Monday 20 February 2012

Closet Tories

Hats off to the BBC for its reporting on Labour's spring conference in Cardiff where Peter Hain, the formerly bright orange leader of the Labour Party in Wales, launched into an attack on Independent councillors. They were closet Tories, he said, who didn't wear blue rosettes because they knew they would not win if they did. They didn't have a manifesto, he added, and didn't have a clue.

So far so good, but of course there is the small matter of Carmarthenshire where Labour under the very undynamic leadership of Kevin Madge and Terry Davies has been happily in coalition with Meryl Gravell and her Independents for what seems like ever.

Only once since the last council elections in 2008 have a few of the Labour councillors rebelled against Meryl Gravell, when a handful joined Plaid to vote down proposals to close two care homes in Llanelli. On every other occasion, they have voted with the Independents, and never a council meeting goes by without Kevin Madge launching into one of his confused waffles and praising the wise and far-sighted leadership provided by Meryl Gravell and chief executive Mark James. At this month's meeting he described them as "the dream team".

But back to the BBC, which reported on Hain's speech in its news bulletin last night before cutting to a clip from the 2008 council election results where Mark James, in his capacity as returning officer, was handing the microphone over to a beaming Meryl Gravell in front of a very strange audience which appeared to be made up of expensively dressed PR consultants.

Before we continue, here's a bit of financial advice for all you Carmarthenshire residents struggling to make ends meet on a paltry £180,000 a year. Why not become the county's returning officer for a handsome extra top-up? Fees vary, but range between around £10,000 up to £25,000 for, say, a general election. And even better, these payments count towards your pension!

The Labour group in County Hall cuts a very sad picture these days. Apart from Kevin Madge and Terry Davies, the only other Labour members who speak, occasionally, are Pat Jones and Anthony Jones, who pops up every few months to bang on about bankers bonuses.

Pat Jones is something of a miracle, combining as she does a role as a full-time carer (according to the register of members' interests) with responsibilities as a county councillor AND a member of the county's Executive Board (or cabinet) where she has overall responsibility for Health and Social Care, one of the biggest portfolios in the council. If that weren't enough to keep several lesser mortals busy, she also finds time to pose for pictures in the Llanelli Star along with chubby Tory (sorry, Independent) councillor Stephen James and Clive Scourfield (Executive Board member for Regeneration). Regeneration, by the way, includes Planning.

Here they are celebrating a successul planning application from Tesco:
Tesco gets the thumbs up!
And here's Pat Jones cleaning up after Stephen James:

Ych a fi, Stephen

 ITV's political antennae seemed to be just about as wonky as Peter Hain's. Their Welsh political pundit, Adrian Masters, tweeted:
Re: on independents as 'closet Tories' Plaid Cymru source points out Labour is in coalition with Inds in Carms ...

Perhaps Adrian should read the local papers and even a blog or two more often, and then he would not have to rely on a Deep Throat top secret source to winkle out information as sensitive as this.

Meanwhile Meryl's press office appears to be getting ever more desperate to find good news stories to crank out in the run-up to the council elections. The other day the Ministry of Spin put out a story with the following snappy headline:

Support for Carmarthenshire's farming industry from the executive board, Hendy Farm could be kept and offered to new tenant

Wow! What that is actually all about is a small, 103 acre farm near Capel Iwan. In common with most county councils, Carmarthenshire owns a few farms, and once in a blue moon a tenancy will come up. The Executive Board will meet this week in closed session (yes, really) to discuss this matter of national importance. Except that it won't be discussed, because nothing ever is at meetings of the Executive Board. It is clear from the story, complete with quotes from Kevin Madge, that the council will offer the tenancy to someone rather than adopt option B, which would be to sell the farm on the open market.

No doubt the boys at this week's livestock marts across the county will be talking of nothing else, as prayers are offered up to thank Meryl and Kevin for this huge boost to Welsh agriculture.

As the election edges closer, we can expect a lot more of this as the press office gets to work on doing its bit to ensure the Dream Team stays with us for another 5 years (don't forget, Carl Sargeant wants to delay the next council elections until 2017).


caebrwyn said...

On the subject of Returning Officers, Carms CCC seem reluctant to tell us about ours;

Tessa said...

Really funny read thanks. Serious subject matter, I know......

Anonymous said...

Just a wonderful testament to cross party co-operation don't you think? We have to put up with their faces on a weekly basis in the Star, they are a shocking example of the calibre of of many of the county councillors in Carmarthen County Hall.