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.


Anonymous said...

in the interest of fairness will you be reviewing the other candidates in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr . I am looking forward to your comments on Neil & the She Tiger !!. Not sure if you can find much to say about LIB Dem bland & boring comes to mind , then that is what the party stands for except legalising drugs

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks Anon@13.59 You're right about the LibDem. There's plenty to say about Neil Hamilton, but it's all been said before. One of the best summaries of Hamilton's grubby career was delivered in the Senedd by Simon Thomas AM recently:

The remarkable thing so far in this election, with just over two weeks to go, is that round here at least, only Plaid and Labour have made an appearance. If the Hamiltons are out and about, nobody has seen them, but if he does venture this way, you can be sure that Cneifiwr will report on it.

Never publicity shy, Hamilton's Twitter account is silent about whatever he is up to. It looks very much as though he is not even bothering to go through the motions.

Mister Pow said...

Cneifiwr: Hamilton is indeed wise not to go through the motions. He would have to step down from the Assembly if elected and his replacement in Cardiff Bay would be Gethin James.
Hamilton's non-campaign is the very essence of 'taking one for the team'.

Anonymous said...

for lib dem no leaflets nothing but check out FB Lesley for carmarthen east . NoThing for UKPI but there re a series of hustings about the place

Stan said...

And the non-appearance of Mr Hamilton speaks volumes. I wonder if he's even going to the trouble of leaflets. In the recent local elections (NPT), we unexpectedly had a number of seats being fought by Tories. I've not heard of anyone whose door was knocked and a Tory leaflet if you had one now would be a forgery because I don't think there were any - at least not in my patch. Only one of them even bothered to turn up for the count. Yet the votes they took ensured that their arch-rivals Welsh Labour held on to several seats that they otherwise would have lost. Who'd have thought it?