Two weeks ago, soon after it was suggested that Cyngor Gwynedd should consider raising council tax on holiday homes to 200%, two letters appeared in the Meirionnydd edition of the Cambrian News. (Owned by the Trinity Mirror Group.) They can be found on the right, just click to enlarge.
I responded (as did someone else) and my letter was published last week. It’s the one on the left, again, click to enlarge.
This week’s issue carried a third letter on the subject, which can be found on the right. (You know what to do.) In the final paragraph, writer Stephen Smith calls my letter “frightening”, and links me with the burning of second homes! Yet I only mentioned this in order to ridicule the writer of an earlier letter for predicting “property burning starting again”! Either Stephen Smith hasn’t read the earlier letters properly or else he’s deliberately misinterpreting what was said, and by whom. I’m amazed the Cambrian News didn’t delete this grossly offensive final paragraph. It is defamatory and without foundation.
Then there’s the addresses. In publishing my letter the Cambrian News gave my full address minus only the house number. In a street of just twelve houses mine would not be difficult to find. Yet the address for one of the letters published a week earlier, from ‘Pat Beaumont’, is no more specific than ‘Shropshire’. While the letter from Stephen Smith used the address of a caravan site! Why publish a letter from what is clearly not the writer’s permanent address? (Sunbeach Holiday Park in Llwyngwril is owned by Allens Caravans of Warwickshire.)
My initial reaction was to wonder if there really is a Stephen Smith. (There is.) Worth asking because the Cambrian News has ‘form’ when it comes to printing phoney letters. It goes without saying that these are always anti-Welsh or anti-nationalist. The most notorious example in my experience happened about 15 or so years ago. (Regrettably, I have lost the documentation, unless my wife has put it ‘safe’.) A letter was published purporting to have been written by a Jew, who had suffered in the Holocaust, and now lived in ‘Upper State New York’. The writer claimed to have been to the National Eisteddfod and been horrified at what he found. The young people there reminded him of the Hitler Youth!
The letter was riddled with absurdities and inconsistencies. Not least ‘Upper State New York’. For as most of you will know, the term Americans use is ‘Upstate New York’, but that’s not an acceptable mailing address. So I wrote to the editor asking why she hadn’t picked up on the glaring errors that were so obvious to me. The response I got made me suspect that the local editor wasn’t overly concerned with the almost laughable errors. Which then raised uncomfortable questions: Does she agree with the sentiments expressed? Was the letter cooked up in the offices of the Cambrian News?
To cut a long story short, I wrote to the name and address given, making sure to put my return address on the back of my envelope. A couple of weeks later my letter was returned by the US postal authorities with ‘no such address’ written across it . . . and accompanied by two other letters sent from Wales to the same address. One was from a woman prominent at the time in Cymdeithas yr Iaith (can’t recall her name), and the other was from the now deceased wife of prolific letter-writer Trefor Davies of Penrhyndeudraeth. I returned both letters to their writers, and had a nice phone call from Mrs Davies in thanks.
However one cuts this story it is a damning indictment of the Cambrian News. For even if that letter had been genuine, the writer who and what he said he was, the content was such utter, insulting bollocks that the letter should have been immediately binned. It was telling thousands of readers of the Cambrian News that their children and grandchildren were no better than Nazis; that our National Eisteddfod is not a lot different to a Nuremberg Rally; and that Welsh culture is racist and fascistic.
So where does this take us with the debate on council tax for second homes? We are already – in Gwynedd, anyway – having a debate over raising council tax on holiday homes. With power over stamp duty now transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government it won’t be long before a debate opens on how best to use this new power. Yet there are those who would like to strangle such debates in their infancy by, for example, raising the spectre of an arson campaign. That’s because those I speak of want Wales to remain a colony of England. It would be sad if our media were to collaborate with this agenda. But not surprising.
P.S. If Stephen Smith, of Sunbeach Holiday Park, reads this, then I would like an apology, Mr Smith, for deliberately and provocatively linking my name – in one, unpunctuated sentence – with criminal offences.
UPDATE 16.11.13: I rang the Cambrian News on Friday morning and spoke with the editor. She saw nothing wrong with the final paragraph of Stephen Smith’s letter. Our conversation was brief because she had to go somewhere. Below you’ll find my letter in response to Smith. I shall report later if it was published, and published unedited.