THOSE WE HAVE KNOWN
Before starting any analysis let’s look at a few individuals who have appeared on this blog recently.
First, Gary @poumista Jones in Llangennech. Gary was heavily involved with the school dispute, siding with those who would like to kill off the Welsh language. He came top of the poll, but the fact that his running mate, Jacqueline Seward, came third, some distance behind the leading Plaid Cymru candidate in this two-seat ward (see here), suggests that there was not an ‘overwhelming majority’, as claimed, supporting the position espoused by Michaela Beddows, Rosemary Emery and others trying to disguise bigotry as ‘choice’.
Ergo Gary’s victory must have contained a considerable personal vote unconnected with the school dispute, which can only be attributed to the free publicity I’ve given him. I therefore expect a few bottles of best quality Argentine Malbec to be delivered in the very near future.
Though many observers fear that Gary’s political career may not prosper, for not only can he do joined-up writing, it is even rumoured that he has read a book! Intellectual snobbery like that is frowned upon in the Llanelli Labour Party.
In Tywyn, there were incredible scenes as Mike Stevens – aka George M Stevens – was carried shoulder-high along the High Street to cries of, “Good old wassisname!” and “Where’s the free beer we were promised, you bastard?” after romping home with 29% of the vote.
Here in the Bryncrug / Llanfihangel ward that man of mystery Royston Hammond will remain an unknown quantity after losing, though given that hardly anybody knew him to begin with 22% of the vote in a two-horse race may be regarded as quite acceptable.
In a nutshell, the local government picture in Wales now is a patchwork, shown well in these excellent maps by Siôn Gwilym (@siongwilym) that take the election results down to ward level. They show us that all parties have their areas of strength but that with just a few outposts elsewhere ‘Welsh’ Labour is largely confined to the south and the north east.
Now let’s take a quick tour of the country.
ALL ABOARD THE CHARABANC!
In Carmarthenshire there was a split between Llanelli and the rest of the county where Plaid Cymru dominates. Llanelli voted like Swansea, where Labour actually gained a councillor, partly due to Plaid Cymru being almost absent from the city. On the other side of the Bay things were not so good for Labour, with Plaid Cymru gaining seven seats, Independents gaining one seat, and even the Lib Dems gaining a seat in Neath Port Talbot.
Digression: Staying in this area, Labour hanging on in Llanelli throws up, or regurgitates, an interesting possibility for whenever the ‘Welsh’ Government finally gets around to tackling the local government reorganisation Wales so badly needs. Let me explain.
It is taken as read that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will combine, if only for the obvious reason that they already form a contiguous urban-industrial-commercial entity with the linkages being strengthened all the time. For example, Amazon’s massive ‘Swansea Fulfilment Centre‘ is in fact in Neath Port Talbot, and Swansea University’s new campus is also over the line. But what of Llanelli, the westerly component of this conurbation, separated from Swansea only by Afon Llwchwr?
Obviously Llanelli is not a unitary authority, but when local government reorganisation was discussed a few years back Swansea council’s preferred option (2 1 (i)) was a merger with NPT and Llanelli. I discussed it in Councils of Despair in December 2014. What’s more, this seemed to be the preferred option of the Labour Party in Llanelli. Given the clear dissonance in voting patterns between the town and the rest of the county it’s reasonable to assume that this remains Labour’s favoured option locally, and perhaps nationally.
For it would give ‘Welsh’ Labour a new authority of roughly half a million people, some sixth of Wales’ population, and with a guaranteed Labour majority in the new council chamber. With Labour taking hits and losing seats almost everywhere else this ‘Greater Swansea’ authority could provide it with a new base from which to fight back.
The picture for Wales is that Labour did well in the southern cities, but less well beyond those cities, where Plaid, Independents, and even the Cynon Valley Party won. The north east was another curate’s egg. In the northern metropolis of Wrexham, Labour now holds just 12 out of 52 seats in a town the party once dominated, but gained 3 seats in neighbouring Flintshire to remain the largest party, though without an overall majority. In Denbighshire Labour lost 6 seats and the Independents lost 4, the winners being the Conservatives (+8) and Plaid (+2).
Coming back to the south, it would appear that the further north one went, away from the glitz of Cardiff, the more likely electors were to be pissed off with how that glitz contrasts with the deprivation around them. Two former ‘Donkey Labour’ councils – Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent – will now be run by Independents, with even the council leader losing his seat in Merthyr. (Though due to the death of a candidate the Merthyr voting is not yet finished.)
One reason Labour did so well in Cardiff was that by and large the expected city-wide threats from Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats did not materialise. Certainly, Neil McEvoy topped the poll in Fairwater, and the other Plaid Candidates in this three-seat ward also got elected. In fact, in the Cardiff West constituency, of which Fairwater is part, Plaid got 23,832 votes compared with Labour’s 25,890, but for some reason the party hierarchy has decided that Cardiff West is not a target seat! Maybe this is further punishment for McEvoy, or maybe it’s another example of Plaid Cymru sabotaging any threat of success.
The only council where Plaid Cymru will have a majority of councillors is, as before, Gwynedd. But Plaid will be the largest party in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn, having increased its number of councillors on all three authorities. Plaid even gained another seat in Pembrokeshire, but Independents of various hues still hold 35 of the 60 seats. Which leaves just Powys and Monmouthshire.
In Harri Webb’s Green Desert the ruling Independents took a bit of a hiding, losing 17 of their 47 seats and overall control of the council, with just about everybody feasting on the downed beast, including the Greens, who now have a councillor in Wales. Though the new Green councillor confirms that the Green Party of Englandandwales is about as Welsh as UKIP (probably less so). Moving down to eastern Gwent we see that the Tories won a further 6 seats and now control the council.
To believe some mainstream media outlets the Tories swept the board in Wales, but the truth is that they control just one Welsh council, out of 22, and have fewer councillors than Plaid Cymru, or the Independents, a label that covers everything from Odessa sleepers to the Country Landowners’ Association. Though this being Wales, porkies also had to be told about Labour’s performance.
The headline to the picture below taken from the BBC Wales website – apparently supplied by the man who lost to Corbyn in the leadership contest – suggests that Labour swept the board in the Rhondda. The truth is that Plaid Cymru got more votes and more seats.
(I’ve asked this before, but who is the valkyrie hovering over Smiffy?)
One final thing – Wales is now a UKIP-free zone. The party held two seats, apparently, one of them in Ceredigion where Gethin James represented Aberporth. He must have known the game was up because he stood last week as an Independent – and still lost! Who the other one was I neither know nor care.
In Scotland, the Tories swept the board, crushing the SNP in the process . . . in the dreams of the mainstream media. Let’s look at the facts. The SNP is the largest party in Scotland’s four biggest cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. Allowing for re-drawn boundaries, the SNP now has more councillors than at the last local elections in 2012 (says BBC Scotland’s Brian Taylor).
The truth might be that the SNP is at a ‘plateau’ of support from which it’s difficult to make further progress, but the party’s support certainly isn’t collapsing as some would have us believe.
Yes, the Tories made gains, so let me give my interpretation of why that happened. And the bigger picture of the political realignment I see taking place in Scotland. If I’m right, then what’s happening is further proof of the strength of the SNP. First, a trip down memory lane.
When I was a much younger man, barely out of my teens, I worked for a construction firm for a while, first at the Mond Nickel refinery in Clydach, later building a gas plant in north west England. The site boss was a Protestant from Belfast and almost all his supervisors were either from his background, or else they were Scots.
Listening to the boss and his inner circle was quite an education. For example, I learnt about the links between the shipyards in Belfast and those on the Clyde. Those shipyards where foremen wore bowler hats. Those shipyards where it could be so difficult for a Catholic to get a job. I could hear this talk and then buy the Connolly Association’s Irish Democrat being hawked around the site by Irishmen of a different persuasion.
This was my introduction to the complex interplay between Ireland and Scotland, Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Republican/Nationalist. I soon realised that anyone who thought the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers was just about football knew nothing. It also made me understand why Conservative candidates in Scotland stood as Unionists, and it had nothing to do with the SNP.
There has always been a strand of Unionism in Scotland that is indigenous but also linked to Ireland, through Orange Lodges, Glasgow Rangers Football Club, the Presbyterian Church and other elements. Unlike Wales where what passes for Unionism is little more than a passive acceptance of English superiority and an excuse for street parties.
The power and influence of this tradition is partly due to so many Scots viewing the Union as a partnership of equals that began in 1603 when James VI rode south to become king of England. It has been reinforced over the centuries by the position of Scots in Ulster threatened by Irish nationalism, and in the nineteenth century from the disproportionate role played by Scots in building the British empire.
Those Scots who have now decided that independence would be the best option are therefore not ‘breaking away’, nor are they ‘separatists’ (deliberately offensive terms), many of them see it as dissolving a business partnership that no longer serves Scotland’s best interests.
Yet the residual power of this Unionist sentiment and the prospect of a second independence referendum explains why working class or unemployed Unionists/Rangers supporters living on some shitty housing scheme are now prepared to vote Conservative. It’s because the Tories are the Unionist party. Anyone who tries to read more into the growth of Conservative support in Scotland is wrong.
The Conservative Party in Scotland is now assuming the role of the Unionist parties in the Six Counties. It therefore needs to be very careful that it doesn’t also become the mouthpiece for the kind of prejudice and hatred we saw when BritNat Nazis rioted in George Square on 19 September 2014 following the independence referendum.
This realignment means that Scottish politics is being stripped of considerations of class and ideology and forming around the simple question, ‘Do you want independence?’ Those who do will support the SNP, an increasing number of those who do not will support the Conservative Party.
This tells us how the SNP has transformed Scottish politics, and how the new, bipolar configuration leaves little space for the Labour Party; a party further damaged because few believe it can provide ‘progressive’ politics within an increasingly regressive state.
‘LADY’ KATE CLAMP
Another way in which Wales differs from Scotland is that we have so few aristocrats living here, which means that I rarely get the opportunity to report on one. So where would I be without ‘Lady’ Kate Clamp, who has graced this blog before. She is the proprietrix of Happy Donkey Hill, formerly and for centuries known as Faerdre Fach.
Those who have yet to encounter this woman may care to watch her in glorious colour and surround sound. I’m not sure which Swiss finishing school she attended, but the signs of good breeding and education abound in this monologue.
The reason I’m writing about her again is that I hear she’s been hiring local workers, promising them cash in hand, and then refusing to pay. One excuse she’s used is that the payments have to go up to London to be authorised – so why advertise cash in hand? These aristocrats, eh!
As I’ve pointed out previously, her father, Michael D Gooley, major donor to the Conservative Party (£500,000 in the final quarter of 2014), is the owner of Faerdre Fach not her, and he has recently bought another property nearby. Dol Llan being a substantial old house just outside Llandysul which ‘Lady’ Clamp is again claiming to be hers, to the extent of trying to make a few quid by selling off bits of it.
If you’ve recovered from the monologue I linked to above you might care to visit her Facebook page, which is where I found it. There you’ll experience more of the same, for it seems no one ever meets ‘Lady’ Kate’s exacting standards . . . which I suppose is her excuse for not paying.
Though if I was Derrick Hughes I might consider having a word with my solicitor after having my professional reputation damaged on Facebook. I wonder if he got paid?
Whichever way you look at her – and I wouldn’t advise looking for too long! – this woman is a phoney. She claims to own property that is in fact owned by her multi-millionaire daddy. She plays the role of the country lady while looking for excuses to cheat people out of money she owes. Her monologues betray her as a foul-mouthed, self-pitying drunk. No wonder no one who knows her has a good word to say for her. Her only ‘friends’ appear be on the internet.
What a tragedy it is that people like this are taking over our country and behaving like a colonialist elite, changing old names and wrecking properties that for centuries have played a role in Welsh communities. It’s surely time for us to stop being so polite, and welcoming. A judiciously delivered ‘Fuck off!’ can avoid so many misunderstandings.
♦ end ♦