Sunday, 21 May 2017

Havard Hughes comes home - briefly

A candidate who has yet to darken Cneifiwr's door is Tory Havard Hughes who may or may not be hoping to win Carmarthen East and Dinefwr for Theresa May.

He has a home and a long-term partner in the swish Belsize Park area of London, and by his own modest account he has had a successful career in the City of London and working for Coventry Building Society - in PR. In the highly unlikely event that he were to win, being an MP for such a distant outpost would play havoc with his social life and generally be very inconvenient.

It's fair to say that Havard has mixed feelings about what he calls his "second home" in Wales. True enough, he grew up in Carmarthenshire and went to QE in Carmarthen, but in his account on Wales Online he says he was "compelled to move away from the land of our fathers" (readers should be warned at this point that reading this piece may induce feelings of nausea) to seek his fortune in the City because Welsh politicians were "unable or unwilling to fix our economy".

The problem with this version of history is that up to the point that Havard became an economic migrant in England, Wales was under direct rule from Westminster, and for nearly all of Havard's early years that meant Tory government under Margaret Thatcher. Thanks to a very weak devolution settlement, control over all the important economic levers remains firmly in London and in Tory hands.

His interview with Wales Online throws up numerous other examples which suggest that the Tory candidate is, well, on a different planet.

Asked what inspired him to enter politics, Havard replied,

Being made to feel like a second-class citizen in my own country by bigoted Welsh Nationalists.

Perhaps Havard Hughes was traumatized at an early age when someone called him a coc oen. We will probably never know, but whatever it was that inspired him, he joined the LibDems and became a councillor in north London, an unlikely place from which to launch a political career dedicated to fighting Welsh nationalism. Dire warnings of the evils of voting for Plaid Cymru must have puzzled voters in the London boroughs no end.

Hughes remained with the LibDems while that party's fortunes prospered, but in 2007 he jumped ship after 17 years of LibDemmery to join the Tories under David Cameron.

Hughes told Conservative Home that what attracted him was Cameron's liberalism. Certainly in 2007 the old Etonian PR man was busy giving the Tory Party a make-over. It was - briefly - no longer the Nasty Party, but a green, husky loving, hoody hugging hipster force for making the world a better place for the very rich.

Or perhaps Havard Hughes thought his flagging political career stood a better chance if he hitched his wagon to the Tories.

Sadly, political success eluded him under Cameron, but Hughes remained in his own words "an instinctive liberal".

The catastrophic end of Cameron's time in office saw the coronation of the distinctly illiberal Theresa May, a wooden politican who manages to make even Gordon Brown look charismatic.

Whatever liberal tendencies Havard Hughes still harboured were quickly ditched in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and he became a fully paid-up member of the weird personality cult being woven around Theresa May whose record on human rights and civil liberties is anything but liberal.

Havard is now a May-bot. His Facebook campaign barely even acknowledges the Conservative Party; he is now simply "Theresa May's local candidate":


Apart from wearing a Barbour jacket and posing in front of some sheep grazing peacefully on the hills of Carmarthenshire, our London Tory has no discernible connection with Welsh agriculture which is facing disaster as we head out of the single market and the Customs Union.

But don't worry, boys. Havard Hughes says he will be your champion in Government, and in another spectacular flight of fancy he says he will sit "around the table with Theresa May as she negotiates Brexit".

In reality, Hughes would be one of probably not more than a dozen Tories representing a Welsh constituency in a sea of hundreds of English Tory MPs, and a very junior backbencher to boot.

Havard Hughes' chances of getting anywhere near the negotiating table and influencing his notoriously autocratic ultimate boss are fantasy like the rest of his platform. Hands up who thinks "Theresa May's local candidate" would dare say boo to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Welcoming the launch of the Tory manifesto last week, a Daily Mail editorial described the document as "a manifesto for Middle England". It contains barely a word about Wales, and so it is perhaps entirely appropriate that a PR man working for a building society in Coventry, the very heart of middle England, should have been parachuted into Carmarthenshire for Theresa May.

Strong and stable

Judging from his output in the social media, Havard Hughes' strategy appears to be based on endless and mindless repetition of the words "strong and stable", while wrapping himself in the Union Jack. For someone who is so keen to boast about his Welsh credentials (including his ability to speak Welsh), his messages are completely devoid of the language apart from a snapshot of a leaflet bearing the Union Jack and the words Arweinyddiaeth Gryf a Sefydlog (yes, strong and stable leadership again):



One of the few messages not to include the words "strong and stable" promises that the Tories will commit to investing in British shipyards. "British shipbuilding will have a renaissance", we are promised. The fact that Carmarthen East and Dinefwr is pretty much landlocked and that there is no Welsh shipbuilding industry are minor details.



How strongly any of this will resonate with voters we will see, but if Cneifiwr's own canvassing experiences in rural north Carmarthenshire are anything to go by, Havard Hughes' message will be regarded as utterly irrelevant by many and deeply offensive by others.

What is clear is that Jonathan Edwards has succeeded in building a broad coalition of support among Welsh speakers and incomers alike. If he hadn't, he could never have won here.

If you live in Wales, you have a stake in Wales, he says, and some of the strongest conversations on the doorstep were with people who moved here, work here, set up small businesses here and have grown to love this country, its values and its people.

There is real concern about what the future holds, and there is an acute awareness among many voters that Theresa May and Co know nothing about Wales, care less and look set to lead us over a cliff with catastrophic consequences for the Welsh economy, and farming in particular.

But at least Boris's new Royal Yacht may do something for the shipbuilding industry somewhere, even if it's not Carmarthenshire.







Thursday, 18 May 2017

Labour Darkins Cneifiwr's Door - Updated

Update 19 May

Labour's satnav seems to have developed a strange technical fault. Yesterday it was telling us that the candidate began his campaign in Llandysul; today it says that the campaign began in Drefach Felindre, "an idyllic rural village". An anonymous poster in the comments below would have us believe that it said Drefach Felindre all along, and that to say otherwise is "fake news".

Unfortunately, in his rush to change the location of his launch, the Labour candidate has forgotten to proofread the rest of his brief announcement:

Today was the official launch of the Welsh Labour Campaign in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. We launched our campaign in Dre-Fach Felindre near Llandysul, an idyllic rural village in the north of the constituency. In my address to Labour Party activists an supporters, I warned of the dangers of another Tory govenrment whih would drive further inequality in our society and further privitise our public services.

Welsh speaking voters wishing to read about the candidate and why they should vote for him will be sadly disappointed. His commitment to the language is limited to telling us that he is a "llais ffres i Sir Gâr".

The rest of Dave Darkin's campaign website tells us about his business and comings and goings in Llanelli, including the fact that he recently became a member of Llanelli Town Council. It forgets to tell us that voters in Llanelli did not think he was up to the job of becoming a county councillor.

Those who voted to make Dave a member of Llanelli Town Council two short weeks ago will be surprised to learn that he appears to have moved to Ammanford since being elected, according to both his own website and that of the Labour Party:


Concerned Llanelli residents may wish to check with the clerk to Llanelli Town Council that Dave still qualifies to sit as a town councillor.

_______________

The far north west corner of Carmarthenshire is not exactly fruitful territory for Labour, but then neither is the Amman Valley these days. The whole of the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency returned just two Labour councillors on 4 May in what used to be a sea of red.

Labour has lost its way, and that may explain why the party chose to launch its general election campaign in what it describes as the "idyllic rural village" of Llandysul "in the north of the constituency".

Perhaps someone should give them a map because Llandysul is not actually in the constituency.

This great event is recorded on Dave Darkin's campaign website which contains next to nothing about Carmarthen East and Dinefwr and a great deal about Llanelli and Darkin's work as an architect. It's one way of touting for business.

If Dave's campaign website is to be believed, the Labour candidate, who states on his nomination papers that his home address is in Llanelli, has upped sticks and moved to Ammanford, where he appears to be shacked up with former councillor Anthony Jones:

Hyrwyddwyd gan Anthony Jonas ar gyfer David Darkin, y ddau o 15 Maesllwyn, Bonllwyn, Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, SA18 2EG
Promoted by Anthony Jones on behalf of David Darkin, both of 15 Maesllwyn, Bonllwyn, Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, SA18 2EG

Having puzzled voters in Ceredigion, the Labour squad headed for Newcastle Emlyn where the Labour vote is only marginally stronger than the Monster Raving Loony Party's. It was cattle market day, and the smell of fresh dung mingled with the heavy scent of slurry the boys had recently sprayed on the fields around the town. The rain poured down relentlessly as the Labour team, a mix of students and Guardian reading avocado munchers fretting about their next Ocado delivery, trudged around the town.

Unfortunately, what with it being a very wet market day and a time when most people under the age of 65 were out at work, most of us missed this very rare Labour outing. The last time anyone can remember seeing a Labour representative was in 2015 when Calum Higgins briefly posed for pics outside the fire station.

Back then Labour announced that Carmarthen East and Dinefwr was one of their top target seats. Calum's campaign sunk without trace, and Plaid increased its majority.

The outlook this time round is even more dire, and that may perhaps explain why, in desperation, Labour headed for Cneifiwr's humble shack.

Cneifiwr was at work, but Mrs C happened to be in. The doorbell rang, and at first she thought it might be those Jehovah's Witnesses again. She looked out and saw a bedraggled group with red rosettes, and decided not to open up.

All went quiet for a few minutes, and then the doorbell rang again. Rashly, she assumed that the Labour campaign had moved on, and went to open the door only to be confronted by the candidate himself and a member of his team who asked a somewhat startled Mrs Cneifiwr to pass on a message to her old man telling him to "stop making people angry".

And with that rather creepy encounter done, the soggy group finally moved on.

Mrs Cneifiwr got off rather lightly, as it happens. Here is an alarmed voter in Llanelli recording her "Labour doorstep" experience:


The question of what Nia has done for Llanelli has been puzzling Cneifiwr as well, and it is something this blog will attempt to answer in the next few days.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Donkey Derby: Red Rum sweeps all before him

Politics is a brutal business; an ungrateful or indifferent public and criticism in the media go with the territory, but for real cruelty and treachery nothing is likely to surpass the machinations of your own party colleagues.

It seems that Bill Thomas, until last week's elections one of Labour's councillors for Lliedi ward in Llanelli, and his son Clive were recently refused entry to the party's AGM, even though Bill is still technically the Labour mayor of Llanelli for a few more days.

Bill was a hard working, respected and popular councillor, described as a "true gent" by one prominent Plaid rival. What marked him out was that he was not afraid to speak his mind, often to the discomfort of his party's top brass and senior council officers. For years he tried to highlight the folly of building houses on flood plains, and he campaigned long and hard to protect the Burry Inlet from releases of raw sewage which he believed were responsible for devastating damage to the cockle beds, and the impact that had on the livelihoods of the cocklers and the loss of species such as oyster catchers.

For his pains, Bill was repeatedly ordered to sit down and shut up in the council chamber, often by Labour colleagues, and it was ironic that on the day voters went to the polls, the European Court of Justice announced that the UK authorities were guilty of allowing pollution of this fragile ecosystem.

But despite his willingness to stand up for issues which the Labour Party and the powers-that-be would rather not have aired, Bill remained a loyal member of his party.

When he was unexpectedly deselected by Labour in Lliedi, Bill could have stood against Labour as an independent, but he chose not to.

According to reliable sources, Bill lost the selection process when a number of normally inactive members suddenly came out in support of Rob James who had just moved to Llanelli from Neath.

Although James appears quickly to have made friends with Tegwen and Co, rank and file members can have known precious little about the ambitious young man who had turned up on their doorsteps. Ordinary members would have been surprised to learn that Rob James' record as a councillor in Neath Port Talbot was less than exemplary and that he had gained a degree of notoriety in his former stomping ground for being largely invisible during his five year term there.

But perhaps that misses the point. James's victory in the selection process had nothing to do with his track record, which was nothing to boast about, and everything to do with who he knew in the party machine.

When during the election campaign a Plaid candidate published details of James's attendance record at NPT, he threatened legal action. He also made what he termed a "formal complaint" against this blog, demanding to know where the attendance figures came from while giving the impression that he was the victim of a smear campaign.

After it was pointed out to him that the figures came from Neath Port Talbot council, James was not heard from again, but he appears to have continued to proclaim in Lliedi that the figures were lies, and that both he and his "young family" were being targeted by opponents. There is not a shred of evidence to support that claim.

Rob James's decision to stand in Lliedi was vindicated on polling day when not only did the newcomer win, but he won by a country mile, beating Bill Thomas's vote in Labour's best ever year in 2012 by 237 votes on a turnover which was only slightly up from 34.9% to 39%.

As Jac o' the North notes here, if this had been a horse race, the stewards would be taking an interest in this truly remarkable outcome.  A distinctly mediocre hack with poor form was transformed into Red Rum. Where did those 237 votes come from?

But Rob's run of luck did not end there because days later Red Rum romped past Kevin Madge with almost 40 years spent in local government in Carmarthenshire to become the new deputy leader of the Labour group.

Meanwhile, the Labour vote in Rob's old ward in Neath Port Talbot suffered a dramatic collapse.




Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Havard Hughes: Second home from home

A little known fact is that there are as many elephants in Carmarthenshire than there are elected Tories.

One of the consequences of calling a snap election in the middle of the local government election campaign was that the parties, including the Tories, were caught on the hop, in many cases with no candidates in place.

There have been rows in other places, most notably Bridgend, where Conservative Central Office imposed a London candidate on the constituency party in preference to local members. Now the same is happening in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr where Havard Hughes, a former LibDem, is being parachuted in over the heads of local talent and hoping to join Valli the elephant at the Skanda Vale ashram near Llanpumsaint and Simon Hart as the sole representatives of their respective species in the constituency. And Hart relies on the southern half of Pembrokeshire to get elected.

With just four weeks to go until polling day, and rather less in the case of the growing number of voters who opt for postal ballots (somewhere around the 30% mark), the local Conservative association's website is currently silent on the topic, still promoting its candidate for the Cynwyl Gaeo ward in the council elections on 4 May (he lost). Perhaps Conservative Central Office has not got around to telling them yet.

But Havard Hughes is the man who will be wearing the blue rosette, and he has announced his "selection" on Twitter.

Hughes lives in London and works as media and public affairs manager for the Coventry Building Society in Coventry.

Although he grew up in Carmarthenshire, Hughes has spent most of his adult life in the Big Smoke, and for much of that time he was a fervent Liberal Democrat, chairing the LibDem Students in Cambridge before going on to work for Vince Cable and becoming a LibDem councillor.

Unlikely though it is that Havard Hughes intends to move back to live among us, he describes Carmarthenshire as his "second home", a phrase which carries rather different connotations in the north of Carmarthenshire and shows that he has spent rather too long away from Rhydargaeau, which is where his Twitter profile would have us believe he now lives.

Describing himself as an "instinctive liberal", he decided to jump ship to the Tories in 2007 having been persuaded that David Cameron's liberal conservatism addressed things that mattered to him, such as the environment.

Liberal values, a concern for the environment and so much else that Cameron claimed to stand for are so last year. As one wit recently commented after the UK Government was found by the European Court of Justice to have been in breach of EU laws over the amount of sewage and waste water discharged into the sea off Carmarthenshire, we will soon be free to drink as much sewage as we like.

The ECJ has also issued the UK with a final warning for breaching air pollution controls on nitrogen dioxide, but with luck we may be out of the EU before the matter can be taken further.

Last week Theresa May's government was forced by the High Court to publish its proposals for tackling air pollution after it tried to delay publication until after the election. The flimsy paper which came out met with near universal derision, with claims that it was even weaker than the previous version which was ruled inadequate in November last year.

Havard Hughes' instinctive liberalism and concern for the environment seem to have gone the same way as his hero worship for David Cameron as he prepares to go into battle for the distinctly illiberal Theresa May.

Or perhaps his liberal, environmentalist principles are still there. It's hard to tell.

Whatever the case may be, the former long-term activist for the pro-EU LibDems and admirer of the pro-EU David Cameron is likely to be regarded with some suspicion by the pro-Brexit contingent in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. 

If Havard Hughes comes up against Neil Hamilton in any hustings, the sparks are likely to fly, with disgraceful suggestions that the Tory candidate is in fact a Saboteur and Enemy of the Will of the People merely waiting for the political winds to shift once again.

Meanwhile Hamilton himself has polled what Professor Roger Scully says is the lowest score for any political leader in all of his 25 years in academia, a message which was promptly retweeted by Llanelli AM Lee Waters, who was clearly relieved that there is someone in Welsh politics even less popular than he is.

In four weeks from now Havard Hughes will be heading back to the congenial delights of Hampstead, and as the words "strong and stable leadership" are paroted for the final time, Valli will trumpet into the starry Camrarthenshire night, and there will still be as many elephants as Tories in Carmarthenshire.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Stalkers

One of Labour's campaign pledges for last week's council elections in Carmarthenshire was a commitment to running a "modern, transparent council".

In what must be a record for ditching a pledge, Labour in Llanelli has moved rapidly to remove from the public gaze the Mayor's Diary from Llanelli Town Council's website. The Civic Diary on the website of Llanelli Rural Council has also suddenly gone blank.

The reason given to concerned residents wanting to know what their mayor is doing for the town was that the diaries have been removed to "avoid stalkers".

The current holder of the office on Llanelli Town Council is Bill Thomas, but he is no longer a councillor, and jolly Jeff Edmunds is not due to put on the municipal bling until 17 May.

Who would want to stalk Jeff Edmunds is a mystery, although readers of this blog may recall that before the election he claimed that a mysterious person had phoned him pretending to be a member of the Labour Party, only to splash his comments all over the "blogs". Even more mysteriously, nobody ever managed to track down the blogs or the comments he said they had published.

Cllr Edmunds also claimed that somebody had tried to clone his Facebook account, and that he had gone to the police about all of this. When the press asked the police what was going on, Dyfed Powys said nobody had contacted them about it.

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.

Perhaps Jeff Edmunds is the object of some obscure cargo cult of fetishist, gothic grannies, or perhaps he just feels that the mayor's comings and goings are an entirely private matter.

Perhaps he is planning to follow the trail blazed by Cllr Shahana Najmi when she took off to the Agen Prune Festival with an all-Labour delegation a few years back, presumably to explore ways in which she might strengthen Llanelli's own prune industry. We may never know.

Whatever the case, anyone wanting to find out what Labour's top brass in Llanelli is doing will now need to submit a Freedom of Information request.

There's transparent local government for you.


Strictly no hope


Dafen Dolly's defeat at the hands of Rob Evans Paramedic in last week's council elections means that the lugubrious Jeff Edmunds found himself as leader of the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council without a dance partner.

Rather less well publicised than last night's Labour leadership elections in Cardiff where Huw 'Tippex' Thomas ousted Phil Bale, the Labour group in Carmarthenshire has awarded its fabulous glitterball trophy to the pairing of Jeff Edmunds and new boy Rob James.

One of the couples rumoured to have taken to the dance floor is Derek Cundy with Kevin Madge as deputy, although their tango is understood to have bombed with the judges in the dance-off.


With James having called for Mark James's suspension in the press - something which will have had the chief executive's legal advisers adding more noughts to any future severance package - and declared that the Plaid-Independent coalition with 52 of the 74 seats on the council lacks a mandate, voters are in for comedy gold as the Edmunds-James partnership takes to the floor, with Jeff taking the role of straight man to James's hapless buffoon.

[Updated from version published earlier today]




Sunday, 7 May 2017

Local government elections 2017

As the dust settles on Thursday's vote, it's time for a few reflections.

The election saw Plaid Cymru turn in its best ever performance in Carmarthenshire, and the party came within a whisker (2 seats) of winning an overall majority. The Independents continued their long-term decline, and will now be a junior partner in a new coalition with just 3 out of the 10 seats on the Executive Board.

As always, the Independents are a mixed bag, but without Pam Palmer and Meryl the relationship will begin on a new footing under the leadership of Mair Stephens.

Outside Llanelli, Labour is now an endangered species. It has just one outlier in Carmarthen, and is down to just four in its former bastions in the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys where personal loyalties count for as least as much as politics.

Llanelli and the surrounding communities are now home to 17 of the Labour group's 22 members, and that will have some interesting consequences.

The scattered fragments of the Labour Party outside Llanelli are in no position to challenge the direction the group takes, and inside Llanelli the hardliners have strengthened their hand. The nepotism, clientelism and bullying which characterise the party in Llanelli will continue to flourish, creating all the right conditions for corruption. They will see their success in fending off the challenge from Plaid as a vindication of their tactics and policies, and the moderates in their midst will be left feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

Theresa May's decision to call a snap general election almost certainly helped Labour by diverting voters' attention from local issues and the state of Labour in Llanelli to what the mainstream media always portray as a two horse race between the Tories and Labour in the UK.

But Llanelli Labour is also well organised, and another significant factor is likely to have been the growing popularity of postal voting. Labour is understood to have done particularly well in the postal vote.

On the face of it, postal voting is a good thing. It helps increase turnout and participation in elections, and that certainly helps Labour which often struggles to get its vote out.

But the system is also open to manipulation, especially among what is sometimes termed the "donkey vote". Helping people to register for a postal vote, popping round to remind them to put a cross in the right place and offering to walk the envelope to the nearest postbox are all perfectly legal, and it can yield a healthy crop of votes for even the most dire candidates.

That Labour is not impregnable is clear from what has happened in the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency. As recently as 2015 CE&D was one of Labour's top target seats, and they lost by a mile. This time they could even be pushed into third place, something that was unthinkable a few years ago.

In Llanelli, Tegwen Devichand's defeat at the hands of Rob Evans Paramedic, the Independent candidate, shows that Labour is vulnerable even in its last remaining bastion. Rob, who is a big personality, fought a very energetic one-man campaign against a well-oiled and powerful machine, and David beat Goliath.

Critics of Plaid Cymru often contrast the party's failure to break through with the success of the SNP, but Carmarthenshire shows, as it has shown before, that decline and decay under the dead hand of Labour does not have to be our fate.

The SNP swept all before it in the general election in 2015, but it was only last week that the party finally broke Labour's grip on Glasgow.

Mari Arthur is about to give Labour the fight of its life in Llanelli.

Footnote

Several of those present at the count could not help noticing that Rob James, Labour's new boy from Neath, was strutting around as if he owned the place. Interestingly, he is now ranting on Twitter that Plaid and the Independents do not have a mandate to run local government in Llanelli. By complete coincidence that is exactly the same message as the one being pumped out by "Llanelli Eye", a new account brought to you by the swivel-eyed creeps behind CUSC SOPAP.
 


To put things into perspective, Rob James polled 33% on a 39% turnout, meaning that just 13% or a fraction over 1 in 10 voters in Lliedi expressed a preference for Rob James (Lab). As mandates go, that's not a lot to shout about is it?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Live(ish) Blog: The Results

For the first time ever, Cneifiwr is going to attempt a live blog, meaning that this post will be updated as the results come in. It's going to be a long day.

Most Disastrous Performance of the Day 

Not only was Carmarthenshire County Council one of the minority of Welsh councils not to count overnight, but it was clearly woefully badly prepared to handle the results when they did come. Any member of the public turning to the council website to find out the election results will have gone away disappointed. For almost the entire count, the council website was to all intents unavailable.

Press coverage during the count was also sporadic.

Bearing in mind that the council still has one of the largest press offices in Wales, nothing was made available on the council's "Newsroom", and tweets announcing the names of successful candidates referred anyone interested in more detail back to the crashed website.

The chief executive who doubles up as returning officer and also has departmental responsibility for the press office deserves a kick up the backside.

Final Tally

There has been a lot of scratching of heads about this, but the finally count would seem to be:

Plaid Cymru 36 (+8)
Labour 22 (-1)
Independent 16 (-7)

This is by some margin Plaid's best every result, but it is still 2 short of an overall majority. The results in Llanelli will have been very disappointing for the party, and there are clearly still plenty of voters willing to put a cross in the Labour box no matter what -as we saw back in 2012 when Keri Thomas, the chronically ill and near-moribund Labour candidate was returned for another 5 years, having been absent for a large chunk of the previous 4 year term.

Trimsaran 2.20

Replacing Maryl Gravell who has stepped down is Dr Kim Broom (PC).

Carmarthen West 2.17

Congratulations go to Alan Speake (PC, re-elected) and new arrival Emlyn Schiavone (PC).

Llanelli

After a recount in Glanymor, Labour has taken another seat previously held by Plaid (Winston Lemon, who has stepped down). Tyisha gets two Labour councillors,

Llandeilo 2.10

Edward Thomas (Ind) has been re-elected.

Pontyberem 2.09

Congratutlations to Liam Bowen (Plaid) who becomes the youngest councillor to be elected.

Lliedi  2.08

Labour has won the double, with both Rob James and Shahana Najmi elected.

Update 2.05

A short break, and a lot has happened since the last update. Plaid have performed particularly strongly in the Amman and Gwendraeth Valleys. In Gorslas, Darren Price (PC) is now joined by Aled Owen (PC) in this two member ward, and Saron will now be represented by two Plaid councillors, Carl Harris and Alun Davies.

Emlyn Dole was returned as expected in Llannon, and Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas lost out to her fellow Labour candidate, Dot Jones.

Over in Hengoed, meanwhile, Penny Edwards (Lab) has been re-elected, and joining her is Susan Phillips (PC), replacing Siân Caiach, that perennial thorn in the chief executive's side. Keith Price Davies (Lab)  becomes the second former AM not to win a council seat.

Whitland has stuck with Sue Allen (Ind), and Pembrey has again returned Shirley Matthews (Lab) and Hugh Shephardson (Ind).

Llandybie 1.08 (corrected)

Anthony 'Whitey' Davies (Ind) and Dai Nicholas (PC) are both returned, with Plaid defeating Anthony Jones (Lab). The figures were:

Anthony Davies (Ind) 744
Dai Nicholas (PC) 725
Anthony Jones (Lab) 500
Karen Davies (PC) 451
Sandra Morgan (Con) 451
Nigel Humphreys (UKIP) 128
Pat Jenkins (Ind) 108


Llwynhendy 1.04 

Sharen Davies and Fozia Akhtar returned for Labour. Fozia Akhtar takes over from Theressa Bowen (Ind) who left Labour shortly after being elected in 2012. The campaign in Llwynhendy was one of the nastiest anywhere, and this result puts paid to any hopes of a change of course for Labour.

Burry Port 12.53

John James and Amanda Fox retain this two member ward for Labour. Amanda Fox takes over from Pat Jones who has retired.

Swiss Valley 12.49

The Independents' Giles Morgan retains Swiss Valley. He is the Official Youth Wing of the Independents as he does not yet qualify for a free bus pass.

Llanboidy and Kidwelly 12.48

Dorian Philips takes Llanboidy for Plaid, and Jeanette Gilasbey (PC) has taken Kidwelly from Labour.

Bigyn 12.47

The lugubrious Labour leader, Jeff Edmunds, and Eryl Morgan (also Labour), both returned, Eryl Morgan is 80.

Tycroes and Laugharne 12.41

Labour holds Tycroes with Tina Higgins taking over from Calum. In Laugharne Jane Tremlett Ind), another former Executive Board member, holds on to her seat.

Hendy 12.37

Gareth Thomas (Plaid) returned. 

Manordeilo and Salem 12.35

Joseph Davies (Ind) has held on against a strong challenge from Dr Rhys Thomas. Frustratingly, the council's official results page has now been unavailable for almost two hours.

Felinfoel 12.29

Veteran Independent Huw Richards loses to Labour's Bill Thomas (not the deselected Bill Thomas who was booted out of Lliedi by his own party). This is Labour's third gain.

Cenarth (Newcastle Emlyn) and Llanfihangel Aberbythych

Hazel Evans (PC) and Cefin Campbell (PC) both returned comfortably.

Penygroes 12.16

Dai Thomas takes over from his better half, Siân Thomas, who says her ambition now is to become a professional couch potato.

Running totals 12.12

The council website is currently showing 22 for Plaid, 7 Independents (including one unaffiliated member) and 5 for Labour. We are not quite half way through.

Carmarthen North

Peter Hughes Griffiths (Plaid and Ken Lloyd (Lab) returned. This is Labour's second gain from Plaid.

Glyn 12.06

Jim Jones (Ind), another former Executive Board member, returned. 

St Ishmael 12.05

Former Executive Board member Mair Stephens (Ind) returned.

Carmarthen South and Penygroes 12.03

Llongyfarchiadau gwresog i Alun Lenny (PC), Gareth John (PC) yn Ne Caerfyrddin a Dai Thomas (PC) ym Mhenygroes.

Three more for Plaid.

St. Clears 11.59

Philip Hughes (Ind) has seen off a challenge from Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid), one of two former AMs standing for the county council, the other being Keith Davies (Lab) in Hengoed.

Glanaman 11.54

Update - Just 17 votes separated David Jenkins (Plaid) 430 from David Jenkins (Lab.) on 413.

Llangennech 11.49

Gwyneth Thomas returns for Plaid, along with Gary 'Poumista' Jones for Labour. This appears to be the first Labour gain.

Running total 11.47

The council website is currently only fitfully available, but the current totals showing are:

Plaid: 17
Independents (including 1 unaffiliated member) 5
Labour 4


Pontaman, Elli and Cynwyl Elfed 11.36

Despite his argument with a fox, Colin Evans (Lab) has been returned again, and as expected John Jenkins (Unaffiliated) has won again in Elli ward. Irfon Jones (Ind) has seen off a Plaid challenge in Cynwyl Elfed.

Bynie - Bynea 11.30

Congratulations to Derek Cundy (Lab) who saw off a strong challenge from Ian Wooldridge (Plaid). Lab. 539, Plaid 373.

Crymych 11.28

No, it's not in Carmarthenshire, but brilliant news from Crymych where Cris Tomos (Plaid) has defeated deputy leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Keith Lewis.

 Garnant 11.23

Kevin Madge (Lab) returned as expected in Garnant. Let's hope he does not give an acceptance speech.

Llanegwad and Llangyndeyrn

Congratulations go to Mansel Charles (Plaid) and veteran Tyssul Evans (Plaid) in Llangyndeyrn. The council web page which displays the actual results and votes is currently not accessible.

Totals 11.22

The council website is currently showing a total of 17 councillors for Plaid, 4 Independents and 1 for Labour.

Cynwyl Gaeo 11.20

Congratulations to Eirwyn Williams (Plaid) on his re-election.

Glanaman, Llangeler and Llansteffan 11.14

Results coming in thick and fast now, and the council website seems to be in serious trouble.

David Jenkins (Plaid) is re-elected in Glanaman. Ken Howell has been returned again in Llangeler (Drefach Felindre), and Carys Jones has taken Llansteffan for Plaid. Llansteffan was previously held by Daff Davies, aka Elmer Fudd, who stepped down this time.


Cilycwm 11.09

And the winner is Thomas Davies (Ind) 307 with Maria Carroll (284) second and Matthew Paul (Fox Botherer) third on 199. There was no Plaid candidate.

Dafen 11.04

Ding dong. Tegwen Devichand has lost to Rob Evans Paramedic (Ind.) who has worked incredibly hard and won a richly deserved victory.

Ammanford and Llangadog

The rubber bands which keep the County Council's website running appear to be struggling to keep up with the pressure, but Deian Harries (Plaid) has held Ammaford, and Andrew James (Ind) stays in Llangadog.

Llandovery 10.37

Plaid have taken Llandovery, previously held by Independent Ivor Jackson, with a stunningly good result for Handel Davies (583). In second place was David Long (Lab) on 240.

Quarter Bach 10.30

Glynog Davies (Plaid) returned with thumping victory over Labour. Plaid 626, Lab. 398

Abergwili 10.28

Congratulations to Dorian Williams (Plaid) who has comfortably taken Abergwili, Pam Palmer's old ward, in a two-way contest against TV cook Lisa Fearn. Plaid 622,  Ind. 448

Llongyfarchiadau gwresog i Dorian.


Betws 10.22

Congratulations go to Betsan Jones (Plaid) who has defeated incumbent Ryan Bartlett (Lab) who it has to be said never looked cheerful at the best of times. Plaid 402. Labour 309.

Turnout 10.19

Turnout across the county averaged a respectable 46.81%.

Maenclochog 10.18

Well, while we're waiting, let's nip over the border to Pembrokeshire where Cris Tomos (Plaid) is trying to unseat Keith Lewis in Crymych, and Hefin Wyn wins the prize for this year's best election poster:



Hefin Wyn swept all before him at last year's Eisteddfod Llandudoch with Colli neu ennill?  But will Wyn win in Maenclochog?

Llangennech 9.58

Vote is said to be very close. Still no official results. 

Turnout 8.49

Turnout figures for all the wards are not yet available, but for those that are there are some huge variations. In general outside Llanelli turnout is in the 45%-55% range, which is better than usual for a council election. Cilycwm clearly loves an election. Having last gone to the polls in the autumn of 2016, turnout this time round is a staggering 67.85%. For the Llanelli wards where we have figures, turnout is hovering around the 35% mark.

Carmarthenshire 8.28

No results have been declared so far, but early indications are that Carmarthenshire will follow the pattern established elsewhere in Wales, with the Labour vote generally holding up better than expected. Plaid does not seem to be on course for an overall majority, and as in Ceredigion, advances in some areas are likely to be offset by losses in others. The Tories are not expected to make any headway, and the UKIP vote seems set to collapse.

Labour is said to have done particularly well on postal votes, and its campaign was almost certainly helped by the beginning of the UK general election campaign, with the mainstream media always portraying politics as a two horse race between the Tories and Labour.

Crucially, in many wards the vote is said to be on a knife edge.

Emlyn Dole is expected to be returned comfortably in Llannon, with the second seat, held by Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas, understood to be a very close three-way fight.

Carmarthen, which saw a remarkable clean sweep for Plaid in 2012, could see the loss of one or two seats, but those could be offset by gains in wards such as Abergwili and even Llandovery, both previously Independent.

Counting will get underway at 9.30, with seats expected to be declared in alphabetical order, beginning with Abergwili and Ammanford.

___________



While we wait for Carmarthenshire to wake up and start counting, Ceredigion has already finished.

The overall result, with the 2012 seat totals in brackets, is as follows:

Plaid Cymru 18 (19)
Independent 15 (15)
LibDem 7 (7)
Labour 1 (1)
Vacant 1

The vacant seat is for the ward of Llandyfriog where the death of one of the candidates means that the election has been postponed. It is likely that the ward will stay with Plaid Cymru, meaning that the overall tally of seats will be unchanged.

Behind those numbers a few wards changed hands, including Llandysul where the Independents retook the ward from Plaid, while in Aberporth Gethin Davies (Plaid) defeated Gethin James (UKIP, but standing as an Independent).  Endaf Davies (Plaid) took Aberystwyth Rheidiol ward from the Independents.

Congratulations go to fellow blogger Alun Williams who retained Aberystwyth Bronglais for Plaid.

No LibDem breakthrough, therefore, and the most likely outcome is that Plaid will continue to run the council in coalition with the Independents and Hag Harris, Labour's veteran loner in Lampeter.

______________

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Election Tour 2017 - all over bar the shouting

This year's council elections in Carmarthenshire are likely to be the most interesting in many years, and the retirement of many veteran councillors will mean that whatever happens, the new council will have a very different look and feel.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign has been a story of two very different halves. Although there are some very keenly fought contests in some wards outside Llanelli, the campaign has been largely a clean and civilised affair.

In Llanelli things have been very different, with a campaign characterised in many places by bitterness, dirty tricks and mud slinging. There are those who argue that all the parties, including the Independents, are to blame, but in reality the toxic culture which has thrived within the local Labour Party is the root cause. It is not just the personal attacks, but also Llanelli Labour's prediliction for dog whistle politics that makes the town different. In the past we have seen campaigns based on stirring up resentment against Polish residents, and this year the Welsh language and fear mongering about the future of Parc Howard have dominated much of the 'debate'.

A key feature of Llanelli Labour's campaign style is the use of unofficial groups to carry out its dirty work, and this year that task fell to the anti-Welsh group in Llangennech and the guerilla troll tactics deployed by CUSC-SOPAP.

This blog has concentrated on Llanelli during the campaign, partly because it generated the most newsworthy stories, but also in order to expose the nature of Labour's campaign which has often stooped to intimidation of opponents, including repeatedly driving past rivals' homes, reversing up, cat calling and staring. Facebook has featured prominently in the intimidation which has ranged from the childish to the downright sinister.

A defeat for some of Labour's most prominent players in Llanelli is the best hope for a different kind of politics in the town, and it would give the party itself an opportunity to clean up its act, but you would not want to bet on that.

So what about the bigger picture?

Plaid was 9 seats short of an overall majority in the old council. A majority has always eluded the party and has often looked like a very tall order, but if Labour takes a hammering and the Independents continue their long-term decline, the prize may be within the party's grasp this time.

Expect Labour to lose ground in the Amman Valley and Llanelli. Independent losses in some of the rural wards could be partly offset by gains in places like Dafen.

But there are many unknowns. Many of the contests will turn on local factors, and nobody knows what impact the UK general election campaign will have on today's vote.

The next 24 hours are going to be interesting.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Election Tour 2017: A god-forsaken South Wales constituency - Updated

Update 3 May 

The latest name in the frame is Havard Hughes, another London-based Tory. Hughes grew up in what he vaguely describes as "West Wales", works in PR and was with the LibDems for 17 years before deciding that David Cameron had what it took. If he still has any of his LibDem principles, he must be feeling distinctly uncomfortable in the new-look, strong and stable regime.

If Havard Hughes is to be parachuted in, his career and business interests in London are likely to take priority over any ambition to become an MP in distant Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. Or to put it another way, he will be a paper candidate.

Update

The rumours that Daniel Thomas may stand remain just that, with no confirmation yet as to who has been selected, if anyone.

_____________


There are some uncanny links between Carmarthenshire and the London Borough of Barnet. Our much-loved chief executive, Mark James CBE, began his ascent up the greasy pole of local government officialdom in Barnet, and Cneifiwr once lived in digs there. Carmarthenshire and Barnet also share a long history of blogging about council matters.

Rumours swept the internet yesterday that the London borough is about to lend us one of its sons, Cllr Daniel Thomas, to stand in the Conservative and Unionist interest in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in the general election, the previous Tory candidate, fox bothering barrister and shameless self-promoter Matthew Paul having blotted his copybook with Mrs May's strong and stable party machine.

Dan, or Cllr Daniel Thomas BA (Hons) as he calls himself here, is described as a blue-eyed, blond Thatcherite with a strangely robotic way of speaking and not much going on between his ears. Which may explain why he feels the need to advertise the fact that he is not really thick at all, and managed to get a degree.

On no account should anyone turn to the sensitive subject of receding hairlines when in conversation with Cllr Thomas.

Observers of his career in local politics say that while being very ambitious, young Dan has not always been known for hard work. During a six month stint as cabinet member for the Environment in 2009/10 he failed to hold a single "theme" meeting with senior officers, "theme meetings" being considered very important in this Tory stronghold.

He currently describes himself as a property developer but used to working in the world of banks and building societies. He has now ditched the Ferrari and Porsche for a Smart car.

A Tory source notes that in 2010 Dan Thomas stood in "some god-forsaken South Wales constituency", a reference to Neil Kinnock's former stomping ground in Islwyn.

His election leaflet will need more than just a change of constituency name this time round, what with Mrs May being less than keen to promise not to raise National Insurance or keep the "triple lock" on the state pension. The NHS could also be difficult territory, so expect Dan to promise a strong and stable red, white and blue Brexit instead.

Although Dan is still only in his mid-thirties, observers say that he began playing on anti-immigration themes long before that became popular. The threat to the state pension and the fact that English pensioners account for most immigration in this part of Wales may make this a rather tricky card to play.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where memories of the late Blessed Margaret are cherished, is unlikely to prove fertile ground for this champion of Thatcherism, outsourcing to the private sector and generally flogging off public assets and closing down libraries and other services.

But we should never under-estimate the tendency for turkeys to vote for Christmas. The demise of UKIP which has yet to announce whether or not it is fielding a candidate, means that the 4,363 votes cast for the reclusive Norma Woodward in 2015 may be looking for a new home.

Apart from one car-crash appearance at a hustings, Norma never bothered going out to meet voters, and even threatened to sue her party before the campaign ended.

On that sobering thought, Cneifiwr is heading off to work.




Sunday, 30 April 2017

Emlyn Dole Ate My Hamster and Leon Trotsky United - Update

Update 1 May

Thanks to all those of you who have sent in examples of the tactics being employed by Labour and its unofficial troll squads in Llanelli. We've got nearly another five weeks of this.

Down in the comments section on this post is a message from Kevin Francis of CUSC boasting that the group has made "many, many enimies (sic), far more enimies than you could possibly imagine", and that "enimies will most certainly be made and we make no apologies for this".

Here are a couple of examples of what he means. The first relates to a young father who was nominated to stand for Plaid in the council elections, but had to withdraw when his wife had to be rushed to hospital when she went into labour 14 weeks prematurely (the hospital was able to stop her from giving birth).

Red Mick, aka Mike Bassett, of CUSC put a different interpretation on things, needless to say, and posted the following comments on Llanelli Online's Facebook page (name blacked out because this person has had enough to contend with):


Bassett was challenged and repeatedly asked to apologise. In line with CUSC policy, no apology was given, and his victim was blocked.

But why make "enimies" one by one when you can target people en masse?

This one was posted as a comment to a Llanelli Star story introducing Plaid's candidates for the council elections:



Apologies for the fuzzy image, but it reads "Xenophobic, park closing, English hating fools".

Kev and Red Mick have probably just made even more enemies than they ever imagined.

If you cannot get enough of this sort of stuff, you can also treat yourselves to a comment on another story on Llanelli Online submitted by our old friend Michaela Beddows. Michaela, who always insists she does not have anything against the Welsh language, indulges herself with a rant at a Lee Waters press release announcing a new Welsh translation service for small companies.


Meanwhile, over in Llwynhendy Labour appears to be keeping the police busy again:


CSI Llanelli's finest are on the case, and fingers pointed knowingly in the conversation that follows, although wisely no names are mentioned. It's the usual suspect, they conclude, and bright spark Yolande Rees Hopkins tells the assembled weird sisters that she hopes "they take forensics".

______________

This is the story of two initiatives in Llanelli which were founded with noble aims. One was set up to provide the town with a hyperlocal news service, while the other was conceived as a campaign for the benefit of local sports clubs.

Both have lost their way and become peculiarly self-destructive, and perhaps in their small way they illustrate what the Labour Party is doing to Llanelli as it fights to maintain its near century old control of the town.

_______________

A week ago this blog looked at the election campaign in Llannon, a ward currently represented by Council Leader Emlyn Dole (Plaid) and Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas (Lab.).

The piece (here) mentioned Alan Evans' Llanelli Online, which describes itself as a hyperlocal news website and a "one-stop shop for all your local news and sport", and was critical of the site's political bias and its reporting.

Unsurprisingly, Cneifiwr's article produced howls of protest from Llanelli Online itself and some of Alan's supporters, with a rambling response produced under a picture of a very stern looking Nia Griffith ("we are not amused"). What Nia Griffith has to do with this is not clear, but the message was presumably that Cneifiwr had (once again) offended the Labour establishment.

As regular readers know, Cneifiwr has for years worried about the state of the local press and the threat that that weakness poses to local democracy. The arrival of a new local news service would in normal circumstances be something to be welcomed, but from the outset, Llanelli Online quickly established itself as not so much a news service as a gaseous vent for the toxic fumes emanating from the Llanelli Labour Party.

There is nothing unusual about political bias in the media, of course. We all know where newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail stand. Local newspapers tend to be more cautious, on the whole. While the Llanelli Star and South Wales Evening Post are rightly regarded as being Labour leaning, they know that being seen to be out and out Labour propaganda sheets would alienate most of their potential readership.

In the case of a small hyperlocal news service hoping to attract advertisers, it would make sense to avoid overt and heavy-handed political bias, but Llanelli Online hitched its wagon to the local Labour Party from Day One.

An analysis of the site's political coverage shows that in its first two months, it ran approximately 60 stories with political content. Of those, slightly more than 50 were either cut and paste jobs of Labour Party press releases, uncritical puff pieces for Labour candidates or were written from the viewpoint of the local Labour Party, reflecting the party line on local issues. The remaining nine pieces were a bit of a hotch-potch. Siân Caiach gets three or four references, and there are a couple of reports on a visit to Llanelli by Leanne Wood and the opening of UKIP's offices in town.

That's a ratio of, give or take a percentage point, 80-20 in favour of Labour.

Cneifiwr has never pretended to be anything other than a blog written from the point of view of someone who supports Plaid Cymru, but then Y Cneifiwr is not an impartial commercial venture seeking to attract advertisers.

There are good reasons why every media organisation should espouse a set of values, and that can be done without overtly aligning yourself with a particular political party. It certainly does not bode well for the commercial success of Llanelli Online to be so closely tied to one of the most notoriously dysfunctional and toxic constituency Labour constituency parties in Wales.

A direct consequence of Llanelli Online's support for the local Labour Party is that, unsurprisingly, Alan Evans is finding that nobody else wants to talk to him, and that includes quite a few independent candidates as well as Plaid Cymru.

In a piece entitled Plaid's Silence Approach, bizarrely prefaced with pictures of David Cameron in a hoody, Harriet Harman and Danny Alexander ("Ginger Attack"), Alan attacks Sean Rees, Plaid's campaign manager, for accusing Llanelli Labour Online of political bias and not answering his questions.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Alan writes,

We do not subscribe to this view and we object in the strongest terms to such claims. We have a track record of covering local and national elections and that clearly shows that we have given equitable coverage and equitable treatment to all parties. 

For a hyperlocal news service which needs to straddle the political divide and attract advertisers, Alan has paddled way too far up Llanelli Labour's sewery creek.

But it's not just political bias which is likely to put off potential sponsors outside the Labour Party.

Evil Emlyn

Some of the material being churned out is not just biased, but bonkers fiction to boot. Take this classic which begins with the news that Private Eye reported that Emlyn Dole "was careless enough to allow an unwanted mobile home on his property" to burn down, contrary to the council's own recycling policies.

As this blog noted last week, it was strange that no other media sources reported an incident which Evans claims happened on the night of 2 January. It's the sort of story any newspaper would have loved to splash on its front page.

The reason why nobody else reported the story was that they concluded there was no evidence to back up the claim, and even that it was made up.

Alan Evans has been telling anyone who will listen that he has e-mails from Carmarthenshire County Council and the fire brigade confirming his story, and he repeats this claim in his most recent attack on this blog.


So where are these e-mails? If you can't produce the goods, Alan, less charitable minds might conclude that you simply made the whole thing up, and that would not do much for the credibility of Llanelli Online, would it?

How the article ended up in Private Eye when nobody else would touch it is not clear, but Llanelli Online gives us a few clues. Purely by coincidence, in an article published on 20 March reporting an event which allegedly occurred on 2 January - almost three months previously - Alan has a picture of Emlyn's home with a picture of what is purported to be the burned out remains of a mobile home, super-imposed on it.

"Private Eye on Leader" is an Evans classic: long, rambling and more than a little bonkers.

Having dealt with the mobile home, Alan takes us on a tour of various planning stories, including one about Persimmon Homes felling trees, the implication being that that Emlyn Dole was somehow involved. Then we have stories, denied by the council, that contractors working for the council (i.e. under orders from Emlyn) had dumped waste material, including ceramic tiles and glass, on football pitches across the county.

Next, we are told, Emlyn sent the bulldozers into Parc Howard to prepare the ground for a trampoline (see this post for an account of what was really just a cock-up by the council). Parc Howard is "owned by the children of Llanelli", Alan helpfully tells us, conjuring up images of a maniacal Emlyn Dole scattering kiddies to the four winds as he roars through the gardens on his bulldozer.

When Emlyn is not scattering waste across football pitches and destroying Parc Howard, he is neglecting his pest control duties:

There appeared to be an infestation of rats following Mr Dole’s appointment as leader with numerous Carmarthenshire residents calling for the ‘Rat Catcher’ to be brought back. One elderly couple, Dorothy McDonald and her husband were left in a mass of maggots and dead rats at their council bungalow. Sadly Mr Mc Donald passed away shortly after the couple had received help.

Rats did not exist under Labour, or if they did, they were waiting for Emlyn to be appointed leader before they knew it was safe to come out and terrorise Carmarthenshire.

Cruel, heartless Emlyn is also responsible for the mess at Pembrey Country Park and starving disabled people.

Alan goes on to accuse Emlyn Dole of setting fire to the mobile home (i.e. a deliberate act) and links this to the Jacqui Thompson story. The suggestion seems to be that Emlyn Dole wanted to deny Jacqui Thompson and her family a bolt hole after evicting Cneifiwr's fellow blogger from her home.

He ends by describing his output as "independent, investigative journalism" and calling on advertisers to help keep his service alive.

They are more likely to run a mile.


Leon Trotsky United

Another outfit which has become extremely active on social media in the last couple of months is CUSC SOPAP (Carmarthenshire United Sports Committee/Save Our Parks and Playgrounds).

Plain old CUSC as it then was first appeared when Kevin Madge was, in his words, trying to "create a level playing field" by bringing sports pitches, bowling greens, etc. in the south of Carmarthenshire in line with the rest of the county by ending massive council subsidies for their upkeep.

A lot of people, Cneifiwr included, were initially sympathetic because the County Council under the Labour-Independent coalition went about the so-called asset transfer process in a particularly heavy handed and incompetent way. When the then leader of the Plaid group on the county council, Peter Hughes Griffiths, called for a re-think and consultation, he was shouted down by Labour and told off by the council's Head of Law for trying to micromanage the Labour-led executive board.

For those who suspect Peter was indulging in political mischief making, you should know that he has spent all his adult life encouraging and helping young people to participate in sport, and football is the love of his life.

Eventually Labour backed down, and the asset transfer programme was re-launched. Difficult though the process was, there was never any good reason why sports clubs in one part of the county should receive heavy subsidies while those everywhere else have to stand on their own two feet.

Not long after these events, Labour lost control of the county council, and CUSC SOPAP, as it was now calling itself, morphed into a shrill and fanatically pro-Labour, anti-Plaid version of Woolfie Smith's Tooting Popular Front, complete with leather coats and Lenin caps.

CUSC SOPAP is run by a tiny group of activists, although they like to claim that they represent sports clubs (and now parks and playgrounds) across the county. In the same vein their Twitter logo also incorporates the logo of the Llanelli Herald, suggesting that they are endorsed by that newspaper, although it seems doubtful that they ever asked for permission.

Carmarthenshire being a small world, it will come as no surprise to learn that the revolutionary cadre in CUSC SOPAP are also buddies of Alan Evans, and readers of Llanelli Online may by now have spotted the link to those stories about glass and ceramic tiles on football pitches and Emlyn Dole's evil masterplan to flog off Parc Howard just as soon as he has bulldozed the place.

This in turn links into a narrative Llanelli Labour has been busily pushing ever since it lost power, and social media are full of people like Rob James, the new boy from Neath, singing from the same hymn sheet.

A bit like that other unofficial Labour hit squad in Llangennech, CUSC SOPAP is doing Labour's dirty work while Nia, Lee Waters and the rest look the other way. The other week the Llanelli Labour Party even put out a brief statement on Twitter saying that CUSC SOPAP, with its aggressive tactics, was nothing to do with the Labour Party.

Here's an example of the sort of campaigning being conducted by CUSC SOPAP on social media at the moment:


Other lows from this crew include an attack on the wife of a Plaid candidate in the county council elections.

Whether CUSC SOPAP actually represents any sports clubs is an interesting question, but it is unlikely that any respectable club would want to be associated with this sort of activity.


Just as the strategy being pursued by Llanelli Online of trying to be a commercial venture while being a mouthpiece for Llanelli Labour is likely to prove to be self-defeating, those with a genuine interest in sports must be asking themselves why a group ostensibly set up to lobby and campaign has degenerated into an unofficial troll squad for Labour.

It is fair to say that nobody is expecting Labour to win power at County Hall next Thursday, and that Labour is extremely unlikely to find itself running the county council for a very long time to come, and yet CUSC SOPAP has put all its eggs in Labour's basket.

A campaign group which genuinely cared about sports clubs and parks would be careful to make all the friends it can and avoid alienating everyone outside the Labour Party. But it seems CUSC SOPAP is more interested in playing politics.










Saturday, 29 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Here's the line-up so far:

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru




Neil and Christine Hamilton (UKIP)


David Darkin (Labour)
Jonathan Edwards was recently once again in the news for being one of the most active MPs in Parliament, and the Plaid group in Westminster were the hardest working Welsh MPs.

Neil Hamilton, famously named a liar and a cheat by The Guardian, comes to us with a glowing testimonial from Labour Party members in Llangennech.

"They were lovely, genuine and a bit nutty in the nicest possible way.  ....So far he has done exactly what we have agreed and they are both checking with me and Jacqueline [Jacqueline Seward, Labour candidate in next week's council elections in Llangennech, Ed.] before saying or doing anything", said Ms MB.

 

David Darkin is currently appearing in Mother Goose as Labour candidate in Elli ward, Llanelli.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: The Independents

The choice confronting voters in next week's county council elections is even more fraught with danger than usual if their pencil hovers over candidates describing themselves as "independent".

There are at least three kinds:
  • "Official" Independents (with a capital 'I') who sit and almost always vote together as a bloc;
  • Unaffiliated independents, the Norman Nomates of local politics;
  • Siân Caiach's People First candidates who this year appear on the ballot paper as independents.
As usual, quite a few of those standing as independents will also be closet Tories, Labour supporters or even Kippers, such as Gethin James, standing in Ceredigion as an independent although he is a prominent member of UKIP.

It's all a little reminiscent of the Aberporth North Minehead by-election in this old Monty Python clip. The only surprise is that Gethin has not re-named himself Bethin Bames, Bindependent.

But independents come in all shapes, sizes and flavours, and the Carmarthenshire Independents will emerge from next week's elections as a very different group from the one we have known for so long. There are likely to be fewer of them, for one thing, and gone are Meryl Gravell and Pam Palmer who dominated the group for so long.

Pam, who always laughably described herself as non-political, was the group leader, and one of the interesting things will be who takes over. Cneifiwr is putting 50p on Giles Morgan, the Prince Charles of Carmarthenshire's Independents.

A recent piece on this blog which mentioned Edward Thomas, the Independent standing for re-election in Llandeilo, attracted some critical comments from Edward's supporters, but the very mild criticism of the Independents which produced that response stands.

Here's why.

All councillors, whether they are backbenchers or members of the Executive Board (i.e. cabinet), have two principal roles. The first is to represent their wards and tackle all of the local issues which people want action on, from dog poo to blocked drains and planning applications. The second is to be a member of the wider council and to participate in decisions on matters which affect the whole of the county, such as education, the environment, social care, housing, regeneration and the Local Development Plan.

It is that second role that Independents struggle to fulfil because they do not have an agreed, coherent and co-ordinated approach to policy. Or if they do, they won't tell voters because they don't publish a manifesto.

One former Carmarthenshire Independent famously used to boast that he never had a policy in his life.

And yet, ever since Carmarthenshire re-emerged from Dyfed, Independents have sat at the top table with responsibility for matters on which they have no stated policy. The result in Carmarthenshire has for years been to surrender democratic control to the undemocratic rule of Mark James.

Leighton Andrews' proposed reforms of local government failed, but that does not mean that reform is not needed. Nobody should serve in a council cabinet unless they have signed up to a manifesto telling voters what they plan to do with that responsibility.

Ironically, Llandeilo also provides us with another graphic reason why voting Independent may not always be in a community's best interests.

By far and away the most serious problem confronting the town is air pollution, and nice as Edward Thomas may be, an independent backbencher was never going to be in a position to do anything about that.

The agreement to build a bypass for Llandeilo came about only because Adam Price and Plaid Cymru worked hard behind the scenes to cut a deal with the government in Cardiff, and that in the face of opposition from the likes of Lee Waters for Labour.




Thursday, 27 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Local News and Parc Howard


A prerequisite for any democracy to function properly is a healthy and diverse media, and what we have here in Wales is neither healthy nor diverse. We rely overwhelmingly on right-wing British newspapers with little or no interest in what is happening in Wales, and the remnants of the traditionally Labour-leaning local press. What Alun Davies (Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language) terms our "native" media are growing weaker, although it is far from clear what he thinks needs to be done to address the problem. More accountability, but on no account should broadcasting be devolved to Wales and be made accountable, would seem to sum up the minister's latest pronouncements.

Increasingly voters rely on social media to find out what is happening locally and in the wider world, and all too often what they are served up is the same toxic mix that you get from the Daily Mail and even less reliable sources.

But the political parties themselves have a responsibility to try to ensure that local issues are aired in local government elections. With easy access to the social media, which is where most voters will after all come into contact with the parties and their candidates, there is no excuse for not engaging with the public on genuine local issues.

But not if you are the Labour Party in Llanelli, it seems. Tribal to its fingertips, the only thing that matters to Labour in Llanelli is the Labour Party.

Take a look at the party's official Twitter account, for example (click here).

A striking feature of Llanelli Labour's output, its message to voters, is how little the party has to say about Llanelli or issues of local concern. An analysis of the last few days shows that 60% of the constituency party's output relates to places in England, with the north-west of England featuring most heavily. Out of 50 tweets which feature a place, Llanelli received only 8 mentions, and nearly all of those were pictures of Labour activists out canvassing.

Here is a breakdown of places featuring in the constituency party's Twitter feed and the number of times they have occurred:

The Wirral 3
Oxford 2
Nottingham 2
Calder Valley (Yorkshire) 1
Moss Side (Liverpool) 1
West Ham (London) 1
Llanelli 8
Leeds 1
Pelenna (a ward to the east of Neath) 1
Flintshire 1
Tredegar 1
Ashfield (Nottingham) 1
Swansea 5
West Lancashire 2
Cardiff 1
Merthyr Tydfil 1
Anglesey 2
Tyneside 1
Leicester 4
Stalybridge (Manchester) 2
Manchester 3
Worcester 1
Lancaster East 1
Salford 1
Norwich 1
Scotland 1
Oldham 1

Llanelli is on level pegging with Greater Manchester. Strangely, nowhere else in Carmarthenshire gets a mention, not even - or especially not - the Labour Party in the Amman Valley, or the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Constituency Labour Party, to give it its official name.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour Party (Twitter account here) is a rather different beast. Apart from a few tweets in support of Ammanford United RFC, the bulk of its output is re-tweets of messages put out by Dyfed Powys Police and generic stuff put out by 'Welsh' Labour telling us that Carwyn is wonderful. Again, there is almost nothing in the way of original local material, which is perhaps not surprising given that the account is run by someone who lives in London.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire does not get a look in either, although all three Labour constituency parties would, you might think, be working together to try to get Labour candidates elected to the county council.

Not a bit of it.

If you think the last 48 hours were unrepresentative, go back further in time, and you will see that the picture is no different.

The mayoral election in Greater Manchester gets almost as much attention from the Llanelli Labour Party as do the council elections on its doorstep.

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One of the very few local issues to have featured in Llanelli Labour's campaign, after it decided to go quiet about the bigotry and division it had stirred up in Llangennech, is the future of Parc Howard where the party has been trying to create the impression that the park will be closed to the public and flogged off.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is worth remembering that debate about the future of Parc Howard began when the Labour Party, in coalition with the Independents, put the park on the council's Asset Transfer List, and covert discussions took place with some mysterious potential investors.

In fairness much of the credit for uncovering this rather shady business has to go to people like Bill Thomas (deselected by Labour for his pains). Remarkably, it was going on while Labour was running the council.

But Labour lost control of the council after the coup against Kevin Madge less than two years ago, and Llanelli Labour has since been busy trying to rewrite history, most recently using Llanelli Labour Online to trumpet its new alternative "facts".



One of the first things Emlyn Dole did as Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council was to pledge and promise that the Parc would be retained in public ownership, but he was unable to abort the asset transfer process initiated under Labour until the date for expressions of interest on asset transfer in Llanelli had passed.

That happened eventually with the Labour led Llanelli Town Council stating that they had no interest in taking on Parc Howard. 
Parc Howard used to be a pretty vibrant placed with a cafe and a community farm, etc., but by now it has lost much of its former glory. Plaid first put a budget in place to ensure restoration works on the Mansion House, and the council began a series of meetings with interested parties to consider a means for creating an income for the Parc which would help to realise the £100,000 plus that is required annually to maintain the Parc. 

Those meetings are said to have gone well and have generated many proposals, including setting up part of the mansion as a Wedding/Events Venue, reopening the Cafe, making the Mansion House a home for the Heritage Six project, relaunching the Museum and strengthening the ties with Llanelli House and Library.

Under Emlyn Dole, the council decided that it should also invest in the Parc itself and set aside £150,000 for two new attractions, namely a new children's play area already installed and widely welcomed, and a new Web attraction for the youngsters the first of its kind in the UK.

But to err is human, as they say, and the council messed up work on the Web attraction. Council sources say that it was placed too near to the Taylor's house situated on the edge of the Parc, and thanks to an administrative cock-up, no planning application was submitted, even though it was required. 

The Web attraction will now be moved to a more suitable location, and it is the council's intention to use the very small site where the groundworks are already in place for another attraction more suitable to its location.

The council has also proceeded to ask for expressions of interest on the Wedding/Events venue. Part of this is the long overdue requirement for a car park, and the council says it has shown those plans to interested parties, including the Parc Howard Association, the Friends of Parc Howard, the Cultural and Historical Committee and members of Llanelli Town Council. 

Council sources say that the intention now is to bring forward a planning application after the election which will allow full public consultation on the car park, and to further pursue plans for the Mansion House itself. 

The parc will remain open to the public and in public ownership.