As from next week Scotland will have just one police force dealing with everything from Glasgow gangsters to Shetlands’ sheep rustlers. Scotland, with approaching twice the population of Wales and almost four times the land area. Here in Wales we shall plod on justifying four separate police forces on the grounds that Holyhead is nothing like Fishguard, while Llangollen and Brecon might as well be on different planets. OK, so policing is not a devolved issue. But it should be; and it could have been if New Labour had given us a more respectful and workable form of devolution.
As with police forces, so with our 22 councils, a system that has run out of defenders yet staggers along because the Labour Party fears the consequences of culling so many of its councillors. Then there are 7 health boards (plus their impotent ‘shadows’, the health councils). How can the Welsh Management argue it is building a national health service when it fragments decision-making so that those responsible for health in one region look over the border rather than seek, or demand, solutions within Wales?
And how can we ignore the Third Sector? In answer to an FoI I was recently told that the Welsh Management is funding no fewer than 30 schemes across the country ‘helping people back into employment’. Do we really need 30 such schemes in a country the size of Wales? Why not put that money into creating real jobs rather than using it to disguise the fact there are so few jobs . . . and to hell with the hangers-on in the Third Sector, however loyal they may be to Labour.
One issue here is clearly unnecessary duplication. A problem that is almost inevitable in a country dominated by an outdated Statist ethos. For why have one person doing a job when you can have two, and thereby create the illusion of two jobs? A system administered by politicians and others who are good at spending money but have no idea how to generate it, beyond begging.
Responsible for this mess (at least within Wales) is the Labour Party, today driven by little more than the political equivalent of an ancient blood-feud, revived periodically to remind voters of how evil the Tories are. About the only other thing helping Welsh Labour hang on to its vote is the distance it manages to keep – in the public imagination if nowhere else – between itself and its ideology-free masters in London. Done by keeping Wales poor, blaming someone else, then, ostentatiously managing the poverty it must perpetuate to maintain its political grip. The poverty that is then used to justify the colonial relationship with England. As the flowchart explains.(Click to enlarge.)
Having saved most of our people from the corrupting influence of prosperity, and convinced too many of them that the noblest ambition is humbly accepting poverty, in a colony that can aspire to nothing more, the brothers and sisters then frolic and posture on the moral high ground, from where they survey their fiefdom, ‘Caring Wales’. Where everyone is welcome, and everything will be paid for . . . for something will turn up.
(In fact, if you want to delve into literature to explain this Welsh Government then Wilkins Micawber, hoping something will turn up, and Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers, are almost unavoidable. Carwyn Micawber and Edwina DuBois?)
But over the horizon I see threats to this idyll. One being that down in the amoral lowlands of Tory England plans are afoot that might prove a test for Labour’s vision. David Cameron has promised legislation to deny social housing to immigrants until they have lived in England for at least 2 years. If enacted, this legislation would apply only to England. So what will be the Welsh Management’s response? The immediate impulse will be to flaunt their moral superiority by not enacting similar legislation. Which will mean . . . what?
Well, if you’re coming from Bangladesh, then no doubt you’d prefer to move to an English city where there are other Bangladeshis. But if the only social housing available is in Bargoed or Blaenau Ffestiniog, then some will inevitably settle for those towns. Pretty soon, the Welsh Management and its cronies in the Third Sector will realise that the moral high ground can be a very expensive neighbourhood. Unless, of course, the UK Government – partly to offload a few ‘problems’ and partly in order to hold Wales up as an example of why not to vote Labour – is prepared to fund it all. For keeping Wales poor serves the interests of both Conservatives and Labour. Knowing they have no chance of winning a majority in Wales the Tories may even view funding Labour’s lunacies as money well spent.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Wales is potentially a very wealthy country. That we are poor today is due to the colonial relationship with England, aided by the corruption and self-interest of the Labour Party, and ‘policies’ such as actually funding our ‘brain drain’! Yet unfortunately Labour faces no real threat, because the party that once hoped to topple Labour has revised down its ambitions. The best it hopes for now is to be a very junior partner to the party destroying Wales. Which means the opposition must come from somewhere else
Following on from the previous post I have now written to the Welsh Government asking that the Mynydd y Gwair project be ‘called in’ due to the many irregularities attaching to the February 7th vote and other, linked issues.
For if the Council’s legal officers strongly advised Councillor Ioan Richard (of the affected ward) to absent himself from the debate then there were a number on the other side as obviously predetermined to vote in favour as Councillor Richard was to vote against, so were they given the same advice? And if so, why were they allowed to ignore that advice? All explained in the letter here. A further copy, with a covering letter, has been sent to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
Looking at the wider picture, the Mynydd y Gwair case, and what I’ve learnt about the state of the Swansea Labour Party in the past couple of weeks, it fits in with a wider picture of the Labour Party in Wales. It is a party increasingly reliant upon a regular influx of non-Welsh candidates in order to keep up the appearance of strength. What’s interesting, is how it achieves and maintains that influx.
I began this series of posts with a fit of nostalgia by recalling the Labour Party I knew back in Swansea when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s. Few of our local councillors and activists impressed me in a positive way, but at least I knew them. I knew who they were. Or if I didn’t, then the chances were that my father knew them, or worked with one of the Brother’s brothers. Most Labour councillors of that era started their political careers in the trade unions, blue collar trade unions catering for the working classes.
Despite their many shortcomings no one could argue that our local councillors did not know their patch, and did not want the best for Swansea. Looking back to those days, the Labour Party I knew back then was, through the trade unions and other activities, part and parcel of the lives and experiences of those who supported the party. Not so today.
THE ‘PAINTED SHELL’ PARTY
I have chosen this metaphor because the more I think of today’s Labour Party the more I see an empty but cleverly decorated shell where once there had been something less attractively adorned but with more content. A party today still able to rely on the ‘donkey’ vote, but with the problem that ‘donkey’ voters rarely join the party, let alone become candidates. Thus leaving Labour dependent on other avenues for many of its representatives.
One route for that supply, obvious when we consider Swansea, is higher education. With two universities and a few other colleges the higher education sector is a valuable source of council candidates for Labour in Swansea. This applies elsewhere in Wales and may go some way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government is so keen on giving Wales a higher education sector grotesquely and damagingly in excess of what a small country needs.
Then, when we look at another route, the Third Sector, and strip away all the political correctness and touchy-feely nonsense, what we see is naked politics. An overlarge Third Sector such as we suffer in Wales attracts a steady inflow of individuals to take advantage of sinecures, jobs and funding handed out by the party they belong to or support.
Making the Third Sector a system of political patronage, plain and simple. Nothing more than a party in power with money to disburse rewarding its friends and supporters. This kind of mild corruption is found all over the world, but it’s rare to find it practised so blatantly in Protestant Europe. In return for this largesse the Labour Party has a ready supply of candidates.
Which means that since the first round of EU Objective One funding in 2000 the Welsh economy and the welfare of our people have taken a back seat to the Labour Party’s ‘patronage-results-in-candidates’ system. That’s bad enough, but understandable in a selfish kind of way. What’s unforgivable is that both the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have supported this corruption . . . and being the unprincipled chancers or deluded ‘socialists’ they are, would do so again, tomorrow, given the opportunity.
Something else that struck me as I trawled through the available information on Swansea’s new intake of Labour councillors was how many of them belonged to trade unions. Or rather, a single trade union, Unite. And how many are members of the Co-operative party. Which provides another stark contrast with the days of my youth.
For I recall horny-handed sons of toil (unless of course they were shop stewards) who belonged to the TGWU or the NUR, and who drank in the Dockers Club. But today’s skinny latte Labour Party, to maintain the pretence of a link with the hoi-polloi, has union representation from a white collar union that has as members people who’ve never done what most people would regard as work! Somehow I can’t see their names being stitched onto the union banner by candlelight prior to the dawn assault on the bastions of capitalist oppression.
This final observation (no, not the candlelight stitching) brings me to the ugly reality of professional politicians; which is where academe, Third Sector and white collar unions inexorably takes us. To the realisation that we now have a class of people – especially within the Labour Party – who got involved in student politics then, on leaving university became an ‘adviser’ to an MP or AM, or worked for a trade union or a grant-guzzling Third Sector body and, then, without venturing into the ‘real world’ inhabited by un-networked mortals like thee and me, go on to ‘represent’ us in our local authority, or else in Cardiff, London or Brussels.
Throw in the loose canon or crank who nevertheless knows how to play the selection process and you can understand how the Labour Party on Swansea City Council is what it is today: a repulsive collection of carpetbaggers, trendies, oddballs and single-issue obsessives exploiting the indigenous ‘donkey’ vote in order to serve constituencies such as the GLBT community.
I leave you all to consider this. Due to the assorted machinations listed above it could be that the Conservative Party is today, for the first time ever, more representative of the Welsh nation than the Labour Party.
UPDATE 27.02.2013: More information has come to light that has resulted in me making another complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. To explain.
Just before Christmas all Swansea’s councillors received a copy of a book, The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington. The book was sent by the organisation leading the resistance to the Mynydd y Gwair wind turbines, SOCME (Save Our Common Mountain Environment).
One councillor, young John Charles Bayliss (who has cropped up here quite often of late!) was mightily unimpressed with this Yuletide gift. So unimpressed that he was moved to tweet. My interpretation of this tweet is as follows. The reference to “coal” I take to mean that the book should be burned. “#Scientificallyilliterate” is probably his opinion of those who sent the book, or possibly Dr. Etherington. While “#BuggerOff” can only be his response to those who kindly sent him the book. Such ingratitude! (The picture referred to in the tweet is simply the front cover of the book with the SOCME complimentary slip.)
This tweet for me is proof positive that as early as December 11th (and almost certainly long before) Bayliss was predetermined to vote in favour of wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair. That being so, John Charles Bayliss is another councillor who should not have voted on February 7th.
When I was growing up in Swansea the Labour Party seemed to be everywhere, through the presence of its members and supporters in just about every organisation in the locality. Not least the local council. Though this influence was not confined to the public sector and local government; for at times it was difficult to determine who controlled some local companies, was it those who, nominally, owned these companies, or was it the trade unions? Whatever the answer, jobs, homes, and other ‘favours’ could be gained by knowing a local foot soldier; while being on friendly terms with a ‘capo’ could open many doors.
As I got to know our local Labour activists I found most of them very unattractive. (Maybe I was too idealistic. Or perhaps my standards of personal hygiene were too high.) But for whatever reason, they came across as grubby little men, drunk on what power they possessed, and determined to show off, or abuse, that power at every opportunity. They could mouth the class war slogans but the lack of deeper political understanding was obvious once the debate moved beyond slogans and rehearsed arguments. Equally obvious was the absence of principle. Most seemed driven by greed and envy. I often thought that they didn’t really want to raise up the masses so much as bring down the ‘nobs’. And if they’d won the football pools, or been left a tidy sum by Auntie Bessie in Chicago, then it would have been a case of, ‘The working class can kiss my arse . . .’. In other words, they were victims of circumstance, unhappy with their lot, looking for easy answers . . . and nothing provides more easily digestible answers for the uncomprehending ‘victims of the system’ than socialism.
These thoughts have come to me a few times recently as my attention has been drawn to the composition of the Labour Party in Swansea today. The most striking thing is the almost total absence of class warriors. Strange, really, when one considers that the gulf between rich and poor is greater today than at any time in recent history. The cloth caps have been replaced with the kind of headgear favoured by Afghans or Andean peasants. At times it seems not so much New Labour as New Age Labour.
The Leader is a Liverpudlian and there are many other councillors from outside Wales, even an Austrian. There are students fresh out of college, one from California. Then there are students who graduated in earlier years, including one who lists among his Interests “my beloved West Bromwich Albion”! There are also academics among the Labour group, making it clear that Swansea’s centres of higher education are a vital source of recruits for the local Labour Party. Another Labour councillor, born in Southend, is glad to be “back by the sea once more”. Ah, that’s nice.
One of the young ex-students, elected last year for a bedsit land ward on the west side of the city seems to be solely interested in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans-sexual (GLBT) matters, if his Twitter account is anything to go by. And this, ‘pet issues’ approach to politics, is found throughout the group. Making the controlling Labour group on Swansea council look like an eclectic collection of individuals held together by a belief that they represent ‘progressive’ elements that only the Labour Party can accommodate. Another interpretation would be that the Swansea Labour Party has lost out in a Faustian pact to people who have now taken over its organisation, structures and soul to promote their own agendas.
Don’t get me wrong, a little outside blood is always beneficial, whether to improve the breeding stock, or to introduce new thinking, but there comes a point beyond which the balance tips and the new element ousts the old. This is what appears to be happening with the Swansea Labour Party. It’s almost as if New Labour’s practice of ‘parachuting’ favourites into safe seats has reached down to ward level. Perhaps it has, for a number of these thrusting, ex-student councillors work for local MPs and AMs. A word in the right ear?
Now of course, even if the Labour group was made up entirely of persons born and bred in Swansea, lifelong Swans fans, etc., etc., these would still have their pet subjects, their hobby-horses, but at least they would know and be committed to the city of Swansea. When there are so many in the ruling group on the city council that a) don’t really know or understand the area and b) are pursuing their own agendas, then we have to ask how well that city can possibly be served by such an administration.
And when we add Swansea Labour’s profile to the well-documented – even award-winning (Private Eye) – troubled councils of Carmarthenshire, Ynys Môn, Caerffili and Wrecsam . . . and when we consider rule by cabinet, or the dictatorship of a chief executive; and when we spread this over the absurd number of twenty-two local authorities in a country of just three million people, then we realise that Welsh local government isn’t just in a mess, it needs to be dismantled and built again from scratch. And among the many changes so desperately needed, why not insist on ten years residence in an area before anyone can stand for the local council?
And yet, knowing Swansea as I do, and Wales, and the origins of the Labour Party, maybe what we see in Swansea today is simply the clock being turned back. Let me explain. I grew up in what amounted to a localised one-party state; yet from my grandparents and people of their generation I came to learn that what I regarded as the established order was, to them, something relatively recent in origin. And not entirely welcome.
In the nineteenth century we Welsh supported the Liberal Party, even when most of us were denied a vote. This loyalty was taken with them by rural immigrants to the industrial areas (like four of my great-grandparents, who came up from Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire). Inevitably, the ‘human reservoir’ of south west Wales eventually began to dry up; so by the end of the century the workers needed in the southern industries came increasingly from England’s western counties, Ireland, and beyond. This new wave of immigrants found the Liberal Party less attractive than their Welsh workmates; for to them the Liberal Party was part of a ‘package’ that took in the Welsh language and the nonconformist chapels. This new element in Welsh society rejected that ‘package’ and looked for another political party. It arrived with amazingly good timing in the form of the Labour Party.
Which resulted in many of the older Welsh people in the industrial south in the first half of the twentieth century, especially – but not exclusively – those with roots in the Welsh-speaking rural areas, still regarding the Labour Party as something ‘alien’. For it had no Welsh ‘roots’, Labour had merely appropriated the Merthyr Rising, the Chartist Rebellion in Newport, and other specifically Welsh events as heralds of its own Coming. Ignoring the uncomfortable facts that Dic Penderyn may not have spoken English, and that the Newport Chartists called for a Silurian Republic. Labour to many people of my grandparents’ age and background was an English-Irish concoction that had displaced ‘their’ party. Of course this perception had weakened over time, as Welsh people joined the party. Yet even though they themselves may now have voted Labour – due to it having become the only viable opposition to the Tories – they still felt a certain pang of guilt, knowing that their parents and grandparents would have disapproved.
From the other side, due to its non-Welsh roots, and its rejection of the ‘package’, there was always within the Labour Party, particularly in the south east, a lurking suspicion of Welshness, with undisguised anti-Welshness often breaking to the surface. This has persisted to the present day. It goes a long way to explaining why a Welsh Government refuses to manage Wales in the interests of the Welsh. It explains the squandering of precious funding on the Third Sector shysters of the ‘Poverty Industry’. It explains the defeat of devolution in 1979. It goes a long way to explaining why Wales has no financial institutions of her own, few indigenous industries, and a colonial relationship with England. Only a political party with the origins and outlook of ‘Welsh’ Labour could facilitate and celebrate the exploitation of Welsh resources by arguing that to do otherwise would be to give in to ‘narrow nationalism’.
I didn’t intend to give a history lesson here, but maybe Welsh people, inside and outside the Labour Party, should better understand this schizophrenic monster that bestraddles our country. And remember that for every Cledwyn Hughes there was a Neil Kinnock. For every Gwilym Prys Davies a George Thomas. Of course, this will mean nothing to those I started off writing about. Which, I suppose, proves my point.
UPDATE 08.02.13 Last night Swansea council voted to allow wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair on the northern outskirts of the city. During the debate it was argued that Mynydd y Gwair is a valuable recreation area, where people can walk and enjoy the views looking up towards the Brecon Beacons or out over the Severn Sea. One Labour councillor disagreed. In her Llansamlet ward people can’t afford cars, and so are unable to reach Mynydd y Gwair, which she seemed to think was reserved for rich people with 4 x 4s.
The land in question is owned by the Duke of Beaufort, one of the richest men in England, who owns a great deal of land around Swansea. Four years ago he was paid £280,000 by Swansea council for graciously allowing a new footbridge over the River Tawe, near the Liberty Stadium. The Mynydd y Gwair turbines will be erected – and the subsidies milked – by the massive German company RWE. So to spite the protesting local rich folks – in reality, farmers with old pick-ups grazing sheep on the mountain – the Swansea Labour Party decided to destroy a beauty spot and in so doing further enrich an English lord and a German multinational.
This defeat of the Welsh is doubtless being celebrated today by the brothers and sisters of Swansea’s English Labour Party. They can crack open another bottle of organic llama piss and congratulate themselves on ensuring that in the years ahead vast sums of money will be pumped to such deserving and needy recipients. While those poor souls in Llansamlet, condemned to poverty and public transport, will be paying for it all through rocketing electricity bills.