In Swansea, Labour's antics have kept Jac o' the North's readers entertained with tales of absentee councillors, deselections, financial malarkey, intimidation and alleged assaults (including this one).
Next door in Neath Port Talbot there are reports of a wholesale purge, with as many as 25 Labour councillors being told their services are no longer required. That's half of the entire Labour contingent on the council, and it is believed that the cull has been particularly ruthless in and around Port Talbot. Stan of the Neath Ferret has more on this saga here.
Not that you can expect to read anything about the mayhem in the local press in the Neath Port Talbot area, with the editor of the South Wales Evening Post being rather keener to tell readers about an exciting new promotion by TGI Fridays which is offering customers a menu of ENDLESS jumbo starters.
Keen not to be outdone by its neighbours, Labour in Llanelli has been indulging in its own displays of internecine warfare and skulduggery.
Getting to the truth of what is happening in the local Labour Party is probably as difficult for most ordinary members as it is for outsiders. If Kevin Madge is to be believed, the Carmarthenshire Labour Party is now prey to what he terms "vicious" infiltrators from Momentum.
This is the same Kevin Madge who was ousted from leading Carmarthenshire County Council in a bloody coup back in 2015, and who has been proudly proclaiming from his new perch on the back row of the chamber in County Hall that he is busy sharpening his knives, as he peers down at his old place in the front row.
Cneifiwr could not help noticing when he watched the December council meeting that poor old Kev was squashed up against his nemesis, Tegwen Devichand, the grande dame of Llanelli Labour politics, who for some reason had deserted her normal seat next to current leader Jeff Edmunds to plonk herself on the back row.
The word on the street is that Dafen Dolly had fallen out with Jeff Is-There-Anybody-There? Edmunds. Jeff ought to whip out his crystal ball because it may well warn him to beware of a aged, bee-hived assassin creeping up behind him, stiletto in hand.
Tea and Tantrums
An old acquaintance of Cneifiwr's who is connected to Labour royalty once said that going around stabbing people in the back was one thing, but to be caught doing it was unforgivable.
It is perhaps in that light that we should view another report that Tegwen Towers last year received a visit from Carwyn Jones himself who had come all the way down from Cardiff to discuss certain complaints with her.
Far from being a cosy chat over the PG Tips and custard creams, it is said that customers at the nearby garage could hear the shouting.
Back in November, this blog chronicled some of the goings-on in the Llanelli Labour Party, and the post attracted some interesting comments from, cough, distressed Labour insiders who fought to hold back the tears as they explained how Cllr Bill Thomas had been deselected by ordinary ward members and that he would be most welcome to put his name forward somewhere else, knowing full well that (a) he wouldn't, and (b) it was too late anyway.
Cllr Thomas's defenestration had three possible explanations:
- Rank and file members really had turned against a long-standing and hard-working councillor who had fought many David versus Goliath battles on their behalf.
- The ward had been infiltrated by "vicious" Momentum fanatics who for reasons best known to themselves decided to ditch Bill Thomas in favour of Rob James, a careerist young interloper from Neath who is proudly on the right, or as he would have it, centre of the party. Shome mishtake shurely?
- The usual forces were at work, with strings being pulled from Dafen to pull the plug on a councillor who has long been a thorn in the side of the party's top brass.
The Mystery of the Rings
This blog has on several occasions alluded to the strange case of Cllr Theressa Bowen who was elected as a Labour councillor for Llwynhendy ward in May 2012. Previously, Cllr Bowen and Cllr Devichand had been close, but cracks began to appear in the relationship sometime before the council elections.
The feud between Cllrs Bowen and Devichand and Cllr Devichand's daughter, Cllr Sharen Davies, has continued ever since. What follows is an account of events which have been corroborated by independent witnesses and parties. There are other serious allegations and claims for which cannot yet be verified.
Cllr Bowen alleges that the final breach came when Cllr Devichand asked her to file a complaint about a senior council officer. She refused, and a row ensued. Shortly after Cllr Bowen arrived home from visiting Cllr Devichand, Tegwen phoned Theressa Bowen in an agitated state to say that valuable jewellery (understood to be some Indian rings) worth thousands of pounds had gone missing from Tegwen Towers.
The next day, just as Cllr Bowen was about to leave for a meeting in County Hall, the police turned up at her house, and both she and her son were arrested and taken off to the cells, something which left her deeply traumatised.
No jewellery was found, and no charges were brought.
Cllr Bowen made a formal complaint to the then leader, Kevin Madge, who replied on 7 December 2012 that he understood that Jeff Edmunds had been to see her "at this stressful time". Group officers would be meeting that day to discuss what action to take.
Whatever they decided, they failed to restore harmony to the Labour group.
The fireworks between Cllrs Devichand and Bowen did not escape the attention of other councillors outside the Labour fold, and it is understood that the council chief executive, Mark James, was drawn in to the dispute as a most unlikely agony aunt.
Labour's long-term coalition partners, the Independents, saw an opportunity to get one over on their political allies, and approaches were made to Cllr Theressa Bowen who as a result left the Labour group and crossed the floor to sit with their, ahem, friends six short months after being elected as a Labour councillor.
Needless to say, this did not go down well with Cllr Devichand and her associates, and a campaign began to discredit Cllr Bowen.
At a meeting in Llanelli Town Hall, stunned councillors from other political groups and a reporter from the Llanelli Star witnessed an attack on Cllr Bowen in her absence by her former friends whose aim was to force her to resign as a school governor.
Cllr Keri Thomas (Lab, Tyisha), who has what must qualify as the worst record for any councillor in Wales having been incapacitated for much of the last 10 years while drawing a councillor's salary, began by shouting "She's a nutter!" when someone mentioned Cllr Bowen's name.
For her part, Cllr Bowen readily acknowledges that she has suffered from severe depression in the past, and that her life has been far from easy.
Another Labour councillor who worked for the NHS and had somehow (illegally) accessed Cllr Bowen's medical records, joined in saying that she could confirm that Cllr Bowen had suffered from mental illness. Other colleagues weighed in, suggesting that this would not look good if it came out in the press.
For reasons best known to the newspaper, the Llanelli Star decided not to report on an incident which most journalists would have seized on.
Cllr Bowen resigned her posts, saying that she did not want the row to damage the schools where she was a governor. Her place was naturally taken by Labour councillors.
In the years that followed, there have been more incidents and name calling. One one occasion, a member of the public reported Cllr Sharen Davies (Devichand's daughter) to the chief executive for flicking V signs as she drove past her and Cllr Bowen.
Then a couple of years ago a fracas took place after a meeting of Llanelli Rural Council, with Cllrs Devichand, Davies and Bowen making conflicting allegations about an incident in a doorway. The matter was referred to the Ombudsman for Public Services who eventually warned both Cllr Devichand and Cllr Bowen of the need to observe the code of conduct.
In what may be a completely unconnected move, Cllr Sharen Davies tabled a motion to council a couple of years back calling for councillors to go through DBS checks. The motion was later withdrawn without explanation.
Information has been received that the proposal to implement DBS checks had nothing to do with the ongoing dispute between Clls Bowen, Devichand and Davies, but was instead an attempt to out a male councillor who is alleged to have sexually assaulted an underage boy.
Now aged 75, Cllr Tegwen Devichand was selected to stand again in May's elections. Unsurprisingly, given the culture which exists in the Labour Party in Llanelli, nobody else was unwise enough to stand against her. Cllr Devichand will be 80 by the time we get to the next council elections in 2022.
The Battle for Llwynhendy
While Bill Thomas has been purged from Lliedi in true Stalinist tradition, other former Enemies of the People have been rehabilitated.
Step forward Ms Fozia Aktar and her large family which now wields a block vote that is reminiscent of the good old days at Labour Party conferences when grim-faced trade union leaders would trump any vote by rank and file members with the wave of a card purporting to be the voice of countless millions of boiler plate operatives.
Fozia, who describes herself as a business woman, stood unsuccessfully for election in Llangennech in 2012 while she was still running the main post office in Llanelli, a business venture which appears to have come to an abrupt end shortly afterwards. This year, she will be standing in Llwynhendy against her former friend Theressa Bowen.
To put it mildly, this is a remarkable turnaround for someone who resigned from the Labour Party citing bullying, as readers can see for themselves in the e-mail below:
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It is sometimes said that we get the politicians we deserve, but surely poor old Llanelli deserves a break from this lot.
Momentum may or may not be active elsewhere, but in Llanelli the turmoil inside the Labour Party seems to have precious little to do with policy differences or the finer points of socialist theory, and rather more to do with old-fashioned turf wars.