Online.
Note that the London ‘papers came out with the story on March 7. Unable to ignore it the Western Mail ran it a day later – but with a totally different slant. It is now less about an assault, or a hate crime, and more an allegation against the victim of the assault. And who wrote this piece – why! it’s Martin Shipton again.
Without I hope complicating this story too much, here’s the background. The (alleged) assault took place on 24 November 2014, when Clark and Harris were both working for the MP for Swansea East, Siân James. In May 2015 Harris succeeded James as MP. But the incident wasn’t reported to the police until 27 January 2016. The following day Lee was dismissed by Harris.
The police did not pursue the assault complaint because it was made outside the six-month time limit for common assault allegations. Or rather, no prosecution took place due to someone’s decision to class the incident as common assault. A more serious charge could have been laid and the six-month time limit would not have applied.
A charge of fraudulently increasing her salary then appeared against Jenny Lee Clarke. This offence is alleged to have been committed in August 2015, but no one heard of it until March 2016, when ITV phoned Carolyn Harris MP about the assault on Lee.
What is more worrying than Swansea Labour Party in-fighting is the possible role of the police. For example . . . Just after posting Swansea Labour: The Farce Continues, I e-mailed Jenny Lee Clarke to check on something.
Her reply, timed at 01:52 on July 24, said: “I’ve also still not had 1 phone call nor a visit from anyone remotely related to south wales police +their so called investigation against me. 6months +nothing.”
But then, in an another e-mail, timed at 17:55, she wrote: “How coincidental now I’ve just been contacted by Bethan Bartlett who is on her way 2 pick me up 4 questioning.” (Bethan Bartlett is a police officer.)
Jenny Lee Clarke was taken to Swansea Central police station, interrogated for an hour and, despite having gone voluntarily, was kept in the cells for five hours, getting home at 01:30 and is now on bail until September 19.
Which strikes me as a rather crude attempt at intimidating a middle-aged woman with little experience of dealing with the police, and none of being banged up. Or maybe the message was for somebody else.
It was obviously pure coincidence that Jenny Lee Clarke was whisked downtown after I had been in touch with her for the first time in months. I mean, no one’s reading my e-mails, are they?
A coincidence, just like four solicitors’ letters arriving in a matter of days . . . none before, none since.
‘Welsh’ Labour corrupts everything it comes into contact with because it is a totalitarian party that must hang on to power at all costs. Power for its own sake, rather than exercising power for the public good.
Internally, Labour is a party held together – if that’s the right word! – by bullying and harassment, misogyny and anti-Semitism, nepotism and favouritism, plus all manner of corruption.
The price the party pays is in falling support at the ballot box and failing to recruit, or hold on to, decent representatives. The latest example came a few days ago in Cardiff, where councillor Gretta Marshall left “vicious” and “divided” Labour to join Plaid Cymru.
The price Wales pays is inefficiency and corruption resulting in deprivation. Money is squandered on white elephants by civil servants and Third Sector apparatchiks who are above the law, given free rein by ‘Welsh’ Labour politicians who are too busy engaging in feuds, or fighting each other on the greasy pole.
Thankfully, all is not doom and gloom. The Labour Party is splitting, and cannot survive in its present form. Before long, and for the first time in almost a century, we shall be able to breathe the clean air of a Wales no longer dominated by Labour.
Before we turn to Stephen Kinnock’s latest attempt to set the record straight about his past, here by way of an overture to the main show is a handy chronological summary of the schools saga.
Kinnock “rages” against private education, and the way it enables a privileged elite to buy its way into a better life makes him “extremely angry” (2009)
Kinnock and his wife send their elder daughter to a private school in Copenhagen (2010)
She later moves on to the even swankier Atlantic College (£28,600 a year) near Cardiff, partly paid for by the Danish taxpayer (2013-2015)
“Stephen Kinnock slams ‘misleading claim’ that his daughter went to a private school” (Western Mail, February 2014), failing to mention that his daughter was a pupil at Atlantic College.
“Stephen Kinnock ‘underestimated’ school fees for daughter” (Western Mail, March 2014). It’s all the fault of political opponents trying to undermine him, and oh yes, those fees were twice as much as he had previously said.
23 July 2016 – Kinnock issues a further “clarification”, saying that he has “always been open about, and proud of, the fact that a vital part of Johanna’s education took place in Wales”.
The ink had barely dried on that before Kinnock was busy banging out another “clarification” to Twitter users who were asking him about his tax affairs in Denmark.
According to Stephen, it was all old news, very simple and clear cut:
Ask anyone in the Danish media or bewildered members of the Danish public who tried to follow all the twists and turns of this byzantine tale over several years, and the picture that emerges is very far from simple.
A Google search on the words “Kinnock skat” (Danish for ‘tax’) returns 56,500 entries, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Why, for example, did Kinnock and his wife tell the press within days of the story breaking that he was about to file a tax return in Denmark, and would be paying back taxes as well as liabilities going forward? And why did the couple engage a top tax lawyer who fought tooth and nail to get him off the hook?
“I want to pay tax in Denmark”
Seven days after the article Kinnock mentions on 23 June 2010, the Danish press was ablaze with the story. On that day, the Danish national news agency, Ritzau, carried a report quoting various reputable sources, including Berlingske Tidende, a leading quality daily, saying that Stephen Kinnock had agreed to pay tax in Denmark.
Here is one of the many press reports from the time.
“After a week of news headlines, the Social Democrats’ leader, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is caving in: her husband wants to pay tax in Denmark with retrospective effect, says Berlingske Tidende.”
“He will pay tax in Denmark for the first time, and the couple promises that he will continue to do so in coming years.”
At the time Kinnock was working in Geneva, but the family home, his wife and children were in Copenhagen.
Thorning-Schmidt told the press that the couple believed that they had always acted correctly, and that they had contacted a tax lawyer who confirmed their interpretation, “but there are some grey zones in all of this, and we want to steer clear of grey zones. We have therefore chosen to go the whole hog and pay tax in both Denmark and Switzerland.”
On second thoughts…..
The lawyer, Frode Holm, told the press that the grey zone arose because Kinnock had not just regularly spent time at home in Denmark, but had also conducted business meetings there.
The larger than life Frode Holm was not just any old tax lawyer, but was reckoned to be the very best in the country, and famous for performing miracles for very rich clients who had run into a spot of bother with the taxman, as explained by Politiko, a part of the Berlingske media group, here.
One of his cases is said to have involved a businessman who was facing a tax bill of Dkr 1.9 billion (around £260 million). Holm turned it round and secured a rebate of nearly £900,000 for his client.
The sums involved in the Kinnock/Thorning-Schmidt case were peanuts by comparison, but Helle Thorning-Schmidt had her eyes set on becoming Prime Minister, and so Holm’s job was partly to ensure that no political damage was inflicted, with zero tax liability for Kinnock a bonus.
The taxman enters the bedroom
This was the beginning of a saga which was to run on for nearly four years, and Frode Holm was to hit the headlines spectacularly in the autumn of 2012 when it emerged that he had told the tax authorities two years earlier that Stephen Kinnock was gay or bisexual.
Holm claimed that he had done this to explain why Kinnock’s wife did not want to go to a meeting with the tax authorities, because “she (Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Ed.) does not want to sit here and have to explain their personal circumstances”.
Holm’s claim that it was he who set the rumour rolling was later disputed by others involved in the case, and this aspect of the story grew legs and became a convoluted saga in its own right. However, if Holm’s version of events was correct, several mysteries remain. Was he just making it up, and were his clients aware of what he was doing from the beginning? If not, when did they become aware of what their lawyer was saying?
When he was asked in October 2012 whether he believed that Kinnock was gay, as he had told the taxman, Holm replied “no comment”.
To be fair to the Danish press, journalists became aware of the rumours surrounding Kinnock’s sexuality early on, but decided that this was a private and personal matter. It was only towards the end of 2012 when it became clear that the issue was so closely bound up with his tax status that the floodgates opened.
The problem confronting the couple boiled down to precisely how many days Kinnock had spent in Denmark. If it was less than 180, Kinnock was not liable to Danish tax.
The trouble was that in order to stress their credentials as a normal, close family, the couple had previously given interviews to a whole series of newspapers, magazines and authors saying that Kinnock spent several days with his wife and children each weekend at home in Copenhagen. If it was true that Kinnock had spent four days at home each weekend, Friday to Monday, he would be liable to tax.
On 16 September 2010, the Danish tax authorities concluded that Kinnock had not spent more than 180 days at home, and was therefore not liable to tax in Denmark. As we shall see, the decision was by no means straightforward.
But the affair had only just begun because leaks and attempts by political opponents to exploit the tax question later led to investigations and an inquiry, during the course of which various previously confidential documents became public.
A hair’s breadth
It emerged that Kinnock had only narrowly escaped having to pay tax, and that the tax office had reinterpreted its own rules when it reached its decision. Had the rules on matters such as responding to business e-mails and meetings while in Denmark not been relaxed, Kinnock would have clocked up more than 180 days.
The decision has since cost the Danish taxman dear.
In another high profile case, Camilla Vest, a Danish model, and her husband Peder Nielsen, boss of the Danish shipping conglomerate Maersk, were found guilty in November 2011 of tax evasion and sentenced to 21 months in prison and a fine of DKr 6.6 million (approximately £750,000). The verdict was overturned a year later, with the tax authorities’ ruling on the Kinnock case playing a significant role in the court’s decision.
Fans of the Danish political thriller Borgen will probably be wondering where fiction ends and reality begins by now. When Kinnock himself was asked what he thought about the TV show, he said that he had enjoyed the first series, but had found the second too far-fetched.
In reality, the scriptwriters probably concluded that having a woman prime minister married to the “Socialist” non-domiciled scion of an ennobled British political dynasty embroiled in scandals about his tax affairs and private schools, with a maelstrom of rumours about his marriage and sexuality, would have been dismissed by viewers as too bizarre to be believed.
But if we are to believe Stephen Kinnock, who has probably calculated that Berlingske Tidende, Ekstra Bladet, BT and the rest of the Danish press are not widely read in Port Talbot, it’s all very simple and clear-cut.