In a previous post I talked of the eclectic nature of the ruling Labour group on Swansea council. Of how it seems increasingly to be composed of people who neither know the city nor care much for it. Strangers who, by one route or another, have washed up on Swansea Bay and are simply using the Labour Party and the council to exercise whatever bee they have in their bonnet.
Dealing with the vote to allow bird choppers on Mynydd y Gwair, ancient common land on the northern outskirts of Swansea, I mentioned one Labour councillor who called the objectors rich, 4 x 4 driving nimbies. The irony of that absurd accusation is that the objectors were local Welsh graziers while the beneficiaries of the council’s planning consent will be the Duke of Beaufort and German energy giant RWE.
So I feel no inhibition in naming this woman as councillor Uta Clay, representing the Llansamlet ward. An interesting woman, Uta. Austrian by birth she’s been in Swansea for some four years, living with her husband, who is perhaps even more interesting. For he is Robert Alan Clay, educated at Bedford School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Better known as Bob Clay, he is the former Labour MP for Sunderland North.
The Clays turned up in Swansea some four years ago, after wearing out their welcome in Hereford. They first lived in a converted barn at Rhydypandy, just outside Morriston, from where they began their political manoeuvrings. These included organising a protest rally at the Brangwyn Hall in October 2010. Also, turning up to council meetings, where Bob Clay, with his booming voice and upper class English accent would regularly harangue and insult Chris Holley, Leader of the then Liberal Democrat-led coalition running Swansea. After promoting themselves so assiduously it was no surprise when Uta Clay was selected, in February 2011, to stand for Labour in the Llansamlet ward in the May 2012 council elections. That the Clays didn’t live in Llansamlet was remedied when they moved there that August.
Not satisfied with her being a mere candidate, Bob and Uta Clay tried to take over the branch completely. These attempts resulted in much disharmony among the comrades, and led to Uta Clay being deselected in November. Welsh Labour got involved, and brokered a deal on the understanding that future election material would only be produced by the local party, and would promote all four Labour candidates in the ward.
This failed to disperse the poisonous atmosphere in the Llansamlet ward which finally resulted in the suspension of the whole branch in January 2012. But a month later peace broke out again and it was agreed that all four candidates (including Uta Clay) could stand in the May 3rd council elections. So that was that? Well, no. In mid-March, and contrary to the agreement brokered by Welsh Labour, a separate leaflet was put out on behalf of Uta Clay. The police got involved due to the attacks made in the leaflet on the sitting Independent councillor. The Clays were again suspended. Now the saga takes a very, very strange twist.
The suspension was lifted after an intervention by the Labour Party in London! According to Uta Clay the unauthorised – possibly slanderous – leaflet was put out by her husband, and was therefore nothing at all to do with her! The Labour Party accepted this, and re-instated her as a candidate!
As a senior Labour Party source put it: “This whole thing stinks to high heaven. The local Labour Party did everything by the book, and had the support of the Labour Party in Wales. But pressure has been brought to bear (from outside Wales) to get these suspensions overturned. It’s an outrage that loyal party members have been treated like dirt to accommodate two people who were campaigning against the Labour Party only a few years ago.”
This being a reference to the Clays campaigning with George ‘Indefatigability’ Galloway and his ‘Respeck’ party in the 2004 European Parliament elections. So why did these two Trotskyists get support from Labour in London to over-rule Welsh Labour and the local party, guaranteeing that Uta Clay stood in the council elections? How often does ‘London’ get involved in ward-level squabbles, and in Wales?
The Clays continue to entertain. Most notably with their involvement in the campaign to stop a second Traveller site being established in the Llansamlet ward. A few months ago they turned up at the official Traveller site asking those living there to move to Felindre or Fforestfach. Bringing with them a typed letter to the council asking for relocation that simply needed Travellers’ signatures. The Travellers complained to the council that Bob Clay had suggested they might “not be safe” if they stayed on the official site. The council reported the incident to the police. You must admit, Travellers complaining of being intimidated is unusual. Equally odd is seeing defenders of the underdog jumping on the anti-gypsy bandwagon.
Which brings us back to last week’s vote on the Duke of Beaufort’s subsidy farm at Mynydd y Gwair. A long meeting during which Uta Clay ‘lost it’ and turned on the objectors in the public gallery, calling them nimbies, saying they were all rich people with expensive off-road vehicles. For these and even more offensive remarks Uta Clay has been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman. But she was not alone.
Also jeering the Welsh objectors were two of Swansea’s ex-student councillors, John Bayliss and his good friend Mitchell Theaker behaving like immature hooligans. Bayliss sits on the council to promote Gay issues, while Theaker confesses an interest in reserves and cadets.
The message I take from this sorry business is that in the matter of the Clays, Welsh Labour meekly submitted to orders from its masters in London. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this happens in other spheres and at other times. Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a puppet regime controlled from London. I have always argued that devolution is a sham, this case provides yet more support for that belief.
Looking at the wider picture, I can’t help but wonder what Swansea Labour stalwarts like Byron Owen, Robert Francis-Davies, Ceinwen Thomas and others feel about their party having been taken over by this freak show of GLBT zealots, manipulative academics, embittered Trots and assorted oddballs who’ve turned up out of the blue. How can this shower possibly be serving a city they do not know, they do not understand, and they do not care about?
Looking beyond Swansea, from Wrecsam to Caerffili to Caerfyrddin, we see the Labour Party failing to attract the quality of member that would have filled its ranks in earlier generations, leaving itself easy prey to entryists and others hoping to use the party to promote their own agendas. Thanks to the ‘donkey’ vote Labour may still appear strong, but it’s increasingly clear that this is a facade, one that can only be maintained at ward, branch and local authority level by surrendering to the sort of people now running Swansea.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a nationalist party to prick this ‘bubble’!