Devolution, the placebo that no longer works

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

I suppose most people reading this know what a placebo is, but for those who aren’t certain . . . a placebo is something given instead of a medicine or treatment and is intended to fool the person receiving it into believing they are taking a medicine or receiving treatment.

In other words, the patient or guinea pig is given something that won’t really do them any good. Understandably, once they realise they’re being given a placebo then its usefulness is gone.

IN THE BEGINNING

Let’s start by reminding ourselves that devolution wasn’t a gift from Heaven, it was not promised in the Labour manifesto of 1997 because those offering it thought it would be good for Scotland and Wales. No, it was offered because it served England’s (perceived) interests.

Also, let’s not forget the Irish dimension; for to support a fragile peace process there was also an imperative to set up a Northern Ireland Assembly. In fact, this desire formed part of the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act (1998). For good measure London was also included in the package to make it look like a sincere attempt to devolve power from Westminster.

In reality, Tony Blair’s Labour government gave devolution to London confident that the Assembly would always have a Labour majority, to the Six Counties because of US pressure, and to Scotland and Wales as a placebo to ‘national aspirations’ which was safeguarded, so it was believed, by an electoral system (certainly in Scotland) that made it difficult for any one party to achieve an absolute majority.

LABOUR AND DEVOLUTION

But as we’ve seen, the ‘no majority’ system has failed, and the Scottish National Party has used its majority in the Scottish Parliament to improve standards and conditions in all manner of ways. But what of Wales?

Things are different in Wales for one very obvious reason. While Scotland has a political party and a government determined to improve the country, we have languished for twenty years under successive Labour and Labour-led administrations that have simply masked the old system of neglecting Wales unless she can be exploited.

A very recent and still emerging example would be the National Development Framework (NDF) produced a few months ago by the ‘Welsh Government’. I mention the NDF because it’s a “20-year spatial plan” for the whole country, all other plans are subsidiary to it.

I wrote about the National Development Framework in August, in a post of the same name. In the NDF we read that much of rural Wales outside of the national parks is to be ‘rewilded’, given over to a new ‘national forest’, or else covered in wind turbines and solar complexes.

From the National Development Framework. Click to enlarge

This of course allows the ‘Welsh Government’ to virtue signal madly that ‘Wales’ is making its contribution to saving the planet. In reality, Wales is being lined up for a coat of Greenwash that will be welcomed by the City and others as a money-making wheeze, while Wales provides even more of England’s electricity.

Of course, we’ve suffered wind turbines for a couple of decades, but what’s interesting in the NDF is that it explores new ways to exploit our uplands. The two articles below, one from the Times and the other from Llais y Sais, will help explain what I mean.

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The piece from the Times stresses the carbon-absorbing value of mountains and moorlands while the Western Mail article talks of planting trees on grazing land. Wales of course has plenty of mountains, moorland and grazing land, and if these are to be monetised then we can guarantee that ‘investors’ and others will profit from Welsh land.

All this will be facilitated by the ‘Welsh Government’. Playing the role it adopted with unseemly alacrity when presented with the Summit to Sea scam. For ‘Welsh’ Labour hates farmers more than perhaps any other sector of the population.

When it hasn’t been punishing rustics for not voting Labour the party has been building up an army of cronies to run the ‘poverty industry’. The third sector capitalises on Welsh deprivation with no intention of bringing relief or remedy because to do so would mean an end to the public funding sustaining thousands of well-paid – but usually unnecessary – jobs.

So we see that ‘Welsh’ Labour is quite happy to serve as London’s management team in Cardiff, and equally content to see Wales decline. Then, even at Assembly elections, Labour can heard bewailing Wales’ deprivation and insisting that voters ‘Send a message to London’.

Though what sending a message to London about the mess Labour has made of Wales is supposed to achieve I’m not sure. Unless it’s a pat on the head for the local Labour bigwigs and the promise of seats in the House of Lords.

PLAID CYMRU AND DEVOLUTION

Anyone looking at Plaid Cymru and thinking they see a party working for Welsh independence really should pop along to the Cloud Cuckoo Land branch of Specsavers.

In truth, the thought of independence terrifies Plaid’s leadership, and others in the upper stratum of the party. For with independence comes responsibility, standing on your own two feet, and delivering measures to improve the lives of the Welsh people – for there’ll be no one else to blame.

What Plaid Cymru wants is the kind of DevoMax system I outlined in Plaid Cymru, where to now? (scroll down when you get there). In a nutshell, institutions in which a native elite of politicians, professionals and administrators can prosper. We are almost there; with a few more powers devolved to the Assembly, such as justice and policing, these desires might be satisfied.

At the moment, Plaid still gets the votes of most of those wanting independence, also those concerned with the Welsh language, nationhood and associated factors. But this constituency is losing faith or simply giving up due to the direction Plaid Cymru is taking.

The hard truth for Plaid Cymru is that no amount of fascist-hunters, or trans lobbyists, or EU zealots, or planet-savers, or any other variety of political exotica will be enough to replace the socially conservative Welsh voters being lost, often alienated by the increasing grip on the party exerted by the aforementioned.

These newer elements promote causes common to a number of political parties and pressure groups, which often means that with Plaid Cymru they’re just hedging their bets. Their interest in Plaid Cymru, and indeed Wales, is often due solely to the attractiveness of a small country with a system of devolution and a malleable political leadership.

For the upcoming general election Plaid Cymru has entered into a disastrous ‘Remainer’ pact with a Liberal Democrat Party led by a woman who loses votes every time she’s exposed to public scrutiny and a Green Party that refuses to even recognise the existence of Wales.

Image courtesy of Sunday Times. Click to enlarge

With Labour and the devolution system it brought into existence discredited there is a golden opportunity to take Wales forward to independence.

But it can’t happen because all we have is Plaid Cymru, another leftist party that would rather be the junior partner in a colonial management structure than the party – like the SNP – guiding a nation towards independence.

Or perhaps I’m being unfair on Plaid Cymru, maybe its ambition extends to being the senior partner in a colonial administration. Now there’s ambition for you!

We have reached the stage where Plaid Cymru has nothing to say on Wales and independence; and few people listen to what it has to say on other issues. The party is surviving as a political force on goodwill accumulated in a previous incarnation.

THE PLACEBO NO LONGER WORKS

As the old saying has it: ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’

That’s the stage we’re at with devolution and the leftist hegemony in Cardiff Bay. After twenty years of declining standards I believe that a majority of people now realise that devolution isn’t working and that the blame lies in Cardiff not London.

Realising that devolution has failed explains both the increased support for abolishing the Assembly altogether and also why more of us are prepared to consider independence. With correspondingly fewer in the middle willing to defend devolution. For the ‘recognition of nationhood’ and ‘better than nothing’ arguments no longer persuade.

If returned on December 12 it’s possible that the Tories will do away with devolution in the next couple of years, not because they’re ideologically opposed to devolution – they’re not – but because they can also see that the placebo effect is wearing off.

I would probably support the abolition of the Assembly, reasoning that it might be necessary to take a step back before we can move forward. When stuck in a rut it’s often necessary to go back in order to move forward with greater momentum than took you into the rut. And let’s be honest, we walked into devolution with our eyes shut.

Click to enlarge

And for those now calling me all sorts of names I put out a simple challenge – defend devolution. (And for God’s sake, don’t insult my intelligence by arguing that things would be better with Plaid Cymru in charge.)

I have argued for a few years that Welsh independence is most likely to come about from an interplay between internal dynamics with external factors, with the latter influencing the former. And that is what we now see happening: Devolution is discredited, as are the parties most closely associated with it; while beyond our borders clouds gather, but these are clouds with silver linings, if we only we realise it.

We now need a Conservative government in London to inflict all the damage its opponents predict it will. Then we must help the Scots in their second independence referendum. Finally, we must make a push for our own independence with a broad-based movement focused solely on Wales and Welsh issues.

Which is why I shall be supporting Welsh independence on December 12 by voting for the Conservative and Unionist Party.

♦ end ♦

 

Chilcot and Iraq, All You Really Need to Know

Having read the full Chilcot Report on the invasion of Iraq by the USA and the UK – in the original Latin – I have decided to spare my readers that ordeal by giving a succinct summary of what lies behind that disaster and why we are where we are.

However, for the masochists among you, here’s a link to the Executive Summary. This runs to 150 pages, but the full Report is 2.6 million words long, or over four times the size of War and Peace, so don’t even think about reading it.

For all you need to know, read on . . .

1/ The best place to start is with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. From the perspective of the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department at that time, anyone who fought against communism was a ‘freedom-fighter’, be he a drug-trafficking fascist, a mass-murdering psychopath or, as in Afghanistan, a religious fanatic wanting to turn the clock back a few centuries.

And so it came to pass that Uncle Sam ended up funding, arming and in other ways supporting the Bearded Ones in their fight against the Russians. (No, these were not hipsters.)

Beards

In the same year, the major US ally in the region, the Shah of Iran, was forced into exile by another bunch of Bearded Ones. There was further humiliation for the USA when its Tehran embassy was overrun and 66 US citizens taken hostage.

2/ Next, in September 1980, hostilities commenced between Iran and Iraq. Despite Iraq being ruled by a ruthless tyrant named Saddam Hussein, who began his career as an assassin for the Ba’ath Party, the USA decided – on the ‘enemy of my enemy’ principle – to back (the beardless) Saddam.

After massive losses on both sides the inconclusive war came to its end with the ceasefire of August 20th 1988.

3/ Saddam Hussein decided to flex his military muscles again by invading Kuwait in August 1990 – using weaponry supplied by Western powers during the war with Iran. This invasion was widely condemned, and a UN-supported coalition force was organised under US leadership to liberate Kuwait.

A brief military campaign at the start of 1991 saw the Iraqi army expelled and Kuwait restored to its former condition of Western-friendly despotism. However, the coalition stopped short of toppling Saddam, who then took revenge on his Kurdish and Shia subjects, who had been encouraged to rise against him by the USA and its partners with the promise of protection and / or Saddam’s removal.

The US president at the time of the ‘liberation’ of Kuwait was George H W Bush.

4/ With the Russians gone Afghanistan descended into civil war, from which emerged victorious, in 1996, the fundamentalist (and well bearded) Taliban, but nobody paid them too much attention because they were the good guys who’d fought against Ronald Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire‘.

The Taliban takeover allowed Saudi national Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation to return from its four-year exile in Sudan. (Bin Laden was never seen without his beard.) Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim terrorist organisation that views the West as a corrupting influence on the Islamic world, and it announced its war on the West with attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in August 1998.

5/ Unpleasant though these incidents were they were both a long way away, but everything changed with al-Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th, 2001.

In response, Afghanistan was invaded, and it was soon realised that 9/11, as it became known, could also be used as an excuse to remove Saddam Hussein. For by now the US president was George W Bush, son of the president Bush who had lost face by leaving Saddam in power.

Attacking Iraq was a curious decision for many reasons. As I’ve said, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, many of his funders and supporters were Saudis, most of the hijackers on the planes that caused such devastation were Saudis. So if any country should have been attacked in response to 9/11 it was surely Saudi Arabia! But no, for the Saudis and the Americans were friends.

6/ But this time there was to be no UN support, and no grand coalition. Russia, Germany, France and most other countries opposed US action against Iraq. So to give himself a fig leaf / partner George W Bush turned to the UK, and its prime minister Tony Blair. At a meeting on his Texas ranch in April 2002 Bush got Blair to commit the UK to joining with the USA in invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. (Bush and Blair have never been seen bearded.)

Three months later Blair wrote his now infamous memo to Bush in which he promised, “I will be with you, whatever”.

My view has always been that Blair was seduced by the opportunity to play a world role in partnership with the USA, and so he allowed himself to be talked into invading Iraq. A country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and led by a man who was as hostile to the Bearded Ones as Western leaders. (And who understood far better what he was dealing with.)

Fundamentally, the problem may have been that Blair allowed it all to go to his head, he seemed to think that he too was a president, rather than a prime minister answerable to parliament. That he was able to get away with it exposed weaknesses in the UK system that seem to have been overlooked. What steps have been taken to ensure that no future prime minister can behave like a one-man government?

Bush Blair

7/ The planned invasion then had to be justified. Which saw a year or more in which we heard one ludicrous claim after another telling us how dangerous Saddam Hussein was, and what a threat he was to the West. Why! he had missiles that could target British bathers on Cyprus beaches.

This is when we became familiar with the term Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which it was claimed – by the US and UK – Saddam possessed, and was preparing to use. The problem with this assertion was that United Nations weapons inspectors that were in the country, and free to go wherever they wished, could find absolutely nothing to substantiate these claims. That was because the claims were bullshit, and those making the claims knew they were bullshit.

Bush, Blair and their underlings knew that Iraq had no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons but the pretence had to be maintained. In his State of the Union address on January 28th 2003 George Bush said, “If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.” Saddam Hussein was being told to get rid of weapons he didn’t possess otherwise his country would be invaded! Clearly the USA was going to invade Iraq, and sure enough, Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 19th 2003.

8/ The invasion itself went swimmingly, the Iraqi army was soon rolled up and the media showed us grateful Iraqis dancing in the streets and showering their liberators with gifts. British forces were given territory in the Shia heartlands of the south east to control, in and around the city of Basra, not far from Iran. Then it all started to go wrong.

The sudden and complete removal of Saddam’s army and police, coupled with the reluctance of the US and UK military to antagonise the locals, resulted in looting and more general criminality becoming widespread. The political situation deteriorated by the day as the Iranians encouraged the Shia majority to exercise its new-found power through its militias. While Saddam’s now dis-empowered and jobless Sunni supporters grew ever more bitter as they envisioned a Shia-run Iraq.

In the north, the Kurds effectively withdrew from the crumbling state and set up their own institutions.

The truth was that no one in the US-UK alliance really had a clue what might happen after Saddam was toppled. It was all wishful thinking premised on the aftermath of D-Day: Go in, kick out the bad guys, be welcomed as liberators, drink some booze and lay a few chicks, set out the rules for a pro-Western system of government, go home to ticker-tape welcome . . . more booze and chicks.

If only!

9/ What actually happened after the initial welcome was years of fighting between coalition forces and Shia militias or Sunni insurgents. The country fell apart. A major contribution to the upsurge in hostility to the occupying forces was the decline in public amenities, health care and other facilities, this being the inevitable result of the gratuitous destruction of infrastructure by the coalition at the start of the campaign, largely done for the entertainment of the television audience in the West.

Saddam Hussein was unquestionably a bastard, but he wasn’t particularly ideological, and he certainly wasn’t driven by religious zeal, nor was he especially greedy. He certainly liked power and used it as he thought necessary to hold together an artificial and fissiparous country bequeathed by the Sykes-Picot carve-up during WWI.

But as Iraqis were soon to lament, under Saddam they at least had electricity, and a working sewage system, the hospitals had drugs and doctors, there was public transport, kids went to school and on to university. Compared to the ‘liberation’ Iraq under Saddam Hussein began to look like a lost golden age.

10/ Democracy (of a sort) was installed . . . or another way of putting it would be that Shia sectarianism was empowered. For the Shia majority, with its (lavishly bearded) leaders controlled by Iran, now ruled the roost and were determined to make the Sunni – of whom Saddam was nominally one – pay for the years in which they, the Sunni, had ruled that same roost at the expense of Shia and Kurds.

The resentment felt by the Sunni resulted in attacks on the US military, and on Shia shrines and other targets. To cut a long story short, it was the treatment meted out to the Sunni by the USA and the Shia – who were backed, bizarrely, by both the USA and Iran – that created the conditions in which Sunni ISIS could establish itself and flourish.

And that’s where we are today, boys and girls.

CONCLUSION

With no clear plan beyond settling a family score by getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and grabbing Iraq’s oilfields and other assets for vice president Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and other US companies, George W Bush didn’t really know what he was doing. His ally, or perhaps his dupe, Tony Blair, deluded himself that this was some noble crusade against evil. Even today Blair argues that he did the right thing. One’s a duplicitous and devious idiot, the other’s a self-deluding zealot who, like so many who have done great wrong, now finds solace in religion.

Halliburton

They blundered in, blundered about for a few years, wrecking an entire country, strengthening Iran, causing the rise of ISIS, before blundering out, little wiser about the country they’d destroyed than when they invaded.

Add disastrous military escapades like Iraq and Afghanistan to globalisation and immigration and you explain the increasing alienation of the white working class in the USA and in post-industrial regions across Europe. Which in turn explains the popularity of Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders), Brexit, Marine le Pen and a host of other examples showing growing public contempt for what had been the established political order.

President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair told us that by invading Iraq they were making the world a safer place. The world is now infinitely more dangerous, both from external foes and also from internal divisions due to the discrediting of the Anglo-Saxon, transatlantic political and economic model (the latter following the Crash of 2008).

When millions of voters are prepared to put their faith in Nigel Farage you know just how badly Bush and Blair fucked up. That is their legacy.

 

Updates, etc: Cardigan Castle, Organ Harvesting, Overseas Aid Programme, Housing Associations, Labour Leadership Contest

CARDIGAN CASTLE

I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on the women running and wrecking the Cardigan Castle project (nor would I want anyone to think I plan on ignoring them!) but I couldn’t write this post without a mention of developments since my previous post. Here’s a selection.

Someone informed me that at one meeting Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms opined that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were “nothing but savages”. Which again raises the question: Who the hell is Jonathan Timms and who invited a man living in Kent, England, to get involved?

Another informant sent me a copy of a letter sent to the Carmarthen Journal about three or four years ago, which served to revive an earlier suspicion that the Castle project may be disguising an even more self-serving undertaking involving property grabbing, and that this explains the two trusts. (I would appreciate a good photograph of the Green Street properties.) Elin Jones’ remarks are worth noting.

I am indebted to a third informant for this link which suggests that the Facilities Officer vacancy – the post now filled by Sue “ENGLISH” Lewis – was advertised from December 23rd 2014 to midday on January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. How the hell were they allowed to get away with this?

Rumours persist that non-Gang of Four trustees are ready to jump ship, leaving mesdames Tucker, Lewis, Davies and Jones even more exposed. Moves are also afoot to call an Emergency General Meeting.

Pembrokeshire Herald
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Equinox, the Cardiff PR firm working for the Gang of Four, has requested an urgent meeting with local critics. This panic move may have been instigated by the project’s funders becoming worried by the amount of shit now hitting the fan.

Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the case, is known to be in the pockets of the Gang of Four. Or should that be ‘handbags’? Or would that be sexist? Who cares?

Here’s the ‘Rhys ap Gruffydd’ Proclamation read out at 7pm on Saturday outside the Castle main entrance, which I understand will also be read out at the Meifod Eisteddfod.

Elsewhere, the Pembrokeshire Herald and its Carmarthenshire sister-paper ran full-page pieces using much of the information I’d supplied on my blog. I only have a photo of the article as I couldn’t get a copy of the newspaper to scan for you, but I was sent a transcript, which you can read here.

Saturday night saw the Bellowhead concert at the Castle. To judge by the photograph I was sent the audience was in the age group 55 – telegram from Beti.

However successful the Gang of Four may want us to believe the Bellowhead concert was I can’t help thinking that a performance of Wagner would have been more appropriate given the situation they’re in, for Götterdämmerung is surely approaching. I’d just love to see the lot of them in horned helmets, wielding spears and shrieking, as a local mob storms the castle. Well, laff!

STOP PRESS: I am now told that during the interval, and at her insistence, Vicky Moller, Plaid Cymru list candidate in Mid and West Wales, was led to the mic by compère, Brychan Llyr (Dic Jones’ son, of Jess fame). She gave a rousing speech, saying that without the diligence and hard work of Cris Tomos (now given the elbow) the renovation would not have been possible. Brychan expressed similar sentiments. Then the control freak Gang of Four tried to prevent Brychan from introducing Bellowhead, but after much heated discussion he did, before leaving the castle grounds.

Finally, the Aberporth connection has been strengthened with information about the bizarre, oversized ‘bardic’ chair to be found at the Castle. Here’s a photo I took on my visit a couple of weeks ago of my wife sitting in it. (No, she hasn’t got a round, flat, black head,) This chair is said to have cost £12,000 but no one seems to recall any tendering process. The artist responsible is a Paul Clarke of . . . Aberporth! He has done work in Aberporth, paid for by the community council, on which body we of course find Jann Tucker. I suggest you read the comments by ‘Rhodri’ to my previous post. He also suggests that the escutcheons and armorials employed are not authentic, having little or nothing to do with Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys.

THIS WEEK’S COMPETITION: Find someone living in Aberporth – or just having a holiday home there – who has not gained financially from the largesse of Lady Tucker of Cardigan Castle.

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ORGAN ‘HARVESTING’

Not a subject I’d normally write about but friends of mine in Llanelli got to thinking about the ‘Welsh’ Government’s proposal to assume that if you don’t expressly say No then you agree to have your organs whipped out and re-used ASAP after your encounter with the Grim Reaper. The leaflet they were reading gave a phone number, and this took them to a call centre in Bristol, and a helpful young Bristolian. This, remember, was for enquiries into a ‘Welsh’ Government initiative.

The big question they asked was, ‘If I agree to donate my organs, or don’t opt out of any new scheme of assumed donation, will my organs stay in Wales (cos they’ll only get homesick otherwise)?’ ‘Er, no, they can end up anywhere in Englandandwales’. ‘Hang on, you’re saying there’ll be an opt-out system in Wales running parallel with an opt-in system in England?’ ‘Um, yes’. ‘Which will mean that the vast majority of the organs taken from Welsh stiffs will end up giving new life to our English neighbours?’ ‘Yup, that’s about the size of it’.

At this point my friends thought they’d be clever and demand the Welsh language service, as the leaflet said they could. ‘I’ll get someone to ring you back’, said the HYB. After half an hour or so the call came, again from Bristol. The Welshman they spoke with said he enjoyed working in Bristol because he and the other Welsh speakers get paid more than their English colleagues because they also answer calls in English. (Which must do wonders for workplace harmony and Welsh-English relationships!)

Welsh Organ

So there you are, if you agree to donate your organs, or don’t opt out of presumed consent, your kidneys could end up keeping alive a frothing-at-the-mouth Kipper, your liver in some Daily Mail journo. This is the kind of insane situation that can only arise when certain powers are devolved within an overarching Englandandwales framework. This is the sham devolution we have in Wales, and in this instance it appears that Wales is being used by England for organ harvesting – with the co-operation of the ‘Welsh’ Government!

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OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME

I bet that heading surprised you! It certainly surprised me when I discovered that the poorest part of Europe, a country that has received billions in EU aid, is sending money to Africa. Let me explain.

On June 18th I posted ‘Welsh Poverty and “Welsh” Labour’s Third Sector Money Pit‘ and in that post I looked at the careers of husband and wife team Travers Merrill and Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill. Travers was at the helm when the good ship Rhondda Life hit the rocks, while Rose’s Third Sector racket is BAWSO. Together they also run a private endeavour called ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Nothing surprising there, seeing as Mrs Merrill is from Zambia.

Curiosity drove me to flick through the ABESU accounts, where I found that in the year ended March 31st 2014 ABESU had received £2,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Not a great amount, but why is our puppet regime down Cardiff docks giving anything to an organisation that doesn’t even operate in Wales? As is my wont, I submitted an FoI on June 22nd. On July 1st I received an acknowledgement that promised an answer by July 16th. When that hadn’t arrived by July 23rd I wrote again, and my answer came the following day. You can read that letter by clicking here.

I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:

1. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gave Abesu £2,000.

2. If confirmed, please explain the reason for the Welsh Government giving £2,000 to Abesu, and from which funding ‘pot’ the money came.

3. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gives funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales.

4. If confirmed, please supply a list of such organisations together with the amounts given, and from which ‘pots’ the funding is secured.

The response I got, from ‘the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office’ (‘Cabinet Office’ FFS!) said:

“I can confirm that a grant of £2000 was given to Abesu. This was by way of a grant from the Wales Africa Community Links project which was run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme.

I can confirm the Welsh Government does provide funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales. However, with regard to the list of organisations and the amounts given, I have estimated that it will cost more than the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request and because of this the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it.”

The letter went on to explain why I would not have a full response, ‘over the £600 limit’, etc. A couple of sentences in this explanation caught my eye, and you may also find them interesting. They said: “The Welsh Government’s finance system contains over 14,500 companies and organisations whose address is outside of Wales. During financial year 2014/15 there was (sic) 2,331 transactions made against these companies”. Suggesting that far too much of the money spent by the ‘Welsh’ Government is leaving Wales.

Wales for Africa

Anyway, returning to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Wales for Africa programme. With the best will in the world, it’s difficult not to see this as yet another excuse to give money to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector. This time by sending them on African jollies to “enhance their leadership skills” and have their photographs taken with ever-so-grateful Africans. For more information just follow the link I’ve supplied, and use the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page.

This kind of lunacy is almost bound to happen in the system of sham devolution we know in Wales. We have a bunch of pseudo socialists (many just pseuds) behaving as if they’re running a real government. And of course, the civil servants who really run Wales, and their masters in London, are more than happy to let these self-deluding buffoons waste our money.

Message to Carwyn and the gang: Stop playing stupid games; you are not a real government, Wales is poor, so we do not have money to spare for Polly and Dominic to go showboating in Africa.

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HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

When it comes to events and functions, weddings and conferences Cardigan Castle may not be seeing many paying customers, but one organisation that has been there a couple of times is Cantref, the housing association and white trash importer. A comment to my post The Colonisation of Wales: Help Needed tells us that things got a bit out of hand at Cantref’s AGM when, for some reason, the tenants were bused in for a hog roast and all the booze they could drink! Read the comment for yourself.

Cantref

This munificence is surprising given that Cantref may be entering Shit Creek. (Regularly laying out a few grand on hog roasts and piss-ups don’t help!) For the comment tells us that some of the commitments Cantref has taken on, such as the student accommodation in Aberystwyth, may not be turning out as planned. Hardly surprising when we see Aberystwyth Uni slipping down the league table faster than Cardiff City. Boom! boom! (Couldn’t resist it!)

‘Insider’ also tells us that, “There is something else going on but the sleepy local rags haven’t got a clue yet . . . more news on that later as it’s too dangerous to mention that yet – no wonder three top directors left all of a sudden before year end accounts, local housing consultant David Hedges of Cyngor Da being one of them”. David Hedges is the son of the former Glamorgan cricketer Bernard Hedges, who died in February 2014. (Many is the time I saw Bernard Hedges play at St. Helen’s.) His website, particularly the bullet point ”Cyngor Da’s approach’ is unmitigated Third Sector bollocks-speak. And although the stars favoured him with a Swansea birth Dai seems to have headed into the sunset and relocated to Cardigan.

David Hedges Cyngor Da

Naturally I tried to make enquiries into Cantref’s financial health, but unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose for them there’s no way of getting the figures. The problem is the status of housing associations. If they were charities then it would be a simple matter to visit the Charity Commission website and get the latest accounts gratis. If they were companies then it would be easy to get a financial picture from any number of sites, and pay for specific documents. These would also be available – and usually cheaper – on the Companies House website.

But because housing associations are Industrial and Provident Societies, registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 it means they are registered with, but not regulated by, the Financial Services Authority, which then means you have to apply for any document you want and the cost becomes prohibitive.

No doubt defenders of housing associations will tell us that there is usually an annual report available on their websites. Rubbish, just look at the Cantref Annual Report, it’s just flim-flam and photographs, no better than propaganda, and nothing like the audited accounts available for charities and private companies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, unlike your local council’s housing department . . . assuming your local council’s housing stock hasn’t been taken over by a secretive and acquisitive housing association.

I don’t believe that housing associations should be regarded as anything other than the private companies they are. Put quite simply, housing associations do not meet the criterion used by the FSA for Industrial & Provident Societies: “An industrial and provident society is an organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community.

It is now anomalous that they are treated the same as community organisations and private members clubs. They are – in all but name – private companies, consequently there should be no more funding from the public purse.

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST

Another subject you may be surprised to find me writing about. And while I can’t deny deriving a great deal of pleasure from seeing the bruvvers and sissters poking each other in the eyes this is, I assure you, an attempt to make a more profound observation.

Last Wednesday I watched a debate on Newsnight between three Labour MPs, Mary Creagh, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott. It seems that Creagh and Thornberry nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, but had no intention of voting for him, and were now worried that this ‘oppositional’ candidate might win! Abbott was there, presumably, to speak up for Corbyn.

We were also treated to a film of an increasingly wild-eyed and delusional Tony Blair telling his party’s members that if their heart said Corbyn then they should get a transplant! His former ‘advisor’, John McTernan, called those MPs who nominated Corbyn “morons”. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the most recent entry on McTernan’s CV is Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour in May. The political equivalent of being Custer’s chief scout at the Little Big Horn.

Anyway, the issue seems to be that the great majority of Labour MPs think Corbyn is too Left wing, but at the time of the Newsnight broadcast polls had him as the most popular choice, certainly with trade unionists and ordinary branch members. Which has left Creagh, Thornberry, Margaret Beckett (who’s admitted to being a ‘moron’!) and others suffering from Dr Frankenstein syndrome. It was one of the most enjoyable Newsnights I’ve seen for some time.

To justify rejecting Corbyn Creagh and Thornberry used the argument that Labour would be unelectable with Corbyn in charge, and unless the party wins the next election then Labour will be unable to help the people. Persuasive . . . until they expanded on that and you realised that for them winning elections is an end in itself, and this, they believe, can only be achieved through Labour being indistinguishable from the Conservatives.

The name Emily Thornberry rang a bell with me, but I had to check before I realised that she it was who had insulted the flag of England and those who proudly wave it. She was condemned as a snob for that episode, and watching her on Newsnight I could see why. It was an almost unique experience: she spoke well, her arguments were well marshalled, and yet . . . rarely have I heard anyone be simultaneously eloquent and repulsive.

She is clearly arrogant, to the extent that she kept cutting across Kirsty Wark! (Isn’t that a hanging offence?) But it was her patronising and condescending attitude towards Diane Abbott that really clinched it. She was, and in a way one rarely sees outside of the theatre or television, looking down her nose at the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Thornberry Abbott

The Labour Party has a massive problem on its hands with this election, for it has exposed the chasm between the unworldly professional politicians in the Westminster bubble and those ordinary party members who oppose starving the poor, who believe in pursuing tax dodgers, and who are clearly unhappy with a Labour Party that is little more than the Conservative Party by another name.

Lubbly jubbly! Vote Corbyn! A las barricadas!