A Fairytale Prince and Princess and a Web of Golden PR

BY A GUEST WRITER, ASSISTED BY ‘STAN

(illustrations by Jac o’ the North)

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

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

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

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

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

Non-dom

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

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

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

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

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

What Johanna did next – a timeline

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

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

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

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

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

Exstrabladet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Kinnock ‘underestimated’ school fees for daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

This tender image is a rarity

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

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

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

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

Kinnocks normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Danish taxpayers pay for Helle and Kinnock’s daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

The state paid Dkr 70,000 per year

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

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

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

Parents paid Dkr 18,000 per year

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

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

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

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

Tax deductions of Dkr 15,000 per year

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

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

Atlantic College

UWC suggestion to parents

UWC’s proposals are as follows:

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

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

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

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

Kinnock on Facebook

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

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

Welsh blogger

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

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

I answered questions

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

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

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Jac says . . . 

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

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

Kinnock family

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

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

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

Port Talbot

Yes, I know, Port Talbot isn’t the only Tata plant affected by the company’s decision to put its UK operation up for sale, but it is the biggest, and serves as useful shorthand.

Rather than giving instant remedies or exposing my ignorance by trying to discuss EU regulations on state aid, or the impact of carbon tax and business rates, let alone the statistics on Chinese steel production and exports, I shall stick to my comfort zone by considering political responses and impacts, winners and losers, and also the possible outcomes.

But first, let me indulge in a little reminiscing.

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I grew up just around the Bay from Port Talbot steelworks and I can remember the plant in the mid-’60s when it employed 20,000 men and the wages paid earned it the soubriquet ‘Treasure Island’. Much of its steel went on to the tinplate works at Trostre in Llanelli and Velindre on the north side of Swansea (where I worked for a short while). Velindre is long gone, but Trostre has struggled on and is now in the same position as Port Talbot.

And if you’ve driven past and think the smells and the smoke of Port Talbot are bad nowadays, then you should have seen it in the ’60s and ’70s. It wasn’t just that the steelworks produced more smoke and smells back then, there were other plants nearby making their contribution.

Just up the road, on the Swansea side of the steel plant, in Baglan Bay, we had one of the largest petrochemical sites in Europe, employing another 2,500 men. A couple of miles inland there was the Llandarcy oil refinery with the same number of employees. Then there was the Tir John power station taking us up to the eastern outskirts of Swansea, where the East Side made its contribution to the shit and the smell with the never-to-be-forgotten Carbon Black plant.

Llandarcy

This spewed out such filth that it resulted in regular protests by local housewives, who couldn’t put washing on the line to dry without it being covered in a dust that also got indoors and clung to everything.

My first-hand experience of Carbon Black came through a summer job I took when at Coleg Harlech. I was employed to sweep the floors inside the plant, where the filth lay inches thick. I was provided with a brush and a rudimentary face mask . . . and that was it. I handed in my brush after a few hours and went to a nearby pub to ease my throat.

The whole area from the east side of Swansea over to Neath and down to Port Talbot was a complex of heavy industry, a nightmare for any proto-Green. And yet, if we add in Swansea docks, the ancillary jobs in transport and other fields, this triangle of smoke and smells provided tens of thousands of well paid jobs for semi-skilled and unskilled men. Most of these jobs have gone, and will never be replaced.

I had many friends and family members working at these various plants, and of course at the steelworks, and not just for the then owner, the Steel Company of Wales. For example, there was a boy I met in Penlan school with whom I became good friends (after the introductory fight); his family had come down from Kilmarnock and his father worked for British Rail in the steelworks’ marshalling yards, said to be the biggest in the world after those at the Chicago stock yards.

Then there was a friend of ours in the post-school era working in the steel works. One night he went over to Port Talbot to hear a promising young singer named Tom Jones. On the way back into Swansea, driving along the Jersey Marine in his Wolseley 1500, he was somehow thrown from his car, which then rolled over onto him. I think Keith was the first close friend I lost.

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THE POLITICAL DIMENSION

The Conservatives

I suppose the Tories’ attitude was summed up accurately and succinctly by Paul Mason when he wrote, ‘Steel Crisis; they do not give a shit’. There are a number of reasons for this being true beyond the Tories being wedded to a blind and unthinking neoliberalism.

The future the Tories envision for the UK is of smart people doing clever things and making lots of money in clean environments with the economy topped up by sheikhs and oligarchs investing hundreds of billions in property and other deals that can be accomplished with a signature. Fundamentally, it’s a fantasy world in which people make lots of money doing very little, certainly not from producing anything other than hi tech gadgetry or financial packages that no one can understand.

There is no place in this vision for steel works and towns like Port Talbot. Such places are alien to Old Etonian politicians. Not only are they distant in terms of miles, and in considerations of social class, they are also distant in time, because they belong to the past, they have no place the glittering future I bewitched you with in the previous paragraph.

Gold cars

Of course, one of the major problems with this vision is that it’s very London-centric, extending only as far as the Home Counties in which many of the new elite will be living. Because you can bet that Sheikh Mohammed bin Slaveholder al Head-chopper is unlikely to be looking for a £30m mansion in Llanelli or Scunthorpe any time soon. Which explains attempts to placate the increasingly resentful natives north of Watford with ‘beads’ like HS2 and talk of a ‘northern powerhouse’.

On a more pragmatic, electoral level, the Tories have nothing to lose in towns like Port Talbot or any similar community in Wales, Scotland or England. You can’t lose support or seats if you haven’t got any to start with. So the truth is, as Paul Mason says, the Tories don’t give a shit.

Unconvincing expressions of concern will be heard, money will be doled out – there might even be a short-term nationalisation – but this hiccup will not be allowed to interfere with the march towards the post-industrial Bright Tomorrow, in which the sons and daughters of today’s Port Talbot steelworkers will be City traders or internet tycoons . . . or, more likely, working just up the road at the vast Amazon warehouse, on the minimum wage, with one toilet break a week.

Though it will be interesting to see how the local Tories deal with the steel crisis in the Assembly election campaign. Who will they blame?

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The Labour Party

For Labour the steel crisis is much more complex and worrying. Not least because it was the equally laissez-faire New Labour governments that helped get us into this mess by nodding through British Steel’s merger with Koninklijke Hoogovens of the Netherlands in 1999 to form Corus, and then twiddling their thumbs when Corus was bought by Tata Steel of India in 2007.

The New Model Labour Party of Citizen Corbyn seems rather more concerned than the party led by Blair and Broon, but there’s little they can do out of power. Though in fairness to young Owen ap Dai ap Smith he didn’t wait for the fat lady to sing before putting the boot in, here he is at the start of February accusing Cameron and Osborne of kissing China’s arse!

Another scion of an anti-Welsh Labour family, the Boy Kinnock, actually took himself off to Mumbai, where the Tata board was deliberating. Quite what he hoped to achieve beyond a little self-promotion is a bit of a mystery. But then, showboating was always part of his father’s political repertoire, though I advise the young ‘un to avoid beaches with incoming tides.

Labour logo

Closer to home, our self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ can only be compared to rabbits caught in the headlights. There are a number of reasons for this. One, they have no experience of business, let alone business on this scale. Two, they simply aren’t aren’t up to the challenge intellectually. Three – and for this they are probably thankful – they don’t have the power to do anything.

That said, this announcement comes at a good time in the electoral cycle for ‘Welsh’ Labour, with Assembly elections just over a month away they can blame the ‘heartless’ Tories for everything and hope that voters don’t remember their party’s role in this tragedy.

And as usual there will be a cynical appeal to the ignorance and confusion of many Welsh voters as Labour – despite being impotent in Cardiff and in opposition in London – urges people to vote for Carwyn and the gang so that Labour can ‘save Port Talbot’.

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Plaid Cymru

The steel crisis should be Plaid Cymru’s Christmas, Easter and St David’s Day all rolled into one. It gives them the chance to attack both major parties, English rule, and foreign ownership of Welsh assets. Thus far, I can only assume that Plaid is waiting its chance, holding its cards close to its chest . . . or maybe it doesn’t realise it has these cards.

I would suggest that rather than asking for anything absurd or impossible – such as demanding that the ‘Welsh’ Government nationalises the steel industry – Plaid Cymru should gather the evidence on the merger and the take-over that Labour allowed to go through when in power, and the Tories’ opposition to the EU raising tariffs on Chinese steel, the refusal by both parties to reduce energy costs for plants like Port Talbot, and compare those betrayals of the Welsh people with what Plaid Cymru would do if it was in power down Cardiff docks.

And stressing a betrayal of the Welsh people should be Plaid Cymru’s approach, rather than going all socialist and linking arms with Labour and the trade unions. Because unless Plaid Cymru’s voice is distinctive, and distinctively Welsh, then there’s really no point to Plaid Cymru, in this debate, or any other situation.

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Liberal Democrats

I know I’m normally harsh on the Lib Dems, but over the years it’s been difficult not to be harsh, and at times almost impossible to take them seriously. And then, in my more mellow moments (not always induced by alcohol!) I think, ‘Weeel, maybe they’re not too bad’. ‘What brings this on?’ you ask.

To start with, there’s Kirsty Williams, the LD leader in Wales. Things have been tough in recent years for her party but she’s stuck with it and deserves a break. She’s a gutsy woman who I’m warming to.

Another LD AM who’s impressed me is William Powell. For one thing, he turns up at Cilmeri in December, where we rarely see Plaid politicians and never Labour or Conservative. (Nor UKIP, come to that!) And then there was the petition I submitted to the Assembly asking that it do something to stop chief executives taking over councils.

Petitions Committee

It was clear that Powell recognised the importance of this issue but the two committee members who ‘discussed’ my petition, Labour’s Joyce Watson and Plaid’s Elin Jones, couldn’t dump it quickly enough. Powell might get my second vote on May 5th.

But I digress.

On the specific issue of the sale of Tata’s UK operations, the Lib Dems – in the shy, retiring form of Peter Black – have called for the Notional Assembly to be recalled. Which might sound like a good idea until we remember that the Assembly is impotent, and what calls itself the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a collection of buffoons. A recall would be nothing more than a pointless gesture and a platform for narcissistic buggers like Black.

In many ways the Lib Dems’ position should not be a lot different to that of Plaid Cymru – ‘A pox on both your houses!’ So I would suggest that Kirsty leads her troops forward with all guns blazing . . . hoping few will remember that her party kept the Tories in power between 2010 and 2015, during which period the problems that have brought us to this crisis were allowed to build and build.

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The Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales

They won’t like me for saying this, but I know that the Greenies were secretly jumping for joy when they heard that all those smelly, polluting steel plants are to close. But of course they can’t admit that.

What they can do, apparently, is write stupid letters to the press, such as the one below that appeared in Friday’s Wasting Mule. The writer seems to believe that the Port Talbot steel works can be powered by wind turbines, solar panels and fairy dust.

Then again, it could have been a piss-take, for Friday was April 1st.

Green steel

I issue these rebukes with a heavy heart, fearing that I might lose some of the many friends I’ve made in the Green Party over recent years. Oh yes.

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UKIP

If any political party is crass and insensitive enough to make cheap political capital out of tens of thousands of people losing their jobs, then of course that party is UKIP.

Not only does the steel crisis give M. Farage et Co the chance to go nuclear on ‘Europe’, it also provides the opportunity to put the boot into Conservatives and Labour, with the cherry on top being the chance to have a go at the Chinese, the Indians, and just about anybody else they can think of.

UKIP will I’m sure argue that this steel crisis thingy would never have happened if everything was still managed by those splendid chaps down the clubhouse. Better decisions are made after six or seven drinks and a few cigars – everyone knows that! Don’t laugh, a lot of people will believe them.

A few months ago UKIP was predicted to win anything up to nine seats in May’s Assembly elections then, more recently, I’ve seen polls suggesting that support is slipping. The steel crisis could put them back to where they were earlier in the year, and the Tory-supporting media transferring the blame onto the EU might even take the UKIP vote in Wales to new heights.

However you cut it, UKIP is the party with most chance of gaining in May’s elections from the steel crisis.

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SNP

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me.

There were a couple of steel plants in Scotland, admittedly much smaller than Port Talbot, that were saved from closure in the past few weeks thanks to decisive action by the Scottish National Party government. Here’s a report from the Guardian.

But this action didn’t please everybody. Here’s a more recent report from the Labour-supporting Daily Record (the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror) telling us that the Labour-controlled Community union is ‘questioning’ the deal.

To explain . . . there are elections in Scotland on May 5th also, and the SNP is almost guaranteed to win by a landslide. So one interpretation of this bizarre intervention by Community is that embittered Labour supporters are prepared to sabotage the Scottish steel deal for short-term political advantage.

Surely Labour wouldn’t do that?

Oh, yes, and remember, the Boy Kinnock was chaperoned on his trip to India by representatives of the same trade union. Whose interests were they looking out for – the steelworkers or the Labour Party?

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EU Referendum

Speaking of the EU reminds us that on June 23rd we have the referendum on whether to stay in or to leave. The fate of the steel industry is bound to influence the way many people vote, especially in Wales. And seeing as Wales gives us the paradox of many Labour voters reading English Tory newspapers then prolonging the crisis can only help the Brexit cause.

Thinking more obliquely, this realisation that the steel crisis could decide a currently too-close-to-call referendum might prompt the EU into action; and if Cameron is serious about staying in the EU, then he might have to discreetly explain to his Chinese chums that – until the referendum is won – he might need to sound a little ‘hostile’, even agreeing to raise tariffs on Chinese steel imports.

When you consider all the possible ramifications you realise that, serious as the crisis in the steel industry is for those directly – or even indirectly – involved, the closure of Port Talbot and the other plants could have long-term and far-reaching implications that overshadow the loss of jobs.

In many ways Prime Minister Cameron is the one to watch, because with the EU referendum complicating things, him not wanting to be seen as a callous toff, yet having to protect the interests of his mates in the City by not offending the Chinese, the next few weeks could be interesting for those who like to watch nifty footwork.

As the Chinese themselves are reported to say, ‘May you live in interesting times’. (Though some say it’s delivered as a curse, not a blessing.)