Devolution as Prozac

But first . . .

A LESSON FROM HISTORY

Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.

Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.

Courtesy of Ancient History Encyclopedia

Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.

The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.

Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.

BACK TO THE 1960s

The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.

But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”

So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!

But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.

Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.

MAJOR TRAUMA

The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC  should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.

The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.

The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.

The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.

Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.

The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.

Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.

To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.

The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)

Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)

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McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”

So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.

Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.

Then on Thursday, the BBC rubbed it in with a story headlined “Swansea ’10 to 15 years behind Cardiff’, think tank says”. Obviously unsuited to have a Major Trauma Centre.

TIME TO RETRACE OUR STEPS

But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!

Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.

We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.

‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.

Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.

Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.

For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!

P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.

The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)

Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.

When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.

Devolution was a wrong turning.

♦ end ♦

‘Oh, Hello, Mrs Twp, would you like to give me your bank details . . . or how about voting Conservative?’

Channel 4 News did a good job exposing the Tory telephone canvassing operation in Neath, but who’d have thought it, eh, principled Young Conservatives up to no good. I am appalled. And in Neath, of all places, fiefdom of the Orange Baron.

The call centre seems to have been run by a guy called Sascha Lopez, here’s his Linkedin profile. He speaks English with an accent local to Neath, but his Linkedin profile says he also speaks Spanish, so I’d guess his parents are Spanish but he was brought up in the Swansea area, for he now lives in Pontardawe.

Before attending Gorseinon College he was a pupil at Ffynone House School in Swansea. Now I remember this school, and all the others in town at the time of my own education (much of it gained in the tiled wonderland of a subterranean snooker hall).

There was Gregg’s, Clark’s, Emmanuel and others. The gap they seemed to fill was for kids who’d failed the 11+ examination but whose parents had enough money to avoid the stigma of their offspring attending a secondary modern school with all those rough children. I suppose they pander to a very similar petit bourgeois prejudice in the era of comprehensive education.

You’ll see that on his Linkedin profile young Sascha tells us that he works for Blue Telecoms, and has done since May 2011. (‘Blue’ is presumably a nod to the Conservative Party?) Now there’s a website for Blue Telecoms but I cannot find anything listed with Companies House. So what is the status of Blue Telecoms. Is it not a company? Or is it registered outside of the UK? I think we should clear up the nature of the beast Sascha Lopez runs.

While Blue Telecoms may not be listed I came across a number of other companies linked to Sascha Lopez, some of which are, alas, no longer with us. Among this group we find Fone Venture Ltd, Incorporated 10 May 2010 but by 1 July 2010 Lopez was gone, resigned, but he must have had second thoughts, because he was back on board 15 November 2010. Even so, early in 2011, Fone Venture Ltd was wound up. His partner in this venture, each of them holding one Ordinary share, was Aaron Paul Trevallion.

Moving on, we come to SwanseaIT Ltd, Incorporated 17 May 2011 with, again, Lopez and Trevallion each having a single share. June 2016 saw the arrival as directors of Rebecca Elizabeth Parkin, Kieran John Davies and Robert Paul Harris. These are names we encounter on Lopez’ Linkedin profile, having worked for the Conservative Party during the 2015 election campaign. SwanseaIT was wound up 30 November 2016.

The next company was MediaIO Ltd, Incorporated 11 June 2013 and without submitting any accounts or other documentation the company was struck off by January 2015. The two directors, each with a single share, were of course Lopez, but also Ignacio Lopez, or Ignacio Lopez-McGarry. Now things get a little confusing.

Because on 13 February 2015 Lopez Incorporated a company named Media IO Ltd, obviously a slightly different name to MediaIO Ltd, and of course a different company number. There was just one share, and it was held by Sascha Lopez. On 29 July 2016 the name was changed to the grand-sounding The Lopez Group Ltd, but it’s another company formed by Sascha Lopez that does absolutely nothing, or at least, nothing that is ever declared to Companies House.

Coming up to date we have Endgame Cafe Ltd, Incorporated 12 January 2016. This is something of a departure for Lopez, because as the name suggests, we are now in the realm of ‘unlicensed restaurants and cafes’. But again, there seems to be no activity, with the only document filed being a Confirmation Statement on 11 January 2017 confirming that Sascha Lopez holds the only share.

Finally, we come to Direct Market Solutions Ltd, an unusual company for Lopez to be involved with, partly because it’s been going for more than ten years, and partly because it actually seems to do business. So it’s no surprise to learn that Lopez has only recently joined, 25 August 2016 to be exact. The shares held by the former directors, John Wayne Lewis and Yvonne Gillian McGarry have now been transferred to Lopez. (Some connection, surely, with Ignacio Lopez-McGarry?)

These are all the companies listed if you follow the link I supplied above, but there is one more, and this is really curious. The name of the company is Inter Transit Group Ltd. It was Incorporated 28 July 2016 and under ‘Nature of Business’ we read, ‘Other transportation support activities’. Another departure for Sascha Lopez.

But what is really strange is the share issue. In all the other companies we’ve looked at it’s been a case of one share per director, but with this company, where Lopez is the sole director, he holds no less than 10,000 shares!

Why 10,000 shares for a one-man band? Are there plans for this company? Maybe others involved that we don’t know about? Let me stress that this is not a shares tip, but I strongly suggest that – unless I’ve put the kibosh on it – this is a company worth watching.

There may of course be a perfectly innocent explanation, so I’m open to suggestions as to why there are 10,000 shares issued for Inter Transit Group Ltd.

Sascha Lopez is clearly an interesting young man. Equally clear is that he’s committed to the Conservative cause . . . whatever that might be nowadays. For as recently as May he stood for the party in the council elections, for the Pontardawe ward of Neath Port Talbot council. (Yes, I know, Pontardawe is in the Swansea Valley.)  He didn’t win.

I suspect that the Kieran John Davies who stood with him is the same Kieran John Davies we encountered on Lopez’ Linkedin profile and as a director of SwanseaIT Ltd.

There’s no question that Lopez was working for the Conservative Party with his call centre in Neath, as he admits to having done in 2015. Given that there may have been a hundred people working there, it’s reasonable to ask who paid their wages. Was it the Conservative Party? If not, then who, because I doubt if Lopez has that kind of money.

Something else that came out of the Channel 4 News report was that the Neath call centre was concentrating – certainly on polling day – on Welsh marginal seats, so were there similar operations in England and Scotland?

One thing I’m sure of, there’s a lot more to be learnt about this call centre, and the man who ran it. Here are four questions to be getting on with:

  1. Who or what is Blue Telecoms, the company of which Lopez has been CEO since May 2011, and why is it not registered with Companies House?
  2. Why do Sascha Lopez’ companies seem to nose-dive so soon after taking off? Is this by accident or design?
  3. Who paid for the Neath call centre?
  4. Why does one-man band Inter Transit Group Ltd need 10,000 shares?

As usual, answers on a post card please, and the lucky winner gets to take Jac out on a Malbec-filled evening to remember. Somebody has to be lucky!

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 25.06.2017: Sascha Lopez is indeed an interesting character, and more information has come to light that fills out the picture but also presents us with more questions.

You’ll remember that I wondered why I couldn’t find anything on the Companies House website for Blue Telecoms, well one source pointed me to the CH document which tells us that SwanseaIT was trading as Blue Telecoms. The problem here is that SwanseaIT was wound up 21 November 2016, yet Blue Telecoms was still operating during the general election earlier this month.

So maybe Blue Telecoms was transferred to some other company. But I cannot find any other company with which Lopez is connected that claims to ‘T/A Blue Telecoms’. Which could mean that Blue Telecoms exists in a void (and here I can’t resist adapting Djilas), ‘the void of its own non-existence’. Which would make Blue Telecoms illegal.

I am indebted to Brychan for digging out the fact that Lopez and his mate Trevallion registered a company in Ireland, Conrad Communications Ltd. It was set up 22 September 2014 and dissolved 13 July 2016. Brychan suspects that this company, and the date of its dissolution, may be connected with the EU referendum in the UK. Anyone have any thoughts?

Another mystery we encountered was why, after a string of one-share-per-director companies, Lopez had a 10,000 share issue for the Inter Transit Group Ltd, a company set up last July with him as the sole director. This company has a website and a Facebook page, unlike some of Lopez’ other, near-invisible companies.

Another source suggested that we might find the reason for the 10,000 shares in legislation designed to encourage share distribution among a company’s employees. This is possible, but there’s no mention of employees becoming shareholders on either the website or the FB page, and the latter is used to advertise for drivers. Which makes me think there’s some other explanation.

A further comment quoted an unnamed source, “Issuing a higher quantity is also beneficial for creating the image of a substantial, credible and secure business. The nominal value of a company’s issued shares represents the liability of its owners if the business is wound up or accrues debts that is cannot pay. This is an important consideration for creditors, investors, clients and suppliers, all of whom want to feel confident about the viability and security of any business they become involved with.”

But I’m not persuaded by this, either. So I’ll ask again: Can anyone offer any suggestions as to why Sascha Lopez issued 10,000 shares for his Inter Transit Group?

What’s become clear is that Sascha Lopez and those he associates with have a cavalier attitude to company law and other forms of legislation. Perhaps they regard anything designed to protect customers, creditors and employees as ‘red tape’ holding back ambitious people like them.

Which makes them ideal Conservatives, and explains why they were running that call centre operation in Neath that may have over-stepped a number of lines, and should therefore be of interest to regulators and the Electoral Commission.

UPDATE 10.11.2017: There has been a resolution, of a sort. Here’s the Information Commissioner’s report.

Tesco Delivers an Uncomfortable Truth

Most of you reading this will by now be aware that Tesco is closing its call centre in Cardiff and concentrating its operations in Dundee. Inevitably, this has caused Labour politicos to weep and wail but equally predictably the buggers are also lying, because they will never admit to the political realities at work here.

Don’t get me wrong, this is, fundamentally, an economic decision by a major company, but I guarantee that political influence has been exerted in favour of Dundee, not because those exerting the influence give a toss about Dundee or its people, but Tesco having its major call centre in Dundee, creating more jobs in the city, can be exploited for political advantage. What do I mean by that?

If Scottish nationalism has a heartland, then obviously it’s not in the south, nor is it in the Highlands and the islands, or even the three biggest cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. No, if the SNP and Scottish nationalism have a stronghold, then it’s in Scotland’s fourth largest city, Dundee.

In the September 2014 independence referendum, Scotland voted 55% No 45% Yes, but in Dundee the result was overwhelmingly Yes.

This was followed up by the elections for the Scottish Parliament in 2016, that saw the SNP gain close to 60% of the vote in both of the city’s constituencies.

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The Scottish Parliamentary elections were of course followed in June by the EU referendum. Although Dundee voted to remain it was by less than the national figure due to Dundee being – in Scottish terms – something of a depressed area.

The Gross Weekly Pay for Dundee City for full-time workers (2016) was £484.20 against a Scottish average of £536.60. By comparison, the averaged out Gross Weekly Pay for Rhondda Cynon Taf, where many of the staff at the Cardiff call centre live, was £495.40. The figure for Cardiff itself was £532.80, and the Welsh average £492.40.

(Surprisingly, the figure for Swansea was just £470.80, for Merthyr £447.80, Blaenau Gwent £433.90, which suggests that many residents of RCT benefit from Cardiff pay rates, but the benefits of the never-ending investment in Cardiff don’t stretch much further afield.)

After that wee diversion let us return to Dundee and consider the most recent election result, those for the UK general election earlier this month.

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As we know, the SNP lost votes and seats across the country, but we can see that Nicola Sturgeon’s party still managed to hold the two Dundee seats with comfortable majorities.

Just as in medieval warfare so in contemporary politics, if your enemy has a citadel, then weakening or capturing it provides a great psychological boost for your troops and damages the morale of your enemy. Equally effective can be winning over the inhabitants, or sowing doubt in their minds. There will be others living far from it who will also be affected by the loss of a citadel.

Which explains why Tesco is concentrating its call centre resources in the SNP stronghold of Dundee and why the move will be subtly presented thus, ‘This is the call centre for the whole of the UK, but of course, if Scotland goes independent it will move south of the border’. The hope being that this will weaken support for the SNP and independence.

The message here is quite clear: the strength of the SNP and the threat of a second independence referendum guarantees that Scotland will be treated well. Not only by direct government intervention, but also by political pressure being exerted on private companies like Tesco to favour Scotland.

But political and economic leverage attaching to considerations of the Union are not confined to Scotland; for we also have to witness the political representatives of murderers, drug-dealers and terrorists demanding £2bn from the UK government for lending their support.

‘Welsh’ Labour’s alleged leader Carwyn Jones splutters and whines but knows there’s nothing he can do about it – nobody’s listening to him because he hasn’t got a single card to play. (Though I wonder how him and the boys would look in balaclavas . . . and I’m sure they could find baseball bats in Cardiff?)

In fact, in a situation like this, Carwyn Jones’s instinctive response is to expose a bit more of his ample belly for tickling, as with his offer to accept nuclear submarines in Milford Haven. Go find something useful to do, Jones, like being clerk to Cwmscwt council, because you’re doing nothing for Wales.

So here’s where I’m going with this. To all of you who voted Labour on June 8th – weren’t you clever!

For the benefit of Labour’s donkey voters, let me try to explain it as simply as I can. Ew votes Labour, right. Now, if there’s a Labour gov’ment up in Lundun, they ignores ew and takes ew for granted. But if there’s a Tory gov’ment up in Lundun, well, they just ignores ew’.

And here’s a special message for Blaenau Gwent, which is a perfect example of the system I’ve just described operating at a more local level. You voted Labour again on the 8th, and now that Carwyn and his gang know you’re no threat, they’re going to shit on you over the Circuit of Wales. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves! 

But the real culprits in all of this are Plaid Cymru. Because if Plaid Cymru had a message that resonated with the Welsh people then we wouldn’t be in this mess, and people in the poorest part of the country wouldn’t still be voting for the party responsible for their poverty. And Cardiff wouldn’t be losing jobs to Dundee.

Which is why from now on this blog will encourage the creation of a new movement, that might or might not contest elections, but will certainly promote Welsh patriotism and the defence of the Welsh national interest. It will be Wales and Welsh people first and foremost; and will regard all political parties, all Englandandwales organisations, all media outlets, etc., as inimical to the Welsh national interest unless they prove otherwise.

A fresh start is the only way Wales can make progress.

♦ end ♦

Baywatch 2

WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY ESTABLISHED

If you haven’t yet read ‘Baywatch’, my earlier post on this subject, then I suggest you do.

In that first post we established that Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, is in partnership with Stephen James Corner and Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd, (said to be Corner by another name), in three companies, Century Wharf (One) RTM Company LtdCentury Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd.

Century Wharf

RTM means ‘Right to Manage’, a vehicle by which those owning or leasing apartments in a block may exercise some control over the running of that block. An RTM is a company limited by guarantee having no share capital and with each member usually being liable to a nominal sum such as £1 in the event of it all going belly-up.

That there are three Century Wharf RTMs suggests that each represents a different block on Century Wharf, which covers a considerable area on the east bank of the River Taff, to the north of Clarence Road, the A4119.

It’s worth considering the timeline for these three companies. All were Incorporated 18 October 2012, with Steven James Corner as a founding director, but he resigned from all three on 21 December 2012. He re-joined all three on 27 November 2014, as did Stephen John Kass. James also joined (One) and (Three) on that day, but for some reason he’d joined (Two) five months earlier, on 27 June 2015.

Despite being involved with all three RTMs I have only found one lease in Century Wharf held by James, this being 186 Hansen Court. Which makes it reasonable to conclude that either he has other properties in Century Wharf that we don’t yet know about, or that he’s involved with the RTMs in a ‘professional’ capacity, a possibility I’ll discuss later.

In addition, we know that James owns the leases on two properties near to where the A4232 lands on the west side of the Bay. These are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House. As we learn from White Pages (see below), Patrycja (D) Nowak, the young Polish woman I wrote about in Baywatch, has lived at both 9 Davaar House and 186 Hansen Court.

Ms Nowak living in two different properties leased by Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, was obviously a perfectly proper landlord-tenant relationship, and this blog will not stoop to suggest otherwise.

Ms Nowak, you may recall, is said to be the woman who fell from a seventh-floor flat at Century Wharf. Knowing that Ms Nowak has lived at two addresses leased by Mark Vincent James it’s not unreasonable to assume that her fall might have occurred at another property owned or leased by him.

It’s worth adding that the relationship between James and Corner seems to be strengthening. For in March they formed a company, Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd, the only other director being a Mark Philip Carter, who seems to be based in Brighton.

THE RACKET EXPLAINED FURTHER

Quite obviously, Mark Vincent James doesn’t live in any of the properties he leases in the Bay; he lives, with his devoted and pious wife, in Carmarthen. Which means that the properties in Cardiff Bay are investments, intended to swell the James family fortune beyond even that which Carmarthenshire Council Council and assorted lawyers have thus far achieved.

Which takes us to the heart of the issue, and why so many of James’s neighbours in Cardiff Bay are unhappy with his behaviour, and the company he keeps. It’s because many of those living in the buildings we’ve discussed are permanent residents, and they bought their properties in order to live in them. A number of these permanent residents are retired and elderly.

While on the other hand, we have those, like Mark Vincent James, who own or lease properties in the Bay as investments. And because they’re investments, it follows that their owners wish to maximise the return on those investments.

Some two-bed flats on Century Wharf and elsewhere in the Bay are currently advertised for rent for as little as £650 pcm, which will cover the mortgage and provide a regular income for the holder of the lease. However, much more can be made by renting out flats for short stays.

Because the real money is to be made from holidaymakers, weekend visitors, business visitors, those attending conferences, sporting events, and others in Cardiff for short periods who prefer self-catering accommodation to hotels. Equally clearly, and especially when these short-stay visitors are stag and hen parties, there will be disruption for the permanent residents.

As we read in ‘Baywatch’, one of the companies involved in the rental business in Cardiff Bay is Squarefoot Estate Agents, a company owned by Michael James Corner through another of his companies, Imaginative Property Group Ltd. Squarefoot (or Square Foot, as it’s known to Companies House), also sells properties in Cardiff Bay.

Another company involved in the Cardiff Bay letting business is A Space In The City, and Companies House tells us that Corner is again a director. In fact, this new company, Incorporated as recently as 1 December 2016, is now wholly owned by Corner’s Imaginative Property Group Ltd.

And as we’ve seen, Corner is also the man running the three Century Wharf RTMs. This is achieved by him controlling, by various means, the leases, or the votes of leaseholders, for 80 – 90 properties on Century Wharf. So with anything between 80 and 140 attending the AGM it’s clear that his block vote will trump the individual leaseholders unless there’s a very good turnout and they’re united.

This is further helped by Mark Vincent James serving as chairman at these AGMs, and refusing to allow questions that might embarrass him or his partner(s), while also ensuring that ‘troublemakers’ are not allowed to participate. If this sounds familiar, then of course it’s how James has run Carmarthenshire County Council for too long.

Through A Space in the City, Squarefoot Estate Agents, Warwick Estates and other companies Stephen James Corner controls the leases of many properties in Cardiff Bay. These properties are run to maximise profit and by so doing make life miserable for others, including many retired people. His front man now appears to be Mark Vincent James.

The irony, or tragedy, here is that the three RTMs were set up originally by residents in order to free themselves from one exploitive agent in the form of Peverel OM, the company mentioned in this Guardian article. Instead, they eventually fell into the clutches of Corner, Kass and James. Talk about frying pan and fire!

The deeper problem might be that too many flats have been built in Cardiff Bay. If not too many, then no attempt made to separate those wanting a quiet life and those prepared to rent out their investments to stag parties. When rules and agreements do exist to limit the uses to which these flats can be put, Corner and others like him seem able to waltz around them.

WILL HE RETAIN HIS CROWN?

Mark Vincent James is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who set up a company, Imaginative Property Group Ltd, with a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused by the The Sunday Times and others of allowing her name to be used in setting up UK companies that are used by criminals to launder money.

The address now given for the Imaginative Property Group is 98 Davaar House, a building where Mark Vincent James leases two flats. Given Corner’s link with Kahan, and James’s business links with Corner, we’re entitled to ask:

Is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, the man who wants to make a blogger homeless, Private Eye Shit of the Year 2016, now linked with property companies that might be laundering money for criminals?

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What we know for certain is that Mark Vincent James is involved with companies riding roughshod over residents in certain blocks of flats in Cardiff Bay. Various permissions and lease conditions are breached for the personal benefit of Steven James Corner, Mark Vincent James and Stephen John Kass. These three now control the Right to Manage companies that were set up to defend permanent residents from people like them.

I think the time has come for Mark Vincent James to make a clean breast of his activities in Cardiff Bay. How many properties does he own or lease? Before becoming a director, and then chair, of the RTMs, did James declare to other leaseholders – as he was required to – his pecuniary interest (of which others only became aware when they realised his relationship with Corner and Kass)?

Should the public be concerned that a man embroiled in a shady and little known sector of the property jungle is also the chief executive of a Welsh local authority? Has he declared his property dealings in Cardiff Bay to his employer, Carmarthenshire County Council? (Though seeing as he is chief executive, and controls everything on the council, to whom would he declare it?)

And what is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s view of Mark Vincent James’s dealings in the Cardiff Bay property market, and the disreputable company he keeps? Shouldn’t this be a matter for concern?

The ‘Welsh’ Government might also care to question whether any dealings it has had with Mark Vincent James, or any advice it might have accepted from him, could have profited James and those he is involved with in the Cardiff Bay property racket.

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL . . .

In an attempt to establish the propriety of Mark Vincent James’s excursion into one of the more opaque areas of the property business I have written to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The current holder of that post is Nick Bennett, a former CEO of Community Housing Cymru, and an ‘insider’ to the tips of his shapely and well-manicured fingertips.

I don’t expect Bennett to tell me that James has done anything wrong (even if he has), because one thing that has become clear in recent years is that in the eyes of the ‘Welsh’ Government and others Mark Vincent James is a man without fault. Telling me that either he has his own flock of guardian angels or else he knows where a lot of bodies are buried.

But anyway, I’ll go through the motions. Here’s a copy of my letter to Bennett.

♦ end ♦

General Election 2017

Those of you who’ve read Cneifiwr’s latest post, about his canvassing experiences, will I’m sure have enjoyed him waxing lyrical about wrens and shimmering vistas, country lanes and tinkling rills . . . well you’ll get none of that fancy bucolic stuff here. This is the opinionated old git section of the Welsh blogosphere.

Last Thursday gave us what was perhaps the strangest election of my lifetime. Not just because of the result and the way the Tories lost the commanding lead they’d held at the start of the campaign, but also because of the combination of factors not present in earlier elections, specifically, the recent surge of the SNP, the influence of Brexit, UKIP and the realignment of that party’s deserting voters, and post-election, the entrance of the DUP. So let’s consider the bigger picture before looking at the results in Wales.

NORTH OF THE BORDER

The Unionist parties and the London media are cock-a-hoop over the ‘defeat’ suffered by the SNP, but was it really such a defeat? In the 2010 general election the SNP won 6 seats out of a total of 59; in May 2015, following the independence referendum of September 2014, the party won 56 seats, gaining 50% of the vote (an increase of 30%). That was clearly a freak result, that was unlikely to ever be repeated.

On Thursday, support for the SNP was down to 36.9% and 35 seats, leaving it still the largest party, and by some distance. This falling off in support can be explained quite simply – independence and whether or not to have a second referendum is the issue in Scottish politics now. Those who want independence generally voted SNP, while those who are opposed to independence, or remain to be convinced, tended to vote for whoever had the best chance of defeating the SNP candidate. As a rule of thumb, tactical voting accounts for the gains made by Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.

It certainly explains what happened to Alex Salmond. The swing against him was 11.8%, but the swing to the Tory victor was 29%. What happened in Gordon was that the Lib Dems (treacherous bastards even to their own) deserted poor Dai Evans. Yet the Lib Dems still gained 3 seats where tactical voting benefited them.

Though I’m sad to see him go (if only temporarily) I enjoyed hearing Alex Salmond in his concession speech quote from that rousing Jacobite song, Bonnie Dundee with, ‘And tremble, false Whigs, in the midst of your glee, Ye hae no seen the last o’ my bonnets and me!’ Because those who think they’ve seen off the SNP threat, and put Salmond back in his box, should be warned against counting chickens.

Though it’s not always as simple as Unionists gathering behind the candidate most likely to thwart the devilish Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish politics is much more complex and nuanced nowadays, as this BBC piece makes clear. I was particularly struck by the contribution of John Dowson of Dumfries, a lifelong Labour voter, who wants independence, but was thinking of voting Tory because he also wants out of the EU. If he did indeed vote Tory, then his vote will be wrongly counted as a vote against independence.

Because that’s something else you have to understand about Scotland, not everybody who wants independence votes SNP. And how many SNP Brexiteers voted Tory for a hard Brexit, but will vote Yes in another referendum?

OVER THE WATER

When I was a young man, before the Troubles, Northern Ireland was almost a one-party state, and the one party was the Ulster Unionist Party, the UUP. There was no other Unionist Party, UK parties did not contest seats over there, and through gerrymandering, intimidation and various forms of electoral fraud such as personation the Catholic voice was almost silenced. (The Unionist election day call to the faithful was, Vote early, vote often’.)

With the Troubles came a widening divide between the two communities and a hardening of attitudes. One result was the creation in September 1971, by the Reverend Doctor Ian Kyle Paisley, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). From its outset it was more hard-line on the Union and ‘terrorism’ than the rather more patrician UUP, and also more conservative on social issues. Hardly surprising given who’d formed it and its links with his Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

The polarisation reached its inevitable conclusion on Thursday when the UUP failed to win a single seat, as did its Nationalist counterpart, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Sinn Féin won 7 seats, the DUP won 10, and the other seat, North Down, was held by Independent Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon (née Paisley), widow of Sir Jack Hermon, one-time Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

As I write this Theresa May has agreed a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP rather than a formal coalition, but either way, for the Tories it’s stepping back into the nineteenth century, back to an age of John Bull nationalism, Fenians, the rejection of Darwinism, contempt for the undeserving poor and the stoning of poofters.

On the issues of today the DUP wants a hard Brexit but a soft border with the Republic. Talk about having your cake and eating it! So on that issue at least they’re in tune with the Conservatives.

The Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley, founder of the DUP, leader 1971 – 2008

Any co-operation with the DUP shows a) how desperate Theresa May is to hang on to power and b) how ignorant she is of modern Irish politics. For a start, any co-operation between the Tories and the DUP might threaten the Good Friday Agreement, because seeing Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, in Number 10, will raise fears on the Nationalist-Republican side that the UK Government is no longer impartial in its approach to Northern Ireland.

It should also be explained that the 7 Sinn Féin candidates elected will never be MPs because they refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance to the English monarch. This of course affects the arithmetic in the House of Commons and means that with 643 MPs The Conservatives need just 322 votes. So with the Tories having 318, the DUP 10, plus Lady Hermon tagging along, the ‘Understanding’ has 329 votes. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, playing the Orange Card or relying on Unionists may have paid dividends a hundred years or more ago, but in recent times it’s tended to go pear-shaped, as Sunny Jim found out in 1979, and in the twenty-first century the Conservatives getting too close to the DUP might even jeopardise 20 years of relative peace. This could all end in tears.

Given the close cultural, historical and other ties between Scotland and the north of Ireland one might have thought that their London masters entering a Faustian pact with the DUP would be welcomed by the Scottish Tories, but as might be expected, the DUP is against same-sex marriage, and the lesbian leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson, is hoping to get married soon.

Woe! woe and thrice woe!

DOWN BY ‘ERE

LABOUR, ETC

Already, a great deal of nonsense has been spouted by all sides involved on Thursday, so here’s my attempt to give an impartial view. Taking the bigger, Englandandwales picture, it’s obvious to everyone that Theresa May made a massive miscalculation.

The longer the campaign went on the more people turned away from her dalek-like performance and warmed to Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward sincerity. May cannot campaign, she even seems incapable of a genuine smile, or interacting with the Great Unwashed, and yet the Conservative campaign was almost all about her. Quite incredible.

The Prime Minister is clearly on borrowed time. She will never be allowed to lead another election campaign, so her survival might depend to some extent on the pact with the DUP working. One reason she’s still in place is that there’s no obvious replacement. But one will emerge.

That said, this was still a big defeat for Labour, and it’s absurd to celebrate as a victory what is really nothing more than relief at avoiding complete annihilation. Just check the numbers. The Tories may have got the worst possible kind of victory, but Theresa May is still in number 10 and Labour is still in opposition. Which from Labour’s perspective is probably the best outcome.

Because the Labour Party is still at war with itself, and we are now presented with the nauseating sight of former critics changing their position on Corbyn because the slimy, self-serving bastards know a meal ticket when they see one – and this bloke can keep them in a job. (For a number of them, he already has!)

But of course these moderates and Blairites are now even more uncomfortable in a party where the left is strengthened. Will an emboldened Momentum now embark on a campaign of deselections? Which makes you wonder what exactly anti-Corbyn Labour victors were celebrating in the wee small hours of Friday. It can only have been self-preservation and hanging on to a cushy, well-paid job with expenses galore.

Like these two in Port Talbot. Kinnock père hates Corbyn with a vengeance (he reminds him of Derek Hatton), yet here he is celebrating like his boy has scored the winning try against England. In reality, it’s a case of, ‘Tidy, mun, the Kinnock name will continue to shine, boy, one day you’ll be prime minister . . . like I nearly was . . . nearly . . . prime minister . . . Sheffield . . . oh, God! I need a drink’.

This picture is a celebration of personal and family ambition. The Labour Party and what it might achieve for the downtrodden masses is incidental or totally irrelevant, for in the case of the Kinnocks the party’s real purpose is to serve as a vehicle for dynastic ambition. Today’s Labour Party contains more chancers and careerists than at any time I can remember.

PLAID CYMRU

The headline figure is that Plaid Cymru fell back, its vote down 1.7% on 2015. By comparison, the Tories, who we are told were the losers on Thursday, saw their vote increase by 6.3%. Labour’s vote went up by 12.1%, making it clear that in Wales it was Labour that gained most of the former UKIP vote. It would appear that ‘Welsh’ Labour distancing itself from Corbyn paid dividends.

Yes, Plaid gained Ceredigion, but let’s put that victory, by just 104 votes, into perspective. Ceredigion is a seat held by the party at Assembly level, it has been previously held by the party at Westminster level, and was won by an impressive young local after the sitting Lib Dem, or his supporters, were caught telling porkies.

In Arfon, Plaid held on by the skin of its teeth, 92 votes to be exact. How much this result was influenced by the votes of English and other foreign students in Bangor is something we might learn later. Though I have to confess to asking myself many times,‘Who is Hywel Williams?’, because the political firmament remains unlit by his presence. (In fact, I often confuse him with Albert Owen, the Labour MP for Ynys Môn!)

In addition to Ceredigion there were four other seats where Plaid Cymru entertained hopes of success, these were: Ynys Môn, Llanelli, Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent. Here are the results:

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The only comfort Plaid Cymru may be able to draw is that the party’s vote increased in Blaenau Gwent, but in last year’s Assembly election the same candidate, Nigel Copner, came within 650 votes of Labour minister Alun Davies. Furthermore, this is a volatile constituency, won with a handsome majority in 2005 by Independent Peter Law, the incumbent MP who’d left Labour over all-women shortlists.

Following Law’s death, the seat was held at a by-election in 2006 by Dai Davies. In the 2007 Assembly election Blaenau Gwent was won by Law’s widow, Trish, before returning to Labour in 2011. In last week’s election Nigel Copner was helped by Dai Davies.

So maybe there’s no comfort to be drawn from the result in Blaenau Gwent after all.

After the smoke had cleared on Friday Plaid Cymru was back to square one, holding four rural seats where it relies on a socially conservative and largely Welsh-speaking support. It made no progress whatever in the urban and more anglicised areas that make up the greater part of the country. This is a party going nowhere.

Except, maybe, backwards. For in the case of Llanelli, this Westminster seat has been a target for Plaid Cymru since Carwyn James got 8,387 votes against Denzil Davies in 1970.

Then came the 1980s when the bright young things took over, ‘reaching out’ beyond Plaid’s core vote to all manner of minority groups, most of which didn’t give a toss about Wales. Much of this was due to Dafydd Elis Thomas . . . what became of him? But it laid the foundations for the party we see today.

Plaid Cymru’s message is more attuned to the youth vote, the Remainers, the ethnic minorities, of major English cities, than to post-industrial wastelands filled with angry and poorly educated white people who don’t give a toss about trans-gender issues or the latest advances in green technology. Plaid Cymru only gets away with this mis-targeting in the west due to its cultural appeal.

In 2007 Plaid Cymru had the chance to run the Assembly as the largest party in coalition with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The leftists and the wimmin rose up with shrieks of horror at the prospect of aligning themselves with the crypto-fascist, baby-eating Conservatives – and Plaid instead became Labour’s little helper in the One Wales Agreement.

Nothing’s changed, this sucking up to Labour goes on and on, I know that one Plaid politician was recently told to stop using the #redtories Twitter hashtag.

A few years before 2007, Plaid removed its most successful leader, Dafydd Wigley, in a squalid coup.

Though never a member myself, many tell me that Plaid Cymru undermined Cymuned, one of the most promising movements Wales has seen in recent decades, but today just a shadow of what it might have been.

Plaid Cymru is either a party making major strategic errors, or else this is a party that has been compromised. Either way, it’s of no further use to the Welsh nation. As things stand, Plaid Cymru is of more benefit to England than to Wales because it’s every colonialist’s dream of a ‘national’ party.

I often think that if I was running the secret state I’d want a party in Wales just like Plaid Cymru. A party that makes the occasional unimportant gains, can keep enough people enthused with the hope of ‘next time’, and, most importantly of all, act as a block on the emergence of a party that might actually threaten the Union.

Unless Plaid Cymru can reform itself into a truly Welsh party, appealing to the whole country, regarding all other parties as opponents, rather than potential partners, then the time has come for Plaid Cymru to stop wasting everybody’s time and leave the field to those with fresh ideas and a different approach.

♦ end ♦

Respect

After accidentally deleting this post, and retrieving it thanks to help from readers, I have now been asked to take it down by the councillor involved, who is being pressured by Wrecsam council. What follows is entirely mine.

The removed post concerned a senior officer of the council, one Trevor Coxon, a native of Stoke-on-Trent, the Brexit/UKIP capital of England, who used the Manchester terrorist attack as an excuse to remove Y Ddraig Goch, the Welsh flag, from Wrecsam Guildhall, arguing that the Manchester attack was “not exclusively a Welsh commemoration”.

He did it because he is a BritNat, who would rather not be reminded that he’s in our country, not his own. Unfortunately we have too many with his mindset among us.

Here’s an example of what a colonialist bigot Coxon is, information that came in a comment: “I remember Coxon at a planning committee meeting about the National Trust’s application to build 300 houses on their donated land in Rhostyllen. We put forward the Wrecsam council policy to him that stated developments should not dilute the Welsh identity of an area. (By the way the proposed houses were already being advertised and advertised as being in ‘Rhostyllen, Cheshire’!) His response was that Rhostyllen is not Welsh!”

In addition to being a BritNat bigot Coxon and his colleagues are now bullying a woman. What a bunch of shites!

You have been brought to my attention, Coxon, and from now on I shall be watching and listening, and I have sources everywhere. If I write about you again it will not be taken down.

End (for now)