I first became acquainted with Jeremy through my old mate, the late Rhobert ap Steffan, known to the inner circle as ‘Castro’, who made a number of trips to Patagonia. I’d known Rhobert for many years, we spent the Investiture period in ’69 with a couple of other young rebels in Ireland.
We had a great send-off on the Swansea-Cork ferry from our Special Branch ‘tails’ (we each had two), who didn’t believe we were going. They followed our car in a convoy down to the docks, boarded the ferry, even bought us drinks, and then waved good-bye from the quayside as we sailed off.
God! it was a touching scene. Them: ‘The bastards really are going’. Us: ‘F### off, copper!’ Ah! Happy days!
But enough nostalgia. First, a biography of our guest writer, Jeremy Wood, and then he’ll bring you up to speed with events in Esquel, Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm and Bodega del fin del Mundo. (Ahhhh . . . Malbec!)
Jeremy Wood is one of the best-known authorities on Welsh Patagonia (to the extent of sometimes being referred to as ‘Mr Patagonia’). He lives in the home town of his Esquel-born wife, Cristina, and young son, Tomos. He is on the committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin and is actively involved in fund-raising for the town’s Welsh school, Ysgol y Cwm.
He featured extensively in Jon Gower’s 2015 book, Gwalia Patagonia, the sales proceeds of which have been generously dedicated to Ysgol y Cwm. He is involved in numerous projects relating to Patagonia and to the Welsh in Patagonia, about which he writes regularly for newspapers and magazines in the UK and the United States.
Jeremy has also contributed important, newly-discovered archive material to the Welsh museums across Patagonia, including a long lost manuscript regarding the murders of 3 young Welshmen in 1884 by John Daniel Evans, and has recently published a book on that tragedy.
He is also involved with film, writing Esquel (20:35) as part of the programme of twinning with Aberystwyth (which he initiated and completed). Jeremy also worked with Matthew Rhys to produce a Spanish version of Hollywood Gaucho. While as a film historian he has unearthed from the BBC archives 22 films made prior to 1980 about the Welsh in Patagonia and not previously seen in Patagonia.
He was asked by the producers of the Oscar-nominated film, Patagonia, to develop a special tour of Patagonia which follows in the footsteps of the film. He was the Patagonia-based ‘fixer’ for Huw Edwards’ Patagonia documentary released by the BBC in 2015. He has a special relationship with the Palaeontological Museum in Trelew, featured in David Attenborough’s 2016 documentary about the largest dinosaur (and animal) ever to have walked the Earth.
Away from movies and television Jeremy organises tours of Patagonia for small and large groups and has organised several musical tours, including two sell-out concert tours for tenor, Rhys Meirion.
Fittingly, he was one of only 30 Patagonians honoured to have been chosen to re-enact the landings of the first Welsh settlers in the 150th Anniversary celebrations in Porth Madryn in 2015.
Jeremy is a New Zealander and has studied Welsh at Ysgol Gymraeg yr Andes, the Welsh school in Esquel.
WELSH LANGUAGE IN PATAGONIA SHORED UP WITH EIGHT-INCH NAILS
Hoelion Wyth is a Welsh phrase for somebody who can be relied upon. It literally means an eight-inch nail, which was the longest nail used in the construction of chapels in Wales and, as such, had to be very strong and reliable. It is also the name of a Welsh society whose motto is “Nid rhwd anrhydedd hoelen”, which means, more or less, “A nail doesn’t wear rust with honor”.
Hoelion Wyth is a society to which honor and trustworthiness are very important. It was founded many years ago and the members (about 200 people) meet every month throughout Wales to enjoy wine and conversation. They regularly invite people with an interesting story to tell to attend their meetings and speak to them.
In 2015, I had the pleasure of taking 4 of their members for a trip around Chubut, the Argentinian province where all the Welsh towns and communities lie. In anticipation of their love of wine, I loaded 14 cases of Patagonian wine into my Toyota 4×4 and we travelled from Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast to Trevelin in the Andes for two weeks, meeting many members of the Welsh community, visiting homes, farms, schools and cemeteries, travelling to some of the most remote corners of Chubut to see our national parks, glaciers, deserts, geology and dinosaurs. And, with each Welsh Patagonian experience, we enjoyed Patagonian wine.
All my passengers were/are fluent in the Welsh language and use it in preference to English when they speak to each other. Outside Wales, the only place in the world where the language is still spoken is Chubut. Therefore, the most emotional moments we shared during our trip were when we met Argentinians who spoke Welsh and when we visited schools in Patagonia to see children learning and speaking Welsh.
Our visitors understand that the Welsh language is endangered in Chubut and that no money is available from any official source in Chubut to pay for Welsh schools. Therefore, when they returned to Wales, they talked about how they could combine the interests of their Society with the strengthening of the Welsh language in Argentina. The magic formula was then invented – to import wine from Patagonia to sell in Wales (and the rest of the UK) and to donate all the profits to our school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm (which means School of the Valley). At that time, in the early days of the project, they bought the wines from importing agents in Wales and added labels around the necks of the bottles to demonstrate the connection with the Welsh School in Patagonia. To date, they have already raised over $15,000 and haven’t taken a penny in profit themselves.
The group has just visited Patagonia again (much to the regret of my liver) and, on this occasion, we visited the Bodega del Fin del Mundo (literally, the Vineyard at the Bottom of the World), a Patagonian estate of almost 5,000 acres of 12 different grape varieties and with a production capacity of over 10 million bottles per year.
We spent the day with Julio Viola, the son of the founder of the vineyard, who insisted that we try over 30 different bottles from the estate, ranging from delicate champagnes to raunchy reds, and that we explain in more detail about the Welsh language still spoken in Trevelin (a few hundred kilometres south of the vineyard) and how the vineyard could help us raise more money for Ysgol y Cwm.
We left many hours later, most on wobbly legs, with a commitment from the vineyard to look seriously into a production run in Patagonia of a Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a label, in Welsh, explaining the presence of the Welsh language in Argentina and the continued teaching and promotion of it at Ysgol y Cwm.
For more information on the wine, please contact John Watkin – firstname.lastname@example.org
YSGOL Y CWM
The first Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia in 1865. In 2015, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of their arrival and there were celebrations throughout Chubut. In 2013, the Welsh communities in Esquel and Trevelin met to decide how they would celebrate 2015. (I live in Esquel and I am a member of the Committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin.) I suggested that we should not plan to do many things, but that we should plan only one thing and that we should concentrate all our efforts to do that thing very well. At that time, children and adults received their Welsh lessons by visiting classrooms in Esquel and Trevelin, but we did not have a full-time school. We decided to build a bilingual Welsh/Spanish school for children between 4 and 11 years of age! The school would teach the Argentine national curriculum in Spanish and Welsh!
The Governor of Chubut (Martin Buzzi) at that time promised to pay about half of the costs as part of his contribution to the 150th Anniversary celebrations. Of course, he paid nothing. Mario Das Neves, the next Governor, also paid nothing. The National Government of Cristina Fernandez paid nothing and the current National Government of Mauricio Macri paid nothing. In fact, the Minister of Education in Macri’s government said that it was the national policy not to support bilingual schools.
The Welsh Society in Trevelin owned some land near to the centre of the town. It decided to divide the land into building plots and sell the plots to raise money to build the school. It did not expect to sell all the plots immediately and therefore asked an Argentine-Welsh architect from Esquel to design a school which could be built in stages – a few classrooms at a time. As it sold more land, it could build more classrooms. Of course, it didn’t anticipate how quickly the Argentine peso would go down and how quickly inflation would increase. But, despite all these difficulties, the school was opened on time in 2016 with the first class of children. Each year since, it has introduced another class. In March 2019, it will introduce another class and open the 5 new classrooms, which are nearing completion (at the moment, the Welsh Society does not have enough money – about 5,000 dollars – to pay for a boiler, so there is a chance that the very picky Argentine inspectors may delay the opening).
Trevelin and the Welsh community in the Andes now have a nursery school and a junior school, which are recognized by the Chubut government and which are regularly inspected. The project has been so successful that it has a waiting list of parents who wish to send their children to the school. The reason for its success, despite being a fee-paying school, is that the school has “old-fashioned” values, that its teachers are committed and passionate and that it is not influenced by the politics of education at a national or provincial level. The majority of children who attend the school have no Welsh blood, but their parents recognize the above benefits, plus the internationally acknowledged merits of a bilingual education (irrespective of what the languages are).
The business model for the school is that the Welsh Association raises funds for construction and it provides the school buildings to a separate legal entity which operates and runs the school. This entity pays all the running costs, pays the teachers and collects the fees from the parents and from adult learners, who use the school facilities at evening classes. The school also receives assistance from the Welsh government, which provides the services of a Welsh teacher on a half-time basis (the other half of the teacher’s time is spent in nearby Esquel). However, the school receives virtually no financial support from the government in Chubut, which pays for one administrator and for 22 hours of teaching per week.
In 2018, the school employed a teacher from Wales, paid for from its own funds, and provided accommodation for her and her family. In 2019, an additional teacher from Wales will be recruited and paid for by the school. Your correspondent opened a bank account for the school in London and it receives money from supporters across the world in the form of standing orders and one-off donations. Trevelin is twinned with Aberteifi/Cardigan and they also hold fund-raising events for the school.
When the group from Hoelion Wyth came to the school, the children welcomed them with songs in Welsh and the ceremonial raising of the Welsh flag.
The Welsh society is now preparing another piece of land for sale to build houses. With the money received, it is planning the final phase – a small (400 seats) concert facility for use of the school and a permanent home for the annual Welsh festival, the Trevelin Eisteddfod.
For more information, please contact email@example.com
It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.
Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.
And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.
THE OLIVE TRUST
In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.
While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.
Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.
You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.
The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust. The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”
After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.
I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.
The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.
Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.
That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.
But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.
Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.
In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).
At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.
I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.
From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.
As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast
But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.
So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.
Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.
He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.
After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)
Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.
This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.
Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.
There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.
Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.
This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.
This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.
What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.
Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.
Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.
UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?
A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST
You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.
Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”
As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.
So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?
A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.
Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.
From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.
It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!
But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.
A FAIT ACCOMPLI
Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.
Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.
As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.
But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.
The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.
I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.
Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.
Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.
While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.
Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.
THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION
Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.
First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.
That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.
Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.
Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.
Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.
THE FLINT RING
This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.
To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)
The truth is of course that in 1294/5 Wales was in rebellion, and Caernarfon Castle was taken by Madog ap Llywelyn’s men. Any English soldiers still in the castle would either have been lying dead somewhere or, if they were lucky, languishing in the dungeons.
After I put out a tweet Cadw immediately took the page down. But why did the body entrusted with interpreting and presenting Welsh history get it so wrong, giving out a picture of Welsh and English living happily together in conquered Wales, us Welsh not at all resentful?
Shit! I’ve just answered my own question.
Interpreting a colonial people’s history is fundamental to maintaining a hold over that people. This is Cadw’s role in Wales. (And of course, ensuring that no Welsh are employed at our castles and other monuments.)
Far easier to do this with a Welsh name and the pretence that Cadw is an agency of a ‘Welsh’ Government.
PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE
Yes, I know, this was announced by Alun Cairns, Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, but Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was involved from very early on, and to a considerable degree Jones’s approval was used to justify the whole thing. A kind of joint enterprise, sharing the blame.
Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.
This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.
Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.
The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.
‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.
Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.
Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.
Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.
The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.
If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.
What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.
How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.
Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.
UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)
As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.
If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.
But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.
This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.
Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.
I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.
If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.
I remember, back in the 1960s, when I was a wild young thing, visiting Owain Williams (of Tryweryn fame) on his farm, Gwynus, and then heading down for a drink at the local hostelry, the Plas Pistyll Hotel. I remember it well because ‘G–‘ and I picked up a couple of girls from Birmingham and took them up the mountain to enjoy the view. (Who says we don’t welcome tourists?)
Ah! happy days.
The old pile, with its uninterrupted views of the sea, fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned to the elements. But even if it was no longer viable as a hotel, the location alone dictated that somebody would some day come along with a plan for the site.
And so it was. . . .
THE PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Let me start by explaining that I have drawn together all the planning references I can find relating to both Plas Pistyll and neighbouring Pistyll farm and caravan site, I’ve done this because as early as 2008 they had become one and the same project.
Here’s the link to the pdf version. Click on the planning reference number in the left-hand column to be taken to the Gwynedd planning site.
Below you’ll see a montage created for Natural Retreats by the Ark Company Landscape Architects of Middlesex, and although things have moved on the image gives the layout of the site.
The obvious place to start is with the three earliest applications, which tell us that both the farm and the Plas are owned by Sustainable Leisure, a company I couldn’t find on the Companies House website.
Even so, I know that the properties were owned by a Bill Gleave of Greater Manchester. I know because by August 2009 he had hit the rocks owing local businesses money. You’ll note that in the Daily Post report I’ve just linked to the Pistyll site is called ‘Nature’s Point’ (A name I’m sure I recall from the Mabinogion.)
This catastrophe was confirmed when the Bolton News reported that Gleave company BGH had gone tits up, with Sustainable Leisure following.
It all went quiet for almost three years until, in August 2011, there was an application from new player Natural Retreats to demolish Plas Pistyll and replace it with 20 self-catering holiday units. These to be complemented with “16 self catering holiday units in lieu of the existing static caravan site” at the farm.
To begin with, I had the same problem with Natural Retreats as I had with Sustainable Leisure – I couldn’t find it on the Companies House website. But I found a Natural Retreats website and eventually unearthed Natural Retreats UK Ltd, which changed its name to The UK Great Travel Company Ltd 25 October 2017.
Permission was given in August 2012 to demolish Plas Pistyll with the condition that the same individual or family could not live in the new holiday units for more than three months in a year. Natural Retreats appealed against this decision and the appeal was allowed permitting unrestricted holiday use for the whole site.
I understand that the last time the planning committee met was to discuss C11/0661/43/LL, thereafter everything was delegated to planning officers. Some very important decisions were made that many feel should have been referred back to the committee, not least the decision to allow unrestricted holiday use.
Having got the big prize Natural Retreats – usually operating now as Natural Land & Sea – chipped away over the next few years at more of the planning conditions imposed by Gwynedd’s planning committee, to the point where few remained.
For Gwynedd’s planning department seemed to bend over backwards to oblige: “. . . deletion of Conditions 8, 9, 10 (Code for Sustainable Homes) . . . vary the materials proposed for the external wall of the units on the farm site . . . Discharge conditions 20 (slate), 22 (stone) and 24 (external finishes) . . . Discharge condition 2 (agree stone) on planning permission . . . “
Instead of stone and slate cottages in keeping with vernacular styles (including Pistyll farm), using local materials and labour, what are being thrown up now on the Plas Pistyll site are prefabricated units brought in from God knows where – Estonia being one suggestion – with no local benefits whatsoever.
And again, predictably, searching the Companies House website turned up nothing for Natural Land & Sea. Either there is no such company, or it’s registered outside the UK, or it’s the trading name of another entity (in which case we should know the name of that entity). But Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners don’t seem to know or care who they’re dealing with.
It should be standard practice for any elected or public body dealing with a commercial entity to insist on that entity identifying itself with a Companies House, Charity Commission, FSA, etc number or some other form of identification, or else explain why it cannot meet this requirement.
Relevant digression: I’ve been helping a neighbour who’s lived the village all his life renew his blue parking badge, but he still had to provide his birth certificate and other proof of identity. If he’d rocked up claiming to represent Intergalactic Con Men Inc, and wanting to build 5,000 holiday apartments in tower blocks around Llyn Tegid I suppose Cyngor Gwynedd would have rolled out the red carpet, like they’ve done for Paul Williams, Natural Retreats, and God knows how many others.
I’ve told you that Natural Retreats UK Ltd renamed itself The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017. On that very same day a company was born named NRML Technology Ltd. The sole director was soon joined by another gentleman from Bobby Lee’s home state of Virginia and in June the company name was changed to Natural Retreats UK Ltd.
Why would Natural Retreats UK Ltd be resurrected under American ownership? We shall consider this in just a minute.
Before that, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this disaster at Pistyll, on the very site where a young Jac downed pints and chatted up young ladies. (Though I use the most generous application of that epithet.) As we’ve seen, there can easily be confusion about the name of the company involved. Hardly surprising when you read on.
There may be other companies for all I know but the people involved with almost all of those I’ve listed are: Matt Spence, Anthony Wild and Ewan Kearney.
The founder and driving force is Matt Spence, who was born on a Yorkshire sheep farm where – he tells us – it was a struggle to survive, so he and his brothers looked for alternative ways to make money. Spence hit on the idea of high quality accommodation in national parks and other areas of great natural beauty.
A noble ambition that he’s partly met in finding the right locations. But in reality Spence’s business is raising money in the form of investments – the minimum seems to have been £50,000 to join NR Investors LP (check out the document for 16.01.2008) – and whether all the money raised goes on lodges and chalets is a moot point, for he and his associates have their fingers in so many pies.
But whatever the company or partnership the bottom line remains making as much money as possible. And this often seems to mean cutting corners, for I’ve heard from a number of quarters that the ‘Natural’ empire is not always a good neighbour, or employer. Here are reports from the Cairngorms, and Yorkshire.
There are even suggestions that the empire may not be in the best of financial health. But with so many interlinked commercial and financial entities constantly changing addresses and names it’s not easy for anyone to keep track.
I earlier alluded to an intervention from the Commonwealth of Virginia, so maybe it’s time to expand on what I’m sure you found to be a tantalising reference.
Spence is something of an evangelist and so we should not be surprised to learn that he spread the ‘Natural’ gospel to the USA, where they have a hell of a lot more open spaces than us. This bore fruit in Natural Retreats USA. And yet . . .
Those who have raised Natural Retreats UK Ltd from the dead appear to have no connection with Natural Retreats USA. And yet, under its original name of NRML Technology Ltd the company was formed by a Christopher Holden who gave his correspondence address as, ‘Natural Retreats, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, 22911’.
Holden works with venture capitalists and investors, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, which has no obvious connection with Natural Retreats USA, it’s certainly not listed among CSV’s clients. He was later joined as a director by Douglas Burns. On the CSV website Holden is described as a ‘General Partner’, whereas Burns is ‘Principal & CFO’.
Unless they plucked the Natural Retreats UK Ltd name out of thin air, and found Manchester by sticking a pin in a map, there has to be a connection between Court Square Ventures and Matt Spence and his associates.
But it still doesn’t make sense.
Because if we read the CSV website, and the biographies of the partners, then we see that their backgrounds are in media, technology, communications and the like – not a sasquatch-terrorised log cabin to be seen!
And yet, Court Square Ventures is an investment company, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the boys from Charlottesville come bearing greenbacks, which inclines me towards three options:
They have come to get a slice of the action, at Pistyll and elsewhere, perhaps by investing in one or more of Spence’s many financial vehicles.
They have come to help Spence out of a financial hole.
They have come to take over.
And if you think about, it could be a bit of all three; or maybe options 1 and 2 culminating in option 3.
In the hope of clarifying the situation I e-mailed Natural Retreats USA on Friday with, “There are companies of the same name operating in the UK, in Wales, Scotland and England. I see that Christopher Holden is a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd. What exactly is the connection or relationship between the US and UK companies?”
The reply said, “Thank you for your inquiry into Natural Retreats. I would be happy to offer some more information as to how the different companies are related. You may also view our website for further clarification: https://www.naturalretreats.com/about
Natural Retreats was originally founded in the UK by Matthew Spence, and started with a few luxury lodges in the Yorkshire Dales. Over time, Natural Retreats grew to include destinations in the Eastern and Western United States as well. At this time, the US and UK now operate separately; they only share the name of Natural Retreats. The US main office is located in Charlottesville, VA and the Western Support Office is located in Park City, UT.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you, again, for your inquiry; we hope you will stay with us at one of our luxury retreats in the near future!”
To which I responded with, “I am grateful for your speedy response. As I mentioned in my original query, I was a little confused seeing Christopher Holden of Charlottesville, Virginia listed as a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd (Co No 11031026). A company formed in October 2017. This would appear to be a UK presence for the US operation, or is there some other interpretation?”
At this point the line went dead!
So we are no nearer to knowing why venture capitalists from Virginia with no obvious expertise in tourism have set up in Manchester using a company name previously used by those building at Plas Pistyll. But it’s surely no coincidence that Rural Retreats USA’s eastern office is in Charlottesville. Which throws up other questions.
I’ll ask again, does Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners really know who they’re dealing with? Not just because of the find-me-if-you-can company names but also because Spence specialises in getting others to invest in his plans, and even though I’m sure he scrupulously screens each and every investor, the fact remains that the money to develop Plas Pistyll could be coming from anywhere.
Court Square Ventures is another company that invests money for third parties.
The properties at Pistyll are now being advertised on Rightmove and other sites. So let’s consider what we’re dealing with, and its implications.
For a start, I note that these properties are being sold leasehold. Yet England’s management team down in Cardiff docks – those clowns that hope to be mistaken for a ‘Welsh Government’ – has turned against leasehold, except, apparently, when it’s used by RSLs or, more secretively, by unregistered private subsidiaries of publicly-funded RSLs. And of course by the likes of the ‘Natural’ empire.
Then again, just imagine Matt Spence and his gang turning up and saying, ‘Oi, Taff, we want to build a new holiday village overlooking the sea. We ain’t gonna use local materials, suppliers or labour. Then we are gonna give it some idiotic English name and there’s fuck all you can do about it’.
There would have been an outcry, even Plaid Cymru might have been roused to mumble something.
But that is exactly what has been achieved incrementally!
This development at Pistyll is only a few miles from Plas Glynllifon where dwells our old friend Paul Williams of Weep for Wales fame. Yet Plas Pistyll and Plas Glynllifon represent for the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘high end’ tourism, which must be unquestioningly encouraged.
For it is all set out in TAN 13: Tourism (1997) . . . which observant readers will have noted was two years before the Assembly first sat. That’s really thinking ahead!
Yet from what I can see, ‘high end’ tourism only attracts the smarter shysters and the outright crooks. Though if we are to attract high end tourism then what is being done to phase out the barrel-scraping tourism represented by mile after mile of ugly coastal caravan parks that can only deter the high rollers?
Because we are expected to believe that in a tiny country like Wales we can have all kinds of tourism and unlimited numbers of tourists without causing catastrophic cultural and environmental damage.
This is because it’s what England wants, due to the fact that a) money spent in Wales will make its way back to England, and b) tourism and the population influx it encourages makes Wales less of a ‘worry’.
As for the aforementioned clowns down Geiger Bay, well they’ll always do what London tells them, and some of them are even stupid enough to believe that a healthy economy can be based on tourism. Not forgetting that many in the Labour Party would be happy to see the death of Welsh identity.
This is a bumper edition, some 3,600 words, enough to keep you going for a week. It comprises six different reports so you don’t need to gorge and make yourself ill, you can take it one piece at a time. Enjoy!
MRS AND MR MERRILL
Rose Mutale Merrill (née Nyoni), doyenne of the race relations industry in Wales, head of Bawso, and involved with so many other organisations, a Labour Party insider and enforcer, has figured on this blog many times. News now reaches me of yet another string to her bow.
For it is alleged that she has built up quite a property empire in some desirable locations in and around Cardiff. One such property being 6 Mitre Place, in Llandaf, quite close to the cathedral. This cost her £223,600 in May, 2005.
This was before her marriage to Travers Merrill in or around October 2008, he of Rhondda Life fame. ‘Rhondda Life?’ Well, yes, it was a venture which, according to this report, seems to have targeted the gourmet tourists with which the Rhondda Fach is inundated.
Or, to put a less generous interpretation on it, it was yet another non-starter claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in an attempt to be seen to be doing something in a Labour heartland and, more importantly, providing cushy numbers for Labour Party time-servers.
Travers Merrill was chief executive of Rhondda Life, though when the inevitable collapse came about, Shippo of Llais y Sais was considerate enough to see that Merrill’s name did not appear.
Looking through the papers filed with Companies House I see that after the liquidators – based in Leicester! – had taken their pound of flesh Rhondda Life seems to have been left with 43 pence in the kitty. Another great success for the Poverty Party.
But let us hie again to leafy Llandaf.
What I found strange about the title document for 6 Mitre Place was that even though the property was bought before the nuptials in the autumn of 2008 the title document has been amended to show Mutale’s married name, but the erstwhile Raymond Blanc of Ferndale is not mentioned. Which suggests that she is the sole owner.
Not content with just one property she then purchased another not far away, opposite Llandough Hospital. And there have been other purchases since to give Rose Mutale Nyoni-Merrill what I’m told now amounts to quite a property portfolio.
My informant – who I’m sure is mistaken – suggests that there might have been ‘confusion’ in the purchase of 6 Mitre Place, confusion as to the source of the deposit for the property. Perhaps money got mixed up somehow. But as I say, my informant is almost certainly wrong.
Before bidding this formidable woman farewell, another informant tells me that Mrs Nyoni-Merrill is/was lined up – certainly, shortlisted – for the job of Older People’s Commissioner. Can this be true?
In 1968 our national rugby team made its first trip to Argentina. As might be expected, contact was made with the descendants of the Welsh settlers in Patagonia. The BBC’s Onllwyn Brace – former rugby international himself – made a wonderful film of Alun Williams and others on that trip south.
The Welsh Rugby Union has arranged another trip to Argentina for next month, playing two tests against Los Pumas. Given that this will be the fiftieth anniversary of that first tour, our cousins in Patagonia anticipated a visit, hoping that one of the test matches might be played in Trelew, or Puerto/Porth Madryn as on the last tour in 2006.
But it seems the WRU attaches no great importance to the Patagonia connection, or the Welsh language. As I discovered when our Patagonia correspondent supplied me with the information below.
Let me start by emphasising that the host country chooses venues for test matches involving touring teams, and for this tour Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) eventually gave the tests to the cities of San Juan and Santa Fe, both west of Buenos Aires and well over a thousand kilometres north of the Welsh settlements.
And even after the decision of the host country the venues still have to be confirmed by World Rugby.
When it became clear that no test match would be played in Patagonia the emphasis shifted to laying on entertainment and sight-seeing tours for WRU representatives, especially players, and of course fans, in order to raise money for the local Welsh schools. But for this to happen, the tour operators, responsible for arranging the fans’ itineraries, would need to play ball.
My source’s first contact with the WRU was a phone call on 27 September from chairman Gareth Davies (following a number of telephone calls to him and his secretary). Davies passed the job on to Mark Killingley, Head of Digital and Communications. Killingley appears to be an internet/PR expert who joined the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016 from its English counterpart the RFU
Following that telephone conversation my contact sent an e-mail reiterating the hope that the Welsh Rugby Union would – irrespective of where the test matches were held – show support for the Welsh language in Patagonia, specifically for the schools.
“As I explained on the phone, we would like to organise a series of events for both the fans and the WRU, with all money raised being used by the 3 Welsh language schools in Patagonia for the benefit of Welsh language teaching. To have the best chance of getting the UK Rugby tour companies on board, we would like to make an announcement as soon as possible. And, in order to get the best response from the Rugby Tour companies, we would like to have the open support of the Welsh Rugby Union.”
Contact was also made with Gullivers Sports Travel of Gloucester, the Welsh Rugby Union’s official travel agents. Because of course the WRU had said they wouldn’t do anything that conflicted with what Gullivers was arranging.
The representative at Gullivers that my source met – after travelling to England on other business – had never heard of the Welsh colony in Patagonia and showed no interest in learning. Gullivers would only go to Patagonia if the UAR held one of the games down there.
More bad news came with BBC Wales’ refusal to allow sales of the 1968 film I’ve linked to above, despite Cardiff University having prepared a transcript of the film to enable subtitles.
Even after the UAR announced the venues the Welsh community was still optimistic of getting fans to visit and were working flat out. As my source put it in another e-mail to Killingley, “We have a meeting of the Welsh schools in Patagonia this weekend, and I will travel to Trelew next Wednesday (600km!!), to try and finalise at least a programme for the fans.”
Making clear that the only thing being asked of the Welsh Rugby Union was an expression of support for what hard-working and dedicated people were doing down in Patagonia in the hope that tour operators would make it easier for fans to get down there.
E-mails continued to fly between Wales and Provincia Chubut in the desperate hope that the WRU might be persuaded do something – anything! – to recognise the Welsh colony in Patagonia and show support for it, for the Welsh language, and the schools helping keep it alive.
But it soon became clear to my correspondent that this was a forlorn hope.
The WRU made it clear that no players would be coming to Patagonia – ‘But we can send our CEO’.
‘No, I think people down here want to meet the players, but if they can’t come then how about donating some items that could be raffled to raise money for the Welsh schools?’
‘Oh, no, we couldn’t do that without a recognised charity being involved’.
‘For God’s sake these schools are recognised by the Argentina Ministry of Education – and we had to fight to get that recognition for Welsh language schools’.
On March 27, in what was close to the final communication, the Welsh Rugby Union was told:
“Throughout my communication with the WRU, we have tried to make a number of suggestions about how the WRU could help the survival of the Welsh language in Patagonia and each suggestion has met with resistance or rejection and never with any suggestion about how the WRU could help.
The WRU is obviously not willing to assist official representatives of the Welsh communities in Patagonia, who are asking for a simple endorsement of fund-raising initiatives which should align with the broad interest of a very public Welsh organisation. We have pointed out to you that this tour occurs 50 years after the first tour, where the WRU and the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the Welsh communities in Patagonia. You wear your commitment to the Welsh language very openly on your sleeves.”
As things stand, our cousins will next month be laying on events and food, entertainment and sight-seeing trips in the hope that fans will somehow make their way south from the northern cities. And it’s being done without any support whatsoever from the self-styled Welsh Rugby Union. Though in fairness, maybe Gullivers Sports Travel has now got the message, though it might have been garbled in transmission.
With its three feathers badge and its constant fawning over the English royals the Welsh Rugby Union is a national disgrace. Nothing exposes its ambivalent Welshness more than its attitude to the language, both at home and overseas.
Thank God we’ve got a national football team with a governing body far more supportive than the WRU of the language, perhaps even some of our footballers display a little more pride in their roots than many of our rugby players. For example, it was great to see Gareth Bale leave the field in Kiev on Saturday, after scoring his wonder goal, with the national flag draped over his shoulders.
Which seems to be part of a pattern.
For I’ve noticed in fifty years and more of following Welsh sport that our football fans seem to be increasingly dedicated to the team, and to Wales; whereas the death of heavy industry in the south seems to have robbed rugby of its traditional support base, for which spangly cowboy hats, inflatable daffodils and an endless supply of expensive beer are no real substitute.
But then, it’s all money.
DELTA WELLBEING LTD
Readers of this blog, and indeed other blogs, especially those focusing on Sir Gâr, will be alert to any mention of Wellbeing, the catchword for the private healthcare development, shopping mall, leisure centre, 86-lane bowling alley, and home for the Welsh space programme, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. Something of which we first became aware with the publication of this document (page 25, section 5.4).
The grand venture originally involved a company known as Kent Neurosciences Ltd, now, alas, dissolved. Among the directors of this enterprise we find a Professor Robert Marc Clement, a Turk by birth now expanding young minds at Swansea University.
Which is convenient, for Swansea University is a partner in the Delta Lakes project.
I have written nothing about Clement myself but he appears regularly on The Eye, a blog written by one of my biggest fans, Phil Parry, who is forever quoting me, updating his biography, and using my photos without permission. (You rascal, you!)
Kent Neurosciences’ place at Delta Lakes may now have been taken by Delta Wellbeing Ltd, Incorporated as recently as January this year with a single one pound share. The company was formed by a Russell Holmes Thompson from what I believe to be his home address in Wolverhampton.
So why would someone form a company in Wolverhampton that is obviously linked to Delta Lakes in Llanelli? Come to that, who is Russell Holmes Thompson? Well, he seems to have been involved in many companies over the years, a number of which are in the health and care sector.
He must have been previously known to Carmarthenshire County Council because on February 4 he ceased to be “a person with significant control” and a day later he was joined as director by Mrs Samantha Watkins, an employee of the council. On the same day the company’s address moved from Wolverhampton to the Dafen Industrial Estate in Llanelli.
Then, mysteriously, Watkins ceased to be a director on the 8th, but returned on March 20 accompanied by Owen William Bowen, possibly another council employee. So it was no surprise to see on March 23 Carmarthenshire Council listed as “a person with significant control”.
Which means that between February 8 and March 20 Thompson was officially the sole director despite having officially relinquished “significant control”. Odd, that.
As we know, Carmarthenshire County Council is simply Mark Vincent James, its chief executive (and Cardiff Bay property tycoon), by another name. And Delta Lakes is his gift to posterity, his lasting legacy for the grateful citizenry of Carmarthenshire, and nothing must be allowed to interfere with this vision.
So let’s keep an eye on Delta Wellbeing Ltd and the Delta Lakes project generally. Keep tabs on how much of the county’s money is used on this project, what other partners emerge, how much of the Swansea Bay City Deal money is diverted, what role is found for Marc Clement, how many new homes will be needed to help fund it, etc.
This could run and run!
CASTING A LONG SHADOW
The tragic death of Carl Sargeant AM last November lifted the lid a little on the links between politicians, their advisers, PR outfits, third sector parasites and other denizens of that cess-pit known as Cardiff Bay.
Fresh information reaches me that makes the whole business look even more distasteful.
I’m told that following Sargeant’s death, Christina Rees, MP for Neath and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, had to be forced by other Welsh MPs to make a statement of condolence. Because, I’m told, she, or perhaps her political adviser, former Cardiff councillor, Luke Holland, had been briefing against Carl Sargeant, and that the briefings continued against former AM Leighton Andrews, Sargeant’s friend and defender.
There was outrage within the Labour Party over the behaviour of Rees and Holland, which the bruvvers managed to keep within the party (easy given the absence of a Welsh media) but even so, Holland’s position became untenable and he left, or was forced to leave, Ms Rees’ office.
So what did the boy do next?
He did what everybody in his position does – he set up a PR outfit! This one called Cathod Du (Black Cats) Consultancy Ltd, Incorporated November 30. It seems to have no website and no presence beyond the few sparse documents at Companies House, but that may not matter, for it might now have a specific purpose, or a single client.
I’m told that Holland is a supporter of Vaughan Gething, who a few days ago announced that he was running for Labour leader in the Assembly. And in the best traditions of Welsh politics it is further suggested that Cathod Du may act as a conduit for funding the Gething campaign.
To complicate matters even further, Mark Holland is married to Louise Magee, the general secretary of Plaid Tlodi. Magee was heavily involved in Sargeant’s sacking on November 3. I believe it was she who sent the e-mail informing him of his dismissal.
Then, in a plot twist few writers would dare commit to paper – Magee was appointed by the party to be Jack Sargeant’s agent in his campaign to succeed his father! Understandably, the welcome mat was not rolled out for her on Deeside, so she booked into a hotel outside of the constituency and kept a very low profile.
And to round off this tale of betrayal and incestuous relationships I also hear that soon after being appointed the Poverty Party’s general secretary last April Magee gave hubby Holland the job of being her press officer, without the post being advertised and at a higher salary than other staff.
If so, this isn’t listed on his Linkedin profile, nor can I find information anywhere else, so can anyone confirm this?
I was told long before Carl Sargeant’s death that Vaughan Gething was Carwyn Jones’s chosen successor. Given how instrumental Jones’s staff and former staff were in the campaign against Sergeant, Magee’s role, and how that links with Holland, and how Holland may now be Gething’s bagman, it does make you wonder.
One of the few Twitter accounts I follow is the excellent Welsh not British and his On This Day feature, which last week reminded us of the Mold Riots of 1869. Just as well because I’m sure few of us know of this episode.
Like so many events in our history the Mold Riots have either been corrupted or ignored entirely. And yet, here we have Welsh miners suffering discrimination, being denied work, then arrested, with the episode eventually resulting in soldiers shooting down people in the streets of a Welsh town.
So how come ‘Welsh’ Labour doesn’t commemorate this event?
The simple answer is that any issue that pits Wales against England or Welsh against English must be avoided like the pox in case it encourages nationalist sentiment which might result in more people questioning the benefits to Wales of being in the Union with England.
But equally, taking the side of England or the English would be damaging for the party, so it’s best that certain issues and incidents are ignored entirely.
For when it comes to Wales the Labour Party is primarily a Unionist Party, everything else is secondary. The ‘socialism’ is just sloganising; the ‘concern’ for the downtrodden is nothing more than posturing to justify the maintenance of the party’s third sector auxiliary force; while the hostility to capitalism is an excuse to explain sheer incompetence from arseholes incapable of organising an economy.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mold Riots. The Poverty Party won’t commemorate the event but those who died and the others who suffered such blatant and racist discrimination should be remembered. They deserve it.
Let’s do it in 2019!
SEND US YOUR SICK AND YOUR ELDERLY, WALES CAN AFFORD IT!
The Conservatives have once again raised the issue of free prescriptions, and once again, they’ve done it without really grasping the problem.
As the article from Llais y Sais tells us, people have been getting Bonjela, Strepsils, and even deodorants on prescription, which is guaranteed to get ‘Apoplectic of Cowbridge’ choking on his single malt but doesn’t amount to much in the greater scheme of things. For the abuse of the free prescription legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.
That’s because free prescriptions attract into Wales large numbers of people who would otherwise be spending a sizeable amount of money every month on prescription charges, for there are no free prescriptions in England. These will be people with serious and long-term conditions.
I see such people every day in Tywyn, and they can be found in every other small town in Wales.
Quite obviously, the demands such people make on the NHS will not be restricted to prescription charges. In fact, prescription charges will be only one small part of the burden imposed by a high dependency group attracted to Wales in the first instance by free prescriptions.
For they will also require hospital treatment, therapy and carers, there may be a nurse calling regularly. Or perhaps it’s transport, from the Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service, funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Its headquarters are at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff but it has a northern office in Rhyl and ‘outreach’ services at Newtown, Oswestry and Pembrokeshire.
All of which adds up to a hell of a lot more in monetary terms than prescription charges.
Of course a high percentage of the people we’re discussing will be middle-aged and elderly, which helps explain why we also read in the article, “The number of ‘drugs for dementia’ items rocketed by 1,473% – up from just over 11,000 in 2002 to nearly 179,000 in 2017”.
An iron law of the relationship between Wales and England says: ‘Anything which makes Wales attractive to English people will result in large numbers of English people moving into Wales’.
It would be nice if this was a booming economy, an abundance of well-paid jobs, and a labour shortage, but it’s not. (Of course, many of the better jobs are reserved for English people, but that’s simply because of our colonial status.)
Apart from that, what attracts people to Wales in 2018 – especially the retired and other non-working groups – is cheap property prices (or easy access to social housing), nice scenery, few ‘ethnic minorities’, and free prescriptions.
Yes, Northern Ireland and Scotland also have free prescriptions, but they do not have large numbers of English people, moving in every year. Those that do move are more likely to be students than retirees.
It’s difficult to understand why the situation we experience today could not have been foreseen, and the problem mitigated with a residency period of say 10 years in Wales before anyone qualified for free prescriptions.
Or maybe it was foreseen.
Because if someone wanted to skew Welsh health and sickness statistics, over-burden our NHS, in order to paint a picture of we Welsh being unable to run our own affairs, then free prescriptions is a bloody good way of doing it.
I leave you with the words of a ‘Welsh’ Government spokesperson: “Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales as a long-term investment to improve people’s health”. The truth is that free prescriptions have made Wales a less healthy country.
Llais y Sais last Saturday published a curious report – presumably written by Martin Shipton – of a speech made to the Welsh Conservative Spring Conference by Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns (below).
It was almost in the form of an apologia, though of course Cairns didn’t write the article himself. The piece was clearly a response to the criticism he’s received over ‘his’ decision to rename the Second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge.
In this post I shall examine what he said and then give my interpretations and opinions.
Let’s start with Cairns’ reference to “the important connections Wales has with the Royal Family”. These were helpfully listed in the article: Welsh gold, Felinfoel beer and Pembrokeshire corgis. Let’s take them one by one.
Gold. During the Roman empire there were people across Europe wearing Welsh gold. So all this ‘connection’ tells us is that Wales has gold and people like wearing gold. And if I’m not mistaken, the English royals don’t even pay for theirs.
Beer. So Big Ears likes a drop of Feelingfoul (so we’re told), but then he and the rest of his family pretend to like all sorts of things to please people, that’s their job. And there must be a good geographical spread – Pontefract cakes, Highland whisky, Cornish pasties, etc., etc.
Pembrokeshire corgis. Is this supposed to prove love for Wales, or Pembrokeshire? I used to have Airedales, but I didn’t break into Ilkla Moor baht ‘at at the drop of a flat cap.
Let’s be honest, these are not meaningful ‘connections’, this is clutching at straws. So let’s move on.
The Bridge inevitably figures strongly in his oration, as does his beloved Severnside, which he described as a “cross-border economic region”, and went on to laud:
A financial services sector worth £2.5bn a year.
A creative industry cluster employing 15,000 people, including the BBC drama village in Cardiff Bay and its Natural History Unit in Bristol.
The world’s largest compound semiconductor cluster in Newport working with quantum technology at Bristol University.
Nine universities with nearly 170,000 students, three of which are members of the Russell Group.
The new Qatar Airlines link to Doha which put Cardiff at the heart of this new economic region on the western side of the UK.
Again, desperate stuff, with the claims unclear or impossible to justify.
For example, what does “worth £2.5bn a year” mean? Who calculated that figure?
“Nine universities with nearly 170,000 students” might sound impressive, until you realise that it’s too many of both. Universities are now businesses, turning out too many unemployable young people with degrees nobody wants and debts most of them will never pay off.
But where the wee man went for broke was in having the nerve to mention Cardiff airport after not so long ago prioritising the interests of Bristol airport by refusing to devolve Air Passenger Duty, despite Cardiff Wales airport being in his Vale of Glamorgan constituency!
And as for Qatar Airlines, let’s wait and see what ‘inducements’ were offered by Carwyn Jones and his band of economic whizz-kids. Because some argue that no company using the airport pays its whack, and the ‘Welsh’ Government has to bribe and beg users to come, and then bribe them to stay.
Cairns believes Severnside should be “learning from and achieving the same dynamism as the north Wales/North West axis”. So how’s that working out?
Investment and employment goes to north west England but northern Wales builds thousands of new homes for those wishing to move out of Greater Manchester and Merseyside but who find no welcome in Cheshire communities fearful of over-development resulting in falling property values.
In addition, the decaying towns of the littoral – particularly Rhyl – will continue their decline as more and more of England’s underclass and criminal elements are dumped there
In addition to commuters and degenerates the north can expect the flood of elderly people to continue until our NHS and social services finally collapse under the strain.
The ‘achievements’ of the Mersey-Dee Alliance are nothing to crow about, much less emulate.
Cairns’ ended his speech with: “The socialist and nationalist parochial and protectionist agenda lacks confidence in our people and stifles the innovation and entrepreneurialism they show. Now, more than ever, we must be confident and outward-looking”.
And this remember was said by a representative of a BritNat government withdrawing inelegantly from the EU, deporting people who’ve lived here for decades, and exploring all sorts of measures to stop Johnny Foreigner coming to live here in the first place.
It would be easy to laugh, but it’s too serious for that.
There are countless synonyms for union: association, alliance, harmony, concord are just a few. Whether it’s a plumbing part or marriage, whether we consider the USA or the Farmers Union of Wales, a union brings together two or more parts for the mutual and equal benefit of those entering into or joining the union.
And yet, by any criterion we apply, Wales is worse off than England, and the gap between us widens every year. Significantly, perhaps, Scotland was not a lot better, but in recent years Scotland’s economy, health service and so many other yardsticks used to measure a country’s well-being have improved relative to England, and left Wales lagging further behind.
Which means that if Alun Cairns was defending the Union then he would be fighting to ensure that Llanelli was as prosperous as Weybridge; that Wales did not lose out in spending on railways and other infrastructure; that we received fair payment for the water that is taken, the electricity exported, that Air Passenger Duty is devolved, and many other things.
But he does none of this, he simply defends the inequalities that make a mockery of the term ‘Union’ with insulting nonsense about corgis and beer. Proving that this is no union as that word is globally understood. It is clearly some other form of political arrangement, one that is less than equal, and this explains why Wales is so much poorer than England.
It is often at this point that the cavalry of the Brit left rides over the hill with, ‘Ah, but there are deprived towns and cities in England – have you ever been to Stoke on Trent, or Blackpool? ‘ Er, yes, I have, but so what? These and all the other run-down towns and districts are England’s problem, and can be remedied with better distribution of the wealth England so obviously possesses.
Wales has no such wealth to distribute, and will never be treated as an equal member of a Union. Wales suffers because she is different; we know it and the difference is recognised by the English, and acknowledged in more ways than the casual racism that has become the norm.
Having mentioned the Brit left in Wales, let’s also remember its foundation myth, which relates how Wales came into existence with the Industrial Revolution, emerging from the void. The same Brit left that has collaborated with Alun Cairns and his predecessors to undermine and impoverish Wales for over a century in order to maintain its fiefdom.
There is no measurable or practical difference between the Labour and Conservative parties in Wales, both seek to keep Wales a colony of England. Making this non-Union they both defend nothing less than a crude and increasingly obvious form of internal colonialism from which they benefit so well.
In addition to the managed decline of our post-industrial areas we see social engineering in our rural areas, accompanied by the ridicule of our language, the changing of our place names, adding up to the destruction of our national identity. All done under the guise of tourism and other idiocies that deliver nothing but minority status for us in our own land.
Political debate in Wales must no longer be shaped by the false paradigm of left and right but by whether Wales remains an impoverished and exploited colony of England or whether we make Wales the country she should be, through independence.
To conclude, Alun Cairns is clearly no Unionist, for you cannot defend what does not exist; Cairns is simply putting a gloss on colonialism and exploitation founded in racism. Which makes him nothing more than a willing mouthpiece for his political masters and his social superiors; those whose predecessors – and not so long ago – traded slaves, and sent children down coal mines.
This cannot continue, the Wales we love will not long survive this system of colonialism. But there is hope, for a new force is emerging in Welsh politics. If you want to be part of this fight against colonialism, this drive for independence, then show your support for Ein Gwlad today.
Here is my response to the e-mails received from you, set out in my previous post.
When I received your request on April 19th to remove the image I’d used, I asked myself, ‘Why has it taken him so long to see an image posted on September 30th 2017?
I concluded that the answer lay in the fact that the article from last September and the article current when you contacted me had one thing in common – a Labour politician who appeared in both articles but did not appear on my blog between those dates.
Upon receiving your first e-mail on April 19th I straight away removed your photograph which, let me add, had always shown, ‘Image: Robert Melen’. At no time did I try to present your photograph as my own, nor did I make any profit from the use of your photograph.
I hoped that was the end of the matter, but no, you came back with a threatening letter you had copied, as with the first, from the EPUK website. In this second e-mail you demanded payment of £150.
Before giving you my decision, let me explain where I stand. I believe that western legal systems – once stripped of religious observations, divine right of kings and other nonsense – are predicated upon, among other things, common sense and a belief in natural justice.
Applying these fundamentals to copyright law means that someone is entitled to compensation if an artistic creation of theirs is stolen or used without their permission by another person, or a corporate entity, to pass off as their own, thereby profiting from that deception.
And I agree with that. But the only element that applies here is that I innocently used your image without your permission, for which I apologise. But I remind you that it was removed immediately you requested its removal and it was always clearly attributed to you.
Further, I claim ‘Fair Dealing’ exemption in that your image was used in my reporting of current events. Namely, the re-opening of the refurbished Castle Bingo and gambling emporium in Morriston. Proven by the fact that the image originally appeared in this news story on the WalesOnline website.
I am driven to conclude that your behaviour has nothing to do with outraged copyright and is instead an attack on freedom of expression, and on my right to criticise – even ridicule – the political party (and its representatives) supported by your employer, the South Wales Evening Post.
Which is why I have decided not to submit to your threats. You will not receive the £150 you demand.
UPDATE 05.05.2018: Robert Melen has been in touch, we have exchanged a few e-mails, and I’m prepared to accept that this was all a misunderstanding. He seems to be a tidy boy just looking out for his young family. So if anyone has photographic work, Rob Melen‘s your man.
Those who contributed to my fighting fund have been notified and they all want their donations to be used either in support of the Argentine economy or else donated to Ein Gwlad. Requests to which I have willingly acceded.
TRENCHING AND TROUGHING AT FIVE MILE LANE, BARRY
In a recent post, News Round-up 25.04.2018, I told you about a road-widening scheme at Five Mile Lane, Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The road in question being the A4226.
It is alleged that work on this site has gone beyond a simple road widening and in the process has damaged an important archaeological site or sites. You can get more information on the claims from the video below.
I contacted Cadw but received nothing beyond an acknowledgement, and so I assumed that the ‘Welsh’ Government source who replied was answering for Cadw (who were cc’d into the correspondence as ‘CADW Mailbox’). The reply came from a Regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology (South East Wales), but I can’t be sure if this person actually works for Cadw, which is now part of the WG.
Confused? I was. Though perhaps it’s explained with my contact telling me: “Cadw lies within the Economy and Transport section of Welsh Governments Economy, Skills and Natural Resource Group (ESNR). Our minister is Dafydd Elis Thomas.” Such familiarity! Lord Elis Thomas, surely!
Anyway, our exchange of e-mails continued and this person turned out to be most helpful.
As we knew, the road-widening scheme was ostensibly the responsibility of Vale of Glamorgan council, and I learnt that the council is being advised on archaeological matters by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT), which is monitoring the site.
In my earlier post I said that the archaeological work, on the ground, as it were, was being done by Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of Irish company Rubicon Heritage Services. The subsidiary was liquidated in March 2018, so I asked the Regional Inspector where this left the Five Mile Lane project.
I was told, “Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd was a subsidiary which was liquidated prior to the start of the project and has had no role in the work at Five Mile Lane, Barry. Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd will continue to deliver the project at Five Mile Lane”.
Which fits with the Irish parent company recently opening a branch office in Cardiff, at the Ringside Business Park. I can’t imagine this being done without Rubicon having expectations of future work in Wales.
In response to my asking what was the ‘Welsh’ Government’s and Cadw’s opinion of the work carried out at Five Mile Lane I was answered: “Dr Jonathan Berry (Cadw Senior Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology) and I visited the excavations on 18th October 2017. We were given a detailed tour around all of the excavation areas exposed at that time and had an opportunity to discuss their interpretation and observe the quality of work. While this was not a formal inspection visit Cadw did not identify any issues of concern.”
October 2017 is long before the work was done that it’s claimed has caused the damage. When I pointed this out I was told: “I have contacted the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust and obtained reassurances that archaeological work has been undertaken to the standards required by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and according to national legislation for the excavation of burials.”
This e-mail also referred to “visits by independent curators” so, naturally, I asked who these are, and to whom they answer.
I was told: “The quality of the archaeological works at Five Mile Lane is monitored by two independent consultant archaeologist organisations: Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology.
Rubicon Heritage, Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountain Archaeology are all Registered Organisations of the Charted (sic) Institute for Archaeologists, to whom the organisations are accountable.”
I mention this because few things illustrate a people’s colonial status worse than having its past interpreted by strangers, especially when those strangers are representatives of the country that rules over that people.
I suggest that to understand what has happened at Five Mile Lane we need to consider the wider project, and its political importance. Explained in the Parsons Brinckerhoff document.
The widening of the A4226 is to improve access to St Athan (Aston Martin, etc?) and Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone. Despite being nominally the responsibility of the Vale of Glamorgan council, because the ‘Welsh’ Government puts up the money it’s the Bay Bubble calling the shots. So I think we can absolve VoG of any culpability.
What’s happening at Five Mile Lane links with the obscene amounts of public money ELPiW continues to pour into Cardiff Airport, and the bribes given to Aston Martin to move to Wales. For obvious reasons nothing must be allowed to interfere with these ‘investments’ and cause political embarrassment to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
What of the other players in this tragedy?
As we’ve seen, Cadw is now a department of the ‘Welsh’ Government, overseen by loyalist-royalist Dafydd Elis Thomas. Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust gets the bulk of its funding from Cadw, so no ripples from that direction. As for Rubicon, which is actually doing the work at Five Mile Lane, it’s not going to bite the hand that feeds it, especially with a new office in Cardiff. Anticipation of further work from the ‘Welsh’ Government also keeps Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology on board.
Which means that to protect the ‘Welsh’ Government’s image important archaeological sites can be trashed and the graves of our ancestors desecrated.
Par for the course in a corrupt colony run by a bunch of collaborationist shites.
I quite like Brecon, and the wife is very fond of the town, insisting that we stop there if we’re heading south on the A470. But there have been news reports recently and information emerging suggesting that there are some pretty ugly people living thereabouts.
I can’t understand why a Finn serving in the British army would want to settle in Llansilin. Come to that, why did a Finn join the British army? Another mystery is the unnamed civilian defendant described in one report as the National Action ‘regional organiser’ who was jailed for three-and-half years. Why unnamed? Which region?
A further mystery is the weapons found “at two properties in Powys occupied by Vehvilainen” . . . but apparently they had nothing to do with him?
Moving down the scale of obnoxiousness we come to the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party. The party leaders are David Bevan, born in Neath, and Jonathon Harrington, born in London but living somewhere in the Beacons.
Their backgrounds are fascinating. Dai served in the British army and was chairman of the Cardiff branch of Ukip until that lot went soft on devolution. Jon’s family moved to a farm in the Beacons when he was eight, and when he grew up he took himself off to South Africa, and Rhodesia, when Smiffy was running things. As the result of a fall on Cader Idris (for some reason spelled ‘Cadir’ in his bio) he is paraplegic.
According to Harrington’s bio, the AWAP is needed in order “to represent the views of the great but silent majority.” This must be the same silent majority that wants to name the Second Seven Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Staying in the Brecon area we return to Wales for a United Kingdom.
The W4aUK Facebook page tells us that 70% of the people of Wales believe in CANZUK. While in what I suspect serves as the manifesto we read, “We have multiple admin running the page day and night so please feel free to message us with any queries.”
Or possibly a lone insomniac.
I must confess, I don’t recall being consulted about CANZUK. Was it restricted to that silent majority we keep hearing about? And has W4aUK thought it through? Because freedom of movement could result in all sorts turning up, demanding entry to this scepter’d isle.
Before you know it it’ll be digeridoo virtuosos on Britain’s Got Talent, big, tattooed buggers demanding to rub noses with you . . . but worst of all, there’ll be nothing to stop thousands of Frenchies moving here from Canada! What’s the point of getting out of the EU if the buggers start coming from the opposite direction?
For after studying History & Archaeology at the University of Wales he spurned oodles of ‘Welsh’ Government funding, and the chance to trash burial sites, in order to serve at the Coracle Fish Bar in Brecon. From where he seems to have moved on, via Harry Ramsden’s, to Kentucky Fried Chicken, rising from team leader to assistant under-manager.
Or perhaps the question is, what has the Brecon area done to deserve Finnish racists, yearners for Rhodesia, and boy wonder BritNats? And how many of them were actually born anywhere near Brecon?
THE BRITNAT LEFT AND ‘THE SHARED EXPERIENCE’
The ‘shared experience’ is one of the most powerful tools in the Unionist armoury because it gives people from different walks of life, different parts of the country, something to bind them together.
The most powerful shared experiences are of course war, especially World War One and World War Two, but even smaller conflicts such as that in the South Atlantic can fill the role. Or more recent adventures in the Middle East. The government sends soldiers and other combatants from every corner of the state, every area loses some young men, the media joins in – bingo! you have a shared experience helping to bind the state together.
Obviously, the WWII generation is nearly gone and the smaller wars don’t generate enough ‘patriotism’. Because while it was virtually impossible to argue against the necessity of going to war in 1939 ‘dodgy dossiers’ and other revelations make recent foreign military adventures easy targets for critics.
And so the state must play the shared experience card in other ways. For example, flooding our television screens with programmes called ‘Great British Bookshelves’ and ‘Great British Bollocks’ – ‘cos we’re all British, innit!’ The point being that when you have people in Derry, Dundee, Doncaster and Dowlais watching and enjoying the same television programmes then the state’s on a winner.
And in recent years it has been made easier by the state enforcing its control. To the extent that BBC Scotland and BBC Wales have become state propaganda outlets rather than national broadcasters for Scotland and Wales. For while a British shared experience must be promoted it must inevitably be done at the expense of a shared Scottish or Welsh experience.
Royal events inevitably play their role. When Princess Wilhelmina of Troutbridge-on-the-Wold knocks out another sprog all TV programmes must be interrupted with ‘Rejoice! Superior being gives birth to yet another superior being!’
This shameless exploitation of the monarchy is why another Investiture in Caernarfon cannot be ruled out.
Pushing a shared experience is becoming more difficult, hence the increasing desperation evident in the mainstream media. The difficulty being due to fewer people getting their information from newspapers, radio or television. When did you last see a teenager holding a newspaper that he or she wasn’t taking home for parents or grandparents?
The left in Wales has always bought into the shared experience.
Which explains why the Labour Party has always been the British establishment’s secret weapon and bulwark. The party of ‘King, Country, and a 40-hour week (but only if it’s agreeable to you, sir [doffs cap])’. A sell-out party.
In Wales, the fact that the Labour Party was largely built by non-Welsh migrants to the southern coalfield resulted in the party being contemptuous of Welshness, dismissing our ancestors as gibberish-speaking savages, their leaders as bandits, and even arguing that Wales didn’t exist before the Industrial Revolution.
It would be nice to think, after almost two decades of devolution, that the hostility to things Welsh was evaporating from what chooses to call itself the ‘Welsh Labour Party’. But no, it’s still there, and it surfaced again on May Day, with a piece in the Wasting Mule by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen.
The lengthy article trotted out the same old bigotry – Wales was nothing before the Industrial Revolution. Which also promotes the shared experience of industrialisation, far preferable to anything uniquely Welsh. Two for the price of one!
The Labour Party has betrayed Welsh people, it has betrayed the working class, and it has betrayed those communities that vote Labour. Which is exactly what it was intended to do. For a prosperous, confident Wales would be a threat to the Union, so Wales must be kept poor, and no one does that better than Labour.
We’ve had Labour on our backs for a century. Regrettably, what helps keep them there is more sincere socialists, and liberals deceiving themselves that the English Labour Party in Wales is ‘progressive’, and so they must align themselves with it against what they are told is the real enemy, in the form of the Conservatives.
Listen to me, and listen good. There is nothing ‘progressive’ about the Labour Party. It is the real enemy. The party attracts members motivated by self-interest and it operates like a Mafia, putting Labour interests above those of Wales, and defending the rackets of its colonial gravy train.
Perhaps what Wales needs at this juncture is a Welsh socialist party, one that concerns itself with Wales and Welsh interests. Because Plaid Cymru has failed in trying to satisfy everyone, and such a party could also attract the more sincere supporters of ELPiW.
For all those who need to be weaned off damaging BritNat socialism and the propaganda of the shared experience then the halfway house of a Welsh socialist party might fit the bill.
The documents listed below were recently received from North Wales Police in response to my complaint last year about the leaflet Tales With a Twist. I’m afraid that apart from the covering letter they were in a font size so minuscule that I needed a magnifying glass to read them. I have enlarged them to make it easier for you.
The different RM numbers will make sense as you read on.
Just before last year’s council elections we were entertained with election leaflets distributed in Gwynedd urging people not to vote for Plaid Cymru; which might have been OK had they carried imprints identifying the publisher and the printer. As they carried neither they were unlawful.
What’s more, the attack on Plaid Cymru slipped into ridiculing the Welsh language and, some thought, outright racism. The leaflet even hinted at electoral fraud being committed by “council officials and high ranking Plaid Cymru councillors”.
The leaflet I’m referring to was called Tales With a Twist No 6, and I wrote about it first in Dirty, Dirty Politics and followed that up with Dirty, Dirty Politics 2. You can read it for yourself by clicking on the image beneath.
The leaflet was being distributed in Trawsfynydd on April 28th by Independent councillor Louise Hughes of Llangelynin ward. Though I’m 99% sure that she neither wrote nor printed the leaflets. I say that because they were quite well written and they were certainly professionally printed.
I made complaints to the Electoral Commission and North Wales Police.
The response from the Electoral Commission was a gem of the ‘Don’t bother us’ kind. I’d complained about Tales With a Twist bearing no imprints and the EC responded with, “It appears that the material (leaflet) you provided does not contain an appropriate imprint. However, it is not clear who has produced and distributed the leaflet”.
Er, no, that’s why I referred it you. That’s why I told you who was distributing it. The person who was distributing it could have told you who produced and printed the leaflet. The Electoral Commission was clearly a dead-end.
Perhaps I’d have more luck with North Wales Police.
Not really. You’ll know that things got off to a bad start when you read in the documents to which I’ve linked, “The website/Blog has been written by Royston Jones who is not politically neutral in this matter and is believed to be a member/supporter of Plaid Cymru.”
As you’ll see this revelation appears on the incident sheet RM17019233. Which also tells us, against ‘Place of offence’: “Anson Court, Atlantic Wharf, #Plaid Cymru Ground Floor, Butetown, Cardiff UK CF10 4AL (Plaid Cymru)”.
It soon became clear that Plaid Cymru had also made a complaint and somehow the local gendarmerie had confused or conflated my complaint with the complaint received from that party.
This is admitted at the foot of the document with, “Having reviewed this occurrence and the linked occurrence RM17019233 I can see that they are one and the same. . . both complaints having been received as a direct result of the letter generated by Mr Royston JONES, his letters and online blogs). Master occurrence RM17013288 will remain open until such time as the investigation is complete.”
So let’s turn to RM17013288.
You’ll note that this incident sheet is peppered with statements like: “difficulty in getting the informant (me) to engage” and “Mr Jones is not fully assisting police (refusing to divulge his sources on MG3) – reducing his credibility as a witness.”
Let me make it absolutely clear that I was always ready to ‘engage’. For God’s sake it was me who took Tales With a Twist to the police. As for not ‘divulging sources’; if people tell me things in confidence and are unwilling to deal with the police then I accept that, and so should the police.
I had given the police a copy of the leaflet.
I had told the police who was distributing the leaflet.
I had told the police where and when the leaflet was distributed.
I had explained the way(s) in which the leaflet fell foul of electoral law.
The police had spoken with Councillor Louise Hughes who admitted distributing the leaflet.
She could, if pressed, have told the police the name of the publisher and the printer.
As a result of this information a conviction or convictions could have been secured.
Instead, North Wales Police chose to believe that Louise Hughes had both printed and distributed the leaflets, they gave her a warning, and ignored entirely the matter of who published them.
I’m sure NWP would excuse themselves by saying that with neither the Electoral Commission nor the Crown Prosecution Service interested in proceeding with the case there was little else they could do. But it was the police themselves who decided that the Public Order Act had not been contravened by a leaflet that clearly sought to stir up hatred against the Welsh language and its speakers.
Perhaps trying to impress the police with her contrition Louise Hughes told them that, “training was now being arranged for all councillors to ensure no literature (from any political party) was distributed incorrectly in the future”.
I checked with some Gwynedd councillors on whether, in light of Tales With a Twist, special training had been arranged to explain to councillors what they should already know. The answer I got was that nothing was arranged beyond the regular “code of conduct course”.
Louise Hughes, who initially aligned herself with Llais Gwynedd before realising that their opposition to Plaid Cymru came from the ‘other side’ has since fallen in with a small group of anti-Welsh bigots who try to dress up their hatred for all things Welsh, especially the language, by pretending they’re attacking Plaid Cymru.
It doesn’t fool me. It shouldn’t fool anybody else.
JAC THREATENED WITH LEGAL ACTION
On April 19th I received a tweet from a Rob Melen asking for my e-mail address. Nothing unusual in that, it happens all the time. I gave him my e-mail address.
Within hours I received an e-mail from Melen saying:
“It has come to my attention that you have used my image of mine of the inside of a Castle Bingo showing fixed odds betting machines. I do not have any record of having issued you with a licence to use this image. I would be grateful if you would provide me with any evidence that you have been issued with a licence by myself for such use.
Subject to that, as it appears that you have breached my copyright I require you to provide me with information about where you sourced the image, the length of time that you have used the image, and any other usages that you may have made of that, or any other image that you may have reason to believe may be mine.
Unless you have a licence from me I require you to remove the image immediately, and will be requiring payment for use of the image to date. If you would like to make use of the image for the future, any such future use would only be permitted subject to negotiation with me of a separate additional licence and payment of a licence fee at my rates.”
This referred to a big piece I wrote last September, scroll down and you’ll come to a section about Carolyn Harris The English Labour Party in Wales (hereinafter referred to on this blog as TELPiW) MP for Swansea East and her party’s association with Castle Bingo.
I responded with;
“I was rather surprised to receive your e-mail. After all, the image is attributed to you, which I’d assumed made it OK.
Anyway, as to where I got, all I can say is that it came from Googling the Internet. It has now been removed. I suggest we leave it at that.”
But no, on Saturday I received another e-mail from Melen, this one quite threatening:
“Without Prejudice Save as to Costs
Further to your reply of 19th April 2018, I was extremely disappointed to see my image used in this way. This was a blatant breach of my copyright because the image was used without license from myself. It would have been easy for you to find out who the copyright owner is, and to publish it legally.
You ought to have known that the image would be protected by copyright, and use of my image in this way by you in the course of your business/blog would be a criminal offence under S.107(2A) of the Copyright Act 1988, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine.
Unauthorised use of the image in this way devalues the value of the image for myself and my clients. Use on the internet, especially where unattributed, is especially damaging as it presents further opportunities to third parties to infringe my images, and increases the risk that the image may become ‘orphaned’.
If I have to take this matter further, I may be entitled to claim damages not only for the direct losses caused by your infringement, such as my loss of license fee, but also for one or more of the following:
I am entitled by law to additional damages where the breach is flagrant or where you have gained a benefit from using the image.
I may elect to require an account of profits from your use of the image, and may require you to carry out disclosure of the full amount of profits derived from use of my image. This may include my claiming a share in the total profits from the sale of any edition in which my image appeared.
I am entitled to further damages for failure to credit my image to me: for breach of statutory duty under S.103 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
I may be entitled to additional damages for ‘moral prejudice’ under S.3(2)(a)(ii), The Intellectual Property (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2006.
I may be entitled to claim from you any additional losses caused to me which results from your breach, for example if my image becomes ‘orphaned’ due to your actions.
If I have to take this claim further, the costs of lawyers’ fees, court fees, and other expenses will also be added to the cost of the claim.
The foregoing list is not exhaustive, and I reserve my right to claim for additional heads of damage. I would strongly urge you to consult a solicitor in relation to this claim if I go ahead with it.
In the interests of resolving this matter quickly for both of us I am, at this stage, willing to make a without prejudice offer to waive my rights to damages from you with respect to your breach for a payment of £150, provided that you accept this offer in writing within the next  days and provided that such sum is received on my account within the next  days.
This offer applies with respect only to your breach of copyright and usage of my image as described in my letter to you of 19th April 2018, and does not in any way imply waiver or consent regarding any additional usage or use of any other image or any breach by any other person. This offer is made on condition that you have disclosed all material facts to me in relation to your breach of my copyright.
This offer applies to settlement of your breach of copyright for this image until the date of expiry of the offer, and assumes that you remove the offending copy of the image forthwith (which you have done). No consent to future or continuing use of the image is implied in the foregoing offer. Should you wish to continue use of the image, then that would be subject to separate negotiation and agreement.
Should I not receive notification of acceptance of this offer within the period described above I shall pass the matter to be dealt with by my solicitors and/or debt collection agents, and additional costs will be incurred which I shall recover from you.
He wants a share of my profits from his photo! Does he think Jac o’ the North is part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire? I think you’ll agree that Rob Melen’s response to me for using a photo of gaming machines that appeared in a WalesOnline article is a bit OTT.
The picture was in the public domain. Yes, I used it, but his name was clearly visible. There was no attempt to claim it as my own or deny him ownership. (As for the millions I made from it, well, they’re safe in my offshore accounts.)
So why the over-reaction? Come to that, who is Rob Melen? Both questions can be answered by telling you that Rob Melen is the senior photographer for that rabidly pro-Labour rag the Evening Post of Swansea. Currently losing readers faster than any other newspaper in Wales. Here’s his Linkedin profile.
And into the mix you can throw the many references I’ve made to Carolyn Harris over the “dyke shoes” assault, and the vindictive pursuit of the victim who will stand trial in Newport in June charged with theft.
On top of which I have many times criticised the Labour Party. In fact, I detest every last one of the verminous bastards that keep my homeland poor and my people subjugated.
So let’s put it all together: A photographer contacts me for using an image of his that appeared in an online newspaper. Guilty, but his name was clearly visible. And the picture? Well, it was a picture of a room full of gaming machines; it was never going to win a competition . . . even a competition for a picture showing a room full of gaming machines.
But someone saw the photo on this blog, and his name, and had a little word: ‘Listen, Rob, love, we’re gonna use you to get that bastard Jac o’ the North. Alright? Well, of course it’s alright innit – you want to keep your job, don’t you? There’s a good boy.’
Am I being unfair on Robert Melen? No, I think not. You see, his e-mails gave away the fact that they had been pasted from some other source. The shadow of the selected text was still visible in the e-mail.
Yes, I could understand the shadow if he was copying the legal bits, but both e-mails were pasted in their entirety, even the parts he was supposed to have written himself! It is unmistakeable. At the end of his second e-mail Melen didn’t even realise he was supposed to choose when confronted with “Yours sincerely/faithfully”.
I have not replied to Robert Melen’s second e-mail (or whoever wrote it). What do you think I should do? I’d like to hear in particular from the lawyers among you.
‘Tri chynnig i Gymro’ (Three tries for a Welshman) is a very old and much-loved Welsh saying.
Where Leighton Andrews and Mark Drakeford ultimately feared to tread, the Welsh Government’s own inimitable attack dog, Alun Davies, is now all set to get his teeth into Local Government re-organisation.
But, if this to mean anything other than a tokenistic tinkering with the map of Wales once again, surely the process has to involve meaningful change this time round.
It’s an opportunity to look afresh at what local democracy should actually mean today, and how it can manifest itself anew in different parts of Wales. The long neglected link up between health care and social care should definitely be on the agenda, as well as democratic control of social housing, a sector which has grown exponentially over the past few years with little or no local scrutiny attached to it.
With Cardiff having a disproportionate slice of the political and economic cake, there is also a strong case for the creation of perhaps no more than 6 regional authorities to counter-balance the Cardiff-centricity of modern Wales, and those authorities imbued with real powers. Which could even perhaps include some element of tax-varying powers of their own, as is the case with local authorities in the thriving Basque Country.
It’s also high time for some radical thinking where the Welsh language and local government is concerned.
It presents a golden opportunity to implement the idea proposed by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru AM – i.e. to create ARFOR, a single authority for the Welsh-speaking areas of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin, which would operate through the medium of Welsh.
The much-maligned nationalist thinker, Saunders Lewis predicted that the Welsh language would decline faster with a Welsh Government in situ in Cardiff than it would under Westminster control, unless local government first conducted its work through the medium of Welsh in Y Fro Gymraeg.
With less than 5 per cent of deliberations at Y Senedd conducted in Welsh (well below the national 21 per cent of Welsh speakers), Saunders Lewis’ prophecy seems to have been borne out.
Every single party at Y Senedd (even UKIP) pledges strong support for Welsh in public: but the harsh truth after 20 years of devolution is that English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not going to change any time soon.
A cultural and political counterpoint is sorely needed to provide Cymraeg with real status and power- located in those areas where it remains an everyday living language.
Socio-linguists agree that a minority language requires some form of territorial integrity in order to thrive. Increasing use is now being made of environmental metaphors with a minority language imagined as a plant or flower which has to have a secure habitat in order to be able to breathe, grow and flourish.
If we continue with the environmental metaphor, most of us are all aware that Welsh’s natural habitat has been eroding on a frighteningly fast rate over the past two generations.
At the time of the 1961 census there were areas within sight of Stradey Park and Llandudno promenade where over 80% of the population spoke Welsh, and the whole of the west apart from south Pembrokeshire was mainly Welsh speaking.
By the 2011 census however, this former solid bank of Welsh speakers across these western counties had dried up alarmingly with Gwynedd down to 64% of Welsh speakers, Ynys Mon 59%, Ceredigion on 48% and Caerfyrddin down to 44%.
The calamitous retreat of Cymraeg in these heartlands since 1951, has been virtually ignored by all the political parties. Partly of course because of the thorny reality that this decline has been accelerated by an inflow of migration from England- with the vast majority of these incomers not showing any inclination to learn the language of their new country. Not one party, not even Plaid Cymru, has dared to challenge and oppose this hugely destructive process over the years.
But the decline has also been about an exodus of Welsh-speaking people, especially younger people in search of employment opportunities, not available in the traditional Welsh-speaking areas. Cardiff of course has been the main beneficiary of this exodus and although it’s comforting on one level that these people are at least staying in Wales, there can be no denying that this process has denuded their home communities of their vitality, their energy and their creativity.
The habitat needs to be rewilded, and the best way to start is with an idea
ARFOR could operate with say 60 elected councillors( 15 from the 4 areas). The geographic distances between Caergybi on Ynys Môn and Llanelli in Carmarthenshire need not be a problem in an age of fast-developing video conferencing. Its nominal headquarters could be based, say, in Aberystwyth or even Machynlleth, but with specific departments located in all four areas.
Arfor should be able to draw up a strategic trajectory for its territory in terms of economic development, housing, planning, social care and other key sectors such as food and drink, tourism, entrepreneurship and language regeneration.
The overall plans could then be implemented at a more local level by beefing up the role of present day community councils. These could be re-imagined by reviving the old model of the rural/town district councils (with several local community councils coming together to form these new entities) employing staff to discharge the duties delivered downwards by the central Arfor authority.
This would allow both a regional identity and a local identity to co-exist and co-create a better future for the heartlands which have only known decline, despair and disillusionment for the past two generations.
Cyngor Sir Gwynedd has already pioneered the way, having operated successfully through the medium of Welsh since the mid 90ies. Ynys Môn has declared that they are now going to follow its example. Arfor is half way there already.
As to the predictable concerns that Arfor would “divide” Wales, and re-ignite the old arguments aired in the 1970ies about such an idea, I would argue that the Welsh national identity is much more secure today than back then. That identity is secure enough to be able to live with the thought that different parts of Wales should perhaps be able to do things differently.
And there is no need to fret either that such a development would allow the other 5/6 regional authorities to ignore Welsh, because the Welsh Language Standards passed by Y Senedd recently will ensure that a modicum of bilingualism will remain in the others.
Associate membership of Arfor could also be provided over time to other Welsh-speaking areas, e.g Dyffryn Conwy, Parts of Denbighsire, Powys and Pembrokeshire, who wish to be part of the new entity.
Arfor has the potential to do more to develop the Welsh language than almost any other language success gained over the years, even arguably S4C – now a pale shadow of its former self and shorn of the clout it used to have in Welsh-speaking Wales.
It will give Welsh real political and economic clout in its traditional heartlands. It will provide employment opportunties and career structures for Welsh speakers from all over Wales. It will, at a stroke, make learning Welsh a real, economic and social necessity for incomers to these areas. It is quite literally, the golden bullet as far as language regeneration is concerned in Y Fro Gymraeg.
Cultural regeneration in the heartlands will undoubtedly lead to economic regeneration as well. It can be a magnet for Welsh speakers from all over the UK and wider afield. It can prove an inspiration to Welsh learners all over Wales and beyond to see that Welsh can thrive as a living, community language.
As Alun Davies weighs up his options, and perhaps even his legacy as far as the Welsh language is concerned as an enthusiastic learner himself, he might be tempted to bring that famous Bill Clinton slogan to mind, and re-phrase it to say : “It’s the culture, stupid” in seeking to effect change.
♦ end ♦
Jac chips in . . .
As persuasive as Aled’s argument is, I’m not totally convinced. For two main reasons. First, I’m one of those who believes it would divide Wales. Second, I look to Ireland’s Gaeltacht and I see no great success to emulate.
My fears on dividing Wales can be explained with an anecdote. My wife’s eldest brother lives in Crickhowell. About 20 years ago, with the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign still fresh in the memory, we were visiting and I got talking to my brother-in-law’s eldest son.
He brought up the subject of the campaign and made a forceful point that youngsters of his age in that area were experiencing a similar problem from retirees, good-lifers, commuters and others pushing up local property values – but nobody seemed to care about them because they didn’t speak Welsh.
The realisation of Arfor could result in those sentiments I heard in Crickhowell being raised again. And not just by sincere and sympathetic people like my nephew, but by the growing army of anti-Welsh bigots getting bolder by the day.
Which is why if Arfor does became reality I would like to see legislation introduced to protect anglophone Welsh identities in other rural areas. Otherwise Arfor could alienate people from Rhuddlan to Rhossili.
Now let’s turn to the Gaeltacht, as I guarantee many will do! It seems to be widely acknowledged in Ireland that the whole concept has been a failure. Everybody seems to blame everybody else, but the fact remains that the Gaeltacht is largely symbolic and kept afloat by a state reluctant to admit its abject failure.
Maybe a Gaeltacht made up of small, widely separated areas was doomed to fail, and this might be Arfor’s advantage over the Irish model.
But let’s assume that the Arfor project takes off, how is it to be sold to the large, non-Welsh populations in Beddgelert, Betws-y-Coed, Barmouth, Tywyn, Aberdyfi, Borth, New Quay – even Aberystwyth? Will these communities be able to opt out?
Whether these settlements buy in or not to survive Arfor will need positive discrimination in favour of the indigenous population coupled with restrictions on who can move in . . . which would send the English media and its Welsh lapdogs into a feeding frenzy!
As I say, I would prefer to see all-Wales legislation that could protect all areas facing similar problems. A strategy guaranteeing that locals get priority in housing, employment, education, training, grants, and everything else, with nothing forced on these areas unless it is of demonstrable benefit to the local population.
But if we can’t have a national strategy, then I would support Arfor, but my support could never be wholehearted.
While the brothers in Cardiff Bay were fighting over the ashes of Carl Sargeant and positioning to succeed Carwyn the Untrustworthy, no one noticed that another struggle was bubbling away in deepest Ceredigion.
It started around the time of the last County Council election in May 2017, with the first rumblings over proposals for a women-only shortlist, which might have seen sister Dinah Mulholland and others being considered ahead of Ceredigion’s only Labour councillor, Hag Harris, who had served in both Liberal-Independent and Plaid coalition cabinets, building up a nice pension.
The experienced Harris succeeded in seeing off these early stirrings and secured his usual seat in the election, only to be shunned by the Plaid council leader this time round and left on the back benches. The council rumours appear to be that this was due to his opinions on the closure of Bodlondeb residential home; caught in a pincer movement between his previous role as cabinet member with responsibility for social services, which damned him in the eyes of the younger, Corbynite brothers and sisters who sought to exploit the home closure for crude political advantage.
After a lengthy public campaign over the closure of Bodlondeb, which saw the brothers and sisters exultant when Chavs author Owen Jones joined them on the streets of Aberystwyth to argue for public residential homes workers to be kept in a job no matter how much money was being lost, but the home still closed.
Though not before the (under siege) Plaid Cymru council leader was forced to turn to Labour’s favourite housing association, Wales and West, and agree to them having a 60 bed extra care facility on the prime development site where once had stood Plas Morolwg. This site had been gifted to W&W by the Labour Welsh Government when local association Tai Cantref was deliberately shafted by their lenders and hung out to dry.
Outline planning permission was swiftly pushed through, as it became clearer that the fifteen-years-in-the-planning alternative extra care scheme in Tregaron was hitting the rocks. So, the future looked bright, with Wales and West Housing moving back into Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and north Pembrokeshire, backed by certain friends within Ceredigion County Council.
Pretty soon afterwards, plans for lots of flats in Lampeter emerged as well, with proposals to demolish the old Ffynnonbedr primary school right in the middle of Hag Harris’s ward, backed with an allocation of Social Housing Grant from the Welsh Government, via the county council officer who likes to say “yes” to Wales and West.
You would think that Cllr Harris might have been pleased about this development – but no, alas, both he and other members of the Town Council were already aware of the lack of management of the existing Wales and West flats in the town, and the constant visits by the Police concerning drugs and damage to property. Could this be the Corbynista’s revenge?
Lampeter also being the place of work of the Dinah Mulholland mentioned above, where she supports the special students who, having gained their university place to do Egyptology or religious studies, with E or below A level grades, still need that extra bit of support.
Sadly, the drop in the number of students achieving even those grades has meant a surplus of student accommodation, and therefore empty private sector rented accommodation in the town, leading to an increase in second and third generation LSD hippies moving out of their caravans in Silian and into the unlicensed HMOs in the town.
So, having given Wales and West a lift in Ceredigion, what next for the young revolutionaries? Well, social media is a young people’s game, and Cllr Harris and his ilk are not known to frequent those channels.
Dinah and her Aberystwyth university comrades came up with the next idea around January 2018, with the creation of a (quite sinister looking) new Facebook page called Ceredigion Tenants. As you can see, the page has a clenched fist profile picture and other leftist imagery, such as “eating the rich”. The intention is clear – to get down with the ‘tenants’ on Facebook, and encourage them to revolt!
There have been encouraging posts about building more council housing (in a county that couldn’t look after what it already had) and what to do with rogue landlords and how tenants should form tenant unions. Plenty of promoting the posts of Shelter Cymru, most of whose senior staff are active Labour Party supporters, and make a living out of taking landlords to Court on the back of generous legal aid. All good stuff, churned out from their university-paid desks.
The Corbynistas soon latched on to a local issue with Ceredigion-based Tai Ceredigion, who had the audacity to suggest that some of their tenants should comply with the terms of their tenancy agreements, and not keep dogs or cats in flats, or accumulate weeks worth of their faeces.
How dare they! Surely it is the right of every tenant to do what they like, to allow their dog to bite the neighbours or housing association staff, and to dump cat litter over the balcony onto the one below. This local issue has nicely coincided by a new policy initiative from the Corbyn side of the party to propose legislation to give every tenant the right to keep a pet.
A browse through the newly established Ceredigion Tenants Facebook page will show dozens of posts in support of the tenants, many comments urging tenants to visit the local Shelter Cymru advice worker, and to seek legal aid to fight this great injustice of requiring them to adhere to the tenancy agreements that they signed. Petitions have been “organized” (sic) and promoted by Daren Howe, the local expert in change.org petition promotion.
DAREN BRINGS MORE COBBLESTONES
Daren Howe: “Signed and shared several times, I have 3 large groups waiting to post this petition but it needs more detail and more bite, why is this happening?, who is it happening to?, what are the consequences if we don’t win etc.”
Daren has now helped get the pet petition over the 2000 mark, by cross-posting to other Corbynista groups and animal rights activist networks – but with very few signatures from Ceredigion itself. Rumour has it that Daren himself has a bit of a history with a former council house he used to live in, before abandoning ship for a tenancy in Cardigan with those nice people at Wales and West.
Whilst it is clear who is behind the Ceredigion People’s Assembly from cross-postings of the pet ban petition made by members of Ceredigion Labour and from Ceredigion Tenants Facebook page, the brothers and sisters have been reluctant to be up front about it.
However, in one of the postings by the administrator of Ceredigion Tenants, Dinah Mulholland, reveals herself as one of the sisters behind the initiative:
“Ceredigion Tenants I have given your names to Jess from ITV and Sian from BBC Wales. I suggested they make contact via this Facebook page. Hope that works. Let me know if not and I follow it up. Hope you are all OK. Dinah x”
Obviously you won’t find many genuine Ceredigion people among the vegans and the green tea-drinking university sisters such as Dinah Mulholland, Jo Eastlake and Claire Risley.
Where next, eh? Maybe their new-found sister in Cardigan, Morvenna Dorita, will mount a takeover for Cardigan Town Council?
You heard it here first, folks, the revolution started with the comrades in Ceredigion.
♦ end ♦
JAC SAYS . . .
I am indebted to ‘Sister Sledge’ for this timely reminder of how the Labour Party extends its influence in the absence of a democratic mandate by using trade unions, campaign groups, charities, third sector bodies and, increasingly in Wales, housing associations.
Not forgetting how Labour activists exploit local issues such as the closure of the Bodlondeb care home in Aberystwyth and the pets ban in social housing flats. The sort of things Labour councils do everywhere but which only draw the ire of the comrades in areas that Labour doesn’t control.
What’s happening in Ceredigion though may take things a step further because the sudden flurry of activity among the comrades – and perhaps more particularly, the comradesses – is done not just to extend the influence of their party, for I suspect that the faux outrage over the closure of Bodlondeb and the pets ban may serve a bigger agenda.
‘Sister Sledge’ mentioned Wales and West Housing, which I’ve written about many times. This is a Cardiff-based housing association now spreading like a virus across Wales with the help of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government. It recently built new offices in Ewloe, Flintshire.
In its desire to take over as much of Wales’ social housing as possible and perhaps become the last – or the biggest – left standing after the inevitable reorganisation takes place Wales and West tries to gobble up everything in its path.
‘Sister Sledge’ made reference to Cantref, a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, which was undermined by the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government and then handed on a plate to Labour-controlled Wales and West. Cantref’s former properties are now run from Cardiff, and Welsh – the working language of Cantref – is treated as an irritating irrelevancy by Wales and West.
Forget Carwyn’s million Welsh speakers by 2050, the Cantref episode shows us ‘Welsh’ Labour’s real attitudes towards the Welsh language.
A neighbour of Cantref’s now being eyed by W&W, is Tai Ceredigion . . . ‘But wait!’ you exclaim, ‘isn’t Tai Ceredigion that wicked housing association that rips fluffy kittens from children’s arms and smashes their little skulls with lump hammers (the kittens not the children)? Yes indeedy.
Are you beginning to get the picture? For those of you still having trouble, let Jac lead you by the hand . . .
Ceredigion county council had on its hands an extremely pale pachyderm in the form of Bodlondeb, a drain on the public purse that could no longer be justified. Sensing a chance to manipulate public opinion and use it to expand in Ceredigion both ‘Welsh’ Labour and Wales and West Housing swung into action.
Ceredigion People’s Assembly was set up in August 2017, the foot-soldiers were organised and had a protest march on September 16th (Glyndŵr’s Day). A further rally was organised on November 4th which was attended by the saintly Owen Jones.
Result: Ceredigion council closes Bodlondeb but the bad publicity generated by Labour front organisation, Ceredigion People’s Assembly, virtually blackmails the council into allowing Labour-controlled W&W to build a replacement facility on the Plas Morolwg site.
Emboldened by that victory, the next target is Tai Ceredigion, and we see the same foot-soldiers form another Labour front organisation, Ceredigion Tenants, whose Facebook page sprang into life on January 11, just one day after Tai Ceredigion sent its letters about pets to the tenants of the Penparcau flats.
If all goes according to plan the ‘Welsh’ Government will hand Tai Ceredigion and its assets over to Wales and West Housing, as it did with Tai Cantref. And despite being consistently rejected by the electors of Ceredigion the Labour Party will have secured for itself considerable power in the county.
This is clearly a subversion of the democratic process, but it’s only what we should expect from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
One great irony is that because those involved with Ceredigion People’s Assembly, Ceredigion Tenants, and even the Labour Party, are English, what we see is a kind of hard left colonialism.
Which should remind us that when it comes to English colonialism in Wales there’s no real difference between hard left and extreme right, though maybe the right is more honest about what it’s doing.
The National Renaissance of the 1960s put the wind up our masters for two main reasons.
First came the shock that there were numbers of Welsh people prepared to use violence and civil disobedience to achieve their political aims, with a far greater number supporting them.
Second, came the more worrying realisation that Welsh nationalism, hitherto regarded as a cultural issue confined to rural districts, was spreading into the more populous urban areas and ‘infecting’ people who spoke little or no Welsh. Perhaps there was even a danger of Pura Wallia being employed as Yeats and others had used the West of Ireland, a magical and unsullied ideal to be brought back to the rest of the land.
Something had to be done. The decision taken was to undermine the influential and inspiring Welshness of those western areas, which then ran from the outskirts of Llanelli in the south to the north coast around Abergele, with salients pushing towards the border.
What was envisioned was a form of social engineering, a kind of ‘watering down’ process, that would make life difficult for many Welsh people while simultaneously encouraging into western Wales large numbers of English.
To the point where the remaining Welsh would be outnumbered, anglicised, and this would result in the political threat they posed and the inspiration they provided being removed. Facilitated by legislation and other means; and if these could be sugar-coated, or disguised, then so much the better.
This is a strategy that Martiniquais poet and political activist Aimé Césaire so memorably described as ‘genocide by substitution‘.
Genocide by Substitution is just a more subtle means than outright clearance of killing off a culture and the identifications and loyalties that go with that culture.
THE EARLY YEARS
DEVELOPMENT BOARD FOR RURAL WALES
A good place to start would be the plan in 1965 for a new town of 60,000 or more inhabitants in the Severn valley near the village of Caersws.
Historian Kenneth O. Morgan, in Rebirth of a Nation Wales 1880 – 1980, couldn’t resist linking near-universal local opposition to the plan with Welsh nationalism and racism, “Welsh nationalists and others feared that the population of this new town might be drawn largely from English overspill from the west Midlands . . . that these migrants might be black, brown or yellow in hue”.
Here we have the authentic voice of Old, South Wales, anti-Welsh Labour.
No new town was built, but nearby Newtown was expanded, with a population imported almost exclusively from outside of Wales, and this provided the template for what was now to happen across the region with the creation of the Development Board for Rural Wales.
The strange thing about the DBRW was that its charter stated it could only give financial and other help to incoming employers . . . and their employees. Which meant that small Welsh companies, family firms, could find themselves being put out of business by an English company that had moved into Wales with DBRW support.
‘But surely’, you ask, ‘these companies moving in provided jobs for local people?’ Well no, because under the ‘key worker’ provisions incoming companies were encouraged to bring their entire workforce with them, with relocation costs funded by the DBRW. On top of which the DBRW provided shiny new housing.
The Development Board for Rural Wales was the most blatant colonisation programme Wales had seen since the period following the Edwardian conquest, yet few dared question its operations for fear of being branded ‘racist’ or economically illiterate. For the DBRW was bringing jobs and people to areas suffering depopulation.
It should not surprise anyone to learn that the outflow of Welsh people from the DBRW region did not abate. Giving us a perfect example of Genocide by Substitution.
The Development Board for Rural Wales was merged with the Welsh Development Agency in 1995.
One of the first consequences of the road’s upgrade was the closure of the Royal Mail’s Bangor sorting office, with work being transferred to Chester. Here we were, coming towards the end of the twentieth century, with devolution just around the corner, and Chester was reasserting its parasitic relationship with northern Wales.
For what the cheer-leaders for the A55 didn’t understand, or weren’t telling us, was that improved communications invariably result in the closure of ‘outposts’, which become redundant or expendable if their areas can now be served from further away.
Unfortunately, there was plenty of European money available for the A55 because it is a trans-national route linking Ireland with the continent. That it also opened up large areas of Wales to commuters and others from over the border was never considered.
And the spending continues. Another £250m will go into a Deeside Corridor which will help facilitate the Mersey Dee Alliance agenda by further integrating north east Wales with north west England.
Elsewhere in our rural areas, in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw an economy in decline. In the south west, for example, dairies and creameries closed, and milk was shipped off to England to be processed. Politicians were helpless . . . or at least, they did nothing.
And everywhere we were promised that tourism would be the economic salvation of rural Wales.
I’ve written about tourism many times and I hope I’ve made it clear that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with tourism, it can be a useful part of a diversified economy. But the tourism industry that has developed in Wales was developed to serve England, Wales happened to be conveniently near and became ever nearer with the spread of the railways and then the family car.
Even so, until fairly recently Welsh people did benefit. Many locals – my own late mother-in-law included – brought in some extra money by running a B & B. And back then local businesses such as pubs tended to be locally owned. But somewhere along the way the Welsh seem to have been squeezed out.
I remember a couple of years ago my wife and I stayed at a bed & breakfast in Abersoch, that favourite of the Cheshire Set, and the woman running the establishment told us, quite unprompted, that she was one of only two locals still running B&Bs in the village, yet there must be dozens and dozens of B&Bs in Abersoch.
What we have in Wales now, masquerading as ‘the Welsh tourism industry’ is largely owned and run by strangers. The lack of decent jobs provided by tourism, coupled with its power to bring a new population into our rural and coastal areas, makes it another element in the overall strategy of Genocide by Substitution.
We have reached the point where tourists can come to certain parts of Wales, spend a week or ten days there, and not meet a Welsh person. Yet we are expected to be so proud of this ‘Welsh tourism’!
THE DEVOLUTION ERA
Those expecting things to get better under devolution were probably naive, they have certainly been disappointed. It may no longer be the blunt and obvious instruments of the DBRW, the A55 and creamery and other closures that inflicts the damage, now it is the stiletto thrusts of a ‘Welsh’ Government operating against the Welsh national interest.
Did I really say, “a ‘Welsh’ Government operating against the Welsh national interest”? Yes I did, and now I shall give some examples of this behaviour, hopefully in chronological order.
Let’s start with One Wales: One Planet, of May 2009. This publication retrospectively gave approval to a number of illegal settlements and the green light to future sustainable communities. Despite grandiose pronouncements about a “sustainable nation” it was really about encouraging those seeking a certain lifestyle to move to Wales.
This was followed in July 2010 by Technical Advice Note 6Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities. (A Technical Advice Note “provides detailed planning advice”.)
TAN 6 replaced an earlier document that talked only of “Agriculture and Rural Development” but something had obviously changed, new influences were being brought to bear on the ‘Welsh’ Government that had little concern for traditional agriculture, or Welsh farming.
January 2012 saw former Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing in the ‘Welsh’ Government, Jane Davidson, join the University of Trinity St David’s Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness (INSPIRE). Among its aims is to “contribute to our communities by giving particular regard to issues of sustainable rural communities and the development of south west Wales as a low carbon region“.
Davidson, former Labour MP for Pontypridd is from England, where she was privately educated, she knew nothing of Pontypridd when she arrived and little when she left, but being AM for the town allowed her to use her position in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition to promote causes dear to the hearts of others like herself.
I’m thinking now of those members of the English middle classes who in times past were given to wearing indecently voluminous khaki shorts and belonged to the Ramblers Association (since re-branded Ramblers). Having been vice-president while a Minister Davidson became President of Ramblers Cymru almost as soon as she left the Assembly in May 2011. She is, predictably, also a Patron of the One Planet Council.
I took a little detour from the One Planet website after seeing the name of another Patron, Paul Taylor, and his connection with the Cwm Harry Land Trust of Newtown, Powys. Another ‘No-Welsh-Need-Apply’ organisation.
The Accounts for the Cwm Harry Land Trust Ltd are overdue at Companies House, but it’s also a charity, No 1100899, though the accounts to the Charity Commission are even further in arrears.
The Accounts for 2015 tell us that the biggest source of income was – surprise! surprise! – the ‘Welsh’ Government, and the biggest outgoing was – never! – salaries. Though another reason for Cwm Harry being in a delicate financial position may be its attempt to buy Moelyci, “a community owned farm in North Wales”, in fact, just outside Tregarth, near Bangor. (Despite being committed to Welsh heritage and culture the Welsh language version of the Moelyci website is, as ever in such cases, “under construction“.)
The falling through of the Cwm Harry deal for Moelyci is explained here. I hope the ‘Welsh’ Government is keeping a close eye on how Cwm Harry spends our money. It should go without saying that no more public funding should be wasted on Cwm Harry or Moelyci.
This digression started when I saw the name Paul Taylor on the One Planet site. Taylor is, or was, also involved with Home Presteigne, which seems to have folded. But he’s still a busy boy, for he tells us that he’s an “Independent Advisor Community Land Advisor (sic) Service Cymru”. So what’s that?
At the Royal Welsh Show in late July 2013, John Griffiths, then Minister for Sport and Culture, launched the Community Land Advisory Service Cymru, part of a wider Englandandwales organisation. The Welsh operation had received a £600,000 grant from the Big Lottery’s Climate Change Programme.
CLAS Cymru is “part of a wider Community Land Advisory Service across the UK, which is managed by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens“ but its press release suggests a different role in Wales with,“CLAS Cymru helps new communities to navigate through the challenges associated with finding land, negotiating a lease and obtaining planning.”
Back to the main thread.
While many of the influences behind One Wales: One Planet, TAN 6 and all the offshoots may be external to Wales native Welsh politicians have also chipped in, among them Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, who announced in January 2014 that 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy Funding would in future be diverted from Pillar 1 (farmers) to Pillar 2 (‘rural development projects’).
The next attack on the population indigenous to the Welsh countryside was the ‘Welsh’ Government’s decision to cancel a £360,000 grant to Wales’ Young Farmers Clubs in January 2015.
Hooray! Wales is going to save the Planet! Or rather, we are going to use the pretext of environmental concerns to encourage hippies and other shysters to move to Wales and become yet another piece in the jigsaw of Genocide by Substitution.
Finally, I was struck by the local branch of the UK government’s BBC mouthpiece putting out this strange article earlier this week which warned us that “rural west and north Wales are the most vulnerable to economic decline as the UK leaves the European Union”.
The example we need to follow, according to the article, is a ‘network’ currently running on Exmoor. “Helping incomers to integrate is part of the network’s ethos, according to its chairman, sheep and beef farmer David Knight. One of their initiatives is a micro-farming group for new owners of smallholdings . . .“
Despite everything that the UK and ‘Welsh’ governments have done since the 1970s to undermine the indigenous economy of rural Wales, to destroy the region’s social and cultural integrity, are they now hoping to blame its final eclipse on Brexit!
But no! for it is to be reborn, salvation lies in “incomers”, on “smallholdings”; “new communities” “obtaining planning”.
I don’t wish to appear overly cynical, but when so much legislation is churned out by the ‘Welsh’ Government that is clearly designed to draw into Wales those seeking a green or eco-friendly lifestyle, then we are entitled to ask why.
Another reason for suspicion is the contradiction inherent in what is being done. For the purpose of the legislation, and the various initiatives is, we are told, to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint, but by attracting into Wales a whole new population that will keep animals, burn timber and in other ways bother the environment we can only increase Wales’ carbon footprint.
Which means that what is being done only makes sense on an Englandandwales level, which in turn means that a ‘Welsh’ Government is now legislating for Englandandwales by agreeing to take in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hippies and others that England wants to offload.
I can see the advantage for England in this arrangement, but where’s the benefit to Wales?
On the plus side, I suppose those living in eco-villages might be an improvement on the white trash being imported by some third sector outfits and certain housing associations, or the hypochondriacs and worse attracted by free prescriptions, and the retirees taking over so many communities. And let’s not forget the white flighters and other flag-fliers.
But none of these groups will create wealth, or generate employment. If anything, they will take the Welsh economy in an opposite direction, making Wales poorer by any criteria you care to employ. While also draining the Welsh public purse.
So the motive for encouraging this multi-faceted influx cannot be economic growth or job creation.
During this same period there has been no legislation, not even a vague promise, to defend our rural areas in a way that will protect their Welsh identity. So what is the point of a ‘Welsh’ Government if it only cares for strangers and works against the interests of its own people?
What we are witnessing in the Welsh countryside, and along our coasts, is a crude attempt to remove a perceived or potential political threat posed by a people and their distinct identity, in the manner described by Aimé Césaire – Genocide by Substitution.
Llais y Sais (Voice of the English) is an alternative name for our much-reviled and laughingly self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’. It’s readership has plummeted over the years and I think it’s now down to me and some old bird in Ponty.
Yes, I still read it, but then, I’m a masochist; I have to be to stay in Wales and witness the idiocy, duplicity and corruption at all levels of our national life. What’s more, as a blogger, I feel it’s my duty to read it so that you may be spared, with me bringing you the occasional report here or on Twitter. (God! the things I do for you.)
Today is your lucky day because I’m going to give you four stories from today’s issue. So relax, and enjoy.
First up is a strange little story about someone complaining that a Santa Claus couldn’t speak Welsh. Does this really merit half a page?
As I suggest, this is a curious non-story designed to get the likes of Jacques Protic and Clements of Llangyfelach pounding their keyboards. It’s news value is zero, especially weeks after Christmas, which makes it nothing more than a ‘Welsh bastards!’ story designed to suggest intolerance or extremism on the part of Welsh speakers.
Which makes it entirely predictable that this ‘story’ originated with English Heritage West (aka Cadw) and ended up in Llais y Sais.
‘A BIGOT WRITES . . . ‘
It would be easy to dismiss this reader’s letter from today’s issue as more bigot fodder . . . but it comes from a bigot.
If I’m reading this letter correctly, then Dennis Coughlin believes that ‘Welsh’ Labour’s undemocratic internal processes are there to keep in power “dominant quasi-nationalists whose raison d’etre is to placate those of a direct lineage to the sons of Owen Glendower”. He seems to hate things Welsh so much that he can’t even bring himself to write Owain Glyndŵr.
As if that wasn’t enough, in his final paragraph he goes on to accuse these ‘quasi-nationalists’ of racism, for there’s no other way to interpret his reference to skin colour.
And yet, this idiot does represent traditional Labour in Wales – the anti-Welsh Labour Party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock. That party we’d hoped was behind us . . . but maybe it’s just been biding its time.
Is he a member of the Labour Party, and if so, will he be disciplined? And why did Llais y Sais publish such a disgraceful, anti-Welsh smear?
Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Dennis Coughlin’, and came up with this letter, published by Llais y Sais on January 8th. This man clearly has a problem with the Welsh language. Rather than pander to it maybe Llais y Sais should have a word with his family.
And not publish any more bigoted garbage like the two letters it’s published this week from Dennis Coughlin.
TAX AND SPEND
A regular columnist in Llais y Sais is economist Dylan Jones-Evans. I read him with no great enthusiasm but it helps pass the time. In today’s piece he again attacked the possibility – no more at this stage – of the ‘Welsh’ Government introducing a tourism tax.
Some of what he’s written deserves comment.
As you may know, I support a tourism tax because I would like to see the money raised spent on those areas suffering excessive levels of tourism. I live in such an area and I know that the great majority of local people see no benefit from tourism.
Worse, they are disadvantaged in a number of ways: tourism provides low skill, low pay and often seasonal employment; tourism results in people wanting to settle, which leads to higher house prices and, due to the age profile of these immigrants, increased strain on our NHS and other services; tourism also results in Anglicisation; then we have the issues of traffic congestion, environmental degradation, waste, etc.
So if we are to have a tourism tax then I would want to see the revenue collected used to alleviate some of these problems, perhaps by helping local young people get on the housing ladder.
But Dylan Jones-Evans questions if the revenue from a tourist tax, “will really go towards improving the tourism facilities as promised”. Promised by whom? What is the point of levying a tax on tourism only to put it straight back into tourism?
Any tourism tax in Wales must be compensatory or it’s not worth bothering.
Elsewhere he tells us that “the tourism industry generates nearly £9bn for the economy and supports around 242,000 jobs”. Which if nothing else, reminds us that when it comes to tourism figures can be plucked out of thin air, because there is no independent source for figures on tourism and no trustworthy verification.
Perhaps it came from some body run by tourism operators, which looks at towns like Llandudno and Tenby, or areas like Snowdonia and Gower, and concludes that everyone working there must be involved in tourism. Deceitful and deliberately misleading.
And the same can be said for the figure of £9bn.
‘AS LONG AS HE’S FROM CARDIFF’
As you probably know, I’m a football fan. Obviously I support the Swans and Wales, but I also watch games involving other clubs and countries. In this year’s World Cup I shall again be supporting Argentina, though I had hoped to be swearing at the telly wearing red, but a combination of bad luck and cynical Irish tactics put paid to that prospect.
So football coverage is one reason I buy Llais y Sais, though even this is marred by the contributions of Paul Abbandonato, ‘Head of Sport’, no less. But I should be used to it because I remember when that shyster Sam Hammam took over Cardiff City Abbandonato went into overdrive using photos of the National Stadium and insisting that Cardiff City would soon need to play there because they’d be entertaining the likes of Barcelona.
Hammam it was who played his role in Swans-Bluebirds relations by insisting that Swans’ fans should switch their allegiance to Cardiff City. And Abbandonato lapped it up. Abbandonato is not just biased towards the football club, he’s something of a Cardiff nationalist, singing from the ‘Welsh’ media’s Cardiff über Alles song sheet.
Today’s contribution from Abbandonato was in keeping with all that has preceded it except that it wasn’t a report or a preview of a game, instead it was an attempt to influence a decision soon to be made by the Football Association of Wales.
As far as Abbandonato is concerned the FAW’s decision is between Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, there’s nobody else in the frame.
Though if you read the article there is – given its subject matter – one glaring lacuna, and that is that despite bigging up his favourites he has nothing to say about their experience. Because quite simply they have none. Which means that Abbandonato wants our national football team to be managed by a man with no experience and for no better reason than that he comes from Cardiff.
But there are other considerations, especially with Giggs. To begin with, I don’t think most fans would accept him due to his reluctance to turn out for the national team when selected (which he has blamed on his manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson).
But then there’s a question mark over what kind of a man he is. I’m referring now to his eight-year affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife, which seems to have taken its toll on his brother. Do we really want such a man in charge of our national football team, and impressionable young men?
I believe that following the performance of our national team in Euro 2016 the FAW could aim a bit higher and get a top coach, someone with experience. So I urge the FAW not to be swayed by Abbandonato and the Cardiff lobby and to cast the net wider, find an experienced coach and a man we can all respect.
UPDATE 16.01.2017: And lo! it came to pass as predicted that the selection committee empowered by the FAW did appoint the aforementioned Ryan Giggs as the new manager of our national football team. The media was forced to admit that the news was not welcomed by all Welsh fans but tried to play down the hostility.
Unfortunately for the BBC it ran a poll which showed that only a minority thought it was a good decision. And this, remember, was on the UK BBC website, which means that a lot of Manchester United fans would have voted ‘Yes’ for a club legend. Which tells us that most Welsh fans oppose the decision.
So there you are, I’ve reminded you why you no longer read Llais y Sais – I bet you’re glad!
The original meaning of caravan was of course a camel train, found in Asia, the Middle East or North Africa, carrying people and goods, often over deserts. The word comes from the Persian kārwān. Sometime in the 19th century it began to be applied in Britain to the horse-drawn homes of Romanies.
Today it means something towed along Welsh roads holding up traffic for mile after mile. The bigger ones, that never go anywhere except on the back of a low loader, are to be found now all over Wales, especially near our coasts, and it’s these I wish to deal with.
A caravanserai was a stopping place for a caravan. It might be an inn, possibly an oasis. I suppose I’m being a little whimsical in likening caravan sites in Wales to overnight stops on the Silk Road, but there you are.
Those who’ve been following this blog will know that I had a Twitter exchange recently with a Tom Scarrott, we disagreed over whether or not there should be a tourism tax. It should have ended there, but Scarrott chose to pursue matters by inviting himself and a few ‘colleagues’ to the meeting planned for the Belle Vue Royal Hotel on November 4th to discuss the formation of a new political party. Read about it here.
Understandably, the hotel cancelled the booking. The meeting has now been rearranged for November 18th with an invited audience.
As often happens in these cases, the article prompted people to supply further information on the subject matter. Tom Scarrott is described as a man who likes to have his own way, something of a bully. Which anyone could have guessed from the tweets he sent me.
Though one source provided fascinating background information.
It seems that to fully understand the reach of the Scarrott family we need to appreciate its links with the Barkers.
According to my source, Thomas John Barker (DoB December 1931) ran the amusements at the Clarach Bay Holiday Park just north of Aberystwyth (when it may have been owned by Rank). I’m told he then bought the site in the early 1980s with Thomas Scarrott Snr as his right-hand man. By which time Scarrott may have married Barker’s daughter.
Wide Horizons Holiday Park, Cardigan Road, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA46 0ET
Aberdwylan Holiday Park, Abercych, Boncath, Pembrokeshire SA37 0LQ
You’ll see that I’ve typed three of them in red, so let me explain why. These three sites are all near Cross Inn on the A486, which runs down to New Quay from the main north-south A487. Important because I’m told the jewel in the crown for Tom Scarrott is the Ocean Heights Leisure Park.
AN UNACCEPTABLE MODEL
The Ocean Heights site is largely self-contained, in that it tries to offer those staying there as many as possible of the facilities they’ll need.
What’s more, those staying at the other two A486 sites are told, “guests are welcome to use the facilities on offer at this park including the Ocean Heights Country Club”.
Clearly, the Scarrott family hopes that those staying at their three Cross Inn sites will spend as much of their money as possible on the facilities provided at Ocean Heights. The flip side being that the Scarrotts want their ‘guests’ to spend as little money as possible in the wider community.
Bad enough, but let’s also remember that these are self-catering holidays. Which means that those staying in the caravans and chalets at Ocean Heights and elsewhere will bring as much as possible of what they need with them. They’ll even fill up with petrol or diesel before leaving home, and might return on the same tank.
The question then becomes – how does the wider community of Ceredigion benefit from tourism like this? And with this model being encouraged all over Wales by the ‘Welsh’ government and local authorities how does Wales benefit?
And as I pointed out in an earlier post, the Scarrotts like to take the money they’ve made out of Wales at the earliest opportunity, with their bankers being in Wiltshire and their accountants and auditors in Coventry. (And it’s the same arrangements for the Barker family.)
Let’s be clear about this. If tourism is an economic activity intended to bring money into a country, and to ensure that that money circulates within the host country bringing the widest possible benefits, then a business model such as that favoured by the Scarrotts should not be tolerated.
That it is tolerated, and worse, encouraged, goes a long way to explaining why tourism fails to deliver anything except clogged roads, tatty ‘attractions’, increased house prices and Anglicisation for our rural areas.
By all means encourage the Welsh family farm to diversify with a small caravan site, but Ocean Heights has more in common with a holiday camp, putting as little as possible into the local community. That’s why I believe large, self-contained caravan parks should be discouraged, and eventually phased out.
If this option is rejected then ways must be found for Ocean Heights and the rest to contribute to their local area, and the means are already available: increased council tax on static caravans that are obviously holiday homes, and a per head, per night, tourism tax.
PLAID CYMRU AND TOURISM
Despite the damage caused by tourism, Plaid Cymru is a big supporter.
Quite how we square Plaid’s commitment to the environment with support for mile after mile of coastal caravan sites,‘Ye Olde’ chippies and amusement arcades, the resultant rubbish, etc., is a mystery.
Equally mysterious is Plaid’s backing for an industry that through its activities and its inescapable corollary of settlement has devastated the bastions of the Welsh language.
I can only conclude that in some areas the tourism lobby is so well organised and vociferous, and Plaid Cymru’s position so weak, that the party has just caved in. Certainly the party opposes a tourism tax, with spokesman Steffan Lewis describing tourism as “the lifeblood of the economy”.
Listen, Steffan, if tourism really is the lifeblood of our economy then we’re as good as dead.
Simon Thomas, the regional AM for Mid and West Wales goes further, and wants to reduce the VAT for tourism. Arguing, “It has been estimated that cutting value added tax in tourism from 20 per cent to 5 per cent would bring £7.6 million to (the constituencies of) Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and £4.5 million to Preseli Pembrokeshire.”
As with so many of the ‘statistics’ produced by the tourism industry these figures are plucked out of thin air.
From studying various statements made by Plaid Cymru people it’s reasonable to conclude that the party has little to offer rural areas other than tourism. Another worrying revelation came in a Twitter exchange I had a couple of weeks back with Ywain Myfyr of Dolgellau which closed with the exchange below.
Ywain was a local headmaster and is a decent guy, heavily involved with the cultural life of the area, through Sesiwn Fawr and Tŷ Siamas. Which makes his defeatism all the more worrying.
Plaid Cymru’s attitude is unfathomable. Tourism and its corollary will destroy the Fro Gymraeg and with it Plaid Cymru’s heartlands, so by encouraging tourism Plaid Cymru is effectively hastening its own demise!
‘WELSH’ TOURISM, SERVING ENGLAND BETTER THAN WALES
Before concluding, let me make my position clear. I believe there is a role for a tourism component in a broad and diversified economy. But to rely, or over-rely, on tourism is the economics of desperation, or worse.
I challenge anyone to name me one wealthy country that relies for its wealth on tourism.
Take London; tens of millions of tourists visit London (and spend a lot more per head than visitors to Wales) but London’s wealth isn’t generated by tourism. In the bigger picture tourism is just one element.
Or look at our near neighbour, Ireland. I’ve been visiting Ireland off and on for over 50 years, and for most of that time the economy relied to a considerable degree on the tourist pound, dollar, mark or yen, certainly in some of the more rural areas. But the ‘Celtic Tiger’ wasn’t nurtured on tourism.
We can see that tourism brings few benefits to Welsh people, and many problems to Wales, so why is it being promoted as if it was the answer to all our ills?
First, the UK economy is in trouble, and might dive further when Brexit hits. ‘Staycations’, which ensure money stays in the UK, are therefore being encouraged. (The exchange rate also helps.) That’s because most of the money generated by tourism in Wales will make its way to England in one form or another.
So when somebody in London wants more done to attract English tourists to Wales, the message is passed on by the London-controlled civil servants who double up as ‘advisors’ to Carwyn and his gang, and then the directive is repackaged as a “Welsh’ Government initiative”.
And the ‘Welsh’ Government is glad to do so, because they’ve got no ideas of their own. The same of course applies to Labour’s little helpers in Plaid Cymru. Equally bereft of ideas are our councillors.
This explains why rural and coastal Wales is now a recreation and retirement region for England. And it’s state policy. Because in addition to the economic benefits of staycations tourism has the extra advantage of Anglicising those areas most Welsh in speech and political outlook.
This process is under way from Conwy to Carmarthenshire. Little is done to bring in or encourage the growth of decent jobs, because to do so might make it less easy to fill the minimum wage jobs in tourism, care homes and the like.