This will be just a brief update or, if you want to be posh, a communiqué.
The meeting yesterday went very, very well. I was delighted with the turnout and with the enthusiasm shown – I think almost everyone had something to say, but without anyone hogging the microphone. A blessed relief from some meetings I’ve attended in the past. (Ah! those smoke-filled rooms of yore.)
Such commitment is really encouraging. What’s more it was obvious that many people are thinking the same thing – Wales is in a mess, and none of the existing parties can be trusted to improve things.
The geographical range of the attendees was also impressive, there were people from Wrecsam to Pembrokeshire and from Gwent to Gwynedd. With just about everywhere in between represented. Which bodes well for a new national party.
A full discussion was had on a number of topics and on methods for moving the new party forward, how best to recruit members, and getting the word out. Both those ambitions are so much easier now of course, with social media, than they would have been twenty or more years ago.
As might be imagined, one topic for discussion was a name for the new party. There were a number of great suggestions, and these will now be discussed by the Steering Committee elected on Saturday, which will also work on a draft constitution, set of rules, etc., to present to the first Annual General Meeting, pencilled in for March 3rd 2018.
We have been fortunate in being offered the chance to take over the Electoral Commission registration of an existing party. The surviving member of that party was there on Saturday and agreed to what amounts to a merger.
The party name of course can be changed, but more important is the three logos registered to this party, which are – an outline map of Wales, the national flag, and the dragon as it appears on the flag.
These symbols can be used on ballot papers and other literature, leaving no one in any doubt what we stand for, but perhaps more importantly, because they are registered with the Electoral Commission – ‘copyrighted’, if you like – no other party can use them.
Now I have an apology to make to the venue – I forgot to collect the invoice on the way out. Sorry. I shall almost certainly be in Aber later in the week so I’ll pop in and pay in cash.
To risk repeating myself, it was a great day, perhaps the one disappointment – given the interest he’s shown in the new party – was that Phil Parry of The Eye wasn’t there. You could have had a scoop, Parry – ‘Shock! Horror! irritating little git thrown out of meeting!’
As I made clear early on in developments, once things were up and running, old Jac was gonna pull back. And that’s how it will be. For I’m fairly sure that the bright young things involved – another plus being the number there who weren’t around in the ’60s! – will soon be utilising the interweb for themselves.
If you haven’t yet made up your mind to commit to the new party, then I urge you to do so now, because we’re on the move! Wales is on the move! Get on board!
The Belle Vue Royal Hotel in Aberystwyth, where I had planned to hold the meeting on November 4th, has cancelled the booking. Here’s an account of what happened, or what might have happened, because I’m not entirely sure.
After an exchange of e-mails with the Belle Vue, confirming that the room was available, I telephoned on Sunday the 15th and paid for it. We agreed an all-in price of £300 for the room and refreshments. That was it, everything was arranged.
Then on Thursday I had a couple of strange e-mails from the hotel suggesting that the payment hadn’t been made, or hadn’t ‘gone through’, and asking for the last four digits of my credit card. This struck me as being rather odd so I checked my bank statement. There was the payment, clear as day.
At almost exactly the same time I began to get tweets from @thomasscarrot. I knew the name because we’d exchanged a few tweets earlier over the possibility of a tourist tax. But this time he was tweeting about the meeting, and making thinly-veiled threats to turn up with some ‘colleagues’. He gave the impression that he planned to disrupt the meeting.
In these tweets he also claimed to know the owner of the Belle Vue Royal Hotel. Inevitably, perhaps, I put two and two together. Read part of the exchange here. The use of a Union Jack emoji I took to be an indication of a certain political outlook.
I made it clear to him more than once that he was not invited and that he should stay away, and that if he did turn up he would be asked to leave.
I e-mailed the Belle Vue again, gave the requested digits from my credit card, and told them about the exchange I was having with Scarrott. The response I received on Thursday you can read for yourself.
I like the wording, “I am aware of Mr Scarrott”. Makes him sound disreputable. But anyway, he doesn’t know the owner of the hotel as he claimed. That’s his first lie.
Later on Thursday I received the e-mail below, together with my receipt.
Then on Friday afternoon came the bombshell. No reason given, no name appended. (I have removed the names from the e-mails above.)
I am in no doubt that the intervention of Thomas Scarrott, whether directly or indirectly, caused the booking to be cancelled. Though I can’t blame the Belle Vue Royal for taking precautions.
To assist in his undermining of our venture Scarrott used the lies peddled by Phil Parry on The Eye. Even finding an old tweet of Parry’s to pass on to a slavering public.
For anyone fortunate enough not to know Phil Parry, he regards himself as a hot-shot investigative journalist who “exposed” my support for the FWA . . . 50 years too late, and after I’d put up photos of Cayo Evans and others on this blog. It’s only a matter of time before he tells us who was on the grassy knoll.
(No, it wasn’t me.)
If you go back to Parry’s woeful piece about me you’ll see a few comments – rare on Parry’s blog unless he writes about me – two being from a Garry W Gibbs. I don’t know Gibbs but it seems I’ve blocked him from this blog, so we must have fallen out over something.
Even so, in his other comment he makes it clear that he regards me as honest. Which I am. In the comment I’ve used below he asks Parry a very important question. Parry claimed in his piece that “some of his (my) victims have been given around-the-clock police protection”. Victims! He can only mean people I’ve written about. Which I suppose would make me a ‘victim’ of his.
Of course he can’t prove it. When he’s not publishing outright lies they’re the fantasies of swivel-eyed bigots like Jacques Protic. If Protic tells Parry there’s a SWAT team stationed around his house 24/7 because of something I’ve written, Parry will write it up. He won’t believe it, but he’ll still write it up because he wants others to believe it.
But enough of that slanderous little scumbag Phil Parry, I’m sure you’re all wondering about Thomas Scarrott. Or to give him his full name, Thomas Harry Shady Scarrott. Apparently Shady really is his name, not an epithet.
THOMAS H S SCARROTT
It looks as if he is now running the family business of Vale Holiday Parks Ltd, having taken over from his father, also Thomas Scarrott. Based at Clarach Bay near Aberystwyth the firm owns a number of sites down as far as Tenby, one in the north at Llanarmon yn Iâl, with another in Cornwall.
Eight of the mortgages cover the caravan sites listed on the company’s website.
There are also mortgages against two sites said to be in or near Llandysul which I can’t find on the internet, Penlon Caravan Park and Glynteg Caravan Park at Cross Inn. (Is there a Cross Inn nearer to Llandysul, or is it the one on the A486 to Cei Newydd?) If they don’t appear on the company website then it’s reasonable to assume that they don’t rent out caravans, so are the ‘vans privately owned, or are these sites used for other purposes?
There’s a mortgage on Red Roses filling station near Whitland, plus another on land near the filling station. Then there’s freehold land to the north of Pendre, Cross Inn, where we can no doubt expect to see yet another blot on the landscape in the very near future, and finally, there’s an all-encompassing debenture.
As the Twitter exchange continued others got involved and it took a number of turns. For example, on first visiting the Companies House website, and checking the latest accounts, I noticed that the company’s auditors are in Coventry and the bankers in Wiltshire.
When I suggested to Scarrott that this was an example of money made in Wales leaving Wales he came up with the most remarkable story. It ran . . . ‘We used to bank in “North Wales” but our manager, from Caernarfon, moved to Wiltshire and so we followed him. The bank manager now is from Cardiff’.
So I went back to the earliest available accounts, those for 2004. And there I saw that the company’s registered office was in Birmingham, the accountants in the same city, and the bankers in Bath. So it would appear that the Scarrotts’ Cofi banker left Wales ere the company was even formed!
By now I was sure that Thomas Scarrott Junior has problems with the truth, or perhaps he just finds it easy to lie.
Soon afterwards our boy came over all shy and blocked everyone. When he re-emerged in the Twittersphere it was clear that he had deleted those tweets he must have realised laid him open to ridicule or worse.
The Scarrotts are yet another family that has moved into Wales to make money from tourism. For them, our homeland is just a tourist destination to be exploited. If we complain we get the traditional colonialists’ response: ‘Look at all the good we’re doing for your country!’
The good they’re doing themselves must never be mentioned, nor must the money leaving Wales, or the soaring property prices as tourists decide to settle, with the resultant Anglicisation . . .
You will not be surprised to learn that Thomas H S Scarrott wants his company to contribute as little as possible to the communities in which it operates.
Last year he railed against the heinous decision of Cyngor Ceredigion to raise the council tax on holiday homes. “Ceredigon’s tourism industry could be dealt a devastating blow” he insisted in what Caravan Times described as “a fiery tirade”. Now another dragon appears in the form of a possible tourist tax, and guess what – it too will have “devastating effects”.
I think somebody should tell him that if you over-use a word like devastating you run the risk of giving a number of impressions: 1/ That you have a limited vocabulary, 2/ That you are prone to exaggeration, even lying, 3/ That you’re a selfish bugger who doesn’t care that such taxes – if properly spent – could be of great benefit to the areas worst affected by tourism.
Possibly all three.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
As things stand, we don’t have a room. And to find one big enough for an open meeting on November 4th is going to be difficult at such short notice. Unless of course, someone knows of such a room in Aberystwyth?
Though Scarrott’s intervention and the resultant cancellation could be a blessing in disguise. I always had reservations about an unstructured public meeting. One worry was that we’d have a free-for-all with people talking across each other and everybody trying to promote their pet idea.
Another worry was that with people being able to walk in off the street some nutter would jump up and shout, ‘I knows where we can get guns’ . . . and there’d just happen to be a reporter in the room, or a microphone, or someone who would take the idiot’s message to the world.
Having had experience of agents provacateurs and police spies I know of what I speak, and I know how the bastards operate.
On top of which there are plenty who’d like to see the new party fail to take off, including the leadership of the party that held a conference in Caernarfon over the weekend. Which is why we must tread carefully and give no one the opportunity to damage the project.
The alternative I’m suggesting is a smaller meeting, of invited people, who just lay the foundations, maybe choose a working name, then we recruit members and leave the policy details to the first AGM which can be held early next year.
Doing it this way we’ll know who’s who at the first meeting, after which we advertise the launch, invite applications for membership, vet applications and issue memberships; then motions will be submitted for debate at the AGM, with no one attending the AGM unless they’re a member.
In other words, how other political parties operate.
That’s my thinking. If anyone has other thoughts, then let me know. I would also like to hear from anyone who definitely wants to be at the inaugural meeting, which may not now be in Aberystwyth, nor on November 4th.
But rest assured, the new party will be launched before the year is out.
The response to the original post, put up last Wednesday, has been excellent. Many, many people have said they’ll be coming and a healthy number of donations has been received. I have also received apologies from those who would have come but for various reasons can’t make it.
For example, an old mate of mine who’s stood for Plaid Cymru many times had already arranged to take his missus to Amsterdam that weekend. But I know he’s serious because he sent £100 to be getting on with. Another who has previous plans is Big Gee.
But what’s really encouraging is that the majority of the messages, and the donations, have come from people I don’t know – and I’ve been around a long time! It tells me that there is out there – in Wales and beyond – a constituency that cares about our country, appreciates the mess it’s in, but has no faith in any of the existing parties to tackle the problems.
In fact the response has been so encouraging that I’ve had to find a larger venue, which is the reason for this update.
The meeting will still be held on November 4th, between 1pm and 5pm, and still in Aberystwyth, but the venue is now changed to the Ocean Room at the Belle Vue Royal Hotel.
So we’ve moved a short distance along the Promenade to a room that holds around 100 people. And if this isn’t big enough then we’ll all go out onto the beach and have an al fresco meeting. I’m sure we’ll find somebody to lead the singing.
The bar will be open, so I repeat what I suggested in the first post, “It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.”
My contribution will consist of little more than thanking everyone for attending before passing the meeting over to the pro tem chairman. So is anyone volunteering for that role, or does someone have a name to suggest? We need someone with experience of controlling a meeting.
Is anyone volunteering to take minutes?
At some point before the end of the meeting we shall also need to select a steering committee until the first AGM at which a full committee can be elected. Again, are there volunteers, or nominees? We shall need a chair, secretary, minutes secretary, press secretary, membership secretary, treasurer, and perhaps six other committee members.
This meeting is obviously difficult to organise because by and large we’ll be a bunch of strangers starting from scratch. So I’m open to suggestions that might facilitate its smooth running.
More good news is that Aled Job has agreed to act as translator and to do it for free as long as we pay to hire the headsets. This means that speakers will be able to use either Welsh or English.
There will be tea and coffee available in the Ocean Room and if we can start at 1pm prompt we can have a break at 2:45, but we must be out by 5pm at the very latest because there’s a wedding party there in the evening and the room needs to be set up for that function.
As you might have expected, my earlier post, and the prospect of a new party that might achieve something for Wales, got the predictable responses from certain quarters.
WAS ONCE A JOURNALIST
Former BBC man Phil Parry waded in with an absurd piece entitled The Royston family, in which he trundled out his oft-repeated lies about me accompanied by various photos including – yet again! – the one of Cayo Evans holding a gun.
This picture from the 1960s, which I’ve published a number of times on this blog, really gets under Parry’s skin, and that of his mate Martin Shipton over at Llais y Sais. A couple of years back Shipton tweeted me thinking I’d back down after he’d publicised my use of the picture, when I didn’t, he seemed confused.
They presumably hoped that being challenged would make me recant. When they realised that wasn’t going to happen, that I was proud to display the picture, it seemed to affect the wiring in their BritNat brains.
For they’re unable to grasp that the FWA is part of Welsh history, and that many Welsh people have fond memories of Cayo, Dennis and the rest, even a sneaking regard. The only ones who still get agitated over the Free Wales Army are anti-Welsh elements trying to dress up their atavism – even racism – as reasoned opposition to ‘extreme nationalism’. Something of which they of course are mercifully free.
Parry I can ignore, and would have, but using that title went a little too far. Attack me by all means, I’m a big boy who can answer back, but ‘The Royston family’ is my wife, children, grandchildren.
Maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing, because writing about him here will probably encourage ten times as many visits to his site as the original posting generated.
THE WEEKLY ‘SPOT THE CHARLATAN’ COMPETITION
Talking of sad buggers brings me to another of my critics, Martyn Shrewsbury . . . if that is his name, because there are all sorts of question marks hanging over ‘Shrewsbury’. At one time he seems to have been using the name Rowlands. It’s alleged there have been other names.
As might be expected, he is one of those for whom the truth is somewhat ‘elastic’, but then, he’s a philosopher! An example of this elasticity came some five years ago when he was almost sent down for lying to creditors.
Maybe he’s a traditionalist and uses the swinging pocket watch technique, while intoning, ‘Your eyelids are heavy . . . you have an irresistible urge to hand over your wallet’. (I’m sure Groucho did a good portrayal in one of his movies.)
Politically, ‘Shrewsbury’ belongs to the Green Party of Englandandwales, and has stood numerous times for Westminster and the Notional Assembly, without ever overworking the vote counters.
Some years ago he hitched his wagon to the star that was Pippa Bartolotti, then leader of the Wales region of said party, and served her faithfully, to the extent of smearing her opponents using a host of phoney identities.
Among these were ‘Green Dragon’ and ‘Brig Strawbridge’ (the latter an obvious take on veteran Green Brig Oubidge). All explained here. You know, the more I learn about the Green Party the more vivid becomes the unsummoned image of ferrets in a sack.
How could Plaid Cymru ever consider a pact with a party that is itself split into 57 varieties of two-faced, back-stabbing, self-promoting individuals incapable of co-operating with each other let alone with another party!
Everything about the Greens seems to be transitory, or in a permanent state of confusion. Writing this I referred back to More on the Green Party of Englandandwales, which I wrote in November 2014, but none of the links to Green Party sources work any longer!
The only thing that might be said in ‘Shrewsbury’s favour is that he claims to want independence. Though this claim would be more credible if he didn’t belong to a party that doesn’t even recognise the existence of Wales.
It has become clear to many of us that eighteen years of devolution have achieved nothing. For by any criterion one wishes to apply Wales is worse off today than she was twenty years ago.
Our country is poorer, our children are less well educated than those of other nations, our health service is at breaking point, and as if that wasn’t bad enough our very identity is under attack from many quarters.
Those of us wishing to both retain Wales’ distinctiveness and make her more prosperous realise that independence is the only way to achieve these ambitions.
But we have no political representation, therefore I believe the time has come to discuss the formation of a new political party.
Such a party should focus on Wales, defending and promoting what benefits Wales and Welsh people, and opposing that which does not. For example . . .
Insist on our children being taught the history and traditions of their country in both languages; our young people being given the skills needed to work in the twenty-first century; restore our universities to being centres of the nation’s academic and cultural life rather than alien and grubby places concerned solely with making money.
Support native business and enterprise rather than squander money on individuals and companies that turn up in Wales having heard there’s easy money available.
Complement an innovative native business sector with an efficient public sector. This combination will largely remove the need for a third sector currently filled with political cronies doing the same work as other political cronies in competing organisations.
Seek to end the pernicious influence on Welsh national life of cross-border organisations that treat Wales as a region of England. These must be replaced by Wales-only bodies serving the Welsh national interest.
Support the Welsh language, defend individuals and communities using the language, and promote its widest possible use. All the while recognising that in the twenty-first century considerations of Welshness cannot be restricted to the Welsh language alone.
Prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people in employment, housing, education, funding and other areas.
The bullet points I’ve listed above are no more than suggestions from me, because all I’m doing is inviting people to come to a meeting, I plan no role for myself in any new party that might emerge.
The reason I’ve chosen those points should be self-evident, certainly to regular readers of this blog. But I’m also hoping that such a statement will deter people from making a wasted journey on November 4th, because anyone who thinks Wales needs another socialist party, or a bigger third sector, or more Englandandwales organisations, really has nothing to contribute.
I would like to see a party that can ruthlessly expose the shortcomings of the parties currently ruining Wales while coming up with constructive ideas for making Wales a better place for our people. All the while reminding them that only by taking control of their own destiny can they have a country that stands comparison with the rest of Europe and the wider world.
The meeting to discuss the formation of this new party will be held at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth on Saturday, November 4th, at 1pm. Anyone interested in discussing the formation of a new party, or simply learning more, is invited to attend.
The lower ground floor room I’ve booked will hold 50 – 60 people plus a table for 6 or 7 speakers facing the audience. (Possibly more at a squeeze.) This room is to the right of the reception desk.
It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.
Of course I have no idea how many will turn up, so it would help if you could get in touch to let me know if you plan on coming. And also let me know if you want to speak. I think everyone wishing to speak should be given the opportunity in order to get as wide a range of views as possible, but to avoid the more wordy attendees taking over the meeting I suggest that each speaker be limited to 5 minutes.
Obviously, for a meeting of this nature, there can be no agenda, no minutes from previous meetings, it all starts from scratch. So the first job will perhaps be to choose someone to chair the meeting.
I am not inviting the media but if it is agreed to proceed with forming a new party then those present may wish to issue a statement.
Those attending will be asked to introduce themselves unless they are known to the organisers or someone known to the organisers can vouch for them.
Contributors may speak in Welsh or English as translation facilities will be available.
I look forward to seeing you in Aberystwyth on November 4th
P.S. If you wish to make a financial contribution then please use the PayPal widget on the sidebar or the foot of this post. Make it clear that the donation is for the meeting/new party rather than the blog/wine producers of Argentina.
We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.
In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).
Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.
But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.
FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR
Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.
Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.
This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.
Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.
Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.
Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.
Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.
So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.
Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)
The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.
The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.
Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.
ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE
One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’
Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.
The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.
Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.
Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)
To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.
I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.
On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!
Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.
But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?
Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’
“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.
DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED
What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?
The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.
For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.
All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.
So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.
The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.
With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.
The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.
Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.
Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.
WHO CAN WE TRUST?
It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.
Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.
The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.
Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.
In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’
And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.
But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.
‘I can hear the rumblin’ river as it rushes underground’
Those of you familiar with 60s folk music will know that the title of this piece is shared with a great song by Tom Paxton, a song in which he articulated the growing anger he sensed among disparate elements in the 1960s USA.
For the halcyon days of the 1950s were over, gone with their jobs for all. In the inner cities and the Deep South black people were being influenced by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr, and taking their destiny into their own hands. And as President Johnson sent more and more troops to south east Asia the anti-war movement grew in size and determination. America was in a ferment, from which it became impossible for anyone to insulate themselves, black or white, rich or poor, north, south, east or west.
Which probably explains why we saw an explosion of folk singers trying to articulate or capitalise on the zeitgeist. Though, musically, the 1960s was a difficult time for me; the golden era of early Rock was over, Buddy Holly was dead, and so was Eddie Cochran, while Little Richard seemed to alternate between searching for God and being searched for by the men in white coats. Fortunately, I had by then journeyed back to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Country roots, with Folk providing another distraction from the horrors of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
Though as I say, it wasn’t easy. For a start, I was in love with Joan Baez (and couldn’t figure out what she saw in that weird little git, ‘Dylan’). Then there was Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell – it was great to be alive! The problem was of course that while I loved the music and the singers, I opposed the political sentiments expressed. For I supported the USA in Vietnam, Young Jac had bought into the Domino Theory.
Of course there are political songs, but even some of these are done with humour; Daily News, What Did You Learn In School Today?Others songs are fun commentaries on life, a favourite of mine isAnnie’s Going To Sing Her Song. It reminds me of the Swansea pubs of my youth, where there was always some old bird who’d insist on singing . . . whether anybody wanted to hear her or not. (Sophie Tucker renditions were particularly popular, I recall.)
Finally there are those Paxton songs about life, or death, that just make you think. Try I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound, and Jimmy Newman. The latter is a very strange song, but often held up as a musical companion to All Quiet on the Western Front.
‘I can hear a thousand voices making ready for a fight’
So why did I choose that particular Tom Paxton song? Because I sense a mood abroad, a growing belief that Wales is being screwed and we are being lied to. There seems to be an increasing realisation that politicians and their corrupt system – including devolution – have no answers, and may even be the cause of the problem. It almost goes without saying that we no longer trust the mainstream media or any representatives of traditional authority.
I have not known these sentiments to be so widely shared since the 1960s.
The one big difference today from the 1960s is of course that Plaid Cymru is not benefiting from this mood. Back then the national resurgence encouraged by Tryweryn, Aberfan and the Investiture resulted in an upsurge in support for Plaid Cymru, but this time around, after 50 years of Plaid Cymru failure, many have concluded that if not part of the problem, then Plaid certainly isn’t part of the solution either.
We are therefore in uncharted territory.
Another factor contributing to this strange combination of confusion and anger is that we are seeing attacks on the Welsh language from quarters that many had hitherto regarded as friendly, or certainly not hostile. From bastions of left-liberal orthodoxy such as the Guardian and Newsnight.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be another disappointment. He has certainly disappointed Welsh Remainers through his understanding that if Labour is not to become the unelectable party of the chattering classes and ethnic minorities it needs to reconnect with the English working class.
An English working class that is more aggressively and intolerantly English than at any time in living memory. A mood that has spilt over the border to encourage those among us of a BritNat or anti-Welsh mentality.
Wales needs a new voice, but where will that voice come from? And knowing that actions speak louder than words, how do we leave the enemies of Wales in no doubt about our refusal to accept the destruction of our country?
‘And I guess it’s up to me because we’ve given up on you’
The mood I’m describing runs from frustration in some to real anger in others. What unites them is a realisation that Wales is going nowhere with the current system, or with the existing political parties and politicians, except backwards.
Literally, for not only is the UK government trying to avoid devolving powers ‘repatriated’ from the EU but behind the scenes Englandandwales organisations are spreading their tentacles, making a mockery of devolution, and slowly but surely absorbing Wales into England.
Look around Wales today and everywhere our country is both less Welsh and poorer than it was when we voted for devolution 20 years ago. How did this happen, for devolution was supposed to serve the interests of the Welsh people?
It happened because the interests of the geographical area of Wales were allowed to become divorced from those of her people, to the point where politicians and other liars can argue that a policy or an initiative is ‘good for Wales’ yet closer examination reveals that it may indeed benefit somebody but that ‘somebody’ is rarely Welsh.
It’s called colonialism, and history is full of such examples. I bet that in the 1870s Indians on the Great Plains witnessing the destruction of their way of life were told, ‘But look at the money all these buffalo hides bring into the region . . . you ungrateful bastards’.
As I say, this outcome can only be achieved by divorcing a people from its territory, then insisting that the territory in question belongs to everybody, and that’s because it was terra incognita ere the arrival of the enlightened colonialist bringing ‘progress and prosperity’. (They invariably go together.)
In Wales this progress and prosperity will take many forms: managed decline, zip wires, new housing we can’t afford or don’t need, having England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent dumped on us, and seeing what were once Welsh universities engaged in a race to the bottom. All designed to increase the numbers of strangers in our country, make Wales less Welsh, and slowly assimilate Wales into England.
Any attempt to defend or promote Welshness against this ‘progress and prosperity’ will be decried as ‘racist’, even ‘backward-looking’. (Always amusing to hear this from the English Right and the London redtops.)
A slander made easier to lay by the position taken by Plaid Cymru. For the Party of Wales is more afraid of being labelled ‘racist’ by the Guardian than it is of its national executive being filmed in a drug-fuelled orgy with rent boys and under age girls in William Morgan’s old gaff.
And the rise of the Right across the Western world has made Plaid Cymru shy away even more from promoting Welsh interests. Which further emboldens our enemies.
So the system grinds on almost unchecked.
‘I’ve been listening to some people and one thing I understand’
Or it did until relatively recently.
But as I’ve suggested, there is a mood abroad; a mood that rejects much of what we have been asked to accept in devolved Wales. Not that there is anything anarchistic or nihilistic about this mood, it is simply a realisation and a rejection of the prevailing corruption.
A growing belief that Wales is dying before our eyes. Or, more truthfully, being killed off.
If you want to see this mood, then look at recent developments such YesCymru, consider the outcry against the Ring of Steel planned for Flint castle, and not just the responses to the recent attacks on the Welsh language from the Guardian, Newsnight and elsewhere but where the responses came from.
The internet and social media are of course vital in encouraging this mood. I like to think that this blog plays its part. Fortunately I’m not alone, there are a number of good sites out there. One I’ve mentioned before is Nation.Cymru, which came up trumps again recently.
On the first of this month Dylan Iorwerth, a respected journalist, argued that immigration into Welsh-speaking areas must be halted. In other words he is calling for measures to stop English people moving into Wales. Of course this has been said before . . . and it has always provoked a violent reaction from within Wales and without.
Perhaps the most famous example would be the response to Gwynedd councillor Seimon Glyn’s call, back in 2001, to curb English immigration, for which he was pilloried in the English media. As a result, his party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was severely mauled over the issue on Question Time, by Glenys Kinnock.
Not long before, Plaid Cymru vice-president Gwilym ab Ioan was thrown off the party’s national executive for saying that Wales was being used as a dumping ground for England’s elderly, misfits and oddballs.
What I’ve found strange is that there has been no reaction from politicians or media to Dylan Iorwerth’s call to halt English immigration. Why might that be?
Could it be that it’s now generally accepted that there is massive and damaging immigration into the Fro Gymraeg? And if the phenomenon is undeniable then it’s best not to discuss it and stir things up further? Maybe others sense this mood I’m alluding to?
‘A great flood is a-rising fast and there’s a rumbling in the land’
If I’m right, then what’s the best way to capitalise on this mood?
For a start, I suggest that we stop fighting battles that have nothing to do with Wales, or else are beyond our power to influence. One example being those idiots who want President Trump to be impeached or removed by force. I call them idiots because achieving that objective would give the extreme Right the excuse to reject the democratic process altogether and take up arms. (And they have a hell of a lot more guns than their opponents.)
Such distractions are usually the result of ideology. Which is why there can be no place for ideology or dogma in the future struggle. Anyone trying to introduce ideology, or to promote issues external to Wales, must be dealt with, and dealt with ruthlessly. For such people are the enemies of Wales.
Equally dangerous are those who slink in the shadows, whispering, trying to get the more headstrong involved in violence. Also root them out and deal with them.
At this critical juncture Wales needs unity of purpose. As yet, we don’t need a new political party, but we do need a movement. This movement needs to coalesce from the disparate groups and individual voices found on social media and other forums.
We must promote what strengthens and advances Welsh identity, and combat everything that threatens it; all the while accepting that full independence is the only guarantee of the long term survival of Welsh national identity.
In the short term the agenda or strategy could be reduced to a simple Good / Bad list. That which is good for Wales is supported, that which is bad for Wales is opposed.
But if an issue is needed, where widespread support could surely be guaranteed, it would be a campaign to reform how housing operates in Wales. To take planning matters away from the Planning Inspectorate, to reduce the input from Wimpey, Redrow and the rest, to ensure local allocations in social housing, to demand local markets – such as operate on the Channel Islands – reserving most properties for locals.
Or to put it simply: a housing sector serving Welsh needs and interests.
If we cannot get together, sinking our various differences, to agree on a housing campaign such as that, then I’ve misjudged things completely, and there is no mood for radical change.
That’s my contribution. I now suggest that those reading thisThink It Over(That’s Buddy Holly, not Tom Paxton.)
P.S. I am not putting myself forward for any role in any movement, my days of activism are long past.
Those of you who’ve read Cneifiwr’s latest post, about his canvassing experiences, will I’m sure have enjoyed him waxing lyrical about wrens and shimmering vistas, country lanes and tinkling rills . . . well you’ll get none of that fancy bucolic stuff here. This is the opinionated old git section of the Welsh blogosphere.
Last Thursday gave us what was perhaps the strangest election of my lifetime. Not just because of the result and the way the Tories lost the commanding lead they’d held at the start of the campaign, but also because of the combination of factors not present in earlier elections, specifically, the recent surge of the SNP, the influence of Brexit, UKIP and the realignment of that party’s deserting voters, and post-election, the entrance of the DUP. So let’s consider the bigger picture before looking at the results in Wales.
NORTH OF THE BORDER
The Unionist parties and the London media are cock-a-hoop over the ‘defeat’ suffered by the SNP, but was it really such a defeat? In the 2010 general election the SNP won 6 seats out of a total of 59; in May 2015, following the independence referendum of September 2014, the party won 56 seats, gaining 50% of the vote (an increase of 30%). That was clearly a freak result, that was unlikely to ever be repeated.
On Thursday, support for the SNP was down to 36.9% and 35 seats, leaving it still the largest party, and by some distance. This falling off in support can be explained quite simply – independence and whether or not to have a second referendum is the issue in Scottish politics now. Those who want independence generally voted SNP, while those who are opposed to independence, or remain to be convinced, tended to vote for whoever had the best chance of defeating the SNP candidate. As a rule of thumb, tactical voting accounts for the gains made by Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.
It certainly explains what happened to Alex Salmond. The swing against him was 11.8%, but the swing to the Tory victor was 29%. What happened in Gordon was that the Lib Dems (treacherous bastards even to their own) deserted poor Dai Evans. Yet the Lib Dems still gained 3 seats where tactical voting benefited them.
Though I’m sad to see him go (if only temporarily) I enjoyed hearing Alex Salmond in his concession speech quote from that rousing Jacobite song, Bonnie Dundee with, ‘And tremble, false Whigs, in the midst of your glee, Ye hae no seen the last o’ my bonnets and me!’ Because those who think they’ve seen off the SNP threat, and put Salmond back in his box, should be warned against counting chickens.
Though it’s not always as simple as Unionists gathering behind the candidate most likely to thwart the devilish Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish politics is much more complex and nuanced nowadays, as this BBC piece makes clear. I was particularly struck by the contribution of John Dowson of Dumfries, a lifelong Labour voter, who wants independence, but was thinking of voting Tory because he also wants out of the EU. If he did indeed vote Tory, then his vote will be wrongly counted as a vote against independence.
Because that’s something else you have to understand about Scotland, not everybody who wants independence votes SNP. And how many SNP Brexiteers voted Tory for a hard Brexit, but will vote Yes in another referendum?
OVER THE WATER
When I was a young man, before the Troubles, Northern Ireland was almost a one-party state, and the one party was the Ulster Unionist Party, the UUP. There was no other Unionist Party, UK parties did not contest seats over there, and through gerrymandering, intimidation and various forms of electoral fraud such as personation the Catholic voice was almost silenced. (The Unionist election day call to the faithful was, ‘Vote early, vote often’.)
With the Troubles came a widening divide between the two communities and a hardening of attitudes. One result was the creation in September 1971, by the Reverend Doctor Ian Kyle Paisley, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). From its outset it was more hard-line on the Union and ‘terrorism’ than the rather more patrician UUP, and also more conservative on social issues. Hardly surprising given who’d formed it and its links with his Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
The polarisation reached its inevitable conclusion on Thursday when the UUP failed to win a single seat, as did its Nationalist counterpart, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Sinn Féin won 7 seats, the DUP won 10, and the other seat, North Down, was held by Independent Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon (née Paisley), widow of Sir Jack Hermon, one-time Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
As I write this Theresa May has agreed a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP rather than a formal coalition, but either way, for the Tories it’s stepping back into the nineteenth century, back to an age of John Bull nationalism, Fenians, the rejection of Darwinism, contempt for the undeserving poor and the stoning of poofters.
On the issues of today the DUP wants a hard Brexit but a soft border with the Republic. Talk about having your cake and eating it! So on that issue at least they’re in tune with the Conservatives.
Any co-operation with the DUP shows a) how desperate Theresa May is to hang on to power and b) how ignorant she is of modern Irish politics. For a start, any co-operation between the Tories and the DUP might threaten the Good Friday Agreement, because seeing Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, in Number 10, will raise fears on the Nationalist-Republican side that the UK Government is no longer impartial in its approach to Northern Ireland.
It should also be explained that the 7 Sinn Féin candidates elected will never be MPs because they refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance to the English monarch. This of course affects the arithmetic in the House of Commons and means that with 643 MPs The Conservatives need just 322 votes. So with the Tories having 318, the DUP 10, plus Lady Hermon tagging along, the ‘Understanding’ has 329 votes. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, playing the Orange Card or relying on Unionists may have paid dividends a hundred years or more ago, but in recent times it’s tended to go pear-shaped, as Sunny Jim found out in 1979, and in the twenty-first century the Conservatives getting too close to the DUP might even jeopardise 20 years of relative peace. This could all end in tears.
Given the close cultural, historical and other ties between Scotland and the north of Ireland one might have thought that their London masters entering a Faustian pact with the DUP would be welcomed by the Scottish Tories, but as might be expected, the DUP is against same-sex marriage, and the lesbian leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson, is hoping to get married soon.
Woe! woe and thrice woe!
DOWN BY ‘ERE
Already, a great deal of nonsense has been spouted by all sides involved on Thursday, so here’s my attempt to give an impartial view. Taking the bigger, Englandandwales picture, it’s obvious to everyone that Theresa May made a massive miscalculation.
The longer the campaign went on the more people turned away from her dalek-like performance and warmed to Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward sincerity. May cannot campaign, she even seems incapable of a genuine smile, or interacting with the Great Unwashed, and yet the Conservative campaign was almost all about her. Quite incredible.
The Prime Minister is clearly on borrowed time. She will never be allowed to lead another election campaign, so her survival might depend to some extent on the pact with the DUP working. One reason she’s still in place is that there’s no obvious replacement. But one will emerge.
That said, this was still a big defeat for Labour, and it’s absurd to celebrate as a victory what is really nothing more than relief at avoiding complete annihilation. Just check the numbers. The Tories may have got the worst possible kind of victory, but Theresa May is still in number 10 and Labour is still in opposition. Which from Labour’s perspective is probably the best outcome.
Because the Labour Party is still at war with itself, and we are now presented with the nauseating sight of former critics changing their position on Corbyn because the slimy, self-serving bastards know a meal ticket when they see one – and this bloke can keep them in a job. (For a number of them, he already has!)
But of course these moderates and Blairites are now even more uncomfortable in a party where the left is strengthened. Will an emboldened Momentum now embark on a campaign of deselections? Which makes you wonder what exactly anti-Corbyn Labour victors were celebrating in the wee small hours of Friday. It can only have been self-preservation and hanging on to a cushy, well-paid job with expenses galore.
Like these two in Port Talbot. Kinnock père hates Corbyn with a vengeance (he reminds him of Derek Hatton), yet here he is celebrating like his boy has scored the winning try against England. In reality, it’s a case of, ‘Tidy, mun, the Kinnock name will continue to shine, boy, one day you’ll be prime minister . . . like I nearly was . . . nearly . . . prime minister . . . Sheffield . . . oh, God! I need a drink’.
This picture is a celebration of personal and family ambition. The Labour Party and what it might achieve for the downtrodden masses is incidental or totally irrelevant, for in the case of the Kinnocks the party’s real purpose is to serve as a vehicle for dynastic ambition. Today’s Labour Party contains more chancers and careerists than at any time I can remember.
The headline figure is that Plaid Cymru fell back, its vote down 1.7% on 2015. By comparison, the Tories, who we are told were the losers on Thursday, saw their vote increase by 6.3%. Labour’s vote went up by 12.1%, making it clear that in Wales it was Labour that gained most of the former UKIP vote. It would appear that ‘Welsh’ Labour distancing itself from Corbyn paid dividends.
Yes, Plaid gained Ceredigion, but let’s put that victory, by just 104 votes, into perspective. Ceredigion is a seat held by the party at Assembly level, it has been previously held by the party at Westminster level, and was won by an impressive young local after the sitting Lib Dem, or his supporters, were caught telling porkies.
In Arfon, Plaid held on by the skin of its teeth, 92 votes to be exact. How much this result was influenced by the votes of English and other foreign students in Bangor is something we might learn later. Though I have to confess to asking myself many times,‘Who is Hywel Williams?’, because the political firmament remains unlit by his presence. (In fact, I often confuse him with Albert Owen, the Labour MP for Ynys Môn!)
In addition to Ceredigion there were four other seats where Plaid Cymru entertained hopes of success, these were: Ynys Môn, Llanelli, Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent. Here are the results:
The only comfort Plaid Cymru may be able to draw is that the party’s vote increased in Blaenau Gwent, but in last year’s Assembly election the same candidate, Nigel Copner, came within 650 votes of Labour minister Alun Davies. Furthermore, this is a volatile constituency, won with a handsome majority in 2005 by Independent Peter Law, the incumbent MP who’d left Labour over all-women shortlists.
Following Law’s death, the seat was held at a by-election in 2006 by Dai Davies. In the 2007 Assembly election Blaenau Gwent was won by Law’s widow, Trish, before returning to Labour in 2011. In last week’s election Nigel Copner was helped by Dai Davies.
So maybe there’s no comfort to be drawn from the result in Blaenau Gwent after all.
After the smoke had cleared on Friday Plaid Cymru was back to square one, holding four rural seats where it relies on a socially conservative and largely Welsh-speaking support. It made no progress whatever in the urban and more anglicised areas that make up the greater part of the country. This is a party going nowhere.
Except, maybe, backwards. For in the case of Llanelli, this Westminster seat has been a target for Plaid Cymru since Carwyn James got 8,387 votes against Denzil Davies in 1970.
Then came the 1980s when the bright young things took over, ‘reaching out’ beyond Plaid’s core vote to all manner of minority groups, most of which didn’t give a toss about Wales. Much of this was due to Dafydd Elis Thomas . . . what became of him? But it laid the foundations for the party we see today.
Plaid Cymru’s message is more attuned to the youth vote, the Remainers, the ethnic minorities, of major English cities, than to post-industrial wastelands filled with angry and poorly educated white people who don’t give a toss about trans-gender issues or the latest advances in green technology. Plaid Cymru only gets away with this mis-targeting in the west due to its cultural appeal.
In 2007 Plaid Cymru had the chance to run the Assembly as the largest party in coalition with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The leftists and the wimmin rose up with shrieks of horror at the prospect of aligning themselves with the crypto-fascist, baby-eating Conservatives – and Plaid instead became Labour’s little helper in the One Wales Agreement.
Nothing’s changed, this sucking up to Labour goes on and on, I know that one Plaid politician was recently told to stop using the #redtories Twitter hashtag.
A few years before 2007, Plaid removed its most successful leader, Dafydd Wigley, in a squalid coup.
Though never a member myself, many tell me that Plaid Cymru undermined Cymuned, one of the most promising movements Wales has seen in recent decades, but today just a shadow of what it might have been.
Plaid Cymru is either a party making major strategic errors, or else this is a party that has been compromised. Either way, it’s of no further use to the Welsh nation. As things stand, Plaid Cymru is of more benefit to England than to Wales because it’s every colonialist’s dream of a ‘national’ party.
I often think that if I was running the secret state I’d want a party in Wales just like Plaid Cymru. A party that makes the occasional unimportant gains, can keep enough people enthused with the hope of ‘next time’, and, most importantly of all, act as a block on the emergence of a party that might actually threaten the Union.
Unless Plaid Cymru can reform itself into a truly Welsh party, appealing to the whole country, regarding all other parties as opponents, rather than potential partners, then the time has come for Plaid Cymru to stop wasting everybody’s time and leave the field to those with fresh ideas and a different approach.
The answer to that question is, from the mid-1980s until some time in August or September of 2014, when YMCA Wales went into administration. In the report I’ve linked to you’ll read, “While the head office for YMCA Wales is in the Llansamlet area of Swansea, the majority of the staff are based in West Wales where the charity ran an outdoor education centre at Newgale.”
The “outdoor education centre at Newgale” in Pembrokeshire was YMCA Wales’ prize asset, worth some half a million pounds. Like a restless spirit that refuses to pass over the Newgale website is still available, though of course it hasn’t been updated since 2014.
From the information I’ve been able to gather it would appear that the Centre was bought in June 2015 for £507,000 by Captiva Holdings of Haverfordwest, and is run by another company at the same address known as The Development Company.
While I’m glad to see that this property (made up of three bunkhouses) was bought by a local company (Land Registry document), I was disappointed when told that all the money raised went to pay off creditors, with the administrators of course taking their cut, rather than it being distributed among the surviving YMCAs scattered about the land.
With the parent body demised, the jewel in the crown flogged off, and the coffers empty, it seems that the various YMCAs left standing affiliated themselves to YMCA England. The clip below is taken from page 3 of YMCA England’s Annual Report 2015/6.
I put this clip out on Twitter a few days ago, one response likened it to an acclamation of Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria in 1938. For there is something chilling and totalitarian about making the “federation stronger” and adopting “the national brand”, which of course can only mean the English national brand.
YMCA Wales was put into administration at the start of September 2014. Its CEO until July had been Mo Sykes, though she had not been at work for a few months, it’s possible she had been suspended. She certainly left under something of a cloud, to the extent that the ‘Welsh’ Government called Plod in to sniff around.
The feedback I was getting in 2014 and earlier argued that the real problem lay in affiliated YMCA groups being taken over and asset-stripped in order to a) fund the parent body run by Mo Sykes, b) pay off its debts, c) benefit projects favoured by Ms Sykes or d) any combination of those three.
One of the more bizarre of those projects was YMCA Wales wanting to build housing on land it claimed to own in Penrhyndeudraeth, just south of Porthmadog in Gwynedd. I wrote about this in July 2013 with YMCA ‘Wales’, Another Trojan Horse At The Trough. It soon became clear that YMCA Wales was in fact fronting for an evangelical church, Green Pastures, which has, quite unashamedly, commercialised homelessness, to the extent of seeking investors and partners. I explained this linkage in YMCA ‘Wales’ And The Green, Green Pastures.
A curious feature of this arrangement was the link between Green Pastures and YMCA Flint. To begin with, it appeared that YMCA Flint was not affiliated to YMCA Wales yet YMCA Wales seemed to be paying its salaries; also, there was funding coming from Flintshire County Council.
It only made sense when I realised that Green Pastures, an outfit with a presence all across Lancashire and Yorkshire, was invisible on Merseyside, instead it seemed to be dealing with the homeless of that conurbation through a group of evangelical churches in Flintshire, assisted by the local YMCA.
Another disturbing tale concerned Bargoed YMCA, where Mo Sykes and YMCA Wales displaced the locals who had been running this local outpost. A dispute arose, which went legal, and with perfect Christian timing those who dared challenge Mo Sykes and YMCA Wales were served with a notice to pay £9,800 – on Christmas Eve!
Though perhaps the major casualty was the YMCA Wales Community College, a multi-million pound adult education business that had been going well, expanding year on year. There seem to have been issues in certain quarters over ‘duplication’ and the Community College has since merged with the Workers’ Educational Association Cymru to form Addysg Oedolion Cymru / Adult Learning Wales.
Even though YMCAs in Wales have affiliated to YMCA England that body still brought out a Welsh Manifesto . . . or, rather, a YMCAs in Wales Manifesto 2016, ahead of last year’s Assembly elections. Why? Because the YMCA is a social landlord and a Third Sector body, so it wants to continue screwing money out of the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Having dealt with the more general picture, I’m now going to focus on a specific example of how a YMCA operates. I’ve written a few times about this subject, trying to explain what a racket it is. Unfortunately, it’s a familiar story and not confined to Llandovery.
It goes something like this: a bunch of incomers/good-lifers get together and wonder how the area – Wales, even – managed without them. This acceptance of their missionary duty is coupled with the realisation that there’s a lot of easy moolah sloshing around. Next step is to get some semi-numerate ‘adviser’ to concoct a business plan, spew forth bollocks about ‘community space’, providing ‘facilities’, blah, blah, blah, then whack in grant applications to all and sundry.
The real purpose of these schemes is of course to further boost the egos of those involved while also providing salaries and pension pots.
You can find these schemes all over the country but certain areas are affected worse than others because a number of factors come into play. One being whether an area receives EU structural funding (pissed away by the Labour Party at a rate which makes the half-time deluge at rugby internationals look like a trickle). Another consideration is how attractive an area is to good-lifers, white flighters, hippies, enviro-shysters and others. Finally, there’s the local council’s attitude towards such parasites.
By way of example, the Heads of the Valleys may qualify for Objective One funding, but Ebbw Vale, Merthyr and other towns won’t attract many belonging to the groups I’ve listed; furthermore, the local Labour hetmen have always been reluctant to see money over which they have any control pass out of the ‘family’.
On the other hand, the more scenically attractive and rural areas suffer greatly from this influx. One such area is the Tywi valley, and one such town is Llanymddyfri. Which is where we encounter Jill Tatman and her friends.
One source of funding made available to Tatman and her gang was Carmarthenshire County Council’s Rural Development Plan: Supporting Rural Carmarthenshire. Here’s a RDP video put out in September 2013, you don’t need to be a nationalist to be struck by the fact that the only Welsh voice we hear is in the introduction.
What we see here explains why the funding allocated to Wales has achieved so little. In the world of funding, dishing out the money so as not to jeopardise next year’s dollop is all that really matters. When the system is run on such lines then funding becomes nothing more than a box-ticking exercise, and money is inevitably wasted.
Thankfully, the Llandovery racket seems to be coming to an end. For I hear that the gang is no longer allowed to use the YMCA name, the Lottery funding may have stopped, and now they hope to keep afloat solely on what they make from room hire. Which means that it might all come tumbling down fairly soon.
It should not surprise anyone to learn that Jill Tatman, educated at a privately run evangelical college in Derbyshire, was for a time a trustee of YMCA Wales; in fact she was personal assistant to the CEO, which probably explains why Mo Sykes became a trustee of Llandovery YMCA, and was almost certainly instrumental in securing the grants and other benefits for her friend Tatman Llandovery YMCA.
WHO’S WHO IN LLANDOVERY YMCA
Those still involved are an interesting crew, and serve to remind us yet again that our rural areas are being ripped apart by a combination of neglect, tourism and colonisation.
First of course we have Jill Tatman herself. I hear that the CPS will not be pressing charges against her husband but it’s suggested there are questions about the wisdom of allowing children near the (former) YMCA building in future.
Next up is Andrew Barker, owner of the Tŷ Gwyn tea rooms in Llanwrda. He tweets as Pastor Emeritus @barkerswoof. Barker was a teacher in Essex who married one of his pupils, moved to Wales, and now has eight children. A religious cove, our Andrew, who obviously went forth and multiplied.
Julie Richards is another ex-teacher, this time from northern England. She taught for a while at Ysgol Pantycelyn, but had to give up teaching due to bipolar disorder. She now helps run the Gwynfe Cat Welfare in Llandovery, which rescues cats . . . from whom or from what I know not.
Then there’s the man described to me as “a self-ordained and self-appointed ‘rural pastor'”, Simon Bowkett who runs a charity called Y Grwp or, to give it its full name, Grace Rural Wales Partnership. To judge by the photograph he wears the Horse and Hound clothing no authentic Welsh countryman would ever wear.
Another member of this circus may be encountered at the Cibola emporium in Llandovery. Owner Diane Fontenoy supplements her income by fostering children on her farm near Llandovery. I have it from more than one source that fostering is regarded as a nice little earner among the colon population.
Moving on . . . Anna Battek-Kosiorowska is – as the name might suggest – Polish, a vet and a friend of Julie Richards.
Let’s not forget one of the current trustees, Anne Swift, an elderly spinster, retired barrister and High Tory. Said to be from Gower, but might respond with the Duke of Wellington’s horse and stable analogy if accused of being Welsh. To judge by her Twitter account she has little time for people, being one of those elderly women who is obsessed with cats and dogs.
Finally, let’s remember two more seen in the video (at 1:47), Gill Wright and Jane Ryall. They took over the old North Western pub and had it converted into a bunkhouse called the Level Crossing. I don’t know how much public money went into this venture, but however much it was it was wasted. The venture collapsed last year after less than three years in ‘business’.
You will have noticed that a number of those involved are of a religious bent but do not belong to anything most of us would regard as mainstream religion, more the ‘happy clappy’ element, Evangelicals of the kind we met earlier in Penrhyndeudraeth. Nothing wrong with this, or course, but the Land Registry title document for the building makes interesting reading in this context.
You’ll see that the property was transferred to YMCA Wales by the Church in Wales, with certain covenants. I have no reason to suspect that Tatman and her clique hold Bacchanalian orgies in the building so it’s reasonable to assume that the conditions outlined in 2.1 have been adhered to, but what of 2.2?
Clearly the building has been used “other than for residential purposes”, indeed, except for Lee Mattocks – who can be found on the video at 2:53 – living there rent free for two years, I’m not sure the building has ever been used for residential purposes.
Perhaps of more worry should be that the building is said to be regularly used for happy clappy gatherings, which clearly contravenes 2.2 in that these belong to a “religious denomination or sect” other than Anglican.
The latest news is that the remaining Welsh trustees are being elbowed out and Tatman and her gang are seeking new sources of funding.
Though anyone minded to fund these people should insist on a rather more transparent accounting system than the one I’m told is currently in use. For La Tatman is said to pay for things with her personal debit card and then reimburse herself from YMCA funds!
And although there is only one known YMCA bank account some wonder where the £18,000 magically appeared from when that account was running low. Suspicions persist that there may be accounts existing that are unknown to those outside a gilded circle. Perhaps YMCA money is ‘resting’ in personal accounts, away from prying eyes.
RETURN TO LLANSAMLET
Mo Sykes walked away from the wreckage of YMCA Wales and set herself up as a consultant before landing the post of New Beginnings Manager with the Swansea Young Single Homeless Project in November 2016, yet another ride on the Third Sector merry-go-round. SYSHP income for y/e 31.03.2017 was £1,190,550 (down from £1,349,594 y/e 31.03.2012) and salaries took a very hefty £860,031 of that (£994,721 y/e 31.03.2012).
(I bet you’re surprised to learn that Mo Sykes is a member of the Labour Party! And this being Swansea, it should go without saying that she’s not Welsh. Sykes is from the Six Counties.)
Llansamlet is a ward I know quite well. I recall my old mate John Ball becoming the first Plaid Cymru councillor in Swansea when he won Llansamlet back in the early ’70s. I sank many a pint with Phil Henri in the Smiths and the Star. And I think the last time I ever spoke with Viv Davies the FWA veteran was in the Smiths. It all seems a lifetime ago now.
The vacancies in Llansamlet were caused by the departure of Bob and Uta Clay, the Anglo-Austrian Trotskyist duo, of whom I have writ more than once. I shall miss them. But I’m sure Mo Sykes will provide me with inspiration. I can say that because Labour never fails to give me something to write about. Add the Third Sector and it often becomes an embarrassment of riches.
And so we’ve come full circle to Llansamlet. I wonder if, when she’s out canvassing, any local will ask Mo Sykes, ‘What happened to YMCA Wales?’. I’d certainly like to know. Anyone out there with answers is more than welcome to get in touch.
When it comes to grant-grabbers I take the view that they’ll always be with us, as will those, with their Labour Party connections, who think that a ‘career’ in the Third Sector puts them on a par with people who contribute to the economy by creating wealth and jobs. But they should be slapped down not encouraged and patronised.
What really concerns me in the case of YMCA Wales is that a body serving our country was wrecked, almost certainly by people with Labour Party connections, and the debris was then hoovered up by YMCA England without anyone raising a murmur. And this was happening 16 years into devolution. Unfortunately YMCA Wales is no isolated example.
It’s a pattern that sees Wales being integrated with England at a faster rate than we’ve known since the Tudors. It shows itself in countless ways, from the England (andwales) Cricket Board to Dee Valley Water being taken over by Severn Trent. Yet the politicians in our Assembly, which is supposed to be serving Welsh interests, say little and do nothing.
When they do put on a show of ‘doing something’, it often turns out to be the kind of thing I wrote about in the previous post – handing Wales over to the likes of Bear Grylls and Gavin Lee Woodhouse.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, devolution is a chimera; the civil servants who run Wales change a few words in laws that have already been passed in England, add (Wales), and then get the BBC or Trinity Mirror to pretend it’s all the work of a real government. And while we’re being lied to in this way Wales is either being killed off or sold off all around us.
From now on Wales needs people who will not get bogged down debating whether registration of denture makers should be devolved; now that we can see devolution has failed we must reject it, and push for independence. There is no acceptable alternative.
‘The nations and regions of the UK’ is a term used by the BBC and other organisations and it fascinates me for a number of reasons. Primarily I suppose because I can readily identify the former but I’m confused when I read about the latter, especially in a political context. Do you know where these mysterious ‘regions’ are? Let’s start with the relatively easy job of identifying the nations.
There are four nations in these islands. Apart from us Welsh there are the Scots and the English with the three of us making up Britain; and then there are the Irish, with the greater part of Ireland being independent. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK, but as the Troubles made clear, there are two communities there; one that shares its cultural background with the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, and can be called Irish, with the other identifying with Britain, or more particularly Scotland, and insisting it is British.
Which is confusing, because there is no British nation. There is certainly a British state, but that’s a constitutional arrangement. To confuse matters further ‘British’ is a term that was used for centuries by English writers to describe us Welsh and our language, in recognition of the fact that we were the original inhabitants of this island, before the post-Roman Germanic and Irish settlements. (Though this connection is less likely to be made nowadays, for the same English nationalist reasons that ‘Iron Age Britain’ has replaced ‘Celtic Britain’.) So are these people in the northern part of Ireland who claim to British some lost Welsh tribe?
Despite this division into two mutually hostile camps it serves British interests to regard Northern Ireland as one of the nations, on a par with Wales, England and Scotland. Is it not, it is simply a devolved administration, and at some point in the near future it will re-unite with the rest of the island.
I think that settles – for the time being, at least – the nations element of this little piece. Let’s move on.
It seems obvious that if we are looking for the BBC’s regions, then we’ll have to look for them in England. But these regions are arbitrary geographical units, most of which seem to be named after compass points, I see nothing closer to a nation, a geographical area of England where people say – preferably in a distinctive accent – ‘This is my region, I am a native of ————-‘.
At this point you might be tempted to put down your porcelain cup of Darjeeling and wonder aloud, ‘What the fuck is he is on about, why is he writing about the regions of England?’ but please bear with me, for I shall now explain how I believe this is relevant to Wales.
Last Wednesday saw a ‘taskforce’ meet in Cardiff, a gathering of great Labour minds hoping to give the impression that their party has a cunning plan for a new constitutional arrangement post-Brexit.
In attendance were our own Carwyn Jones, former PM Gordon Brown, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour Kezia Dugdale, ex-deputy PM John Prescott, some bloke named Jon Trickett (described as a strategist’), and among the spear carriers were Christina Rees MP and Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle council. While in the chorus we find the Labour candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, his counterpart for the Liverpool City Region, etc.
Clearly, ‘handing more powers down’ is an attempt to cut off the SNP at the pass, by giving Scotland more powers so that people there will say, ‘See you, Jimmy, we dinnae need independence the noo’. (I bet you read that and thought, ‘Bloody hell! Some Scotsman has taken over Jac’s blog’.)
And in the hope of disguising that this is all about preventing Scottish independence Labour must come up with what looks like a more general plan for all“the nations and regions that make up the UK”.
Which is a bit tricky when we can’t locate these regions, which brings us back to the original problem.
THE LESSONS OF HISTORY
Clearly, England does not have established and distinct regions like France, let alone Germany, where many of today’s länder were independent states well into the nineteenth century. It was a similar situation in Italy, though few today mourn the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
By comparison, England was unified by the middle of the tenth century, with London the capital and major city. When William of Normandy invaded in 1066 he only needed to win one battle, kill Harold, and march on London to be ruler of all England. I can think of no other European country of the time that would have fallen so completely, so quickly.
Consequently, what passes for regions in England today are nothing more than broadcasters’ shorthand – the West Country, East Anglia, etc. And yet, there was a time, a brief window, when England was organised into separate kingdoms, or at least, those parts of England that weren’t still under Welsh control.
It was known as the Heptarchy, or Seven Kingdoms, and those of you of a Time Team disposition will go all a-quiver at the mention of the term. It was that period from (roughly) the early seventh century to the early tenth century, and is illustrated in the map. The western areas, coloured in darker green, were the areas still ruled by our ancestors.
That was then, and since then the problem of delineating England’s regions has taxed many great minds, but there was always resistance to formal regions on the grounds that there was something foreign about them, foreign and divisive. Perhaps because her imperial history had taught England how to exploit divisions. So if – God forbid! – some foreign Johnny ever invaded let him find himself faced with a united country. (Though as we’ve learnt, that was England’s weakness in 1066.)
And this resistance to regions persists, so you’d think Labour would have known better after the abject failure of the party’s Regional Assemblies (Preparation) Act 2003. (What do you mean, you ‘don’t remember it’!) This was intended to pave the way, through referendums, for assemblies in northern England. Just one referendum was held, in the north east, in 2004; but the Geordies, Mackems, Smoggies and the rest rejected the offer by 78% to 22%. The whole project was then abandoned.
As I mentioned, one of those attending the taskforce meeting was former deputy prime minister John Prescott, and the northern assemblies project was his brainchild. So this is either a case of some people never learn, or, a good idea is worth persisting with. Take your pick.
WHY IT WILL NEVER WORK
The idea of regions and regional governments is unattractive to most English people; they will probably have an affection for their town or city, the wider locality, maybe their county, but after that it’s England, or Britain. A region is an odd and unnecessary layer to insert.
And yet, if English politicians, and their Unionist allies in Scotland and Wales are to save Britain then they must pretend to believe in devolution, or even federalism, but the problem remains England, it’s just too big. Federalism works in the USA or Germany because no matter how big and rich California and Bavaria might they’re still out-gunned by the rest.
So the only way to sell federalism to Scotland is to suggest breaking England up into regions . . . that the English don’t want. But even if you could get enough English to buy into regions that would still leave the problem of London, infinitely richer than any of the other ‘regions’, and it would almost certainly be the seat of the federal government.
And look at the North West region. Liverpool, Manchester and wealthy Cheshire in the south, and in the north . . . lakes and holiday homes? Come to think of it – where’s Cornwall? Will our Cornish cousins accept being subsumed into a South West region run from Bristol?
The Scots would be foolish to listen to Labour’s overtures, or any promise of more devolution. Ask yourself what would happen in the unlikely event of the Scottish Parliament accepting federalism but the English refusing to accept regions – will the UK government force regions on the English? No.
The second reason for rejecting Labour’s proposals is that we’ve been here before, very recently, in fact, just before the independence referendum in September 2014. Remember ‘The Vow’? In the closing stages of the referendum campaign Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, the leaders of the three main Unionist parties ganged together to promise Scotland something within a whisker of independence. This promise may have guaranteed the No vote, and it was then reneged on.
Thirdly, this taskforce is drawn from the Labour Party, which is unlikely to be in any position to offer anybody anything until around 2025. And just look at who’s in the taskforce; Brown, Prescott, Jones, Dugdale – would you trust any of that lot?
I have faith in the SNP. They know that England and England’s Unionist allies in Scotland are not to be trusted. It must be independence; no more crumbs, no more half measures, no more lies.
It would be nice to report that Wales is on the same path. But she’s not. I fear we’re headed in the opposite direction.
In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.
In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .
A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.
The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.
Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.
Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.
I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.
As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.
The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.
The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.
These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.
Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.
Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.
*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.
All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.
I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?
For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.
So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.
These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.
But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.
‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.
A Chorus not a Drone
Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.
There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.
Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.
It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.
Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.
Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.
As you know by now, the SNP wants another referendum on Scottish independence, to be held towards the end of 2018, when the terms of Brexit will be known but before its implementation, in the hope that a Yes vote might keep Scotland in the EU without the need to apply for membership.
Within hours of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon asking for her referendum Sinn Féin called for a referendum on re-unifying Ireland. Boosted by the increase in the party’s vote in the recent elections and playing on the fact that there is disquiet on both sides of the border, and in both northern communities, about the possibility of a ‘hard border’ being imposed once the UK leaves the EU.
UK prime minster Theresa May has refused to grant a Scottish referendum, making a vague promise of allowing a vote when the Brexit negotiations are complete and ‘the facts are known’ . . . or perhaps she’ll drag it out in the hope that the SNP loses its majority in the 2021 Scottish elections.
Here in Wales, in response to the SNP’s request Carwyn Jones nailed his colours to the mast of British nationalism by stating that we’re all better off in the UK. Last month declaring that after Brexit the UK could become a ‘mini-EU’. (Does he write this stuff himself?)
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has called for a ‘debate’ on independence if Scotland votes to leave the UK. Many others, especially on social media, are calling for a Welsh referendum.
My reading of the situation is as follows.
Ms Sturgeon believes that Brexit is the issue to swing things her party’s way, and she may be right, for as we know Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the EU. But will that translate into Yes votes in an independence referendum?
A lot is being made of those in Scotland who voted for independence in September 2014 and for Brexit in June 2016, with Unionists pretending to believe that this group will vote No to independence in a second referendum. Look, I have wanted independence for Wales all my life – and I voted for Brexit. Like 80% of Scots who voted for independence and Brexit my priority is to break the English connection; whether we’re in or out of the EU is almost irrelevant. So stop talking nonsense.
Sinn Féin has nothing to lose because a No vote to reunification would be expected due to there still being a Unionist majority. The party can count on its own supporters voting Yes, and nationalists joining them, but what if enough Unionists are so worried by Brexit that they’ll agree to a united Ireland rather than be outside the EU? There could be enough to be decisive; but whatever happens, Sinn Féin has nothing to lose.
Mrs May is the real gambler in this situation for any number of reasons, here are three. What would the UK Government do if a referendum organised by the SNP in defiance of Westminster returned a Yes vote and the SNP government in Holyrood declared independence? Second, Mrs May is increasingly being compared with Mrs Thatcher, but seeing as Mrs Thatcher’s legacy is toxic in Scotland this is turning Scots towards independence. Third, her own party, plus Ukip bawling in the wings, will demand a tough Brexit, telling them Europeans where to stick it, so delaying the Scottish referendum may be no advantage.
And here’s a final consideration that could screw up the Unionist position entirely. There is increasing acceptance within the EU that it needs to reform, to become less bureaucratic and more more democratic, and to crack down on corruption rather than on whistle-blowers. What if, as a farewell present, the EU, while negotiating Britain’s exit, simultaneously began reforming itself, so as to make it more alluring to Scottish and Northern Irish voters. For we all know how devious Johnny Foreigner can be.
But of course we are concerned with Wales. If Scotland goes independent, and if Ireland becomes one again – two big ifs – then there will be calls for a referendum in Wales. But there are important differences between Wales and the other two. For example, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted, by substantial majorities, to remain in the EU, whereas Wales voted to leave.
FOCUSING ON WALES
Let us assume that Brexit goes through to satisfy the BritLanders, that Scotland then votes for independence, and that the Irish throw themselves into each other’s arms, or at least, enough of them want a united Ireland to leave the UK as nothing more than Englandandwales. It goes without saying that in such a situation the calls for a Welsh referendum on independence will become louder.
While the position of most Plaid Cymru members can be guessed at, perhaps of greater importance is the position of the other political parties in Wales, especially the Labour Party. If Lord Kinnock is still with us in 2020 – and let us pray that the Grim Reaper ignores him (as we have learnt to) for a few more years – then I can see him leading the fight against Welsh independence. But what of Carwyn Jones and his gang, possibly more representative of today’s Labour voters than Kinnock?
Even with Scotland and Northern Ireland gone, I cannot see ‘Welsh’ Labour supporting the call for a referendum. The party is just too Brit in its outlook on everything, and so hostile to expressions of Welsh identity such as the Welsh language, as we’ve seen in Llangennech and elsewhere. Most recently in Labour’s refusal to back Dr Dai Lloyd’s modest attempt to protect Welsh place names.
On the plus side, the Labour Party in Wales is losing credibility and haemorrhaging support at a rate that is beginning to alarm the rats left on board, who are now turning on each other, with deselections reported from across the land ahead of May’s council elections.
We can guarantee the Conservative and Ukip positions on Welsh independence, and so without Labour Plaid Cymru could be a lone voice. Which will mean that in order to have any hope of winning an independence referendum the Yes campaign – little more perhaps than Plaid Cymru by another name – will need to remove party politics from the debate and appeal to the people on a different level entirely. Basically, raw patriotism.
~ ♦ ~
WILL AN APPEAL TO PATRIOTISM WORK?
No doubt some reading this will disagree with me and suggest that a Yes campaign could appeal to voters on the grounds that Wales would be better off in the EU, and so if independence is the only way to reach the land of milk and honey then they should vote Yes. The flaw there being that the ‘better off in the EU’ argument was used last year, and Welsh voters rejected it.
No, it would have to be done on the the most basic level, something like, ‘With Scotland and Northern Ireland gone it’s just England and Wales now, so do you want Wales to become part of England?’
And instead of discussing exports of salt marsh lamb to France, or Trixie Grant-Grabber and her friends at the Gurnos LGBT Muesli Knitters Co-operative losing their EU funding, it would be more sensible to use arguments that will resonate with far more people. One that comes to mind is the survival of our national football team. Because it’s not just the BritNats who want to see a UK football team; national associations around the world question why Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national teams when they are not independent countries.
With Scotland independent and Ireland one again maintaining a national football team for Wales will become very difficult, after a No to independence vote it will be virtually impossible. How long before our national rugby team goes the same way? (Yes it’s scaremongering. What do you think the other side will be doing?)
An appeal to patriotism, painting a picture of Englandandwales morphing into England with the loss of our national sporting teams and other badges of our identity, might get 51% of the Welsh vote on a good day after a particularly rousing speech by Carwyn Jones. But 51% of the Welsh vote will not be enough to gain independence due to the strangers in our midst, and I’m not talking here about EU migrants.
At the most recent census in 2011 we learnt that 20.8% of the population of Wales was born in England. The percentage of the population born in Wales was just 72.7%. The figures may be skewed by Welsh mothers having babies in hospitals just over the border, but the effect of our lack of maternity facilities is more than offset by children born to English parents in Wales who do not identify with Wales in any meaningful way.
Perhaps a more telling figure from the census would be that for identification, shown in the table below. There we see that only 65.8% of people living in Wales at the time of the census regarded themselves as Welsh.
Now it could be that some of these strangers among us would vote for Welsh independence . . . but it wouldn’t be many. They will vote much as the non-French 20% of the population voted in the Quebéc independence referendum of October 1995, overwhelmingly against independence, and enough to secure a hairs-breadth victory of 50.58% to 49.42%.
Which means that given the figures we know, and taking into account other factors, such as the English element in the population being more heavily represented in the older age groups, and therefore more likely to vote, the Yes campaign would need to secure the votes of almost all the ‘Welsh only’ identifiers to win a referendum. Ain’t gonna happen.
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WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
As I hope I’ve made clear, asking for an independence referendum in the next few years will be a mistake. Partly because it cannot be won, but more importantly because a Yes vote of less than 25% could be so demoralising that some people might give up and resign themselves to assimilation into England.
It would make more sense to accept the improved devolution settlement that London is almost certain to offer to soften the blow of us being left alone with our centuries-old abuser. (Yes, London might want a referendum, but if nobody in Wales is asking for it . . . )
The extra devolution we’ll be given will be as flawed and useless as the devolution we’ve known since 1999 unless Labour loses its pre-eminent position in Welsh politics. But to fully capitalise on Labour’s eclipse either Plaid Cymru must re-invent itself as a nationalist party, or be replaced by a nationalist party.
We must grab as much as we can, we must squeeze every last concession out of the London regime, demand anything that can benefit Wales. And don’t be afraid to take to the streets and in other ways show that you aren’t going to be messed around with. I say that not because I’m trying to incite violence but because we have a corrupt and useless political class that will sell us down the river again and again if given a chance.
Once we’ve secured the best deal we can get Wales needs to be ‘stabilised’, by which I mean investment and economic growth needs to spread more evenly around the country, we need to curb colonisation, we need a strategy for the Valleys that goes beyond commuter communities for Cardiff, we need to provide a real economy for our rural and coastal areas instead of being grateful for zip wires and granny farming, we must invest in infrastructure, education and training.
We need to behave as if we were already independent to prepare our people for independence.
We are in the position of being unable to win an independence referendum in the next few years because Plaid Cymru has failed Wales. Plaid Cymru’s dithering and obsession with single-issue politics over the past 40 years has served England’s interests better than it has served ours.