Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union, an update

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. POSTINGS WILL PROBABLY BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

This is a follow-up to last week’s post, ‘Corruption Bay and a tale of Cymrophobia‘. You’ll remember that we looked at how Labour Party insiders were paid to produce reports that would guide more ‘inclusive’ policy at the commissioning bodies, the Arts Council of Wales and the National Museum.

UPDATE

One of these submissions, from the mysterious Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union, painted a picture of Wales as some kind of Hell on Earth where ‘creatives’ of a non-Caucasian pigmentation are brutally discriminated against.

It was reminiscent of the hysteria I’ve been writing about in connection with YesCymru. Where some of those involved in the failed Woke-Left takeover wanted us to believe that ‘women with penises’ are being butchered on Welsh streets by mobs of transphobes.

What I found revealing was that neither those suggesting rampant transphobia or a whites-only arts scene are prepared to debate. Any dialogue must start from a blind acceptance of their ‘facts’.

A few tit-bits have come to light since the previous post went out. For example, someone drew my attention to the metadata naming authors for the three reports.

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The report from Labour insiders Lu Thomas and Jon Luxton named Luxton as the author. But the other two reports listed Arts Council employees as authors. Which might at first sight seem a bit odd, though there could be a simple explanation.

Such as the reports being submitted in MS Word or some other format and the Arts Council converting them to PDF.

If that is not the explanation, then what is?

Despite the ‘authorship’, there is no real issue with the Richie Turner Associates’ report because the contributors are named in the report.

It’s the third report, from the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union, that’s causing concern. Because no individual or contributor is named anywhere.

Anyway, in the hope of helping me make sense of the bigger picture, a few people made suggestions. Pointed me in certain directions. So off I went.

NATURE OF THE BEAST

It’s fair to say that Amgueddfa Cymru was almost a ‘passenger’ in this exercise, so I’m ruling them out to focus on The Arts Council of Wales.

The current Chair is Phil George, who I speculated was a Labour Party supporter. His immediate predecessor in the post, from 2007 – 2016, was David Burton Smith, whose political leanings have never been in doubt.

For Dai Smith – father of unsuccessful challenger to Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Smith – is another creature of the left. One of those historians who, like Neil Kinnock, believes Wales isn’t worthy of study until the Industrial Revolution and the creation of a proletariat.

Smith worked for the BBC in Cardiff, from 1994, as, ‘Head of Broadcast (English Language). He was responsible for commissioning programmes on the arts and in drama and has also presented award-winning documentaries on the people and culture of south Wales’.

Through a socialist prism, of course.

An interesting insight into colonial Wales, this. For while the Labour Party rails against Tory cronyism, Old Boy networks and the rest, the Buttybond practises something very similar in Wales.

And the Tories are more than happy to let them do it. I’ll explain why a bit later.

Phil George has a long history with The National Theatre of Wales (NTW). In fact, he was one of the founding directors on September 9, 2008. He seems to have left NTW in March 2016, around the time he was appointed Chair of the Arts Council.

I’m told the National Theatre of Wales was always well favoured in Cardiff. One source reports: ‘”BBC Wales” used and uses every opportunity to promote this company. Hardly any arts documentaries are done but in its formative years, 2010, it commissioned a 30 minute advertorial dressed up as a documentary on a National Theatre production’.

It was thanks to Phil George and NTW that Abdul Shayek of London got his foot in the Welsh public funding door.  For Shayek’s Linkedin page tells us that from April 2011 until April 2013 he was a Creative Associate with NTW.

Shayek then branched out to form FIO, a BAME theatre group. Though apparently reliant on funding from the Welsh public purse this didn’t stop FIO taking plays to India. And Shayek ‘representing’ FIO at symposia and the like in Sri Lanka and Australia.

Nice work if you can get it! And especially if someone else is paying.

Another source tells me FIO got some £400,000 in funding over 3 or 4 three years. (It might have been more.) Which pays for quite a few trips to Oz and old Serendip.

Going back to Shayek’s Linkedin bio we see that he left FIO in August 2020 to join Tara Theatre. No, this has nothing to do with halls and High Kings, it’s yet another ‘ethnically diverse’ theatre group. This time in London.

I’m not sure of the reasons for Shayek’s departure, or where this leaves his creation, FIO. The website suggests it’s still going, and the Charity Commission entry implies he’s still involved.

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Whatever the relationship between Abdul Shayek and FIO he still appears to be involved with the arts scene in Wales. And pissing off quite a few people with his involvement in the Wales Culture and Race Taskforce (WCRT).

Which was set up in June 2020 to, ‘challenge the lack of diversity within the arts in Wales and demand systemic change’.

I’m not sure if this was Abdul Shayek’s brainchild or if he just got involved somehow. Certainly, his creation FIO was holding the money donated to WCRT by other arts groups. Said to be £20,000.

You’ll get a flavour of the dispute from the Critically Speaking blog of Jafar Iqbal. (A supporter of Leyton Orient football club.) In particular, read the lengthy comment from ‘pledging organisations’.

If you want to know more about the role envisaged for the Wales Culture and Race Taskforce then you should read this document prepared for the ‘Welsh Government’.

Strangely, in just 452 words this document manages to use the term ‘white-led’ three times. In the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union ‘report’ we encounter the phrase ‘white-led’ 10 times.

When checking the metadata for the document I’ve just linked to, I found the author named as Letty Clarke. So obviously, I wondered who she might be.

You will not be surprised to learn that Letty is also from England, but since January 2020 she has been Curator of Public Programmes at Artes Mundi Prize Ltd. From the Artes Mundi website we learn:

‘Artes Mundi Prize Ltd is a registered non-profit charity that annually relies on support from individuals, corporations, sponsors, trusts and foundations to fund the costs of all our programmes, alongside our core public revenue from Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff City Council’.

The name may sound like a character from a forgotten novel set in 19th century New England, but Letty is of the here and now. And, unfortunately, the ‘here’ is Wales.

Letty Clarke’s Linkedin profile makes it clear that she supports Black Lives Matter, and her Twitter account provides a few gems.

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As many of you will know, investigations are continuing into the death of Mohamud Mohammed Hassan, who died some hours after leaving police custody. But Letty Clarke, after being in Wales for a short time, has already made her mind up.

For according to her Hassan was a victim of ‘police brutality’ and ‘state violence in Wales’. What the hell does she mean by ‘state violence’? There is no Welsh state!

Let me explain the relationship to you, Letty . . . Your country robs my country and by way of compensation doles out money to those buffoons down Corruption Bay, who in turn distribute far too much of that cash to people like you and your friends.

Which means that, one way and another, most Welsh people get screwed twice over.

Up to now in this painful trawl through the ‘Welsh’ arts scene I don’t think we’ve met anyone who is actually Welsh, apart from a few cocks atop the dung heap.

Let’s see if we have any more luck in the next section.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES FOR THE WELSH ARTS ANTI-RACIST UNION

In December 2019 the Wales Audit Office produced a snappily-entitled report, ‘Well-being of Future Generations Increasing Participation in Areas with Under-developed Reach of the Arts – Arts Council of Wales’. You can read it here.

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The Introduction says: ‘This document has been prepared for the internal use of the Arts Council of Wales’. Reminding us that this is an example of the additional public money wasted since the implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and the creation of the post of Future Generations Commissioner, with of course, a whole new department.

The job of Commissioner was given to Labour time-server Sophie Howe. She had previously worked under Alun Michael, the former Labour MP and now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales.

Under ‘Contents’ we read: ‘In its efforts to increase participation, inclusion and engagement in areas with under-developed reach of the arts, the Arts Council of Wales (Arts Council) is demonstrating commitment to the sustainable development principle but it recognises the need to further embed the five ways of working.’

Clearly, the Audit Office looked into inclusion in the arts, and made recommendations to the Arts Council. So why, just six months later, did the ACW spaff another £50,000 (minimum) doing what looks like exactly the same thing?

(Note that the Sell2Wales notice I link to is from June 2020. Which is when the Wales Culture and Race Taskforce was set up.)

This duplication produced the three reports dealt with in the previous post, including the submission from the mysterious Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union.

This digression takes us nowhere nearer identifying the person or persons behind the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union. In fact, it’s difficult to get any handle on the WAARU.

One mention I did find was on what I assume to be a podcast. It seems to be called Mostyn, or Lumin, the latter described as, ‘an artist-run radio and publisher led by Sadia Pineda Hameed and Beau W Beakhouse’.

If you scroll down to the bios of others involved, you’ll see this for the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union. But again, no name.

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I’d like to be able to tell you that Hameed is from Froncysyllte and Beakhouse from Llangyfelach, but alas . . .

Beau tells us: ‘I’m originally from Bournemouth but moved around . . . I come from a nature & craft background . . .  My parents were self-employed gardeners, who then went into woodcraft . . . Eventually, I managed to study English Literature at Cardiff University’.

Hameed: ‘I’m from London. I also came to Cardiff to study English Literature at uni and decided to stay ‒ in part because I didn’t really have the money to pursue the arts back in London, but also because I really liked how open the arts scene in Wales is.’

Yes indeedy; the ‘arts scene’ in Wales is open to just about anybody . . . artistic talent is unnecessary, and knowledge of Wales undesirable.

Here’s an example of Beakhouse’s poetry from 2017.

Don’t give up the day job, Beau. Whatever it is.

That we are no nearer fingering who wrote the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union report is understandable, given its reception. But the Arts Council of Wales must know because the WAARU was paid well to insult us.

Which is why I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to the ACW.

But over and above that, this situation of strangers being paid to insult us could only happen in the peculiar circumstances of devolution, which sees politicians and others who superficially oppose each other agree when it comes to Wales, and the Welsh.

UPDATE: Since publishing this piece I have received feedback, including someone drawing my attention to The Future Generations Report 2020. On page 355 we read what you see in the panel:

I have two points to make.

First, ‘learning Welsh on the job’ sounds like a good idea, until you realise it’s often a ruse to give jobs to people most of whom will do no more than go through the motions of taking a few Welsh lessons.

Mark James, former chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, would be a great example of this scam in practise.

Second, The Future Generations Commissioner in her 2020 report is quoting Race Alliance Wales (RAW), a body formally launched on December 19, 2019. How the hell did a newly-constituted body become so influential so quickly?

The answer is that those behind RAW are based almost exclusively in Cardiff and well connected in Corruption Bay.

While organisations elsewhere in Wales, established for far longer, representing many more people, but outside the Bay Bubble, are ignored.

This is not healthy; this is not democratic; this should not be the Wales any of us wants to see.

But it’s the Wales we live in.

FURTHER UPDATE: Someone else has been in touch with an intriguing suggestion. Which is, that when an anonymous Twitter account is launched the author is often to be found among the early followers.

In the case of the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union Twitter account the first ten followers can be found here. (Read from the bottom up.) There are quite a few names there that appear in this article.

THE BIT AT THE END WHERE COLOMBO PUFFS ON HIS CIGAR AND . . .

Picking up again on the shared motivations, what I’m hinting at is that these otherwise squabbling interests agree that Wales must be carefully ‘managed’.

Which is why what passes for entertainment on television and elsewhere is banal and superficial. Welsh politics, social issues, and other specifically Welsh matters (when dealt with in English) are often quarantined in programmes broadcast at awkward times . . . which results in hardly anyone watching them.

The same applies more widely, in the fields so copiously manured by the Arts Council. For example, there’s not a hope in Hell of Wales having its own Abbey Theatre.

We are at a stage now where if two plays are in competition for funding, one about Welsh villages being destroyed by excessive tourism, the other about the absence of obstetric facilities for low caste birthing persons in Tamil Nadu, then you can predict with certainty which will enjoy an opening night.

Researching this piece I stumbled on an hour-long lecture by former Arts Council Chair Dai Smith, built around writer Raymond Williams. Smith is speaking at a ‘Cultural Democracy Workshop’ in November 2020.

This was of course delivered at a time when the three reports commissioned by the Arts Council were being prepared. Yes, it was all happening around that time.

Smith makes the point that in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when Williams was at the height of his intellectual and creative powers, his writing was framed by what he saw as a class struggle. But things have moved on.

(Interestingly, a piece on Williams appeared in UnHerd yesterday.)

Most importantly, the political left in Europe and North America has lost the working class. Which is why Marxism is now promoted through race, environmentalism and gender. And the harder the left pushes these the more it alienates the working class.

No one living just thirty years ago could have envisioned the crazy situation we have reached today. And few political activists of the left under the age of 40 can believe that their ideological predecessors idolised those they regard as stupid, racist, transphobic, climate denying Brexiteers.

The sons and grandsons of Marxist miners are fascist white van men!

A hazy understanding of Marxism re-interpreted by Black Lives Matter almost certainly lies behind the report submitted by the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union. It also explains the report’s acceptance by the Arts Council.

But why would the Old Etonians in Westminster and their civil servant alumni of lesser schools want to push such drivel? The answer is that they share with the Woke-Left establishment in Corruption Bay a desired outcome.

This explains the funding and other encouragement for people from around the world to come here, take funding that should go to Welsh arts, and then call us racist.

London likes the ‘The Welsh are racist’ message because it explains why we oppose holiday homes, and resent being colonised. (It’s why the Telegraph used the WAARU report.) Corruption Bay modifies it to read, ‘Nationalism is racist’ because that can slander those suggesting there is a better way for Cymru than devolution’s cronyism and exploitation. 

Together they tell us why the ‘Welsh’ arts scene today is a revolting mess of talentless dreamers and grant-grabbing shysters. Overwhelmingly alien; with some of those involved positively racist in their attitudes towards us.

Modern Wales in microcosm.

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Guest post: ‘Stop Y Bryn Onshore Wind Farm’

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. POSTINGS WILL PROBABLY BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

Over the years I’ve written a number of times about wind farms, and the deception on which they’re based. Because, as an answer to global warming or as a form of electricity generation they are useless.

Their benefit, or rather, what makes them attractive, to politicians, especially, is their visibility. Everyone can see them, and they allow politicians to crow – ‘Look! Look! We’re doing our bit to save the planet’.

To further ‘prove’ how sincere they are in saving the planet governments offer big subsidies to those erecting and owning wind turbines. This attracts investors, hedge funds, and others who don’t give a toss about the environment.

Due to the fact that the wind is intermittent and unpredictable, there must be 100% back-up for wind turbines. One consequence of this is higher electricity charges for domestic consumers.

‘You can’t pay your electricity bill, Mrs Jones? Never mind, love, sit in the dark and console yourself by knowing you’re saving the planet’.

There are other problems associated with wind turbines, especially in Wales, that no one wants to talk about. One such issue is flooding.

Of which there has been an increase in recent years for English towns on the River Severn, downstream of the ever-increasing number of wind farms on the hills of Powys.

The Rhondda has also seen increased flooding since the massive Pen y Cymoedd wind farm went up. But of course it’s being blamed on ‘blocked culverts’. Doesn’t anyone wonder why the culverts are being asked to cope with extra run-off from the hills? Or are politicians just refusing to even address the question?

No, wait! It must be global warming – put up more wind turbines . . . more flooding . . . more turbines . . . self-justifying lunacy.

The reason wind turbines on our hills cause flooding is because trees are felled to make way for them, and huge areas of peat are lost because each turbine is sunk in a concrete base the size of a rugby pitch. And then there are the hard-core access roads, and the cable trenches . . .

Yet trees and peat are vital in both preventing flooding and in carbon capture.

Without admitting that it’s been causing environmental damage with wind turbines the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ recently announced a scheme to create peatland in the very area where this habitat has been lost to wind turbines.

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The article in the Western Mail does mention “wind farms”, but without making the obvious connection, though the image used is revealing.

When you think about it, if the environment was the real priority, then, rather than political virtue-signalling and providing guaranteed returns for foreign companies and well-connected people, the best thing to have done would have been to leave the trees and the peat well alone.

Not only has the ‘Welsh Government’ failed the environment, it has also failed us, the people of Wales. For these bird-killing monstrosities create no jobs, no turbines are built in Wales, and they’re all foreign-owned so the money leaves Wales.

Wind turbines in Wales are 19th century colonialist exploitation (but without the jobs) given a quick coat of greenwash for the 21st century.

Wales deserves better. But we’ll never get it by voting in the same clowns who encourage managed decline and then pretend to be ‘doing something’ by offering wind turbines.

Support this campaign because we all want to help the environment but wind farms are just a money-making scam that’s gone on for far too long.

Now read what a spokesperson for the campaign has to say . . .

In just 4 short weeks, the ‘STOP Y Bryn Onshore Wind Farm’ Facebook Campaign group has gone from a standing start to ‘full pelt’ in the blink of an eye, leaving its originators with very little time to catch their breath, and yet in that brief but exciting period, support for the group has grown to just short of 1000 members; it has established a committee, set up a bank account, a Crowdfunding page, AND it has held its first public protest outside the Welsh Government home, Y Senedd.

The protest outside Y Senedd. Click to enlarge

If that is not enough for starters, It has also attended all five of the initial public consultation meetings set up by the proposers of the wind farm project, Coriolis Energy (wind energy developers) and ESB (Ireland’s premier energy company), where the group and its supporters have emphatically shown they are serious about fighting this proposal to the very end.

The campaign group is acting in response to a proposal that is so lacking in detail that even some Senedd members are terming it as just an ‘idea’ at this time, but with it comes the need for so many questions to be answered, and the residents of the affected villages are not happy to let this proposal go uncontested.

But where do you start with the issues brought about by a proposed development of this magnitude? It is one of the best kept secrets in amongst these small semi-rural areas of South Wales, which is an achievement in itself given that usually a mouse can fart and everyone is gossiping, and whilst residents were clapping for NHS Heroes or giving an elderly war veteran money to walk around his garden, the supposedly transparent Welsh Government by way of Natural Resources Wales were inviting tenders that would allow swathes of lush green countryside to be carved up in anticipation of 26 wind turbines to be built in situ, the size of which onshore Britain has never seen before. But secrets of this kind don’t tend to remain secrets for very long, and this one was not going to be the exception.

Soon after the secret was out, residents found themselves talking at 2 metre distances about the environmental destruction that was being proposed, their conversations focused on the suggestion these turbines would reach heights up to 250 meters, and that their blades would be of 80 meter lengths….but what is that in ‘old money’ and what could these structures be compared to?

The turbines planned for Y Bryn are taller than Wales’ tallest building. And remember, the Meridian Tower is at sea-level, whereas these turbines, more than twice the height, will be on hills. Click to enlarge.

The Eiffel Tower, the Shard, local electricity pylons…..it was all a guessing game because of that lacking detail everyone so desperately needed. The reality is people can’t begin to envisage how these will look on top of their beautiful, lush green hills without appropriately designed graphic images, but what they can envisage is how detrimental and destructive these colossal chunks of steel will be to the area, perched on top of land that provides habitats for some of the country’s most cherished species of animals and birds, and who’s ecology contributes so much to an environment already facing a crisis that seems to know no bounds.

These surrounding areas have undergone a transformation in recent years, where the scars from coal mining and other heavy industrial activity have been eradicated and acceptably replaced by flora and fauna many now see as an extension to their own back gardens….except now people are envisaging morning coffee views that bring with them the hum of rotor blade activity drifting on the winds of change, and bringing with them the threats to communities and environments that mean so much more to the residents and villagers.

Many of the campaign group’s questions focus on the environmental impact of this proposal, but like so many other controversial proposals, the details are extremely vague to the extent that the credibility and the incentives of both development companies involved have to be seriously questioned.

For example, why is NRW, which is a public body, being permitted to freely auction off environmental spaces that mean so much to walkers and cyclists, not to mention the eco systems that dwell therein? Surely such activity should be overseen by Welsh Government, and surely they should be seeking authorisation from Y Senedd before putting public land up for tender?

Additionally, with the land proposed being of such historic interest, who at NRW first thought it to be an acceptable area for wind farm development? Heaven knows the importance the people of Port Talbot and Bridgend put on their green space where they are seen as byways that promote better mental and physical health and wellbeing. But, when questions regarding issues around Environmental Impacts, land suitability, sustainable long term employment opportunities, and community benefits are asked, answers are at best contradictory, if there are any answers at all.

The reality is, the Valleys and feeder regions have long been ignored by politicians and business leaders for the inward investment opportunities so desperately needed as a resolution to industry losses in sectors like coal and steel to name just two, and its the residents of those regions who have been expected to accept ‘poor relations’ subsidy programmes historically bestowed upon us by quangos like the Welsh Development Agency, which have then been passed off as ‘Tory Blue’ success stories.

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Nevertheless, the people of Port Talbot and Bridgend are no longer prepared to be overlooked, and they expect their voices to be heard on this proposal. As the campaign grows and gathers momentum, its members intend to battle on through a program of constructive research and fact-finding exercises whilst it develops a strengthening network of support that delivers positive responses on a daily basis, all driven by the members who BELIEVE wholeheartedly in this fight.

Its steering committee consists of intelligent individuals who are not only aware of the ‘due process’ proposals such as this one are expected to follow, but they are also creative and resourceful to boot. These are not a trigger-happy bunch of community gun-slingers, but instead they are community-spirited residents who are steadfast in their belief that whilst the world needs answers to the Climate Emergency that has been declared globally, there’s is a real suggestion colossal wind turbines are NOT a suitable on-shore solution due to the environmental devastation they can bring, and that a more strategic approach with joined-up thinking and measured risk analysis is needed in order to find a sustainable solution.

The area as it is today. Click to enlarge

As the first round of public consultations is assessed, initial feelings are very positive, especially when the main developer Coriolis is reporting an unexpected number of written objections as well as attendance to its public meetings.

The voice that is ‘STOP Y Bryn Onshore Wind Farm‘ is being heard, and the message it is portraying is reaching far and wide into the communities that stand to be affected by the development. The live Facebook broadcasts from Y Senedd protest have impacted not only on existing campaign group members, but they have touched corners of the community that have so far remained oblivious.

‘What next?’ they hear you ask…..quite simply, they continue to do what they have done so successfully thus far, which is working strategically but stealthily, using their resources and contacts collectively, and pooling their knowledge to lead a campaign that shows grit and determination that is so inherent in the people of Wales! Are you on board?

Cymru Am Byth. Together we are stronger

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Another betrayal of our dead children

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

This is a guest post by Brychan Davies, who regularly comments on this blog with commendable erudition. 

It appears the UK government wishes to divest itself of certain responsibilities for the residue of old coal workings. In other words, tips, slag heaps. This responsibility is to be passed to the ‘Welsh Government’, with the carrot being the power to take over land under the guise of ‘environmentalism’ while putting financial burdens on already poor communities.

The only beneficiaries of this transfer of responsibility would seem to be the third sector parasites and the enviroshysters who already plague our benighted land.

Now read what Brychan has to say . . . 

In a crass act of betrayal the BBC are now telling us that the government in Westminster is seeking to replace the Mine and Quarries Act 1969 by dumping those responsibilities on Ministers of the Welsh Government, along with the financial burden onto the shoulders of the Welsh budget.

The Mines and Quarries Act arose from the Aberfan disaster, where as a result of incorrect monitoring and management of a coal tip of Merthyr Vale colliery above the village of Aberfan, most specifically the previously known underground springs and fluidisation of slurry resulted in a tip slide onto the village and Pantglas primary school on 21st October 1966.

The slide resulted in the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the chairman of the National Coal Board, the Baron of Woldingham and former Labour MP, Alfred Robens, stated.

“I wouldn’t have thought myself that anybody would know that there was a spring deep in the heart of a mountain, any more than I can tell you there is one under our feet where we are now. If you are asking me did any of my people on the spot know that there was this spring water, then the answer is, No – they couldn’t possibly . . . It was impossible to know that there was a spring in the heart of this tip which was turning the centre of the mountain into sludge”.

This was despite engineers within the NCB raising the issue, and community groups raising their concerns with Merthyr Council. The result of an enquiry of the disaster was the passing of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. This placed a statutory responsibility for monitoring and remedial action on an “appropriate government minister” to ensure the safety of any remaining tips.

This role was to be carried out by the NCB and then its legacy body the Coal Authority, a public body of the Westminster House currently sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, in London. Most importantly this has responsibility for monitoring and remedial action on water discharges and stability of former coalmines and tips. It is headquartered in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

The Westminster Government has now instructed the Law Commission of England and Wales to open a consultation on a proposal to devolve this responsibility, which has the full backing of the Welsh Government. The consultation can be seen here.

Ownership of actual coal reserves, legacy land assets and licensing is to remain at UK government level. Only the statutory responsibility for safety and the cost of maintaining legacy tips and watercourses is to be devolved.

The consultations asks the following questions.

1. We provisionally propose that the existing regulatory regime for tips associated with operational mines should not be altered. Do you agree?

This would just make Wales responsible for the legacy costs and no control of any future mineral ownership or exploitation.

2. We seek views on whether a satisfactory definition of a disused coal tip could refer to waste from coal mining and whether it should include express reference to overburden dumps, backfill, spoil heaps, stock piles and lagoons.

There are many valuable assets such as ponds (see Glyncorrwg) and land regenerated as nature reserves which are backfill, spoil heaps, stock piles and lagoons. The consultation asks us whether these should be allowed to be under Welsh control.

4: To the extent that liability under the new regulatory framework rests with the owner of land containing a tip, we provisionally propose that the owner should be defined as the freeholder or a leaseholder under a lease of 21 or more years, except where their interest is in reversion upon a term of 21 or more years. Do you agree?

There is an attempt to make any new landowner or leaseholder, grazing rights, farmers, community groups or councils now responsible for the tip underneath.

5: We provisionally propose that a supervisory authority with responsibility for the safety of all disused coal tips should be established. Do you agree? If not, please set out the alternative that you would favour.

Currently, the Coal Authority carries out that role. Monitoring and sampling. There is a proposal of a new ‘supervisory authority’, this may move such responsibilities either to a new Welsh quango, or hand responsibility to local authorities.

9: We provisionally propose that a central tip register should be compiled and maintained. Do you agree?

A tip register doesn’t currently exist, as there are many very old ad-hoc legacy mines of antiquity that only become known when problems become evident. This was recently seen at Skewen. Currently the Coal Authority inherits responsibility. The new legislation seeks to end this, by ‘it’s not on the register so it’s not our problem, butt’.

31: Do you think that the Welsh Ministers should be able to give directions to the supervisory authority and other relevant parties regarding actions to be taken in response to a coal tip emergency?

This relates to ‘upstreaming’ and ‘downstreaming’ of pollution from mines and tips. It seeks to give authority of the Welsh Minister for the Environment to force surrounding landowners to take their own remedial action when a problem becomes evident, such as covering the cost of extra or replacement or augmentation of drainage. This would most likely involve extra liability insurance of households and businesses in the coalfield.

34: Do you consider that new tip safety legislation should be combined with provision for the consideration of tip reclamation? If so, do you favour any particular model?

This would give the power to Welsh Ministers to ‘nationalise’ land holdings that include legacy mine workings in the name of reclamation. Many former, now landscaped, landholdings are used for low-grade agriculture and forestry. It will give statutory powers to Welsh Ministers to ‘grab’ these assets in the name of reclamation, as there is no definition of that constitutes an already reclaimed site.

On the left Gary Haggaty, civil servant, paramour of and adviser to Lesley Griffiths, the ‘Welsh Government’ Minister for the Environment. (Sitting alongside him.) Both believe that Welsh people own far too much Welsh land, and are determined to remedy this unacceptable situation.

The reality is that the Westminster Government wants to wash their hands of the responsibility for historical expropriation of the Welsh coalfields, and are seeking to hand over these responsibilities to the Welsh Government. They have wrapped the proposal in a sugar coating of ‘environmental opportunities’.  It is designed so Welsh Ministers, can pass the costs to the citizens of former mining communities and carry the cost.

A kind of repeat Aberfan Disaster Fund, the original being used to pay the NCB to remove other coal tips, this 21st century equivalent making Welsh communities pay the ongoing costs and it being given a light coloured greenwash.

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Notification

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

There is no posting this week, but I intend bringing out the first of three pre-election posts next Monday, April 19.

Although I shall concentrate on the national picture, this can still be leavened by interesting and amusing local stories. So if you have one, send it to, editor@jacothenorth.net.

♦ end ♦

 



Why I would vote to abolish the Senedd

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

For this, another of my infrequent, pre-retirement postings, I’ll explain why I would vote to abolish the Senedd in a referendum offering the straight choice of to keep or to abolish.

BACKGROUND

In a recent post, ‘Welsh independence: Why? for whom?’, I explained why, when a teenager, I became convinced that independence was the only answer for Wales. I wrote:

I wanted independence to improve the lives of the people I cared about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I wanted independence to protect my country from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what made us Welsh.

Devolution is obviously not independence but still, judged against those criteria devolution has been an abysmal failure. For the only beneficiaries have been cliques, claques, and the assorted parasites of a vast and burdensome stratum smothering the nation.

LET ME GIVE SOME EXAMPLES

While the greater part of Wales, and the nation, has seen no benefits, this constitutional tinkering must have brought some benefits, to someone, somewhere, otherwise it would be universally damned and consequently unsustainable.

So let’s try and identify some beneficiaries. I’ll use examples of us losing out and others benefitting at our expense. (You’ll soon get the hang of it.)

THIRD SECTOR

The ‘stratum’ I referred to earlier is the third sector. Bigger than ever in Wales, and bigger in Wales than in any other country.

Wales is a rich country made poor by English rule, and the Labour Party has capitalised on our deprivation both for electoral gain – by blaming ‘London’ / Tories – and also by using that deprivation to create a whole new ‘poverty sector’ for its cronies.

Wales is now smothering under the weight of duplicating and competing third sector gangs, most of which seem to be staffed by strident memsahibs from over the border. Cohort after cohort of Common Purpose’ finest, goose-stepping from conference to workshop to those regular meetings in which they dictate policy and funding priorities to politicians.

This third sector is fundamentally and irredeemably parasitical. Preying on Wales’ deprivation in order to suck money from the public purse. A vast network of self-polishing turds who would not be missed if they ceased doing tomorrow whatever they claim to be doing today.

Both Labour and the third sector exploit and capitalise on Wales’ poverty and deprivation. If the money wasted on the third sector was spent in combatting that poverty and deprivation then Wales would be a much better place.

ENVIROSHYSTERS

Perhaps to make us feel guilty for wanting decent jobs, decent homes, an acceptable road and rail system, etc., our gaze is directed away from such crass materialism to the altruistic, the selfless, in the form of saving the planet.

This crusade – for it is nothing less! – is done without providing jobs or any other material benefits to us Welsh. This national insult takes many forms.

Here’s a recent re-working of the theme.

Click to enlarge

Is this supposed to be a consolation prize for the Circuit of Wales? Or for more false hopes raised over the TVR car plant? (Which is not coming, by the way.)

Blaenau Gwent is the poorest part of the country. What it needs is decent jobs, housing, NHS dentists, etc., not bullshit publicity stunts from Corruption Bay.

We are told that “50 residents will be selected to create the first Climate Assembly in Wales”. I hope Gwent Police have the riot gear ready for the trouble that will surely erupt in Ebbw Vale and Tredegar as people fight over those 50 places.

Here’s the latest in the ‘Save the planet’ offensive: “I think if political parties are not putting addressing the climate and nature emergencies right at the top of their manifesto agenda then they will be letting down both the current and future generations in Wales,” says Sophie Howe, Labour apparatchik being paid £100,000 a year in a non-job created specially for her.

The message from our leaders is: ‘Wales may be the poorest country in Europe and getting poorer, but fuck that, cos we – on £100,000 a year – are saving the planet’.

I want to see a healthier nation living in a greener land making its contribution to a cleaner planet. But Wales has more immediate priorities. And it’s positively insulting for overpaid Labour Party nobodies to lecture those worrying about feeding their kids and paying their rent.

UPDATE: As if on cue, Nation.Cymru published a piece by Neil Anderson, ‘How can we make the land of our fathers the land of our futures?’ In it we read: “Incoming farmers are likely to be more adventurous and innovative . . . “.

Yet more arrogant – almost racist – envirocolonialism. It seems Kiwi Anderson has been won over to Welsh independence. A reminder that the reason Greens and others are jumping on the indy bandwagon is because they want our land.

GRANNY FARMERS

Wales has the oldest population in Europe and it’s getting older. An unwanted accolade achieved by a number of factors combining. The lack of a decent economy being one. The other is the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ going out of its way to attract elderly people to Wales.

This is done because, due to the lack of a balanced economy in rural areas and the regular exodus of young people that results, population levels need to be maintained; for nothing says ‘area going to hell’ more clearly than a falling population. How better to maintain population levels than by attracting retirees? (Actually, I can think of many better alternatives, but bear with me.)

No only does the ‘Welsh Government’ see no problem with our ageing population, it even tries to present it as something to be celebrated, as I discovered a few years ago in a reply to a Freedom of Information request.

Click to enlarge

An influx encouraged by the ‘Welsh Government’ legislating so that people entering care homes can keep £50,000 before they start paying for their care. The figure for England is £22,500.

Yet the ‘Welsh Government’ would like to go further, doing away with care home charges altogether by introducing a tax so that we actually pay for wealthy English biddies who’ve been dumped in Welsh care homes by relatives safeguarding their inheritances.

How difficult would it be to introduce a rule insisting that a person must have lived in Wales for 20 years prior to entering a care home before they can benefit from the £50,000 allowance?

Do that and Welsh people won’t lose out and we curb the plague of granny dumping.

HOLIDAY HOMES

I recall, back in the 1980s, during the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign, politicians getting up on their hind legs to proclaim that they would not be influenced by ‘terrorists’. God! they sounded so brave and principled. It brought a tear to my eye.

Thirty years on from the end of that campaign, and after 22 years of devolution, nothing has been done beyond the ‘Welsh Government’ allowing councils to impose a 100% surcharge on holiday home council tax. But it has refused to close the loophole that sees holiday homes classed as businesses to escape council tax entirely.

Oh, I almost forgot, there is also a tiny and insignificant increase in Land Transaction Tax of one per cent per valuation band, introduced 22 December. Which is no deterrent at all to those who can buy a second, third, or fourth home.

In fact, the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ refuses to do anything that might save Welsh communities and allow Welsh people to buy a home in areas cursed with tourism. When pressed on the matter just yesterday by the impressive Delyth Jewell the woeful Julie James could only respond with a promise to . . . kick the issue into the long grass.

From BBC Wales’ ‘Senedd Live’ 03.02.2021 (Alun Jones). Click to enlarge

With the holiday homes problem at crisis levels due to Coronavirus, with Welsh communities being destroyed before our eyes, the fact that those useless bastards down Corruption Bay refuse to act should tell you all you need to know about devolution.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES

In the past few days we’ve seen the outcry as the ‘Welsh Government’ decided it couldn’t fund the National Library of Wales.

Wales has a ‘government’ that can find money for every lunatic outfit under the sun but cannot find money for the memory of the nation!

Eventually, those clowns did find something down the back of the settee but only after an online petition and a public outcry.

But you have to wonder who made the initial decision not to fund.

THE WAR ON FARMERS

Part of the problem lies in the fact that devolution is controlled by civil servants who may be based in Wales but take their orders from London. Civil servants such as Gary Haggaty, beau to Lesley Griffiths, the Labour MS for Wrecsam, and Minister for the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.

L to R: Gary Haggaty, civil servant; Lesley Griffiths MS, Labour, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs; Caroline Hitt, writer for the ‘Western Mail’; Elin Jones MS, Plaid Cymru, Senedd Llywydd (Speaker). The cosiness of Corruption Bay made corporeal in a Dublin bar. Click to enlarge

Last week, Gary and Lesley – despite promising to consult with farmers before doing anything – introduced legislation to deal with the localised problem of spillage (NVZ) into watercourses. Instead of tackling the guilty parties the lovebirds have imposed financial burdens on all farmers to ensure that they cannot in future do what they weren’t doing anyway.

I quote, again from yesterday’s ‘Senedd Live’:

“Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd says the minister is on the record as saying that these Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations would not be introduced while the pandemic was in existence – no less than ten times.”

It was eleven times, and here’s the video evidence.

And many of these spillages have nothing to do with farmers. I am reliably informed that the testing done by Natural Resources Wales (yes, them!) cannot differentiate between farm slurry and raw sewerage from other sources.

And let’s remember that the biggest spillage ever occurred last year when a train transporting oil from Milford Haven derailed near Llanelli. No doubt, in a few years time, when people start forgetting about it, it will be blamed on farmers and used to introduce legislation even more burdensome.

This is just the latest assault in a war on Welsh farmers by the ‘Welsh Government’. Done because ‘Welsh’ Labour hates farmers, and also because there are others queuing up to take over Welsh land. Friends of Jane Davidson, ‘rewilders’, Tory MPs.

Significantly, in England, the NVZ legislation targets problem areas and culprits rather than penalising all farmers.

So, we see that under devolution Welsh farming is another area of our national life being targeted and damaged. And it could not have happened without devolution. Because if London had singled out Welsh farmers for such treatment there would have been rioting, and possibly worse.

I could give plenty more examples where devolution has failed us. Here are just a few snapshots:

  • There’s colonisation, resulting in the Welsh element in the population decreasing year on year. As a prominent citizen of a border town told me a few weeks back: “Some of the attitudes retired people come here have towards the locals are shocking, their sense of superiority is unbelievable.”
  • Then there’s a crass and exploitative form of tourism that is destroying Welsh communities, especially Welsh-speaking communities.
  • No other country on Earth has allowed One Planet Developments. Yet here in Wales hippies and enviroshysters are encouraged to take over land, flout planning and other regulations, bring up children in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, and then this colonisation is justified as part of OUR contribution to saving the planet.
  • Under devolution we have seen Cardiff grow and prosper, largely at the expense of the rest of Wales.
  • Wales produces twice as much electricity as we need and the rest goes to England free of charge, the same applies to our water resources, stolen by Severn Trent. 
  • The ‘Welsh Government’ pays some of our brightest young people to go to English universities and then makes no attempt to bring them home after graduation. While filling our universities with mediocrities from over the border who stay on to fill third sector and public sector jobs. 
  • Publicly-funded housing associations build ‘affordable’ homes that most locals can’t afford while neglecting the social rented sector for which there’s a local demand.
  • Let’s not forget the shysters – so many of whom have appeared on this blog – who get showered with funding after turning up with their ‘exciting’, ‘job-creating’ projects meticulously outlined on the back of a fag packet.
  • Then there’s the cess-pit that is Cardiff Bay, where those we elect to represent us rub shoulders daily with unregistered lobbyists and others trying to influence them – and almost always against the best interests of the nation.

FINALLY, A VERY TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EXAMPLE

This pretence of devolved power is a very thin veil behind which England’s interests are served. A great example was supplied to me last week by someone involved in matters technological which went a bit over my head, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist of it.

This source wrote:

” . . . dotCYM had no hope when Plaid Cymru was useless, Labour and the civil servants were working against it, and then Nominet came in with their money and used it to destroy them. The money from .cymru and .wales domains are now going to Oxford instead of Wales.”

The source continued:

“The Welsh government is clever in creating schemes to develop Welsh language technology and software. They come out with a new scheme with millions to develop Welsh software but there’s a maximum of about 30k per project, which isn’t enough to get anywhere or develop anything of use. Also, the money they give for research into Welsh language technology comes with the proviso that the research is then open sourced. What happens then is that large companies from outside Wales can take it, add it to their software as token Welsh support that doesn’t work well, and then sell it back to the Welsh”.

My source then explained to me what’s happening in New Zealand, where those working on a similar project for the Maori language successfully fought against their work becoming open source. The Maoris defended their stance thus:

“By simply open sourcing our data and knowledge, we further allow ourselves to be colonised digitally in the modern world.”

THE TRUTH DAWNS

More and more people grasp that devolution is an unworkable nonsense, even if they don’t understand why. This explains the growing polarisation between those wanting to do away with the Senedd and those wanting independence.

When all devolution’s defenders can muster is, ‘But it’s recognition’, or ‘free bus passes’, then you know that even they have given up.

Successive ‘Welsh’ Assembly Governments and ‘Welsh Governments’ have not only failed to remedy the problems inherited in 1999 they have introduced new measures to work against the national interest.

This is not what I voted for in the September 1997 referendum. It’s no exaggeration to say that what we’ve experienced over the past 22 years is a form of anti-Welsh devolution.

Consequently, in a referendum offering the simple choice between keeping the Senedd or abolishing it I would vote to abolish, because abolition would be the best option for the greatest number of Welsh people.

But I still want independence.

♦ end ♦

 




Funeral of John Barnard Jenkins 11.01.2021

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL PROBABLY NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

On Monday I attended the funeral of the great patriot John Barnard Jenkins at Pentrebychan Crematorium, Rhostyllen, Wrecsam.

For obvious reasons, there weren’t many people there, just the family and a few loyal admirers. Including me. In fact, I think I was the only one there from the 1960s generation. God! I’m getting old.

I managed to take a couple of short videos on my mobile phone. I put these out on Twitter and it seems only right that they should also appear on the blog. So here they are.

The first shows the Cambria Band leading the hearse. John of course was a great influence on the band, helping Adam Phillips get it started.

Here’s the second video, which shows the coffin being taken from the hearse into the crematorium.

Although the family had asked for no wreaths I couldn’t help noticing as I left the crematorium a small wreath propped against a wall.

Click to enlarge

The card, carrying the standard of Owain ap Gruffydd Fychan, ‘Glyndŵr’, reads:

“To John Barnard Jenkins (MAC),

With our utmost respect,

Unyielding admiration,

And absolute loyalty.”

   The September 16 Group

♦ end ♦

 




Nadolig 2020

 

The next post will appear early in 2021. I shall sneak it up on you while you’re still suffering with your festive hangovers!

It will be a piece in which I look forward to the Senedd elections in May; but I attempt to link them with the housing and colonisation crisis in our countryside, a problem that increasingly affects our more attractive post-industrial areas.

Because I don’t see much point in independence for a Wales from which the native population has, effectively, been ethnically cleansed, while the more strident elements of this independence movement – alert to injustice everywhere! – remains silent.

♦ end ♦

 




A STATEMENT

There will be no posting this week, but I may get something out before Christmas. This links with my decision to start winding the blog down in the new year, for two main reasons.

To begin with, I’m not getting any younger. And yet, despite that, I find myself taking on fresh responsibilities. Things I want to do before the Grim Reaper comes a-calling. So it has become a question of priorities.

But also, having spent some ten years writing this blog and its predecessor I feel there’s a limit to how much can be said of a spectrum that runs from lying politicians and their grant-grabber cronies through to more honest crooks.

My plan is to keep the blog going, with a reduced output, until the Senedd elections in May. When I hope to see signs of our people rejecting the Corruption Bay consensus that’s destroying Wales.

For while I still entertain hope of events external to Wales having influence it would be encouraging to see from within a desire for the radical change this country needs. Something of substance and lasting impact. 

But if Welsh people continue voting for Labour and Plaid Cymru, parties with absurd priorities divorced from Wales’ true needs, then Wales will soon be finished as anything other than a tourist destination.

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Elections, May 2021

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

The next elections for the Welsh Parliament are just over six months away; so this week I’m taking a break from crooks, money-launderers, con men, enviroshysters, third sector leeches to focus on politicians.

Reading that, the cynics among you will say, “So no great change there, then, Jac!”.

How dare you be so disrespectful of our tribunes! Go stand in the corner!

THE 2016 RESULT

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the overall result from the previous election in 2016.

‘Abolish the Welsh’ refers to the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, a harmless bunch of anti-Welsh cranks not a gang of loonies bent on genocide. Well not yet, anyway. Click to enlarge

The first thing you might notice is that despite these elections being organised under a system of proportional representation the result, certainly for Labour, the biggest party, gives an outcome not a lot different to first past the post.

You’ll also see that the main challengers get seats roughly in line with their share of the vote, with the smaller parties generally losing out. It’s a system designed to protect the Labour-dominated status quo in Wales, while also stifling ‘insurgent’ parties.

This system has worked to perfection in Wales because the Conservatives are unlikely to ever gain a majority of seats. And when Labour fails to get a majority then Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats will always be there to help.

After the 2016 election Labour went into coalition with the sole Liberal Democrat AM. Which meant that parties with a total of 38% of the vote were able to form an administration.

Is this really how PR is supposed to work?

THE LABOUR PARTY

At the risk of sounding uncharitable, the great thing the Labour Party has had going for it is . . . not being the Conservative Party. The advertising campaigns, the policy drafting, the tub-thumping and the sloganising could all have been ignored in favour of the simple message – ‘Vote for us, cos we’re not the Tories’.

And it’s worked, for almost a century.

In England, the decline of traditional industries, and their associated trade unions, have weakened the Labour Party. Labour in Scotland suffered the same problem, exacerbated by the rise of the Scottish National Party to the point where Labour is hanging on for dear life, with just one Westminster MP left.

In Wales, Labour has fared better because we’ve been spared the corrupting influence of prosperity, and also because there is no equivalent of the SNP. Of course, Plaid Cymru likes to view itself as the Welsh SNP but the SNP set out to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland whereas Plaid Cymru seeks to keep its Welsh branch alive and in power.

How Labour will do next May depends to a considerable extent on perceptions of the Conservative government in London. For while Scotland has a vigorous national media allowing elections to be influenced by Scottish issues, the absence of a Welsh media worthy of the name means that here we tend see Englandandwales elections.

The exception being perhaps areas with high numbers of Welsh speakers who are less reliant on news from London.

On issues of the day, there is a general and widespread belief that the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ has handled the Covid-19 pandemic better than Johnson, Hancock, Jenrick and the rest of the gang up in London.

But then, being seen as less incompetent than that crew is no great achievement.

When we address purely Welsh issues, it’s difficult to think of anything Labour has to crow about. For Wales continues to fall behind other countries in areas like wealth, health, housing and education.

Cardiff seems to be prospering but away from the Lesser Wen the country can be divided into post-industrial areas experiencing managed decline and rural areas undergoing engineered population change from Welsh to English.

Labour leader, Mark Drakeford, is less oleaginous than his predecessor, Carwyn Jones, but still a difficult man to like. Despite the Brownie points gained for Covid-19 there remain plenty of bear traps for him to negotiate between here and next May.

By any criteria one cares to apply, Labour has been a failure since 2016. Labour has failed Wales since the dawn of devolution in 1999. But for the reasons I’ve given, Labour will still emerge as the largest single party, with around 30% of the vote.

But well short of a majority of seats.

If nothing else, such a result should increase calls for more Senedd Members and a system of true proportional representation.

THE CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY (CUP)

The last few years have been a series of peaks and troughs for the CUP, with Brexit almost tearing the party apart under Theresa May. Things took a turn for the better when Boris Johnson became party leader and won a famous victory in December . . . since when it’s been downhill again.

In last December’s election the Tories won a number of seats in the north, most notably, Wrexham, held by Labour since 1931. But the overall vote in Wales only increased by 2.5%. The real story was that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party saw its Welsh vote go down by 8%.

Things have not gone well for the CUP since that December election for all sorts of reasons. Such as a number of the new intake being pretty odious specimens.

The new MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosby, has appeared on this blog a number of times, usually defending her colleague and MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Jake Berry. Berry owns properties around Rhoscolyn and earlier this year people were asking if he was breaking lockdown restrictions to travel between his Welsh properties, his London home, and his constituency.

Then Delyn MP Rob Roberts got into trouble for asking young staffers to “fool around with him”. While Wrexham new girl, Sarah Atherton, wondered why the military weren’t dealing with the refugee/migrant boats crossing from France.

While old favourites like Alun Cairns, the MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, continue to amaze with their talent for finding little sidelines to supplement their meagre incomes.

The situation does not look like improving for the Tories, for two main reasons.

Let’s look first at Covid-19. As I said in the previous section, the Conservative government in London has had a disastrous pandemic: incompetence, lies, contracts to cronies, it’s all there, and this will be remembered next May.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Tories seem determined to alienate even more people by insisting that the ‘Welsh Government’ is being anti-English when – for perhaps the first time ever – it prioritises the interests of Wales.

That’s certainly what was said by Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, and Alun Cairns. Which makes them either complete bell-ends or calculating politicians.

I believe it’s the latter, because in spouting this nonsense, the Tories are playing to a particular gallery. I’m thinking now of the anti-Welsh, gammony element that might otherwise be seduced by the growing number of splinter group parties on the BritNat fringe. (I’ll come to them later.)

The other problem of their own making is, again, Brexit. Of course Wales voted for Brexit, but I’m sure very few of us voted for privatising the NHS, chlorinated chicken, and undermining the Welsh farming industry. I certainly didn’t.

But it’s now become clear that a No Deal Brexit was always the favoured option for the CUP leadership in London. Which will mean the City of London remains at the centre of the biggest money-laundering network in the world; the NHS is opened up to US Big Pharma; and we have to get used to food products from the USA, where standards in both hygiene and animal welfare are more ‘relaxed’.

All the Welsh CUP MPs voted for this deal. Which is not clever for people representing constituencies with large numbers of farmers . . . and their extended families . . . and contractors to the industry, and so many others who rely to a greater or lesser degree on agriculture for their livelihoods.

There will be a price to pay next May for the coronavirus cock-ups and the shafting of our farmers. And while the Tories in Corruption Bay weren’t responsible, it’ll be some of them who’ll pay the price.

Other factors working against the Conservatives will be the Englandandwales media/election paradigm and the Vera Lynn Fan Clubs competing for regional votes.

For all these reasons I expect the CUP representation in the Welsh Parliament to fall.

PLAID CYMRU THE PARTY OF WALES

Although Plaid Cymru won 12 seats in 2016 the party is now down to 10. Lord Elis Thomas, the constituency member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, left to become a Labour-supporting Independent; and Neil McEvoy, the regional AM for South Wales Central, left to sit as an Independent before forming the Welsh National Party (WNP).

A further change since 2016 is that Plaid Cymru also has a new leader in Adam Price. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about him is that he’s not former leader, Leanne Wood.

For most Welsh voters Plaid Cymru is the party of Welsh independence, but as I’ve argued, Plaid Cymru is a party that sought more autonomy for Wales, more funding for Wales, and the creation of a new class of politicians and administrators made up of . . . well, the kind of people who populate the upper echelons of Plaid Cymru.

This was to be a system that created a new class that Djilas would have recognised enjoying prestige and influence without the responsibility of having to fund it. Devolution, with a bit more power, many more sinecures, and lots more money, is the end of the line.

Plaid Cymru was always Cymru Fydd resurrected, not a Welsh Sinn Féin. Until, that is, it moved to the left in the 1980s and really screwed itself up. Enjoying only a brief period of coherence under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley and the first Assembly elections in 1999.

Today we again see a schizophrenic party where Welsh-speaking social conservatives from the rural heartlands mix uncomfortably with some real oddballs and a few with views that should have denied them membership.

Plaid Cymru is today one of those confused leftist parties that is vehemently opposed to intolerance . . . except when it’s those it approves of being intolerant.

As a leftist party Plaid Cymru believes that, thanks to the capitalist system, we’re either going to fry due to global warming, or else we’re going to drown from rising sea levels, so Wales must play its part in trying to avert these outcomes.

In practice, that means supporting wind turbines that create no jobs and simply exploit Wales. Where profits flow to a City hedge fund, or a multinational, or a state-owned energy company from Scandinavia.

Except on issues that are largely irrelevant to Wales – where Plaid Cymru can play gesture politics – the party comes across as weak and indecisive. Take holiday homes. Plaid talks the talk but it won’t walk the walk.

At present Welsh local authorities can impose a council tax surcharge on holiday homes up to 100%. The only council that levies the 100% is Labour-controlled Swansea. (And despite what you might think, there are many holiday homes on the waterfront, in Mumbles, and of course around Gower.)

Independent-run Powys recently voted to impose a surcharge of 75%.

But Gwynedd, where Plaid Cymru is in control, imposes only a 50% surcharge. It’s a similar picture in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

On independence, Plaid Cymru has been outflanked and overtaken by Yes Cymru. While on the party political front there are two new challengers in the form of Gwlad and the Welsh National Party (WNP). Both are unequivocal about prioritising Welsh interests, and are fully committed to achieving independence.

So you really have to wonder what Plaid Cymru stands for nowadays, and where it’s going. That’s certainly what Welsh voters will be doing in May. Many will conclude that Plaid Cymru has hit the buffers.

Which certainly seems to be the case.

For while opinion polls tell us that more and more people are prepared to consider independence, those same polls show little or no increase in support for Plaid Cymru. Recent polls show 51% of Labour voters prepared to consider independence, but only 71% of Plaid Cymru voters!

What’s going wrong for Plaid Cymru?

In a nutshell, Plaid Cymru believes that the only acceptable vision of independence must be well to the left of centre, pro EU, in favour of open borders, anti Trump, and dragging a whole baggage train of ishoo-of-the-month idiocies that turn off most voters.

Dogmatic to the point of being unelectable.

Plaid Cymru always failed to engage with the urban, anglophone population. After the disappointment of Brexit, the success of the Brexit Party (winning the May 2019 EU elections in Wales and the UK), and BoJo’s victory last December, many in Plaid Cymru – like the US Democrats – have given up trying to win over stupid, racist, poor whites.

They find it preferable to retreat into their cocoons of progressive self-righteousness in the echo chamber of social media.

Which is why I believe Plaid Cymru will lose Ceredigion and also end up with fewer Members from the regional lists.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

There’s a temptation to be very unkind in this section . . . but it’s not in my nature to put the boot in when somebody’s down. And boy! are the Liberal Democrats down.

Down to a single Member, Kirsty Williams, the constituency MS for Brecon and Radnorshire. After the debacle of 2016 Ms Williams threw in her lot with Labour and became Minister for Education. You probably haven’t noticed.

It’s an amazing decline for the party of David Lloyd George, but entirely predictable when we consider the quality of leaders and representatives in recent years at both Welsh and UK level. I’m not sure if Ms Williams holds group meetings with herself but I’m sure she will have thought the same thing many a time.

And yet, despite currently being down to a solitary representative, the Liberal Democrats could be the big winners in May next year.

As I’ve suggested, the CUP has pissed off a lot of people, and most certainly a lot of farmers. Few will know that better than Kirsty Williams, a farmer’s wife.

Obviously, I’m not privy to what goes on at Welsh Liberal Democrat Party meetings (I can never find the telephone kiosk!) but I’m sure Kirsty Williams has hopes for the seats of Montgomeryshire to the north and Ceredigion to the west. (If the students in Aber’ and Lampeter have forgiven the Lib Dems for reneging on tuition fees.)

So I’m predicting that the Liberal Democrats could double, or even treble, their representation in May 2021. These are the three constituencies mentioned, and there might even be a regional list seat.

VERA LYNN FAN CLUBS

This is where it gets tricky, because the landscape on the BritNat right is forever shifting. Hardly surprising when we look at the personalities involved, and realise how many of them are often described as ‘interesting’, or ‘eccentric’ (code for ‘absolute nutter’).

Back in 2016, the big winner among this section of the electorate was UKIP, with 13% of the vote and seven seats. The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party did not stand constituency candidates and got just 4.4% of the regional vote (which was still more than the share won by the Green Party of Englandandwales).

Since 2016 UKIP has had eight or nine UK leaders, numerous resignations, and in Corruption Bay is now reduced to the solitary – but dapper – form of Neil Hamilton. In fact, I’m not sure if Neil Hamilton isn’t the current party leader. Or was that last month?

Not so long ago the Abolish lot was the fringe of a fringe, but now it boasts two Members of the Senedd, Gareth Bennett and Mark Reckless. Though you’ve gotta be pretty desperate to boast about those two.

Others who were returned under the banner of British exceptionalism were Nathan Gill, Michelle Brown, David Rowlands and Caroline Jones. Following his resignation in 2018 Gill was replaced by Mandy Jones. Michelle Brown now sits as an Independent.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those UKIP meetings because by comparison ferrets in a sack are models of harmony and co-existence.

The most recent development is that Rowlands and the Jones women have formed a new group, the Independent Alliance for Reform. And if that name doesn’t stir something deep inside you – other than wind – then you are beyond hope.

It is obviously designed to be interchangeable with or to complement Aux barricades!

And all the while, in the wings, observing, is Nigel Farage. Will his Reform Party put in a late appearance, or will it be the promised relaunch of the Brexit Party? Though with Brexit almost done what would be the platform?

For let us remember that the Assembly elections of May 2016 were held just ahead of the EU referendum and were almost overshadowed by it. This propinquity benefited Ukip.

One thing’s for sure, if all the parties we’ve looked at in this section fight all the seats then we’ll be royally entertained by the stars they’ll recruit from Wetherspoons and other squelchy underfoot salons. A goodly number of whom will have to withdraw before the election after saying or doing something really stupid.

The BritNat right has no hope of a constituency seat, so hopes rest on the regional lists. Which means that a lot will depend on whether they fight each other or come to some arrangement.

I suspect there are still enough “Brexit means Brexit” types out there to win 3 seats.

THE SERIOUS ABOUT WALES PARTIES

Looking around Wales and seeing the mess this country is in is painful enough, but when you realise that none of the existing parties offers any hope of meaningful change, then new parties will be formed.

And that’s exactly what’s happened; and why we have Gwlad and the WNP.

I am a member of Gwlad and played a small part in its creation, but it was easy for me to withdraw to the blogosphere because the party is in such capable hands.

I like to think that Gwlad combines patriotism with pragmatism. For example, in believing that relying on handouts from London, as Labour and Plaid Cymru prefer, only perpetuates the misconception that Wales could never stand on her own two feet economically.

There are radical yet practical proposals across the board. We’ve already touched on Plaid Cymru’s fear of upsetting second home owners – a number in their own ranks – with meaningful levels of council tax; well, Gwlad does not hesitate to demand a 500% council tax surcharge.

It’s all here in the Manifesto for 2021.

Predictably, the criticism levelled against Gwlad by Plaid Cymru is that we shall “split the nationalist vote”. This is nonsense, because Plaid Cymru has already split – or certainly, limited – the nationalist vote by its inflexible and off-putting socialism.

This is borne out in recent elections and in even more so in recent opinion polls.

What Gwlad will do is reach out to those who want, or would be prepared to consider, independence, but could never vote for a hard-line socialist party also lumbered with the tag of still being a party only for Welsh speakers.

Gwlad could come through a crowded field to win a constituency seat and should certainly collect 3 or 4 regional list seats.

Of course, I’ve met Neil McEvoy a few times and we exchange the occasional e-mail, Wales is a small country after all. But I really don’t know much about his new party beyond what I read in the media.

Though I do know a few others involved with the WNP.

Over the years I’ve sunk a few pints with Councillor Keith Parry . . . and I’m still haunted by a car journey one very rainy night as I tried to concentrate on the road ahead while my mate and Keith’s Jewish wife argued over the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.

I feared it was all going to end in a fight and a fireball car crash. Phew!

Many observers try to say that Neil McEvoy only took the course he did in forming the WNP because he was effectively thrown out of Plaid Cymru. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Neil has been in politics a long time, and he knows what’s wrong with Wales. On one level it’s London’s political, economic and cultural stranglehold, but on the local level it’s the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru.

Labour holds power on local councils and in the Senedd . . . simply to be in power; to stop someone else getting the salaries and the expenses, attending the bun-fights and the jollies. Labour has little intention – and no real incentive – to improve the lives of our people because for a century it has capitalised on Wales’ deprivation.

Plaid Cymru, as I’ve said, is a party of gestures and abstractions. It is the twenty-first century political equivalent of those medieval divines who would argue over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

But actually doing anything? Forget it!

But if one of his constituents persuades him they’re getting a raw deal, then Neil McEvoy will take up the case and demand something be done about it. And he sometimes ruffles feathers doing it. But if kids are sharing a bedroom with rats, or there’s water rippling down the kitchen wall . . .

Neil McEvoy is a do-er, a man who believes in the direct approach; and that makes the anguished attitudinisers of Plaid Cymru very nervous. And never more so than when he confronts the Labour Party.

On two major issues, the ‘nuclear mud’ being dumped off Cardiff, and the forged signatures on cladding certificates, Plaid Cymru has behaved abominably. None worse than Llywydd Elin Jones. But she couldn’t have behaved as she did without the backing of Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Sticking it to the man may outrage the sensitive flowers of Plaid Cymru but it goes down well with real people, on the streets of Cardiff, and elsewhere in Wales. People want their problems solved, they do not want to be patronised, or taken for granted, by an aloof and self-serving political class.

The big test will come in the constituency seat of Cardiff West, where McEvoy will be standing against First Minister Drakeford. Plaid Cymru will of course be splitting the nationalist vote in the hope of securing victory for Mark Drakeford.

Neil McEvoy’s street cred and his sheer hard work might win Cardiff West next May, plus a couple of regional list seats.

My very personal belief is that Gwlad and the WNP should not get in each other’s way next May. Neither has the strength yet to fight a full national election so it’s in their interests, and more importantly, it’s in Wales’s interests, for there to be some kind of deal.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I obviously can’t account for all those who might be standing next May, there’s bound to be a wild card or two. But what you’ve just read is how I see it panning out.

Other factors will I’m sure influence voters. Perhaps the UK government’s Internal Markets Bill; supposedly about ‘repatriating’ powers from the EU but which, in reality, gives BoJo’s gang the power to trample all over devolution.

Perhaps it will even be used to challenge the 1707 Act of Union.

More specific to Wales is a growing awareness of and dislike for the chumminess of Cardiff Bay. The air of cronyism and unaccountability exemplified by Labour and Plaid Cymru refusing to bring in a register of lobbyists.

The problem in this area is obvious, but there are always excuses for doing nothing. This is because Labour and Plaid Cymru are too close to those who might be held to account by such legislation.

Another issue that might influence some voters to take a punt on a new party is the widespread perception that Cardiff gets everything. Which doesn’t change when an MS goes to Cardiff promising to speak up for his area . . . only to be sucked into the swamp that is Corruption Bay.

But perhaps we should remember Harold Macmillan’s response when asked what was most likely to influence or derail political plans. Supermac is said to have replied: “Events, dear boy, events.”

In other words, that which cannot be foreseen. Six months is a very long time in politics.

♦ end ♦

 




Another Technical News Bulletin

Jac is still not out of the woods. He now has a further technical problem.

Whilst the  first problem was resolved and and he reappeared, it was short lived and now he’s suffered another! Not a major problem, and unrelated to the first. Hopefully he’ll be back shortly (and permanently) it is hoped.

In the meantime, the blog is functioning fine, and your comments are being processed as usual.

Thank you for your patience.

G.

Miscellany 21.09.2020

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

Here’s the round-up that’s been postponed for the past few weeks. It covers quite a bit of ground and a variety of subjects.

CHOO-CHOO TRAINS

SNOWDON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY

I wrote about the Snowdon Mountain Railway (SMR) a while back. Over three years ago, in fact, with ‘Respecting Snowdon’. Even though I say so myself, it’s a good read.

(And by the way, did you know that Snowdon is the highest mountain in Belgium and Wales?)

Tourists swarming over a national icon having been brought up by the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Click to enlarge

Among the many interesting facts I unearthed was that the company, Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd (formed 1894), files accounts for a dormant company.

At the very end of the latest Report & Accounts we read that “The company (Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Great Britain PLC.”

Heritage Great Britain PLC we are told, in its latest Annual Report, “is the holding company for Heritage Attractions Ltd and Heritage Brand Ventures Ltd”.

Click to enlarge

Here’s the Companies House link to Heritage Attractions Ltd, and here’s the link to Heritage Brand Ventures Ltd.

At the very end of the latest Heritage Great Britain Annual Report & Accounts we read that everything is owned by a Jersey company:

Click to enlarge

So the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd is owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC which in turn is owned by Cherberry Ltd of Jersey.

And as I found out when writing the earlier piece, Cherberry Ltd of Jersey is in turn owned by Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, set up August 2015. And Dukla is probably owned by a company based in an even more sun-blest location.

So it’s Snowdonia to Liverpool, Liverpool to Jersey, Jersey to Gibraltar, Gibraltar to God knows where.

Which means that the patriotically named Heritage Great Britain PLC is ultimately owned by an entity based offshore. But why would a company running tourist attractions need such a twisted web of ownership?

It might have something to do with the Jersey connection, and former undertaker Kevin Leech, and perhaps his links to North Korea. For it’s generally believed that the ‘colourful’ Leech owns the companies we’ve read about here.

His interests are now looked after by his son, Allan James Stuart Leech, who sits as a director on the boards of these companies.

The reason I’m returning to the Snowdon Mountain Railway is because of its new hybrid locos, built by Clayton Equipment of Staffordshire. Word has it that these new locos are not performing as hoped.

Image: Clayton Equipment. Click to enlarge

As you can read in this piece from the Rail Technology Magazine website, “SMR plan to operate at Llanberis entirely on battery power, operate the generator charging on the uphill journey, turn off the generator on the downhill journey and use the regenerative braking to recharge the battery packs”.

The problem I’m hearing about seems to be two-fold. First, the batteries don’t charge as the loco descends, with the brakes on; and second, the brakes themselves don’t work too well as brakes. And with each battery weighing ten tonne, this is a serious matter.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions these problems have been hidden, but they won’t go away. And with the SMR planning a full switch to electric and hybrid technology they need to be fixed, pronto.

Due to this problematic investment in hybrid locos, and the loss of income from Covid-19, there must be a possibility that the Snowdon Mountain Railway will soon be seeking financial support from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

The ‘Welsh Government’ should not give a penny to a company that is ultimately owned by persons or companies based in tax havens.

BALA LAKE RAILWAY

One toy train that is definitely seeking ‘Welsh Government’ money is the Bala Lake Railway.

Google entry. “Alice the little Welsh engine”! How patronisingly twee. Click to enlarge

The BLR line currently runs from Llanuwchllyn up the eastern – Llangower – side of Llyn Tegid to Pen-y-Bont station, near to where Afon Dyfyrdwy (Dee) leaves on its journey to the border and the sea.

Though there’s nothing really new about this plan, it goes back to the 1980s. Here’s a report from 2014.

Last Friday we learnt that the Bala Lake Railway is asking the ‘Welsh Government’ for £2.5m to extend the line to a new station in the town of Bala. And the ‘Welsh Government’ seems keen on giving the money. (Kenny – ‘Flint Ring’ – Skates is already brushing his teeth for the photo op as you read this.)

One of the things that struck me on the Charity Commission website entry was that the contact address for the Bala Lake Railway Trust is in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

Then, in a couple of places, I read, as the aim: “To advance enjoyment, education and learning and to promote regional public benefit through the restoration, maintenance and exhibition by operation steam locomotives, rolling stock and other railway artefacts directly associated with the slate industry of north Wales and in particular those regions of Dinorwic and Penrhyn.”

But the Bala Lake Railway runs along a stretch of the old line from Barmouth to Ruabon. It has no connection with the slate industry, and certainly not with Dinorwic or Penrhyn. (Did I say ‘Penrhyn’! That BLM woman will be after me!)

Click to enlarge

So who runs this show . . . from Shepton Mallet? The six trustees are: Squadron Leader Toby Kenneth Watkins, Steve Valentine, Julian Peter Charles Birley, Roger Hine, Christina Lillian Kennedy, Steve Davies.

Toby Watkins and Julian Birley B.E.M. are also with The Locomotive Conservation and Learning Trust. And while Watkins is obviously a retired RAF officer, Birley is a property investor and buy-to-rent landlord, who has recently moved to Llanuwchllyn. His only current company seems to be Property Land Ltd.

Christina Lillian Kennedy accounts for the Shepton Mallet address. She has been involved in countless trusts and the like. While also running a few consultancies.

Roger Hine is another who has graciously come to live among us. Though back in July 2011 he threw a strop when Dŵr Cymru fixed the local water system during school holidays, which meant his toy trains needed to run on diesel for a couple of hours.

Hine was quoted: “I didn’t expect to be cut off in peak season. My next door neighbour runs a guest house and said it was typical in Wales because they are not tourism-orientated.” Useless bloody Welsh! Thank God the English come here to run the tourism industry for us. Did I just say, ‘for us’!

Steve Valentine “owns and runs an award-winning confectionery company in Bala which is also the town’s largest single employer”. This is presumably Gwynedd Confectioners, though the company registered with Companies House is Sweet Valentine Limited, with a Porthmadog address.

I would have expected to see ‘trading as’ somewhere in the Sweet Valentine documents filed with Companies House, but I couldn’t find anything.

Which leaves only ‘Steve’ Davies. When he’s not chuff-chuffing on the banks of Llyn Tegid Davies busies himself with The Friends of Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, The Duke of Lancaster’s Lancashire Regiment Museum, and chairing The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.

Stephen Davies is from Lancashire, lives in North Yorkshire, and is another ex-military man. Here’s a bit of a bio. And wouldn’t ya know – he too has a consultancy.

Two military officers, someone awarded the British Empire Medal, and the rest suggest a very English establishment outfit. The only thing the Bala Lake Railway seems to want from us is our country and our money.

The question is, boys and girls: Should £2.5m of Welsh public money be used to fund a hobby train, one encouraging the ‘Playground Wales’ tourism that is turning us into strangers in our own country, or should those involved be told to steam off into the sunset?

Answers on the usual post card, please. (And if you’ve run out just send me a message on a post card and I’ll send you some more.)

BEDDGELERT

Another of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ is the Welsh Highland Railway, which runs the 25 miles from Caernarfon to Porthmadog via Beddgelert. At ‘Port’ it links with the Ffestiniog Railway that goes on to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

These lines are for tourists, few locals can afford to use them. I say that because it costs £80 for two to make the 15-mile trip from Caernarfon to Beddgelert in a ‘seating bay’, which I assume to be two, facing bench seats.

Click to enlarge

Which reminded me of something written by Julian Birley B.E.M. on the BLR Trust website; talking of narrow gauge railways, he said: “Largely based in rural regions, these railways are becoming a lifeline for people in areas of high unemployment and in need of regeneration.”

How true is that?

But I digress.

The reason I’m introducing the Welsh Highland Railway is because one of its directors is David Edward Firth, who happens to live in Beddgelert, so I’m sure he uses the train regularly . . . without having to pay.

Another company of which Firth is a director is Glaslyn Leisure Ltd. I’m sure the name won’t mean anything to you and I only came across it in a story about five holiday homes being sold in Beddgelert. Being sold together as an ‘investment’.

They seem to be in a cul-de-sac off the main A498.

Image: Google. Coed Gelert, Beddgelert. Click to enlarge

I suppose £1.2m for five holiday homes in a place like Beddgelert is about right, but when I checked the company accounts an anomaly was revealed. For according to the accounts, or rather, the unaudited financial statement, the company’s tangible assets / net book value amount to only £275,524.

Almost a million pounds less than is being asked for the Beddgelert properties. How is this explained? In two words – debts and depreciation.

The creditors are almost certainly the four directors of Glaslyn Leisure and the debt is presumably what it cost them to buy the land and build the six properties.

Perhaps the real anomaly is depreciation. For in the real world, and especially with holiday homes in Wales, values increase every year; but in declarations to Companies House owners are allowed to apply depreciation of 2% a year on freehold property and 20% on fixtures and fittings.

Which means, over a period of time, property that is increasing in value can, on paper, be made to lose value. Clever, no?

To help me make sense of things I drew a table. Starting in 2010 we see that the fixed assets / book value stood at £526,612 which, a decade ago, with property markets still suffering from the financial crisis of 2008, might have represented some two thirds of what the properties would have fetched if they’d been sold.

Click to enlarge

The big drop in 2018 is accounted for by the sale to David Firth and his wife of Plas Tegfryn. Which means that, as individuals, they bought the house off the company of which they were directors.

How was that calculated?

This sale – the ‘disposal’ mentioned in the financial statement – also explains the reduction in the amount owed to creditors from £519,280 in 2017 to £266,433 in 2018.

I was able to get details of Plas Tegfryn from the Land Registry, but the properties for sale – Sygun, Aran, Y Garn, Hebog, Craig-y-Llan – seem not be registered by name or number. (I got the names from AirBnB.)

Or, rather, on the Companies House website I was able to bring up an individual property, but what’s available for download is the title document for the land on which Coed Gelert was built. You’ll note that when the land was bought David Firth was living on an estate called Oberon Wood. I kid you not – Oberon Wood!

Click to enlarge

And of course we aren’t told how much these properties have earned in the two decades since they were built. So it could be £1.2m clear profit from the sale. Perhaps more. And it will all go to England.

I’ve included this story because it tells us so much about what’s wrong with Wales.

On the one hand we have narrow gauge railways, run by strangers, for the enjoyment of strangers; with hardly any local involvement, but always looking for Welsh public funding by suggesting they provide some public service!

And then we have the kind of tourism-linked property speculation we see in Beddgelert. But not limited to this or any other area.

For as a correspondent from Llandysul wrote a few days ago: “Stories from all directions about ‘selling a shithole house in England and buying three here. One to live in and two to rent out’. I think we’ve had it now.”

This is a decent, caring Welsh person resigned to the death of his nation.

JAKE BERRY

Talking of property speculation reminds me of Jake Berry, the Conservative and Unionist MP for Rossendale and Darwen in east Lancashire. Berry owns an unknown number of properties on Ynys Môn.

He’s been honoured with coverage on this blog in Jake Berry MP: ‘They seek him here, they seek him there . . . ‘. Jake Berry MP, part 2, Jake Berry MP, part 3, and Jake Berry MP, part 4. As if that wasn’t enough, there were subsequent mentions in Miscellany 06.06.2020, Miscellany 15.07.2020, and Wales and envirocolonialism.

One of those properties is Rhyd-y-Bont, at Rhoscolyn, an area of the island being rapidly cleansed of the Welsh and other undesirables. Berry, or his wife, Alice Molly Radclyffe Berry, bought it last year for £780,000.

Jake Berry MP. Click to enlarge

The name of this rural retreat translated into English takes us to Ford Bridge Farm Ltd, a company formed in May, that uses the address of an accountant in Bacup, in Berry’s constituency. The directors are Berry and his wife, with said accountant, Paul Fitton, serving as secretary.

There have been some developments worth reporting. I just hope I can explain them.

On the Companies House website, at the top of an entry, all company names are given in upper case, so I was amazed to see, Ford Bridge, FARM LTD. Also, this curiosity has a date of birth! Though December 1983 is also when Jake Berry’s wife was born.

Had she changed her name?

At the second attempt I found another entry for Ford Bridge Farm Limited, with Palatine Hill Limited listed as an appointment. This is in addition to the original entry given above.

Clicking on Palatine Hill tells us that the listed officers are Duckworth Estate Company Limited and Ford Bridge Farm Limited. With Duckworth Estate owned, it would appear, by Palatine Hill Ltd.

Palatine Hill could be a ‘Russian doll’ arrangement for Jake and his missus’ property dealings, set up to deter enquiries – cos there’s some nosy buggers out there! I suppose the next step would be offshore, but that might look bad, even for a Tory MP.

I suggest that because checking the ‘Filing history’ I saw this entry for 31 July, 2020 “Withdrawal of the directors’ residential address register information from the public register”. And if you want a ‘company snapshot’ then you’ll need to cough up £15.

As you all know, the Palatine Hill was one of the seven hills of Ancient Rome. It’s where the toffs were said to live. Which is entirely fitting for upwardly mobile Jake and Alice Berry.

But under no circumstances should it be confused with the Capitoline Hill or any of the other five. And it’s nowhere near Blueberry Hill, of which the late Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino so often sang.

See, you don’t just get informed on this blog, you get bloody well educated as well.

Tidy, mun!

ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENTS

Towards the end of August I wrote Black Mountains College, in which we looked at this project in Talgarth, Powys that seeks to become a kind of university for eco-warriors.

One of the sidetracks down which comments took us led to the OPD settlement at Rhiw Las, near Whitland in Carmarthenshire. I’d been keeping an eye on this through regular updates from Companies House on Rhiw Las Ltd, a company formed in September 2013.

But of course, filings to Companies House can’t always tell us what’s happening on the ground. And that’s why I’m indebted to those who commented to the blog or contacted me in other ways.

The 21.5 acre Rhiw Las site is made up of four couples living on separate OPDs, each of roughly 5 acres. Planning permission was granted by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2016 after being rejected by Carmarthenshire planning committee.

The stated thinking behind OPDs is to encourage people to live self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyles, in order to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint. The fact that all those choosing to live on OPDs have moved to Wales, thereby increasing Wales’ carbon footprint, is an inconvenient truth and therefore ignored.

As it is set out in the ‘Welsh Government’s Technical Advice Note 6 the strategy is about “delivering sustainable rural communities”. And what a welcome innovation this will be, for in the 10,000 years since the retreat of the ice Wales has never known sustainable rural communities.

Soon after releasing into the wild the piece about Black Mountains College news started arriving about the denizens of Rhiw Las. One couple in particular may have been telling porkies about where they live, and what they do.

I’m referring now to Chris Vernon and Erica Thompson. That’s Dr Chris Vernon, who works for the Met Office in Bristol; and Dr Erica Thompson, a Fellow of the London School of Economics.

Colonialist charlatans with young. Click to enlarge

When she’s not teaching in London, or attending conferences, or at her holiday home OPD, Erica Thompson is chairwoman of the One Planet Council. Which means that she knows the buzz-words, she has the connections, and the buttons she needs to push are invitingly illuminated.

OPDs can look commendable, deserving of support, until you learn more and appreciate the bullshit involved.

Great dollops of which can be found in the Management Plan for Rhiw Las, that accompanied the planning application. It makes a big thing of the availability of wild food. But if you’re going to use wild food to strengthen your case then you might as well say there’ll be lots of air to breathe, and birds singing, and flies flying . . .

One Planet Developments are supposed to be about people doing things for themselves, not relying entirely on Mother Nature . . . plus of course, the Met Office and the LSE.

Click to enlarge

Then there’s Wycliffe Tippins, another resident of Rhiw Las. It seems Wycliffe lives or works in Gloucestershire. As a comment to the Black Mountains College post told us, “Wycliffe is a computer games developer. Another useful addition to the rural skillset at Rhiw Las !”

What’s more, not so long ago, Wycliffe was advertising for unpaid help to look after his OPD while he was designing computer games in England.

Note that Wales is “over here”. Click to enlarge

And before he was even using the static caravan on his visits to Wales, and before Rhiw Las was given planning permission, Wycliffe was demanding a strong Well-being of Future Generations Bill! Which would of course be of benefit to him and his friends.

Which meant he was trying to influence Welsh legislation when he wasn’t even pretending to be living here! Arrogant colonialist fucker!

Another member of the Rhiw Las gang who may be working full-time in England is Dr Paul Jennings. But what I found really interesting about him came from this interview with Lowimpact.org in April.

Contrary to what I’m sure most of us believed, according to Paul Jennings, ‘The (OPD) policy is intended to strengthen local, rural economies in Wales – it’s not about self-sufficiency.’ Though in other areas he agrees with us.

Click to enlarge

Though I’d love to know how the dissembling incompetents in Corruption Bay think inviting into Wales small groups of arrogant colonialist fuckers© standing aloof from the indigenous population strengthens local rural economies. I really would like that to be explained.

Over at Lammas we find Cassandra Lishman, the ‘Woman of the Willows’. Are she and her husband living a self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle? Almost certainly not, for as the article tells us, hubby “Nigel has a ‘conventional’ job as a care support worker.”

To which he drives every day.

“Cassie is at pains to stress that living at Lammas – reliant upon sun, water and wind for power, and running smallholdings in tune with nature – does not preclude having a ‘normal’ life”.

All they really want is a cheap place in the countryside. And it has to be the Welsh countryside because no other country on Earth has been so stupid as to submit to these people by introducing the OPD system.

Once they’ve got their little bit of heaven, built for a few thousand pounds, it can be sold for a premium price as a dwelling in open country.

It so happens – Cassandra Lishman is selling her place!

Clearly, the OPD system is being abused on a massive scale. And yet the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ refuses to intervene, leaving local planning authorities helpless. And so the envirocolonists keep coming, in an ever-increasing tide.

Here’s what one local source told me:

“As far as I can tell there in no policing by Pembs CC and given the fear of litigation that Carm CC  suffered at the hands OPD lawyers they are reluctant/can’t afford to enforce any of the planning restrictions imposed originally

I foresee many of the properties sold as general housing with a very large garden and a lifestyle

Sure as hell nobody local will be buying these properties as it will be cash buyers only, I somehow doubt that they are mortgageable

Lammas is a shambles and beyond any controls it seems. The latest episode is —– laying down on the track to stop a farmer hedge cutting because he can’t get his hay equipment to fields further up the hill

There are more appearing in the valley and it is divisive. A farmer is buying blocks of land just to prevent more arrivals as he is already surrounded.

They are not going away so sooner or later most will be sold on the open market.

I don’t see the an end to it.

Wealthy incomers, from SE England and Bristol queuing up to buy a toy farm in countryside, working from home and not having the skills abide to OPD planning conditions. What then?

The farms are being fragmented and they will never be able to be reinstated as a viable family farm of the type that has built the indigenous community”.

I know it’s easy to laugh at these people and their pretensions, but they are ambitious, greedy, well connected, and dangerous. Never forget that the clowns in Corruption Bay have already bent over backwards to do their bidding.

The ambition I’m referring to stretches way beyond the few settlements we see today, mainly in the south west. According to Paul/Tau Wimbush, a Lammas guru, Wales could easily accommodate another 115,000 eco-holdings. That’s 414,000 people – all them land-grabbing charlatans, with few living the life they’ll claim to be living.

Paul/Tao Wimbush’ vision for Wales. Click to enlarge

Chris Vernon agrees that there should be many more faux OPDs. Go to 7:10 in this video to hear him say: “There is no reason why Wales couldn’t support several tens of thousands of smallholdings in the open countryside”.

GLYNLLIFON LTD

Glynllifon is a name you’ll be familiar with, but this section has nothing to do with Plas Glynllifon, the old mansion south of Caernarfon that has attracted so many crooks over recent years.

No, this Glynllifon is on Ynys Môn, near Marianglas, with Benllech to the south and Moelfre to the north. Though just like its mainland namesake it also attracts crooks!

As I was informed in a couple of anonymous e-mails earlier this month telling me that certain ‘businessmen’ had a project at Traeth Bychan, Marianglas, and that a company called Glynllifon Ltd was involved.

This company was formed 10 June last year, with Neil Moir as sole director. (The name is sometimes spelt ‘Muir’.) The company soon took out two loans with Goldcrest Finance Ltd to buy the Glynllifon hotel. Goldcrest Finance is yet another “specialist lender based in central Manchester”. How many of them are there?

Glynllifon Ltd uses an accommodation address in London, 160 City Road EC1V 2NX.

Here’s the Land Registry title document. I suggest you keep it open in another window. Because before moving on to the latest developments I’d like to concentrate on the title document for a bit.

Glynllifon Hotel, Marianglas. Click to enlarge

Going back to 1999 (page 2) it would appear that the Glynllifon Hotel passed from people named Beardsley to a Lesley Karen Boshell. Yet on page 3 we find that, “A Deed dated 17 September 2015 made between (1) Thelma Eileen Beardsley and (2) Ocean and Country Developments Limited contains restrictive covenants.”

Turning to Ocean & Country Developments Ltd we find Ronald Kenneth Boshell of Cheshire as a director. It’s reasonable to assume that he is related to Lesley Karen Boshell.

Ocean & Country Developments is heavily in debt and the debt may be explained by an outstanding charge held by ‘The Santhouse Pensioneer Trustee Company Limited Marc Howard and Avis Howard’ against . . . the Glynllifon Hotel. Marc Howard is the other director, with Boshell, of Ocean & Country Developments.

The Boshells were obviously living on Ynys Mon in January 2005 because this report from the Daily Post tells us that one of the Boshell children was hit by a car on the way to school.

The report also told us that, “Mr Boshell and wife Leslie (sic) said they closed the hotel last year because the road was so dangerous”. The hotel was called the Beauchelles Hotel (geddit?), though closing due to traffic is unlikely.

UPDATE 22.09.2020: My suspicion has been confirmed – the Beauchelles Hotel was Glynllifon. Sources say it went downhill, almost as if it was designed to fail.

One source sent me a photo of Ronnie Boshell, now domiciled in Spain.

Click to enlarge

In that report from the Daily Post you will have seen the name of local ‘spokesman’ Barrie Durkin. He became a councillor and in 2013 he was complaining about the derelict buildings in Benllech:

“Cllr Durkin said: ‘For years now Benllech and its surrounding areas has seen a number of its prominent hotels and properties purchased by property developers just to be closed down with no work done. (My emphasis.)

‘They have been left dangerously, inadequately secured and are blots on the beautiful landscapes.”

He drew attention to Y Gorlan, on Benllech promenade, which has already been set on fire, has been left open to the elements and has become a magnet for unsuspecting children to get injured or killed.

Some of the eyesores also include the Bay Court Hotel, the Bryntyrion (sic) Hotel and the Beauchelles Hotel, which Cllr Durkin says are letting the village down.'”

It could be that companies were being set up, and property bought, to launder money. Such things happen.

The image below, from Google, was captured in July 2016. It would appear to show some plan to develop the Glynllifon site as apartments and holiday cottages, perhaps by Ocean & Country Developments Ltd.

Click to enlarge

The Boshells, or Beauchelles, appear to have moved back to north west England.

The empty and semi-derelict Glynllifon Hotel has now been bought by Glynllifon Ltd and Neil Moir. So who exactly is he?

In a word, another crook.

THE winner of top TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is set to lose his fortune – because he is a crook.

Millions saw 51-year-old Neil Muir land a £64,000 prize this week. But under the programme’s rules he is BANNED from entering.

Muir has convictions for theft, deception and forgery. And Rule 6 says: “You must… have no criminal convictions (subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).” London TV company Celador launched an investigation yesterday.

Although his roots seem to be in north west England Moir is, I believe, living on Ynys Môn. In Bodorgan, on the opposite side of the island to Marianglas.

He seems to have a number of companies registered at his home address. It’s worth flicking through them. One of the companies – the Anglo Chinese Property Corporation Ltd – also has loans with Goldcrest and owns property in Wrecsam.

In August 2015 the Financial Conduct Authority refused Moir permission to engage in credit broking. (Though you have to admire his chutzpah!)

In recent days the Glynllifon Hotel has been in the news because the planned development – if it’s not another money laundering operation! – plans to open under the ‘Traeth Bychan Heights’ label. This has upset many locals angry at so many traditional names being lost.

Though when the story was reported by the Daily Post someone supported the change. “Can’t live in the past”, the comment said. It came from ‘Shakinshane’ . . . otherwise known as Shane Baker, of the Duggan family Bryn Llys gang.

(Bryn Llys has been renamed ‘Snowdon Summit View’.)

Click to enlarge

Now what interest would Shane Baker have in the Marianglas / Benllech area? Silly me! – it’s where the police found his boss John Joseph Duggan hiding out. Though given what we now know about the area I can’t help wondering who owned the property in which Duggan was hiding.

Somebody must know.

To complete the picture my source tells me that Neil Moir has a partner. And that partner is Rhys Williams.

I’m sure I’ll return to this story in future posts. If anyone has more information, then get in touch.

Toy trains, ‘investment’ holiday homes, Tory MPs’ property empires, envirocolonists and outright crooks are just the same monster glimpsed in different lights. All elements of a colonial system that no longer simply exploits but also destroys.

Either we start taking back control, from those you’ve read about, and from those who refuse to take action against them, or it will be victory for Shane Baker and those who agree that doing away with everything that makes us Welsh is progress.

♦ end ♦