I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
This week’s offering is about a business I’ve been aware of for some time but have never got around to writing about. Given the raised concerns over the housing crisis in our rural areas I believe the time has come to turn on the spotlight.
WEST WALES PROPERTY FINDERS
This outfit, and the woman who seems to run it, Carol Peett, appear regularly in my Twitter timeline, or else people draw my attention to the business in other ways. That’s because West Wales Property Finders’ business is seeking out second homes and bucolic retreats for wealthy English buyers.
This is why, given the housing crisis in our rural communities, Mrs Peett and her company piss off so many people.
Which in turn explains why someone sent me a photo of a little piece from this week’s Sunday Times, in which Mrs Peett gleefully announced that, “Coastal Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion have seen a ‘tsunami’ of second-home buyers”.
A strange word to use, ‘tsunami’, and yet, if you think about it, rather apt. For a tsunami is very destructive, and so is the business in which Carol Peett operates.
So who is Mrs Carol Peett?
One of my regular sources of information, Companies House, couldn’t tell me much because there’s no company called West Wales Property Finders (WWPF) registered. Yet the Sunday Times describes Carol Peett as “managing director”. If so, of what?
The only directorship I can find for Carol Elizabeth Poyer Peet is Pembrokeshire Weddings Ltd. Formed in June 2016 and folding in May 2019 without the organist ever striking up Here Comes the Bride.
There may be no company but there is certainly a website for WWPF, where we read that Carol Peett was, “Born and brought up on a farm in Pembrokeshire and with her family being one of the oldest in the County, Carol’s in-depth knowledge of the area, property market and people of West Wales is second to none”.
What pretentious bollocks! Everybody belongs to a very old family, that’s why we’re here today. I have ancestors going back to the Neolithic period, and beyond. If I close my eyes (and take another sip of Malbec) I can see one of these antecedents now, a handsome fellow, clad in well-cut animal skins, blogging for posterity on the walls of his cave.
The claim to being born and brought up on a farm also has a touch of the porky-pies to it. I say that because Carol Peett’s Linkedin profile (here in pdf) says that from 1967 until 1976 she was boarding at private schools in southern England. These were Hanford prep school in Dorset, and the now closed North Foreland Lodge in neighbouring Hampshire.
UPDATE: A comment tells us, “Carol Elizabeth Poyer Lewis born May 1958 in Romsey Hampshire”. Which means she was neither born nor brought up in Pembrokeshire.
Carol Peett (then Lewis) left North Foreland Lodge when she was 18, did not go to university, and worked for many years in England.
The WWPF website brings us up to date with, ” . . . she and Rayner returned to live in Pembrokeshire in 2004″. Though whether hubby, Edward Rayner Peett, had ever previously lived in Pembrokeshire is open to question. And as I’ve said, Carol Peett herself couldn’t have spent much time in Pembrokeshire before returning either.
That year, 2004, is when Carol Peet joined The County Homesearch Company, ” . . . the principal homefinder for Channel 4’s popular TV programme, ‘Location, Location, Location’.” She ran the west Wales office of that company.
The WWPF website tells us that, “With the sale of The County Homesearch Company to American company, Dwellworks, Rayner and Carol felt the time was right to break out on their own and so founded West Wales Property Finders in the Autumn of 2014″.
The problem remains that there seems to be no registered company of that name.
The most recent development according to Linkedin was in August 2018 when Carol Peett became an Associate at Garrington Property Finders. On that company’s website we read that the difference between an estate agent and a property finder is that the former works for the seller whereas Mrs Peett and her ilk work for the buyer.
In the eyes of Garrington Property Finders Scotland is a country unto itself, whereas Wales does not exist. The northern part of our homeland is in north west England, and the southern part in south west England.
Here’s the Garrington website page for the South West Region, where we learn the company has offices in Exeter, Bristol and Winchester. No mention of Clunderwen, though, where dwell the Peetts.
So what is the relationship between Garrington Property Finders and West Wales Property Finders? Mrs Peett claims to be an ‘Associate’ of Garrington. I know what that term means in the Mob, but what does ‘associate’ mean in this context?
Answers on the traditional and now shamefully under-used post card.
As might be expected, Carol and Rayner Peett are loyal members of the Conservative and Unionist Party. And well regarded, I would guess, because for the December 2019 UK election we find their names atop Simon Hart’s nomination paper for the contest in the Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire constituency. (Available here in pdf.)
That of course is Simon Hart, the Secretary of State for Wales, who is said to have no more than a holiday home in his constituency. Maybe the Peetts found it for him!
The fact that Rayner Peett was the proposer, and Carol Peett the seconder, suggests they are well up in the local Conservative Party pecking order, or else close to Simon Hart. Probably both.
We can all speculate as to whether being pally with the local MP helps their business, but we can be absolutely certain that the association does their business no harm.
A business that is both odious and distasteful, for Carol and Rayner Peett contribute to the destruction of Welsh communities. But they are not alone, there are plenty of others in the same line of business.
My view is that Carol and Rayner Peett are simply being true to their natures, and that the real blame lies elsewhere. With politicians aware of the second home problem and associated issues yet choosing to do nothing, and by their inaction allowing the erasing of our identity.
If, as I expect, there is a coalition administration after May’s Senedd elections, with Labour and Plaid Cymru simpering about a ‘progressive’ alliance, ‘wicked Tories’, etc., then they will need to act quickly on the rural housing crisis.
We need punitive taxation on second homes, no loopholes, and a maximum 5% of dwellings in any electoral ward allowed to be holiday homes. We also need to clamp down on the other ways in which Wales is exploited, thereby making it clear to all that Wales is no longer a retirement and recreation area for England.
Rather than making gestures about global problems they cannot influence, perhaps the next ‘Welsh Government’ can focus a little closer to home, stick to the day job by tackling the problems faced by Welsh people and Welsh communities.
There is a storm brewing, and this is inevitable. Because when any nation is being invaded, and overwhelmed, its identity threatened; when people are turned into strangers in their own communities, or expelled from those communities, then resentment will grow.
And if the people’s elected representatives are perceived to be complicit in this tragedy or unconcerned, unwilling for whatever reason to respond, then there will come a reaction from within the people.
The next ‘Welsh Government’ should recognise this. And also recognise that continuing to fail the Welsh people is no longer an option.
I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL PROBABLY NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
I had planned a piece on May’s Senedd elections (or whenever they’re held). But then I realised there are a couple of factors still playing out that will impact mightily on that election. I mean Coronavirus and the effects of Brexit.
So, I’ve put that planned piece on the back burner. There’ll be plenty of time to return to it when the picture has become a little clearer.
Instead, I shall deal with another issue that will certainly impact on the election and more widely on Welsh public and political life in the years ahead. Though to refer to it as a mere ‘issue’ fails to do it justice.
IN MY BEGINNING
I got involved in the nationalist movement in the mid-1960s. Driven by patriotism, a lifelong love of history, and a growing interest in politics that soon made me realise my country was not being treated fairly.
I’m not sure there was a single ‘trigger’, but Tryweryn certainly influenced my conversion. If I had any doubts, then Aberfan ended them.
I wanted independence to improve the lives of the people I cared about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I wanted independence to protect my country from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what made us Welsh.
My Wales had no bogeymen, no minorities against which retribution was sought, and there was no irredentist dimension. My nationalism was, and remains, purely defensive; the only people who need fear it are the enemies of my country and my people.
If what I’ve written strikes anyone as ‘blood and soil’ nationalism then that really is your problem, not mine.
I cannot think of any reason for wanting independence other than to serve the best interests of the greatest possible number of Welsh people.
THE LEFT AND THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
On December 19 Yes Cymru put out what seemed at the time to be a harmless enough tweet welcoming Conservatives into the ranks. The tweet ended with a recognition of the “compatibility” of conservatism and independence.
This tweet outraged the hard left and the woke (increasingly difficult to tell apart) and within an hour it was taken down.
A generous interpretation might be that those who demanded its removal don’t know the difference between Conservative and conservative. For I’m a lifelong believer in Welsh independence who is a conservative, but not a Conservative.
A less charitable, and more worrying, interpretation would be that for some in the new independence movement neither Conservatives nor conservatives are welcome. This they seem to justify by arguing that Wales is a ‘socialist country’, with a ‘radical tradition’.
But how true is that?
The claim that Wales is a socialist country is premised on the fact that the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru together usually get a majority of the votes cast in elections.
Though in the December 2019 Westminster elections Labour gained 40.9% while Plaid Cymru got only 9.9%. Giving a combined total of just 50.8%.
In the most recent elections to the National Assembly (as was) in 2016, the combined percentage of the constituency vote was 55.2%. For the regional lists, the ‘socialist’ total was 52.3%.
But these figures are misleading because how many of those who vote for Plaid Cymru and Labour are really socialists?
I live in Plaid Cymru’s safest seat, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, but few of the Plaid supporters I know could be described as socialists. Most are cultural nationalists and / or social conservatives. It’s a similar picture throughout Plaid Cymru’s western heartland.
Turning to Labour; yes, the vote looks impressive, but to assume that all Labour voters are socialists is nonsense.
The average Labour voter supports the party because he or she believes Labour will raise wages and benefits. The closest this constituency comes to socialism is on specific issues such as the NHS. But again, self-interest dominates.
So, what of Wales’ claimed ‘radical tradition’?
Since the Second World War radicalism – in the sense of challenging the role of the English monarchy and the legitimacy of the British state in Wales – has come exclusively from nationalists.
In the same period Wales has seen strikes, perhaps most memorably the two miners’ strikes, but again, these were about protecting jobs and communities, they were not a fight for socialist ideology.
Socialists are understandably reluctant to concede any of this because it undermines their claim to a monopoly on radicalism. Also because the rise of nationalism in the 1960s had the effect of turning many in the Labour Party into simpering royalists or tub-thumping Unionists. Something that embarrasses many on the left.
The fact is that socialism in the UK was, at a very early stage, broken and domesticated as the Labour Party, and brought into the constitutional fold. Thereby allowing the UK to avoid the political upheavals seen elsewhere in Europe.
Yet many on the left of the independence movement can make common cause with ‘socialists’ who are diehard Unionists, while rejecting those who sincerely believe in independence because they’re not socialists.
The only interpretation is that socialism is more important for these people than Welsh independence, with the independence movement being just another vehicle for their socialism.
As for the alleged radical tradition, yes it’s there, though sporadic and localised. In the 19th century, the Merthyr Rising, Chartists, Rebecca, Ceffyl Pren, Scotch Cattle, Tithe Wars, were all rooted in an outraged sense of social justice; defending family and community but owing absolutely nothing to Marxist dogma.
What’s happened since is that socialists have tried to re-write history by adopting movements and causes that were never at all socialist.
But even if Wales was a socialist country that would still not be reason enough to exclude others from what should be an ideology-free independence movement.
“DOCTRINES FASHIONED TO THE VARYING HOUR” *
What Labour cleverly did in the twentieth century was to capitalise on the legitimate demands of working class people and promote those demands with more vigour than the Liberal Party.
Which explains why the Labour Party displaced the Liberal Party a century ago as the main opposition to the Conservatives.
But once Labour started going beyond demands for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., into the abstract and the esoteric, promoting socialism for socialism’s sake, then it always lost support.
As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century the rupture between ideological socialists and the working class is almost complete. To the point where today’s left liberal elite positively despises the white working class.
It’s been summed up brilliantly by trade unionist and lifelong Labour member, Paul Embery, in his new book Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class. As he points out, there are elements of the contemporary left that detest working class values of family, community, tradition and patriotism.
This contemptuous attitude has now reached Wales; it has infected Labour and Plaid Cymru; it has spread to Yes Cymru, and it’s threatening the independence movement.
(Though in fairness, Labour has been far cleverer than Plaid Cymru in keeping the single-issue fanatics, the anti-Semites and other undesirables at bay.)
This new, woke left exercises influence wholly disproportionate to its numbers. As we saw with the removal of that Yes Cymru tweet.
This is done by taking a Manichean position in which they are right and those who disagree with them are not just mistaken, or wrong, but positively evil.
Perfectly exemplified by Leanne Wood and others in Plaid Cymru.
Ask how Antifa rioting and burning shops in Portland, Oregon on a nightly basis promotes anything other than violence and you’ll be met with, ‘Antifa stands for anti-fascist, so only fascists question Antifa’.
Of course! But that still leaves unanswered the question of how burning shops and attacking innocent bystanders and police is fighting fascism.
Here’s another tweet concerning Yes Cymru exposing this attitude. Thomas Wynne Lewis argued that Yes Cymru must appeal to “people on all sides of the political compass”, Luke Williams pretended to agree – then accused Yes Cymru of having “platformed fascists”!
I’m sure this never happened, but as I’ve just said, in the black and white world of the woke left those who contradict them, point out their errors, are, ipso facto ‘fascists’, ‘racists’, ‘transphobes’, etc., etc. End of debate.
This intolerance in defence of ‘toleration’, this refusal to accept alternative views in defence of ‘diversity’, this ‘no platforming’ in defence of ‘freedom of expression’, is now causing problems in the independence movement.
I’ll conclude this section with another tweet, or rather a retweet, this one from a doyen of the wokies, Aled Gwyn Williams. Williams is a member of both Plaid Cymru and Yes Cymru. (As is Teifi.)
“You’re never innocent if you’re a Tory”, the image tells us. Who could argue, for those two in their wingback armchairs are surely the Fred and Rose West of Acacia Avenue.
Remember, folks – these lunatics walk among us!
Let’s push the boat out and imagine Andrew R T Davies, former leader of the Assembly Tories undergoing a genuine conversion to Welsh independence. Despite this being a coup for the movement, and likely to encourage others to support independence, he would be rejected by those we’ve met here.
He would be damned by people who are simply using the independence movement to promote whichever fleetingly popular lunacies torment them.
* ‘The Deserted Village’, Oliver Goldsmith
‘WHY DO WE WANT IT!’
There are a number of factors explaining the increase in support for independence, unfortunately, many of them are tangential, exploitative, or simply wrong.
To begin with, there’s Brexit, and the belief that an independent Wales would join, or re-join, the EU. A belief strengthened by Plaid Cymru recently saying – without apparently consulting anyone, or checking the referendum result – that an independent Wales would become a member of the European Union.
No mention was made of a fresh referendum.
Yet another example of leftist elitist arrogance, echo chamber decision making, and out of step with the wishes of the people.
Recently exposed with an interesting poll on Twitter, not least for the fact that 2,214 people voted. And because there was a majority for ‘Full Independence’ over ‘Independence within the EU’.
If that vote can be achieved on Twitter, where ‘certain views’ tend to dominate, then in the real world the majority would be even greater.
Others are now considering independence because of the present Conservative government in London. Disliking BoJo and the gang is perfectly understandable, but hardly a good enough reason to want Welsh independence.
What happens if Labour wins the next election? Would that mean that an unequal and exploitative Union becomes acceptable again?
A third element increasing support for independence emerges from the foliage in the form of the planet-savers. I don’t wish to be dismissive; I’m quite fond of planet Earth myself, but too many of those I’m thinking of – just like the wokies – see an independent Wales as a blank canvas, with them monopolising the crayons.
To explain this dichotomy we need to remember the canvas and crayons I just mentioned. Even under devolution the Greens, in various forms, have found it far too easy to dictate what passes for ‘Welsh Government’ policy.
The Greens have decided to support independence because they believe they can easily persuade the government of an independent Wales to implement their polices, without the need for any democratic mandate, and thereby use Wales as a platform from which the rest of the world can better see their virtue signalling.
The benefits of these policies to the Welsh people would be zero because as Angela Womak, deputy leader of the Green Party of Englandandwales, put it:
Wales “tackling the ecological and climate emergencies”, is unadulterated bollocks. To suggest that a tiny country can make any significant difference is laughable.
Whether it’s Brexit, Boris Johnson, or environmental concerns, these alone – even collectively – are the wrong reasons for wanting independence.
DEVOLUTION IS DEAD
The battle-lines are being drawn between those who want to abolish the Senedd and assimilate Wales into England, and those of us wanting Wales to be independent.
There will be few speaking up for devolution because it has failed. Wales is a worse place in 2021 than she was in 1999 partly because successive administrations have pandered to vociferous minorities rather than address the needs of the great majority of the nation.
The upcoming contest over Wales’ future could be a close call, and that’s why anyone supporting independence, from any background, and of any political orientation, should be welcomed. None should be excluded.
But those joining simply to promote their pet issue, and then seeking to exclude those who don’t agree with them that it’s the most important thing in the world, need to be taken aside and spoken to.
For these will alienate more people than they will ever attract.
Those taking an interest in independence need to be assured that the direction of ideological travel for an independent Wales, the spending and other priorities, will be decided by the Welsh people, in democratic elections, after independence is achieved.
It will be a blank canvass, and we’ll all have a chance with the crayons.
For my part, I still want independence to improve the lives of the people I care about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I want independence to protect Wales from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what makes us Welsh.
I see no reason to change. I never have, and I never will.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
The title tells you what this week’s article is about. I’m going to look at how the picture has changed in the past few years.
THE BIG PICTURE
Obviously, there are different types of housing, from mansions like Jac o’ the North Towers to more modest owner-occupied properties; then we have social rent properties, and properties rented from private landlords.
So let’s start by looking at how types of tenure have changed over the past two decades. (The year up to March 31, 2001 is the earliest I can find on the StatsWales website.)
The table I’ve drawn up is fairly self-explanatory. ‘Registered Social Landlord’ (RSL) is of course the official term for housing associations.
The headline figure is that there are 163,067 more dwellings or housing units in 2020 than there were in 2001. Though in the same period the population rose from 2,910,232 to 3,152,879, while the average household size fell from 2.36 to 2.26.
In fact, if we multiply the total number of housing units by the average household size we arrive at a figure of 3,248,901.42. Almost a hundred thousand more than the population estimate. But of course calculations are complicated by people living in care homes, prisons and other institutions. And then there are holiday homes. And properties that have just been abandoned, where it’s often difficult to track the owner.
So, all things considered – and without taking my socks off to do some really serious figuring! – we have roughly the same availability of housing in relation to demand as we had twenty years ago. Maybe things are worse.
Something else we can extract from the table is that in 2001 19% of Welsh properties were social rents, whereas the figure today is just 16%.
But perhaps the biggest change has been the doubling in the percentage of properties now rented from private landlords.
If current trends continue then very soon more people, more families, will rent from private landlords than from councils and housing associations combined. This of course is what the Conservatives want, but why is it happening in ‘progressive’ Wales?
In 2001 we had 242,853 units of social housing. By 2020 this had fallen to 229,902, a decrease of 12,951. Found in this table.
Partly explained by 34,829 units being sold in this period under the Right to Buy legislation introduced in 1980 by the first Thatcher government, with this later supplemented by Right to Acquire.
Though offset by the building of 21,878 social rented housing units in the same period. Just over 1,000 a year.
Right to Acquire is Englandandwales legislation introduced by the Blair government and in operation from 18 January, 2005. Explained more fully here.
At this point I should tell you that not all sales of social housing are accounted for by Right to Buy and Right to Acquire because this table tells us there have also been sales of “non-social housing”. Though I don’t understand why the figure for this category is only shown from 2013 – 2014. Though there’s certainly been a steady increase since then.
Building just over one thousand social housing units a year must be considered a failure after two decades of socialist administrations in Cardiff Bay. Especially when we remember that in 1979 – 1980 (immediately before Right to Buy was introduced) Welsh local authorities built 3,322 new council homes. (RSLs built a further 377.)
And a thousand a year looks even less impressive when we remember that in the period of devolution a couple of billion pounds in capital grant funding has been given to an ever-expanding galaxy of housing associations.
In the past five years alone, £574 million pounds of Social Housing Grant (SHG) has been paid to housing associations. Wales & West, Labour’s favourite, has seen £61m of it.
We know that housing association executives like to pay themselves big salaries, and drive fancy company cars . . . shiny new offices are a must . . . and how can they miss out on all the conferences and other jollies, but these could never account for the increasing gulf between funding received and social housing built.
Something else must be going on.
If nothing else, Wales is following England in providing less social rented housing. So much for Rhodri Morgan’s, “clear red water”. So much for, “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”.
The Tories came to power in 2010, and that’s when the decline started. Clearly, the Labour management team in Corruption Bay is following Conservative directives when it comes to social rented housing.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
If we take the period 2014 – 2015 to 2019 – 2020 we see that it covers important changes in the way RSLs are regulated, and also how they operate.
I’m sure most people didn’t notice, but in the past five years Welsh housing associations were originally private bodies, were then made public, before being privatised again.
It was the Office for National Statistics that decided they should be public bodies due to the amount of public funding they were receiving. Plus the political involvement. But making them public bodies transferred their debts to the public ledger and so the parliaments in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff quickly privatised them again.
I bet you’re thinking . . . ‘If housing associations are now private companies, why are they still getting lashings of public funding?’ Funding that, as we’ve seen, has greatly increased since they were ‘re-privatised’!
The answer is that they’ve branched out into building private housing.
To such an extent that, in addition to the public funding, our housing associations are also taking out private loans with various financial institutions.
And other housing associations have done similar deals with organisations much sharper than them in the ways of the financial world. I do hope they’ve read the small print.
Though I suppose the only real collateral housing associations have is their housing stock. If they default, does this mean that Welsh social housing stock gets taken over by lenders? Or will the ‘Welsh Government’ step in with yet more money?
Talking of the ‘Welsh Government’, if RSLs need money for investment, why can’t they go to the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), which is already lending to other builders, many from over the border?
So let’s recap. Housing associations, now private bodies, still receive increasing amounts of public funding. Yet they also enter into arrangements with financial institutions around the world. And let’s not forget that the other major source of income – perhaps the major source – is rents from the housing stock they own. Most of which came free as stock transfers from local authorities.
Another noteworthy feature in this period is that most if not all of our housing associations have set up subsidiary companies, or companies that are not subsidiaries but still part of the group.
SUBSIDIARIES, PARTNERS, PRIVATE HOUSING
An example would be the relationship between Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing Association) and Mill Bay Homes Ltd (MBH). The latter, despite being a separate company, is a “wholly controlled subsidiary company of Ateb Group Ltd”.
The arrangement is that MBH builds and sells market properties and the profits go to parent company Ateb to build social housing or ‘affordable homes’. Which might be fine if Mill Bay Homes had its own money . . . but it hasn’t, it relies on loans from Ateb.
Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ funds a RSL to build social housing but the money in fact goes to a subsidiary to build open market homes (that most locals may not be able to afford) with a fraction of the original money returning to the parent company.
Eighteen bloody million! How much does a relatively small, rural housing association need? It’s already getting money from the ‘Welsh Government’, and seems to have stopped providing social rented housing.
A visit to the Ateb Group website turns up what you see below. Quite clearly, Ateb is now a private house builder with social rented accommodation an afterthought.
Mill Bay Homes makes no secret of the fact that it’s punting for retirees and ‘investors’. The latter category will include Buy-to-Rent landlords, and whaddya know – one of the new Cilgerran properties is already being advertised for rent.
A similar arrangement to that between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes exists in Gwynedd between Adra (formerly Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd), which took over Gwynedd council’s housing stock some ten years ago, and its subsidiary, Medra Cyf.
This loan between a Welsh RSL and its subsidiary was arranged by London law firm Trowers & Hamlins. I’ve seen that name in other loans I’ve looked at. Are there no lawyers in Wales?
Of course there are, so who’s directing them to that company?
Also worth highlighting from recent years, in addition to the proliferation of subsidiaries, is the strange partnerships we see being forged.
For an example of this we stay in the north, with Cartrefi Conwy, based in Abergele.
I’ve written about this lot a few times. Below you’ll read what I had to say earlier this year, in Housing Associations, a broken model. The Byzantine network of ‘partners’ also throws up a mystery investor.
“Cartrefi Conwy set up a subsidiary in 2015 called Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company). Then, in May 2018, Creating Enterprise went into partnership with Brenig Developments Ltd to form Calon Homes. (Assets at 31 May 2019 £37,853.)
As I wrote back in November: “There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.”
Another horse out of the Brenig stable is Brenig Construction Ltd. Just another local building firm, run by local people . . . so impeccably local in fact that it could have come from League of Gentlemen.
But then, in December last year, a new director joined, a man who might have been taking his life in his hands if he’d turned up in the Royston Vasey shop.
I’m referring now to Yin Han, a Chinese businessman, presumably bringing a lot of yuan. For when I say Chinese businessman I do not mean that he hails from Hong Kong or Taiwan. Yin Han is a resident and citizen of the People’s Republic of China.
How did Yin Han and Brenig Construction find each other? What do we know about him? I guarantee he did not get involved with Brenig Construction without permission from back home. And that means the Communist Party.
These subsidiaries and partners, together with the loans and investment, are needed to build private housing for sale on the open market.
But housing associations are now private entities, so why do they need subsidiaries and partners to build open market housing? Surely they could do it in their own names?
Of course they could, but that would make it too obvious and probably jeopardise the public funding. So we have this charade of public money for social housing being given to RSLs and then filtered through intermediaries to build private housing.
And the ‘Welsh Government’ is a willing party to this deception.
As a student of history, I’ve always loved Palmerston’s quote: “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business – the Prince Consort, who is dead – a German professor, who has gone mad – and I, who have forgotten all about it.”
It comes to mind when I see the term ‘affordable housing’. Because there’s a great deal of confusion as to what it means.
It’s important to get a definition because it’s what RSLs now claim to be building, and what the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ is funding.
When I contacted the ‘Welsh Government’ I was referred to a publication wherein was found . . .
“The concept of affordability is generally defined as the ability of households or potential households to purchase or rent property that satisfies the needs of the household without subsidy (further guidance is provided in the Local Housing Market Assessment Guide) 7 This could be based on an assessment of the ratio of household income or earnings to the price of property to buy or rent available in the open market in the required local housing market area.”
Which is interesting, and for two reasons.
If the concept of affordability is based on what local people on local wages can afford, then why is ‘affordable housing’ not reserved for those same local people? I ask because all the term means in practice is that a few properties in a development are labelled ‘affordable’ – but still put on the open market.
And if a small number of properties in a development are classed as ‘affordable’ then it must follow that the majority of the properties are regarded as unaffordable to most locals. So why are we building so many properties – with public funding! – beyond the reach of most local buyers?
The woolly term ‘affordable housing’ is just a fig leaf for the ‘Welsh Government’ and RSLs to disguise the fact that very little social housing is being delivered.
We are encouraged to believe that ‘affordable housing’ is for local people, or that it means social rented properties. Wrong.
This system, as I’ve argued before, is broken. It is broken because it consumes vast amounts of Welsh public funding for little or no Welsh public benefit.
Another cause for concern is that just as many third sector bodies are agencies of the Labour Party a similar picture emerges with housing associations.
In fact, housing associations and third sector bodies operate hand in glove, with the former housing the disruptive ‘clients’ of the latter, many of whom have been shipped into Wales. It’s collaboration like this that contributes to the problems we’ve looked at in Tyisha, Llanelli.
‘Welsh’ Labour’s little empire; stuffed with cronies and others dependent on political patronage and public handouts.
Take Wales & West, which I’ve referred to as Labour’s favourite. The CEO is Anne Hinchey, whose hubby Graham is a Labour Councillor in Cardiff. This explains why Wales & West has pulled down £100m in Social Housing Grant alone in the past decade.
And yet, let us remember that the reason the Office for National Statistics decided to put housing associations into the public sector was because there was so much governmental control!
As the June 2018 article from Inside Housing I reproduced above put it,
“In a letter to the Welsh Government sent yesterday, the ONS left open the possibility to reclassify individual associations as public should the level of state control increase.”
A strong case could be made for reclassifying a number of Welsh housing associations. Certainly Wales & West.
Where do we go from here?
I suggest that it starts with making it clear we do not want housing associations to build properties for sale to Home Counties retirees in Pembrokeshire, or to Manchester commuters in Denbighshire.
The sole duty of Welsh housing associations must be to deliver homes to Welsh people at sales prices or rents WE can afford.
If they are unable or unwilling to fulfil that role then I believe we should let our local councils provide social rented housing. Ensure they are well enough funded to provide decent accommodation to any and all local people wanting it. And make strong local connections the over-riding consideration in allocating those properties.
Then cut all funding to housing associations, which are, after all, private companies. Let them borrow from private lenders – as they are already doing – and cease being a burden on the public purse.
Whatever is decided, the present system is broken. Changes must be made. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, just think what we could do with the money saved!
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
The next elections for the Welsh Parliament are just over six months away; so this week I’m taking a break from crooks, money-launderers, con men, enviroshysters, third sector leeches to focus on politicians.
Reading that, the cynics among you will say, “So no great change there, then, Jac!”.
How dare you be so disrespectful of our tribunes! Go stand in the corner!
THE 2016 RESULT
Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the overall result from the previous election in 2016.
The first thing you might notice is that despite these elections being organised under a system of proportional representation the result, certainly for Labour, the biggest party, gives an outcome not a lot different to first past the post.
You’ll also see that the main challengers get seats roughly in line with their share of the vote, with the smaller parties generally losing out. It’s a system designed to protect the Labour-dominated status quo in Wales, while also stifling ‘insurgent’ parties.
This system has worked to perfection in Wales because the Conservatives are unlikely to ever gain a majority of seats. And when Labour fails to get a majority then Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats will always be there to help.
After the 2016 election Labour went into coalition with the sole Liberal Democrat AM. Which meant that parties with a total of 38% of the vote were able to form an administration.
Is this really how PR is supposed to work?
THE LABOUR PARTY
At the risk of sounding uncharitable, the great thing the Labour Party has had going for it is . . . not being the Conservative Party. The advertising campaigns, the policy drafting, the tub-thumping and the sloganising could all have been ignored in favour of the simple message – ‘Vote for us, cos we’re not the Tories’.
And it’s worked, for almost a century.
In England, the decline of traditional industries, and their associated trade unions, have weakened the Labour Party. Labour in Scotland suffered the same problem, exacerbated by the rise of the Scottish National Party to the point where Labour is hanging on for dear life, with just one Westminster MP left.
In Wales, Labour has fared better because we’ve been spared the corrupting influence of prosperity, and also because there is no equivalent of the SNP. Of course, Plaid Cymru likes to view itself as the Welsh SNP but the SNP set out to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland whereas Plaid Cymru seeks to keep its Welsh branch alive and in power.
How Labour will do next May depends to a considerable extent on perceptions of the Conservative government in London. For while Scotland has a vigorous national media allowing elections to be influenced by Scottish issues, the absence of a Welsh media worthy of the name means that here we tend see Englandandwales elections.
The exception being perhaps areas with high numbers of Welsh speakers who are less reliant on news from London.
On issues of the day, there is a general and widespread belief that the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ has handled the Covid-19 pandemic better than Johnson, Hancock, Jenrick and the rest of the gang up in London.
But then, being seen as less incompetent than that crew is no great achievement.
When we address purely Welsh issues, it’s difficult to think of anything Labour has to crow about. For Wales continues to fall behind other countries in areas like wealth, health, housing and education.
Cardiff seems to be prospering but away from the Lesser Wen the country can be divided into post-industrial areas experiencing managed decline and rural areas undergoing engineered population change from Welsh to English.
Labour leader, Mark Drakeford, is less oleaginous than his predecessor, Carwyn Jones, but still a difficult man to like. Despite the Brownie points gained for Covid-19 there remain plenty of bear traps for him to negotiate between here and next May.
By any criteria one cares to apply, Labour has been a failure since 2016. Labour has failed Wales since the dawn of devolution in 1999. But for the reasons I’ve given, Labour will still emerge as the largest single party, with around 30% of the vote.
But well short of a majority of seats.
If nothing else, such a result should increase calls for more Senedd Members and a system of true proportional representation.
THE CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY (CUP)
The last few years have been a series of peaks and troughs for the CUP, with Brexit almost tearing the party apart under Theresa May. Things took a turn for the better when Boris Johnson became party leader and won a famous victory in December . . . since when it’s been downhill again.
In last December’s election the Tories won a number of seats in the north, most notably, Wrexham, held by Labour since 1931. But the overall vote in Wales only increased by 2.5%. The real story was that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party saw its Welsh vote go down by 8%.
Things have not gone well for the CUP since that December election for all sorts of reasons. Such as a number of the new intake being pretty odious specimens.
The new MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosby, has appeared on this blog a number of times, usually defending her colleague and MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Jake Berry. Berry owns properties around Rhoscolyn and earlier this year people were asking if he was breaking lockdown restrictions to travel between his Welsh properties, his London home, and his constituency.
The situation does not look like improving for the Tories, for two main reasons.
Let’s look first at Covid-19. As I said in the previous section, the Conservative government in London has had a disastrous pandemic: incompetence, lies, contracts to cronies, it’s all there, and this will be remembered next May.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Tories seem determined to alienate even more people by insisting that the ‘Welsh Government’ is being anti-English when – for perhaps the first time ever – it prioritises the interests of Wales.
I believe it’s the latter, because in spouting this nonsense, the Tories are playing to a particular gallery. I’m thinking now of the anti-Welsh, gammony element that might otherwise be seduced by the growing number of splinter group parties on the BritNat fringe. (I’ll come to them later.)
The other problem of their own making is, again, Brexit. Of course Wales voted for Brexit, but I’m sure very few of us voted for privatising the NHS, chlorinated chicken, and undermining the Welsh farming industry. I certainly didn’t.
But it’s now become clear that a No Deal Brexit was always the favoured option for the CUP leadership in London. Which will mean the City of London remains at the centre of the biggest money-laundering network in the world; the NHS is opened up to US Big Pharma; and we have to get used to food products from the USA, where standards in both hygiene and animal welfare are more ‘relaxed’.
All the Welsh CUP MPs voted for this deal. Which is not clever for people representing constituencies with large numbers of farmers . . . and their extended families . . . and contractors to the industry, and so many others who rely to a greater or lesser degree on agriculture for their livelihoods.
There will be a price to pay next May for the coronavirus cock-ups and the shafting of our farmers. And while the Tories in Corruption Bay weren’t responsible, it’ll be some of them who’ll pay the price.
Other factors working against the Conservatives will be the Englandandwales media/election paradigm and the Vera Lynn Fan Clubs competing for regional votes.
For all these reasons I expect the CUP representation in the Welsh Parliament to fall.
PLAID CYMRU THE PARTY OF WALES
Although Plaid Cymru won 12 seats in 2016 the party is now down to 10. Lord Elis Thomas, the constituency member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, left to become a Labour-supporting Independent; and Neil McEvoy, the regional AM for South Wales Central, left to sit as an Independent before forming the Welsh National Party (WNP).
A further change since 2016 is that Plaid Cymru also has a new leader in Adam Price. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about him is that he’s not former leader, Leanne Wood.
For most Welsh voters Plaid Cymru is the party of Welsh independence, but as I’ve argued, Plaid Cymru is a party that sought more autonomy for Wales, more funding for Wales, and the creation of a new class of politicians and administrators made up of . . . well, the kind of people who populate the upper echelons of Plaid Cymru.
This was to be a system that created a new class that Djilas would have recognised enjoying prestige and influence without the responsibility of having to fund it. Devolution, with a bit more power, many more sinecures, and lots more money, is the end of the line.
Plaid Cymru was always Cymru Fydd resurrected, not a Welsh Sinn Féin. Until, that is, it moved to the left in the 1980s and really screwed itself up. Enjoying only a brief period of coherence under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley and the first Assembly elections in 1999.
Today we again see a schizophrenic party where Welsh-speaking social conservatives from the rural heartlands mix uncomfortably with some real oddballs and a few with views that should have denied them membership.
Plaid Cymru is today one of those confused leftist parties that is vehemently opposed to intolerance . . . except when it’s those it approves of being intolerant.
As a leftist party Plaid Cymru believes that, thanks to the capitalist system, we’re either going to fry due to global warming, or else we’re going to drown from rising sea levels, so Wales must play its part in trying to avert these outcomes.
In practice, that means supporting wind turbines that create no jobs and simply exploit Wales. Where profits flow to a City hedge fund, or a multinational, or a state-owned energy company from Scandinavia.
Except on issues that are largely irrelevant to Wales – where Plaid Cymru can play gesture politics – the party comes across as weak and indecisive. Take holiday homes. Plaid talks the talk but it won’t walk the walk.
At present Welsh local authorities can impose a council tax surcharge on holiday homes up to 100%. The only council that levies the 100% is Labour-controlled Swansea. (And despite what you might think, there are many holiday homes on the waterfront, in Mumbles, and of course around Gower.)
But Gwynedd, where Plaid Cymru is in control, imposes only a 50% surcharge. It’s a similar picture in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
On independence, Plaid Cymru has been outflanked and overtaken by Yes Cymru. While on the party political front there are two new challengers in the form of Gwlad and the Welsh National Party (WNP). Both are unequivocal about prioritising Welsh interests, and are fully committed to achieving independence.
So you really have to wonder what Plaid Cymru stands for nowadays, and where it’s going. That’s certainly what Welsh voters will be doing in May. Many will conclude that Plaid Cymru has hit the buffers.
Which certainly seems to be the case.
For while opinion polls tell us that more and more people are prepared to consider independence, those same polls show little or no increase in support for Plaid Cymru. Recent polls show 51% of Labour voters prepared to consider independence, but only 71% of Plaid Cymru voters!
What’s going wrong for Plaid Cymru?
In a nutshell, Plaid Cymru believes that the only acceptable vision of independence must be well to the left of centre, pro EU, in favour of open borders, anti Trump, and dragging a whole baggage train of ishoo-of-the-month idiocies that turn off most voters.
Dogmatic to the point of being unelectable.
Plaid Cymru always failed to engage with the urban, anglophone population. After the disappointment of Brexit, the success of the Brexit Party (winning the May 2019 EU elections in Wales and the UK), and BoJo’s victory last December, many in Plaid Cymru – like the US Democrats – have given up trying to win over stupid, racist, poor whites.
They find it preferable to retreat into their cocoons of progressive self-righteousness in the echo chamber of social media.
Which is why I believe Plaid Cymru will lose Ceredigion and also end up with fewer Members from the regional lists.
There’s a temptation to be very unkind in this section . . . but it’s not in my nature to put the boot in when somebody’s down. And boy! are the Liberal Democrats down.
It’s an amazing decline for the party of David Lloyd George, but entirely predictable when we consider the quality of leaders and representatives in recent years at both Welsh and UK level. I’m not sure if Ms Williams holds group meetings with herself but I’m sure she will have thought the same thing many a time.
And yet, despite currently being down to a solitary representative, the Liberal Democrats could be the big winners in May next year.
As I’ve suggested, the CUP has pissed off a lot of people, and most certainly a lot of farmers. Few will know that better than Kirsty Williams, a farmer’s wife.
Obviously, I’m not privy to what goes on at Welsh Liberal Democrat Party meetings (I can never find the telephone kiosk!) but I’m sure Kirsty Williams has hopes for the seats of Montgomeryshire to the north and Ceredigion to the west. (If the students in Aber’ and Lampeter have forgiven the Lib Dems for reneging on tuition fees.)
So I’m predicting that the Liberal Democrats could double, or even treble, their representation in May 2021. These are the three constituencies mentioned, and there might even be a regional list seat.
VERA LYNN FAN CLUBS
This is where it gets tricky, because the landscape on the BritNat right is forever shifting. Hardly surprising when we look at the personalities involved, and realise how many of them are often described as ‘interesting’, or ‘eccentric’ (code for ‘absolute nutter’).
Back in 2016, the big winner among this section of the electorate was UKIP, with 13% of the vote and seven seats. The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party did not stand constituency candidates and got just 4.4% of the regional vote (which was still more than the share won by the Green Party of Englandandwales).
Since 2016 UKIP has had eight or nine UK leaders, numerous resignations, and in Corruption Bay is now reduced to the solitary – but dapper – form of Neil Hamilton. In fact, I’m not sure if Neil Hamilton isn’t the current party leader. Or was that last month?
Not so long ago the Abolish lot was the fringe of a fringe, but now it boasts two Members of the Senedd, Gareth Bennett and Mark Reckless. Though you’ve gotta be pretty desperate to boast about those two.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those UKIP meetings because by comparison ferrets in a sack are models of harmony and co-existence.
The most recent development is that Rowlands and the Jones women have formed a new group, the Independent Alliance for Reform. And if that name doesn’t stir something deep inside you – other than wind – then you are beyond hope.
It is obviously designed to be interchangeable with or to complement Aux barricades!
And all the while, in the wings, observing, is Nigel Farage. Will his Reform Party put in a late appearance, or will it be the promised relaunch of the Brexit Party? Though with Brexit almost done what would be the platform?
For let us remember that the Assembly elections of May 2016 were held just ahead of the EU referendum and were almost overshadowed by it. This propinquity benefited Ukip.
One thing’s for sure, if all the parties we’ve looked at in this section fight all the seats then we’ll be royally entertained by the stars they’ll recruit from Wetherspoons and other squelchy underfoot salons. A goodly number of whom will have to withdraw before the election after saying or doing something really stupid.
The BritNat right has no hope of a constituency seat, so hopes rest on the regional lists. Which means that a lot will depend on whether they fight each other or come to some arrangement.
I suspect there are still enough “Brexit means Brexit” types out there to win 3 seats.
THE SERIOUS ABOUT WALES PARTIES
Looking around Wales and seeing the mess this country is in is painful enough, but when you realise that none of the existing parties offers any hope of meaningful change, then new parties will be formed.
And that’s exactly what’s happened; and why we have Gwlad and the WNP.
I am a member of Gwlad and played a small part in its creation, but it was easy for me to withdraw to the blogosphere because the party is in such capable hands.
I like to think that Gwlad combines patriotism with pragmatism. For example, in believing that relying on handouts from London, as Labour and Plaid Cymru prefer, only perpetuates the misconception that Wales could never stand on her own two feet economically.
There are radical yet practical proposals across the board. We’ve already touched on Plaid Cymru’s fear of upsetting second home owners – a number in their own ranks – with meaningful levels of council tax; well, Gwlad does not hesitate to demand a 500% council tax surcharge.
Predictably, the criticism levelled against Gwlad by Plaid Cymru is that we shall “split the nationalist vote”. This is nonsense, because Plaid Cymru has already split – or certainly, limited – the nationalist vote by its inflexible and off-putting socialism.
This is borne out in recent elections and in even more so in recent opinion polls.
What Gwlad will do is reach out to those who want, or would be prepared to consider, independence, but could never vote for a hard-line socialist party also lumbered with the tag of still being a party only for Welsh speakers.
Gwlad could come through a crowded field to win a constituency seat and should certainly collect 3 or 4 regional list seats.
Of course, I’ve met Neil McEvoy a few times and we exchange the occasional e-mail, Wales is a small country after all. But I really don’t know much about his new party beyond what I read in the media.
Though I do know a few others involved with the WNP.
Over the years I’ve sunk a few pints with Councillor Keith Parry . . . and I’m still haunted by a car journey one very rainy night as I tried to concentrate on the road ahead while my mate and Keith’s Jewish wife argued over the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.
I feared it was all going to end in a fight and a fireball car crash. Phew!
Many observers try to say that Neil McEvoy only took the course he did in forming the WNP because he was effectively thrown out of Plaid Cymru. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Neil has been in politics a long time, and he knows what’s wrong with Wales. On one level it’s London’s political, economic and cultural stranglehold, but on the local level it’s the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru.
Labour holds power on local councils and in the Senedd . . . simply to be in power; to stop someone else getting the salaries and the expenses, attending the bun-fights and the jollies. Labour has little intention – and no real incentive – to improve the lives of our people because for a century it has capitalised on Wales’ deprivation.
Plaid Cymru, as I’ve said, is a party of gestures and abstractions. It is the twenty-first century political equivalent of those medieval divines who would argue over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
But actually doing anything? Forget it!
But if one of his constituents persuades him they’re getting a raw deal, then Neil McEvoy will take up the case and demand something be done about it. And he sometimes ruffles feathers doing it. But if kids are sharing a bedroom with rats, or there’s water rippling down the kitchen wall . . .
Neil McEvoy is a do-er, a man who believes in the direct approach; and that makes the anguished attitudinisers of Plaid Cymru very nervous. And never more so than when he confronts the Labour Party.
Sticking it to the man may outrage the sensitive flowers of Plaid Cymru but it goes down well with real people, on the streets of Cardiff, and elsewhere in Wales. People want their problems solved, they do not want to be patronised, or taken for granted, by an aloof and self-serving political class.
The big test will come in the constituency seat of Cardiff West, where McEvoy will be standing against First Minister Drakeford. Plaid Cymru will of course be splitting the nationalist vote in the hope of securing victory for Mark Drakeford.
Neil McEvoy’s street cred and his sheer hard work might win Cardiff West next May, plus a couple of regional list seats.
My very personal belief is that Gwlad and the WNP should not get in each other’s way next May. Neither has the strength yet to fight a full national election so it’s in their interests, and more importantly, it’s in Wales’s interests, for there to be some kind of deal.
I obviously can’t account for all those who might be standing next May, there’s bound to be a wild card or two. But what you’ve just read is how I see it panning out.
Other factors will I’m sure influence voters. Perhaps the UK government’s Internal Markets Bill; supposedly about ‘repatriating’ powers from the EU but which, in reality, gives BoJo’s gang the power to trample all over devolution.
Perhaps it will even be used to challenge the 1707 Act of Union.
More specific to Wales is a growing awareness of and dislike for the chumminess of Cardiff Bay. The air of cronyism and unaccountability exemplified by Labour and Plaid Cymru refusing to bring in a register of lobbyists.
The problem in this area is obvious, but there are always excuses for doing nothing. This is because Labour and Plaid Cymru are too close to those who might be held to account by such legislation.
Another issue that might influence some voters to take a punt on a new party is the widespread perception that Cardiff gets everything. Which doesn’t change when an MS goes to Cardiff promising to speak up for his area . . . only to be sucked into the swamp that is Corruption Bay.
But perhaps we should remember Harold Macmillan’s response when asked what was most likely to influence or derail political plans. Supermac is said to have replied: “Events, dear boy, events.”
In other words, that which cannot be foreseen. Six months is a very long time in politics.
For a few weeks I’ve been promising you more news. Finally – here it is!
WALES AND WEST, CARDIGAN HOSPITAL, MID WALES HOUSING
A speciality of Wales & West is importing criminals, drug addicts and other undesirables. But it’s good business, for local authorities and other agencies over the border will pay well to dump people in Wales.
Of course, it’s not so good for small towns that have to host these people. Lampeter being one that Wales & West has damaged in recent years. For as I was recently told, “Wales and West do not operate local allocation policies”.
And all this has been facilitated with funding from the Welsh public purse. For we pay for Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to import riff-raff and build luxury flats for sale to English retirees.
This public money will invariably be ‘filtered’ through the parent company – which will be a Registered Social Landlord – to a subsidiary, which may or may not be registered as a RSL. And in some cases, not obviously linked to a RSL.
Enfys Developments was founded in 2012 and seems to be the main vehicle for W&W’s new builds. While Castell Homes was formed as recently as January 2018, almost certainly in anticipation of the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018, which effectively privatised RSLs in response to the Office for National Statistics’ threat to reclassify them as public bodies.
As we read below, Castell Homes is, effectively, a private builder, promising to pass on its profits to the parent company for Wales & West to build social housing. It’s up to you whether you believe that.
There are a few other things worth picking out of the clip below from the only accounts thus far filed for Castell Homes.
For example, we read that Castell Homes “was established with the purpose of building and selling homes in communities where a housing need is identified”. The operative word should be ‘demand’, not ‘need’. For this will be private housing, often beyond the financial reach of most locals.
We also read that “Castell Homes has its own board of directors”. Yes and no. Yes, there is a board of directors, but it’s the senior management team of Wales & West. Any pretence that Castell is independent of W&W would be just that, a pretence.
As ‘Dai’ mentions in his contribution, Wales & West is in negotiations with Hywel Dda University Health Board to buy the old Cardigan Hospital site. Though locals are puzzled as to why, if W&W doesn’t own the site, it’s been behaving for months as if it does.
The answer is of course that the deal was done long ago by the Labour Party behind closed doors, looking after its favourite housing association, yet again. Wales & West CEO is Anne Hinchey, wife of Cardiff Labour councillor Graham Hinchey. Mrs Hinchey previously worked for Cardiff Council.
Though I should also mention Keith Davies, housing strategy officer at Ceredigion council, a big friend of Wales & West who has appeared on this blog before. Keith was also very keen for Wales & West to take over the old hospital.
The open day held on February 29 was very well-attended and reported in the Tivy-side Advertiser. Curiously, this imparter of local news saw no contradiction in using ‘community has its say’ in the headline . . . and then quoting only spokespersons for Wales & West!
As I keep saying, Wales & West is very well connected in Corruption Bay and all sorts of deals are being lined up. Among them perhaps the takeover of Mid Wales Housing, and this despite MWH having been in merger talks with Tai Ceredigion for some time. And now might be the ideal time.
For not only has MWH hit a rocky patch in the regulatory sense, having been downgraded on grounds of poor governance and financial management, but other factors are also contributing to a general picture of incompetence and decline.
For a start, Mid Wales paid over the odds for its repair contractor EOM Ltd and turned it from a profit-making SME into a loss-making subsidiary. MWH has also failed to deliver the Cylch Caron extra care facility in Tregaron for the county council, increasing pressure on the council leader following the closure of the Bodlondeb home in Aberystwyth.
And then chief executive Shane Perkins recently stepped down (though he’d been off sick since September). To those who may be wondering, I can tell you he’s not one of the Pembrokeshire Perkins, but comes from Bournemouth, to which he and his good lady wife have now returned.
Filling in until a new CEO is appointed is Charles Brotherton . . . despite being the genius behind the EOM fiasco. Charles joined MWH in 2010 from an English housing association. Chairman of Mid Wales Housing, and Lloyds ‘name’, is Peter Swanson, who is also a “Past chair of Dyfed Powys Health Authority. A Justice of the Peace. Past Chair of Dyfed Powys Health Authority and former Chair of Powys County Council Standards Committee. Private landlord.”
Swanson is an old-fashioned quango man of the type devolution is supposed to have made extinct. But they’re still roaming the land. And thriving. Especially in areas where the Labour Party is weak in terms of local support and prefers to appoint such people rather than give power to non-Labour locals.
This is truly one of the more bizarre manifestations of patronage in the age of devolution.
This is Englandandwales, folks. The only way out of this nightmare is independence.
To conclude, let me hypothesise that these multiple cock-ups at Mid Wales Housing are being allowed in order to justify someone in Corruption Bay deciding – as was done with Tai Cantref – that something must be done, and that ‘something’ means calling in ‘Welsh’ Labour’s elite troops in the form of Wales and West Housing.
CARTREFI CONWY, ASSOCIATES, CHINESE INVESTORS
But you mustn’t think that such machinations are confined to the southern parts of our benighted land. Because the story from the north that I’m about to relate is even more bizarre. Though you won’t be surprised to learn that it also involves Wales & West.
It only begins to look odd when we start joining up the dots.
You’ll see in the news report that the company wanting to build these new houses is Calon Homes LLP. That is, Limited Liability Partnership, an opaque structure of a kind that would not be allowed in many countries. Now it looks as if even BoJo’s government is looking to clean things up a bit.
I particularly liked, “Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2020 with retrospective and future effect to underline that LLPs are expected to follow the rules”. And about bloody time too!
Calon Homes appeared in an article I wrote in November, when I looked at Cartrefi Conwy Cyf. (I urge you to read it.) But to cut a long story short . . . Cartrefi Conwy set up a subsidiary in 2015 called Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company). Then, in May 2018, Creating Enterprise went into partnership with Brenig Developments Ltd to form Calon Homes. (Assets at 31 May 2019 £37,853.)
As I wrote back in November: “There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.”
I don’t know if Mark Parry is related to Peter John Parry, the chairman of Creating Enterprise CIC, the Cartrefi Conwy subsidiary, it doesn’t really matter.
Peter John Parry seems to have joined Creating Enterprise CIC 31 August 2017. By which time his personal business career was already on the rocks, with a string of dissolved companies in 2017 and 2018. (Listed here.)
Calon Homes, jointly owned by Creating Enterprise CIC/Cartrefi Conwy Cyf and Brenig Developments Ltd, was Incorporated 12 May 2018. But just a month earlier Companies House registered Calon Developments Ltd. Among the directors at Calon Developments we see Mark Parry and Howard Vaughan, of the Brenig companies, and also Andrew Bowden, CEO of Cartrefi Conwy!
It is very unusual for the head honcho of a housing association to go into partnership with a private builder directly. The realisation that this don’t look good might explain why those involved with Calon Developments Ltd now want voluntary strike-off.
As if I haven’t introduced enough subsidiaries and partnerships and companies, I’m now going to introduce another. We’ve had Brenig Developments Ltd and Brenig Homes Ltd, but there’s a third company in the stable, and it’s Brenig Construction Ltd.
The latest (unaudited and abridged) accounts available – y/e 31 October 2018 – tell us that Brenig Construction had assets of £206,806. When we turn to the directors, we find, as expected, Parry and Vaughan . . . but also Yin Han, a citizen and resident of the People’s Republic of China. He joined the company 12 December 2019.
I’m sure that, like me, you’re wondering why a Chinese citizen would join a relatively small building firm in Denbighshire.
Perhaps because Parry and Vaughan have friends in high places within the Cartrefi Conwy group. Which might explain this report from last November that tells that “From a standing start in 2012, Brenig now employs 70 people directly and is turning over £11 million a year, with £21 million of work already secured in future contracts.”
Though I’m having difficulty reconciling the claimed turnover with the figures available at Companies House for the three Brenig companies. Brenig Developments is filing as a dormant company and the other two don’t seem to be challenging Wimpey and Redrow.
But as I’ve found so often, when dealing with interlinked companies and bodies of often obscure construction, figuring out who does what, and where the money comes from, and where it goes, is often very difficult. Which is what makes such arrangements attractive for some.
But it seems we can identify one source of future income for Parry and Vaughan, and that’s our old friends Wales & West! The report comes complete with another pic of the smiling lads in hi viz jackets. With every reason to smile.
If you sense fatigue creeping up due to the number of different companies I’ve already mentioned, I can only urge you to bear with me while I list a few more, because Mark Parry has been a busy boy.
Back in 2010 he and his mate Vaughan formed H & M Construction Solutions Ltd. But this outfit appeared to crash on take-off, because there is nothing filed with Companies House and this is all I can find.
Next up is Tai Beech Ltd, Incorporated 26 April 2013 and compulsorily struck off in November 2018. Parry and Vaughan were there at the start and saw it through.
Then – something of a departure this – there was Applejack Diners Ltd. Formed 28 November 2013 this company went belly-up 7 December 2016.
One Parry-Vaughan company still with us is Seel Plant Hire Ltd, Incorporated 5 August 2014. But as with the others we’ve looked at, the ‘Micro-entity accounts’ available for Seel Plant Hire do not suggest a company taking the world by storm. Perhaps the gentlest of zephyrs.
And yet, Parry and Vaughan are pulling in big contracts, and Chinese investors. What does it all mean?
Possibly, with CEO Andrew Bowden looking to retire, and Wales & West getting in on the act, Cartrefi Conwy may be the next to be swallowed up by ‘Welsh’ Labour’s favourite housing association.
WEAPONS GRADE BOLLOCKS
What we have been looking at here is a dysfunctional system
I say that because most people still believe that housing associations provide good rented accommodation for people who either can’t afford to buy or just prefer to rent. They do, but they are building very few new units of social rented housing, basing their claim to being social landlords on the stock most of them inherited from local authorities.
And yet the pretence is maintained. Perhaps to ensure that they continue receiving public funding from the ‘Welsh Government’.
To help disguise their true business, our housing associations launch subsidiaries and go into partnership with private companies. In many cases to build housing not for any local demand but for pure profit. That is certainly what Wales & West and Cartrefi Conwy are planning along the A55.
Is this really how housing associations are supposed to operate? Is this how we want them to operate?
Andrew Bowden, CEO of Cartrefi Conwy, said recently: “As a group, Cartrefi Conwy are looking to diversify to generate new income streams to further our affordable housing programme.
“Until now, we’ve always been reliant on just rental income but, with the advent of austerity and things like Universal Credit, we had to think outside the box.
“Calon Homes will be building houses for market sale and we will be using our share of the profit for the benefit of local people to create more affordable housing.”
But why not use all the money to build affordable housing, rather than the much smaller amount that comes in the form of profit from open market housing? Though come to that, ‘affordable housing’ is yet another misnomer. It means open market housing, and I’ve seen houses costing £250,000 classed as ‘affordable’.
As for ‘new income streams’, Peter John Parry of Creating Enterprise CIC, has a background in running homes for very disturbed and often dangerous patients. This was one of his establishments. Will he be bringing clients down the A55, to add to the burden on the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, already in special measures? And the police workload?
For RSLs to defend themselves by saying that the open market housing is being built by subsidiaries – wholly-owned subsidiaries! – or partners, is unacceptable.
The system is out of control. It is operating against the Welsh national interest. The time has come to de-register most RSLs because they are private companies building open market housing and managing rented stock that in most cases was built by someone else. Restrict the ‘RSL’ label to groups and bodies building social rented housing for local people. Because that’s what ‘housing association’ is supposed to mean. And it’s what it should mean.
Another clue telling us that the current system is broken is that local authorities have started building council housing again. Swansea and Cardiff are two examples.
Let me end on a lighter note . . . or maybe this will send you over the edge. Last Friday Community Housing Cymru – the umbrella body for RSLs – brought out a report claiming that its members, building 75,000 ‘affordable’ homes (that word again!) will put £23.2bn into the Welsh economy and create 50,000 jobs.
This is ‘think of a number, double it . . . ‘ economics. I’m surprised they didn’t also claim to have found a cure for Covid-19.
And because it was the purest and most unadulterated bullshit it was sad to see Martin Shipton at Llais y Sais write it up as if it was Gospel.
I’m now now wondering for which fiction award I should enter this gem. Because it’s certainly not meant to be taken seriously.
This is in the form of a journal, covering the days leading up to the EU election, the election itself, the results, and of course, it concludes with an erudite analysis.
Yes, it’s another biggie, but broken up into daily sections for easier consumption. Enjoy!
I can barely hear myself think, what with the brass bands playing out in the street, dogs barking, rival party canvassers hurling abuse at one another – look! one of the Change UK crew just punched a Green Party (of England) canvasser who’s dressed as a parsnip! It’s all happening here, I tell you.
I’ve just been to Tywyn for my morning coffee and it’s hectic there, too, a riot of colour; I’ve never seen so many posters up in windows and placards in front gardens and fields. People are intoxicated with excitement and are already queuing outside the polling station, Thermos flasks and sandwich boxes in their backpacks.
In fact, I haven’t seen such excitement since news of the relief of Mafeking came over the telegraph wire.
(Sod it, I can’t keep this up.)
Truth is, you’d never know there was an election happening. I have not seen a single canvasser, poster or placard, just minimalist leaflets delivered by the postie. If democracy is in peril – as the left keeps screeching – then it might be because nobody cares.
I’ve just watched BBC ‘Parliament Live’ and it’s obvious that Theresa May is on her last legs, there is little support for her anywhere in the House. Her legacy might be that through blind stubbornness she will have delivered what few really wanted just a few months ago – a hard Brexit.
Here in Wales, Plaid Cymru is happy because a poll puts them on 19% for tomorrow’s election. But with the two main parties in complete disarray, the not-quite-dead Lib Dems on 10%, the Green Party (of England) on 8%, and a party that didn’t exist a few months ago on 36%, maybe 19% isn’t really that impressive.
Especially as Plaid got 15% in the previous EU election in 2014. And this time around is promoting itself as the last best hope for Remainers.
In Scotland, the same polling company came up with the following figures: SNP 38%, Brexit Party 20%, Green 11%, Labour 10%, Conservatives 10%, Lib Dem 7%, UKIP 2%, Change UK 2%, Other 1%.
It would appear that for this election much of the Unionist-Brexit vote in Scotland is coalescing behind the Brexit Party, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the Green Party in Scotland supports independence. So even though this is a EU vote there could be a majority tomorrow for pro-independence parties.
I’ve got a hell of a cold.
To be continued . . .
THURSDAY, ELECTION DAY
I can’t report ‘fevered activity’ because there isn’t any, certainly not on the EU election front. This election we shouldn’t be having has people thinking of things other than who gets to sit in the EU Parliament.
For most in the Conservative Party the objective now seems to be removing the Prime Minister. Earlier in the week the cabinet agreed on a way to proceed with Brexit, but by the time Mrs May brought it to the House of Commons the agreed plan had changed in ways that most cabinet members couldn’t accept.
This sealed Mrs May’s fate. Another blow was the resignation of Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House. It’s only a matter of time now.
But back to the election where, on Twitter, Plaid Cymru seems to be anticipating a good result. Time will tell.
Despite having a hell of a cold I bravely decided to stay up to watch Newsnight. An interesting panel for the discussion (27:25); people who were there at the end with Margaret Thatcher, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, plus Fraser Nelson of the Spectator.
It was generally agreed that Mrs Thatcher would go after President Trump visits in early June. Fraser Nelson pointing out that in the morning she meets Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee and if she can’t produce an acceptable plan for slinging her hook then he will open the dreaded sealed envelopes and that will be that.
Talk inevitably turned to her successor, and the usually well-informed Fraser Nelson told us that Boris Johnson is “so far ahead with the country” that there might be no contest. In other words, the Tory grassroots want someone who might win a general election, or be able to repel – even align himself with? – the Farage juggernaut.
By 36:55 talk turned to the Union, and a how a ‘no-dealer’ like Boris Johnson might threaten this sacred bond. The view was that, essentially, the harder the Brexit the more likely it is to result in Scottish independence.
The other side of this coin, is of course that staying in the EU – which is what Plaid Cymru wants – is more likely to hold the Union together. Which in turn means that by becoming a Remainer party Plaid Cymru could be seen as turning its back on Wales and independence to play silly, British, games. And not for the first time.
For me, as ever, the priority is independence, and I don’t care if it’s delivered by Old Nick himself.
Elsewhere . . .
The Assembly sat and debated a Conservative motion reading, ‘The Welsh economy has stagnated since devolution’.
The motion was lost because Plaid Cymru supported Labour, as it always does.
Over the years I’ve noticed that Plaid Cymru is quite prepared to mildly criticise Labour . . . until the Conservatives appear. Then it’s socialist solidarity all the way. Labour knows this and can play Plaid Cymru like a violin.
In fact, I think the motion was rather generous. The Welsh economy hasn’t stagnated since devolution – it’s gone backwards. And it’s all due to Labour and Plaid Cymru. Which is why they could hardly admit it.
Still suffering with my cold.
To be continued . . .
My cold is worse. (I knew you’d be worrying.)
Theresa May has finally resigned. It’s almost anti-climactic, it feels like we’ve been here so many times recently. As Fraser Nelson said on Newsnight, “Ever since she lost her general election her card has been marked”.
Reminding us yet again that for the Conservative Party in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century ‘Europe’ has become what Ireland was for the nineteenth century Liberal Party.
In her farewell speech outside No 10 Mrs May mentioned ‘the Union’ a number of times which, with the increasing prospect of Boris Johnson replacing her, comes under greater threat. The prospect of dealing with Johnson may have prompted Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to go straight for the nuts with this tweet.
But of course, the SNP is in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, yes, most Scots voted to Remain. But if the loonies take over the asylum and broadcasters are forced to run Churchill speeches interspersed with musical interludes by Dame Vera Lynn and the Band of the Coldstream Guards then – as I argued in my previous posting – it greatly increases the chances of Scottish independence.
The same applies in Wales. Wanting to be on the side of the angels is all well and good over a skinny latte in Corruption Bay, but when you know that the ‘devils’ are more likely to deliver what you have yearned for all your life then you have to be pragmatic.
I shall definitely have an early night tonight.
To be continued . . .
This cold of mine could be psychosomatic, connected with the lack of football on the telly, but there are three games today. One being the Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Celtic, then Newport play Tranmere in the League Two play-off final, and finally, this evening, Barcelona play Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.
The games at Hampden and Wembley both kick off at 3pm. How difficult would it have been to move the Newport v Tranmere game to 5pm? What does it say about the Union? Did somebody in the English FA say, ‘Oh sod that game up there, only the Jocks will want to watch it’. Wrong!
One of the best games I’ve seen in recent years was the 2016 Final between Hibernian and Rangers. With the Hibbees winning in injury time, their first triumph in 114 years. This was followed by fans brawling on the pitch and then, after the polis eventually restored order and got the Gers fans out, we were treated to a glorious rendition of Sunshine on Leith.
What other sport offers you all that?
Being Saturday, there’s little happening on the political front. Though my attention was drawn to a piece on Nation.Cymru yesterday entitled This EU Election was a big disappointment by Remain parties, an outcome Ifan Morgan Jones attributes to a lack of preparedness on the part of the Remain parties combined with Liberal Democrat perfidy.
On the sporting front, Celtic beat Hearts 2 – 1, Newport lost in extra time, and the Copa del Rey final wasn’t even bloody televised! What the hell am I paying for? Never mind, I watched Roscommon beat Mayo in the football (Gaelic) from Castlebar. I kept thinking, ‘I’m sure there’s a Rebel song with a reference to chasing “redcoats through old Castlebar”‘.
The cold persists. I have been bringing up impressive amounts of phlegm from the bronchial region and I’m also into the runny nose stage. The Jac nostrils will need to be plugged tonight ere I lay down my aching head.
To be continued . . .
SUNDAY – THE RESULTS!
Before I could settle down and start working myself up into the required frenzy ahead of the results I had a few chores to fulfil. One being to deliver grandchildren home to Tywyn ahead of the local carnival.
After dropping them off and doing some shopping I was driving past the Co-op when I felt a knock and realised that my nearside wing mirror had been pushed in. Obviously a coming together of my wing mirror with that of a parked car. The traffic made it impossible to stop so I drove on intending to pull into the school driveway.
But then I realised that I was being pursued by a gangly youth, soon joined by another youth, also gangly. The first of them ran in front of my car and stood there with hands on my car bonnet. Then he took a photo of my number plate before demanding that I get out. Which I did.
This first youth then ranted about damage to his vehicle and pointed to my still pushed in wing mirror as evidence of collateral damage to my vehicle. (With his erudite mate contributing ‘Yeah’.) So I walked round, pulled the mirror back into position, showed him that the glass was intact, and that what he insisted was ‘damage’ to the outer shell was just dead bugs. This deflated him somewhat.
Unkind words were then exchanged to the merriment of the growing crowd and we parted acrimoniously, with the first youth – the more loquacious of the two – aiming a kick at the rear of the Jacmobile as a parting shot.
Picture the scene, gentle reader: a man who never annoys anyone and who has always supported the tourism industry is accosted on a public thoroughfare by two young persons visiting from Englandland. Oh! the irony, the irony.
(Am I over-egging this?)
Anyway, as insurance, the incident was reported to North Wales Police soon after I got home. A young lady called at 2:09 from a withheld number, and assured me that someone would be in touch in a few days to take further details.
Then I settled down to watch Sunderland lose to Charlton in the last minute of injury time. No luck for these Black Cats.
All other matters aside – but still struggling with my cold – I turned my attentions to the elections, the results of which will be out tonight. Though not all the results from Scotland or Northern Ireland; due to Hebridean Sabbatarians and the complexity of the voting system over the water.
To get us warmed up for the main event Ifan Morgan Jones is doing his now customary routine on Nation.Cymru with his live election blog. Despite bigging up Plaid Cymru IMJ has to concede that both Lib Dems and Greens will do well.
Though other projections only serve to illustrate how lightly people take these EU elections. IWJ reports that Greens are expected to win 23% of the vote in Ireland, up from 1.2% last time. If true, then a jump like that can only attributed to a ‘What the hell? – these elections don’t really matter’ attitude.
I have a bottle of Malbec uncorked and I shall soon settle down for the results programme.
It’s now 1am and I’ve seen enough to tell me that this is an unreal election. I’m not saying that tonight’s results will not have lasting implications, but I am saying they will not be repeated in a ‘real’ election.
I shall conclude this marathon piece tomorrow with a more thorough analysis of the results in Wales and beyond. Perhaps even the Western Isles.
And anyway, there’s no rush. Today is a Bank Holiday, people will have other things to do, places to go. I shall now return to my Malbec.
But before rejoining that most glorious product of Argentina I must comment on this tweet I just picked up.
Why should a football fans’ group, supposedly appealing to fans of all political persuasions, takes sides politically? Do those running this Twitter account seriously believe that all Welsh football fans agree with their sentiments? This is the social media ‘echo chamber’ at its worst.
Are we supposed to believe that people who voted Brexit don’t sing Hen Wlad fy Nhadau? Don’t support the national football team? Aren’t proud to be Welsh?
Remainers are proving to be very divisive in Wales, and in areas where Brexit should not intrude, such as the movement for independence, and now – football!
To be continued . . .
Here are the headlines: The SNP increased its dominance in Scotland, but in Wales and England the clear winner was The Brexit Party, formed less than two months ago. The two ‘main parties’ got hammered everywhere.
If you regard Thursday’s vote as some kind of second referendum on Brexit, then a) you’re probably a Remainer, and b) you really should get a life.
Remainers are claiming victory because, they argue, parties backing a second referendum, or staying in the EU, ‘won’ what was really a party political election. In other words, we must regard Thursday’s vote as another referendum on Brexit! Or maybe a referendum about a referendum?
Which explains why turnout was higher in areas that voted Remain in 2016 than in areas that voted Leave. And this is why I would urge caution in interpreting Thursday’s result. Because if Remainers were more successful in getting their supporters out then that is not necessarily a good indicator of how a second referendum might pan out.
Something else worth remembering is that the turnout on Thursday was just 37.1% in Wales. The UK figure for the 2016 referendum was 72.2%. Which means that there are a lot of Brexit voters out there who gave the polling stations a miss on Thursday.
That’s because those who voted Leave in 2016, and with Brexit now on the horizon, felt no urgency to express their views. As in life, you’re more likely to make a fuss if you feel you’re being ignored, or if you’ve lost.
Now let’s look more closely at the result in Wales. And previous results.
As you read at the top, the winner by a mile was The Brexit Party. Greens and Liberal Democrats were both pleased with their performances. Even though they won the EU elections ten years ago on Thursday the Tories got less than half the Lib Dem vote and only just beat the Green Party of England.
This is obviously due to the disastrous premiership of Theresa May. Which means that with the right replacement the party should recover much of the ground lost.
While the Conservative share of the vote was down to just over a third of what was achieved in 2014, Labour did rather better in slipping from a poll topping 28.15% in 2014 to 15.3%.
But this defeat can also be attributed to the party leader, though unlike the Tories, Labour seems to be stuck with theirs. The nominal leader of Labour in Wales, a Matt Drakewell, responded to the result with uncharacteristic decisiveness and, perhaps even more surprising, he seemed to challenge Comrade Corbyn:
“Faced with the damage of a hard-line, Tory Brexit, Welsh Labour believes that the final decision must be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour government would campaign, in such a vote, for Wales to remain in the EU.”
No doubt that announcement will be welcomed in Corruption Bay, from where so much EU funding has been distributed to cronies, but it’s guaranteed to lose Labour tens of thousands of votes in the heartlands that should have seen that money.
Now let’s turn to Plaid Cymru.
Publicly, Plaid is claiming a great victory because, as leader Adam Price put it, “This result is an historic one for Plaid Cymru, beating Labour in a national election for the first time.” Except that . . .
Many in Plaid Cymru expected to get well above 20%; to be achieved by getting some of the votes that eventually went to the Greens and the Lib Dems. For as I said earlier, Plaid had been assiduously promoting itself as THE Remainer party in this election, but too many voters refused to buy it.
Yes, Plaid’s vote was an improvement on 2014, but ten percentage points below what the party achieved in 1999 under Dafydd Wigley. Then again, maybe Adam Price should be thankful Plaid didn’t do better, otherwise he might have found himself out of a job.
‘Progress’ for Plaid Cymru means ignoring the steps backwards and only remembering the forward steps trying to make up lost ground. Overall, taking the long view, there has been no progress at all for Plaid Cymru in twenty years. Or maybe ninety years.
With Labour tearing itself apart over Brexit Plaid Cymru has never had a better chance to win an election, but it still lost to a party less than two months old, with no manifesto, no policies, no nothing.
My cold is much improved. Nice of you to ask.
Brexit is not going away. It is set to haunt and bedevil the politics of these islands for many years to come.
Which might explain why Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, speaking in Dublin today, promised a second independence referendum in the second half of 2020. She wants out, and believes that enough Scots agree with her to deliver a Yes vote next year.
Plaid Cymru wants a second EU referendum, but what purpose would it serve? If it delivered a Remain victory then those who voted for Brexit in 2016 would argue that they have been cheated. If it reaffirms Brexit then Remainers will still not accept it.
While the SNP wants to leave this mess behind Plaid Cymru wants to get involved in an English civil war. That’s because for Plaid Cymru Brexit is now more important than independence. To the point where many Plaid Remainers regard those who voted for Brexit or the Brexit Party as some form of untermensch.
Here’s one Plaid supporter tonight calling the people of Blaenau Gwent ‘Morlocks‘! These are Welsh people being insulted by a Plaid Cymru supporter for holding different views to him – yet Plaid will soon be asking these people for their votes!
When did Plaid Cymru become such an extreme and intolerant Remain Party? And why has a ‘socialist’ party turned on the working class?
England is on the road to chaos, Brexit simply exposes older and deeper divisions, over class, the north-south divide, anger at London being so rich while former industrial areas are left to rot. This could get nasty.
Which is why I believe that the priority, now more than ever, must be independence. To maximise support for independence we need another political party to reach out to those that Plaid Cymru is not only unable to reach, but is now insulting and alienating.
Those who are not socialists, those who have reservations about the EU, those beyond the echo chambers and the incestuous networks of Corruption Bay. Those that so many in Brahmin left Plaid Cymru now regard as poor, stupid and inferior.
Fortunately we have such a party in Ein Gwlad. A party that will never be flattered or cajoled into lining up with those who don’t give a damn about Wales. A party that knows who Wales’s friends are, and can also identify her enemies.
And I can promise the people of Blaenau Gwent and other parts of Wales that Ein Gwlad will never call desperate Welsh people in abandoned communities ‘Morlocks’.
Although it’s still 2018, in this post I look forward to the year ahead.
Already, at Westminster, we see chaos and in-fighting in both major parties, though there is within the Conservative Party an element that knows where it wants to take us. Maybe the question is how big this element is and how much support it has within the wider establishment and elsewhere.
Here in Wales we also see chaos, infused with hopelessness. For after twenty years of managing decline the Labour Party has given up all pretence at serving Wales and elected Mark Drakeford as ‘leader’. Apart from Neil McEvoy there seems to be no effective opposition to the slow drift towards greater deprivation and ultimately assimilation.
The latter may even be offered as a solution to the former – for as we’ll hear, ‘devolution has obviously failed Wales’. Many, unable to differentiate between the Labour Party and devolution, will agree with that.
Beyond the chambers of government politics is returning to the streets, with the far right resurgent. The element I’ve referred to within the Tories wonders whether these Wetherspoon’s warriors could be used to advance its agenda; but it needs the excuse, the crisis, to justify such an alliance. Will Brexit provide it, or perhaps some other unforeseen eventuality?
Let’s start by asking how we got here.
THE FETISHISATION OF THE POPPY
After the Scottish National Party took control of the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and a referendum on independence loomed, the UK establishment had cause to be grateful to an almost forgotten Serb nationalist. Though Gavrilo Princip could never have known that the events he set in train at Sarajevo in 1914 would be so shamelessly exploited by another tottering empire a century later.
For the one hundredth anniversary of World War One allowed our masters to fetishise the poppy and go so far over the top that, had they been at the first day of the Somme, they could have been half way to Berlin by nightfall.
Hiding behind ‘The Glorious Dead’ and piously mumbling ‘Lest we forget’ became mantras against the threatened departure of the Scots, Sinn Féin on the brink of becoming the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and mounting divisions within England.
I’m not suggesting that hopes of Scottish independence were drowned in a sea of poppies, partly because the referendum took place on 18 September 2014, when the poppy cult had not yet reached tsunami proportions, with ‘weeping windows’ and other examples of necrolatry.
But the BritNat offensive had already opened on other fronts. Television playing a major role. Consider this: in the final year of the Labour–Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 separate shows that had ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title.
By January 2014, with the SNP in power, and with the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had rocketed to 516! This was no coincidence.
More recently, the ‘Everything is British’ agenda became almost laughable in its desperation when compliant supermarkets branded whisky and even haggis as ‘British’. (Though in fairness, the German supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl did not surrender to this diktat, most probably delivered as, ‘A quiet word, old chap . . . ‘.)
There is no escaping it; the fear of Scottish independence coupled with the turning tide in the north east of Ireland, with Brexit thrown into the mix, has combined to give us a very nervous British establishment.
Just how desperate that establishment is, and how far it might go to preserve it’s influence, or hold the Union together, remains to be seen. But the augurs are worrying.
ENTER STAGE RIGHT, THE FAR RIGHT
A taste of what to expect was perhaps seen in George Square, Glasgow, when ‘celebrating’ Loyalists went on the rampage on September 19, 2014, the day after Scotland voted to remain in the UK.
It was all there in plain sight – union flags, Nazi salutes, destroying Saltires and attacking anyone who didn’t agree with their interpretation of Britishness. (White, Protestant, monolingual, royalist, Islamophobic, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic.)
The problem posed by a state becoming more diverse yet containing a growing minority moving in the opposite direction is pretty obvious.
The extract below taken from The Herald makes clear who was behind the George Square violence, for it explains the connection between a certain Glasgow Rangers supporters group, the English far right, and Northern Ireland paramilitaries.
“The entire loyalist demonstration had indeed been orchestrated online, it turned out. You sent us the online poster headed “Scotland Said No” asking for demonstrators to come to the city centre at 6pm. The poster was circulated widely by Britain First, the far-right party set up by ex-BNP members, which has a strong following in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland.
Then you sent us Facebook postings from ordinary Rangers fans, horrified at what their fellow fans were planning. One read: ‘I am a Rangers supporter. The Rangers pages have been drumming up support to riot at George Square all day. It’s disgusting. I am ashamed of them.'”
I was surprised no one asked if there was official involvement in the George Square riot. Because we know that during The Troubles Loyalist terrorists were almost an extension of the UK state due to the intelligence, training and arms they received. While the intelligence services formed links with the National Front during the exile in England of Roberto Fiore.
Thankfully, Wales has been largely immune to this evil, though there is a little clique in Swansea, associated with the city’s football club. They used to call themselves Swansea Loyals and had a website showing photographs of their visits to Glasgow and Belfast. The website was taken down but the gang remained.
Some made their continued presence felt with the display of a union flag at the Liberty Stadium, but now, perhaps encouraged or motivated by the developments we’ve considered they feel emboldened. New banners have appeared, such as the one you see below.
For those unable to ‘read’ the symbols, let me interpret. ‘Swansea Loyal’ is self-explanatory, loyal to the interpretation of ‘Britishness’ we saw in George Square. The badge on the right is that of Swansea City, on the left Glasgow Rangers, with those badges flanking the red hand symbol of Ulster. ‘Quis Separabit’ (‘Who shall separate [us]?) is the motto of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Let me make clear that not all Rangers fans are bigots, not all Rangers fans support the UDA, and some Rangers fans even support Scottish independence, but let us also remember that among the various ditties sung by Gers’ fans is the notorious Famine Song which urges those of Irish Catholic descent in Scotland to ‘go home’.
Defenders of the banner have argued on Twitter that the motto has also been used by the British army regiment the Connaught Rangers (disbanded 1922), the Order of St Patrick (dormant order of chivalry), and the Irish Guards regiment, which is still active but – like so many units of the British Army – recruits from just about anywhere bar Russia. (Though my old mate Vladimir Vladimirovich has other ways of knowing what’s going on.)
I have tried before to explain how intertwined the histories of Scotland and Ireland are; exemplified by Glasgow Rangers being supported by the descendants of Scots who settled in Ulster, while Celtic fans are often the descendants of Irish immigrants to Scotland.
Wales has no such links. For which we should be thankful, it means we have been spared the hatred and the violence that results from these connections. And I don’t want to see this poison introduced into Wales, which is one reason why I oppose the Swansea Loyals.
The other reason I oppose these buggers is because they are anti-Welsh. They would destroy everything that distinguishes us as a nation and merge Wales into England.
It’s unsurprising then that going into coalition with an extremist party such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) presented no dilemma for modern Tories.
Further encouragement for the fringes came from the rise of Ukip, while out on the streets and in social media the far right has found its voice in Tommy Robinson and others. A few years ago such people would have been ostracised, now they’re invited onto Newsnight, Question Time and other television programmes. (Though the invitations are usually from the BBC.)
What we’re dealing with here could be viewed as a continuum, one that extends, in one direction, from the BNP or the EDL or National Action to Ukip and then the Conservative Party; and in the other direction to Glasgow Rangers, affiliated ‘Loyal’ groups with other clubs, the Orange Order, and assorted terrorist groups. Giving us an extended continuum from the Tory Party to Loyalist terrorists.
And there seem to be extreme BritNat parties springing up all the time. I drew your attention in November to the Democrats & Veterans Party, which has a presence in Swansea and even a Welsh co-ordinator. (Though of course he’s not Welsh.) And who could forget Shane Baker, the bargain basement Baldrick of Nebo, another who has come to live among us.
As we’ve seen, this atmosphere of over-zealous and intolerant Britishism affects everything from haggis to Nicholas Soames of ‘Skye’ fame, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – it even infects darts players!
The far right is today more accepted by the establishment and the mainstream media than at any time I can recall. I remember Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980s urging people to reclaim the union flag from the National Front, but we hear no such calls today. ‘Unity’, is the cry, under the umbrella of unquestioning and increasingly intolerant Englishness/Britishness.
THE STARS OF ILL OMEN ALIGN
I believe that the poppy cult, tabloid campaigns against ‘Ungrateful Jock bastards’, Great British Cushions (BBC2, also available on iPlayer), all contributed towards the Brexit vote.
Whether that was the intention of those who whipped up this spittle-speckled BritNat hysteria is something that might become clear in the years ahead.
But the threat doesn’t really come from this direction, and I’m not sure that Brexit, even a no-deal Brexit, would be enough to prompt a putsch that had any hope of support within the establishment. The best hope for the putsch-minded in the period of uncertainty and recriminations following a no deal or bad deal Brexit might be to take over the Conservative Party and by extension the government.
Maybe the bigger threat comes from the fall-out from Brexit, in Scotland and Ireland. For I can predict with certainty that the bigger the cock-up over Brexit, or the more damaging the consequences, the greater the likelihood of Scottish independence and Irish reunification.
The threat of either could be the ‘trigger’ for the putsch. Both could plunge us into an Algeria/OAS (Day of the Jackal) situation with ‘loyalist’ rebels in the ‘breakaway’ territory linking with the far right and certain politicians in the ‘mother country’ . . . justifying ‘intervention’.
Another trigger could be the death of the Queen, now 92. There would be wide-spread resistance to Charles becoming king, and attempts to by-pass him and install his son William would stir up a constitutional hornets’ nest.
I mentioned earlier that the UK government has troops on stand-by but how reliable is the British Army, drawn largely from the same disgruntled white working class that fills the ranks of the far right? And it’s not just a few smiling squaddies posing with Tommy Robinson we need to worry about, there are some nasty buggers hiding in khaki.
The reason Brexit is dangerous – and the very reason we are facing Brexit – is because we Welsh are trapped in a state in irreversible decline where political leaders and a great portion of the population refuse to accept this reality.
A deluded populace enduring falling living standards guarantees the volatile political atmosphere welcomed by those promising to restore England’s greatness. And if that means curbing ‘the excesses of democracy’ and banging up a few ‘traitors’, then it will be done.
And because the English are masters of the political euphemism we shall never hear the words coup or putsch. It will be: ‘Uncertain times . . . national emergency . . . desperate measures . . . great reluctance . . . avoidance of civil unrest . . . suspension of habeas corpus . . . unfortunate necessity . . . national unity . . . abolition of Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly . . . necessary . . . recruitment of auxiliaries . . . ‘
WHAT WILL BE THE WELSH RESPONSE?
Despite the foot soldiers being ready and the plotters dreaming up titles for themselves, any talk of a putsch, or even a coup within the Conservative government, remains speculation. Yet it cannot be ruled out, while staying in the EU would excite the far right even more.
So what should be the Welsh response to any economic, constitutional or other crisis in 2019? Nationalists like myself will obviously argue even more strongly for breaking away from a divided and dysfunctional UK state. After all, the confusion I’ve described here is one reason I voted for Brexit.
You might argue that, ‘Wales also voted for Brexit, so Wales too is divided’. Wales voted for something, but the majority of Leave voters are to be found in the pissed-off but Welsh-identifying population from Blaenau Gwent to Swansea Bay. Present these with a different vision, a Welsh vision, and many can be won over.
But what of the left? Knowing the left as I do, many will view a putsch, even a half-hearted power grab, as a ‘British’ issue and start organising trips to London to be seen at whatever pointless rally metropolitan luvvies have organised.
That’s because too many on the left in Wales are trapped in a British mindset, which they like to disguise as ‘internationalist’ and flaunt in contradistinction to what they depict as ‘narrow nationalism’. But it’s never been anything other than a cop-out, just another way of saying, ‘We don’t really care about Wales’.
As a result, the left in Wales has been English colonialism’s greatest asset for a century, ever since Labour replaced that ‘too Welsh’ Liberalism that so alarmed Alderman Bird. Aided in more recent times by a left-controlled Plaid Cymru.
A leftism that dismisses any critic as a fascist in the hope of silencing them. And the smug, sanctimonious bastards who employ this censorship argue they’re defending freedom of expression, and claim the moral high ground!
If the worst happens and the lunatics take over the asylum the left in Wales will have a choice. It can either seek to restore the asylum’s management, or it can choose to escape the asylum and build an independent Wales.
Come to that, why wait for a Dad’s Army putsch? Wales is a rich country made poor by the system we have now – what are you waiting for?
I am grateful for the co-operation of Ms Clarke in the writing of this article
A long and completely unnecessary ordeal came to an end yesterday at Cardiff Crown Court for Jenny Lee Clarke, who had been accused of theft by Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris. I have reported on this case more than once over recent years, but for latecomers to the story, here’s the background.
Before the 2015 UK general election both Carolyn Harris and Jenny Lee Clarke worked for the Swansea East Labour MP Siân James. Some time in November 2014 Harris humiliated Ms Clarke over her “dyke boots” before attacking her and pulling out clumps of hair. This being just another – if perhaps the worst – in a series of incidents of Harris seeking to insult and humiliate Clarke over her sexuality.
Witnesses to the attack included Labour councillor Paulette Smith (Clydach), who gave evidence at the trial.
Harris asked Clarke to forgive her and perhaps in the hope of confirming her remorse made Clarke her office manager after she became the new MP for Swansea East in May 2015. The rapprochement didn’t last long. Following a grievance raised on January 15 and ignored, and then eight hours spent giving a statement to the police on January 27, Clarke was sacked on January 28.
Her replacement is alleged to have found evidence that Ms Clarke had given herself an unauthorised pay rise and also shortened her working week by forging Carolyn Harris’ signature on a form to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). This was the charge against Jenny Lee Clarke.
Clarke insisted this had been done on the instructions of the new MP, arguing that “She (Harris) never liked paperwork. She left me to do everything.” As for the form ‘discovered’ by the new office manager, Clarke is adamant, “I didn’t sign it – I just wrote her name. Many letters and other forms have my writing on them – I have never attempted to write her signature, not at all.”
Interesting in this context is a document Jenny Lee Clarke compiled from her diary and from where we learn that as early as 2013 Carolyn Harris seems to have bullied her way into control of Siân James’ office, and by April 2014 we can see that Ms Clarke was not happy with being told by Harris to deal with IPSA.
12.04.12 – C.H demanding I do IPSA……..the rates were paid £1693. L.B £862.50. Reconciled Barclay Card
May 2012 – completing database of IPSA claims
06.01.14 – Was going to speak to C.H regarding I.P.S.A I wasn’t comfortable!
(The ‘L.B.’ referred to is Lawrence Bailey, former Swansea mayor and porn addict, PR advisor to Carolyn Harris , and of course columnist for the pro-Labour – to the point of being swivel eyed – Evening Post.)
Ms Clarke informs me she will be contacting IPSA asking that body to re-open its investigation into certain cash withdrawals made by Harris.
Understandably angry with the way she had been treated over many years, culminating now in her dismissal, Jenny Lee Clarke went to the media with the story of the assault she had suffered in November 2014. Most ‘papers went with it. Here are reports from the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sun, and Pink News.
The story was also covered in Wales, but with an interesting twist. A day later than the London ‘papers WalesOnline ran the story, but now the emphasis had shifted – it was no longer a homophobic attack but a case of fraud. With Carolyn Harris (or the public purse) now the victim.
Which is when it gets a bit curious, and rather disturbing. Martin Shipton told us that police are ‘probing’ the office manager Jenny Lee Clarke, but where did he get that information, and should he have used it in such a blatant attempt to save face for Carolyn Harris, and the Labour Party?
Whatever the source of Shipton’s information, his report was the first Ms Clarke knew of any investigation. Is that any way to find out that the police might soon be knocking on your door? Four months eventually passed before Ms Clarke was arrested on 24 July. Charges were not laid until October.
Yet Gypsy Rose Shipton knows all!
Then followed a series of delays as the case was put off time after time until it eventually came to trial in July 2018. Should it ever have taken so long? Was there interference from the South Wales Police PCC, the former Labour MP, Alun Michael, in this very political prosecution?
Come to that, did Michael have a hand in deciding that Clarke’s complaint of January 2016 was classed as common assault, and therefore – due to the fact that the complaint was made more than six months after the alleged offence of November 2014 – could not be proceeded with? A different offence, with a longer expiry period, could have resulted in Harris being prosecuted.
Though given that the offence being complained of was a homophobic assault, and therefore clearly a hate crime, why didn’t South Wales Police arrest and charge Carolyn Harris?
While Jenny Lee Clarke was sinking into depression, not knowing whether she might end up in prison for a crime she hadn’t committed, the MP for Swansea East was busy preparing for the trial by ingratiating herself with the Gay community.
Now the obvious question is – how many such events did Carolyn Harris attend before she was outed as a homophobe in the London newspapers? Ms Clarke tells me that she cannot recall Harris taking anything other than a hostile interest in Gay matters before the prospect of a trial loomed.
I suppose we could give her the benefit of the doubt and believe that Harris’s persistent and very public homophobic rants were some kind of defence mechanism, her desperately holding the closet doors shut. With the mauling she received at the hands of the London prints triggering the burst of emotional energy that allowed her to emerge.
An alternative, and less charitable view, might be that she’s another scheming politician who went through the motions of befriending gays and others because she thought it would come in useful when she had her moment in the witness box. ‘Homophobic! Moi?’
I understand Jenny Lee Clarke is considering suing Carolyn Harris for unfair dismissal, sexual discrimination and a few other relevant charges. I wonder if Mrs Harris’s new Gay friends will rally to her defence?
If I was Ms Clarke I would also lay a complaint against the police for not properly categorising the offence so clearly described to them in eight hours of questioning at Swansea Central police station on January 27, 2016.
There are just so many questions needing answers. Here are just a few:
Where, how and with whom did the decision to accuse Jenny Lee Clarke begin? (And I mean accuse, not prosecute.)
Will there now be an investigation into whether Carolyn Harris or anyone else knowingly made false accusations?
Should IPSA – and perhaps the police – investigate how Carolyn Harris organises her office and her staff, to establish if she delegates work in ways that make her staff – on her instructions – break the law, or House of Commons rules?
After her complaint made on January 27, 2016, why did South Wales Police not pursue what was clearly a hate crime?
Will Jenny Lee Clarke receive an apology from South Wales Police for putting her through the wringer for over two years for what was clearly an accusation motivated by the desire for revenge?
Will Jenny Lee Clarke receive an apology from the Labour Party?
Did the trade union Unite properly advise Ms Clarke during the period of her dismissal? What Ms Clarke described to me as “shit representation”. Might Unite have been more concerned with protecting the reputation of a Labour MP and the wider party?
Will anyone compensate Jenny Lee Clarke for what she’s endured?
Will Martin Shipton of Labour-supporting Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) tell us how he learnt that Jenny Lee Clarke was being investigated before she herself knew?
Jenny Lee Clarke lives in the Gower constituency. Will her MP Tonia Antoniazzi stand up for her constituent and condemn the disgraceful treatment Ms Clarke has received over the past two years?
Is Carolyn Harris’ position as Corbyn’s spokesperson for women and equalities any longer tenable?
Is Carolyn Harris’ position as deputy leader of the Labour Party in Wales any longer tenable?
Can Carolyn Harris remain MP for Swansea East?
STOP PRESS! I hear that back in the city of my dreams the book is open on Carolyn Harris’s successor. Front runners are:
Nicola Louise Edwards, 31, who failed to get elected for the Gowerton ward last year but is said to be fiercely ambitious. Being the grand-daughter of the formidable Lillian Hopkins, and daughter of current councillor Dai Hopkins (Townhill), she is not without influence in the now smoke-free rooms.
Also mentioned is council leader Rob Stewart. As it was put to me, “He’s got no job, lives on his own, so why not”. Call me picky, but I might demand better qualifications from my tribune. But then, this is Labour, and this is Swansea East . . . currently represented by Carolyn Harris. What more need I say?
The rank outsider is former Llansamlet ward councillor, former Sunderland North MP, Hero of the Revolution, Bob Clay. During his brief sojourn in Swansea he drew up plans to remove Harris but now faces expulsion himself. Given his vieux compagnon closeness to Corbyn he might yet gallop over the Briton Ferry Bridge at the head of his Trotskyite legion to scatter the hated Harrisites. (Unless the bridge is closed to traffic, as is so often the case.)
Then again, there are widespread fears that Carolyn Harris will take some shifting. Which I can well believe.
The real issue here, as with so many of the other problems in Wales today, is the Labour Party. The old, decrepit and corrupt Labour Party.
Reminiscent of some mangy old predator that can still stand upright and make a bit of noise but is no longer able to fend for itself, surviving only due to the weakness of rivals and their inhibiting memories of the fearsome beast it once was.
But now, as the end approaches, the truth can no longer be hidden. Labour is finished.
This episode is just another footnote to the volume that lists corruption financial and moral, careerism, cronyism, refusal to serve the Welsh national interest, turning Wales into the pauper of Europe, willing participation in the Britification agenda, mismanagement of public funds including the inability to recognise a shyster when he approaches with a flashing neon sign on his head saying – ‘SHYSTER!’
It’s time to put the old beast out of its misery; and with it the fleas, parasites and bloodsuckers that compound and exacerbate its decline and our misery. For it no longer has the power nor the will to serve Wales. We’d be better off without it. As in the wild, he will soon be replaced and forgotten.
P.S. At the time of publication the only article on the WalesOnline website – and in the Western Mail – is the same PA report by Rod Minchin that appeared on the BBC Wales website and elsewhere. No doubt something more forensic and informative by Gypsy Rose Shipton will eventually appear.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 02.08.2018: There has been no official response from the Labour Party in Wales, there’s certainly nothing on the party’s woefully neglected and rarely updated website. All I’ve been able to find was in a piece in today’s Llais y Sais by Martin Shipton after he’d asked for a comment. It reads:
“We were told (by ‘Welsh’ Labour) there had already been a full and thorough investigation into the allegations against Mrs Harris, that the jury’s verdict was not a verdict or a comment on the veracity of the allegations made during the course of the case, and that Mr (Carwyn) Jones has full confidence in Mrs Harris as his deputy leader”.
What the hell does that mean? They still believe that Carolyn Harris didn’t mount a homophobic attack on Jenny Lee Clarke? And that’s it? A woman has been acquitted by a jury – in just 90 minutes! – of very serious charges made against her by a senior Labour politician. Suggesting that that politician was lying and trying secure the conviction of an innocent woman.
But instead of dealing with the trial and its implications, ‘Welsh’ Labour prefers to focus on an incident that may or may not have happened but is materially unconnected with the trial and the accusations made against Jenny Lee Clarke.
Here is my response to the e-mails received from you, set out in my previous post.
When I received your request on April 19th to remove the image I’d used, I asked myself, ‘Why has it taken him so long to see an image posted on September 30th 2017?
I concluded that the answer lay in the fact that the article from last September and the article current when you contacted me had one thing in common – a Labour politician who appeared in both articles but did not appear on my blog between those dates.
Upon receiving your first e-mail on April 19th I straight away removed your photograph which, let me add, had always shown, ‘Image: Robert Melen’. At no time did I try to present your photograph as my own, nor did I make any profit from the use of your photograph.
I hoped that was the end of the matter, but no, you came back with a threatening letter you had copied, as with the first, from the EPUK website. In this second e-mail you demanded payment of £150.
Before giving you my decision, let me explain where I stand. I believe that western legal systems – once stripped of religious observations, divine right of kings and other nonsense – are predicated upon, among other things, common sense and a belief in natural justice.
Applying these fundamentals to copyright law means that someone is entitled to compensation if an artistic creation of theirs is stolen or used without their permission by another person, or a corporate entity, to pass off as their own, thereby profiting from that deception.
And I agree with that. But the only element that applies here is that I innocently used your image without your permission, for which I apologise. But I remind you that it was removed immediately you requested its removal and it was always clearly attributed to you.
Further, I claim ‘Fair Dealing’ exemption in that your image was used in my reporting of current events. Namely, the re-opening of the refurbished Castle Bingo and gambling emporium in Morriston. Proven by the fact that the image originally appeared in this news story on the WalesOnline website.
I am driven to conclude that your behaviour has nothing to do with outraged copyright and is instead an attack on freedom of expression, and on my right to criticise – even ridicule – the political party (and its representatives) supported by your employer, the South Wales Evening Post.
Which is why I have decided not to submit to your threats. You will not receive the £150 you demand.
UPDATE 05.05.2018: Robert Melen has been in touch, we have exchanged a few e-mails, and I’m prepared to accept that this was all a misunderstanding. He seems to be a tidy boy just looking out for his young family. So if anyone has photographic work, Rob Melen‘s your man.
Those who contributed to my fighting fund have been notified and they all want their donations to be used either in support of the Argentine economy or else donated to Ein Gwlad. Requests to which I have willingly acceded.
TRENCHING AND TROUGHING AT FIVE MILE LANE, BARRY
In a recent post, News Round-up 25.04.2018, I told you about a road-widening scheme at Five Mile Lane, Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The road in question being the A4226.
It is alleged that work on this site has gone beyond a simple road widening and in the process has damaged an important archaeological site or sites. You can get more information on the claims from the video below.
I contacted Cadw but received nothing beyond an acknowledgement, and so I assumed that the ‘Welsh’ Government source who replied was answering for Cadw (who were cc’d into the correspondence as ‘CADW Mailbox’). The reply came from a Regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology (South East Wales), but I can’t be sure if this person actually works for Cadw, which is now part of the WG.
Confused? I was. Though perhaps it’s explained with my contact telling me: “Cadw lies within the Economy and Transport section of Welsh Governments Economy, Skills and Natural Resource Group (ESNR). Our minister is Dafydd Elis Thomas.” Such familiarity! Lord Elis Thomas, surely!
Anyway, our exchange of e-mails continued and this person turned out to be most helpful.
As we knew, the road-widening scheme was ostensibly the responsibility of Vale of Glamorgan council, and I learnt that the council is being advised on archaeological matters by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT), which is monitoring the site.
In my earlier post I said that the archaeological work, on the ground, as it were, was being done by Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of Irish company Rubicon Heritage Services. The subsidiary was liquidated in March 2018, so I asked the Regional Inspector where this left the Five Mile Lane project.
I was told, “Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd was a subsidiary which was liquidated prior to the start of the project and has had no role in the work at Five Mile Lane, Barry. Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd will continue to deliver the project at Five Mile Lane”.
Which fits with the Irish parent company recently opening a branch office in Cardiff, at the Ringside Business Park. I can’t imagine this being done without Rubicon having expectations of future work in Wales.
In response to my asking what was the ‘Welsh’ Government’s and Cadw’s opinion of the work carried out at Five Mile Lane I was answered: “Dr Jonathan Berry (Cadw Senior Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology) and I visited the excavations on 18th October 2017. We were given a detailed tour around all of the excavation areas exposed at that time and had an opportunity to discuss their interpretation and observe the quality of work. While this was not a formal inspection visit Cadw did not identify any issues of concern.”
October 2017 is long before the work was done that it’s claimed has caused the damage. When I pointed this out I was told: “I have contacted the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust and obtained reassurances that archaeological work has been undertaken to the standards required by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and according to national legislation for the excavation of burials.”
This e-mail also referred to “visits by independent curators” so, naturally, I asked who these are, and to whom they answer.
I was told: “The quality of the archaeological works at Five Mile Lane is monitored by two independent consultant archaeologist organisations: Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology.
Rubicon Heritage, Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountain Archaeology are all Registered Organisations of the Charted (sic) Institute for Archaeologists, to whom the organisations are accountable.”
I mention this because few things illustrate a people’s colonial status worse than having its past interpreted by strangers, especially when those strangers are representatives of the country that rules over that people.
I suggest that to understand what has happened at Five Mile Lane we need to consider the wider project, and its political importance. Explained in the Parsons Brinckerhoff document.
The widening of the A4226 is to improve access to St Athan (Aston Martin, etc?) and Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone. Despite being nominally the responsibility of the Vale of Glamorgan council, because the ‘Welsh’ Government puts up the money it’s the Bay Bubble calling the shots. So I think we can absolve VoG of any culpability.
What’s happening at Five Mile Lane links with the obscene amounts of public money ELPiW continues to pour into Cardiff Airport, and the bribes given to Aston Martin to move to Wales. For obvious reasons nothing must be allowed to interfere with these ‘investments’ and cause political embarrassment to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
What of the other players in this tragedy?
As we’ve seen, Cadw is now a department of the ‘Welsh’ Government, overseen by loyalist-royalist Dafydd Elis Thomas. Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust gets the bulk of its funding from Cadw, so no ripples from that direction. As for Rubicon, which is actually doing the work at Five Mile Lane, it’s not going to bite the hand that feeds it, especially with a new office in Cardiff. Anticipation of further work from the ‘Welsh’ Government also keeps Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology on board.
Which means that to protect the ‘Welsh’ Government’s image important archaeological sites can be trashed and the graves of our ancestors desecrated.
Par for the course in a corrupt colony run by a bunch of collaborationist shites.
I quite like Brecon, and the wife is very fond of the town, insisting that we stop there if we’re heading south on the A470. But there have been news reports recently and information emerging suggesting that there are some pretty ugly people living thereabouts.
I can’t understand why a Finn serving in the British army would want to settle in Llansilin. Come to that, why did a Finn join the British army? Another mystery is the unnamed civilian defendant described in one report as the National Action ‘regional organiser’ who was jailed for three-and-half years. Why unnamed? Which region?
A further mystery is the weapons found “at two properties in Powys occupied by Vehvilainen” . . . but apparently they had nothing to do with him?
Moving down the scale of obnoxiousness we come to the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party. The party leaders are David Bevan, born in Neath, and Jonathon Harrington, born in London but living somewhere in the Beacons.
Their backgrounds are fascinating. Dai served in the British army and was chairman of the Cardiff branch of Ukip until that lot went soft on devolution. Jon’s family moved to a farm in the Beacons when he was eight, and when he grew up he took himself off to South Africa, and Rhodesia, when Smiffy was running things. As the result of a fall on Cader Idris (for some reason spelled ‘Cadir’ in his bio) he is paraplegic.
According to Harrington’s bio, the AWAP is needed in order “to represent the views of the great but silent majority.” This must be the same silent majority that wants to name the Second Seven Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Staying in the Brecon area we return to Wales for a United Kingdom.
The W4aUK Facebook page tells us that 70% of the people of Wales believe in CANZUK. While in what I suspect serves as the manifesto we read, “We have multiple admin running the page day and night so please feel free to message us with any queries.”
Or possibly a lone insomniac.
I must confess, I don’t recall being consulted about CANZUK. Was it restricted to that silent majority we keep hearing about? And has W4aUK thought it through? Because freedom of movement could result in all sorts turning up, demanding entry to this scepter’d isle.
Before you know it it’ll be digeridoo virtuosos on Britain’s Got Talent, big, tattooed buggers demanding to rub noses with you . . . but worst of all, there’ll be nothing to stop thousands of Frenchies moving here from Canada! What’s the point of getting out of the EU if the buggers start coming from the opposite direction?
For after studying History & Archaeology at the University of Wales he spurned oodles of ‘Welsh’ Government funding, and the chance to trash burial sites, in order to serve at the Coracle Fish Bar in Brecon. From where he seems to have moved on, via Harry Ramsden’s, to Kentucky Fried Chicken, rising from team leader to assistant under-manager.
Or perhaps the question is, what has the Brecon area done to deserve Finnish racists, yearners for Rhodesia, and boy wonder BritNats? And how many of them were actually born anywhere near Brecon?
THE BRITNAT LEFT AND ‘THE SHARED EXPERIENCE’
The ‘shared experience’ is one of the most powerful tools in the Unionist armoury because it gives people from different walks of life, different parts of the country, something to bind them together.
The most powerful shared experiences are of course war, especially World War One and World War Two, but even smaller conflicts such as that in the South Atlantic can fill the role. Or more recent adventures in the Middle East. The government sends soldiers and other combatants from every corner of the state, every area loses some young men, the media joins in – bingo! you have a shared experience helping to bind the state together.
Obviously, the WWII generation is nearly gone and the smaller wars don’t generate enough ‘patriotism’. Because while it was virtually impossible to argue against the necessity of going to war in 1939 ‘dodgy dossiers’ and other revelations make recent foreign military adventures easy targets for critics.
And so the state must play the shared experience card in other ways. For example, flooding our television screens with programmes called ‘Great British Bookshelves’ and ‘Great British Bollocks’ – ‘cos we’re all British, innit!’ The point being that when you have people in Derry, Dundee, Doncaster and Dowlais watching and enjoying the same television programmes then the state’s on a winner.
And in recent years it has been made easier by the state enforcing its control. To the extent that BBC Scotland and BBC Wales have become state propaganda outlets rather than national broadcasters for Scotland and Wales. For while a British shared experience must be promoted it must inevitably be done at the expense of a shared Scottish or Welsh experience.
Royal events inevitably play their role. When Princess Wilhelmina of Troutbridge-on-the-Wold knocks out another sprog all TV programmes must be interrupted with ‘Rejoice! Superior being gives birth to yet another superior being!’
This shameless exploitation of the monarchy is why another Investiture in Caernarfon cannot be ruled out.
Pushing a shared experience is becoming more difficult, hence the increasing desperation evident in the mainstream media. The difficulty being due to fewer people getting their information from newspapers, radio or television. When did you last see a teenager holding a newspaper that he or she wasn’t taking home for parents or grandparents?
The left in Wales has always bought into the shared experience.
Which explains why the Labour Party has always been the British establishment’s secret weapon and bulwark. The party of ‘King, Country, and a 40-hour week (but only if it’s agreeable to you, sir [doffs cap])’. A sell-out party.
In Wales, the fact that the Labour Party was largely built by non-Welsh migrants to the southern coalfield resulted in the party being contemptuous of Welshness, dismissing our ancestors as gibberish-speaking savages, their leaders as bandits, and even arguing that Wales didn’t exist before the Industrial Revolution.
It would be nice to think, after almost two decades of devolution, that the hostility to things Welsh was evaporating from what chooses to call itself the ‘Welsh Labour Party’. But no, it’s still there, and it surfaced again on May Day, with a piece in the Wasting Mule by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen.
The lengthy article trotted out the same old bigotry – Wales was nothing before the Industrial Revolution. Which also promotes the shared experience of industrialisation, far preferable to anything uniquely Welsh. Two for the price of one!
The Labour Party has betrayed Welsh people, it has betrayed the working class, and it has betrayed those communities that vote Labour. Which is exactly what it was intended to do. For a prosperous, confident Wales would be a threat to the Union, so Wales must be kept poor, and no one does that better than Labour.
We’ve had Labour on our backs for a century. Regrettably, what helps keep them there is more sincere socialists, and liberals deceiving themselves that the English Labour Party in Wales is ‘progressive’, and so they must align themselves with it against what they are told is the real enemy, in the form of the Conservatives.
Listen to me, and listen good. There is nothing ‘progressive’ about the Labour Party. It is the real enemy. The party attracts members motivated by self-interest and it operates like a Mafia, putting Labour interests above those of Wales, and defending the rackets of its colonial gravy train.
Perhaps what Wales needs at this juncture is a Welsh socialist party, one that concerns itself with Wales and Welsh interests. Because Plaid Cymru has failed in trying to satisfy everyone, and such a party could also attract the more sincere supporters of ELPiW.
For all those who need to be weaned off damaging BritNat socialism and the propaganda of the shared experience then the halfway house of a Welsh socialist party might fit the bill.
Welsh politics was recently rocked by the tragic death of Carl Sargeant, the Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside, who took his own life after being suspended by the party following allegations that he had behaved improperly towards women.
Understandably, with a man taking his own life over vague allegations that seem not to have been properly investigated, or even explained to him, the spotlight also fell on Carwyn Jones, the man who employed the alleged bullies and back-stabbers.
Feelings in Sargeant’s constituency party ran high, and it was no surprise when Carwyn Jones, First Minister of the ‘Welsh’ Government and leader of the Labour Party in Wales, was told by the family not to attend the funeral of a Labour Party Assembly Member.
I don’t know Jack Sargeant – I doubt if many do – but that doesn’t seem to matter; what does seem to matter is ‘honouring’ his dead father and sticking it to Carwyn Jones. Though how that is to be achieved without damaging the party Carl Sargeant loved is also open to question
Those reservations aside, the selection seems to have been largely welcomed among the bruvvers. Here’s a tweet from Peter Hughes who represents the trade union Unite in the South West Region (of England). For those unfamiliar with Unite, it seems to be a union popular with Labour politicians.
In the thank you speech he made last night young Jack made such play of being a local candidate for local people that I thought for a minute we were in Royston Vasey (League of Gentlemen). Which again, raises a question – for is Jack standing for the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party led by the hated Carwyn Jones or is he the candidate for some new and local incarnation of Labour? Perhaps even an Independent?
If elected, will Jack trot down to Cardiff and take the Labour whip, and orders from Carwyn Jones? If he does, then what was all the fuss about? And if he doesn’t, then the voters of Alyn and Deeside will have been duped into voting for what they believed was a Labour candidate.
Quite frankly, the selection of Jack Sargeant was pure theatre. A decision made on emotional grounds. Emotion, like anger and alcohol often results in decisions that are soon regretted.
Apart from being Carl Sargeant’s son in what other way is Jack Sargeant qualified to be the candidate and, most likely, the Assembly Member, for Alyn and Deeside?
The Royston Vasey theme continued with attacks from the Labour/Sargeant camp on other parties’ candidates for not being local. The Plaid Cymru candidate, Councillor Carrie Harper, was singled out for being from faraway Wrecsam.
Clearly, there is anger in the constituency over the way Carl Sargeant was treated by the Labour Party, so the obvious outlet for that anger would be to vote for any party other than Labour.
So is Labour being its traditional devious self by asking people to vote Labour . . . or rather, to vote for Jack Sargeant and forget that he’s the Labour candidate. For I guarantee that it will be the Sargeant name rather than ‘Labour Party’ that we’ll hear in the campaign.
We can but hope that what passes for the ‘Welsh media’ does it’s job between now and February 6th.
‘Tell us, Jack; if elected, will you shake hands with Carwyn Jones?’
‘Come to that – will you even be a member of the Labour group in the Assembly?’
‘You say that if elected you want to investigate the events leading up to your father’s death, but you must appreciate that the more waves you make the more damage you’ll do to the party your father loved.’
‘Apart from being your father’s son what qualifies you to be the candidate for Alyn and Deeside?’
‘Isn’t there a risk that your selection might be seen as a succession rather than as part of the democratic process?’
‘If elected, and after the anger has subsided, what will you have to offer the people of Alyn and Deeside?’
I expect Jack Sargeant to be elected. He will arrive in the snake-pit that is Cardiff Bay full of purpose . . . until emissaries for Carwyn Jones get to work on him. Avuncular arms will be felt on his young shoulders and messages intoned: ‘Terrible mistake . . . culprits will be punished . . . Carwyn didn’t know . . . lovely man, your dad, we all loved him . . . think of the party . . . Brexit . . . Tory bastards . . . ‘.
And we shall hear little more of young Jack Sargeant.
The alternative scenario is that the boy goes down to Cardiff with vengeance in his heart and causes chaos. The Labour Party in Wales splits along its Welsh/British fault line and politics in Wales suddenly becomes interesting.
I’ve been away. No, not in the pokey, or on holiday, but hors de combat due to a malfunctioning computer, one that had served me well for many a year but finally gave up the ghost. After first buying myself a dud – hoping I could replace my old one on the cheap! – I eventually splashed out on a tidy machine that might accompany me to that stage of life where I can walk around in slippers all day, dishevelled and with a vacant look on my face. (‘So what’s new, Jac?’)
While I’ve been away things have turned quite nasty in Llangennech over the language controversy at the local infants school. Or rather, the nasties behind the opposition to Welsh language education were exposed for pallying up to the English Defence League and for inviting down Neil Hamilton the Ukip AM (and of course his wife-minder).
Seeing as many of those opposing Welsh medium education are either Labour Party members, activists, or candidates in the May council elections the Ukip revelations didn’t do the bruvvers any favours. Action was belatedly taken after Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards wrote an open letter to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Had he not taken this course we would probably still be waiting for the deadbeats in Cardiff to act.
Inevitably, the Labour Party hit back, using the Wasting Mule and, more surprisingly, Private Eye. The former a regular and willing accomplice against ‘them nationalists’, the latter almost certainly misinformed. The outrage that followed the disgraceful Wasting Mule piece resulted in an apology the very next day, and I’m sure someone will put the Eye straight as well.
The day following the apology, Saturday the 25th, there was another article, this one making it clear there was no connection between the school dispute and incidents of tyre slashing in the village, as the original WM article had alleged. Though that original piece had been written by a woman who is said to have ‘a problem’ with the Welsh language. Which I suppose makes her an ideal Education Editor.
While I would love to have written up the daily revelations and developments from Llangennech and beyond I know I couldn’t have done it better than Cneifiwr, who has kept us informed of every twist and turn. I suggest you start with Jacques, Jacqueline & Neil on February the 11th and bring yourself up to date from there. Also worthy of mention is Caru Cymru, which may be a new blog, it’s certainly new to me.
Instead, I shall try to look beyond Llangennech in the hope of putting events there into a wider perspective . . . with a few digressions along the way. (Humour me!)
Before moving on, it’s worth linking to this essay by Dr Huw L Williams, which makes it clear that Labour’s hostility to the Welsh language is not currently confined to Llangennech. He suspects that Labour in Cardiff fears that Welsh medium education is less likely to provide voters for the party, and this explains the reluctance to meet the demand for Welsh medium education. Or, to put it another way, kids from bog-standard schools taught by unmotivated teachers are more likely to vote Labour.
Stripped of its various interpretations and grotesque characters Llangennech reaffirms what I have always known about the Labour Party in Wales. Anyone in any doubt about my feelings could do a lot worse than read Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, which I penned in March 2014.
As I argue there, to understand ‘Welsh’ Labour we need to go back a century or more, perhaps as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. Those decades when – to quote Gwyn Alf Williams – the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales could no longer meet the manpower demands of the industrial south, which resulted in Wales experiencing a great influx of workers from England and elsewhere, especially Ireland.
Up to this point the great majority of Welsh people, both those who remained in the rural areas and those who had left for the industrial belts, supported the Liberal Party, and this persisted into the twentieth century, but the Liberal Party was linked with the nonconformist chapels, which in turn tied in with the Welsh language. To further complicate matters there was Cymru Fydd, which pushed for some sort of Home Rule for Wales. All of which tended to make the Liberal Party unattractive to recent arrivals.
This hostility to the ‘Welsh’ Liberal Party was perfectly articulated by Alderman Robert Bird of Cardiff at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation when he declared “You will find, from Swansea to Newport, a cosmopolitan population who will not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas!”. Bird of course was English, and though a prominent nonconformist he opposed his own party’s policy of Disestablishment. I often think of the arrogance implicit in Bird’s statement, and of my eight Welsh-speaking great-grandparents living in and around Swansea, and the thousands upon thousands like them who did not belong to any “cosmopolitan population”, being more closely linked with their relatives in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.
Alderman Bird strikes me as yet another of those we’ve suffered throughout our history; people who know nothing about us, who don’t have our interests at heart, yet tell us what’s best for Wales.
The Labour Party found many converts among the English, the Irish and others simply because these found the Liberal Party to be ‘too Welsh’. Though this was never a black and white issue, many Welsh went over to Labour early on, and immigrants – though many fewer – took up the Liberal cause. For example, many of the Irish in southern Wales originally supported the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party before switching to Labour. Explained in this essay by socialist academic Dr Daryl Leeworthy.
(For some unfathomable reason I’m blocked from his Twitter account. Can you believe that! Infamy! Infamy! etc.)
From its early days this Labour Party of Englandandwales exhibited certain attitudes towards all things Welsh. At its worst it seemed that we Welsh were regarded no differently to other ‘primitives’ around the empire who had to be saved from themselves through stern paternalism. In our case, the best medicine was the English language, for many in the Labour Party agreed with the authors of the Blue Books who in 1847 had decreed that the Welsh language led us into all sorts of immorality while also impeding our educational and economic advancement.
As time passed it became convenient to pretend that almost all Welsh workers had embraced the Labour Party from the outset, but this was not true, as I recall from my own childhood. My paternal grandparents lived in Landore, and my grandfather, who’d worked at the Mannesmann tube works, was a deacon in Siloh Newydd. My grandmother’s working class credentials were equally impeccable. They supported the Liberal Party.
This was the 1950s, remember, and my grandparents’ rejection of the Labour Party was not unusual, even in a working class community like Landore. I concede that their adherence to the Liberals owed much to their age, their religious beliefs and the fact that they spoke Welsh. But that only tells us that there would have been many more like my mamgu and tadcu forty and fifty years earlier.
And I suspect that their parents might have agreed with Cymru Fydd rather than with Alderman Bird, their bollocks-spouting and self-appointed ‘representative’.
However it came about the decline of the Liberal Party and the unquestioned hegemony Labour achieved over the Welsh working class gave us the party we know today.
A ‘hybrid’ party still containing the twin strands of its early days: those who reject almost everything Welsh other than harmless, apolitical diversions such as sport, and the ‘Welsh’ element, which believes that Wales and Welshness extend beyond the rugby field.
This fault line has always resulted in ‘tensions’, but devolution, even the discussion of devolution, exposed the divide vividly. The campaign ahead of the devolution referendum in September 1997 brought out some of the worst anti-Welsh aspects of the Labour Party.
Neil Kinnock was particularly offensive, which may be understood, given his background, but his hysterical vilification of things Welsh was almost matched by his wife, who comes from a totally different, and Welsh, background. (A reminder of how the Labour Party can corrupt.) What we also see in Neil Kinnock is the ‘package’ I’ve referred to in other posts.
I think I first used the term after a visit to Pembrokeshire where I’d encountering the new county flag. When I made enquiries into its origin I saw a name with which I was familiar, a man who had campaigned against devolution, in 1979 and 1997, who had argued to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire!’ (because Dyfed was too Welsh) and had then helped devise a county flag to avoid flying the Ddraig Goch.
Show me someone who’s hostile to the Welsh language and I’ll show you someone who is probably opposed to devolution and almost anything likely to distinguish Wales from England – even if it will benefit Wales. In the 1979 devolution debate Neil Kinnock trotted out ridiculous stories of schoolchildren in Ynys Môn wetting themselves because they were unable to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet, coupling his contempt for the Welsh language with his opposition to devolution.
Alderman Bird was another. As a nonconformist and a Liberal he should have welcomed the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales. In rural areas poor, Liberal-supporting people were being forced to pay tithes to a church they did not attend in order to support clergymen who didn’t speak their language. And being evicted from their farms when they refused to pay the tithe. Yet Bird opposed Disestablishment, probably because he viewed it as being ‘a Welsh thing’.
A great-grandfather of my wife, a John Jones, was arrested for his part in the Llangwm riot of 1887. John was related by some convoluted route to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Newtown mail order pioneer. (We really should know more about Pryce from Llanllwchaiarn but, as he was a successful Welsh businessman who brought prosperity to his area, it serves the interests of both our colonial masters and our native leftists to ignore him.)
And so it is today in Llangennech. A gang of shouty, anti-Welsh bullies with strong links to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is opposing the teaching of Welsh – and don’t fall for the bullshit about ‘choice’, there are many English medium schools within easy travelling distance. Llangennech is on the outskirts of Llanelli, a large town.
For many people the most remarkable aspect of this saga is that people belonging to what many believe is still a socialist party should be so ready to mix with Ukip, and be quite open about it. Some of those opposed to Welsh language education in Llangennech have even flirted with elements further to the right. How do we explain this? I believe that as with most irrational fixations hatred for things Welsh clouds the judgement.
To understand that just follow the rantings of Jacques Protic, or someone like K Clements of Llangyfelach, who writes regularly to newspapers bemoaning the fact that we are starving and dying because of the billions spent on the Welsh language; his hatred for things Welsh is coupled with an intolerant Britishness usually confined to the extreme Right, Ibrox Park, and the Six Counties. Here he is, in a letter to the Evening Post, demanding that Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy be summarily executed for not singing GSTQ.
Another ‘hybrid’ party is of course Plaid Cymru. The dividing line here is between the nationalist/culturalist wing and the Green-socialists, with the latter in the ascendant for the past thirty years, to the detriment of the party, of Wales and of Welsh nationhood.
The reason Wales has suffered is because these eco-friendly leftists seem to have great difficulty focusing on Wales and Welsh issues. They’re forever trying to save the planet or else getting agitated over some issue far away over which they cannot possibly have any influence. Recent examples would the election of President Trump and the decision of the Welsh people to leave the European Union.
Many of this persuasion view their party as a regional outrider for ‘progressive’ forces elsewhere in Britain and beyond. Exemplified by this tweet by Leanne Wood I picked up on a few days ago. She’s responding to a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn, rebuking him by saying that they should “build alliances needed to defeat Tories”.
The realities are that Plaid Cymru has just three MPs in a 650-member House of Commons, so the chances of Plaid being an influential part of any anti-Tory coalition are slim. What’s worse is that here in Wales it’s not the Conservative Party that rules the roost but Labour; through its councillors, and its Third Sector, and the overpaid shysters to be found everywhere from academe to housing associations, all of them part of a system that has had almost a century to embed itself into, and corrupt, Welsh public life.
Yet Ms Wood and her ilk can blind themselves to all of this, for they view the Labour Party as fellow-socialists. Comrades in the crusade to cleanse Wales of initiative, pride and corrupting prosperity. For only through the begging bowl shall we attain the socialist nirvana of freedom from material possessions.
And of course, if we can’t afford to drive cars, or heat our homes, then Wales will be doing more than its share to save the planet, and that will please Plaid’s friends in the Green Party and the wider ‘environmental’ movement. They’ve got it all worked out!
Yes, I know, Plaid Cymru did eventually get involved in the Llangennech dispute, but they could hardly avoid it any longer seeing as the party had been targeted by the anti-Welsh crew, but even then Plaid waited until those clowns had shot themselves in the foot by inviting down the Hamiltons.
During my wee break I got to thinking about Llangennech and associated matters. I concluded that this is not really about language, or education; nor is it ideological or party political. To put it bluntly, this is a conflict of identities, a struggle that pits Welsh identity against an increasingly aggressive and intolerant English or British nationalism. (There is no meaningful distinction.)
These attacks on us and our identity come from both Left and Right, and indeed from those who otherwise regard themselves as liberal. As this recent tweet from Huw Edwards to Robert Peston reminds us. Which is why I say that ideology and party politics have no place in what must from now on be a national struggle fought on all fronts.
If we lose this struggle, then we lose our Wales; what will remain will be nothing but a hollowed-out geographical area called ‘Wales’, containing a couple of English provincial cities, a few other towns, post-industrial regions offering cheap housing for agencies relocating the rejects of England, and rural parts serving as recreation and retirement areas. In fact, this is the path Wales is already following.
But of course we’ll still have the ‘national’ rugby team, with the feathers on the shirt, so everything will be just fine.
Plaid Cymru, with its split personality, conflicting loyalties, and failure to focus on what matters, will not win this fight. Plaid Cymru won’t even join the fray for fear of upsetting the ‘liberals’ Huw Edwards talks of, and others with whom Plaid’s leadership has over the years become far too pally. Something new is needed.
This ‘something’ can only be effective if it is broad-based, national, free of ideology, and prepared to defend Wales, Welshness and Welsh interests against all threats. The first step must be trying to counter the pernicious influence of the BBC, ITV and the print media.
Which is why in future this blog may spend less time exposing lying politicians (of whom there are just too many) or crooks milking the public purse (ditto) to concentrate on the national picture and promote a nationalist message.
In my previous post I set out my reasons for voting to leave the European Union. I didn’t think I’d be on the winning side, but there you are.
On Thursday night I’d planned to watch the results programme for a bit and then head to bed around midnight. My expectations of defeat seemed to have been met with the announcement of a substantial rise in the value of the pound and bookies telling us that one of the horses in this race was en route to the knackers yard. It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage conceded defeat.
But then a different mood began to take hold as news filtered through that pollsters, bookies and other self-appointed interpreters of the public mood might have got it wrong. For it seemed that up in north east England, in Newcastle, and Sunderland, the unwashed were in revolt. Then the results started to arrive.
Newcastle, where the Remain campaign had expected a substantial majority, was 50 / 50. (Were they blaming the EU for the Toon getting relegated?) Then came Sunderland, where Leave achieved 61.3%. (But the Black Cats escaped relegation!) Some pundit reminded us that Sunderland has a big Nissan car plant, located there to access the European market, so why were people voting Leave. Cue for much tut-tutting and superior mutterings about voters being ‘uninformed’ (i.e. stupid). It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage ‘unconceded’, and had a celebratory pint.
As more results became known a picture emerged suggesting that results could be predicted with near-certainty by checking an area’s indicators of wealth – poor areas were voting to Leave, rich areas voting to Remain. There were of course exceptions, such as Liverpool (58.2% Remain), a result some attributed to the pro-Leave Sun newspaper being boycotted in that city. This may have played a part, but let’s not overlook the fact that Liverpool has received billions in EU funding, perhaps more than the Valleys. What’s more, in Liverpool people can see what the funding has been spent on, and by and large they approve.
Perhaps the divide in England was summed up with this article in the Guardian by John Harris headed, ‘If you’ve got money, you vote in . . . if you haven’t got money, you vote out’. The picture in Wales was almost identical; and yet, just a few short months ago Plaid Cymru was hoping for a substantial Remain majority to contrast Wales with England. (Making me wonder yet again what ‘Wales’ this lot claims to be the party of.)
During the night itself, the voice that stood out for me was that of John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw in north Nottinghamshire (to the east of Sheffield). Mann made it clear that the referendum had been largely won for Leave by Labour voters in the ‘forgotten’ post-industrial regions of England (and Wales) of which the metropolitan elite knows little and cares less.
A few others also saw the true picture, but these were a minority. I found this article from the Guardian by Mike Carter compelling, it details a meandering walk from Liverpool to London.
The picture in Scotland was the one we’d expected. Even so, it was strange to hear English Remain supporters blame the SNP for not getting enough of its support out, which – it was argued – might have swung the whole UK result. The claim seemed to be that because everyone knew which way Scotland would vote, many Scots Remain supporters stayed at home. In Glasgow, the largest authority, the turnout was just 56.2% (66.6% Remain), whereas in the September 2014 independence referendum the turnout was 75% (53.5% Yes).
In the North of Ireland the picture was rather more difficult to interpret because the two Unionist parties followed different courses. The Democratic Unionist Party (the party of the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley) urged its supporters to vote Leave, while the Official Unionist Party favoured Remain. Both Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party wanted to Remain. And of course, hovering over any political debate in that part of the world is the wider consideration of relations with Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
The result for the whole of the Six Counties was 55.8% Remain, telling us that many Unionists voted with nationalists and Republicans to stay in the EU. Though it’s unlikely that many of them would allow their referendum vote to be seen as support for a re-unified Ireland, which seems to be how Sinn Féin is choosing to interpret the result. Yet almost everyone views the return of a visible, patrolled border with the Republic as a dangerously retrograde step.
REACTIONS AND FALL-OUT
The chaos that has ensued is being attributed to a number of factors, with ‘uncharted waters’ being among the favoured analogies, and not just with those of a nautical bent. Of course it’s true; no one has ever been in this situation before so no one is quite sure what happens next. Certainly our politicians seem to be lost.
Though it’s significant that those who led the Brexit campaign – Farage excepted – seem to be backtracking. Strange behaviour for victors. They remind me of a gang of young tearaways who went to start a fire in their school but didn’t mean to burn the whole place down.
We can now divide the Brexiters into two camps (as indeed they split themselves during the referendum campaign). First, we have those who want to disengage from the EU but regard ‘losing’ Scotland and Ireland as too high a price to pay, hence the backtracking. These can be regarded as BritNats. While on the other hand we have those who want to go the whole hog and have an England independent of the EU, independent of Scotland and Wales, independent of just about everybody and everything. We could be unkind, but let’s call these the EngNats. They include the twat in this article who believes that Catholic Croatia is not part of Europe.
But what really struck me about the reporting of the referendum and its result was the uncomprehending anger of London commentators, luvvies and others who know less about the lives of people in Sunderland and Swansea than I do about yak herders on the Eurasian steppe. ‘How could they be so stupid?’ was their cry.
The BBC – wedded to the US-NATO-EU line I wrote of in my previous post – didn’t actually call those who voted Leave ‘stupid racist bastards’ . . . it was marginally more nuanced. Perfectly illustrated with the picture below for an article on the BBC website.
Some of course did not hold back. Among the more offensive Remainers I encountered was a John Niven; apparently he’s a Scottish writer now living in some Buckinghamshire slum. I can’t say I’ve read anything he’s written, and I certainly haven’t troubled Amazon since reading this asshole’s tweets.
The message from infuriated Remainers was consistently offensive, insulting and intimidating. This is the liberal elite at its worst – still feeling superior but angry and confused because its collective will has been thwarted by the untermensch. Summed up rather well by his article by Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator, The howl against democracy.
The ironies and paradoxes abound. Here we have a group that has for months demonised and belittled others as bigots, yet if poor whites qualified as a minority then the commentariat would be equally guilty of bigotry!
When the BBC wasn’t telling us that thick bastards non-graduates voted for Brexit, it was consulting opinion among groups thoroughly representative of the population. One such group was those attending the Glastonbury Festival, an event covered to an excessive degree by the Beeb. Unsurprisingly, the sons and daughters of the Corporation’s bigwigs and their friends were simply ‘devastated’ at the referendum result.
Just put yourself in the position of a single mother on hearing those views, perhaps a young woman bringing up two or three kids on a sink estate or a flat above a moneylender on a decaying High Street in a forgotten town. Will they make her regret voting Leave? No, but I’ll tell you what it will do, it’ll make her feel angry, hearing people who have so much, and can look forward to so much more, condemning her for her desperation.
Yet another example of hypocrisy. For while the liberal elite and the Leftists accuse those who voted Brexit of causing divisions it is they, who largely control the media, with their patronising bullshit about stupid poor people racists, that risks turning social divisions into yawning chasms.
Another popular theme was that of the young being deprived of their futures by selfish old gits. The Wasting Mule got in on the act with this piece from its Saturday edition. Dan Baker is nineteen years of age and studying in Paris. He believes that we who voted Leave have “succumbed to ignorance”. But then, Dan is 19, and knows everything.
So there you are – you’re stupid and racist for voting Leave, while the ‘more mature’ among us are thoroughly bloody selfish for not dying off pronto, as we would if we really cared about Dan and other deprived youths.
As in England, the insults were flying here too. One my attention was drawn to was a comment from an Englishman making a living out of covering Wales with wind turbines. (This link to his LinkedIn profile no longer works as the page has been removed. Possibly connected with Smith being reported to South Wales Police for a Hate crime.) Not only does he think the country that gives him a living is a pimple on the buttock of his homeland but he also re-tweeted another insult about us deserving a Darwin Award, given for stupidity by the kind of smart-arses who are now lashing out in all directions.
UPDATE 29.06.2016: Around 6pm on the 28th this appeared on Smith’s Twitter account.
I’ll conclude this section with another piece that appeared in the Mule, this one by regular columnist Carolyn Hitt. Now in the past I might have been a little unkind to Carolyn Hitt, lumping her with Jason ‘Jase’ Mohammad and the other bollocks-spouting muppets in our very own Cardiff bubble.
Carolyn Hitt wanted to tell us that she grew up in the Rhondda, an area that attracted migrants from all over, and that the referendum result had “shaken to the core” her “sense of self as a Welsh person”. Serious stuff. But then she goes and blows it all by arguing that in voting to leave the European Union “the majority of Welsh voters threw in their lot ideologically with Middle England”.
‘Middle England’, be buggered! Middle England voted to Remain. The kindest thing I can suggest is that Ms Hitt had not checked the map, or the results, before rushing into print.
THE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
Since the referendum result became known the UK has been in a state of political chaos. the only politician who seems to know what she’s about and what she wants is Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon.
Prime Minister Cameron stood down soon after the result was known and now there’ll be an election to choose his successor as Tory leader. As the new leader will lack a mandate he or she will almost certainly call a general election. The original hope seems to have been that this could be done at a leisurely pace without interfering too much with everyone’s summer holidays, but pressure from the EU seems to have speeded up the process and the new leader is expected to be in place by September 2nd. Boris Johnson is the front-runner, with Theresa May as the ‘Block Boris’ candidate.
We’ve always known that the Conservative Party in Westminster is split on Europe, but what this referendum exposed is how detached from its traditional support the irredeemably metropolitan Labour Party has now become. Made obvious by the fact that those areas that voted most heavily to Leave are areas where Labour has dominated for decades.
Now the prospect of a general election before the year’s out has concentrated Labour MPs’ minds and they have turned on their hapless leader Jeremy Corbyn who, they believe, could never win an election . . . which would of course result in many Labour careerists losing their seats. The problem is that while Corbyn may lack support among MPs he has the backing of party activists, many of whom are Leftist agitators and activists who took over the Labour Party around a year ago to elect him leader.
So we have the Labour Party itself split between members and representatives, with a third element being the Labour voters who chose to leave the EU last Thursday against the advice of the party. These disillusioned voters have no truck with the comrades and little faith in the MPs. Consequently, the Labour Party is in one hell of a mess – and I haven’t even mentioned Scotland, where the Labour Party, for so long dominant, is almost dead and buried.
The picture is different in London, where the vote to stay in the EU was 59.9%. This can be explained by greater wealth, the presence of the liberal elite / Leftist types who now control the Labour Party, plus of course large numbers of immigrants. London may have provided good news for the pro-EU campaigners but it also tells us how divided England has become.
Here in Wales, Cardiff, which has long sought mini London status, grabbing all the goodies for itself, achieved that ambition last Thursday when 60% of its voters chose to Remain against a national figure of just 47.5%. Two capitals unrepresentative of the countries that support them.
The vote in Wales so outraged the youth of Cardiff that many thousands a few dozen were persuaded to take part in a ludicrous march on the Notional Assembly, among their demands were a second referendum (and a third if that was lost), tattoos on the NHS, and votes for foetuses (possibly eggs). Though I didn’t spot Dan Baker among them. Perhaps the poor boy is in his Paris garret drowning his sense of betrayal with glass after glass of pastis.
It only remains to discuss Plaid Cymru. When the full horror of the defeat dawned on the party leadership the immediate response from leader Leanne Wood was to propose a Labour-Plaid coalition. A response typical of those for whom Plaid Cymru is an alternative socialist party rather than a nationalist party. This suggestion was quickly dropped as opposition from within the party mounted.
Though on the weekend immediately following the referendum, when we might have expected the Plaid Cymru leadership to be monitoring and debating a constantly changing situation and planning ahead, Leanne Wood and Jill Evans MEP, were attending a two-day feminist event in Cardiff, and there were other Plaid wimmin there as well.
The latest news seems to be that Plaid is belatedly trying to emulate the Scottish National Party, but it may be too late. I say that because the SNP has for years been appealing directly to the Scottish people, in direct competition with the Labour Party, to the point where it was eventually able to supplant Labour; whereas Plaid Cymru has farted about with Greens, ‘feminists’, and other cross-border ‘progressives’, only focusing on Labour and Wales when forced to do so at election times, and then, almost apologetically.
There will be no clean break with the European Union, things will get very messy from now on, and for the obvious reasons. There may be no break at all.
Just about every pillar of the UK establishment supported the Remain campaign, and they won’t give up without a fight. (A fight most of us will not even realise is happening.) So we can expect increasing calls for a second referendum, perhaps after the general election. (It will be interesting to see what is in the manifestos.) And already we are being reminded that the referendum result is not binding, it was a ‘consultative’ exercise. With most MPs in favour of EU membership that opens up another route for the Remainers.
Even so, there will still be dangerous divisions and tensions between London and the rest of England, tensions that have been obvious for some time, prompting initiatives such as HS2 and talk of a ‘Northern Powerhouse‘, which as we know plans to absorb and assimilate northern Wales. Initiatives that might benefit Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds – all of which voted Remain (though only just in the case of Newcastle and Leeds) – but will do little for Hull, Plymouth, Carlisle, Peterborough, Barnsley, Isle of Wight, Stoke, Dagenham, Wolverhampton, Doncaster, Dartford, Blackpool and countless other smaller cities and towns that voted decisively Leave.
I have already dealt with the divide between England and Scotland. While UKIP and other EngNats might be resigned – even glad – to see Scotland go the BritNats will do all in their power to hang on to the country. So expect to hear promises of a ‘federal structure’ for Britain, which might – as with devolution – see Wales offered the same as Scotland to avoid showing fear of the SNP.
It seems that politics in Englandandwales – as in the USA and continental Europe – is moving to the Right. For few of those who voted Remain did so for the noble and altruistic reasons the metropolitan elite and the commentariat ascribe to themselves – most voted to stay in the EU out of perceived self-interest. City traders in their Cotswold retreats who voted Remain and former steel workers in Ebbw Vale who voted Leave were driven by a very similar impulse.
The next general election could be a choice between the English Centre Right and the English Extreme Right, BritNats and EngNats. Scotland will of course be insulated by the SNP and slowly extricating herself from this threatening mess (perhaps helped by the EU). Wales’ defence however will be limited to a rump Labour Party made up of careerists and mediocrities, a temporarily resurgent Hard Left, and Plaid Cymru. Which is really no defence at all.
So I say, yes, by all means capitalise on the current chaos, but what Wales really needs is a national movement promoting independence for the right reasons, rather than some ad hoc alliance formed in reaction to Brexit that will fall apart once the threat passes. A national movement unconcerned with the views of metropolitan ‘progressives’ and concentrating solely on defending and promoting Welsh interests.