Leanne Wood, my response

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

INTRODUCTION

As you may be aware, Leanne Wood, the Plaid Cymru AM for Rhondda, and former party leader, has been criticised by the Assembly’s Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans QC, for calling me an “arsehole” in a tweet back in January.

Here’s the WalesOnline report of the decision, and here it is on BBC Wales. I supplied a statement to WalesOnline/Western Mail some of which appeared online but the print version was all Leanne Wood with me unable to get a word in.

UPDATE 21.09.2019: Arseholegate rumbles on. In this piece in today’s Llais y Sais Ruth Mosalski claims I am “no stranger to courting controversy”. A convoluted way of calling me controversial. But nothing I say, of itself, can be controversial; it becomes controversial when I am attacked by those I’m writing about here. So if they ignored me – as they claim they want to – instead of attacking just about everything I say, then there’d be no controversy.

Note that the headline in the online (WalesOnline) version reads: ‘The quandary facing AMs as they’re asked to reprimand Leanne Wood for calling Jac o’the North an arsehole’. But the print version carries the headline: ‘The Quandary facing AMs over Leanne Wood’s Twitter outburst’.

The facts are that following the tragic death of Steffan Lewis, the Plaid Regional AM for South Wales East, I made a comment on Twitter about his successor, Delyth Jewell. You can see it here, together with Leanne Wood’s response and my answer to Leanne Wood.

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Why did I say that? Partly because, according to Ms Jewell’s stated interests, she is concerned with ‘women’s right’, which were already well represented in the Assembly, and ‘international development’, for which the Assembly has no remit.

Further, Ms Jewell had a background in the third sector, and as I put it in my post, Delyth Jewell AM: a clarification, ” . . . the Welsh Assembly, and Wales, needs another representative of the third sector like the Uighurs need more concentration camps.” (A reference to China’s oppression of its Uighur minority.)

Let me finish with Delyth Jewell by saying that since she took up her seat I have, on occasions, been pleasantly surprised by her commitment to Wales and the cause of independence. The same can never be said for Leanne Wood, to whom we now turn.

But before we do, I’m sure you won’t mind me finding space for another tweet from the same thread; this contribution by Marc Phillips, Plaid Cymru treasurer, erstwhile candidate, former party chair, and consort to Helen Mary Jones, the AM for Llanelli.

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“Neanderthal prick” is a curious insult, and rather dates him. For it is now agreed by archaeologists, ethnographers and others that we were always wrong to portray Neanderthals as grunting, primitive inferiors to modern humans. They were equally intelligent and culturally developed.

Which allowed the two to interbreed, certainly in Eurasia. Which in turn means that almost everyone reading this has some Neanderthal ancestry. Are we all ‘pricks’? Should we care? Who is Mr Helen Mary Jones anyway?

THE COMPLAINT AND THE RESPONSE

Let me make it clear from the outset that I did not make the complaint, nor did I encourage the person who made the complaint. I became aware of the complaint later in the process.

I am however in possession of the relevant documentation of Leanne Wood’s exchange with Sir Roderick Evans. You can read it here, but I’m afraid much of it has been redacted, presumably by Sir Roderick’s staff. I’m going to go through it and pick out what I consider to be important.

Let’s start with the letter of complaint, which can be found on page 7. Reading it now, I note that it also mentions Marc Phillips, though I’m not clear whether he was also being complained about. Perhaps not, because he’s not an AM. All in all, a clear explanation of what the writer was complaining about.

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Now I want to turn to a few of the things Leanne Wood said in her defence.

Let us turn to page 12, where I am described as, “a persistent, pernicious influence on Welsh politics”. I found this interesting because so many of my critics, a number of them allies of Leanne Wood, tell me things like, “Nobody reads your bullshit, Jac”, or “Nobody cares what you think”, while another favourite is, “You’re a nobody”, yet they keep coming back, time after time, to tell me this . . . after reading something I’ve written!

At the risk of sounding immodest, I suggest the important word in the quote from Ms Wood might be ‘influence’.

The next paragraph refers to an article of mine that has been redacted. But speaking of it Ms Wood writes: “A prime example came during his feverish campaign to “expose” a so-called conspiracy between Plaid Cymru under my leadership and the lobbying firm Deryn (there was no such conspiracy) to oust Neil McEvoy from the party. I believe I have a strong case of defamation against Mr Jones for the blog posts he wrote on this subject.”

Again Leanne Wood gives herself away, this time by mentioning Neil McEvoy, and my support for him. She then tries to deny collusion between her and her close supporters on the one hand and Deryn Consulting on the other to marginalise Neil McEvoy, if not to destroy his political career.

To avoid any doubt, I repeat, there has most definitely been collusion, and it was no one-off meeting.

On to page 15 and the final paragraph of Leanne Wood’s letter of 31 January to Sir Roderick Evans. In which she writes: “I don’t regret using the only type of language that someone like Jones understands.”

Just 14 words, but what a huge sentence that is! It seems to be a good example of something I wrote back in June 2016. Where, in EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT!, I said, ” . . . many on the Left seem to believe they are both intellectually and morally superior to their opponents”.

Though what does she mean with, “someone like Jones”? Do I belong to a sub-species? Am I some kind of untermensch? Forget anything I’m accused of saying, this is the language of intolerant extremism, whether it comes from the left or the right.

With “someone like Jones” I am being ‘othered’. And we all know where that can lead.

CLIQUE AND CLAQUE

From her subsequent statements, it appears that Leanne Wood is refusing to accept the decision against her. Which is worrying, for the principle involved goes well beyond whether she was justified in calling me an ‘arsehole’. And for this reason.

If we allow Leanne Wood, or her collaborators and followers, free rein to decide who or what is misogynistic, or racist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or whatever, then they will abuse that freedom to their advantage; in order to silence critics and stifle political debate.

It follows that if this extreme minority – a small percentage of Plaid Cymru members and an even smaller percentage of the population at large – is allowed to dictate the terms of political discourse then democracy is in peril.

This is why there must be an impartial authority to judge on such matters.

For when a democratic system becomes intimidated by a zealous minority promoting extreme agendas and pursuing personal vendettas it ends in tragedies such as the death of Carl Sargeant, and the ongoing persecution of Neil McEvoy.

It was significant that among the first to leap to Leanne Wood’s defence were Labour politicians and Cathy Owens of Deryn Consulting. As I predicted.

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In pursuit of their objectives these cliques use insults and smears that get taken up and chanted by inhabitants of a world where there is no room for doubt. Where everything is black and white, right and wrong. Agree with them or face their wrath.

There are some in Leanne Wood’s claque of such total certitude, seeking a transcendental level of wokeness, that they have more in common with suicide bombers than with normal political activists.

This is why I challenge them at every opportunity. Someone has to.

FAULT LINES

I suppose on one level #arseholegate – as it has been dubbed by the interesting new ‘site Bubble.Wales – is a local skirmish in a global culture war, along predictable fault lines.

In this wider conflict the left has been getting hammered. There was the victory of Donald Trump; then the Brexit vote; the EU election victories, first for Ukip (2014) and then the Brexit Party (2019); plus populist/nationalist leaders and governments being elected all over the place, from Hungary to Brasil to India . . . and now, to cap it all – BoJo, and with Brexit fast approaching!

These defeats are partly explained by a shift away from the left by the (mainly) white working class in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. This is important, because for centuries middle class liberals and leftists have argued that they speak for those unable to speak for themselves.

This patronising myth is now exploded, leaving some of our erstwhile elite feeling distinctly uncharitable towards ungrateful proles. For those who were considered to be dumb and inarticulate have now found their voices, and they’re not singing the Internationale or the Red Flag.

This leaves the left scrabbling around to recruit, even invent, oppressed minorities. ‘What’s that, Mrs Jones – you’ve got ingrowing toenails! Join us and we’ll defend you against the ingrowingtoenailphobes. That Jac o’ the North is one of ’em. Bastard!’

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I have to say this, and I hope I don’t upset anyone with what needs to be put bluntly. When it comes to sex, as long as it doesn’t involve children, animals, coercion or inflatable dolls of Marge Simpson, I really don’t care what consenting adults get up to in private. (Just don’t make a cause or a career out of it.)

I felt the need to say that because a disproportionate number of my nastiest critics seem to be . . . well . . . let’s say, of non-heterosexual orientations. Attracted to Plaid Cymru by Leanne Wood they now feel bitter that she’s been deposed, and some seem to hold me responsible! So I am a ‘misogynist’, a ‘homophobe’, a ‘transphobe’, etc., etc., etc.

But I am none of those things. And that includes misogynist, despite what Leanne Wood would like people to think. Ask any woman who knows me. And valid criticism of a politician who just happens to be a woman is never misogyny.

To suggest otherwise is censorship. And usually comes from those who move in closed circles, divorced from the concerns of the general population. This too is dangerous.

But it explains why the most virulent attacks on me come from within the Cardiff Bay Bubble, and from those in other parts of Wales stupid enough to still believe that Corruption Bay is a force for good in Welsh life.

♦ end ♦

 

Distractions

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

FASCISTS TO THE RIGHT, RACISTS TO THE LEFT RIGHT (ALSO)

For various reasons I wasn’t at the Merthyr march and rally last Saturday, organised by YesCymru and All Under One Banner Cymru (but I was there in spirit). To compensate, I’ve had feedback from many quarters. This feedback even includes a copy of the special edition of The National produced for Merthyr.

As someone reminded us on Twitter, this one-off issue was a collaboration between that Scottish newspaper and Plaid Cymru, which explains the Plaid membership application form that came with each copy.

Though, given that the rally was in Merthyr, and Plaid is supposedly trying shake the image of being a party primarily for Welsh speakers, I was surprised to see the Welsh version of ‘Come and join us!’ at the top of the form larger and more prominent than the English version.

Click to enlarge. (It should go without saying that my cheque is in the post!)

The National also contained a series of articles by Plaid Cymru luminaries, and a rather strange contribution from Yasmin Begum, who was unknown to me, and who seemed to fear that the movement for independence might be a front for the Ku Klux Klan, with the Merthyr rally perhaps organised by the Dowlais branch of the Broederbond.

A strange, hysterical little piece, that also managed to be insulting. Particularly, “Wales has an uncomfortable relationship with colonialism and the slave trade which is yet to be fully explored and unpacked”. Wales was England’s first fucking colony and has been exploited ever since, but this woman wants to load onto us the crimes of the British Empire so we’ll feel guilty and be more receptive to her fatuous and self-serving drivel.

As I say, I had no idea who Yasmin Begum was . . . and then I checked her Twitter account, and was not surprised to learn that she is obsessed with thoughts of race. It seems that she thinks about nothing else. (Unless it’s ‘non-binary’ sexual identification.)

Entirely predictable then that she considers AUOB Cymru to be dangerously white and almost certainly infiltrated by fascists.

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Though I was glad to see her retweet the news that Paddington Bear is a liberal. I was beginning to have my doubts about that furry little bastard, what with him being foreign and all.

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Going back to the title of this section, I suppose all fascists are racists, but are all racists fascists? Discuss. (Because these things really concern me.)

PRO EU BUT ANTI EUROPEAN

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Something else I noticed about the rally – and this can be applied to the wider independence movement and Plaid Cymru – was the obsession with staying in the EU and thwarting the dastardly plans of Boris Johnson. (Or, if you prefer, Dominic Cummings.)

I wasn’t the only one, a friend who was in Merthyr reminded me of the attacks on Brexit-supporting Plaid Cymru stalwart Emrys Roberts, and sent me a copy of his letter published in Llais y Sais, responding to Wales for Europe. Which, predictably, is just the Welsh branch of People’s Vote.

Despite being pro EU the left is generally anti European, and too many on the left are anti Western. They want to do away with the capitalist system and replace it with societies in which nobody works but we’re all supported by taxing those who are no longer making any money because there’s no economy. It’s clever stuff. Too clever for me.

Though in fairness, such a system might have its plus points. It should help the environment because nobody’ll be making anything – except ‘artisans’ using hand tools – and only the most important comrades will be allowed to travel. Rewilding will occur naturally as veganism is enforced and livestock farmers are summarily executed. Their animals will then be released into ‘the wild’, which will further reduce the stock of humanity; for those of us that don’t succumb to malnutrition will be trampled by roaming herds of feral cattle.

This liberal elite and its foot-soldiers – the far left, the woke and the reverse-racists – is critical or dismissive of European civilisation. It seeks to undermine the social and economic frameworks of Europe; it has always sided with the enemies of the West, from communism to ISIS; it believes in open borders; and of course it rejects Christianity, which has done more than anything to shape Europe and the West.

Whereas I, on the other hand, admire European civilisation and values, on both sides of the North Atlantic, and from Argentina to Australia. I’m proud of the Europe peoples and their achievements. And like Burke, I understand the compact between generations past, present and future.

Which might explain why I am opposed to the European Union. But I will always be European.

CHAOS

The Merthyr rally took place to the backdrop of a prorogued parliament and a minority government hanging on for dear life. On the other side we are presented with an unseemly coalition rejoicing in two victories: the first, over a no-deal Brexit; the second, from denying Boris Johnson the chance to call a general election before Hallowe’en.

Alternatively – and this is how I see it – those who never accepted the 2016 referendum result are now close to stopping Brexit altogether; while denying us the opportunity of giving our opinion on the matter in a general election they fear they’ll lose.

(Though of course the Scottish National Party will win a handsome majority, and push on for independence, but Scotland is now a different country.)

Make no mistake, what we are seeing in Westminster is a victory for Remainers. Over the past three years they have done everything they could to undo the 2016 result. They may have achieved it now partly thanks to the clumsy chutzpah of Boris Johnson, and partly due to Jeremy Corbyn being forced into a position he would never have adopted had he been free to make his own choice.

Somehow, a liberal elite and its supporters has managed to unite the white working class with Old Etonians, with many in the areas that voted for Brexit prepared to support an English nationalist party led by Nigel Farage in the upcoming general election. And that also applies to Wales. This is a remarkable achievement.

Words would be superfluous, just click to enlarge if you want a better look at these buffoons.

And it explains the reluctance in parts of the Labour Party and sections of the trade union movement to have a general election, for union bosses are far more attuned to the mood of the lower orders in Sunderland, Stoke-on-Trent and Swansea than the denizens of Islington (or Cardiff Bay) will ever be.

Which leaves Labour’s electoral support reduced to a rump white working class, middle class liberals, supplemented by migrants and minorities. Not enough to win an election, certainly not with Corbyn in charge and Labour in Scotland all but a memory.

DANGER AND OPPORTUNITY

For it can’t be stressed enough that the 2016 vote was decided in the ‘Rust Belt’ areas of southern Wales and northern and central England, and settled largely with the votes of poorer white people. Many of whom saw the referendum as a chance to express their anger towards an arrogant elite, based largely in London, that they believed cared nothing for them and their communities.

I’m repeating this because there are many out there who gave little thought to the European Union or European unity before the 2016 referendum. Since losing that referendum they have managed to turn a bureaucratic construct they never fully understood, and rarely thought about, into the most precious thing in their world.

The far left in Wales has adopted the EU enthusiastically since the referendum because it gives the comrades the chance to portray the opposition as ‘far right’, or even ‘fascist’, and the left is never happier than when confronting the forces of darkness.

And if real fascists are a bit thin on the ground (which of course they are) then anyone they disagree with can be envisioned in jackboots. Plaid Ifanc, Undod, certain elements of YesCymru, Yasmin Begum and other individuals (so many of them members of my fan club) bear this out . . . with mind-numbingly monotonous regularity. There are no half measures with these absolutists – contradict them or highlight their idiocies and you’re a fascist.

That would be bad enough, but mainstream politicians have caught the same virus and now demand that we remain in the EU . . . irrespective of what poor and stupid people think.

Though the SNP is playing a canny game of stirring things up in Westminster while at the same time preparing Scots for a second independence referendum – ‘Will ye no look at that shambles doon in London, Wullie!’ (Did you see how I slipped into the vernacular there?)

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Plaid Cymru on the other hand has thrown itself single-mindedly into ensuring that Wales remains in the EU and the UK and, eventually, Englandandwales. And there will be a price to pay in the shorter term. For at the imminent general election, that will be dominated by Brexit, the Remain vote in Wales will go to Labour and the Lib Dems, while Plaid will lose Brexit-voting nationalists.

And for what?

The new independence movement is making the same mistake, and by so doing threatens the movement’s cohesion and potency. All because liberals and leftists believe the EU is ‘progressive’, and must therefore be defended.

The UK is falling apart, and civil unrest – if not worse – is on the horizon. We should be preparing to guide Wales towards the safety of independence. But instead, Labour and Plaid Cymru have rushed headlong into an English civil war, aligning themselves with external enemies and Seoinín, from which Wales can only emerge seriously harmed. If we emerge at all.

Premised on the belief that those with whom they have allied themselves give a fuck about Wales. They don’t, and they’ll betray us at the first ‘difficult choice’.

It could all have been so different. We could have exploited this chaos, this English culture war, to Wales’ advantage. But that was impossible when we have politicians and activists who burden the national cause with their pet obsessions and vanity excursions, piling on new and ever more absurd distractions to compete with the old and discredited abstractions.

There is no hope for Wales until we can build up a strong enough body of people determined to focus only on Wales, and to demand what is best for our people and our communities. Wales has no future if it’s left to dilettantes and local allies of the metropolitan elite preciously fighting someone else’s battles.

I happen to believe that decent homes and jobs for our people in a prosperous and independent Wales is more important than obsessing over the EU, or gender, or gender reassignment, or race, or sexual orientation, or . . .

There must be a seat for everybody on the Independence Express; but no group must be so noisy and demanding of attention that they drive other passengers off at the next stop, or bring the train to a halt.

♦ end ♦

 

Three sides of the same coin

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

A quirky title, you may think, but it will serve for these three tales that, in their differing ways, offer insights into the damage being inflicted on Wales by the Labour Party.

But I stress that they’re three distinct stories, so you can take them one at a time.

HOUSES OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION – HOW MANY DOES WALES NEED?

We begin in Port Talbot, where the playful zephyrs carry that heady mix of motorway traffic fumes and steelworks belch. (For as anyone who reads the popular press will know, steelworks always ‘belch’ smoke and fumes.)

Let’s home in on 20 Olive Street in Aberavon, where there is a change of use application to convert a house in this residential street into a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO). Locals are very much opposed to the proposal.

(As a matter of interest, Olive Street is not far from Dic Penderyn’s grave.)

On the application document I’ve linked to you’ll see that the applicant is ‘Joe Furneaux’, and the address given is in Upper Killay, where Swansea peters out into Gower. So I got to wondering about ‘Joe Furneaux’.

I couldn’t get very far in my investigations until I realised that his name is actually Jonathan Furneaux. And it soon became obvious why he might wish to generate confusion about his identity, for he has a chequered business record.

To be specific, two companies that are no longer with us. The first, Picton Street Management Company Ltd, was dissolved in March 2014, though Furneaux ceased to be a director 22 March 2010. The second, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Limited, was dissolved April 2014, after Furneaux had baled out 10 March 2010.

Both companies gave their address as 44 St Helens Road, Swansea. You’ll see that the second of them went bust with no less than 11 outstanding charges.

If we look more closely at those charges we see properties in Ferndale, Tylorstown, Penrhiwceiber, Pentre, Ebbw Vale, Abertillery, Nantyglo, Llanhilleth, Aberdare.

(Maybe some readers can give me feedback on these properties, for the addresses are all given in the charges. For example, are they now residential properties?)

Towns that have been abandoned by self-styled ‘Welsh’ Labour. Where the economy is depressed, where people (those who haven’t left) have either given up or got angry, and where we find the lowest house prices on this island. Ideal locales for ‘investors’ to buy properties in which to house ‘problematic’ (for neighbours) – but highly profitable (for them) – tenants.

A scam encouraged because it shows how ‘caring’ we are – ‘Socialism, innit!’ While also exposing Wales’ poverty – which is always blamed on the Tories.

What a way to run a country! But back to ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux.

This is definitely our boy, but of course there’s no mention of the failed companies, and ‘Joe Furneaux’ was never a company name. Click to enlarge.

To confuse the picture, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Limited may have been dissolved in April 2014 but in February 2015, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Ltd was born. This company did nothing – apparently – and was was compulsorily struck off in July 2016. The address used for this brief reincarnation was 39 Park Place in Swansea city centre.

So we see that in addition to the Upper Killay address Furneaux has also used addresses in the city centre. Though both of the earlier companies began life in Hartfield, a village near Tunbridge Wells, which is where I think Furneaux is based.

For I believe he lives in England and uses accommodation addresses in Swansea. I say that because if this (below) is the same man, then his day job may be with Palatine Homes Ltd of Berkshire.

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This company specialises in bespoke, upmarket dwellings in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, a world away from the Labour fiefdoms of Swansea, Port Talbot and the Heads of the Valleys.

Furneaux joined Palatine Homes in March 2016. Now that he’s got a few bob together perhaps he’s making a come-back.

(If the Jon Furneaux of Palatine Homes Ltd is not the ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux active around Swansea Bay, then I shall be happy to delete this reference.)

And he’s doing it with a company set up as recently as March this year, Horizon EXP Ltd, with a ‘postbox’ address in Dorset. For this is the company that bought 20 Olive Street, Aberavon for £43,000 in July. Now Furneaux wants to convert this small, mid-terrace house in a residential neighbourhood into a four-bed HMO.

For no better reason than idle curiosity I scrolled down the planning application and was surprised to read (in section 27) that the owner, on 27 June, was a Samuel Hawking. ‘Who he?’ I asked myself, and eventually turned up this website.

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As I say, the date on the planning application, giving Hawking’s ownership, is 27 June 2019; while the date on the Land Registry document tells us that Horizon EXP Ltd, i.e. Jon Furneaux, bought the property 19 July 2019.

So did Hawking get the ball rolling for a HMO and then sell the property, or was the sale of 20 Olive Street provisional on him initiating the process for Furneaux? Given that Hawking might be a relatively large fish in the Swansea Bay property market, I incline towards the second possibility.

And I use the term ‘Swansea Bay’ because I also turned up a planning application in the city itself, in Plasmarl. Where a 4-bed mid-terrace property owned by Jonathan Richard Furneaux (with a loan from West Bridging Ltd) is to be converted into a 5-bed HMO.

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Plasmarl, where my father was born and raised, is not one of the more salubrious quarters of the city, having much in common with the post-industrial Valleys’ towns we looked at just now. In earlier times Plasmarl was home to many of those who worked in the valley below.

The Lower Swansea Valley (before my time, just). Click to enlarge

Plasmarl, where the ‘Golden Boy’ was born and raised. And where I sank many a pint in the Smelters, and the Coopers, and the Imperial, and ‘Y Cwrcyn’. (No one knew why it was called Y Cwrcyn, but as the real name was The Ivorites Arms, and there were other Ivorites not far away, it served a purpose.)

No mean neighbourhood, Plasmarl. But before I get too nostalgic I’m going to end with a few questions:

  • Why has a man with so many unpaid debts returned to Wales to go into the Houses of Multiple Occupation racket?
  • Does the company to which he owes so much money know he’s resurfaced?
  • What’s his relationship with Sam Hawking?
  • Do the local authorities involved know exactly who they’re dealing with in these applications, and all the possible ramifications?
  • What rights do locals have when threatened with a HMO near to them?
  • Do the planning committees so ready to give permission enquire where the residents of these HMOs in Aberavon and Plasmarl (and elsewhere) will come from?
  • Does the ‘Welsh Government’ have concerns about cheap property in deprived areas being converted into HMOs and hostels to house persons from outside of Wales?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Upper Killay house, 13 Edgemooor Close, is owned by a Roy Anthony Griffiths of Worcester.

BURRY PORT CARNIVAL COMMITTEE

This next story takes us west, west of Llanelli in fact, to Porth Tywyn (in English, Burry Port). A town I know quite well; in fact, I stayed there for a few nights very recently.

This report is different to the topics I usually cover in a number of ways, but it still fits because it’s about the abuse of influence and the misuse of money, with the Labour Party central to the tale. For all those involved are councillors, candidates, members, supporters. Indeed, it’s suggested that the reach of the Labour Party explains how this scandal has festered for so long.

I have been given the full names, and relationships, of those involved, but I’ve decided to use initials. Those involved will recognise themselves, of course, and locals will be able to identify them. While those who don’t know the area can understand the issues raised without having to know the principals’ names.

Porth Tywyn. Click to enlarge

In a nutshell, a small group, made up it seems of two families, monopolises fund-raising activities in this small town. Money is ostensibly raised for the community, and yet most of it seems to be unaccounted for. And I am talking now of what is said to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The points below represent a summary of the information supplied to me in the words of a source. I have made a few additions or clarifications

1) Burry Port Carnival has been around for some 20 years and is driven by S. M. In the early years all money was paid into her personal bank account and no accounts were produced.

2) Members of the community were involved and some became members of the committee but they didn’t last long.

3) More recently, in the past 5 years or so, the committee is made up almost entirely from two families. The M. and F. families. This consists of S.M., her husband, her daughter and her grandchildren. Also A. F. and L. F. It is believed that there is one non-family committee member, D. D., the nephew of Cllr J. J.

4) S. M., A. F. and J. J. are serving Labour Party councillors. L. F. is an active member of the Labour Party and was a failed Labour candidate for a recent Pembrey Ward by-election for the town council.

5) Members of the community are now saying that unless you are a family member and a member of the Labour Party you will not be allowed on the committee. This seems to have some weight as a recent member of the committee, L. M., was ousted as soon as she got elected as an independent town councillor 5 years ago.

6) The committee will state that anyone can apply to join but nobody does because they know that they would not be accepted or, if they are, they won’t last very long. The general view is that this is more like a family business than an inclusive and transparent community organisation.

7) The Carnival Committee not only organise and run the annual carnival but in season, April to October, they run the weekly car boot sale in Burry Port. It has grown to be the largest in mid and west Wales.

8) Some conservative estimates are that the income from the car boot sale alone ranges from £40,000 to £50,00 a year. (Ed: This is explained by over 100 stalls paying £7 for a car, £10 – 12 for a van, £15 for anything bigger. But no receipts are given, just ‘raffle tickets’, which I assume to mean cloakroom tickets.)

9) The annual Carnival has also grown and income from that is not recorded.

10) (Those involved) also run the annual Christmas Carnival, an annual dog show and vintage car show as well as a number of minor events.

11) They do not give receipts to any who enter the events. They do not give receipts to any stall holder, car owner or sponsor. More recently they started issuing a raffle ticket from various different books to car boot pitch holders. (Ed: The ‘raffle tickets’ referred to earlier.) They have been frequently observed collecting money and putting it in their pockets.

12) No one knows how much they collect but they are quick to publicise a handful of very small grants that they give to local groups, (Grants of a few hundred pounds only) They have also funded around a dozen defibrillators in the community at around 1,200 each. No one knows where the rest of the money goes.

13) They do not publish any audited accounts and they do not publish any annual report or minutes of meetings.

14) Any accounts or financial statements they may produce may not be worth very much if they do not issue any receipts to back up their income.

15) In the meantime, the F. family have gone from L. F. being unemployed and A. F. having a small stall in Carmarthen market, to having three shops and three businesses in Burry Port. S. M. and her family have just bought a villa with a swimming pool in Spain.

It would be easy to dismiss this report as an example of small town squabbling. But given the quality of the sources, and the amounts of money involved, I know there’s substance to it.

So I call on those involved to produce what they should have been producing all along – minutes of meetings, correspondence, bank statements, audited accounts, and an explanation for the status of their operations. For nothing seems to be registered with either the Charity Commission or Companies House.

Which inevitably gives rise to suspicions that this is a cash-only operation held together by family loyalties and protected by the power of the Labour Party

TRANSPORT FOR WALES

Last week a news story appeared concerning the ‘mangling’ of Welsh place names in railway announcements. I picked the story up on Twitter and my comment explains my thinking on the subject.

Click to enlarge

I wanted to make that point because in the NorthWalesLive article a spokesman for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) waffled about, ” . . . deep concerns . . . basic failures . . . unprecedented for a public service” . . . and, in effect, said nothing.

Which chimes with my experience of language activists over half a century in that they’re hot on abstractions and visibility, but unconcerned with employment issues unless it’s them losing out. Jobs for working class Welsh speakers don’t concern them, which tends to betray the ‘look-out-for-number-one’ attitude of too many. This attitude explains the rise of Rhodri Williams.

When I put out that tweet last Monday I had no way of knowing that my argument would be backed up so quickly.

The announcements on trains are given out by the guard. Now, quite obviously, if the guard has no understanding whatever of the Welsh language, then passengers will hear, ‘Clanvervekan’ (Llanfairfechan) and ‘Makynceth’ (Machynlleth). The way to avoid this is obviously to employ local people.

But this is not what happens at the moment. And there are no moves to recruit locals, in fact, things could get a whole lot worse.

For I have it on impeccable authority that Transport for Wales is recruiting thirty new guards for the Central Wales line and the Cambrian Coast line. The recruitment is being carried out in Shrewsbury.

This news has been met with anger by railway employees in the area affected, because it means that there will be no Welsh staff recruited for guards jobs on Welsh railway lines, and that can only result in an inferior service.

(And a more expensive service. For English staff have taxis paid for them to join their Welsh trains. This is happening now!)

So not only will we have to endure more of ‘Clanvervekan’ and ‘Makynceth’ but, being ignorant of the area they won’t know the request stops, or the bus connections, or anything.

Take a look at the map below, the railway lines are in red and the green lines represent TrawsCymru bus services. Just look at the number of request stops between Barmouth and Porthmadog! Imagine the nails-on-blackboard mangling of Morfa Mawddach and Dyffryn Ardudwy; and then, just before Abbaerk, we’ll hear the announcement for Penny Chain.

Click to enlarge

And yet, it could all be avoided by recruiting Welsh people to work on Welsh railways. Why is that so difficult?

Seeing as Transport for Wales is a not for profit company, wholly owned by the Welsh Government” I would like the ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘Government’ to tell us why it allows this company to practise recruitment policies that insult our native language, lose us jobs, and provide us with an inferior service.

Or are we supposed to just shrug it off and accept this discrimination as yet another example of ‘Welsh’ Labour betraying the Welsh people?

CONCLUSION

Picking up on something he may have read by Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine nineteenth-century English scribbler Lord Acton is usually credited with, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

While I’m sure he was thinking of despots and emperors strutting their stuff in his own time that line can equally apply to the Labour Party in Wales. For too many in Labour regard privilege, patronage, and outright corruption as theirs by right. The prize for coming first.

This belief gives us cronyism, rigged elections, the third sector, self-advancement, local ‘mafias’, unregulated lobbyists, parachuted candidates, the arrogance to argue that black is white . . . in the poorest country in Europe.

The Labour Party benefits itself, but fails the nation. It’s therefore time to bring to an end Labour’s century in the sun. Anyone outside of Labour siding with these gangsters on spurious ideological grounds is no better than Labour.

♦ end ♦