Carwyn Jones the Betrayer

INTRODUCTION

Just over six months ago, in early November, the world must have looked a very pleasant place to Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales.

For he’d reached the top of the pile; he was leader of Labour Party in Wales, the Assembly and, by extension, Wales itself, which he managed on behalf of the London government.

This allowed him to puff and posture – at which he is most adept – as if he was the beloved leader of some newly emerged country. It may not have been carpets of rose petals greeting every public appearance but most people thought him a decent enough fellow even if they disagreed with his politics.

Plaid Cymru certainly trusted him enough to continue the coalition it had negotiated with his predecessor Rhodri Morgan and, when that coalition ended in 2011, to continue supporting the Labour Party on almost all crucial votes.

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For was he not a worthy successor to Rhodri Morgan, and a trusted custodian of Ron Davies’s ‘process’? Did he not inherit the mantle of Aneurin Bevan and yet also represent twenty-first century Labour? Was he not known to the Cymric masses simply as ‘Carwyn’? Did he not love his rugby, and a good pint? Was he not therefore a ‘Tidy bloke, mun’.

So assured of his authority was this master mariner on the clear red water, so cloudless was his horizon, that one day, and quite suddenly, he broke off from thinking of names he might adopt when he was ennobled (as he most assuredly would be).

For under malign influences he decided to exercise his authority with a reshuffle of his cabinet. Which is when the clouds started gathering for Carwyn Jones.

CARL SARGEANT

On Friday November 3rd the reshuffle was announced, and among those dumped from the cabinet was Carl Sargeant, until then Secretary for Communities and Children. Sargeant was also suspended from the party over allegations of improper behaviour towards women. Allegations that were never explained to the accused man. Four days later Sargeant was found dead at his Flintshire home. It was suicide.

Soon the news emerged that politicians and journalists had known of Sargeant’s removal before the man himself was informed. These leaks were due to the incestuous relationship Carwyn Jones’s staff has with public affairs agency Deryn Consulting and others.

As I made clear in an earlier post, Sargeant was, like us all, a flawed human being, but the allegations that got him sacked were concocted within a loose network of wimmin extending from Cardiff Bay into the third sector and other poisonous environments wherein may be found self-styled ‘progressives’. These creatures, of assorted sexual proclivities and identifications, call themselves feminists, but this is just a cover to play mind games, mess up people’s lives, and destroy careers.

Many of them are the same females responsible for similar lies told about AM Neil McEvoy.

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In the Alyn and Deeside by-election held on February 6th Carl Sargeant’s son, Jack, unsurprisingly retained the seat for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn, the UK Labour leader, visited the constituency, but not Carwyn Jones, who had been warned by Sargeant’s family and friends to stay away.

Since then Carwyn Jones has fought to keep the evidence from emerging which would prove that a) the allegations providing the excuse to sack Sargeant were without foundation, and b) the news of Sargeant’s sacking was leaked from his office.

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Carl Sargeant’s death is proceeding very slowly, and if things go according to plan, then the findings will be made public after Carwyn Jones stands down at the 2021 elections, and Labour is returned to power.

Jones has already announced his retirement as leader of the party with a leadership contest now under way that, if nothing else, exposes the paucity of talent in Plaid Tlodi (Poverty Party).

The conspiracy that led to the death of Carl Sargeant and the subsequent cover-up have reminded us what a repulsive milieu devolution has created in Cardiff Bay.

A little world unto itself in which unelected and unaccountable people influence politicians and policy making; where people flit between politics, third sector bodies and PR companies as if they are moving between different parts of the Welsh body politic. Which unfortunately they are.

And yet, politicians, especially of left-leaning parties, delight in this arrangement, they relish the advantages of having allies beyond the Assembly chamber who can be used to attack anyone they want attacked, even in their own party. Carl Sargeant was a victim of this system.

Carwyn Jones has sat, like a big fat spider, at the heart of this web of whispers and back-stabbing, enjoying its benefits, for almost a decade. We can but hope that justice will now be served, for Carl Sargeant and for Wales.

PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE

The first most of us knew about the decision to rename the Second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge came on April 5th with an announcement from our small but perfectly formed Secretary of State, Alun Cairns.

The reaction was swift and almost universally hostile. A petition was started which raised over 38,000 signatures. But what did Carwyn Jones have to say on the matter?

When pressed, the response from a ‘Welsh’ Government spokesman was: “Alun Cairns wrote to the FM about the naming of the bridge last year and we didn’t raise any objections.” So we were asked to believe that Carwyn Jones had simply gone along with the idea, perhaps reluctantly accepting it as a fait accompli.

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But then, in response to a FoI request from BBC Wales, we learnt that far from merely acquiescing to this squalid bit of sycophancy he had replied to Cairns: “I welcome the idea to rename the crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge . . . I stand by to be involved in the official renaming ceremony . . . I would be grateful if your officials could liaise with my Diary Secretary on the arrangements for the ceremony”.

The fat spider was jumping up and down with excitement!

(Should he call himself Lord Prince of Wales Bridge? Or had that little bastard Cairns booked the title for himself? Never mind . . . it would be a wonderful day, the sun would shine, thousands of people would turn out to wave and cheer. Then he could wind down to a cushy retirement, Father of the Nation status, peerage, memoirs, film rights . . . )

With this episode, the reputation of Carwyn Howell Jones unravels a little more. It exposes him yet again as a scheming, self-serving, two-faced politician.

But so quintessentially Labour.

BREXIT DEAL

One of the fall-outs from the June 2016 vote to leave the EU was that the UK government sought to hang onto powers that would be ‘repatriated’ from the EU, powers that should be devolved to Scotland and Wales. Initially, there was united opposition to this move from Scotland and Wales.

Carwyn Jones swore to be Nicola Sturgeon’s bestest friend and staunchest ally. Though as a great admirer of Sturgeon I’m sure she realised early on that once he’d had his little fit of bravado, once he could claim to have won ‘concessions’ from London, he would do what everyone knew he’d do before the curtain went up – surrender.

‘Nae fond kiss, and then we sever’

For Carwyn Jones is good at showboating, good at sniping and bullying; but beneath it all he’s a lazy, thin-skinned man of straw.

Even so, Carwyn Jones might have got away with his surrender to London were it not for the fact that his boss, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, fatally undermined him by supporting Scottish Labour’s support for the SNP Government against what Corbyn quite unambiguously described as a “Whitehall power grab“.

Added to the egg from the bridge disclosure Corbyn’s intervention now gave us the makings of a family-sized omelette on the Jones visage.

And not for the first time we have the Labour Party in different parts of the island saying different things. Reminding us that Labour is often vociferous and principled on certain matters . . . when it’s in opposition. When in power it tends to forget the promises it made when in opposition.

For example, it’s official UK Labour policy to do away with zero-hour contracts, but in Wales Labour has refused seven times to implement Labour Party policy. The word is hypocrisy.

So quintessentially Labour.

CONCLUSION

Plaid Tlodi might seem to be in a very strange place at the moment, and yet, there’s nothing really strange about it when you realise this is how it must be when a devolved system of government is managed by a party unenthusiastic about devolution and unwilling to make it work lest it stirs unwelcome passions.

Which leaves Labour in the impossible position of telling us it’s ‘defending Wales’ while opposing anything that might make Wales a better country, for that would involve legislation that would make Wales too different from England.

Then there is the added incentive that the poorer Wales is the more votes that are piled up for Labour – but only for as long as enough voters are stupid enough to blame the Tories for all Wales’ woes.

It’s all done to confuse, but lately Labour seems to be confusing itself.

Which might explain why we were recently treated to the bizarre spectacle of Labour MP for Llanelli Nia Griffith and her AM counterpart Barry Lee Waters protesting against the downgrading of the town’s hospital – in other words, protesting against their own party!

‘Will they fall for it?’

But there can be no confusion about the general direction of travel since Brexit made it clear to Labour that a majority of its supporters are, to varying degrees, xenophobes, and that these greatly outnumber the combined hard left, ‘Islington’ and ethnic minority votes. Resulting in a split party.

Without stretching things too far a comparison can be made with the Democratic Party in the USA in the 1960s and ’70s. Embittered Southern whites had voted Democrat for a century after the Civil War because Lincoln had been a Republican; which found them in the same party as liberals, ethnic minorities, hippies and others many of them would willingly have lynched.

Them old Southern Democrats, them good ole boys. Happy Days!

I’m not sure if Carwyn Jones is a fan of the Marx Brothers, but one of Groucho’s quips seems so appropriate, both for him and for his party: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others”.

Carwyn Jones’ semestris horribilis has left him discredited and his party floundering. The rest of us laughing. Can he really hang on until 2021? Personally, I don’t much care whether he hangs on or steps down, for he has damaged his party badly, while his own reputation is irrevocably tarnished.

So I can’t see publishers fighting to give him an advance on his memoirs now, and as for the blockbuster with George Clooney playing, ‘Carwyn! – the man who shat on everybody!’ well, it’s a non-starter. A guest appearance on Jonathan is about the best he can hope for now.

That said, he’s probably improved his chances of a peerage. Which for him, is probably a good result.

What more do you need to know about Wales, and our relationship with England? Or about the Labour Party? Or about Carwyn Jones?

♦ end ♦

Labour: The End is Nigh

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

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

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

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

OWEN SMITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen Smith expenses

THE KINNOCK FAMILY AND FRIENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenys Kinnock tweet

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

Forsyth is now Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

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

Mrs Kinnock StCF bio

LABOUR AND THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

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

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

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

Johanna Kinnock Atlantic College

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

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

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

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

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

Johanna Kinnock Graduation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DOWN HOME ANALOGY

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

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

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

Hank Williams

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

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

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

BANANA REPUBLIC SANS BANANAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New, Old, Same Old Labour

A GUEST POST ON THE POLITICAL CLASS OF CARMARTHENSHIRE, NOW BEING USED BY WOULD-BE TYRANTS EVERYWHERE TO PROVE THAT DEMOCRACY IS A CRUEL DECEPTION

 

Jeremy Corbyn may have won the Labour leadership contest, and Labour may have seen an unexpectedly large influx of new members, but how much has really changed at local branch level?

Nothing at all if we examine “Welsh” Labour. Take Labour in Carmarthenshire, for example.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Immediately after the general election the knives came out for party veteran Kevin Madge, who was also leader of the County Council. The contest was widely regarded as a tussle between the party’s Amman Valley and Llanelli factions, but it later emerged that at least one of Madge’s assassins was much closer to home.

Kevin Madge has spent his entire career of almost 40 years as a full-time Labour councillor, and for most of the last ten years he enjoyed a generous “senior salary” as a member and then leader of the council’s Executive Board, or cabinet, in bed with Meryl Gravell and her Independent rag-bag army of reactionary grannies, rich retired farmers, opportunists and assorted hangers-on.

The rambling, incoherent Madge was never the brightest lamp post in the street, although decades spent wrangling in smoke-filled Labour committee back-rooms clearly taught him a few survival skills.

Meryl and her acolytes sized up their man, clasped him to their ample bosoms, and a long love affair was born in which Madge was nothing more than an impotent mascot pinned to the bonnet of the municipal limousine chauffeured by Chief Executive Mark James, with Lady Gravell ensconced on the plush leather back seat.

Madge Gravell

The result was a scandal-prone, seedy dictatorship which turned Carmarthenshire into an Eldorado for companies sheltering in tax havens, assorted fraudsters, funny handshake merchants, con-artists and big business rip-off merchants, while ordinary voters were left to scrape a living on the minimum wage.

Top council jobs were and still are the preserve of outsiders, swathes of rural communities had the guts ripped out of them as they lost their schools, shops and pubs, the young and talented left in droves for the brighter lights of the big cities, and the Welsh language suffered a catastrophic decline. CBEs, OBEs and MBEs showered down on the elite and their supporters.

Kevin Madge didn’t see it like that, of course, but what eventually did for him was a growing realisation that the party was on a one-way street to electoral disaster as Madge found himself championing a string of extremely unpopular policies, including massive hikes in charges for using council-owned sports pitches, bowling greens and other facilities.

Voters could no longer see the difference between Madge’s party and the crypto-Tories he had snuggled up to for so long.

Having lost the top job, Kevin Madge disappeared from public view for a couple of weeks before returning to the council chamber to blub his way through an interminable valedictory ramble listing his supposed achievements. He now sits on the backbenches nursing his grudges and sharpening his knives.

Madge’s replacement as Labour leader on Carmarthenshire County Council is the very lugubrious Jeff Edmunds whose main activity when not being a councillor is as pastor of a spiritualist church. His expertise in contacting the dead may yet come in very handy.

But the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on. Jeremy Corbyn is now party leader, and in Carmarthenshire the party is reorganising itself. It’s all change, or rather the deckchairs are being rearranged.

A recipe for success

Kevin Madge has just been appointed chair of a new “super branch” encompassing the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys, presumably because someone believes that he is a vote winner.

When he stood for election in the 2007 Assembly election, Kevin Madge saw Labour’s share of the vote decline from 31% to 24%. In 2012 when Labour was bouncing back in local government elections from the catastrophe of the Brown years everywhere else, Labour lost ground in Kevin Madge’s stomping ground in the Amman Valley. In 2015 Carmarthen East and Dinefwr was one of Labour’s top target seats, and the election was contested by Kevin Madge’s young protégé, Calum Higgins. Whereas Labour saw modest advances in most parts of Wales, Madge and Higgins saw Plaid Cymru returned with a significantly increased majority as Labour voters stayed away or switched to Ukip.

Prior to the influx of new members brought about by the recent Labour leadership campaign, Labour’s constituency branches were in dire shape – in Carmarthenshire as in other parts of Wales. Party activists were reduced to a gnarled rump of grizzled veterans with a very sparse sprinkling of younger blood.

Why anyone under the age of 60 would have wanted to join “Welsh” Labour before May 2015 is a question worth asking. The party was about as attractive to average 20-somethings as joining a bowls club, playing bingo or going to a 1950s night at the local working men’s club.

There are strange and rather sad young people who do all those things, but they are few and far between.

The answer is, of course, that unlike bowls clubs and the like, “Welsh” Labour runs a system of patronage which offers all sorts of goodies for anyone who is prepared to go to committee meetings and put up with the smell of wee and the company of poisonous old power junkies.

Open all hours

Let’s meet Shahid Hussain over in Kevin Madge’s heartland in Cwmaman.

Kevin shahid

Shahid is in his early thirties and a budding entrepreneur who runs a garage and a couple of shops. Back in 2012 he stood for election to the County Council. “I’m sexy and I know it”, he told his Twitter followers, who were treated to his views on women, “yids”, rugby (“gay porn”) and older people. Referring to his Plaid opponent, Shahid predicted he would so kick his ass that he might “pop a hip or something”.

Shahid was very proud of the coverage he had been getting in the local rag, but he quickly achieved press coverage which few Welsh politicians, even the heavyweights, could ever dream of. He even made it big on the other side of the Atlantic.

Labour reacted by telling Shahid to delete his Twitter account and tut-tutting. Kevin Madge blamed it all on the “dangerous” Twitter rather than the unpleasant idiot using it, and days later he was back out campaigning for his boy.

Fortunately for the people of Cwmaman, it was Shahid’s ass that was kicked, but all was not lost because he remained a member of Cwmaman Town Council.

The unfortunate Twitter episode was quickly forgotten, and this year Shahid rose to become mayor, from which lofty position he has continued to make waves.

At a public meeting chaired by Shahid to discuss relocating the town’s post office, he opposed a proposal to move it to the community centre.

Kevin Madge shifted uncomfortably and suggested to his boy that he perhaps ought to declare an interest here, as Shahid was known to be seeking the post office franchise for his garage.

“What is this fucking shit?” shouted Shahid, outraged at the implication that there might be anything wrong with using public office to further his business interests.

Not long after that, matters came to a head again when Shahid opposed a planning application for a convenience store run by a partner of Tesco, forgetting to mention that he had submitted his own plans for a convenience store nearby.

At a stormy meeting on 23 October, the town council approved a vote of no confidence in its mayor, by 11 votes to 1. The only councillor to have confidence in the mayor was, erm, Shahid himself. The next stop is expected to be a formal complaint to the Ombudsman.

If this does bring his career in Labour to an end, Shahid can at least be confident of a warm welcome from Ukip.

Shahid is one of Labour’s young guns, but perhaps we should not be too harsh because the older generation of Labour councillors has not always set a good example.

UPDATE 30.10.2015: Despite a near-unanimous vote of no confidence (11 to one, with one abstention), Shahid Hussain is refusing to resign as mayor of Cwmaman, according to a report in the Carmarthenshire Herald today. The matter will now be referred to the Ombudsman for Public Services with all the attendant lengthy delays and legal costs that that will entail.

Dead donkeys

Step forward the reptilian Keri Thomas, Labour’s veteran councillor for Tyisha, Llanelli.

Keri Thomas has been known to drink more than the occasional glass of shandy, and in 2011 he fell seriously ill before receiving a liver transplant.

He took a year off on full pay from the council with the Chief Executive’s blessing. Despite being too ill to campaign, he was nevertheless selected to stand in the 2012 election once again, and was successfully returned, proving the old adage that you could put a red rosette on a dead donkey and it would still romp home in most of Labour’s strongholds.

Thomas recovered sufficiently to take up work again after the 2012 election, and he was soon lashing out at Llanelli’s Polish community for their drinking habits. Unfortunately, a little more than a year later the occasional tipple was starting to take its toll again, and for most of the last two years he has rarely been seen in County Hall except for meetings of the planning committee of which he was a member until recently.

Keri Thomas remains a councillor and, incredibly, a member of one of the scrutiny committees.

Readers of this blog were recently shocked by John Bayliss’s 27% attendance record in Swansea, but Keri Thomas is on course for the worst attendance of any councillor in Wales. According to the council’s own statistics, he has notched up an attendance record of 0% since they began publishing performance data in August.

Staying in Llanelli for a moment, let’s meet Dafen Dolly, or Tegwen Devichand as she is more formally known. Tegwen has led a colourful life, and despite very humble beginnings has managed to become quite a wealthy woman and the grande dame of Llanelli Labour politics.

Dafen Dolly

One of her protégées was Theressa Bowen, a local woman and party activist, and thanks to Tegwen, Theressa became a Labour county councillor for the first time in 2012. Unfortunately a very bitter falling out ensued, with Tegwen accusing Theressa of stealing a stash of valuable jewellery from her home.

Nothing came of the accusation, and no charges were brought, but Theressa promptly upped and left Labour to join Meryl’s Independents. Meryl and Tegwen are not exactly best friends, and Meryl welcomed Theressa with open arms, not least because the defection put Labour and the Independents on level pegging in the County Council. Meryl even let Theressa stay in her exclusive Spanish villa.

The simmering dispute between Tegwen and Theressa boiled over again earlier this year in a very public row in which the two women accused each other of assault, and both complained to the poor old Ombudsman.

The rise, fall, and rise of Ryan

Our trip started in Cwmaman before reaching Llanelli. All aboard for the next stop in Kidwelly where a by-election has been called for 19 November following the death of the previous Labour incumbent.

This is the first Carmarthenshire by-election to be held under the new Corbynista Labour Party, and with all those new members, you would think the party would have been able to come up with an attractive candidate.

Fair play, they did at least try. One new member who had signed up so that he could vote for Jeremy was surprised to receive an e-mail asking if he would like to stand in Kidwelly, even though he lives as far away from Kidwelly as you can get in Carmarthenshire, and has never set foot in the town.

Which brings us to the cautionary tale of Ryan Thomas.

Ryan became a member of Kidwelly Town Council at the tender age of 24, and by 2014 he was deputy mayor and a rising star. A bit like Shahid, in fact.

Ryan and Nia

Unfortunately things went pear-shaped for him at last year’s mayor-making ceremony when he became tired and emotional, made some very rude comments about the mayor’s wife to a young man who turned out to be her son and then groped a 19-year old woman.

The police became involved, charges were eventually laid, and Ryan was committed to trial.

In the meantime, Ryan was suspended by the Labour Party and he resigned from the council.

British justice ground its way slowly, as usual, and many months passed until the morning of the trial itself when Ryan suddenly realised that it had all been a terrible mistake. He made a formal apology which was accepted by the young woman who had waited in vain for so long, and charges were dropped. The judge dismissed the case and entered a verdict of not guilty.

For those readers who sometimes wonder about the subtleties of the legal system, this neatly illustrates the difference between “not guilty” and “innocent”.

That was in August, and there was jubilation in the public gallery as Ryan walked free. He now finds himself selected to stand as the Labour candidate for his town in November.

(Jac says: ‘What an indictment this is of the English judicial system. The horny little sod confessed, eventually, to indecent assault – but was then found ‘not guilty’! When I come to power anyone suspected of being a Labour Party member will – after receiving a good kicking – be sent off for two years of re-education, where this blog will be compulsory reading. Oh yes.’)

CLARIFICATION (see comments) 05.11.2015: In court Ryan Thomas said, “I accept that I was intoxicated and that my conduct may have been inappropriate as a result” . . . “I wish to apologise for any offence caused.” So let us accept that he was found not guilty of groping. And I may have got the charge wrong, though different reports use different terms, including ‘groping’. The fact remains that he apologised for having done something, so what did he apologise for?

A new boy

To find a truly fresh-faced new hopeful on the Labour scene in Carmarthenshire, we will have to return to Llanelli where Lee Waters, until recently director of the Institute for Welsh Affairs, has thrown his hat into the ring to replace Keith Davies as Assembly Member for Llanelli next year. Party-loving Keith is retiring, presumably to spend more time with his Chardonnay.

As director of the IWA, which likes to describe itself as an independent think tank, and a former ITV chief political correspondent, Lee Waters has been able to observe the inner workings of the Labour Party at close quarters, and he will be even more aware than most of the party’s dismal record since 1999, so his decision to throw in his lot with the freak show in Carmarthenshire is hard to see as anything other than a career move.

Neither Waters nor any of the other exhibits we have examined could be described as part of the Corbynite new wave, so where does this leave all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new converts and idealists?

The idea that Kevin Madge, Dolly Dafen or any of the other grizzled old guard and their young clients are about to release their grip on the party and hand the reins to a group of newcomers is about as realistic as Jeremy’s chances of entering 10 Downing Street.