The tangled web

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

This a complicated story, so I advise you to pay attention. I’ve written about Dawnus and Hydro Industries a few times in recent years, but now I want to go back, ten years and more, to the start of this story. I shall use information from a number of sources, primarily Rebecca Television, the greatly missed Cneifiwr blog, and another well-informed source.

DESIRABLE PROPERTY

We’ll begin in March 2006 when it became clear that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was winding down its Llangennech site in Llanelli and the prospect was causing some consternation in the locality.

The local Labour MP was Nia Griffith, and of course there was a Labour government in Westminster at the time. Griffith asked a question about Llangennech in the House of Commons. For the government, Don Touhig, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Veterans) Ministry of Defence, confirmed that the Llangennech site would close by mid-2008.

Soon after the closure, early in 2009, the ‘Independent’-Labour-run Carmarthenshire County Council purchased the site and immediately sold it on to a commercial entity. Which raised a number of questions, aired in this report from May of that year.

First, why couldn’t this commercial entity, R & A Properties, have bought the site from the MoD? Second, why wasn’t R & A Properties registered with Companies House? Third, who was behind R & A Properties?

The answer to the first question will be given later.

Question 3 was answered very quickly when we were told that one of those behind the scheme was David Francis Pickering, former captain of the national rugby team and then chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). Working with his “lifelong friend” Robert Nigel Lovering.

Not only that, but Pickering is a big supporter of the Labour Party. He got into some trouble in 2010 for using his position at the WRU “to organise a £1,000-a-plate pre-election fundraising event for Welsh Labour.”

So we have The Labour Party in control in Westminster, Cardiff Bay, the Shire Hall (coalition), and a staunch Labour supporter gets handed the deal of his life with the old MoD site in Llangennech. Such serendipity!

But back to the questions.

The second question was answered by David Pickering when he said, “I know some people will find it strange that R & A is not a limited company but we’ve been advised to do it this way by our professional advisers.” So they paid someone to ‘advise’ them to enter into a multi-million pound deal using a non-existent company! Advice like that might explain Pickering’s business record, which we’ll look at in a minute.

Though in fairness, there does seem to have been a company, or rather, a Limited Liability Partnership, called R&A Properties, for it’s mentioned in the accounts of Hydro Industries Ltd for y/e 31/03/2016. (More on Hydro Industries anon.)

I’m at a loss to explain the reference to DFP Properties Ltd, a company whose records show it has never done any business whatsoever. Click to enlarge

There was even a rather forlorn and untended website.

The problem here is that R&A Properties LLP does not exist, or it has certainly never been registered with Companies House. So from what parallel dimension did this creature slip through the Llangennech portal to help Hydro Industries?

A company called R & A Properties Cardiff Limited was eventually Incorporated 5 March 2019, with Pickering, Lovering, and Wayne Preece (of Hydro Industries) as directors. Why it took so long to legitimise R & A is a mystery that might be answered later in this posting. Though why ‘Cardiff’ should be in the name, seeing as the correspondence address given for the company is the Stradey Business Park in Llangennech, remains a mystery.

The deal in 2009 was justified because Pickering and his mates had a ‘blue chip’ company lined up to provide dozens or hundreds of top-notch jobs. The number given seemed to depend on who you spoke to and which way the wind was blowing.

Later in 2009 we learnt that Thales UK, part of the French defence giant, would be adapting the Bronco All Terrain Tracked Carrier built by a Singapore company and re-branding them ‘Warthogs’ for deployment with the British Army in Afghanistan.

Which made sense, for in December 2008, the UK government had agreed to buy over 100 Broncos from Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

The Bronco. Click to enlarge

As you’ve read, the 37-acre site was bought from the MoD by Carmarthenshire County Council and soon sold to the mysterious R & A Properties LLP.

The Land Registry turns up nothing for Stradey Business Park or Stradey Park Business Centre. You have to use the LR map, which produces two separate titles. The first, CYM462190, for ‘Land on the north side of Mwrwg Road, Llangennech’. The second, CYM458189, ‘Land on the south side of Mwrwg Road, Llangennech’.

There is a third title, mentioned on both of these documents, it’s CYM444641, but it seems to be unavailable at the Land Registry website.

Consulting Google Maps tells us that Heol Mwrwg bisects the site. Or check it out on the image below.

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What we learn from these documents is that Robert Nigel Lovering owns both titles . . . or rather, they were bought with loans from Lloyds Bank Plc and The Secretary of State for Defence, with Carmarthenshire County Council chipping in later.

Moving on . . . early in 2009 the MoD sold the Llangennech site to Mark James, aka Carmarthenshire County Council, and he quickly sold it on to his mates, Dai Pickering and Robert Lovering.

And that answers the first question we left hanging earlier – why couldn’t R & A Properties have bought the site directly from the MoD? Answer: R & A couldn’t buy directly from the MoD because Lovering was getting a loan from the MoD to make the purchase. So it had to go through Carmarthenshire County Council.

For a very similar reason, the loan from the council in December 2012, was made not for the purchase of the site but to improve it.

You’ll have noticed that only Lovering’s name appears on the title documents. So why is that?

One answer might be Pickering’s financial status. For according to Paddy French at Rebecca Television Pickering had outstanding debts, both against companies he was involved with and also against him personally.

We read of one such debt: “In July 2009 Lloyds TSB obtained judgment against him for an unpaid bill of £10,232. The bank has taken him to court – and secured the debt against his Cardiff home.” 

Rebecca Television estimates HMRC lost around £4 million in unpaid National Insurance, VAT and other taxes from the collapse of assorted Pickering companies.

Cneifiwr used the Rebecca Television article in an interesting update, Warthogs and a man with a van, in April 2014. It’s worth a read.

If we look at the companies David Pickering has been involved with, most are dissolved. The only ones still standing fall into three categories: 1/ Companies he left, 2/ Companies associated with the WRU, 3/ Companies Pickering has joined or formed in recent years. We’ll look at this final category in a minute.

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Pickering is a failed businessman whose public profile and many contacts can still get his size 12s under boardroom tables.

COOL, CLEAR WATER

One hypothesis to explain this remarkable deal in Llangennech must be . . .

The MoD had agreed the Warthog deal with Thales in 2008, but was reluctant to invite Thales to do the work at Llangennech themselves because politicians and media might view that as too close a relationship between the British Ministry of Defence and what was after all a French company.

With the added advantage of Llangennech being well off the beaten track for the London redtops.

So I make no apologies for again using this scene from the Godfather, in which Willie Cicci gives evidence to a Congressional hearing. For just like the Corleone family the MoD needed ‘buffers’ between them and Thales.

It’s difficult to explain the convoluted sale in any other way.

Let’s focus now on Wayne Preece, who doesn’t seem to have been a director of any company before 2011 (unless it was R&A Properties LLP), when he joined an obscure Swansea outfit called Brightley Ltd. Where he was in partnership with Mark Batty, another with a glittering business career.

One of the companies with which Batty was involved – one of the few still afloat – is the Langland Bay Golf Club Ltd. One of Swansea’s better golf clubs in an up-market suburb. In fact, this part of the city figures more than once in this narrative.

For not only does Lovering live in Langland Bay, but Preece is also a resident. And among the previous directors of the Langland Bay Golf Club I see Huw Wyn Price. Price and his wife were the founding directors of Lancehawk Ltd in 1986. Lovering joined on 1 July 1999 and seems to have taken over, to the extent that he is now the only director.

I assume the company is doing well because I see 12 satisfied charges over the years, some with lenders I’ve never heard of. The accounts, unaudited and abridged, show Total Net Assets of £872,709.

‘Lancehawk’ has a certain martial ring to it. And so I wouldn’t be surprised if it has done work for the Ministry of Defence. The address given for Lancehawk used to be Lovering’s Langland Bay home, but now it’s relocated to – where else? – the Stradey Business Park.

Maybe someone else thought Lancehawk sounded a bit too ‘Up yours!’ which might explain the company trading as the rather blander European Telecom Solutions (ETS).

Though the ETS website doesn’t seem to be maintained very well. For example, the latest ‘News’ is for September 2018. Has nothing happened in the last year and a half? Why is there no mention of Covid-19 such as I find on every other website I visit these days? Don’t tell me ETS is another ‘buffer’!

Another Lovering company to add to the line-up is R & A Secure Services Ltd, formed 6 September 2012. That ‘R & A’ again. But it can’t be the ethereal company we seek because Lovering is the sole director. Its correspondence address was in central Swansea, but last September it moved. You have one guess!

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Preece, as I’ve said, seems to have been involved in no company before 2011, with the exception of the rather odd Brightley, but then in 2012 and 2013 Preece joined a number of companies under the ‘Hydro’ banner, all based on the Stradey Business Park. In chronological order they were:

  • Hydro Industries Marine Ltd Formed 29 November 2012 with Preece, Lovering and Philip Graeme Morgan as directors. The company seemed to do nothing and was dissolved via compulsory strike-off 14 July 2014.
  • Hydro Industries Ltd Formed 2 September 2010 by Janine Morgan, who I assume is the wife of Philip Morgan, who joined her 1 April 2011. Next came Christopher Lewis 27 June 2011, and then Pickering, Preece and Lovering 2 January 2013. More recently we have seen a number of luminaries climb aboard. One of those new arrivals is Robert Brooks, who I’m told lives or lived just around the headland from Langland Bay in Caswell Bay. The Morgans left 6 August 2014.
  • Hydro Strata Ltd (formerly Hydro Mining Ltd). Formed 11 March 2013 with Preece and Morgan as directors. Never more than a dormant company and it was dissolved via voluntary strike-off 25 April 2017.
  • Hydro Utilities Ltd Formed 4 April 2013 with Morgan and Preece as directors. Morgan left 5 August 2014 and the company drifted towards voluntary strike-off 25 April 2017.
  • Hydro Environmental Systems Ltd Wayne Preece was in on the ground floor with Morgan 3 May 2013. Morgan left 5 August 2014 and Pickering joined 19 June 2019. Accounts and confirmation statement are overdue.
  • Hydro Marine & Salvage Ltd Preece and Morgan were there at the kick-off 7 October 2013 but Morgan left 5 August 2014. Dissolved by voluntary strike-off 25 April 2017.
  • Hydro Oil & Gas Ltd Preece and Morgan from the start 7 October 2013, Morgan left 5 August 2014 and Preece called it a day with voluntary strike-off 25 April 2017.

What I find strange here is that the late Philip Morgan (he died suddenly in the early part of 2018) was an expert in his field, academically recognised. Morgan’s departure from the Hydro companies in August 2014 can be explained by him setting up KP2M Ltd in April 2014, which trades as Power & Water from its Llansamlet base.

Yet what knowledge of water did Preece bring to the party, with his background in Sony televisions and Thales?

And yet despite Preece’s apparent lack of knowledge of H2O Hydro Industries thrives. For as we read recently, the company has been awarded two lucrative contracts in the Middle East. One is in Saudi Arabia, and then there’s a £150m gig in Egypt.

Things are certainly looking up at Hydro Industries. Just compare the balance sheets below, covering a 4-year period. What you see represents quite a turnaround in just a few years. Did they find a Fairy Godmother?

Click to enlarge

For remember, this impressive improvement preceded the Middle East contracts!

Here, in pdf format is the latest distribution of shares, dated 2 September 2019. Note that although Robert Lovering ceased to be a director 1 July 2019 he retains his share holding.

Let’s now go back to the time before Preece joined Morgan at the Hydro companies.

THALES COME, THALES GO

After losing his managerial job with Sony in Bridgend – the plant finally closed in early March 2006 – Preece found himself doing fixed-term contracts for Thales UK. This gave him a foot in the door.

And tells me that by late 2008 Preece knew about the deal Thales had struck with the MoD to convert the 100+ Singapore-built Broncos into Warthogs. He now used whatever influence he had to get Thales to bring the work to Wales.

But he needed help.

If they didn’t already know each other then this is when the troika formed. Preece had the contacts with Thales (possibly also the MoD); I believe Lovering certainly had the MoD contacts (which is why the site was ‘sold’ to him); and then there was Dai Pickering, with his Labour Party contacts, and his rugby anecdotes guaranteeing him the best biscuits in Mark James’ private suite.

This explains why, in defence of the deal, the council said the sale had been agreed with persons “known to some officers”. For Mark James, then the county CEO, is a big rugby fan, and has used council money and sweetheart deals to benefit the local Scarlets.

And the generosity was reciprocated. For as Cneifiwr reports: “Shortly after the council approved the purchase and simultaneous resale of the site in February 2009, the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council accepted an invitation from David Pickering to a rugby international.” 

The Ministry of Defence was quite happy to sell the Llangennech site to the county council on the understanding that the council immediately sold it on to Preece, Lovering and Pickering. This may be the reason that the partnership back in 2009 had to be kept under wraps.

Despite all the hype, the brass bands and the kids waving flags to welcome Thales, the French outfit didn’t stay very long. So, why did Thales pull out? Well, here’s what I’ve been told . . .

Thales signed the lease agreement with Lovering, or Lovering and Pickering, or all three, before the site had actually been bought. Which of course made the agreement invalid. Possibly illegal.

This cock-up was perhaps attributable to the fact that the agreement had not been concluded by Thales’ Properties Department, as would have been normal, but by another arm under some Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) measure.

Image from Google Maps taken in August 2011, with time running out. Click to enlarge

In an attempt to cover up le désastre I’m told that the final page of the lease agreement, with signatures and dates, ‘went missing’. When it ‘reappeared’ the time lords had worked their magic – for now it showed that the site had been purchased before the lease agreement was concluded between the mysterious R & A Properties and Thales.

Phew!

But this was only a short-term measure. Once Thales held one of its regular checks on lease agreements, which would examine all documentation, the feline would be free of the encumbering sack.

And so Thales pulled out and took the work elsewhere. Search for ‘Llangennech’ or ‘Llanelli’ on the Thales website and nothing comes up. It’s as if this chapter never happened.

Which was a great pity. For while it lasted Thales provided good jobs and the workforce repaid the company by making big profits on each vehicle. A million pounds per vehicle has been quoted to me.

But Thales upped sticks and took the work away to less favourable locations, with inferior facilities, and more expensive premises. A ‘lean-to’ in Glasgow that could barely accommodate the vehicles was mentioned, as was a much more expensive venue in Sussex that lacked a decent crane.

So everyone lost out  . . . except perhaps those who had screwed up.

ON TAWE BANKS

The incentive for the three amigos to legitimise themselves with R & A Properties Cardiff Ltd in March last year may have come from the publicity being generated by the collapse of Dawnus.

Because I am convinced that the British government stepped in when it became obvious that Dawnus was on the ropes and going down for the count.

I say that because a) Dawnus was operating in Sierra Leone and other ‘sensitive’ areas of West Africa where China is extending its influence; b) because expensive plant and machinery was shipped out to West Africa – out of reach of liquidators and creditors – before the collapse; c) because administrators reports have been delayed for another year; and d) because the two phoenix that rose from the Dawnus flames, DIG International Group Ltd and DIG Civil Engineering Ltd, moved in March from the old Dawnus depot in Clydach to . . . go on, have a guess!

In addition to the main depot and yard at the old Players Tinplate works site in Clydach, Dawnus also had a presence in the Ashmount Business Park in Llansamlet. Very close to where Hydro Industries began life in 2010 as Watertec Solutions Ltd. And where today we find Power & Water.

Are these coincidences?

Click to enlarge

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I just know enough about how the world works to know that the UK government, or the MoD, or certain other agencies, don’t open offices abroad and put up a brass plate reading ‘Spies ‘R’ Us’. It’s done subtly, often using phoney companies as fronts.

Or recruiting genuine companies already operating in an area of interest. There might be an approach along the lines of, ‘As you’re out there, old boy, we were wondering . . . ‘. Nothing 007 about it, just keep your eyes and ears open and we’ll have the occasional chat.

Or it might just be supporting British companies in Africa and elsewhere in order to counter the influence of rivals. Today, in Africa, that means China.

This table was produced by McKinsey & Company for a June 2017 report. Chinese investment, and influence, has increased since then, both in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Click to enlarge

Those who’ve seen the wonderful film, Our Man in Havana, will recall that Alec Guinness’s character, James Wormold, is a vacuum cleaner retailer recruited by MI6. It may have been a piss-take by writer Graham Greene, but he knew what he was writing about, he’d been recruited by MI6 himself. And posted to – of all places! – Sierra Leone.

The different trajectories of the Dawnus group and Hydro Industries, and the Thales debacle, all link through a number of factors.

First, we have various arms of the UK government treating Wales as a colony, and interfering in our political and economic life. Then there’s the lack of openness and accountability at local government level. The ‘pliability’ of those elected to Corruption Bay. The cupidity of certain BritNat businessmen. And finally, good old-fashioned Labour Party cronyism.

And I haven’t even mentioned the drones, but that can wait.

Do you still want to know what’s wrong with Wales?

♦ end ♦

P.S. The British military has always directed operations at Llangennech and that is still the case. Which is why I should have mentioned Rick Libbey, a 30-year-service man who is Chief Operating Officer for Hydro Industries.

It’s pretty clear who really calls the shots at Hydro.




Coronavirus and Wales

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

Yes, I know I’d promised to write on a couple of other subjects, but this coronavirus pandemic has turned things upside down. It’s certainly impacting on the Jones household.

To begin with, my daily trips to Tywyn for a coffee and a read of the ‘paper are gone. This was often followed by sauntering up and down the High Street, doing a bit of shopping, maybe driving down to Aberdyfi to mooch around some more. But not now.

I’m stuck at home with my long-suffering wife. Fortunately, being a home carer, she’s out quite a lot. Another aid to me keeping cabin fever at bay is to stock up on the Malbec. I’ve found that caressing unopened bottles can have a soothing effect.

Self-isolation has also meant no grandchildren staying, which only adds to the sense of this being a different time. And it’s also quieter outside the house, fewer people about, less traffic. If it wasn’t for the internet it might be like an earlier epoch.

Though perhaps what I miss most is the football. I used to spend at least 25 hours a week watching football. Not just Welsh and English football; I’m just as happy watching La Vecchia Signora or the Jam Tarts. But coronavirus is global, which means there’s no football anywhere. Anywhere! (Yeah, I know, that’s what ‘pandemic’ means.)

So when I’m not online, or out taking my constitutional, listening to music, or up in the attic doing my Fast Eddie impersonations on the kids’ pool table, I’m dipping into my books. Hazlitt has always been a favourite. But when I reached for that little volume of essays the other day I found a page marked with the dust cover, so I opened it . . .

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Fortunately I don’t believe in such things. So for all the shysters out there, and the lying politicians – I plan on being around to write about you for some time yet.

THE STORY THUS FAR

The realisation that things were getting serious took a while to sink in, for just about everybody, with the Welsh Rugby Union taking longer than most to get the message.

The Six Nations game against Scotland, scheduled for March 14, was going ahead almost up until the last minute. This despite the other games in Round 5 – Italy v England and France v Ireland – having been called off, and with football and almost every other sport also put on hold around the world.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of Friday the 13th, with Scottish fans safely in Cardiff and spending their money, that the WRU decided to call the game off.

To understand this disregard for the nation’s health you must appreciate what motivates the Welsh Rugby Union, what it regards as important. Vying for top spot are sucking up to English royals, and making money. Everything else is secondary.

In defence of the WRU, no pressure was applied by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. As late as Thursday the 12th, Vaughan Gething, the woefully inadequate health minister, saw no need to call the game off. Though in fairness to Gething, this non-decision could itself have been due to pressure from the WRU.

(Things can often be ‘reciprocal’ in Cardiff.)

Gething last week warned that Wales can expect a “larger impact” from coronavirus because Wales’ population is “typically older, sicker and poorer”. After two decades of his party running things in Wales he felt no shame in such an admission!

Something that did go ahead in Cardiff that Saturday was a Stereophonics concert.

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All grist to the mill of cynics believing that too many ‘national’ bodies based in Cardiff bend over backwards to make sure Cardiff never loses out, even when we are threatened by the worst pandemic since ‘Spanish’ Flu a century ago.

In terms of leadership, things have not got any better.

The ‘Welsh Government’ gives its daily briefing and issues advice, which is usually repeating what has already been said in London. Much like the laws passed in Cardiff docks, which are basically the same laws as England with ‘(Wales)’ added.

Exposing a fundamental problem with devolution when it’s run by a timid and unambitious Unionist party stuffed with mediocrities.

Labour has never resolved the conundrum of wanting to make Welsh people feel devolution is relevant to them but not wanting to depart too far from the London line for fear of being branded ‘nationalist’, even when doing things differently would be best for Wales. And so we have a sham devolution that neither enthuses our people nor serves Welsh interests.

All of which makes a mockery of “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”, which is how devolution was sold to us many years ago.

Yet there are times when ‘Welsh solutions’ are needed. Let’s cast our minds back to last weekend, just after ‘lockdown’ was announced, when workplaces and schools were closed, and people told to stay home. Yet we saw thousands upon thousands of people treat a national emergency as a national holiday and flock to Wales.

While I didn’t expect the ‘Welsh Government’ to close the border and lay minefields, I did think they could have been a little more decisive than they had been the previous weekend over the rugby international, but no; not even when the scale of the irruption had become obvious.

Below you’ll see a few examples of the ignorance and stupidity we were confronted with, and just a few of many instances of locals acting for themselves. (Some still had to do it yesterday.)

UPDATE: Here’s the response of a second home owner in Y Felinheli today. The slate sign reads ‘Port Dinorwic’, as that road runs down to the old harbour.

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These colonialist attitudes are the result of ‘selling’ our homeland for decades as nothing but another nation’s holiday destination. Encouraging the belief that Wales is some kind of Brigadoon that only comes alive when tourists visit.

This belief that Wales exists for no other reason than the enjoyment of tourists results in contempt for us, our history and our very identity.  

Out of curiosity, I went to the Visit Wales Twitter account, and what I found was revealing. Up until March 12, two days before the planned Wales v Scotland game and the Stereophonics concert, there is at least one ‘Come to Wales’ tweet per day.

There is then a gap of ten days in which Visit Wales did no more than retweet other organisations’ tweets about coronavirus and, significantly, compensation. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights Visit Wales didn’t seem to know how to react. March 22 was of course the Sunday, and by then it had become obvious even to Visit Wales that locals in tourism hot-spots were organising themselves against irresponsible tourism operators and individuals.

Only then did Visit Wales put out a tweet telling potential visitors to stay away. And this might have been motivated as much by worries about the damage being done to the reputation of the tourism industry as by concern for public health.

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If I carry on like this I’ll be accused of ‘politicising’ coronavirus. This was the accusation thrown at Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon when she recognised the threat and acted on coronavirus earlier than Westminster.

I accept that coronavirus knows no national boundaries, while on an island there must be some unity of purpose in the face of such a threat, but Wales still faces problems that will not be appreciated by those giving orders in London.

As we’ve seen, one such problem was holiday homes and tourism, and many thousands of people choosing to self-isolate in Wales. Which exposed another serious failing down in Cardiff.

The ‘Welsh Government’ (and this of course includes Visit Wales) refused to address this problem for far too long because politicians and civil servants in Cardiff have come to believe their own propaganda – Wales cannot survive without tourism, consequently nothing must be allowed to interfere with tourism. Not even a pandemic.

Political leadership has been noticeable by its absence. From London the advice has swung from “Nothing to get alarmed about – let’s all catch it!” (the ‘herd immunity’ approach), to “We’re all gonna die! – everybody stay home!” (lockdown).

While here in Wales, when not acting as an echo chamber, our politicians have been even less inspiring. Just read the article below from yesterday’s Llais y Sais. (Available here in pdf format.)

Did you ever read such waffle from a politician? Was Wales ever cursed with a more evasive and dishonest practitioner of even this disgraced profession? Did you ever see anyone more out of their depth?

Yet here’s the man leading the party and the administration that over the past twenty years has given billions of pounds to the crony-parasites of the third sector, where we find CEOs pulling down £100,000+ salaries – while our nurses don’t have Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

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(My wife, who every day visits sick and elderly people received her face mask on Friday.)

Political confusion reigns.

At London level we saw BoJo and the gang spurn the EU’s offer of ventilators; while in Cardiff, the ‘Welsh Government’ turned down an offer of 10,000, EU certified, Lloyds insured, testing kits of the kind used in South Korea.

This despite the World Health Organisation advising ‘testing, testing, and more testing’ as a way to avoid the spread of Covid-19. The only people being tested in Wales are those showing moderate to severe symptoms who might already have infected hundreds of others. Plus of course, politicians and their friends.

Carefully orchestrated communal clapping must not detract from these political failings. And when the coronavirus threat has passed we must remember how our politicians and their system failed us.

In the immediate future we must be on our guard against London using coronavirus to accrete more powers. For while devolution may not be worth defending, moving back to the status quo ante devolution must not be an option either, though it is being aired.

One airing came from a Welsh Labour MP during Scottish Questions last week, when Chris Elmore, the MP for Ogmore suggested that funding for Covid-19 should bypass the Scottish Government and go to local authorities. An interesting suggestion for a number of reasons.

The SNP of course forms the Scottish Government, but at council level we find a number of Unionist-run councils, often controlled by squalid coalitions held together by nothing more than a desire to keep the SNP out of power.

Such an arrangement as we find in the city of Aberdeen where, after the 2017 elections, the SNP was the largest party by some distance but is kept from power by an alliance of Conservatives, Labour and Independents. (Though the Labour councillors have been expelled from the ‘Scottish’ Labour Party for going into coalition with the Tories!)

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And while Elwood (or was he one of the Blues Brothers?) may be a nonentity in Wales, representing a rosette-on-a-donkey constituency, he certainly made the news in Scotland. And as the report I’ve linked to from the National puts it, “It was left to Alister Jack, the Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, to remind the Labour frontbencher of how devolution works.”

A Tory MP having to remind an MP of the party that introduced devolution how devolution works. Lord and Lady Kinnock must have been so proud.

Though if wanting to rip up the devolution settlement and insincerely argue that the common weal would be better served by handing money directly to local councils sounds familiar, then that might be because it’s the same thing we hear from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party. Is Elton a supporter?

If we are to do away with devolution, and that is certainly what I want, then it must be done in order to move forward to independence, not backward to direct rule.

Westminster is letting us down, Cardiff Bay is clueless, the BBC is failing us, Wales is even losing out when it comes to online shopping for God’s sake!

Covid-19 is disrupting all our lives, and will end a few of them; but it has served the purpose of exposing as weak and malleable incompetents those buffoons down Cardiff docks who’ve lied to us for over twenty years about defending Wales.

Stand firm, stay healthy, and when this threat has passed, emerge from self-isolation determined to push on for independence!

♦ end ♦

With Covid-19 dominating the News, and politics in a state of suspended animation, the pandemic even affecting the crooks I so often write about, I may not be posting so frequently over the next few months unless something important happens.

Look after yourselves!

 

Poor old Swansea! victim of devolution and Cardiff-centricity

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 TOWN I LOVED SO WELL

As you’re probably aware, I am a native of Swansea; as it says on my Twitter profile, “A Jack by blood, birth, upbringing and inclination”. Despite having spent most of my life away from the city it remains my home town, it’s where my roots lie, and it’s where my heart will ever be. (Cue violins.)

When I was very young Swansea was still pulling itself together after being knocked about by the Luftwaffe, and despite the disastrous rebuilding of the centre we kids accepted it – ‘modern, see’. Of course, our parents and grandparents missed the old town, Ben Evans department store (‘the Harrods of Wales’) and all the rest.

And as Dylan Thomas reminds us in Return Journey, so much else was gone, including the famous Kardomah cafe, where he had ‘argued the toss’ with Vernon Watkins, Dan Jones, Arthur Janes and the rest of the gang.

A view from pre-war Swansea, courtesy of Swansea Recalled, click to enlarge

On the economic front, the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were pretty good, you could tell the boss to F— Off on Friday and find a fresh job on Monday.

Despite what Turks and other disbelievers might say, we had the best rugby team in Wales; in summer, Glamorgan could pull 20,000 to St Helen’s, and in football, well, most of the 1958 World Cup team came from Swansea, and if Big John hadn’t been hacked out by the Hungarians in the previous game we would have beaten Brazil and won the competition.

Obviously there was some disappointment when in 1955 Cardiff was named capital, but we soon got over it because what did the title mean in practical terms? So we shrugged and continued to enjoy being the pre-eminent sub-species.

But since the 1980s it’s been noticeably downhill for Swansea in just about every conceivable sphere. And devolution has only made things worse.

BALLS, AND PLAYING SILLY BUGGERS

I’ve mentioned St Helen’s Rugby and Cricket Ground (to give it its full name), which opened in 1873 and held Wales’ first-ever home rugby international in 1882. It hosted rugby internationals until 1954. I suppose some might say that Swansea’s decline began when it lost rugby international games to Cardiff. For Swansea’s loss is invariably Cardiff’s gain.

Glamorgan v West Indies at St Helen’s, August 1950. Courtesy of Casgliad y Werin. Click to enlarge.

Since losing rugby international matches in 1954 St Helen’s has also lost Glamorgan CCC games to the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, where crowds are smaller than they were at St Helen’s. So the move would appear to make no economic sense, but that’s to miss the point, for the Swalec Stadium was built so that Cardiff can host England games. Yes, honestly. This of course brings money into the city, but with collateral damage in the loss of our national cricket team.

A loss the political and business leaders of Cardiff consider a price worth paying. Which tells us a number of things, among them that it’s not simply Swansea that loses out to Cardiff’s insatiable greed and self-aggrandisement.

Of course, some of Swansea’s wounds are self-inflicted. The city centre is a disaster area. The planning of traffic movement, one-way systems, pedestrianisation and the rest could have been handed over to a bunch of ten-year-olds forty years ago and today they could be showing their adult children around the city with pride – because they couldn’t have done a worse job than successive city administrations. Administrations that, with all-too-brief interludes, have been Labour.

The most recent such interlude was from 2004 until 2012 when the Liberal Democrat-led Swansea Administration ran the council in coalition with assorted others. In 2004 Plaid Cymru had five councillors, the group led by Darren Price, but refused to join the coalition, deluding itself it held the balance of power and could therefore dictate things. Which didn’t work out, so towards the end Price was having regular and quite open meetings with David ‘Il Duce‘ Phillips, the Labour leader, and ‘Rocking’ Rene Kinzett, local Tory hetman.

This unholy alliance eventually triumphed and Il Duce was restored to power in 2012, carried aloft by a crowd of thousands marching down the Mumbles Road singing the Red Flag interspersed with throaty renditions of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. (OK, I made that bit up.)

Alas, ‘Rocking’ Rene fell from grace, and his fall was complete when he was caught with child pornography. Il Duce was soon overthrown in a coup and also ended up in court, but for fly-tipping and taking over somebody else’s garage, with the rightful owner describing Phillips as a “nutcase”!

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In the elections of 2008 Plaid Cymru went down to one seat, and since 2012 it has had none. Darren Price crossed over and sold his soul to Beelzebub. (Trans: is a councillor in Carmarthenshire serving His Omnipotence Mark James.) Today Plaid Cymru barely exists in Swansea. Some ‘Party of Wales’, eh?

That said, not all the wounds were self-inflicted, and not when it comes to the state of the city centre. For long before the rise of internet shopping started doing its damage Swansea’s city centre was being undermined by out-of-town shopping, though as I say, this time the council was not entirely to blame.

Certainly not when it came to the Swansea Enterprise Park on the east side of the River Tawe, overlooked by Bonymaen and Llansamlet, the first and largest Enterprise Zone (as it originally was) in the UK, covering some 735 acres. Planned for light manufacturing and warehousing retailing was given the green light by Nicholas Edwards, Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher until 1987.

Major stores and other retail outlets locating to the Enterprise Park certainly hurt the city centre, but then, Edwards couldn’t be bothered with that, because he had bigger fish to fry. For Nicholas Edwards was a man with big plans for Cardiff through the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, set up by him to pump public money into land owned by Associated British Ports, of which he just happened to be the leading director.

This, perhaps the biggest single rip-off of public funding in Welsh history, is detailed in Corruption Bay, a document I compiled almost 20 years ago, but the facts, and the interpretations, still hold up.

DEVOLUTION – SHAFTED AGAIN!

Corruption Bay also explains why our Notional Assembly came to be located in Cardiff Bay – for the benefit of Associated British Ports, and as a ‘consolation prize’ for the opera house was that was never built. For among the countless ‘hats’ worn by Nick Edwards were director of the Welsh National Opera and chairman of the Cardiff Bay Opera Trust.

Even though Cardiff Bay eventually won the Assembly Swansea Guildhall was the only site that met the criteria on value for money and availability set out by Secretary of State Ron Davies in the search for a home for the new institution after negotiations over Cardiff City Hall – the assumed location for the Assembly – collapsed. But once again, Swansea was done down by certain influencers in Cardiff. (Explained in Corruption Bay.)

This competition ‘won’ by Swansea seems to have been written out of recent Welsh history; but then, as Churchill said, history is written by the victors, and what passes for the ‘Welsh media’ is the voice of Cardiff. (Fortunately, the subterranean and bomb-proof Jo’tN archives contain a library of newspaper articles from the period.)

After the ‘competition’ was launched, and as the terrifying prospect of the Assembly being housed in Swansea sunk in, the Western Mail and the rest of the ‘Welsh media’ went into hyper-drive, even accusing politicians and civil servants of leaning on Ron Davies to favour Swansea, as this ludicrous article from 3 March 1998 spells out.

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Yes, Rachel Lomax, then top civil servant at the Welsh Office, had been born in Swansea; and yes, there was something odd and unconvincing about her spat with council leader Russell Goodway over leasing Cardiff City Hall; but there was never any danger of the Assembly not being in Cardiff, but it was going to the Bay, for the benefit of Nick Edwards and his mates in Associated British Ports.

Which meant that the real beneficiaries of a National Assembly for Wales were a bunch of Tories who had always opposed devolution. They laughed all the way to their banks. (Which were probably offshore.)

And poor old Swansea got shafted, yet again.

NOTHING CHANGES

In recent years Swansea has received further blows in the form of rail electrification ending at Cardiff thanks to Chris Grayling, the man who never gets anything wrong; and the plug being pulled on the tidal lagoon.

How energetically Swansea’s case was argued by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ is anyone’s guess. If I had to put money on it, I’d say the response was, ‘OK, fair enough, we’ll pass the message on’.

Even after the disappointment of electrification and the tidal lagoon there were still bright spots in the gloom. Among them, the growing reputation of Swansea University, and its increasingly lucrative spin-offs.

Since 1998, when the Times and Sunday Times started publishing their ‘Good University Guide’, Cardiff University had been top in Wales, but by 2016 things were changing in favour of Swansea University. A change confirmed in the 2019 Guide. (Though for some reason WalesOnline thinks the change happened in 2019!)

But lo! out of a clear blue sky, and just before Christmas, came the bombshell that senior figures at Swansea University had been suspended. Apparently this was connected with the University’s links to the Wellness Village in Llanelli, pet project of His Omnipotence Mark James.

Llanelli’s planned Wellness Village, click to enlarge

Now I won’t deny that the Wellness Village project may be the ultimate vanity project; and maybe the University’s involvement should have appeared more institutional than personal; but at the same time, I can imagine certain interests in Cardiff jumping at the opportunity to take Swansea University down a peg or two. And the ‘Welsh Government’ was only too happy to assist.

Vice-Chancellor Richard Davies has been replaced by Paul Boyle, an uninspiring Englishman who is “looking forward to being back by the sea!” – is he going paddling? No doubt Boyle is under instructions to rein in Swansea’s ambition and not get ideas above his University’s ordained station (below Cardiff in any rankings that matter).

UPDATE 13.03.2019: Just one day after I published this post the Western Mail, which used to be known as Llais y Sais (voice of the English), and could more correctly be re-named Llais Caerdydd (voice of Cardiff), published another piece it hoped would reflect badly on Swansea University. The unmistakeable message in the unattributed article is that these donations are ‘irregular’, perhaps dirty money.

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AND THEN THERE’S THE WELSH RUGBY UNION

It’s difficult to know where to start with this section, because rarely, even in the history of Wales, have so many been pissed off by so few. The few in question belong to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and something called the Professional Rugby Board. Few would have heard of the PRB until last week.

For it was last week we heard that the WRU intended forcing through a merger of the Ospreys (the West Glamorgan region) and the Scarlets, the Llanelli super club. Not only that, but we also learnt that the WRU had previously tried to force through a ‘merger’ of the Ospreys with Cardiff Blues, another club that rejected regional rugby back in 2003.

No matter on which level we consider this, or from which angle we approach it, these proposed ‘mergers’ are insane. The Ospreys are Wales’s most successful rugby outfit yet the WRU wants to do away with them.

And then, how drunk do you have to be to think that Swansea rugby fans, having seen their team killed off, would travel the 40-odd miles to support Cardiff?

And when it comes to the takeover by Llanelli Scarlets, the WRU’s argument is that the Ospreys are broke while the Scarlets are in rude financial health. Llanelli Scarlets were for a long time kept afloat by the WRU, then Carmarthenshire County Council – Mark James again – took over the life-support system and poured in millions of pounds of council taxpayers’ money.

People in the world of rugby are laughing openly at the Welsh Rugby Union. Click to enlarge

Not only that, but all manner of imaginative special arrangements were dreamed up by Mark James to keep Llanelli Scarlets, and their white elephant stadium, afloat. Because Parc y Scarlets has never been financially viable. Whereas the Ospreys have no such worries because they share the Liberty Stadium with the Swans.

Mark James retires in June, and when he’s gone those who have cowered in his shadow this many a year may grow cojones and start questioning some of his decisions. Not least why Carmarthenshire County Council has written off millions of pounds owed to the people of Carmarthenshire by Llanelli Scarlets. And why revenue was lost in ‘concessions’ and all manner of questionable arrangements.

But anyone, in the Welsh Rugby Union, or anywhere else, who thinks that Llanelli Scarlets is a financial success story must be relying on the kind of accountants who appear on this blog . . . and often appear before a judge and jury.

Looking east, the WRU owns Newport Dragons, the least successful of our four ‘regions’. Newport is the same distance from Cardiff as Llanelli is from Swansea, so why not merge Cardiff and Newport into a South East region, and have them play at a new stadium to be built in Pontypridd or Pontypool? For neither Cardiff nor Newport has made any serious attempt to engage with their Valleys’ hinterlands. Making a mockery of ‘regional rugby’.

Another aspect is that these absurd mergers were proposed because the WRU wants a new region in the north. Back in 2003, when regional rugby was being discussed, David Moffett, then group CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union, proposed four regions: North, West (Llanelli, Swansea, Neath and others playing in Swansea), South (Cardiff, Pontypridd, Bridgend and the Central Valleys), and East (Gwent).

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Llanelli, Cardiff and Newport refused to become regions but called themselves regions anyway, and the WRU caved in. Swansea and Neath merged to form the Ospreys, a genuine region, and they are now being rewarded with oblivion.

Whatever the WRU’s grand plan may have been – and I’m being generous in assuming there is, or was, a coherent plan – viewed from Swansea this looks like just another Cardiff-based organisation doing Swansea down.

And if the WRU has its way and destroys the Ospreys then a new rugby entity will almost certainly emerge in Swansea and may have no alternative but to affiliate to the English Rugby Football Union. Is that really what those clowns in the WRU and the PRB want?

MAKING SENSE OF IT

Sticking with the Welsh Rugby Union for a minute, nothing surprises me when it comes to that BritNat-Masonic outfit, forever fawning over English royals, with its ludicrous feathers badge. Other countries have emblems representing the country and its people, Wales has one representing an individual claiming to be ‘Prince of Wales’ who has as much claim to the title as my cat.

Looking back to 1955 and the announcement that Cardiff was the official capital of Wales, maybe the rot set in for Swansea then, for it was obvious that, being more convenient for England, all manner of agencies would base themselves in Cardiff. Since then it’s been a drip-drip effect.

Devolution should have ‘evened things out’, but instead it’s made them worse, and not just for Swansea but for every part of Wales other than Cardiff. It used to be said – I heard it back in the 1970s – that devolution would simply give us ‘Glamorgan County Council on stilts’. Devolution has actually given us Cardiff City Council on steroids.

The reason devolution has failed ninety per cent of Wales economically is that concentrating everything in Cardiff has made it easier for bodies concerned only with Cardiff to influence decisions for Wales. For example, I guarantee that the denizens of the Cardiff and County Club have more influence on the economic life of Swansea than Swansea council and all the politicians the Swansea region sends to Cardiff Bay and Westminster combined. And that influence is malign.

And Swansea has no independent voice to speak up for her. The Evening Post, once Wales’s biggest selling daily ‘paper (it may still be), is now printed in England and censored in Cardiff, and losing readers fast; partly because it refuses to criticise the Labour Party, whether in County Hall or Cardiff Bay.

And all the while, thanks to this combination of Labour ineptitude, the lack of an effective media, and Cardiff pushing to become a major provincial city on a par with Bristol or Leeds, Swansea and the rest of the country must pay the price.

Poor old Swansea!

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 15.03.2019: From today’s Western Mail. BBC Radio Wales is dropping Mal Pope of Swansea from its schedules and it looks as if it’s also closing the historic Alexandra Road studios from where Dylan Thomas broadcast.

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News Round-up 29.05.2018

This is a bumper edition, some 3,600 words, enough to keep you going for a week. It comprises six different reports so you don’t need to gorge and make yourself ill, you can take it one piece at a time. Enjoy!

MRS AND MR MERRILL

Rose Mutale Merrill (née Nyoni), doyenne of the race relations industry in Wales, head of Bawso, and involved with so many other organisations, a Labour Party insider and enforcer, has figured on this blog many times. News now reaches me of yet another string to her bow.

For it is alleged that she has built up quite a property empire in some desirable locations in and around Cardiff. One such property being 6 Mitre Place, in Llandaf, quite close to the cathedral. This cost her £223,600 in May, 2005.

This was before her marriage to Travers Merrill in or around October 2008, he of Rhondda Life fame. ‘Rhondda Life?’ Well, yes, it was a venture which, according to this report, seems to have targeted the gourmet tourists with which the Rhondda Fach is inundated.

Or, to put a less generous interpretation on it, it was yet another non-starter claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in an attempt to be seen to be doing something in a Labour heartland and, more importantly, providing cushy numbers for Labour Party time-servers.

Travers Merrill was chief executive of Rhondda Life, though when the inevitable collapse came about, Shippo of Llais y Sais was considerate enough to see that Merrill’s name did not appear.

Looking through the papers filed with Companies House I see that after the liquidators – based in Leicester! – had taken their pound of flesh Rhondda Life seems to have been left with 43 pence in the kitty. Another great success for the Poverty Party.

This is what happens when socialists are allowed anywhere near public money (click to enlarge)

But let us hie again to leafy Llandaf.

What I found strange about the title document for 6 Mitre Place was that even though the property was bought before the nuptials in the autumn of 2008 the title document has been amended to show Mutale’s married name, but the erstwhile Raymond Blanc of Ferndale is not mentioned. Which suggests that she is the sole owner.

Not content with just one property she then purchased another not far away, opposite Llandough Hospital. And there have been other purchases since to give Rose Mutale Nyoni-Merrill what I’m told now amounts to quite a property portfolio.

My informant – who I’m sure is mistaken – suggests that there might have been ‘confusion’ in the purchase of 6 Mitre Place, confusion as to the source of the deposit for the property. Perhaps money got mixed up somehow. But as I say, my informant is almost certainly wrong.

Before bidding this formidable woman farewell, another informant tells me that Mrs Nyoni-Merrill is/was lined up – certainly, shortlisted – for the job of Older People’s Commissioner. Can this be true?

Y WLADFA

In 1968 our national rugby team made its first trip to Argentina. As might be expected, contact was made with the descendants of the Welsh settlers in Patagonia. The BBC’s Onllwyn Brace – former rugby international himself – made a wonderful film of Alun Williams and others on that trip south.

Here’s a link to that 40 minute film (in Welsh). I urge you to find time to watch it. (Though the beginning could have benefited from editing.)

The Welsh Rugby Union has arranged another trip to Argentina for next month, playing two tests against Los Pumas. Given that this will be the fiftieth anniversary of that first tour, our cousins in Patagonia anticipated a visit, hoping that one of the test matches might be played in Trelew, or Puerto/Porth Madryn as on the last tour in 2006.

But it seems the WRU attaches no great importance to the Patagonia connection, or the Welsh language. As I discovered when our Patagonia correspondent supplied me with the information below.

Still from film of 1968 visit to Patagonia (click to enlarge)

Let me start by emphasising that the host country chooses venues for test matches involving touring teams, and for this tour Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) eventually gave the tests to the cities of San Juan and Santa Fe, both west of Buenos Aires and well over a thousand kilometres north of the Welsh settlements.

And even after the decision of the host country the venues still have to be confirmed by World Rugby.

When it became clear that no test match would be played in Patagonia the emphasis shifted to laying on entertainment and sight-seeing tours for WRU representatives, especially players, and of course fans, in order to raise money for the local Welsh schools. But for this to happen, the tour operators, responsible for arranging the fans’ itineraries, would need to play ball.

My source’s first contact with the WRU was a phone call on 27 September from chairman Gareth Davies (following a number of telephone calls to him and his secretary). Davies passed the job on to Mark Killingley, Head of Digital and Communications. Killingley appears to be an internet/PR expert who joined the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016 from its English counterpart the RFU

Following that telephone conversation my contact sent an e-mail reiterating the hope that the Welsh Rugby Union would – irrespective of where the test matches were held – show support for the Welsh language in Patagonia, specifically for the schools.

“As I explained on the phone, we would like to organise a series of events for both the fans and the WRU, with all money raised being used by the 3 Welsh language schools in Patagonia for the benefit of Welsh language teaching. To have the best chance of getting the UK Rugby tour companies on board, we would like to make an announcement as soon as possible. And, in order to get the best response from the Rugby Tour companies, we would like to have the open support of the Welsh Rugby Union.”

Contact was also made with Gullivers Sports Travel of Gloucester, the Welsh Rugby Union’s official travel agents. Because of course the WRU had said they wouldn’t do anything that conflicted with what Gullivers was arranging.

The representative at Gullivers that my source met – after travelling to England on other business – had never heard of the Welsh colony in Patagonia and showed no interest in learning. Gullivers would only go to Patagonia if the UAR held one of the games down there.

More bad news came with BBC Wales’ refusal to allow sales of the 1968 film I’ve linked to above, despite Cardiff University having prepared a transcript of the film to enable subtitles.

Even after the UAR announced the venues the Welsh community was still optimistic of getting fans to visit and were working flat out. As my source put it in another e-mail to Killingley, “We have a meeting of the Welsh schools in Patagonia this weekend, and I will travel to Trelew next Wednesday (600km!!), to try and finalise at least a programme for the fans.”

Making clear that the only thing being asked of the Welsh Rugby Union was an expression of support for what hard-working and dedicated people were doing down in Patagonia in the hope that tour operators would make it easier for fans to get down there.

E-mails continued to fly between Wales and Provincia Chubut in the desperate hope that the WRU might be persuaded do something – anything! – to recognise the Welsh colony in Patagonia and show support for it, for the Welsh language, and the schools helping keep it alive.

But it soon became clear to my correspondent that this was a forlorn hope.

The WRU made it clear that no players would be coming to Patagonia – ‘But we can send our CEO’.

‘No, I think people down here want to meet the players, but if they can’t come then how about donating some items that could be raffled to raise money for the Welsh schools?’

‘Oh, no, we couldn’t do that without a recognised charity being involved’.

‘For God’s sake these schools are recognised by the Argentina Ministry of Education – and we had to fight to get that recognition for Welsh language schools’.

On March 27, in what was close to the final communication, the Welsh Rugby Union was told:

“Throughout my communication with the WRU, we have tried to make a number of suggestions about how the WRU could help the survival of the Welsh language in Patagonia and each suggestion has met with resistance or rejection and never with any suggestion about how the WRU could help.

The WRU is obviously not willing to assist official representatives of the Welsh communities in Patagonia, who are asking for a simple endorsement of fund-raising initiatives which should align with the broad interest of a very public Welsh organisation. We have pointed out to you that this tour occurs 50 years after the first tour, where the WRU and the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the Welsh communities in Patagonia. You wear your commitment to the Welsh language very openly on your sleeves.”

As things stand, our cousins will next month be laying on events and food, entertainment and sight-seeing trips in the hope that fans will somehow make their way south from the northern cities. And it’s being done without any support whatsoever from the self-styled Welsh Rugby Union. Though in fairness, maybe Gullivers Sports Travel has now got the message, though it might have been garbled in transmission.

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With its three feathers badge and its constant fawning over the English royals the Welsh Rugby Union is a national disgrace. Nothing exposes its ambivalent Welshness more than its attitude to the language, both at home and overseas.

Thank God we’ve got a national football team with a governing body far more supportive than the WRU of the language, perhaps even some of our footballers display a little more pride in their roots than many of our rugby players. For example, it was great to see Gareth Bale leave the field in Kiev on Saturday, after scoring his wonder goal, with the national flag draped over his shoulders.

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Which seems to be part of a pattern.

For I’ve noticed in fifty years and more of following Welsh sport that our football fans seem to be increasingly dedicated to the team, and to Wales; whereas the death of heavy industry in the south seems to have robbed rugby of its traditional support base, for which spangly cowboy hats, inflatable daffodils and an endless supply of expensive beer are no real substitute.

But then, it’s all money.

DELTA WELLBEING LTD

Readers of this blog, and indeed other blogs, especially those focusing on Sir Gâr, will be alert to any mention of Wellbeing, the catchword for the private healthcare development, shopping mall, leisure centre, 86-lane bowling alley, and home for the Welsh space programme, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. Something of which we first became aware with the publication of this document (page 25, section 5.4).

The grand venture originally involved a company known as Kent Neurosciences Ltd, now, alas, dissolved. Among the directors of this enterprise we find a Professor Robert Marc Clement, a Turk by birth now expanding young minds at Swansea University.

Which is convenient, for Swansea University is a partner in the Delta Lakes project.

I have written nothing about Clement myself but he appears regularly on The Eye, a blog written by one of my biggest fans, Phil Parry, who is forever quoting me, updating his biography, and using my photos without permission. (You rascal, you!)

Kent Neurosciences’ place at Delta Lakes may now have been taken by Delta Wellbeing Ltd, Incorporated as recently as January this year with a single one pound share. The company was formed by a Russell Holmes Thompson from what I believe to be his home address in Wolverhampton.

So why would someone form a company in Wolverhampton that is obviously linked to Delta Lakes in Llanelli? Come to that, who is Russell Holmes Thompson? Well, he seems to have been involved in many companies over the years, a number of which are in the health and care sector.

He must have been previously known to Carmarthenshire County Council because on February 4 he ceased to be “a person with significant control” and a day later he was joined as director by Mrs Samantha Watkins, an employee of the council. On the same day the company’s address moved from Wolverhampton to the Dafen Industrial Estate in Llanelli.

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Then, mysteriously, Watkins ceased to be a director on the 8th, but returned on March 20 accompanied by Owen William Bowen, possibly another council employee. So it was no surprise to see on March 23 Carmarthenshire Council listed as “a person with significant control”.

Which means that between February 8 and March 20 Thompson was officially the sole director despite having officially relinquished “significant control”. Odd, that.

As we know, Carmarthenshire County Council is simply Mark Vincent James, its chief executive (and Cardiff Bay property tycoon), by another name. And Delta Lakes is his gift to posterity, his lasting legacy for the grateful citizenry of Carmarthenshire, and nothing must be allowed to interfere with this vision.

So let’s keep an eye on Delta Wellbeing Ltd and the Delta Lakes project generally. Keep tabs on how much of the county’s money is used on this project, what other partners emerge, how much of the Swansea Bay City Deal money is diverted, what role is found for Marc Clement, how many new homes will be needed to help fund it, etc.

This could run and run!

CASTING A LONG SHADOW

The tragic death of Carl Sargeant AM last November lifted the lid a little on the links between politicians, their advisers, PR outfits, third sector parasites and other denizens of that cess-pit known as Cardiff Bay.

Fresh information reaches me that makes the whole business look even more distasteful.

I’m told that following Sargeant’s death, Christina Rees, MP for Neath and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, had to be forced by other Welsh MPs to make a statement of condolence. Because, I’m told, she, or perhaps her political adviser, former Cardiff councillor, Luke Holland, had been briefing against Carl Sargeant, and that the briefings continued against former AM Leighton Andrews, Sargeant’s friend and defender.

There was outrage within the Labour Party over the behaviour of Rees and Holland, which the bruvvers managed to keep within the party (easy given the absence of a Welsh media) but even so, Holland’s position became untenable and he left, or was forced to leave, Ms Rees’ office.

So what did the boy do next?

He did what everybody in his position does – he set up a PR outfit! This one called Cathod Du (Black Cats) Consultancy Ltd, Incorporated November 30. It seems to have no website and no presence beyond the few sparse documents at Companies House, but that may not matter, for it might now have a specific purpose, or a single client.

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I’m told that Holland is a supporter of Vaughan Gething, who a few days ago announced that he was running for Labour leader in the Assembly. And in the best traditions of Welsh politics it is further suggested that Cathod Du may act as a conduit for funding the Gething campaign.

To complicate matters even further, Mark Holland is married to Louise Magee, the general secretary of Plaid Tlodi. Magee was heavily involved in Sargeant’s sacking on November 3. I believe it was she who sent the e-mail informing him of his dismissal.

Then, in a plot twist few writers would dare commit to paper – Magee was appointed by the party to be Jack Sargeant’s agent in his campaign to succeed his father! Understandably, the welcome mat was not rolled out for her on Deeside, so she booked into a hotel outside of the constituency and kept a very low profile.

And to round off this tale of betrayal and incestuous relationships I also hear that soon after being appointed the Poverty Party’s general secretary last April Magee gave hubby Holland the job of being her press officer, without the post being advertised and at a higher salary than other staff.

If so, this isn’t listed on his Linkedin profile, nor can I find information anywhere else, so can anyone confirm this?

I was told long before Carl Sargeant’s death that Vaughan Gething was Carwyn Jones’s chosen successor. Given how instrumental Jones’s staff and former staff were in the campaign against Sergeant, Magee’s role, and how that links with Holland, and how Holland may now be Gething’s bagman, it does make you wonder.

 

AIRBRUSHED HISTORY

One of the few Twitter accounts I follow is the excellent Welsh not British and his On This Day feature, which last week reminded us of the Mold Riots of 1869. Just as well because I’m sure few of us know of this episode.

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Like so many events in our history the Mold Riots have either been corrupted or ignored entirely. And yet, here we have Welsh miners suffering discrimination, being denied work, then arrested, with the episode eventually resulting in soldiers shooting down people in the streets of a Welsh town.

So how come ‘Welsh’ Labour doesn’t commemorate this event?

The simple answer is that any issue that pits Wales against England or Welsh against English must be avoided like the pox in case it encourages nationalist sentiment which might result in more people questioning the benefits to Wales of being in the Union with England.

But equally, taking the side of England or the English would be damaging for the party, so it’s best that certain issues and incidents are ignored entirely.

For when it comes to Wales the Labour Party is primarily a Unionist Party, everything else is secondary. The ‘socialism’ is just sloganising; the ‘concern’ for the downtrodden is nothing more than posturing to justify the maintenance of the party’s third sector auxiliary force; while the hostility to capitalism is an excuse to explain sheer incompetence from arseholes incapable of organising an economy.

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mold Riots. The Poverty Party won’t commemorate the event but those who died and the others who suffered such blatant and racist discrimination should be remembered. They deserve it.

Let’s do it in 2019!

SEND US YOUR SICK AND YOUR ELDERLY, WALES CAN AFFORD IT!

The Conservatives have once again raised the issue of free prescriptions, and once again, they’ve done it without really grasping the problem.

As the article from Llais y Sais tells us, people have been getting Bonjela, Strepsils, and even deodorants on prescription, which is guaranteed to get ‘Apoplectic of Cowbridge’ choking on his single malt but doesn’t amount to much in the greater scheme of things. For the abuse of the free prescription legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because free prescriptions attract into Wales large numbers of people who would otherwise be spending a sizeable amount of money every month on prescription charges, for there are no free prescriptions in England. These will be people with serious and long-term conditions.

I see such people every day in Tywyn, and they can be found in every other small town in Wales.

Quite obviously, the demands such people make on the NHS will not be restricted to prescription charges. In fact, prescription charges will be only one small part of the burden imposed by a high dependency group attracted to Wales in the first instance by free prescriptions.

click to enlarge

For they will also require hospital treatment, therapy and carers, there may be a nurse calling regularly. Or perhaps it’s transport, from the Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service, funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Its headquarters are at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff but it has a northern office in Rhyl and ‘outreach’ services at Newtown, Oswestry and Pembrokeshire.

All of which adds up to a hell of a lot more in monetary terms than prescription charges.

Of course a high percentage of the people we’re discussing will be middle-aged and elderly, which helps explain why we also read in the article, “The number of ‘drugs for dementia’ items rocketed by 1,473% – up from just over 11,000 in 2002 to nearly 179,000 in 2017”.

An iron law of the relationship between Wales and England says: ‘Anything which makes Wales attractive to English people will result in large numbers of English people moving into Wales’.

It would be nice if this was a booming economy, an abundance of well-paid jobs, and a labour shortage, but it’s not. (Of course, many of the better jobs are reserved for English people, but that’s simply because of our colonial status.)

Apart from that, what attracts people to Wales in 2018 – especially the retired and other non-working groups – is cheap property prices (or easy access to social housing), nice scenery, few ‘ethnic minorities’, and free prescriptions.

Yes, Northern Ireland and Scotland also have free prescriptions, but they do not have large numbers of English people, moving in every year. Those that do move are more likely to be students than retirees.

It’s difficult to understand why the situation we experience today could not have been foreseen, and the problem mitigated with a residency period of say 10 years in Wales before anyone qualified for free prescriptions.

Or maybe it was foreseen.

Because if someone wanted to skew Welsh health and sickness statistics, over-burden our NHS, in order to paint a picture of we Welsh being unable to run our own affairs, then free prescriptions is a bloody good way of doing it.

I leave you with the words of a ‘Welsh’ Government spokesperson: “Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales as a long-term investment to improve people’s health”. The truth is that free prescriptions have made Wales a less healthy country.

♦ end ♦

 

Background to a Carmarthenshire Vendetta

In my post of November 24th, Wales, Colony of England, I mentioned multi-millionaire businessman Clive Hughes and his tribulations with Carmarthenshire County Council, due to that authority’s hostility towards his project for a biomass combined heat and power plant near Kidwelly.

In my follow-up post on December 1st, Meryl Gravell & Robin Cammish, Only in Carmarthenshire, I named Robin Cammish as Clive Hughes’ ‘nemesis’, and looked into Cammish’s business background, also his relationship with former council leader, Meryl Gravell, which seemed to explain him being appointed to the board of the Scarlets rugby region and then Pro Rugby Wales. Though his time at the latter body was short, he was forced to resign just before Christmas.

Since writing those pieces I have met with Clive Hughes, spoken with other people, done a little research, and I now understand even better that it wasn’t the council per se that caused Mr Hughes’ problems. The biomass plan was doomed because Clive Hughes fell foul of certain powerful individuals in Carmarthenshire County Council.

Carms trio

To understand what I’m referring to you must know something of the circumstances surrounding the local rugby club / region moving from its traditional home of Stradey Park to the new stadium, Parc y Scarlets, right next to the Parc Pemberton retail park. (And if you want to know why Llanelli town centre looks like an apocalyptic, post-nuclear wasteland, just look at the huge retail parks the county council has encouraged at Pemberton and Trostre.)

Council chief executive Mark James and sometime council leader Meryl Gravell enthusiastically supported the move from Stradey Park to Parc y Scarlets and used the clout and funding of the local authority to ensure it happened. To the extent that the Scarlets have been kept afloat financially ever since by very generous treatment from the council. (For further details on this generosity I suggest you go to the blogs named here and search under ‘Scarlets’, ‘Stradey Park’ or ‘Parc y Scarlets’, Y Cneifiwr and Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and more.)

So how does all this link with Clive Hughes? In a nutshell, Clive Hughes, a Carmarthenshire man, born and raised in Bethlehem, had supported Llanelli RFC all his life, he was a vice-president of the club . . . but he vociferously opposed the move away from Stradey Park. He became something of a fly in the ointment, an obstacle to county hall’s grand vision for the county’s premier sporting organisation and its largest town. By taking that position he made powerful enemies.

(This also explains how I met with Clive Hughes on New Year’s Day at the Liberty Stadium, for the Ospreys v Dragons game – he has now transferred his loyalty across the Loughor river.)

BACKGROUND & SUMMARY

When ‘regionalisation’ was introduced by the Welsh Rugby Union, through its then chief executive David Moffett, his original plan was for four regions, putatively and unimaginatively named North, South, East and West. (See panel below.)

WRU regions
Courtesy of Wikipedia (click to enlarge)

Basing the West region at Stradey Park was an odd decision which may have been an attempt to win over unenthusiastic Turks, but this arrangement was quickly overtaken by Swansea council’s decision to build a new 21,000 all-seater stadium at Morfa, for rugby and soccer. This, added to the proposed region’s geography, the outdated facilities at Stradey, and rumblings from Neath, meant that the new Swansea stadium would inevitably become home for the West region.

The news of the new stadium in Swansea, and its implications, served to evaporate further what little enthusiasm there was for the WRU’s grand vision among the power-brokers both at Stradey Park and on Jail Hill. It was bad enough that the town was losing the one name that took it to a wider world, but without the compensation of being home to the new entity there was little to recommend the region to those west of the Loughor.

And so Llanelli RFC decided – as did Cardiff – to reject the suggested amalgamation and become one of the so-called ‘stand-alone’ regions . . . which of course were not regions at all, just re-branded clubs. To its eternal shame the Welsh Rugby Union accepted this deception. Newport did something similar by unconvincingly re-naming itself the Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Having burnt their bridges with the proposed region the club and the council came up with the plan for a new stadium, partly to promote the ‘Llanelli-is-a-region’ message and partly to thwart any future attempts at merger. The people of Carmarthenshire have been paying the price ever since for this panicky rush into a project that was never economically viable and, ironically, only ever sees a full house when the Ospreys visit.

*

And so it came to pass that Parc y Scarlets held its first game on November 15, 2008, when Llanelli (the club, not the region) fittingly played Cardiff (ditto). Over three years after the opening of the Liberty Stadium.

Earlier that same year, in June, Carmarthenshire Planning Committee saw Clive Hughes’ planning application for a biomass-powered CHP plant at the old Coedbach coal washery near Kidwelly.

Everything seemed to be proceeding just fine, there were no objections from the Environment Agency or the Countryside Council for Wales. The planning officers of Carmarthenshire council recommended approval . . . but then, in March 2009, and in what WalesOnline described as an “extraordinary U-turn” planning officers changed their minds, using the flimsiest of excuses. On March 19 the planning committee refused planning permission by 9 votes to 8.

Everyone I have spoken to believes that planning officials and councillors were ‘leaned on’, and that the ‘leaning’ was done by . . . Meryl Gravell had certainly opposed the plan and we can be fairly sure that she orchestrated the local opposition through Robin Cammish and the Coedbach Action Team. (Enquiries are ongoing into who paid the legal costs for the CAT.)

There is no doubt in my mind that the wrecking of the biomass project was ‘pay-back’ for Clive Hughes opposing the move to Parc y Scarlets (and associated retail ventures).

In the ITV Wales report above, uploaded to YouTube in September 2008, the reporter even says that Cammish formed CAT. It also establishes a) the linkage between Cammish and Gravell and b) the antipathy existing between Hughes and Gravell, who declined to appear in person. (But then, it’s usually best for the organ-grinder to stand back when the monkey has the crowd’s attention.)

If I’m right – and I’m not alone in suspecting this – then ensuring that Clive Hughes’ Coedbach project failed was an exercise in pure vindictiveness. Those pursuing this vendetta were quite happy to see the area denied the jobs and other benefits the project would have brought so that they could experience the very personal pleasure of getting the better of a man who had dared challenge them.

Perhaps realising that the “rabble” might guess the truth about Coedbach Meryl Gravell tried to cover it up by putting forward her vision for the area, her alternative strategy for jobs.

SUMMARY

By challenging Carmarthenshire Council Clive Hughes guaranteed that there would be a price to pay. That price was the scuppering of his biomass plant at Coedbach.

To further pursue the vendetta against Clive Hughes hit-man Cammish also opposed Clive Hughes’ biomass plant planned for Swansea docks. Then, in the hope of pretending that he had become a campaigner against biomass rather than the tool of James and Gravell, we saw the farce of Cammish opposing a biomass scheme in Bristol! The judge at the judicial review into this project quite rightly told him it was no concern of a group based in west Wales. 

In return for his loyalty Cammish was said to have had “the run of County Hall”, and was putting himself about as an ‘advisor’ to the council – as the video below from 2011 clearly suggests he was (go to 22:06) – though Mark James was forced to publicly deny this relationship.

As a reward for services rendered Cammish was placed by the council on the board of the Scarlets in September 2013. Mutual back-scratching of the kind with which we are all too familiar.

If the first video suggested a link between Gravell and Cammish then the second video should leave no one in any doubt that the link blossomed into a strong working relationship.

*

At 3 minutes into the first video Meryl Gravell is quoted as saying that the economic future of the area lies with “leisure and tourism”. I have written about tourism many times, this post from October last year should give you an idea of where I stand.

Tourism is not an economic strategy, it is the absence of an economic strategy, or even the antithesis of an economic strategy. It is the ‘industry’ of last resort. It is what politicians pretend to believe in when they have run out of ideas on how to provide real jobs.

Which means that Meryl Gravell is offering the people of Carmarthenshire jobs that are low skill, low pay, and often seasonal – because she and others have no greater vision for the area than tourism, or else throwing grants at yet another retail development in Cross Hands promoted by a company so opaque as to be almost invisible, or maybe granting planning permission for untraceable shell companies to build unneeded homes on flood plains.

But then, when you conspire, for personal, vindictive reasons to deny genuine employment to the people you claim to represent, you must come up with an alternative, no matter how implausible. And nothing is more implausible, or insulting, than the suggestion that tourism is the economic salvation of Wales.

What a way to run a council! What a way to run a country!

WALES v ENGLAND: The Distraction and the Real Contest

As the media reminds us unremittingly, there is a rugby game in Cardiff on Saturday between Wales and England. Though, if one wanted to be cynical – and I often do! – then, seeing as ‘our’ team is the creation of the Welsh Rugby Union, it could be argued that what we shall actually see is a team representing England and another team representing a corrupted interpretation of Welsh identity.

Why am I picking on the Welsh Rugby Union? Well, basically because the WRU has always been a bastion of the forelock-tugging element in Welsh life, those for whom pride in Wales and Welshness are permissable up to the point where it’s acknowledged that Welshness is a subordinate identity to what they might describe as Britishness but is, in reality, Englishness. They are what the Irish might call ‘shoneens’.

This attitude was exhibited at the very formation of the Welsh Rugby Union when, instead of adopting a Welsh emblem, the founders went for a central European badge with a motto in German that represents the heir to the English throne. The WRU has continued in this obsequious vein for well over a century. Most recently with its introduction of the Prince William Cup, competed for between Wales and South Africa! (Most of whose players over the years have been republican Afrikaners, or Boers.)

But let’s focus on Saturday’s game. England are going for the Grand Slam after beating Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy. Having lost only to Ireland, Wales can deny England this prize, and also win the Championship themselves, if they beat England by seven points. So why am I not transported to paroxysms of frenzied patriotism, ignoring all else? Because that’s what they want. Rugby in Wales is bread and circuses twenty-first century style: Permissible patriotism and sanctioned Sais-bashing (up to a point).

‘Patriotism’ and national sentiment turned off and on like a tap. While the tap is running, and just like in the ancient festivals of misrule, we Welsh are allowed to get above ourselves, say and do things that would normally be frowned upon. But once the tap is turned off, it’s back to normal; to the normal condition of our country. For ask yourself, if we stuff the English by thirty points will it make Wales less poor? When the cloud of euphoria has evaporated will we find that England is no longer exploiting our water and other resources, not covering our country in wind turbines, has stopped dumping her undesirables on us?

Wales doesn’t need 80-minute ‘patriots’; Wales needs commitment for 365 days a year. Even so, enjoy the game, but remember, even a Welsh victory will be nothing more than a harmless and enjoyable distraction from, rather than the answer to, Wales’ problems. They’ll still be there when you sober up.

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A few hours berallyfore the game, at mid-day, I hope to be at a rally outside the Senedd. A number of groups have combined to organise a protest against the Local Development Plans being forced on our local authorities by the English Planning Inspectorate acting in the name of the Welsh Government. In fact, no less than 320,000 new homes.

There is no indigenous demand for this number. Most, especially in rural areas, will be unaffordable to all but a few Welsh people. In fact, all rural areas of Wales already have an oversupply of housing, both private and social, so why are we being told to build more? The answer is inescapable – to accommodate yet more English colonists.

This is why organisations including Cambria Band, Cyngor Pobl Gogledd Cymru, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, Cymuned, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh National Rights Movement will be represented at the rally. They will be calling for a new approach to planning in Wales, based on what we need. Radical, I suppose, but only in a colonialist context such as we find in Wales.

So if you’re in Cardiff on Saturday, rather than getting tanked up on Brains and faux patriotism, why not come down the Bay to experience the real thing? Among people who’ll still be patriots next week. Learn about what really matters in this country; the things that will be important long after most people have forgotten what happened at the Millennium Stadium.