Baywatch

MERGERS AND GROWTH

One of the ways I combat ennui (and hangovers) is by visiting websites such as Companies House and seeing what I can turn up, because it’s possible to search for an individual’s name as well as a company name. For example, is Carwyn Jones a director of the Come And Get It, Big Boy! massage parlour in Nantyffyllon? (Of course not, how could you think such a thing! Ach y fi!)

This is what I was doing when one thing led to another and I turned up something rather interesting, or disturbing, possibly both. Let me explain.

As you may know, Coleg y Drindod/Trinity College in Carmarthen merged a few years ago with Swansea Metropolitan University and St David’s College Lampeter to give us (deep breath), University of Wales Trinity St David. Among its developments is a £300m new campus in SA1, on the city side of Swansea University’s new Bay Campus. This is an area where Jac and his mates, long, long ago, used to dodge the docks police to go fishing. I got to wondering who was running the show.

UWTSD’s new waterfront campus in Swansea

The UWTSD itself has a Royal Charter, which means there are no details available on the Companies House website. However, there is information available for Trinity University College, and there, among the directors, we find Mark Vincent James, ‘Local Government Chief Executive’. I experienced a ‘Eureka!’ moment, for I had searched the CH website for the Carmarthenshire CEO before, but had drawn a blank because there are so many Mark Jameses out there. But now, armed with the ‘Vincent’, where might it take me?

If you type ‘Mark Vincent James’ into the Companies House website search, you come up with two appointments; one, as we’ve seen, is Trinity University College, but the other is Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd. The other directors of this company being Mark Philip Carter and Steven James Corner. The address given for the company and the three directors is, 4 Regents Canal House, 626 Commercial Road, London, England, E14 7HS, a nondescript commercial building in Limehouse.

I could find no other Welsh link for Carter, whose business activities seem to focus on Brighton, but Corner threw up some very interesting revelations.

CORNERING A MARKET

Among the companies of which Steven James Corner is a director are: Century Wharf (One) RTM Company Ltd, Century Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd, and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd. RTM means Right to Manage, a system that allows leaseholders to organise themselves and run, for example, their block of flats. Explained here. The companies’ numbers probably refer to different blocks, but all at Century Wharf in Cardiff Bay.

If we rummage through the other directors of these RTM companies we see a ‘Mark James’, sans Vincent, with the ‘Occupation’ box left blank, and an address in Essex. But, believe me, this is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. For one thing, the date of birth is the same as on the entry for Trinity University College, June 1959. And of course, we have already established the connection with Steven James Corner through Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd.

Century Wharf

Having established a double connection between Corner and James I began to think a little more about Corner and wonder what else he might be up to. So I went through the list of companies with which he’s linked. One is Regents Canal House Ltd, which explains why Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd is registered there.

Another company with which Corner has been linked since it was set up in September 2003 is Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, which is also registered at Regents Canal House. Among the more recent additions to the board of this company we find a Michal Swiatek, who is Polish, and 37 years of age. Here’s his Linkedin profile.

Mr Swiatek can also be found at the Squarefoot estate agents, which has an office in the Bay, and also one on 198 Cowbridge Road East. Although called Squarefoot, it’s registered with Companies House as Square Foot Estate Agents Ltd, using the Cowbridge Road East address. Among the directors we find a ‘Steve Corner’, who is of course, Steven James Corner, though the address given for him is in Brighton.

Another Polish connection with Squarefoot/Square Foot is the website. For if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on ‘Site by: Orth Multimedia‘ you are wafted through the ether to 4-200 Rybnik ul. Wodzisławska 112 tel. 660 091 847.

Let us return to Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, for now things begin to get a little disturbing.

YIDDISHE MAMA

This Confirmation Statement, from the Companies House website, dated 15 February 2017, and shown below, tells us that Property Matters (Britain) Ltd has two shareholders, each with 100 shares. They are, Michal Swiatek and Imaginative Property Group Ltd. The next and obvious question – what is the Imaginative Property Group Ltd?

The answer is that the Imaginative Property Group Ltd was Incorporated 10 June 2013, with the Registered Office Address given as 98 Davaar House Ferry Court, Prospect Place, Cardiff, Wales, CF11 0LB. Again, in Cardiff Bay. The real surprise comes when we look at the directors for while, predictably, we find Steven James Corner, we also find Barbara Kahan. So who is she?

Barbara Kahan is listed as an appointee against no fewer than 22,576 companies according to Companies House, and 25,802 according to the Times. ‘How can that be?’ you ask. I asked myself the same question as I Googled ‘Barbara Kahan’. What I came up with is very worrying. For this 85-year-old woman is said to allow her name and status as a UK citizen be used by Israeli crooks.

Here’s a link to the Times report (paywall, unfortunately), and here are the details on the FinanceFeeds website, both from December.

There isn’t even the defence that Imaginative Property Group was an off-the-shelf company, lying dormant for a while until Corner came along. For the Companies House website makes it clear that Corner and Kahan were both appointed on the day of the company’s Incorporation, 10 June 2013. Kahan immediately stood down leaving Corner as the sole director and shareholder.

It should also be pointed out that the original name of the company was Scorn Properties Group Ltd, based at Regents Canal House, before the name was officially changed, 11.10.2013, and the address changed to the current Cardiff location, 06.06.2016.

Which means that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who can be linked to a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused of acting as a front for Israeli crooks!

MAN ABOUT THE BAY

Once I knew what I’ve just told you, I began to wonder exactly what James and Corner might be up to, so I asked around, made enquiries with contacts in Cardiff. Here’s what I’ve been told.

It was obvious that they’re involved in property in Cardiff Bay. Given the names of three of the companies it was also reasonable to assume that Century Wharf is involved somehow, and so it is, for I’m told that Mark James owns a property there.

My feedback also suggests that James owns property in Prospect Place, which is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, in a seventh-floor flat with a 125-year lease in the name of the company.

A name we find listed with Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd is Warwick Estate Property Management Ltd, which seems to be concerned with management and maintenance of buildings of multiple occupation, for we also find it with the three Century Wharf RTMs.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I discovered about Corner was his foray into soft furnishings. For he served as a director of Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd, a company formed by a Kathleen Bowen, who seems to live in Gorseinon, but had her shop across the mighty Llwchwr in Llanelli. I use the past tense because the company was struck off in December 2016.

Corner was appointed as a director on 20 May 2015 – but why? Is he an expert on curtains and cushions? But of course, by May 2015 he was in business with Mark Vincent James, and the shop was in Carmarthenshire, so maybe James asked him to get involved. If so, why?

Answers on a postcard, please, to . . . .

But enough of dusty documents, let us focus for a while on human beings.

FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE?

Among the snippets of information that winged their way to Château Jac was one telling of a connection that made no immediate sense. For someone believes that a young Polish woman is working as a manager of properties with which James and Corner are involved, and she may be living in one of these properties herself.

The name I was given is Patrycja Nowak who, my informant added, is connected with the Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV), which is a constituent part of the University of Wales Trinity St David. And indeed, we find her on the ‘Staff’ page. (Since removed, but fortunately I screen captured it, and you can read it below.) As you might expect, I began to wonder about Ms Nowak, so I started Googling.

As far as I can see there is just one Patrycja Nowak living in Cardiff. Another source linked Ms Nowak with an incident in which a woman had fallen from the seventh floor of a block of flats in Hansen Court. By pure coincidence, Mark Vincent James owns a property at Hansen Court, which is on Century Wharf, though he appears to have bought it last year.

Further enquiries suggested that Ms Nowak might also be known as Patrycja D Nowak.

I say that because White Pages gives us two recent addresses in the Bay for a Patrycja D Nowak. One is in Davaar House, which you’ll remember is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, that company set up with the busy old lady, Barbara Kahan. While Hansen Court is of course where we have established Mark James owns a property, and where a 23-year-old woman fell(?) from a balcony four years ago.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that this Patrycja D Nowak is the same woman as the Patrycja Nowak who worked at the Wales International Academy of Voice. And if they are one and the same, then the 192 site suggests that she may now have moved to Brighton.

Which is entirely plausible, given that Brighton addresses have cropped up time and again in this enquiry, Steven James Corner himself has given Brighton addresses, and ere it slipped down the back of the sofa forever even the Llanelli soft furnishings business had a Brighton address.

Steven James Corner’s Companies House entry for Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd

UPDATE 01.06.2017: Thanks to a source I now have Land Registry documents for two more properties leased by Mark Vincent James in Cardiff Bay. They are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House, the latter address being where Ms Nowak lives, or lived. And the same building in which we find the Imaginative Property Group Ltd, formed by Steven James Corner and Barbara Kahan. This gives us three properties in Cardiff Bay leased by Mark Vincent James. Are there more?

Also note the involvement, on both title documents, of Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd of, Unit 9, Astra Centre, Edinburgh Way, Harlow, Essex, England, CM20 2BN. The Astra Centre again, where the three Century Wharf RTMs are registered. Though I’m surprised not to see Steven James Corner listed among the directors. Though another familiar name is there, Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?

To begin with, we now know that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is branching out into the property business in Cardiff Bay, and he’s doing so in partnership with a man who has done business with a very questionable individual who may be laundering money for gangsters and terrorists.

Then there’s the Polish connections, are they entirely coincidental?

If Mark James owns or leases properties in the Bay then some might suppose that he expects Corner et al to help him maximise the income from his properties. If so, then in return maybe Corner would expect James to use his undoubted influence for the benefit of his new friends and business partners.

One suggestion is that Corner and others have ambitions to take over the lucrative contracts for cleaning, maintaining and repairing buildings in the Bay . . . whether the residents want them to or not. A clue may be found in another company, formed in February, Housekeeping and Cleaning (UK) Ltd. Corner’s partner in this new Cardiff-based venture is Richard James Godfrey, who seems to specialise in modern Mrs Moppery.

Whatever lies behind the connection between Mark Vincent James and Steven James Corner and his associates, a council chief executive teaming up with property dealers concerns me, and should be of concern to others.

Something else I find truly odd – given what we hear about networks and grapevines in Cardiff Bay – is that Mark James has been able to launch himself as a property tycoon, keeping pretty racy company to boot, and yet no one seems to have known about it!

Even odder (perhaps the stone in my shoe), was Corner’s detour to Llanelli and the soft furnishings business – what the hell was that about?

Something we’ve learnt – or had confirmed – is that the redevelopment of Cardiff docks has sucked in public funding to benefit, originally, Lord Crickhowell and his friends in Associated British Ports, and then, smaller property speculators, most of whom have descended on Cardiff from outside of Wales. What benefits have we seen in Cwmbran and Corwen?

Now Cardiff looks forward to the Champions League Final on Saturday between Juventus and Real Madrid. Of course, the city is too small to host an event of this magnitude, which explains the exorbitant rates being charged for accommodation. We can confidently assume that owners of flats down the Bay will be making a killing, among them perhaps . . .

I wonder if Patrycja has a ticket for the game?

♦ end ♦

Lying for the Union

TURF WARS

When the SNP began rising to prominence in Scottish politics a very strange thing happened – Labour and Tories realised they quite liked each other really, to the extent of forming coalition administrations on some local authorities just to keep the SNP (majority party) out of power. It’s still happening.

Following the council elections earlier this month Labour in Scotland got itself into a bit of a tizzy due to its councillors in Aberdeen agreeing to go into coalition with the Tories . . . and then being suspended by the party. Because it doesn’t look good for Labour to be slagging off Mrs May and her gang on one level while jumping into bed with them in Scotland’s third city.

It reminds us that the ‘fight’ between Conservatives and Labour is often a very contrived affair, especially when constitutional issues are introduced. Tories and Labour stood shoulder to shoulder in the 2014 independence referendum and told the same lies. Labour paid the price for that in Scotland with certain sections of the electorate deserting the party, and Labour is now losing support from a different element which realises that if they wish to maintain the Union then they should put aside all other differences to back the Conservative and Unionist Party.

I’ve headed this section ‘Turf Wars’ because in some respects Labour and Tories can be viewed as two gangs fighting over a turf (Britain) in order to protect their rackets: riding the gravy train, promoting and aggrandising themselves and their friends, and of course reaping the rewards in peerages and consultancies/directorships on leaving office, if not before. The introduction of the threat from a third party, especially one offering radical change, makes them realise that they have more in common than they had previously wanted to admit.

On a practical level, it results in people belonging to either of these parties happier to see the other party win than have the outsider, the threat, succeed. Which gives us the reason for Labour’s current tribulations in Aberdeen. And many in Labour are quite open about preferring to see the Tories win, as this snippet from Labour Uncut reminds us.

But how far might this cynical co-operation between Labour and the Tories go? Could it happen in Wales?

Going back to the recent council elections, there might have been some jiggery-pokery in Neath Port Talbot. The Labour Party there was going through a difficult time, with many de-selections resulting in former Labour councillors standing as Independents, and to add to Labour’s woes there was a stronger than usual threat from Plaid Cymru.

All of which might explain the arrival of the cavalry in the form of unknown Conservative candidates, who seemed to do little or no canvassing, and most of whom didn’t bother to turn up at the count. What they did achieve in a number of wards was to split the anti-Labour vote and ensure a Labour victory. Some tell me there were paper candidates like these in other areas.

Then there was the Llangennech school dispute where people close to the Labour Party were more than happy to link up with UKIP in order to attack the Welsh language – ‘education’ and ‘choice’ being mere fig leaves. You might argue this was not strictly political, but Labour used the dispute, now being supported by UKIP, to attack Plaid Cymru. So we see a similar pattern at work.

Anti Welsh language campaigners outside Llangennech school with UKIP AM Neil Hamilton

And going back to my previous post, the people behind that obnoxious leaflet had a clear objective, which was to cause maximum damage to Plaid Cymru and hopefully loosen Plaid’s control on Gwynedd council. I mentioned that the leaflets had been seen in Blaenau Ffestiniog (in the Co-op store, to be exact), perhaps I should also have told you that in the Diffwys and Maenofferen ward of the town the Plaid Cymru candidate lost by just 3 votes.

With a margin that small it’s reasonable to assume that the leaflet was decisive.

MEDIA

One reason that Tories and Labour are allowed to get away with such practices is of course because, by and large, the UK media is on the same wavelength, even otherwise liberal outlets tend to line up with them when ‘ugly nationalism’ is introduced to the mix.

A case in point would be the BBC, which still wields incredible influence due to so many people relying on it for their news. People trust the BBC, but that trust is often abused. Because I am in no doubt that the BBC has done a deal with the Conservative Party to follow the required line on most issues in return for keeping the licence fee that guarantees its survival. Though on Scottish independence, for example, the Beeb might not need to be leaned on.

One recent example of the Corporation’s Unionist credentials was the televised Scottish party leaders debate on Sunday when, to believe most of the media, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was floored by a nurse who claimed she had to use food banks. Here’s a more balanced view of that new low which exposed the BBC for the state propaganda agency it is, and always has been.

The Scottish nurse, Claire Austin, who attacked Nicola Sturgeon during a live TV debate, claiming that because of low pay she had to use food banks, photographed earlier this year dining at the Plaza Hotel in New York. She lives in a nice part of Edinburgh, dines at the best restaurants, her daughter attends a fee-paying school and has a horse. Oh, yes, and nurses in Scotland get paid more than their counterparts in Wales. Did the BBC put her up to it?                      (Picture courtesy of the Scottish Sun.)

And the BBC also proves what I said earlier about liberal outlets. For within the Corporation certain programmes – often with small, left of centre audiences – are allowed to stray from the official line in the hope of maintaining the image of impartiality. Newsnight, for example, supported Remain, Clinton, anybody but Le Pen, etc, yet when it comes to discussing the SNP or Scotland Newsnight could have Nigel Farage as its producer.

Here in Wales, supplementing the BBC’s output we have Trinity Mirror which, in addition to publishing the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror (and the Daily Record in Scotland) also owns in Wales: Western Mail, Daily Post, Wales on Sunday, the Evening Post, the Echo, Llanelli Star, Caernarfon Herald, Neath Guardian, Flintshire Chronicle, Cynon Valley Leader, Glamorgan Gazette, Gwent Gazette, Merthyr Express, Pontypridd and Llantrisant Observer, Rhondda Leader and the Rhymney Valley Express.

With all the previously separate websites now merged into WalesOnline, and controlled from Cardiff.

Trinity Mirror supports the Labour party. And with the BBC supporting any party that can maintain the Union the combination of Trinity Mirror and the BBC goes quite some way to explaining why a party as utterly useless as ‘Welsh’ Labour can hang on to power.

But Trinity Mirror’s loyalty to the Labour Party can take many forms, much of it distasteful. Further details on one such case were brought to my attention just a few days ago.

JENNY LEE CLARKE

You will recall the case of the Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris’s attack on a co-worker in the constituency office of Harris’s predecessor Siân James. It made the London dailies. No charges resulted only because the complaint was made beyond the six-month limit for charges of common assault.

As might be expected, when Harris became MP for Swansea East in May 2015 things got very difficult for the woman she had assaulted, Jenny Lee Clarke, who was still working in the constituency office. It was no surprise when Harris – once ‘cleared’ – took her revenge by accusing Clarke of theft. Equally unsurprising was the fact that WalesOnline gleefully reported the baseless accusation.

Ms Clarke lost her job and was put through the mill. Here’s her timetable of events:

15.01.16 – Raised a grievance

27.01.16 – 8 hours giving a statement about the verbal, emotional and physical abuse 

28.01.16 – Sacked

26.04.16 – Discovered from broadsheets I was being investigated

24.06.16 – Arrested – bail

19.09.16 – Re-bailed

07.11.16 – Re-bailed

17.02.17 – Still on bail whilst case went to CPS for a charging decision

17.05.17 – No action taken and released with no bail conditions because process had not been adhered too

When Ms Clarke attended Swansea Central police station on May 17th she was told that she was being released with no charge . . . but was also told, “You may in future be asked to attend voluntarily to be re-interviewed”. Though an apology was made “for the length of time this has taken”.

It has been suggested to me that this nightmare only ended when it did because of the ‘no extension of bail without fresh evidence’ provision in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, brought in due to the constant re-bailing in the Cliff Richard fiasco.

As we’ve seen, the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group was quick to exonerate the Labour MP and equally quick to put the boot into her victim. Though, fair play, Richard Youle, senior news reporter for the Evening Post did promise to report the outcome of the investigation, as the e-mail reproduced below tells us.

The problem is that despite being told of the outcome, and reminded of his promise, Mr Youle and Trinity Mirror seem to have lost interest in the case. I wonder why?

Labour supporters reading this – and I do get them! – will be shouting, ‘Trinity Mirror’s reluctance to report the Jenny Lee Clarke case has got nothing to do with saving Labour embarrassment, Jac, cos Carolyn Harris is safe in Swansea East’. And indeed she is, bless her . . . but the Post covers the Bay and Carmarthenshire, so what about another Swansea seat, Gower, where Labour is hoping to overcome Byron Davies’s majority of just 27? And then there’s Llanelli, where you wouldn’t bet your house on Nia Griffith being returned.

This is a case that again exposes the links between the Labour Party and Trinity Mirror, and how they are prepared to combine in destroying anyone who threatens them. For Jenny Lee Clarke is now heavily in debt, she has lost her car, her telephone has been disconnected, and – unlike the stooge-nurse in Edinburgh – Jenny really is using food banks.

And what of South Wales Police? Their role in this does their reputation no favours. I hope there’s no connection between their treatment of an innocent woman and the fact that the PCC for South Wales Police is the odious Alun Michael, former Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth who, once elected, stuffed his office with Labour apparatchiks in the time-honoured way.

Having said that the Evening Post and WalesOnline couldn’t find space to tell us that Jenny Lee Clarke was not going to be prosecuted, Trinity Mirror still found space to insult our intelligence with a truly ludicrous story about how Harris had been affected by the Manchester bombing.

Courtesy of WalesOnline

Of course, she was nowhere near Manchester on Monday night, but she had been in Westminster for that attack in March – but she was never in any danger there either. While we expect politicians to exploit tragedies for their own advantage this is still one of the more contrived and disgusting examples I’ve come across.

But it’s what happens when you have a country where the dominant political party enjoys an unhealthy relationship with the company controlling most of the indigenous print media.

Anyone considering a ‘progressive alliance’ with these bastards needs a good talking to, with the kind of implement we shall encounter in the next section.

There is nothing ‘progressive’about the Labour Party.

STOP PRESS!

I am informed by the legendary Ian Bone, founder of Class War, that on Sunday July 16th there is to be a ‘Dress Like Leon Atkin Day’ in Swansea. The message went on, “There will be a perambulation from Jimmy Wilde’s to St Paul’s Crypt followed by speechifying and singing”.  For those now staring at the screen in bewilderment, let me explain.

Leon Atkin was a man of the cloth who used to give shelter to vagrants in the crypt of his church (now a curry house), which stood on the junction of St Helen’s Road and St Helen’s Avenue, opposite the legendary Joe’s ice cream parlour. The Jimmy Wilde referred to was not that Jimmy Wilde, but the old heavyweight boxer, who’d briefly been Welsh champion until losing his title to Tommy Farr. And he had even known the immortal Marciano who, as everyone knows, started his fight career in Swansea.

By the time I knew Jimmy he looked what he was, a beaten-up old heavyweight straight out of central casting, but you knew not to mess with him. He ran a drinking club not far from High Street Station. To describe Jimmy’s place as ‘rough’ would be an understatement on a par with saying Leo Messi’s a pretty good footballer.

Image reproduced courtesy of Google

You must remember that back then the pubs closed in the afternoon so, unless you knew a friendly landlord – or landlady! – if you wanted a drink you had to go to a club. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very tidy clubs, but these tended to be more discriminating than Jimmy about who they served. They expected you to be able to stand upright without swaying, or it would be some other irritating qualification.

Even so, you couldn’t always walk straight into Jimmy’s, there was often a certain film noir element to gaining admittance. For example, you’d knock on the door and a voice from within would ask, ‘Are you a member?’ You’d answer ‘No’, and the voice would come back, ‘Oh, never mind’, and the door would open. It was a strange ritual that served no real purpose.

The link between Jimmy Wilde’s and St Paul’s was of course that many of Jimmy’s customers made a regular perambulation to the Crypt. It might be worth adding that Leon Atkin was a drinker himself, in fact, he’d sunk a few pints with Dylan.

Back in the ’70s Ian and his crew did fantastic work with their underground magazine Alarm, exposing the corruption on Swansea council. Labour Council leader Gerald Murphy eventually got sent down, and then his Ratepayer successor Sid Jenkins got done for accepting ‘favours’. As we used to say – ‘Swansea’s got the best councillors money can buy’.

I recall one night in 1980 drinking with Phil Henry in the Queens on Oxford Street (run then by the Necrews family). Ian Bone was there selling ‘Paul Ringer is Innocent’ badges. The story as I remember it was . . . he’d pissed off some local heavies who’d bent an iron bar over his head, so with the compensation money he bought himself a badge-making machine!

Happy days with unbelievable characters. When did people become so boring?

♦ end ♦

Dirty, Dirty Politics 2

I had planned to focus on the UK general election, but it’ll have to wait as I feel that an update is merited to the ongoing case of the anonymous leaflets distributed in Gwynedd prior to the council elections earlier this month.

A PICTURE EMERGES

I first dealt with this glossy, 4-page leaflet in Dirty, Dirty Politics, but at the time I was only able to provide you with copies e-mailed to me and almost certainly taken with a phone. I have since received a copy of the leaflet and I’m now able to provide a scanned version. (Click on the image to enlarge.) I also provided an update in Elections 2017 (scroll down).

Perhaps the main reason I’m returning to this subject is because information I’ve subsequently received makes it clear that these leaflets were distributed far more widely than I had originally thought, and may even constitute something of a campaign. Let me remind you how it began.

I was sent copies of the leaflet on Friday, April 28th, with a message saying that they had been handed out in Trawsfynydd by a guy driving a Mercedes. I was able to establish that the car in fact belonged to Councillor Louise Hughes, who represents the Llangelynin ward on Gwynedd County Council as an Independent. Louise Hughes told me when I phoned her the next day that she had stopped in Trawsfynydd on her way to Garndolbenmaen to canvass for the Lib Dem candidate in Dolbenmaen ward, Steven Churchman.

Then someone else got in touch to say that the leaflets had also been seen in Dolgellau, and a few individuals were named as likely distributors. Later, I heard they’d turned up in Blaenau Ffestiniog. More recently, I have been told of these leaflets turning up on Llŷn, and there seems to be a pattern emerging.

We shall look at the wider consequences, and the possible scale of this activity, later.

SO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ABOUT IT, JAC?

I have sent a letter to North Wales Police, and accompanying the letter was a copy of the offending leaflet together with a copy of the Electoral Commission’s factsheet, the clear and concise Election Material and Imprints – Great Britain. I reproduce the relevant passages of the leaflet below.

The page reproduced above makes it clear that Hughes and her gang constitute a non-party campaign organisation, which makes the leaflet election material – in that it seeks to influence people against a particular party – and as such it should carry an imprint, which it clearly doesn’t. (Believe me, ‘Printy McPrintface’ will not be accepted as an imprint by the Electoral Commission.)

On Thursday I received another e-mail from the Electoral Commission which said, “It appears that the material you have provided does not contain an appropriate imprint. However, as it is not clear from the material you have provided who has actually produced and distributed the leaflet, the Commission needs to consider the likelihood of being able to establish the source of the material in deciding how to progress this matter. Therefore, if you have any information as to who may have produced and distributed the material, (including the locality and volume of distribution), please could you provide this.”

I responded with the information requested and also quoted from my letter to the North Wales Police:

“There can be no doubt that Councillor Louise Hughes was distributing unlawful election material in the period preceding the council elections earlier this month. How many others were involved in the distribution remains to be established, but I’m sure Councillor Hughes can give you their names.”

I continued:

“As for who printed and published these leaflets, I’m sure Councillor Hughes can also tell you that. What seems clear to me is that the leaflets have been professionally produced, which suggests that they are the work of someone with access to commercial printing materials and equipment, or may even have been produced by a commercial printer.”

I now believe that we are moving in the right direction, though I still worry that North Wales Police might look for excuses not to get involved. They might try to interpret it as a political squabble, ‘Six of one  . . . ‘. It’s not. The law has been broken. The law in question being the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

WIDER STILL AND WIDER . . .

When my attention was first drawn to this leaflet I assumed it was the work of a few anti-Welsh bigots – camouflaging their swivel-eyed hostility to ‘all that Welsh nonsense’ with attacks on Plaid Cymru – just the usual suspects letting off steam before council elections.

Hughes and her “scruffy” companion were – as she told me – handing the leaflets out in the cafe in Trawsfynydd simply because they’d stopped there en route to Garndolbenmaen. Some leaflets had even been left with the saintly Churchman, who claimed to have destroyed them, but also admitted, “I quite like Louise Hughes”.

We now know that the leaflets were distributed from Dolgellau to Pwllheli. I’ve had no reports as yet from the north of the county, Bangor, Caernarfon, and other places, but if you’re targeting Plaid Cymru’s control of the county council it makes sense to cover the more populous parts of county.

Before leaving Garndolbenmaen, it’s worth mentioning that another source insists Hughes’ scruffy companion was seen on polling day, hanging around the polling station in Pentrefelin, which is on the A497 from Porthmadog to Pwllheli but in the Dolbenmaen ward. He is said to have been handing out copies of the leaflet, which if true, is almost certainly illegal. I’m awaiting further information.

The feedback I’ve had says that the leaflets were available in a number of “retail outlets” in Pwllheli. Which may be significant, for the town produced an interesting result on May 4th when the sitting Plaid Cymru councillor for Pwllheli North, Michael Sol Owen, lost to Independent candidate, Dylan Bullard, on roughly the same turnout as in 2012. If less than fifty people had voted differently then Owen would have been re-elected.

click to enlarge

Now Dylan Bullard may be a splendid fellow, who has never heard of Louise Hughes and her gang. But whoever distributed those leaflets in Pwllheli did so with the intention of damaging Plaid Cymru, and if they succeeded then Bullard is the beneficiary whether he acknowledges it or not.

Some reading this are now shouting, ‘But this is all supposition, Jac’. Is it? What we know for certain is that the leaflets exist, they were widely distributed prior to the council elections, and they were intended to damage Plaid Cymru’s election chances. The only imponderable is the degree to which the leaflets succeeded.

UPDATE 21.05.2017: Councillor Dylan Bullard has been in touch to say, “At no time prior to or during the local elections were these pamphlets available in any of the ‘retail outlets’ I frequent in Pwllheli, indeed a quick survey of certain towns people would suggest your feedback to be overwhelming wrong.” A sweeping statement.

He may be right, he may be wrong. But if he’s right, then I find it strange that leaflets should have been available at Bargain Booze and the shop-filling station (maybe other places) in Criccieth yet those responsible did not travel a few miles to Pwllheli where there was such a finely-balanced contest taking place.

When pressed to offer an opinion on the leaflet’s contents, Councillor Bullard said: “I have briefly read the pamphlet and can assure you that I do not agree with what is written and neither would any decent inhabitant of Pwllheli.”

UPDATE 26,05.2017: Here’s an interesting screen capture from the webcast of Gwynedd council’s full meeting on May 18. It shows of course Louise Hughes, distributor of leaflets; then, on the right of the picture, we see Steven Churchman, Lib Dem councillor and recipient of leaflets; on the far left (of the picture, never the political spectrum) we see Mike Stevens, printer of Tywyn; but who is that sitting between Stevens and Hughes, surely not Dylan Bullard?

Oh, yes, out of picture, but sitting next to Churchman, was Siôn Jones, the Labour councillor. What more do you need to know?

CONCLUSION

What might earlier have been dismissed as a few odious malcontents spreading their bigotry is no longer a valid interpretation of what happened in Gwynedd prior to the council elections. For we now know that it was more organised and widespread than that.

Not only did the recent activity cover a considerable geographical area, but the leaflet proudly announces, “this is the 6th edition of Tales With A Twist”. So were the other five produced prior to earlier elections? Will one appear before the June 8 UK general election?

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The fact that six of these leaflets have been produced and distributed makes it look like an ongoing conspiracy to influence the democratic process by an organised but secretive and law-breaking group. Therefore those involved must be exposed and punished.

In addition, there are features of this latest leaflet that are just crude racism: the suggestion that Welsh verbs are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words; the allegation that children are punished for speaking English in Gwynedd schools; and the reference to ‘English Not’ signs being made by ‘Waldio Priciau’.

This of course is the insulting reaction we hear from a certain English mindset whenever it’s confronted with another culture or identity. This mindset also believes that the natives are always corrupt . . . and so it is with those behind issue 6 of Tales With a Twist, which accuses Plaid Cymru of electoral fraud.

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Those responsible for this leaflet must feel there is an audience for their views, so let them give that audience a chance to express its contempt for all things Welsh through a new party, a kind of UKIP specific to Wales, a party for which there is only one permitted language and only one acceptable identity. A party committed to turning Wales into a greener and pleasanter England . . . without the immigrants.

But before they have that opportunity I hope that North Wales Police and the Electoral Commission do their jobs. Both have enough evidence now to begin proceedings against those responsible for the leaflet and the violations of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

♦ end ♦

Elections 2017

SCOTLAND

In my previous post I wrote that there is a nasty side to the upsurge in support for the Conservative Party in Scotland. Imagine my surprise, and pleasure, to read Scottish commentators saying roughly the same thing.

This piece by Mike Small on the Bella Caledonia site talks of “British nationalism combining with a brutal lumpen extremism”. Michael Gray on CommonSpace introduces us to some of the uglier Conservative councillors elected in Scotland on May 4: one who called Nicola Sturgeon a “drooling hag”, one who’s obviously been a member of the BNP, one very confused individual who attacked an SNP opponent for being born in King Billy’s homeland, and another who thinks that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. Yes, there are some beauts here!

Obviously such stars will appeal to the single-issue element now being attracted to the Conservative cause by the party playing the BritNat card, but what of those who might prefer a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio to a piss-warm bottle of Bucky? Will the burghers of Morningside and the denizens of the West End march to the beat of the Lambeg drum? Because one problem for the Tories in attracting the Loyalist-Orange-Rangers-BNP-UKIP vote is that such support risks alienating natural Conservative supporters whose world view is not determined by what might have happened near an Irish river in 1690.

WITTMANN RIDES AGAIN! (Courtesy of ‘The Spectator’)

But perhaps the most worrying consideration of all for the Conservatives might be the effect this new support has on those who backed Labour because of what they wanted it to deliver, rather than because it would stop the SNP. Those Labour supporters who care about a decent health service, class sizes and affordable housing, and want to remain part of the EU. Clearly these will not switch to the new tub-thumping ‘Scottish’ Conservatives.

Ideally, these ‘progressive’ Labour voters want a Labour government in London, but with that looking unlikely for perhaps a decade or more, there’ll be a major re-think. Many will conclude that now the Tories have invoked Article 50, are set to impose measures that make Margaret Thatcher look like a social liberal, then independence is the only option to serve their aspirations. And there could be enough of them to swing the next referendum.

So let the Tories rejoice at their growing strength in Scotland while they may, let them gloat over Labour’s demise, but it could all come at a cost – the delivery of Scottish independence. If that happened we’d need to invent a new word to describe a situation for which ‘irony’ was no longer adequate.

LOOKING BACK TO MAY 4

Miscellany

Lost in the Plaid landslide in Cardiff’s Fairwater ward was our old friend ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, former Labour councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea. Regular readers will be familiar with ‘John Boy’ and, like me, I’m sure, will be wondering where he’s going to turn up next.

Another notable casualty was to found in Wrexham’s Ponciau ward, where Aled Roberts, one-time council leader and former Lib Dem AM, came bottom of the poll in his home ward. While we shouldn’t extrapolate too much from a single result this does not bode well for his party.

Down in Swansea my old mucker Ioan Richard has pissed off his last opponent after 41 years as an elected representative for the semi-rural Mawr ward, north of Morriston. His seat on the council will be filled by Brigette Jane Rowlands, a Conservative. She beat Plaid into second place and Labour into third, with the ‘Other’ candidate coming fourth. Ioan, a good Welshman who – like me – lost faith in Plaid years ago, supported Ms Rowlands because she’s local and hard-working, just like him.

Having mentioned ‘John Boy’ there was an interesting twist in his old ward, where two of the four seats were taken by candidates of the new Uplands Party, which might be a reaction to this area being previously represented in the Labour interest by here-today-and-gone-tomorrow ex-students like . . . well, like ‘John Boy’.

While over in Llansamlet someone else who has appeared on this blog recently, Mo Sykes, got in for Labour, but came last of the four comrades elected. Swept home on a tide of apathy by the ‘donkey vote’.

The Remarkable Rob James

Crossing over to Llanelli, one of the more remarkable results was to be found in the Lliedi ward, where Labour’s Rob James romped home by 20 lengths, cleared the grandstand and kept running. I use that exaggerated analogy because if the Lliedi contest had been a horse race then the stewards might be taking an interest.

Until November or December James was a councillor in Neath – with an appalling attendance record (scroll down) – so few people in the Lliedi ward would have known him. Which suggests that it was the Labour ticket that got him elected . . . in which case, why was his running-mate, a local, ten percentage points behind?

In 2012 there were six candidates and seven last week which, all things being equal, should have reduced the percentage of the vote gained by each candidate this time, which is how it panned out . . . except in the case of newcomer Rob James. In a higher turnout than 2012 it seems that all the extra votes went to James.

Of the previous Labour councillors Janice Williams, a director of the local Polish-Welsh Association, stood down, but hard-working local Bill Thomas was deselected. Which only adds to the suspicion that James is well favoured by persons higher up Labour’s food chain. But even if that’s true, how could it possibly explain this remarkable vote?

He’s obviously done well in Llanelli, but how did Labour in Neath cope without him? I am once again indebted to STaN of the Neath Ferret for bringing us news of Rob James’s old seat of Bryncoch South. You’ll see that with Rob gone the Labour candidates in this two-seat ward came a poor third and fourth to Plaid Cymru.

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Leading me to conclude that either Rob James has magnetism and charisma that have escaped the notice of observers, or there’s some other factor in play of which we are as yet unaware.

Unlawful Election Literature

I have been trying hard to initiate action against those responsible for the vile leaflets distributed prior to the council elections by, among others, Louise Hughes, the ‘Independent’ councillor for Gwynedd’s Llangelynin ward. Catch up with the story here in Dirty, Dirty Politics.

First I contacted the Electoral Commission. On the 8th I received an e-mail from Geraint Rhys Edwards at the EC who wrote, “If you believe an offence has been committed and are prepared to substantiate this complaint through a written allegation, this should be brought to the attention of the police”. So I contacted North Wales Police, who told me it was a matter for Gwynedd Council.

I phoned Gwynedd Council and spoke with Iwan Evans (who I believe works in the legal department), he reaffirmed the Electoral Commission information and gave me the telephone number of DCI Neil Harrison, the Single Point of Contact at NWP. I phoned the number, someone answered and said that Harrison wasn’t there but a message would be passed to him. No contact was made and subsequent calls to Harrison’s number were not answered.

There being no telephone number given on the NWP website I next used the Live Chat service. I was promised a) that I would receive a copy of the exchange by e-mail and b) Neil Harrison would either telephone me or send me an e-mail. I have received no copy and Harrison has made no contact. So on Friday, during my third attempt to get somewhere with Live Chat, I took a screen capture.

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I suspect that North Wales Police know who I am, they know why I’m trying to contact Neil Harrison, and they’re hoping I’ll go away because they don’t want to deal with this case. I shall probably now write to him.

I shall keep you informed as much as I can, for this case is progressing on a number of fronts.

Wrapping Themselves in the Flag

Another old friend, Dennis Morris, ran for Pembrokeshire County Council in Fishguard, and might have won if someone hadn’t spread the rumour that he was a member of Meibion Glyndŵr!

Dennis does sit though on Fishguard town council, and has been fighting for a long time – before he even became a councillor – over which flags should fly on the town hall; the town clerk and others – all outsiders – insist on flying the BritNat flag.

Dennis phoned county hall in Haverfordwest in the hope of clarifying the issue, but was told that the ‘rule’ is that our flag must be accompanied by the other one. He asked to see that rule in writing . . . to be told that it was ‘convention’ . . . and ‘at the chief executive’s discretion’ . . . blah bollocks, blah bollocks.

Dennis would like to see the Ddraig Goch and the flag of St David fly on the town hall of his home town, and so they were once – but for St. David’s Day only. For the rest of the year it’s the situation I’ve explained. In fact, it used to be worse, because until Dennis started making a fuss their flag flew above ours!

Another example of true Welsh sentiment being overwhelmed by the unholy union of settlers and their local allies who don’t deserve to be called Welsh. Do you have to put up with the flag of our colonial masters flying over your community?

LOOKING FORWARD TO JUNE 8

‘Carwyn is our Leader’

Well, no, I’m not really looking forward to June 8, but I can’t ignore it completely. Not least because it’s already looking rather bizarre.

What I mean by that is that ‘Welsh’ Labour has decided to fight a UK general election without mentioning their UK leader Jeremy Corbyn. Yet at Assembly elections this same party mobilises the donkey vote with ‘Send a message to London, keep the Tories out’, in the hope that gullible people will believe it’s a UK rather than a Welsh election and conclude that a vote for a third party will be wasted.

Now there are two schools of thought to explain why ‘Welsh’ Labour promotes Assembly elections as UK elections while treating UK elections as if they are Welsh elections. One says that ‘Welsh’ Labour simply gets confused, while the rival school insists that Labour are lying bastards. After giving the matter a great deal of thought, I have concluded that they’re lying bastards.

As if ignoring your party leader in a general election campaign wasn’t weird enough, there was a piece in today’s Wasting Mule that went for broke. ‘Welsh’ Labour’ rejects the UK manifesto on the grounds that it isn’t really a UK manifesto because “Labour doesn’t stand in Northern Ireland”. Er, no, but it does stand in Wales.

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Semantics aside, who the hell wrote that headline; are we to believe that ‘Welsh’ Labour is detaching itself from reality and the political mainstream to the extent of forming a cult around Carwyn Jones? But, wait, the headline tells us that Labour is ‘reviving’ this cult, so was anyone aware that it had previously existed?

This is worrying. As you read this, deep in the crypt beneath Labour HQ there could be cowled figures, their movements distorted by flickering candles, chanting ‘Carwyn is our leader’ as they raise their sacred daggers over the latest human sacrifice. Maybe a previous sacrifice explains the success of Rob James, cos nothing else can explain it.

And “charisma”, be buggered! Are we talking about the same Carwyn Jones, the tried and tested cure for insomnia? And what’s with all the alliteration? Though if the headline writer wanted a word beginning with ‘c’ then I’m sure most of you reading this could provide one.

Then again, maybe that whole article is a piss-take, because unless ‘Welsh’ Labour breaks away it remains what it’s always been – the local branch of the British Labour Party (not UK because of course Labour doesn’t stand in Northern Ireland). And that’s the truth . . . no matter how much charismatic Carwyn seeks to capitalise on his cult status.

It’s all getting a bit too much, I’m tempted to go to bed until the election is over . . . but I might miss the call from North Wales Police.

♦ end ♦

Council Elections & Colonialism

COUNCIL ELECTIONS

THOSE WE HAVE KNOWN

Before starting any analysis let’s look at a few individuals who have appeared on this blog recently.

First, Gary @poumista Jones in Llangennech. Gary was heavily involved with the school dispute, siding with those who would like to kill off the Welsh language. He came top of the poll, but the fact that his running mate, Jacqueline Seward, came third, some distance behind the leading Plaid Cymru candidate in this two-seat ward (see here), suggests that there was not an ‘overwhelming majority’, as claimed, supporting the position espoused by Michaela Beddows, Rosemary Emery and others trying to disguise bigotry as ‘choice’.

Ergo Gary’s victory must have contained a considerable personal vote unconnected with the school dispute, which can only be attributed to the free publicity I’ve given him. I therefore expect a few bottles of best quality Argentine Malbec to be delivered in the very near future.

Though many observers fear that Gary’s political career may not prosper, for not only can he do joined-up writing, it is even rumoured that he has read a book! Intellectual snobbery like that is frowned upon in the Llanelli Labour Party.

In Tywyn, there were incredible scenes as Mike Stevens – aka George M Stevens – was carried shoulder-high along the High Street to cries of, “Good old wassisname!” and “Where’s the free beer we were promised, you bastard?” after romping home with 29% of the vote.

Here in the Bryncrug / Llanfihangel ward that man of mystery Royston Hammond will remain an unknown quantity after losing, though given that hardly anybody knew him to begin with 22% of the vote in a two-horse race may be regarded as quite acceptable.

In a nutshell, the local government picture in Wales now is a patchwork, shown well in these excellent maps by Siôn Gwilym (@siongwilym) that take the election results down to ward level. They show us that all parties have their areas of strength but that with just a few outposts elsewhere ‘Welsh’ Labour is largely confined to the south and the north east.

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Now let’s take a quick tour of the country.

ALL ABOARD THE CHARABANC!

In Carmarthenshire there was a split between Llanelli and the rest of the county where Plaid Cymru dominates. Llanelli voted like Swansea, where Labour actually gained a councillor, partly due to Plaid Cymru being almost absent from the city. On the other side of the Bay things were not so good for Labour, with Plaid Cymru gaining seven seats, Independents gaining one seat, and even the Lib Dems gaining a seat in Neath Port Talbot.

Digression: Staying in this area, Labour hanging on in Llanelli throws up, or regurgitates, an interesting possibility for whenever the ‘Welsh’ Government finally gets around to tackling the local government reorganisation Wales so badly needs. Let me explain.

It is taken as read that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will combine, if only for the obvious reason that they already form a contiguous urban-industrial-commercial entity with the linkages being strengthened all the time. For example, Amazon’s massive ‘Swansea Fulfilment Centre‘ is in fact in Neath Port Talbot, and Swansea University’s new campus is also over the line. But what of Llanelli, the westerly component of this conurbation, separated from Swansea only by Afon Llwchwr?

Obviously Llanelli is not a unitary authority, but when local government reorganisation was discussed a few years back Swansea council’s preferred option (2 1 (i)) was a merger with NPT and Llanelli. I discussed it in Councils of Despair in December 2014. What’s more, this seemed to be the preferred option of the Labour Party in Llanelli. Given the clear dissonance in voting patterns between the town and the rest of the county it’s reasonable to assume that this remains Labour’s favoured option locally, and perhaps nationally.

For it would give ‘Welsh’ Labour a new authority of roughly half a million people, some sixth of Wales’ population, and with a guaranteed Labour majority in the new council chamber. With Labour taking hits and losing seats almost everywhere else this ‘Greater Swansea’ authority could provide it with a new base from which to fight back.

The picture for Wales is that Labour did well in the southern cities, but less well beyond those cities, where Plaid, Independents, and even the Cynon Valley Party won. The north east was another curate’s egg. In the northern metropolis of Wrexham, Labour now holds just 12 out of 52 seats in a town the party once dominated, but gained 3 seats in neighbouring Flintshire to remain the largest party, though without an overall majority. In Denbighshire Labour lost 6 seats and the Independents lost 4, the winners being the Conservatives (+8) and Plaid (+2).

Coming back to the south, it would appear that the further north one went, away from the glitz of Cardiff, the more likely electors were to be pissed off with how that glitz contrasts with the deprivation around them. Two former ‘Donkey Labour’ councils – Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent – will now be run by Independents, with even the council leader losing his seat in Merthyr. (Though due to the death of a candidate the Merthyr voting is not yet finished.)

One reason Labour did so well in Cardiff was that by and large the expected city-wide threats from Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats did not materialise. Certainly, Neil McEvoy topped the poll in Fairwater, and the other Plaid Candidates in this three-seat ward also got elected. In fact, in the Cardiff West constituency, of which Fairwater is part, Plaid got 23,832 votes compared with Labour’s 25,890, but for some reason the party hierarchy has decided that Cardiff West is not a target seat! Maybe this is further punishment for McEvoy, or maybe it’s another example of Plaid Cymru sabotaging any threat of success.

The only council where Plaid Cymru will have a majority of councillors is, as before, Gwynedd. But Plaid will be the largest party in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn, having increased its number of councillors on all three authorities. Plaid even gained another seat in Pembrokeshire, but Independents of various hues still hold 35 of the 60 seats. Which leaves just Powys and Monmouthshire.

In Harri Webb’s Green Desert the ruling Independents took a bit of a hiding, losing 17 of their 47 seats and overall control of the council, with just about everybody feasting on the downed beast, including the Greens, who now have a councillor in Wales. Though the new Green councillor confirms that the Green Party of Englandandwales is about as Welsh as UKIP (probably less so). Moving down to eastern Gwent we see that the Tories won a further 6 seats and now control the council.

To believe some mainstream media outlets the Tories swept the board in Wales, but the truth is that they control just one Welsh council, out of 22, and have fewer councillors than Plaid Cymru, or the Independents, a label that covers everything from Odessa sleepers to the Country Landowners’ Association. Though this being Wales, porkies also had to be told about Labour’s performance.

The headline to the picture below taken from the BBC Wales website – apparently supplied by the man who lost to Corbyn in the leadership contest – suggests that Labour swept the board in the Rhondda. The truth is that Plaid Cymru got more votes and more seats.

(I’ve asked this before, but who is the valkyrie hovering over Smiffy?)

One final thing – Wales is now a UKIP-free zone. The party held two seats, apparently, one of them in Ceredigion where Gethin James represented Aberporth. He must have known the game was up because he stood last week as an Independent – and still lost! Who the other one was I neither know nor care.

SCOTLAND

In Scotland, the Tories swept the board, crushing the SNP in the process . . . in the dreams of the mainstream media. Let’s look at the facts. The SNP is the largest party in Scotland’s four biggest cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. Allowing for re-drawn boundaries, the SNP now has more councillors than at the last local elections in 2012 (says BBC Scotland’s Brian Taylor).

The truth might be that the SNP is at a ‘plateau’ of support from which it’s difficult to make further progress, but the party’s support certainly isn’t collapsing as some would have us believe.

Yes, the Tories made gains, so let me give my interpretation of why that happened. And the bigger picture of the political realignment I see taking place in Scotland. If I’m right, then what’s happening is further proof of the strength of the SNP. First, a trip down memory lane.

When I was a much younger man, barely out of my teens, I worked for a construction firm for a while, first at the Mond Nickel refinery in Clydach, later building a gas plant in north west England. The site boss was a Protestant from Belfast and almost all his supervisors were either from his background, or else they were Scots.

Listening to the boss and his inner circle was quite an education. For example, I learnt about the links between the shipyards in Belfast and those on the Clyde. Those shipyards where foremen wore bowler hats. Those shipyards where it could be so difficult for a Catholic to get a job. I could hear this talk and then buy the Connolly Association’s Irish Democrat being hawked around the site by Irishmen of a different persuasion.

This was my introduction to the complex interplay between Ireland and Scotland, Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Republican/Nationalist. I soon realised that anyone who thought the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers was just about football knew nothing. It also made me understand why Conservative candidates in Scotland stood as Unionists, and it had nothing to do with the SNP.

There has always been a strand of Unionism in Scotland that is indigenous but also linked to Ireland, through Orange Lodges, Glasgow Rangers Football Club, the Presbyterian Church and other elements. Unlike Wales where what passes for Unionism is little more than a passive acceptance of English superiority and an excuse for street parties.

The power and influence of this tradition is partly due to so many Scots viewing the Union as a partnership of equals that began in 1603 when James VI rode south to become king of England. It has been reinforced over the centuries by the position of Scots in Ulster threatened by Irish nationalism, and in the nineteenth century from the disproportionate role played by Scots in building the British empire.

Those Scots who have now decided that independence would be the best option are therefore not ‘breaking away’, nor are they ‘separatists’ (deliberately offensive terms), many of them see it as dissolving a business partnership that no longer serves Scotland’s best interests.

Yet the residual power of this Unionist sentiment and the prospect of a second independence referendum explains why working class or unemployed Unionists/Rangers supporters living on some shitty housing scheme are now prepared to vote Conservative. It’s because the Tories are the Unionist party. Anyone who tries to read more into the growth of Conservative support in Scotland is wrong.

The Conservative Party in Scotland is now assuming the role of the Unionist parties in the Six Counties. It therefore needs to be very careful that it doesn’t also become the mouthpiece for the kind of prejudice and hatred we saw when BritNat Nazis rioted in George Square on 19 September 2014 following the independence referendum.

This realignment means that Scottish politics is being stripped of considerations of class and ideology and forming around the simple question, ‘Do you want independence?’ Those who do will support the SNP, an increasing number of those who do not will support the Conservative Party.

This tells us how the SNP has transformed Scottish politics, and how the new, bipolar configuration leaves little space for the Labour Party; a party further damaged because few believe it can provide ‘progressive’ politics within an increasingly regressive state.

‘LADY’ KATE CLAMP

Another way in which Wales differs from Scotland is that we have so few aristocrats living here, which means that I rarely get the opportunity to report on one. So where would I be without ‘Lady’ Kate Clamp, who has graced this blog before. She is the proprietrix of Happy Donkey Hill, formerly and for centuries known as Faerdre Fach.

Those who have yet to encounter this woman may care to watch her in glorious colour and surround sound. I’m not sure which Swiss finishing school she attended, but the signs of good breeding and education abound in this monologue.

The reason I’m writing about her again is that I hear she’s been hiring local workers, promising them cash in hand, and then refusing to pay. One excuse she’s used is that the payments have to go up to London to be authorised – so why advertise cash in hand? These aristocrats, eh!

As I’ve pointed out previously, her father, Michael D Gooley, major donor to the Conservative Party (£500,000 in the final quarter of 2014), is the owner of Faerdre Fach not her, and he has recently bought another property nearby. Dol Llan being a substantial old house just outside Llandysul which ‘Lady’ Clamp is again claiming to be hers, to the extent of trying to make a few quid by selling off bits of it.

If you’ve recovered from the monologue I linked to above you might care to visit her Facebook page, which is where I found it. There you’ll experience more of the same, for it seems no one ever meets ‘Lady’ Kate’s exacting standards . . . which I suppose is her excuse for not paying.

Though if I was Derrick Hughes I might consider having a word with my solicitor after having my professional reputation damaged on Facebook. I wonder if he got paid?

Whichever way you look at her – and I wouldn’t advise looking for too long! – this woman is a phoney. She claims to own property that is in fact owned by her multi-millionaire daddy. She plays the role of the country lady while looking for excuses to cheat people out of money she owes. Her monologues betray her as a foul-mouthed, self-pitying drunk. No wonder no one who knows her has a good word to say for her. Her only ‘friends’ appear be on the internet.

What a tragedy it is that people like this are taking over our country and behaving like a colonialist elite, changing old names and wrecking properties that for centuries have played a role in Welsh communities. It’s surely time for us to stop being so polite, and welcoming. A judiciously delivered ‘Fuck off!’ can avoid so many misunderstandings.

♦ end ♦

Dirty, Dirty Politics

BIGOTRY WRIT LARGE

Last Friday I was sent photographs of a leaflet that had been distributed in Trawsfynydd. The accompanying message was that they were handed out by a guy in a Mercedes.

The contents of the leaflet fit a pattern I became familiar with long ago. ‘Plaid Cymru’ or ‘Gwynedd Council’ is attacked but the real target is us, the Welsh people. That’s because having the natives running things really upsets a certain kind of English mindset, it challenges what they believe to be the natural order of things. Such people will not be satisfied until we are fully assimilated and every vestigial memory of our identity is destroyed.

Or maybe, as with Jacques Protic and other swivel-eyed obsessives, the real target is the Welsh language, which they blame for everything from infant mortality rates to potholes, with Plaid Cymru or Gwynedd just collateral damage, along with Labour, for Protic also targets ‘closet nationalists’ like Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. (A ‘closet’ in which both remained forever secreted.)

For Welsh medium education is also targeted in this leaflet, with defamatory references to an ‘English Not’, ‘language police’, and the suggestion that Welsh words are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words. A kind of Fast Show Channel 9 weather forecast with Poula ‘Skorchio’, but without the humour or any other redeeming features.

This opposition to ‘Gwynedd’/’Plaid Cymru’ can take bizarre forms. Around twenty years ago I recall a notable anti-Welsh campaigner arguing for local government reorganisation so that we might enjoy a council stretching along the Cardigan Bay coast because, it was argued, a coastal community had more in common with another coastal community 70 miles away than with a settlement 10 or 15 miles inland.

To understand the calculation behind this, mentally link Barmouth with Borth rather than with Blaenau Ffestiniog or Bala.

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After putting the leaflet out on social media I received a message on Saturday morning telling me that there were two persons involved, a man and a woman, and they’d been observed in a cafe in Trawsfynydd discussing the council election with other customers, and handing out what looked like the leaflet in question. One of the pair was the Independent councillor for Llangelynin ward, Louise Hughes. It made sense because I’d recently seen her in Tywyn driving a Mercedes.

Her male companion was described as being around 60 years of age, with dark/greying hair but not bald, quite tall, with wrinkles, and “scruffy”. Has anyone seen a man answering this description in the company of Councillor Louise Hughes?

I telephoned Louise Hughes around mid-day on Saturday and she admitted that she’d been in the Trawsfynydd cafe and, yes, she had handed out leaflets, but she became rather evasive on the nature of the leaflets and suggested she was doing it for someone else.

The reason she gave for being in the cafe was that she and her companion were on their way to canvas for Liberal Democrat Councillor Steven Churchman in Dolbenmaen ward, where he is opposed by a Plaid Cymru candidate. I am not suggesting that Churchman has any part in this despicable episode, so I invite Councillor Churchman to comment and make his position clear.

Louise Hughes also stood for Westminster in 2015, when she got 4.8% of the vote. She has stood for the Assembly twice, in 2011 and 2016. The first time was under the Llais Gwynedd banner, when she came in a respectable third, on 15.5% of the vote, but in 2016, standing as an Independent, she was fifth, with just 6.2%. So her star appears to be waning.

One of the names on her nomination paper from 2015 is George M Stevens, which might pass unnoticed until you realise that it’s her pal and political mentor, UKIP-leaning Councillor Mike Stevens. Why he should be so shy about using the name by which everyone knows him is a mystery.

Stevens it was who came up with the barmy scheme to have a local authority that would make Chile look fat. He has come up with many other barmy schemes, such as the cod and crow banner for Tywyn, which he used as an excuse to remove our national flag from Tywyn promenade (in case it frightens the tourists).

When he’s not being an annoying colonialist twat Stevens runs his own printing business in Tywyn, Genesis, which is very useful for someone who feels he has a vital message for the deluded masses unaware of the Plaid Cymru tyranny they live under.

Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that Mike Stevens printed the glossy and otherwise expensive leaflets being handed out by Louise Hughes and her scruffy companion in Trawsfynydd, and their allies in Dolgellau, such as MM and ARE.

What I am saying, and I say this quite clearly, is that this leaflet contravenes electoral and possibly other law, and those who wrote, published and distributed it, could be prosecuted, on the following grounds:

  • It describes itself as “a special Plaid Cymru Election edition”. Obviously it was not produced by Plaid Cymru. The party may care to take this up with the electoral authorities, or the police, or both.
  • It is election material, in that it is designed to influence how people vote on May 4th, yet it carries no imprint other than “Printy McPrintface”. This is definitely illegal, and not remotely funny.
  • Given what this leaflet says about an ‘English Not’ operating in Gwynedd schools and other references to the Welsh language it borders on being a hate crime.

On Thursday we have an election in our ward of Bryncrug-Llanfihangel. Our sitting candidate, local woman Beth Lawton, is being opposed by a Royston Hammond of Llanegryn. The response has been one of confusion because no one seems to know Hammond.

The confusion is partly caused by the fact that he doesn’t live in our ward, for Llanegryn is in Louise Hughes’ Llangelynin ward, so why doesn’t he stand in that ward, which he must know better – if only marginally – than the ward he’s standing for? Louise Hughes is now returned unopposed.

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Well, the word in the local thés dansants is that Hammond and his wife Mercia are very pally with Louise Hughes. So it’s reasonable to assume that a deal has been cut to give Hughes a clear run – and time to distribute the vile leaflets – while Hammond tries to give the gang another councillor in a neighbouring ward.

On his leaflet Hammond says “I have run my own companies”. True, but it may not be the kind of record he should boast about. Here’s the list from the Companies House website. One company he’s recently been involved with was SHS Inns Ltd of Blackburn (latterly, Southampton), which was liquidated last year.

The only company that he’s been involved with that appears to be still standing is H.I.S.&S. Ltd. (Formerly known as Hammond Industrial Services Ltd.) Though Hammond himself resigned as a director 31 December 2015 his wife remains a director. Hammond appears to have been replaced in April 2016 by Susan Salt, who was also involved with them in the ill-fated SHS Inns Ltd.

The figures for H.I.S.&S. Ltd are not good. The balance sheet up to 31 July 2016 shows total assets of -£14,305 against a figure for the previous year of £4,481. There appears to be one (depreciating) asset, possibly a vehicle, which contributes £10,786 to the value of the company, down from £18,114 the previous year. The true picture might be even worse, for these figures are taken from an unaudited return.

APOLOGY: In last year’s Assembly elections I voted for Louise Hughes, partly because I knew that the sitting AM Dafydd Elis Thomas was leaving Plaid Cymru. Now that I better understand her and the company she keeps I assure you it will never happen again. I shall henceforth do my best to atone for my mistake.

BAY OF PLENTY

No, this has got nothing to do with New Zealand, or rugby, or the forthcoming Lions tour. Now read on.

Another curious publication was brought to my attention on Friday, this one being put through letter-boxes in the City of the Blest. It’s available here on a website that does not allow downloading. So I’d catch it while you can, for it may not be up for much longer.

The magazine is called ‘Vision Swansea Bay’, described as an “independent magazine” which “is independently funded and published by an association of local residents and business owners.” The first few pages are innocuous enough, the City Deal, Swansea University, the tidal lagoon, then comes a double-page spread on the council elections – which is all about the Labour Party.

For example, “Think Jeremy Corbyn is a loser? Oh dear, you’ve been brainwashed”.

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Turning to the back cover provides the clue. For here we find a plug for the Aspire Foundation, an organisation for go-getting women. The Aspire Foundation website is registered to a Dawn Lyle, of Swansea, who just happens to be a Labour stalwart.

This is her:

In addition to mentoring young women, she has a company called iCreate Ltd. (There are a few other companies to be found for Dawn Muriel Lyle on the Companies House website.)

Another group with which she’s involved is Swansea Bay Futures Ltd, a company limited by guarantee and packed with local worthies, including academics and of course politicians; among them Meryl Gravell, the soon-to-retire Emissary on Earth for His Omnipotence Mark James; while among the mortals we find Rob Stewart, Labour leader of Swansea council, who we met just now in ‘Vision Swansea Bay’.

In her self-penned bio you will have noticed that, “Dawn is a motivational speaker for girls and school-leavers, and is passionate about raising aspirations and increasing opportunities for young women in Swansea and beyond.” Which presumably means that she goes around schools giving inspirational talks. For this she would need local education authority approval – no problem when Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are Labour controlled and she’s an “active member of the Labour Party”.

And it’s reasonable to assume that she gets paid by her friends in these Labour-run local authorities. Which means that what we have here is just a new slant on Labour cronyism. This woman, who modestly describes herself as “one of Wales leading women entrepreneurs”, might struggle without Labour Party patronage.

But what of those involved with the Swansea Bay project, who represent all political parties and none; how do they feel about the brand being used to promote the Labour Party just a week before a council election? Feedback I’ve already had suggests storm clouds may be gathering.

And who’s paying for it, is it Swansea Bay Futures? Is it the Labour Party? According to the imprint, “VISION is independently published by an association of local residents”! (That word ‘independent[ly]’ again!)

Are we to believe that a group of residents met up, maybe in an Uplands coffee house, and for no better reason than having time on their hands, decided to bring out a magazine; most of which consists of regurgitated ‘news’ available elsewhere, with the only departures being plugs for the Labour Party and a full-page ad for Dawn Lyle’s company?

You can buy that or you can believe my interpretation, which is that Dawn Lyle and Swansea Labour Party have subverted a cross-party or non-party body (and perhaps used its resources), to bring out a crude and obvious plug for a worried Labour Party just ahead of an election. Lay your bets!

If I’m right then this magazine is Labour Party electioneering material with a false or misleading imprint. An offence.

LEE WATERS AM

The Assembly Member for Llanelli has become something of a celebrity in some political circles, partly due to his support for the ‘protesters’ whose knuckles dragging outside Llangennech school have so disturbed the children they claim to be speaking for, and partly because of the widely-held belief that, despite being the AM for Llanelli, the man has never lived in that town.

To my knowledge, no one has ever made a formal complaint, or asked for an investigation into whether Lee Waters might have committed an offence, so I decided to do it myself.

First, I wrote to a couple of departments in the Assembly (the website not making it clear who to contact) and was eventually advised by the office of the Standards Commissioner that I should take my complaint to Paul Callard of Dyfed Powys Police, who “is the single point of contact on election matters”.

I telephoned Mr Callard on Friday. (Busy day, Friday.) He confirmed that any complaint should be addressed to him, and that time was running out, because there is only a year from the date of the election – 5 May 2016 – to make a complaint.

Fundamentally, my complaint hinges on the fact that the nomination paper submitted by a candidate must give the ‘Home Address’. Waters gave as his home address last year 25 New Zealand Street, Llanelli, when all the evidence points to him living in Barry.

It doesn’t help Waters’ case that if you read the list of nominated candidates from last year you will see that two of them knew the law, and complied with it, stating that they did not live in the constituency. Though I guarantee that, like Waters, they stayed in Llanelli at times during the campaign.

My letter was e-mailed to Mr Callard at Dyfed Powys Police this morning. You can read it here.

UPDATE 04.05.2017: After telephoning him at around mid-day yesterday I was told by Mr Callard that I would receive an answer later in the day, and it arrived at around 3:45. According to Mr Callard the year allowed in which to make a complain starts from the date on the ‘Statement of Persons Nominated’, in this case 8th April. So my complaint was too late.

Which would appear to be the end of the matter. But at least I tried, which is more than can be said for anyone else. I won’t make that mistake again.

♦ end ♦