A Fairytale Prince and Princess and a Web of Golden PR

BY A GUEST WRITER, ASSISTED BY ‘STAN

(illustrations by Jac o’ the North)

Revelations that Stephen Kinnock and his wife Helle Thorning-Schmidt sent their elder daughter Johanna  to private schools are making waves in both Denmark and Wales in a tale so tangled that even Hans Christian Andersen would have cried the Danish equivalent of “WTF?”

So if you are sitting comfortably, let’s begin at the beginning. Well, sort of.

In Denmark private schools are heavily subsidised by the state which provides up to 87.5% of their funding, leaving parents to pay relatively modest fees by UK standards.

Private education has long been a contentious issue on the left of Danish politics, with the Social Democrats  as ambivalent about it as their British counterparts in the Labour Party. Senior Social Democrats who have sent their children to private schools have attracted criticism from sections of the party, but it is not party policy to abolish private education, and unsurprisingly given how many of its top brass use private schools, the party now takes the line that it is a matter of individual choice.

Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt have two daughters, and it was long their policy to keep their children out of the public eye. Their privacy was respected by the Danish press, to the extent that when Johanna’s education became an issue, the press had no recent pictures of the family. As we shall see, that changed when Stephen Kinnock launched his campaign to become Labour’s candidate for Aberavon, and was keen to stress his family values.

Non-dom

Kinnock, now 46, has an impressive back catalogue of controversies, and in Denmark none was bigger than the row over his non-dom status, despite being married to the country’s Prime Minister and having his family home in Copenhagen.

The tax row and the investigations and official inquiries which followed it ran on for years, finally coming to an end at around the time Kinnock was seeking to become Labour’s candidate in Aberavon. For those interested, a summary of this bizarre affair can be found here.

Certainly, media interest in his tax affairs gave Kinnock invaluable experience in how to deal with the press and answer awkward questions. Not only did he escape ever having to pay a penny in tax in Denmark, but the row over his conduct and his tax avoidance did not surface as an issue when he launched his campaign to be selected in Aberavon.

What questions Kinnock did face concerned his choice of school for his daughter Johanna, and here again lack of scrutiny by the UK media and a thick coating of Teflon served the Red Prince well.

The timings of events and revelations are important in forming an understanding of how, possibly with quite a lot of luck, possibly with skillful news management, and possibly a conspiracy of silence from some in the media, Stephen Kinnock and Helle Thorning-Schmidt were able to face elections in their respective countries without their daughter’s exclusive private schooling becoming an issue.

What Johanna did next – a timeline

Johanna Kinnock begins her secondary education at a state school in Copenhagen, but moves “for private reasons” to the rather more exclusive private Ingrid Jespersens Gymnasieskole which she attends between 2010 and 2012.

Fees at the school were DKr 1,500 per month (around £165), although as we shall see, Kinnock later suffered a lapse of memory about how much the family had actually paid.

In 2012 Johanna, then aged 16, is on the move yet again, this time to Hellerup Gymnasium, a state school where she stays for just one year.

2013 – Johanna packs her bags and heads off for the exclusive Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan, where fees are currently £28,600. There she completes her secondary education in 2015, a year when both of her parents fight general elections in their respective countries.

A recent article in the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet (see translation below) suggests that Kinnock and his wife would have paid around £12,000 a year, including a £10,000 voluntary contribution based on his wife’s income as Prime Minister. The rest was paid by the Danish taxpayer under a grant scheme set up to help parents fund the cost of education abroad, and various unspecified “funds and sponsors”.

Exstrabladet

November 2013 – Hywel Francis announces that he will stand down at the UK general election in 2015, and so the race to find his successor begins, culminating in a vote by the constituency party on 22 March 2014.

There were seven candidates, of whom the early favourites were Jeremy Miles, a lawyer from Pontarddulais (now Labour AM for Neath), and Mark Fisher, local Unison official. Miles was understood to have won the backing of six local branches of the party and have had a clear lead over Fisher.

Somehow Kinnock came through with a late run to beat Miles by a short nose (106 – 105) on March 22, after a recount. This article from Left Futures by Jon Lansman – founder of Momentum – gives one explanation for how this happened.

In the run-up to the vote, Kinnock’s opponents began asking questions about Johanna’s schooling in Denmark, apparently unaware that she was by then living and studying just a few miles away at Atlantic College.

The Western Mail first picked up on the story on 19 February:

Stephen Kinnock slams ‘misleading claim’ that his daughter went to a private school

In this article Kinnock, with breathtaking chutzpah, told Martin Shipton that Ingrid Jespersen’s Gymnasieskole had cost only around £80 a month, and he added that she had gone on to “the equivalent of a sixth form college in Denmark which is wholly state funded”, neglecting to mention that she had since gone on from Hellerup Gymnasium to the £28,600 a year Atlantic College.

The very careful wording which obfuscated Johanna’s whereabouts seems to have put the media hounds off the scent, although they quickly discovered that fees at Ingrid Jerspersens Gymnasieskole were twice the level that Kinnock had claimed.

On 1 March 2014 Kinnock was back in the Western Mail to, ahem, “clarify” matters.

Stephen Kinnock ‘underestimated’ school fees for daughter

The newspaper article talks about attempts by Kinnock’s political opponents to undermine his campaign, and quotes Kinnock as follows:

“This was a fast-moving story and I was very keen to clarify some of the misleading things that were being said about my daughter’s schooling as rapidly as possible.”

Note the implication that it was other people who had been saying misleading things about his daughter’s schooling, rather than Kinnock himself.

The very next day, 2 March 2014, a Danish journalist working for Ekstra Bladet quoted a conversation he had just had with Shipton of the Mail:

‘”I have spoken to people in the party, and they are not impressed by his inaccuracies. They believe that this could influence Stephen Kinnock’s chances”, says Martin Shipton who is editor of the Welsh newspaper Western Mail which has reported on Kinnock’s misinformation.’

With three weeks to go to the crucial vote in Port Talbot, nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that Johanna was not in Copenhagen at all but just down the road. Another whole year and a bit later on 8 May 2015, and another Danish tabloid, BT, produced this very illuminating report just as the dust was settling:

This tender image is a rarity

The newspaper notes that Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt had always been careful to shield their daughters from the media, so much so that BT had very few pictures of the two girls in its archive. All of that changed in March 2014 when Kinnock released a family portrait taken for use in his selection campaign, and Johanna is pictured again in the report cuddling up to her mother during the count on election night (7/8 May 2015).

The newspaper comments that this sudden change of tack was a strategic choice to portray the Kinnock Thorning-Schmidts as a family which sticks together, “something which means a lot in Wales”.

BT continues by recalling that Johanna had previously been in the limelight in Denmark when it emerged that she had been sent to the fee-paying Ingrid Jespersens Gymnasieskole, echoing a scandal which broke in 2010 when it emerged that a number of senior Social Democrats had children in private schools.

(Two revealing reports on the Kinnock’s attitude to private education appeared in the Danish publication BT; the first on May 9 2010; the second 11 June 2010; both updated 19 September 2012. The headline of the first translates as, ‘The truth about Helle’s spin’, the second, ‘Helle Thorning’s husband raging against private schools’. Translations (in summary) for both articles can be found by clicking here. Many thanks to our new Danish contact for the links, and to one of the authors of this piece for the translations. Jac)

Kinnocks normal

“Today Johanna attends an international high school in Wales, the UWC Atlantic College, which is close to where Stephen Kinnock  is living”, the piece says in conclusion.

Clearly, some in the media knew of Johanna’s whereabouts before the UK general election and probably before Kinnock was selected as Labour candidate for Aberavon. If the arrangements at Atlantic College had been known about, it is highly unlikely that Kinnock would have been selected, and if his handling of the affair had been known about, it would hardly have been a vote winner in Port Talbot in May 2015, come to that.

Instead, Kinnock based his campaign on family values, his close connections from his time at Xynteo with captains of industry, including Tata Steel bosses, and a promise to bring jobs to the town. Promises which were to evaporate after the general election even quicker than fairy dust.

Revelations that her daughter was attending a Dkr 250,000 a year school in Wales, partly at the expense of the Danish taxpayer, would not have helped Helle Thorning-Schmidt either when she faced voters in a general election on 18 June 2015.

Fortunately no hacks bothered to follow up on BT’s heartwarming report with its tender images.

Although the Social Democrats slightly increased their share of the vote, their coalition partners fared badly, and so ended Helle’s stint at the top.

But there is a happy ending because soon after resigning Helle landed the top job at Save the Children International in London, where her predecessor was reported to be earning £234,000 a year – rather more than the Prime Minister of Denmark.

Even more remarkable was that she landed the job despite coming under fire from, erm Save the Children among others, for implementing policies as prime minister which keep refugee children separated from their parents.

And there matters would have rested had it not been for wicked old Jac o’ the North spilling the magic beans on the whole convoluted saga a year later, with post-factual Kinnock claiming to have been open about his daughter’s schooling all the way along.

Labour and the Danish Social Democrats have come a long way since the days of the Little Match Girl who would now be facing deportation or arrest for pestering passers-by when she could go and get a proper job as a consultant.

*

Danish taxpayers pay for Helle and Kinnock’s daughter

Translation of an article which appeared in Ekstra Bladet  on 30 July 2016.

Danish taxpayers paid Dkr 140,000 (around £16,000) for the two years former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s daughter, Johanna, attended Atlantic College in Wales from August 2013 to June 2015.

Annual school fees at the private school are £28,600 – around Dkr 250.000 – but Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her husband Stephen Kinnock did not have to pay that.

Instead, they paid between Dkr 18,000 (£2,000) and Dkr 88,000 (£10,000) a year to send their daughter Johanna to Atlantic College in Wales.

This information comes from the website of United World Colleges (UWC).

UWC sends 15-20 Danish high school pupils to one of the organisation’s 15 schools every year in  Europe, Costa Rica, India, Singapore, Swaziland, USA, Hong Kong and China.

The state paid Dkr 70,000 per year

UWC’s Danish website shows that the average fee per pupil is DKr 158,000 (£18,000) per year.

The Danish state contributes Dkr 70.000 (£8,000) towards the cost, a further Dkr 70,000 is provided by funds and sponsors, while parents contribute Dkr 18,000 (£2,000) a year.

  • UWC Denmark depends on donations from parents in order to give a place to young people a place at a UWC school, it says on the website.

Parents paid Dkr 18,000 per year

For this reason the organisation asks parents to make an additional contribution above the minimum of Dkr 18,000 per year.

  • UWC  has a limited number of full bursaries. If a household’s total income is less than Dkr 250,000 a year before tax, parents can apply for a full bursary. Other parents pay a compulsory family contribution of Dkr 18,000 per year, the organisation states on its website.

It is therefore clear that the  Thorning-Schmidt/Kinnock family paid a  minimum of Dkr 18,000 a year to send their daughter to Atlantic College in Wales.

UWC asks parents to pay additional contributions beyond the Dkr 18,000 to the organisation.

Tax deductions of Dkr 15,000 per year

  • If parents wish to donate more than the compulsory DKr 18,000 contribution, they may claim tax relief of up to DKr 15,000 per year. It therefore follows, the organisation says, that the more parents who donate money, the more pupils will obtain a place.

UWC therefore suggests that parents pay an additional contribution from their taxable income.

Atlantic College

UWC suggestion to parents

UWC’s proposals are as follows:

Parents with a taxable income of between Dkr 500,000 and Dkr 750,000 should pay between Dkr 15,000 and Dkr 45,000 per year.

Parents with a taxable income of between Dkr 750,000 and Dkr 1,250,000 should pay between Dkr 45,000 and Dkr 70,000 per year.

Parents with a taxable income of more than Dkr 1,250,000 should pay Dkr 70,000 per year.

As Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt earned Dkr 1,439,443.75 (£163,500) in 2013. Depending on her final declaration, she should therefore have paid an additional Dkr 70,000 to UWC.

Kinnock on Facebook

On his Facebook page Stephen Kinnock confirms that his daughter’s place at Atlantic College was partly financed by the Danish state.

  • Johanna’s stay at AC was partly financed under Danish rules governing grants for students studying abroad. The majority of AC’s students and those at other United World Colleges schools are financed by a mixture of state grants and national committees in their respective countries, Stephen Kinnock writes on Facebook.

Welsh blogger

He was reacting to accusations made by the Welsh blogger Jac o’ the North on his blog that Stephen Kinnock hid the fact that his daughter Johanna went to an expensive private school from Welsh voters when he was standing for selection for the Aberavon constituency in the spring of 2014 – a constituency which has returned a Labour MP since 1922.

Jac o’ the North says that Stephen Kinnock would not have been selected if Welsh voters had known that his daughter  Johanna was going to the expensive Atlantic College.

I answered questions

Stephen Kinnock confirms on his Facebook page that his and Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s daughter’s stay at Atlantic College was partly financed by the Danish taxpayer.

  • I was asked about and answered questions about her schooling in Denmark (where she attended the private Ingrid Jespersens School from 2010 til 2012, Ed.), Stephen Kinnock wrote, failing to elaborate whether he would have answered if Welsh journalists had asked him if Johanna had gone to an expensive private school in Wales.

*

Jac says . . . 

I still have difficulty believing that when Martin Shipton of Llais y Sais interviewed Kinnock in February 2014 he was unaware that the subject of the discussion, Johanna Kinnock, was already in her second term at Atlantic College.

Given Shipton’s support for the Labour Party, and remembering that his employers Trinity Mirror also support Labour, it could well be that the news was already circulating about Johanna but – perhaps as a favour to the girl’s grandparents – Trinity Mirror arranged for Shippo to ask the wrong questions in order to ‘settle’ the allegations of her being privately educated.

Kinnock family

But let me, for once, push aside my usual draught of vitriol and drink of the milk of human kindness, (God! I’m going some here) and give Shippo the benefit of the doubt, and more, extend that benefit to all the other journos in Wales.

It’s entirely possible none of you knew that the grand-daughter of the ultimate champagne socialists, Lord and Lady Hypocrisy, whose father was seeking election to a Welsh constituency, was being educated at a very expensive school a few miles outside Cardiff . . . but if so, what does that say about you as journalists?

Maybe you should stick to belittling Welsh identity. That seems to be all that most of you are good for.

Labour: The End is Nigh

The past few weeks have been perhaps the most turbulent period I can recall in over fifty years of following politics on this island. This goes some way to explaining why the most recent posts have avoided contemporary politics – things have been changing daily. But now that things have settled down a bit, with Mrs May in No 10, BoJo set to charm Johnnie Foreigner, and the battle-lines drawn in the Labour Party leadership election, it should be safe to resume commenting.

I wish to focus on the Labour Party, partly because many commentators are suggesting Labour might not be with us for much longer, or certainly not in the form we have come to know and love. (There! I’ve said it.) Another reason is that Labour remains the largest party in Wales plus the fact that one of the contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party represents a Welsh constituency.

For as I’ve mentioned, there is currently a struggle going on inside Labour for control of the party that will determine its future direction. A struggle between present leader Jeremy Corbyn and his allies on the one hand, and most of the MPs (and indeed AMs) on the other, represented by the two challengers, Angela Eagle and our very own Owen Smith.

The divide seems to be between what might be described as the Blairite rump of the party pitted against assorted varieties of the Hard Left that joined to elect Corbyn and will, if they are allowed, deselect most of the Labour MPs opposing the leader, plus remnants of Old Labour. Or to put it another way, unprincipled careerists versus unrealistic ideologues and those who’ve been left behind.

OWEN SMITH

Now Owen Smith is a man with quite an interesting background and past. He is the son of Dr Dai Smith, self-appointed chronicler of the Welsh working class. One of those Labour historians who believes Welsh history begins with the Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, Wales was a rural wasteland of Welsh-speaking peasants preyed upon by equally Welsh-speaking warlords and bandit chiefs. In fact, it was a Welsh-speaking hell from which we were saved by industrialisation and then the creation of the Labour Party.

Dr Dai was an academic but also served a stint as “Editor BBC Radio Wales and Head of Programmes (English language) at BBC Wales from 1992 to 2001”, and while at the Beeb he recruited young Owen. Though Owen left in 2002 to become a spad for Paul Murphy, then Secretary of State for Wales.

smith carp1

After failing to win the Blaenau Gwent by-election in 2006, against Independent Dai Davies, he continued with his job as a well-paid lobbyist for Pfizer, before moving on to Amgen, another pharmaceutical company, in 2008.

(By one of those quirks that are almost inescapable when looking into the backgrounds of Labour politicians, Owen Smith, while still at the BBC, recruited a young Lee Waters, who is now the Assembly Member for Llanelli. But Waters has assured me that they were unknown to each other when Smith recruited him. And I believe him. Oh yes.)

Around the time of the by-election Owen Smith gave an interview to WalesOnline in which he appeared to support the Iraq war and favour privatisation in the NHS. Read the interview here. He has since distanced himself from these remarks.

From what I’ve read in the past couple of days it would seem that many people who know him consider Owen Smith to be a bit . . . well, slippery, and perhaps he’s not what he wants us to believe he is. This piece by former ambassador Craig Murray says it all in the title – The Entirely Fake Owen Smith.

Owen Smith is one of New Labour’s chameleon-like smoothies who can change his position on anything at the blink of an eye. What you see is unlikely to be what you get because there are no principles to maintain, no constants . . . other than looking out for Number One. Exemplified by something I found on Twitter.

Owen Smith expenses

THE KINNOCK FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Friday saw the funeral of Jo Cox, the MP murdered a week before the EU referendum. As she was apparently killed by a right wing extremist expressing anti-immigration views many thought her death might swing the referendum in favour of Remain. That it did not tells us that the margin of victory for the Leave vote could have been even greater without this tragedy.

After the killing we heard both Neil Kinnock, former Labour leader, and his son Stephen, now MP for Aberavon (Port Talbot), tell us how well they knew Jo Cox and what a wonderful woman she was. Kinnock senior even likened the sad episode to “a death in the family”. But how did the Kinnocks know her so well?

(Another who spoke warmly of his friendship with Jo Cox, and having worked with her at Oxfam, was Stephen Doughty, the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth. Many believe that Doughty owes his safe seat to family links with his powerful predecessor Alun Michael, now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales Police.

Michael recruited as his deputy PCC Labour councillor [and daughter of Labour councillor] Sophie Howe, who’d served as a spad to first ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. When Ms Howe failed to secure a safe seat for the 2015 UK general election the spurious post of Future Generations Commissioner was created for her as a consolation prize.)

It seems that the connection between the Kinnocks and Jo Cox began in the late 1990s when Glenys Kinnock was an MEP (1994 – 2009) and Cox served as her adviser for two years before moving on to Oxfam and Oxfam International. Later she was also involved with the Save the Children Fund, and immediately before becoming an MP was with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After becoming an MP she shared an office with Stephen Kinnock.

Her husband Brendan also worked for the Save the Children Fund, but had to leave in rather unpleasant circumstances. His boss at the Fund, who also left under something of a cloud, was Justin Forsyth. Both Cox and Forsyth had been advisers to prime minister Gordon Brown, and both arrived at the charity in 2010, soon after Brown lost the general election. Forsyth had also been an adviser to Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair.

Many argue that Forsyth and Cox subverted the charity into ‘Save the Labour Party’ through regular attacks on the coalition and then the Conservative governments. In 2014 the charity – or rather, Forsyth – engineered a Global Legacy Award for Tony Blair, a decision opposed by many, even within the Save the Children Fund.

When Forsyth became a father, it was no surprise to see him congratulated by Baroness Kinnock.

Glenys Kinnock tweet

Her title is quite interesting. Perhaps in a show of socialist or feminist sentimentality Glenys Kinnock refused to call herself Lady Kinnock when hubby Neil was ennobled in January 2005 . . . holding out for her own peerage, which duly arrived in 2009. The Kinnocks are one of the few couples to both be peers.

Forsyth is now Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

To conclude this section it only remains to tell you who is now running the Save the Children Fund on an annual salary of $344,887. It’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark and taker of the infamous selfie with David Cameron and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. She is also known as Mrs Stephen Kinnock, but apparently there’s no room to mention that fact on her Save the Children bio.

Mrs Kinnock StCF bio

LABOUR AND THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

As I’ve mentioned, and as most of you reading this already knew anyway, Stephen Kinnock is now the MP for Aberavon, the Port Talbot constituency. He was selected as the Labour candidate in early March 2014 by, I believe, a single vote, perhaps 106 – 105. Around the time of his selection questions were asked about his children’s education – were they receiving private education?

In this Llais y Sais article by Martin Shipton, from February 2014, Kinnock explains the situation by telling us that his elder daughter, Johanna, 16, had attended a local school in Copenhagen which is mainly state funded but where parents are expected to contribute, in the Kinnocks’ case, it’s around £80 a month. (In a subsequent article, on St David’s Day, and just days before the Aberavon selection committee met, Kinnock confessed he had “unintentionally misled the Western Mail”, in fact, the fees were closer to £160 a month.)

From that local school with its modest fees, Shippo tells us, “Johanna went on to the equivalent of a sixth-form college in Denmark which is wholly state-funded”. We are being told this, remember, in February 2014 . . . yet Johanna Kinnock became a student at Atlantic College in September 2013!

Johanna Kinnock Atlantic College

How do we explain this? Here we have the son of Wales’ most famous political dynasty coming home to rescue us from the wicked Tories, to save Port Talbot steelworks, so surely we’d have loved to hear that the grand-daughter of Lord Kinnock and Baroness Kinnock was also here among us, at the famous Atlantic College.

Why then are we lied to and told she’s at a sixth-forth college in Copenhagen? Could the reluctance to tell us the truth have anything to do with the fact that fees at Atlantic College are £28,600 a year?

Obviously, in February and March 2014 Stephen Kinnock knew that his daughter was in her second term at Atlantic College, and he lied, knowing that to admit she was at an expensive school might cost him the nomination for Aberavon, as it almost certainly would have, given the closeness of the vote.

But what of the Fat Man, and other ‘journalists’ in Wales? Were they genuinely unaware that Johanna Kinnock was at Atlantic College, or did they choose to keep it from us – and perhaps worse, give her father a platform to mislead us – in order to help Stephen Kinnock gain the Aberavon nomination?

People in Denmark certainly knew, as this article from December 2013 confirms. Google Translate charmingly renders it: “Thus, father and daughter be united in the British country where also Michael Laudrup competes as coach in Swansea. Helle Thorning-Schmidt in an interview with Billed-Bladet reported on his farewell with his daughter at the airport: – ‘It was terrible to say goodbye to her. We stood and tudbrølede’, the Prime Minister explained in a double interview with her and her husband”.

Johanna Kinnock Graduation

Johanna Kinnock graduated from prestigious, and expensive, Atlantic College in May 2015 . . . with few of us in Wales ever knowing she was there! No doubt the ‘Welsh’ media will insist it kept quiet to guarantee her privacy . . . but we know the truth.

UPDATE 23.07.2016: Stephen Kinnock has ‘responded’ on his blog to what I’ve written. Read it here. I think ‘evasive’ is the word I’m looking for.

My questions centred on Atlantic College, yet Stephen Kinnock claims that he was only asked about his daughter’s past education in Copenhagen, and this is why he made no mention of Atlantic College. Very convenient. And we must accept that no questioner wondered where the girl was at the time?

The questions were being asked to establish whether Kinnock’s children were at fee-paying schools, an issue that would have embarrassed him, and possibly cost him the Aberavon nomination. The response he gives on his blog is clever, but it’s no answer.

After telling us about the bursaries and scholarships on offer at Atlantic College he has this to say of his daughter, “Johanna’s time at AC was partly funded by a standard Danish state scholarship for students studying abroad.” “Partly funded”, so where did the rest of her £28,600 a year fees (plus other expenses) come from?

There is no doubt in my mind that Johanna Kinnock’s presence at Atlantic College was kept from us – by both her father and the ‘Welsh’ media – in order to help him secure the Labour nomination for Aberavon.

UPDATE 26.07.2016: Here’s a report that just appeared on the BBC Wales website. Maybe this story has legs.

THE DOWN HOME ANALOGY

The great advantage Tory grandees have over Labour politicians is that they don’t have to act, they have no problem saying, ‘Grandfather was a banker and I’m a banker’. But so many in the Labour Party feel the need to play a part in the hope of connecting with those they want to vote for them. Whenever I consider this it brings to mind a somewhat bizarre analogy.

I’m a great fan of Country music, the more authentic the better; I can listen to Hank Williams all night (and often do). The songs he wrote and sang were influenced by his marital difficulties, his drinking, the pain he suffered with his back and the drugs that helped, and all delivered in that haunting, penetrating voice. He’s not singing about anybody else, this is a young man baring his soul, and poor Southern whites in the late 1940s and early 1950s knew it.

We are now up to Hank Williams III, and talented though the grandson may be, he’s too far from his grand-pappy’s upbringing in Alabama. The authenticity of the rural South that gave birth to Country music is, inevitably, missing. It’s gone forever, and to pretend that it can be recreated in a studio or by a PR agency is just self-delusion.

Hank Williams

“My grandfather was a miner” insists Stephen Kinnock. Fine, so was mine, for a while, after coming back from the War (the one to end all wars). But you aren’t asking people to vote for your grandfather, you’re asking them to vote for you, so tell us, Kinnock, who and what are you? And while you’re at it, tell us where your daughter went to school.

This generational disconnect is inevitable, in politics as in other spheres, but it affects the Labour Party worse than other parties because Labour was founded to represent a single class, and now it’s arrived at a situation where the likes of Stephen Kinnock and Owen Smith, the children of peers and academics, have to dig up grandparents in the hope of connecting with that class they don’t really understand. Trying to be what you’re not rarely works.

And worse, the ‘Welsh’ media, knowing who’s in charge, and who pays, with adverts and official notices, to keep Shippo’s ‘paper afloat, play along, doing Labour’s bidding, and failing us.

BANANA REPUBLIC SANS BANANAS

A century of Labour enjoying almost unchallenged power has given us a system of favouritism, nepotism and blatant corruption that is unknown elsewhere in Europe. To all intents and purposes, Wales is a one-party state. Combine the corruption with our relative poverty and Wales deserves to be considered a third world country.

Yet there are those in Wales who do very well for themselves, that’s the whole point of ‘Welsh’ Labour’. Keep Wales poor, blame somebody else, reap the electoral benefits, then divvy up the seats, the sinecures and the funding.

This corruption is known to those at UK level who should intervene but is tolerated because a) there’s little chance of the Tories overtaking Labour and b) those that might overtake Labour are unacceptable. So London turns a blind eye to institutionalised corruption, and allows Labour politicians and thousands of hangers-on to fill their boots.

Those I’m discussing here make up what is often called ‘the liberal elite’, flitting between Public Relations, charity / third sector work, and political office, while preaching at the rest of us and condemning right of centre politicians for securing good jobs in the worlds of finance and business.

But many of those they condemn create jobs and wealth, but the liberal elite is almost entirely decorative, and superfluous, almost a price we’re prepared to pay to make us feel better about ourselves. All sustained by the public purse, either in direct, governmental funding or else donations to charities and foundations. They’re parasitical hypocrites.

It is these, and their control – until recently – of the Labour Party that has led to voters deserting the party, and explains why the post-industrial areas of Englandandwales voted as they did in the EU referendum. Brexit was the disenfranchised of the post-industrial wastelands saying to the liberal elite, ‘Fuck off, you selfish, lying bastards!’

Labour’s control of its traditional followers is now, as I said at the start, greatly weakened. With Labour in real danger of falling apart. Either Corbyn stays at the helm, which probably makes Labour unelectable (because the media and ‘others’ will destroy him), or else Labour will have as leader the uninspiring Eagle or ‘Slippery’ Smith. Corbyn, Eagle, Smith, none will connect with the areas that voted Brexit.

text box

Here in Wales Labour seems marginally more united, but if Labour in England splits, or maybe disintegrates, then there is no way that ‘Welsh’ Labour can escape the consequences. (How many Welsh will vote Labour if there’s no party in England to form the UK government, or even vote Labour in Assembly elections?) As some Russian tsar said of the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century, ‘We have a sick man on our hands’. Keeping him alive artificially would be unkind.

We are a nation badly served in almost every conceivable way, and it’s our fault – nobody else’s – because we’ve accepted it for so long, and elected vermin more concerned with self-advancement than with serving Wales. Nothing will change until we make it clear that we aren’t taking it any more. It’s time to start getting ‘awkward’, and any attempt to limit this awkwardness to the narrow sphere of electoral politics would be the height of folly.

Because from now on all ideologies should be made irrelevant, all that matters is the national interest, because this is the only way to serve the Welsh people. For example, control over our natural resources is obviously in the national interest, so let’s demand that we have that control. And if politicians say, ‘Oh, it can’t be done’ or, ‘But what about England?’ the answer must be –

‘You and your parties do not represent the Welsh national interest, you have never represented the Welsh national interest; so step aside, for we are throwing off you parasites to decide our future for ourselves’.

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