I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. POSTINGS WILL PROBABLY BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
This post is a ‘filler’ until we return to that cornucopia of dissembling, skulduggery, and now whimpering, put-upon Marxists – YesCymru! Possibly with a post at the weekend.
Even though I live very close to a former slate quarry, Bryneglwys, in a village largely built in the 19th century to house the quarrymen and their families, and even though I’ve been (loosely) involved with the local preparations of the bid to UNESCO, like many others I’m wondering how exactly my community will benefit.
Let me explain.
I first learnt of the UNESCO bid in the autumn of 2019. There was a meeting or a presentation in our Ganolfan organised by Gwynedd county council. So, ever the inquisitive, I rolled up to see what it was all about.
There were a few guys there who seemed to be running the show, and I assumed they worked for Cyngor Gwynedd; but no, they were from the Talyllyn Railway (TR). Which I found to be rather surprising, and disappointing.
The people of Abergynolwyn, many of them the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of quarrymen, knew little or nothing about the UNESCO bid, and yet the Talyllyn Railway not only knew about it but also seemed to have commandeered its local element.
Worse, projects in Tywyn, having only the most tenuous connection with the slate industry, also had bids in for their slices of the cake.
Another at the meeting was the owner of ‘King Arthur’s Labyrinth‘ in Corris, located in the old tunnels dug and blasted to extract slate in the next valley. This place is to Welsh history what Boris Johnson is to statesmanship.
For those unfamiliar with the area, Corris is the most southerly of the Gwynedd slate communities and on the same seam as Bryneglwys.
But back to the Talyllyn Railway.
Some twenty years ago, I was raising the money to build our new Ganolfan. Not an easy job, and at times dis-spiriting. To fill out a 60-page application form, make sure that all the attachments are in place, and then get a curt response that says, basically, ‘Hard luck, pal’, is very frustrating.
Anyway, the point was that this funding was for communities within 5 miles of a quarry or aggregate workings. So, I filled up the form, sent it off, and a representative of the ALSF came to discuss it. ‘No problem’, says he, ‘you meet all the criteria . . . but of course it will have to go before the panel’.
The panel, or rather the two who swung the decision – both involved in tourism – decided that the grant should go to the Talyllyn Railway. To be spent on its Wharf Station in Tywyn, over 7 miles from Bryneglwys quarry.
The justification given was that the TR had a closer link than the village with the quarry. And the track itself came within the required 5 miles!
Now, I don’t deny that the railway was built to carry slate to the coast and the main line, but it is now a commercial enterprise, a tourist railway, run almost exclusively by ‘enthusiasts’ from over the border.
Whereas the village of Abergynolwyn, as I’ve said, was built to serve the quarry, and is still home to descendants of the quarry workers. (My wife among them.)
Another reason I’m less than optimistic relates to the ownership of Bryneglwys quarry.
For the Land Registry title document says that in 1980 Bryneglwys passed from Hugh Pugh Roberts to the Secretary of State for Wales. Then, in 2006, it transferred to the National Assembly for Wales.
Which I suppose it is . . . if you’re a particularly energetic crow; or if you fancy climbing a few miles up to the ridge and then, after getting your breath back, negotiating a few more miles on t’other side as you descend into the Dyfi valley. (But you do get a nice view of Cader Idris and you can see down to the coast.)
The reason the mention of NRW saw my spirits sink is because of that agency’s record. In just the previous post on this blog we read about Natural Resources Wales offering up publicly-owned Welsh land to foreign investors who are thinking of plonking on it the tallest wind turbines we’ve yet seen.
Put together the tourism element and the involvement of Natural Resources Wales and you should understand why I’m not optimistic that locals will see many benefits from the UNESCO recognition.
Added to which is a real danger that the former slate communities will see increased numbers of tourists. With all the attendant problems. This is what Cylch yr Iaith fears. And they aren’t the only ones.
Which brings us to the fundamental conundrum.
Gwynedd council led the UNESCO bid, and champagne corks have been popping in Caernarfon since the decision was announced. And yet . . . the council has publicly conceded that certain parts of the county suffer unsustainable numbers of tourists.
Yet powerful lobbies will seek to exploit the UNESCO recognition to attract more tourists in order to make more money. More tourists means more traffic, more rubbish, more people looking to buy property, more pressure on Welsh-speaking communities.
To complicate matters, Bryneglwys quarry, unlike the larger sites at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bethesda, is inside the Snowdonia National Park. So there’ll be no zip wires or underground trampolines.
But that aside, the overarching question remains . . .
How does Gwynedd square this circle of capitalising on UNESCO recognition without encouraging unsustainable and damaging levels of tourism?
A further issue I have with this project is the way it has portrayed the relationship between Wales and England.
Here’s what our Secretary of State had to say about the announcement. ‘Fantastic news for the UK’, and he’s right. For we can guarantee that most of the beneficiaries will come from over the border.
It might also encourage more English people to ‘staycation’ in Wales thereby keeping their money in the UK. Which is a major reason why Wales suffers saturation tourism.
But it’s not just Simon Hart who’s guilty of misrepresenting the relationship. About a year or so ago the council commissioned a series of films, one for each of the quarries involved in the UNESCO bid.
The film for Bryneglwys focused almost entirely on the tenure of the McConnel brothers of Manchester, stressing that without English money there would have been nothing here. There was little mention of the men who worked – and died – at the quarry, their families, and the lives of the people of Abergynolwyn.
The truth is that slate was extracted in the 1820s, possibly earlier, by local men prepared to invest a bit of money and hard work. The McConnels arrived in 1864 because cotton was not reaching their Manchester mills from the Confederate states due to the war, and so they looked to diversify. In the third act, local MP, Sir Henry Haydn Jones took over in 1911, and kept the quarry open long after it ceased to be economically viable.
Certainly, the McConnels invested a lot of money, but they weren’t philanthropists, they came to make money, and if there hadn’t already been slate workings here they would never have heard of Bryneglwys. Yet the film commissioned by Cyngor Gwynedd wrote out the Welsh involvement entirely!
Another film, by Dr David Gwyn, put up on YouTube last week, is not a great improvement in its emphasis.
Even this page from Llechi Cymru concentrates on the McConnels, with just a nod to those who went before, and no mention at all of Sir Henry Haydn Jones.
If I was one of those frightful nationalists I might view this ‘Can’t manage without England’ theme as fairly obviously political. Perhaps we’ll hear it again when the tourists start swamping the communities that have been blessed with UNESCO recognition.
And once again, we shall be expected to show gratitude for becoming strangers in our own communities, and our own country.
I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
This week’s offering is about a business I’ve been aware of for some time but have never got around to writing about. Given the raised concerns over the housing crisis in our rural areas I believe the time has come to turn on the spotlight.
WEST WALES PROPERTY FINDERS
This outfit, and the woman who seems to run it, Carol Peett, appear regularly in my Twitter timeline, or else people draw my attention to the business in other ways. That’s because West Wales Property Finders’ business is seeking out second homes and bucolic retreats for wealthy English buyers.
This is why, given the housing crisis in our rural communities, Mrs Peett and her company piss off so many people.
Which in turn explains why someone sent me a photo of a little piece from this week’s Sunday Times, in which Mrs Peett gleefully announced that, “Coastal Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion have seen a ‘tsunami’ of second-home buyers”.
A strange word to use, ‘tsunami’, and yet, if you think about it, rather apt. For a tsunami is very destructive, and so is the business in which Carol Peett operates.
So who is Mrs Carol Peett?
One of my regular sources of information, Companies House, couldn’t tell me much because there’s no company called West Wales Property Finders (WWPF) registered. Yet the Sunday Times describes Carol Peett as “managing director”. If so, of what?
The only directorship I can find for Carol Elizabeth Poyer Peet is Pembrokeshire Weddings Ltd. Formed in June 2016 and folding in May 2019 without the organist ever striking up Here Comes the Bride.
There may be no company but there is certainly a website for WWPF, where we read that Carol Peett was, “Born and brought up on a farm in Pembrokeshire and with her family being one of the oldest in the County, Carol’s in-depth knowledge of the area, property market and people of West Wales is second to none”.
What pretentious bollocks! Everybody belongs to a very old family, that’s why we’re here today. I have ancestors going back to the Neolithic period, and beyond. If I close my eyes (and take another sip of Malbec) I can see one of these antecedents now, a handsome fellow, clad in well-cut animal skins, blogging for posterity on the walls of his cave.
The claim to being born and brought up on a farm also has a touch of the porky-pies to it. I say that because Carol Peett’s Linkedin profile (here in pdf) says that from 1967 until 1976 she was boarding at private schools in southern England. These were Hanford prep school in Dorset, and the now closed North Foreland Lodge in neighbouring Hampshire.
UPDATE: A comment tells us, “Carol Elizabeth Poyer Lewis born May 1958 in Romsey Hampshire”. Which means she was neither born nor brought up in Pembrokeshire.
Carol Peett (then Lewis) left North Foreland Lodge when she was 18, did not go to university, and worked for many years in England.
The WWPF website brings us up to date with, ” . . . she and Rayner returned to live in Pembrokeshire in 2004″. Though whether hubby, Edward Rayner Peett, had ever previously lived in Pembrokeshire is open to question. And as I’ve said, Carol Peett herself couldn’t have spent much time in Pembrokeshire before returning either.
That year, 2004, is when Carol Peet joined The County Homesearch Company, ” . . . the principal homefinder for Channel 4’s popular TV programme, ‘Location, Location, Location’.” She ran the west Wales office of that company.
The WWPF website tells us that, “With the sale of The County Homesearch Company to American company, Dwellworks, Rayner and Carol felt the time was right to break out on their own and so founded West Wales Property Finders in the Autumn of 2014″.
The problem remains that there seems to be no registered company of that name.
The most recent development according to Linkedin was in August 2018 when Carol Peett became an Associate at Garrington Property Finders. On that company’s website we read that the difference between an estate agent and a property finder is that the former works for the seller whereas Mrs Peett and her ilk work for the buyer.
In the eyes of Garrington Property Finders Scotland is a country unto itself, whereas Wales does not exist. The northern part of our homeland is in north west England, and the southern part in south west England.
Here’s the Garrington website page for the South West Region, where we learn the company has offices in Exeter, Bristol and Winchester. No mention of Clunderwen, though, where dwell the Peetts.
So what is the relationship between Garrington Property Finders and West Wales Property Finders? Mrs Peett claims to be an ‘Associate’ of Garrington. I know what that term means in the Mob, but what does ‘associate’ mean in this context?
Answers on the traditional and now shamefully under-used post card.
As might be expected, Carol and Rayner Peett are loyal members of the Conservative and Unionist Party. And well regarded, I would guess, because for the December 2019 UK election we find their names atop Simon Hart’s nomination paper for the contest in the Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire constituency. (Available here in pdf.)
That of course is Simon Hart, the Secretary of State for Wales, who is said to have no more than a holiday home in his constituency. Maybe the Peetts found it for him!
The fact that Rayner Peett was the proposer, and Carol Peett the seconder, suggests they are well up in the local Conservative Party pecking order, or else close to Simon Hart. Probably both.
We can all speculate as to whether being pally with the local MP helps their business, but we can be absolutely certain that the association does their business no harm.
A business that is both odious and distasteful, for Carol and Rayner Peett contribute to the destruction of Welsh communities. But they are not alone, there are plenty of others in the same line of business.
My view is that Carol and Rayner Peett are simply being true to their natures, and that the real blame lies elsewhere. With politicians aware of the second home problem and associated issues yet choosing to do nothing, and by their inaction allowing the erasing of our identity.
If, as I expect, there is a coalition administration after May’s Senedd elections, with Labour and Plaid Cymru simpering about a ‘progressive’ alliance, ‘wicked Tories’, etc., then they will need to act quickly on the rural housing crisis.
We need punitive taxation on second homes, no loopholes, and a maximum 5% of dwellings in any electoral ward allowed to be holiday homes. We also need to clamp down on the other ways in which Wales is exploited, thereby making it clear to all that Wales is no longer a retirement and recreation area for England.
Rather than making gestures about global problems they cannot influence, perhaps the next ‘Welsh Government’ can focus a little closer to home, stick to the day job by tackling the problems faced by Welsh people and Welsh communities.
There is a storm brewing, and this is inevitable. Because when any nation is being invaded, and overwhelmed, its identity threatened; when people are turned into strangers in their own communities, or expelled from those communities, then resentment will grow.
And if the people’s elected representatives are perceived to be complicit in this tragedy or unconcerned, unwilling for whatever reason to respond, then there will come a reaction from within the people.
The next ‘Welsh Government’ should recognise this. And also recognise that continuing to fail the Welsh people is no longer an option.
I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
Over the years I’ve read a lot of political nonsense and outright bullshit in the Western Mail, much of it emanating from the Labour Party. But all records were broken on Friday, February 26, 2021 when Llais y Sais gave us a sneak preview of a speech to be delivered by First Minister Mark Drakeford.
To help you fully appreciate the levels of dishonesty contained in the speech I shall produce the offending article and then walk you through it paragraph by numbered paragraph.
Let’s start with the headline and the opening paragraphs. Home rule within the UK is impossible, for without a written constitution it could, like devolution, be undone at any time. (Come to that, how does ‘home rule’ differ from devolution?)
And even with a written constitution, an unequal Union such as the UK allows the dominant partner to do what it damn well likes. As England has for centuries.
No, let’s be honest, home rule is an unworkable nonsense. The truth is that Labour in Wales is alarmed by the possibilities unveiled by the Internal Market Act, which allows London to ignore the devolution settlement almost entirely.
Home rule would have offered no defence against the Internal Market Act.
Though Labour’s hostility to this Act was not prompted by thoughts of what’s best for Wales but by the fear that Boris Johnson and his mates might start threatening Labour’s hegemony in Wales, and the crony networks the party has built up over the past 22 years.
Now let’s go through the rest of the article, focusing on the more interesting paragraphs.
PARAGRAPH 4: “Internationalist not nationalist. Outward facing, not inward looking”, says Drakeford. Now this could either be a call to arms and a commitment to global humanity or a pathetic justification for having done nothing for Wales for the 22 years of devolution.
Because we’re dealing with ‘Welsh’ Labour, it is of course the latter.
Wales is the poorest country in Europe. Not so long ago I would have said ‘Western Europe’, but now the countries of the former Soviet bloc have caught us up and in many cases overtaken us.
The truth is that ‘Welsh’ Labour and its so-called ‘Welsh Government’ should be doing a lot more looking inward; then they might appreciate this country’s problems, its real needs, and address them before riding off on Quixotic crusades to save the planet.
PARAGRAPHS 5 & 6: These continue in the same toe-curling vein, with the predictable use of, “progressive” (‘pass my revolver, wife!’), and even “destiny”!
Though, chwarae teg, I did agree with, “Yes to a Wales that takes ownership of its own destiny” . . . but home rule ain’t gonna deliver that.
PARAGRAPH 7: Drakeford believes the coming Senedd election is a contest unlike any other. Indeed it is, and it could be his last. Go for it, Neil!
PARAGRAPH 8: This is where we learn that Labour has a new strapline – ‘Moving Wales Forward’. God! I wish I’d thought of that!
Can’t you just hear kids shouting it as they whizz by on their bikes! Young women having it tattooed on their intimate parts! Football and rugby crowds – when they’re allowed back, of course – chanting it on the terraces!
What a response to all those who want to move us back. Though Nationalists like me also want to move forward, to independence; and even the anti-Welsh mob want to move forward, by consigning devolution to the dustbin of failed political initiatives. (Where it belongs.)
When you think about it, the only ones who want to stand still, maintain the status quo, are the devolutionists, and where are they to be found? Er, in the Labour Party.
PARAGRAPHS 9 – 12: Here it’s appeals to, ” . . . our tenacity . . . our institutions and sense of social solidarity . . . characteristics that will shape . . . generations to come”. Then it’s, “from the coal field (sic) to the rugby field . . . work together . . . shared experience . . .”.
The kind of vacuous rambling that would shame a be-medalled Latin American caudillo.
PARAGRAPHS 13 – 16: I was obviously unfair in suggesting that 22 years of devolution under ‘Welsh’ Labour has been a disaster – for we are a “world leader in recycling”!
That will be a great consolation to those queuing at food banks, and those being forced out of the communities in which they were born and raised, and where they’d hoped to die.
Twice we see the “National Forest” mentioned. Does this mean that the ‘Welsh Government’ has a plan to develop a forestry industry in Wales, generating wealth, creating jobs, and sustaining communities?
Don’t be silly, Jac, it’s, “for people to further enjoy Wales’ natural beauty”. In other words – more fucking tourism! But worse, this project could also be seen as meeting the demands of Monbiot and his disciples, those who want to dispossess our farmers and take over their land.
The war on farmers becomes clear again with, “tackling agricultural pollution”, presumably into our waterways. Yet most of the pollution in our rivers has nothing to do with agriculture.
Of course this truth does not serve the ‘Welsh Government’s anti-farming agenda. Consequently, it will never be admitted by Natural Resources Wales, or Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs. And certainly not by Lesley’s civil servant lover Gary Haggaty.
But I suppose what pissed me off most in this section was the reference to “investment in new green jobs”. This is not new, we’ve been hearing it for over twenty years. But how many jobs has ‘green energy’ created?
Think of the massive Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, one of the largest in Europe. Does it employ any local people? Certainly, no jobs were provided at earlier stages because the towers, motors, and blades were made in Germany and Denmark.
The only real benefits the local community sees is the £1.8m doled out every year as a Community Fund by the owner of the wind farm, Swedish company Vattenfall. Which only makes me wonder how much of a killing Vattenfall is making.
This Community Fund is just crumbs from our own table.
Despite Labour claiming for two decades or more that renewables would create jobs, and be a great boost to the Welsh economy, the reality is that the ‘Welsh Government’ has simply allowed Wales to be exploited, with no benefits at all for us.
It’s no longer coal mines, slate quarries, or dams and reservoirs, it’s wind and solar farms, and wave energy. But Wales continues to be exploited by strangers.
Therefore only a fool would believe Labour’s promise to deliver in the future what it has already been promising to deliver for so long. ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.
PARAGRAPHS 17 – 22: Here, gentle reader, we reach new heights of hifalutin vacuity before plumbing the depths of cringe-inducing attempts at eloquence.
Though it started encouragingly, because when I read “generations who come after us” I thought at first it was a reference to Burke’s Contract, but no.
This is followed by. “We are so lucky in our country, to have all the natural resources we need to put Wales at the forefront of the global energy revolution which the world will need: wind, water and wave”.
And here, Drakeford is absolutely right – we do have all these resources! But we don’t own any of them. They don’t generate wealth or jobs for us. For as I say, that’s because ‘Welsh’ Labour encourages strangers to exploit our homeland as if it was some 19th century African ‘possession’.
Then comes the empty promise of jobs, again. Before we are exhorted to, ” . . . make our contribution to securing the future of our beautiful but fragile planet”.
(Cue violins and rustling Kleenex.)
This sententious drivel exposes where Labour has gone wrong and how it has failed Wales.
Saving the planet – as if we could! – has done nothing for us. The promised jobs never materialised. Even if they had materialised we would have been working for foreign companies because Labour does not want successful Welsh companies, with Welsh businessmen regularly exposing the bruvvers’ idiocies.
No, Labour wants the quiet life of foreign companies uninterested in Welsh politics and a third sector of Labour cronies forever finding problems for Labour to fund while blaming someone else.
But nothing exposes the reality of Wales today, and Labour’s shortcomings, more than the fact that nowhere in Drakeford’s waffle does he say, ‘Vote for us on our record’.
All he can offer is pie in the sky, recycled promises on green jobs, and more saving the planet. Nowhere does he talk of what really matters to most Welsh people: health, education, jobs (that might actually materialise), and housing they can afford.
Labour has pandered to certain alien lobbies at the expense of the Welsh people for too long, and this cannot go on. Labour must be removed from power in May.
And remember! a vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote to keep Labour in power.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
The next elections for the Welsh Parliament are just over six months away; so this week I’m taking a break from crooks, money-launderers, con men, enviroshysters, third sector leeches to focus on politicians.
Reading that, the cynics among you will say, “So no great change there, then, Jac!”.
How dare you be so disrespectful of our tribunes! Go stand in the corner!
THE 2016 RESULT
Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the overall result from the previous election in 2016.
The first thing you might notice is that despite these elections being organised under a system of proportional representation the result, certainly for Labour, the biggest party, gives an outcome not a lot different to first past the post.
You’ll also see that the main challengers get seats roughly in line with their share of the vote, with the smaller parties generally losing out. It’s a system designed to protect the Labour-dominated status quo in Wales, while also stifling ‘insurgent’ parties.
This system has worked to perfection in Wales because the Conservatives are unlikely to ever gain a majority of seats. And when Labour fails to get a majority then Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats will always be there to help.
After the 2016 election Labour went into coalition with the sole Liberal Democrat AM. Which meant that parties with a total of 38% of the vote were able to form an administration.
Is this really how PR is supposed to work?
THE LABOUR PARTY
At the risk of sounding uncharitable, the great thing the Labour Party has had going for it is . . . not being the Conservative Party. The advertising campaigns, the policy drafting, the tub-thumping and the sloganising could all have been ignored in favour of the simple message – ‘Vote for us, cos we’re not the Tories’.
And it’s worked, for almost a century.
In England, the decline of traditional industries, and their associated trade unions, have weakened the Labour Party. Labour in Scotland suffered the same problem, exacerbated by the rise of the Scottish National Party to the point where Labour is hanging on for dear life, with just one Westminster MP left.
In Wales, Labour has fared better because we’ve been spared the corrupting influence of prosperity, and also because there is no equivalent of the SNP. Of course, Plaid Cymru likes to view itself as the Welsh SNP but the SNP set out to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland whereas Plaid Cymru seeks to keep its Welsh branch alive and in power.
How Labour will do next May depends to a considerable extent on perceptions of the Conservative government in London. For while Scotland has a vigorous national media allowing elections to be influenced by Scottish issues, the absence of a Welsh media worthy of the name means that here we tend see Englandandwales elections.
The exception being perhaps areas with high numbers of Welsh speakers who are less reliant on news from London.
On issues of the day, there is a general and widespread belief that the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ has handled the Covid-19 pandemic better than Johnson, Hancock, Jenrick and the rest of the gang up in London.
But then, being seen as less incompetent than that crew is no great achievement.
When we address purely Welsh issues, it’s difficult to think of anything Labour has to crow about. For Wales continues to fall behind other countries in areas like wealth, health, housing and education.
Cardiff seems to be prospering but away from the Lesser Wen the country can be divided into post-industrial areas experiencing managed decline and rural areas undergoing engineered population change from Welsh to English.
Labour leader, Mark Drakeford, is less oleaginous than his predecessor, Carwyn Jones, but still a difficult man to like. Despite the Brownie points gained for Covid-19 there remain plenty of bear traps for him to negotiate between here and next May.
By any criteria one cares to apply, Labour has been a failure since 2016. Labour has failed Wales since the dawn of devolution in 1999. But for the reasons I’ve given, Labour will still emerge as the largest single party, with around 30% of the vote.
But well short of a majority of seats.
If nothing else, such a result should increase calls for more Senedd Members and a system of true proportional representation.
THE CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY (CUP)
The last few years have been a series of peaks and troughs for the CUP, with Brexit almost tearing the party apart under Theresa May. Things took a turn for the better when Boris Johnson became party leader and won a famous victory in December . . . since when it’s been downhill again.
In last December’s election the Tories won a number of seats in the north, most notably, Wrexham, held by Labour since 1931. But the overall vote in Wales only increased by 2.5%. The real story was that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party saw its Welsh vote go down by 8%.
Things have not gone well for the CUP since that December election for all sorts of reasons. Such as a number of the new intake being pretty odious specimens.
The new MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosby, has appeared on this blog a number of times, usually defending her colleague and MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Jake Berry. Berry owns properties around Rhoscolyn and earlier this year people were asking if he was breaking lockdown restrictions to travel between his Welsh properties, his London home, and his constituency.
The situation does not look like improving for the Tories, for two main reasons.
Let’s look first at Covid-19. As I said in the previous section, the Conservative government in London has had a disastrous pandemic: incompetence, lies, contracts to cronies, it’s all there, and this will be remembered next May.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Tories seem determined to alienate even more people by insisting that the ‘Welsh Government’ is being anti-English when – for perhaps the first time ever – it prioritises the interests of Wales.
I believe it’s the latter, because in spouting this nonsense, the Tories are playing to a particular gallery. I’m thinking now of the anti-Welsh, gammony element that might otherwise be seduced by the growing number of splinter group parties on the BritNat fringe. (I’ll come to them later.)
The other problem of their own making is, again, Brexit. Of course Wales voted for Brexit, but I’m sure very few of us voted for privatising the NHS, chlorinated chicken, and undermining the Welsh farming industry. I certainly didn’t.
But it’s now become clear that a No Deal Brexit was always the favoured option for the CUP leadership in London. Which will mean the City of London remains at the centre of the biggest money-laundering network in the world; the NHS is opened up to US Big Pharma; and we have to get used to food products from the USA, where standards in both hygiene and animal welfare are more ‘relaxed’.
All the Welsh CUP MPs voted for this deal. Which is not clever for people representing constituencies with large numbers of farmers . . . and their extended families . . . and contractors to the industry, and so many others who rely to a greater or lesser degree on agriculture for their livelihoods.
There will be a price to pay next May for the coronavirus cock-ups and the shafting of our farmers. And while the Tories in Corruption Bay weren’t responsible, it’ll be some of them who’ll pay the price.
Other factors working against the Conservatives will be the Englandandwales media/election paradigm and the Vera Lynn Fan Clubs competing for regional votes.
For all these reasons I expect the CUP representation in the Welsh Parliament to fall.
PLAID CYMRU THE PARTY OF WALES
Although Plaid Cymru won 12 seats in 2016 the party is now down to 10. Lord Elis Thomas, the constituency member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, left to become a Labour-supporting Independent; and Neil McEvoy, the regional AM for South Wales Central, left to sit as an Independent before forming the Welsh National Party (WNP).
A further change since 2016 is that Plaid Cymru also has a new leader in Adam Price. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about him is that he’s not former leader, Leanne Wood.
For most Welsh voters Plaid Cymru is the party of Welsh independence, but as I’ve argued, Plaid Cymru is a party that sought more autonomy for Wales, more funding for Wales, and the creation of a new class of politicians and administrators made up of . . . well, the kind of people who populate the upper echelons of Plaid Cymru.
This was to be a system that created a new class that Djilas would have recognised enjoying prestige and influence without the responsibility of having to fund it. Devolution, with a bit more power, many more sinecures, and lots more money, is the end of the line.
Plaid Cymru was always Cymru Fydd resurrected, not a Welsh Sinn Féin. Until, that is, it moved to the left in the 1980s and really screwed itself up. Enjoying only a brief period of coherence under the leadership of Dafydd Wigley and the first Assembly elections in 1999.
Today we again see a schizophrenic party where Welsh-speaking social conservatives from the rural heartlands mix uncomfortably with some real oddballs and a few with views that should have denied them membership.
Plaid Cymru is today one of those confused leftist parties that is vehemently opposed to intolerance . . . except when it’s those it approves of being intolerant.
As a leftist party Plaid Cymru believes that, thanks to the capitalist system, we’re either going to fry due to global warming, or else we’re going to drown from rising sea levels, so Wales must play its part in trying to avert these outcomes.
In practice, that means supporting wind turbines that create no jobs and simply exploit Wales. Where profits flow to a City hedge fund, or a multinational, or a state-owned energy company from Scandinavia.
Except on issues that are largely irrelevant to Wales – where Plaid Cymru can play gesture politics – the party comes across as weak and indecisive. Take holiday homes. Plaid talks the talk but it won’t walk the walk.
At present Welsh local authorities can impose a council tax surcharge on holiday homes up to 100%. The only council that levies the 100% is Labour-controlled Swansea. (And despite what you might think, there are many holiday homes on the waterfront, in Mumbles, and of course around Gower.)
But Gwynedd, where Plaid Cymru is in control, imposes only a 50% surcharge. It’s a similar picture in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
On independence, Plaid Cymru has been outflanked and overtaken by Yes Cymru. While on the party political front there are two new challengers in the form of Gwlad and the Welsh National Party (WNP). Both are unequivocal about prioritising Welsh interests, and are fully committed to achieving independence.
So you really have to wonder what Plaid Cymru stands for nowadays, and where it’s going. That’s certainly what Welsh voters will be doing in May. Many will conclude that Plaid Cymru has hit the buffers.
Which certainly seems to be the case.
For while opinion polls tell us that more and more people are prepared to consider independence, those same polls show little or no increase in support for Plaid Cymru. Recent polls show 51% of Labour voters prepared to consider independence, but only 71% of Plaid Cymru voters!
What’s going wrong for Plaid Cymru?
In a nutshell, Plaid Cymru believes that the only acceptable vision of independence must be well to the left of centre, pro EU, in favour of open borders, anti Trump, and dragging a whole baggage train of ishoo-of-the-month idiocies that turn off most voters.
Dogmatic to the point of being unelectable.
Plaid Cymru always failed to engage with the urban, anglophone population. After the disappointment of Brexit, the success of the Brexit Party (winning the May 2019 EU elections in Wales and the UK), and BoJo’s victory last December, many in Plaid Cymru – like the US Democrats – have given up trying to win over stupid, racist, poor whites.
They find it preferable to retreat into their cocoons of progressive self-righteousness in the echo chamber of social media.
Which is why I believe Plaid Cymru will lose Ceredigion and also end up with fewer Members from the regional lists.
There’s a temptation to be very unkind in this section . . . but it’s not in my nature to put the boot in when somebody’s down. And boy! are the Liberal Democrats down.
It’s an amazing decline for the party of David Lloyd George, but entirely predictable when we consider the quality of leaders and representatives in recent years at both Welsh and UK level. I’m not sure if Ms Williams holds group meetings with herself but I’m sure she will have thought the same thing many a time.
And yet, despite currently being down to a solitary representative, the Liberal Democrats could be the big winners in May next year.
As I’ve suggested, the CUP has pissed off a lot of people, and most certainly a lot of farmers. Few will know that better than Kirsty Williams, a farmer’s wife.
Obviously, I’m not privy to what goes on at Welsh Liberal Democrat Party meetings (I can never find the telephone kiosk!) but I’m sure Kirsty Williams has hopes for the seats of Montgomeryshire to the north and Ceredigion to the west. (If the students in Aber’ and Lampeter have forgiven the Lib Dems for reneging on tuition fees.)
So I’m predicting that the Liberal Democrats could double, or even treble, their representation in May 2021. These are the three constituencies mentioned, and there might even be a regional list seat.
VERA LYNN FAN CLUBS
This is where it gets tricky, because the landscape on the BritNat right is forever shifting. Hardly surprising when we look at the personalities involved, and realise how many of them are often described as ‘interesting’, or ‘eccentric’ (code for ‘absolute nutter’).
Back in 2016, the big winner among this section of the electorate was UKIP, with 13% of the vote and seven seats. The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party did not stand constituency candidates and got just 4.4% of the regional vote (which was still more than the share won by the Green Party of Englandandwales).
Since 2016 UKIP has had eight or nine UK leaders, numerous resignations, and in Corruption Bay is now reduced to the solitary – but dapper – form of Neil Hamilton. In fact, I’m not sure if Neil Hamilton isn’t the current party leader. Or was that last month?
Not so long ago the Abolish lot was the fringe of a fringe, but now it boasts two Members of the Senedd, Gareth Bennett and Mark Reckless. Though you’ve gotta be pretty desperate to boast about those two.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those UKIP meetings because by comparison ferrets in a sack are models of harmony and co-existence.
The most recent development is that Rowlands and the Jones women have formed a new group, the Independent Alliance for Reform. And if that name doesn’t stir something deep inside you – other than wind – then you are beyond hope.
It is obviously designed to be interchangeable with or to complement Aux barricades!
And all the while, in the wings, observing, is Nigel Farage. Will his Reform Party put in a late appearance, or will it be the promised relaunch of the Brexit Party? Though with Brexit almost done what would be the platform?
For let us remember that the Assembly elections of May 2016 were held just ahead of the EU referendum and were almost overshadowed by it. This propinquity benefited Ukip.
One thing’s for sure, if all the parties we’ve looked at in this section fight all the seats then we’ll be royally entertained by the stars they’ll recruit from Wetherspoons and other squelchy underfoot salons. A goodly number of whom will have to withdraw before the election after saying or doing something really stupid.
The BritNat right has no hope of a constituency seat, so hopes rest on the regional lists. Which means that a lot will depend on whether they fight each other or come to some arrangement.
I suspect there are still enough “Brexit means Brexit” types out there to win 3 seats.
THE SERIOUS ABOUT WALES PARTIES
Looking around Wales and seeing the mess this country is in is painful enough, but when you realise that none of the existing parties offers any hope of meaningful change, then new parties will be formed.
And that’s exactly what’s happened; and why we have Gwlad and the WNP.
I am a member of Gwlad and played a small part in its creation, but it was easy for me to withdraw to the blogosphere because the party is in such capable hands.
I like to think that Gwlad combines patriotism with pragmatism. For example, in believing that relying on handouts from London, as Labour and Plaid Cymru prefer, only perpetuates the misconception that Wales could never stand on her own two feet economically.
There are radical yet practical proposals across the board. We’ve already touched on Plaid Cymru’s fear of upsetting second home owners – a number in their own ranks – with meaningful levels of council tax; well, Gwlad does not hesitate to demand a 500% council tax surcharge.
Predictably, the criticism levelled against Gwlad by Plaid Cymru is that we shall “split the nationalist vote”. This is nonsense, because Plaid Cymru has already split – or certainly, limited – the nationalist vote by its inflexible and off-putting socialism.
This is borne out in recent elections and in even more so in recent opinion polls.
What Gwlad will do is reach out to those who want, or would be prepared to consider, independence, but could never vote for a hard-line socialist party also lumbered with the tag of still being a party only for Welsh speakers.
Gwlad could come through a crowded field to win a constituency seat and should certainly collect 3 or 4 regional list seats.
Of course, I’ve met Neil McEvoy a few times and we exchange the occasional e-mail, Wales is a small country after all. But I really don’t know much about his new party beyond what I read in the media.
Though I do know a few others involved with the WNP.
Over the years I’ve sunk a few pints with Councillor Keith Parry . . . and I’m still haunted by a car journey one very rainy night as I tried to concentrate on the road ahead while my mate and Keith’s Jewish wife argued over the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.
I feared it was all going to end in a fight and a fireball car crash. Phew!
Many observers try to say that Neil McEvoy only took the course he did in forming the WNP because he was effectively thrown out of Plaid Cymru. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Neil has been in politics a long time, and he knows what’s wrong with Wales. On one level it’s London’s political, economic and cultural stranglehold, but on the local level it’s the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru.
Labour holds power on local councils and in the Senedd . . . simply to be in power; to stop someone else getting the salaries and the expenses, attending the bun-fights and the jollies. Labour has little intention – and no real incentive – to improve the lives of our people because for a century it has capitalised on Wales’ deprivation.
Plaid Cymru, as I’ve said, is a party of gestures and abstractions. It is the twenty-first century political equivalent of those medieval divines who would argue over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
But actually doing anything? Forget it!
But if one of his constituents persuades him they’re getting a raw deal, then Neil McEvoy will take up the case and demand something be done about it. And he sometimes ruffles feathers doing it. But if kids are sharing a bedroom with rats, or there’s water rippling down the kitchen wall . . .
Neil McEvoy is a do-er, a man who believes in the direct approach; and that makes the anguished attitudinisers of Plaid Cymru very nervous. And never more so than when he confronts the Labour Party.
Sticking it to the man may outrage the sensitive flowers of Plaid Cymru but it goes down well with real people, on the streets of Cardiff, and elsewhere in Wales. People want their problems solved, they do not want to be patronised, or taken for granted, by an aloof and self-serving political class.
The big test will come in the constituency seat of Cardiff West, where McEvoy will be standing against First Minister Drakeford. Plaid Cymru will of course be splitting the nationalist vote in the hope of securing victory for Mark Drakeford.
Neil McEvoy’s street cred and his sheer hard work might win Cardiff West next May, plus a couple of regional list seats.
My very personal belief is that Gwlad and the WNP should not get in each other’s way next May. Neither has the strength yet to fight a full national election so it’s in their interests, and more importantly, it’s in Wales’s interests, for there to be some kind of deal.
I obviously can’t account for all those who might be standing next May, there’s bound to be a wild card or two. But what you’ve just read is how I see it panning out.
Other factors will I’m sure influence voters. Perhaps the UK government’s Internal Markets Bill; supposedly about ‘repatriating’ powers from the EU but which, in reality, gives BoJo’s gang the power to trample all over devolution.
Perhaps it will even be used to challenge the 1707 Act of Union.
More specific to Wales is a growing awareness of and dislike for the chumminess of Cardiff Bay. The air of cronyism and unaccountability exemplified by Labour and Plaid Cymru refusing to bring in a register of lobbyists.
The problem in this area is obvious, but there are always excuses for doing nothing. This is because Labour and Plaid Cymru are too close to those who might be held to account by such legislation.
Another issue that might influence some voters to take a punt on a new party is the widespread perception that Cardiff gets everything. Which doesn’t change when an MS goes to Cardiff promising to speak up for his area . . . only to be sucked into the swamp that is Corruption Bay.
But perhaps we should remember Harold Macmillan’s response when asked what was most likely to influence or derail political plans. Supermac is said to have replied: “Events, dear boy, events.”
In other words, that which cannot be foreseen. Six months is a very long time in politics.