Local Democracy Subverted

In a previous post I talked of the eclectic nature of the ruling Labour group on Swansea council. Of how it seems increasingly to be composed of people who neither know the city nor care much for it. Strangers who, by one route or another, have washed up on Swansea Bay and are simply using the Labour Party and the council to exercise whatever bee they have in their bonnet.

Dealing with the vote to allow bird choppers on Mynydd y Gwair, ancient common land on the northern outskirts of Swansea, I mentioned one Labour councillor who called the objectors rich, 4 x 4 driving nimbies. The irony of that absurd accusation is that the objectors were local Welsh graziers while the beneficiaries of the council’s planning consent will be the Duke of Beaufort and German energy giant RWE.

So I feel no inhibition in naming this woman as councillor Uta Clay, representing the Llansamlet ward. An interesting woman, Uta. Austrian by birth she’s been in Swansea for some four years, living with her husband, who is perhaps even more interesting. For he is Robert Alan Clay, educated at Bedford School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Better known as Bob Clay, he is the former Labour MP for Sunderland North.

The Clays turned up in Swansea some four years ago, after wearing out their welcome in Hereford. They first lived in a converted barn at Rhydypandy, just outside Morriston, from where they began their political manoeuvrings. These included organising a protest rally at the Brangwyn Hall in October 2010. Also, turning up to council meetings, where Bob Clay, with his booming voice and upper class English accent would regularly harangue and insult Chris Holley, Leader of the then Liberal Democrat-led coalition running Swansea. After promoting themselves so assiduously it was no surprise when Uta Clay was selected, in February 2011, to stand for Labour in the Llansamlet ward in the May 2012 council elections. That the Clays didn’t live in Llansamlet was remedied when they moved there that August.

Not satisfied with her being a mere candidate, Bob and Uta Clay tried to take over the branch completely. These attempts resulted in much disharmony among the comrades, and led to Uta Clay being deselected in November. Welsh Labour got involved, and brokered a deal on the understanding that future election material would only be produced by the local party, and would promote all four Labour candidates in the ward.

This failed to disperse the poisonous atmosphere in the Llansamlet ward which finally resulted in the suspension of the whole branch in January 2012. But a month later peace broke out again and it was agreed that all four candidates (including Uta Clay) could stand in the May 3rd council elections. So that was that? Well, no. In mid-March, and contrary to the agreement brokered by Welsh Labour, a separate leaflet was put out on behalf of Uta Clay. The police got involved due to the attacks made in the leaflet on the sitting Independent councillor. The Clays were again suspended. Now the saga takes a very, very strange twist.

The suspension was lifted after an intervention by the Labour Party in London! According to Uta Clay the unauthorised – possibly slanderous – leaflet was put out by her husband, and was therefore nothing at all to do with her! The Labour Party accepted this, and re-instated her as a candidate!

As a senior Labour Party source put it: “This whole thing stinks to high heaven. The local Labour Party did everything by the book, and had the support of the Labour Party in Wales. But pressure has been brought to bear (from outside Wales) to get these suspensions overturned. It’s an outrage that loyal party members have been treated like dirt to accommodate two people who were campaigning against the Labour Party only a few years ago.”

This being a reference to the Clays campaigning with George ‘Indefatigability’ Galloway and his ‘Respeck’ party in the 2004 European Parliament elections. So why did these two Trotskyists get support from Labour in London to over-rule Welsh Labour and the local party, guaranteeing that Uta Clay stood in the council elections? How often does ‘London’ get involved in ward-level squabbles, and in Wales?

The Clays continue to entertain. Most notably with their involvement in the campaign to stop a second Traveller site being established in the Llansamlet ward. A few months ago they turned up at the official Traveller site asking those living there to move to Felindre or Fforestfach. Bringing with them a typed letter to the council asking for relocation that simply needed Travellers’ signatures. The Travellers complained to the council that Bob Clay had suggested they might “not be safe” if they stayed on the official site. The council reported the incident to the police. You must admit, Travellers complaining of being intimidated is unusual. Equally odd is seeing defenders of the underdog jumping on the anti-gypsy bandwagon.

Which brings us back to last week’s vote on the Duke of Beaufort’s subsidy farm at Mynydd y Gwair. A long meeting during which Uta Clay ‘lost it’ and turned on the objectors in the public gallery, calling them nimbies, saying they were all rich people with  expensive off-road vehicles. For these and even more offensive remarks Uta Clay has been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman. But she was not alone.

Also jeering the Welsh objectors were two of Swansea’s ex-student councillors, John Bayliss and his good friend Mitchell Theaker behaving like immature hooligans. Bayliss sits on the council to promote Gay issues, while Theaker confesses an interest in reserves and cadets.

The message I take from this sorry business is that in the matter of the Clays, Welsh Labour meekly submitted to orders from its masters in London. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this happens in other spheres and at other times. Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a puppet regime controlled from London. I have always argued that devolution is a sham, this case provides yet more support for that belief.

Looking at the wider picture, I can’t help but wonder what Swansea Labour stalwarts like Byron Owen, Robert Francis-Davies, Ceinwen Thomas and others feel about their party having been taken over by this freak show of GLBT zealots, manipulative academics, embittered Trots and assorted oddballs who’ve turned up out of the blue. How can this shower possibly be serving a city they do not know, they do not understand, and they do not care about?

Looking beyond Swansea, from Wrecsam to Caerffili to Caerfyrddin, we see the Labour Party failing to attract the quality of member that would have filled its ranks in earlier generations, leaving itself easy prey to entryists and others hoping to use the party to promote their own agendas. Thanks to the ‘donkey’ vote Labour may still appear strong, but it’s increasingly clear that this is a facade, one that can only be maintained at ward, branch and local authority level by surrendering to the sort of people now running Swansea.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a nationalist party to prick this ‘bubble’!

15 thoughts on “Local Democracy Subverted

  1. treforus

    The ghastly Mrs Clay is getting some serious abuse in the letters page of the Evening Post (19 Feb). She is going to inflict on Swansea Labour a good deal of collateral damage if she maintains this form.

  2. leigh richards

    good to see there are stil some elected representatives of the people’ willing to stand up to the big business interests behind many wind turbine schemes……tho not in wales alas…..contrast the robust approach taken to a proposed wind farm development by bradford council and its officers with that of swansea’s ruling labour group…….http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2280336/Moors-inspired-Wuthering-Heights-saved-wind-turbines-planners-consideration-literary-significance-area.html

  3. leigh richards

    hey sid…cheers for the plug…but can we have a bit less of the ‘old’ please….tho poor i am most certainly am…..no 4 x 4 for me..indeed i dont even have a ‘back yard’ for local labour councillors to plant a massive wildlife killing wind turbine in!

    yes i do take great delight in tackling the bizarre coterie of wales haters and brit nats that occassionally pollute the letters page of the ‘local paper’…… i hope you have enjoyed reading my letters….perhaps you would care to join me in my on going battle on the letters page with the vile anti-welsh bigots?

  4. Jim

    Having read this post and attended the Mynydd Y Gwair planning meeting last week, I’ve come to the conclusion that Labour are in Swansea are quite a divided Party. It’s notable that many of the old “Lliw Valley” Labour lot voted against their glorious Leader, who’s already on record for pissing off a previous generation of Labour stalwarts, who left the Party and formed their own group.

    If it wasn’t for the poverty of opposition in Swansea – including that coming from Plaid – Labour would have big problems down here.

    1. Andy

      Labour took 49 out of 72 seats at the last election and they are in for five years. I think they can live with that kind of trouble.

      As for being divided, there is no party whip on planning committees for Labour councillors. What happened was a free vote backed up by free speech. Hard to see how this represents a subversion of democracy but it depends on your point of view I suppose.

      1. Jac

        I am saying that local democracy has been subverted in Swansea because what we see there now is too many individuals using the Labour Party and the council to promote their own pet causes, or themselves within the Labour Party. This is not serving Swansea, and this is not how local democracy is supposed to operate.

        Someone directed me to the Twitter account of one of these, a councillor who was a student until last year. She’s from California. Glancing through her tweets suggest interest in US politics, American football, partying, student politics and internal Labour politics. She obviouly doesn’t know Swansea, doesn’t seem to care a great deal, so how can she be serving the city? Another ex-student is obsessed with Gay issues, which seem to be his only interest. And what about the Trots- whose interests are they serving?

        Yet these, and others like them, voted to put wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, a beautiful spot they can neither pronounce nor find without help. That it was a free vote makes it worse because it deprives these parasites the excuse of having been whipped.

  5. Bob Clayderman

    Good god I though Shambo the sacred bull-shitter had been sent to the knackers yard long ago.

    1. Shambo

      Hiya Bobby. Still here beefing it up and making sure that them horses don’t come over here taking out jobs.

  6. Sid

    The trouble is that the prospect of a nationalist surge in Swansea is no more than wishful thinking. The last (and only) Plaid Cymru councillor in the city buggered off to a safer seat in Carmarthen last year. All that’s left is poor old Leigh Richards who writes the occasional letter to the local paper.

    1. Jac

      Nothing’s going to come from Plaid Cymru. I was lamenting the absence of a REAL nationalist party

  7. Shambo

    An artless piece of shit-stirring full of inaccuracies and clumsy extrapolations – even possibly defamatory. I loved it.

  8. D Morris

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had a nationalist party to prick this ‘bubble’?

    Only a few weeks ago you suggested that party politics and elections were a waste of time, or did I read it wrong?

    Plaid Glyndwr was established specifically in an attempt to break up the monopoly of colonialist/unionist councilors at a local level.

    We all recognize the problem in our communities with these sleazy unionist councilors, nationalists actively working together is the only way to weed these undesirables out.

    1. Jac

      What I’m saying is that with local authorities increasingly being run by chief executives, or clowns like this lot in Swansea, and with Labour virtually guaranteed to win the Assembly elections in 2016 – and if they don’t win a majority having Plaid as ‘partners’ – then nationalists might as well forget electoral politics.

      Obviously, if we had an effective nationalist party then the situation would be very different. But as we don’t, then electoral politics is a waste of time.

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