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.
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.
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.