Following the death of councillor Dennis James a by-election will be held for one of the seats in the Llansamlet ward of Swansea council. As dealt with here, Trotskyite Bob Clay, former Labour MP for Sunderland North, will be standing for Labour. While he may have been selected by the local branch there is still some confusion over whether the selection has been ratified, or welcomed, by the brothers and sisters higher up the greasy pole.
The other candidates announced before last Friday’s deadline were, for the Conservatives, James Peter Hatton, from Morriston. For the Liberal Democrats, Samuel Rees, from Brynmill. And for the Official National Front, Claire Thomas, of Townhill. So of the four candidates, only one – Bob Clay – actually lives in the ward, and he moved to Llansamlet less than a year ago! Of the others, one is at least from neighbouring Morriston, while the other two are from across town; the National Front candidate from the ‘troubled’ Townhill estate, the Lib Dem from an area given over to accommodation for students and other transients.
There is no Plaid Cymru candidate, because the party is all but dead in Swansea. (Sad, seeing as I can recall Llansamlet being Plaid’s first council seat in Swansea when it was won by my old friend John Ball back in the ’70s.) Surprisingly, the Independents were also unable to field a candidate due, it is suggested, to the favoured hopeful being away on holiday! So there you have it. Another example of non-local local politics in Swansea. Another example of how turned off the vast majority of local people are with their councils. Another example of how this disengagement makes it easier for political adventurers and extremists to grab the limelight, to expound their views, and perhaps even to get elected.
Putting this together with all the other local government problems – the Carmarthenshire dictatorship, the Caerphilly stitch-up, the incompetent authorities stripped of various responsibilities, local authorities increasingly run by senior officers – there are no arguments left for not reforming Welsh local government. And for not making a start tomorrow. Democracy is suffering under the present system.
Eight new authorities modelled on the pre-1996 counties would be ideal. (See above left, click to enlarge.) With no more than thirty or forty councillors each, representing ten to thirteen three-member wards in each authority; or possibly, smaller, single-member wards, for multi-member wards rarely deliver the promised ‘variety’, especially if the party popular locally puts up a full slate of candidates mercifully free of halitosis and capable of holding a short conversation without covering the listener in spittle.
P.S. In an earlier post I dealt with Swansea Labour’s ex-student councillors and their vacuous tweetings. Well, as I reported even more recently, John Boy Bayliss has now closed his Twitter account, @JohnCBayliss, on orders from above. His colleague, the California beach girl, Pearleen Sangha @PearleenSangha was, you may recall, home in March for a wedding. Well, here we are three months on, and whaddya know – she’s back in California! No doubt she’s there on important Labour Party business! Lucky, lucky Swansea!
UPDATE 12.06.2013: For using a picture of the Official National Front candidate for Llansamlet in this post – since removed! – I was threatened with legal action by the South Wales National Front Organiser, Sion Owens. (See Comments to this post.) Mr Owens, of neighbouring Bonymaen, was a candidate himself not so long ago, in the council elections of 2012. Although he stood for the Official National Front last year (is there a Provisional National Front?) back in 2011 Mr Owens was a leading light in the BNP, and a candidate for the National Assembly. But he was cynically denied victory by a “politically motivated” arrest for burning a copy of the Koran.
Or at least, that’s how the BNP reported it. This is how ITV’s Wales Tonight covered it. You’ll note that the WT report mentions that Owens has also been in the ‘Welsh’ Defence League. So it looks like he’s moved between different organisations . . . but only if you believe that the BNP, NF (Official or otherwise), and the W/EDL are separate organisations. In case anyone thinks I’m taking this too seriously, just take a look at some of those we’re discussing – booze, bellies and Burberry. Who is going to vote for people like these, even in a suit and a (pre-knotted) tie? But be thankful for that. Because in many continental countries fascism has in recent decades produced charismatic leaders, it has gained sympathy from official quarters, including Christian churches. On this island all we have is an embittered section of the white underclass reacting blindly – but always reacting! – to forces it does not understand and, because it does not understand, it has no hope of directing or controlling.
And finally, remember, these are the people so proud to be “WELSH” that when they go watch the Swans they wave a flag that doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of Wales!