Friday 6 April 2012

Council election tour: Carmarthen to Glanaman Updated

All aboard for the next leg of our alphabetical tour of Carmarthenshire. Actually, everybody off again, because it's time to look at Carmarthen itself.


The town is divided into three wards, each with two members, and there will be some real grudge matches here.

To the north, Plaid's Peter Hughes Griffiths and Gareth Jones face two Independents and a Labour candidate. The independents include Mike Elias, best known for his stream of very angry letters to the Carmarthen Journal. Mr Elias does not like the saintly Plaid leader one little bit, but hopes of seeing some of PHG's killer cynghanedd on the subject in the poetry section of the Journal's letters page have so far been dashed.

To the south Labour's Phil Grice is up against Alun Lenny for Plaid. Alun is a former journalist for the BBC, a lay preacher and an outspoken critic of the county council's Local Development Plan, which seeks to turn Carmarthen into a kind of Croydon on the Towy, with lots of big name chain stores and thousands of new houses to accommodate the shoppers. He is also passionate about care for the elderly.

Mr Grice leads guided tours of Carmarthen.

In the west, which is threatened by plans for a vast new housing development needed to boost the town's population now that it has a Debenham's and Franky and Benny's, Arthur Davies for People First and Alan Speake for Plaid are both standing again, and both are likely to be returned. Arthur believes strongly that councillors need to take more control and responsibility for the council, and he has been put on the Naughty Step by the chief executive as a result.


If sparks are likely to fly in Carmarthen, the contest in Cenarth, or as local people call it, Newcastle Emlyn, is a foregone conclusion.

Skipping from the pages of an Enid Blyton adventure story with her trusty labradors bounding along behind comes the figure of Henrietta Hensher, Conservative and Unionist Party candidate. In the 19th century, Ms Hensher would have headed for Africa to teach the natives dinner party etiquette, but her mission now is to plant the Union Jack among the unruly and ungrateful tribes of West Wales.

Hattie, as she is affectionately known to the bemused people of Castellnewy', cannot see an election without wanting to stand, much in the same way that the late George Best could not resist strong drink.

At the 2010 by-election which saw Hazel Evans returned for Plaid, Hattie's enthusiasm for painting this part of Wales blue was matched by her complete lack of knowledge of local issues.

Hazel, who rules the Town Council with a rod of iron, has not yet really got into her stride in County Hall, but watch out when she does.

On our way back from the outer fringes of the county, we pass through Cynwyl Elfed where the old-guard Independent Dorrien Thomas has decided it is time to hand the baton on to someone younger. No such thoughts have troubled the incumbent councillor in our next ward, however.


If Gwynne Wooldridge is defeated in Bynea but Meryl still miraculously clings on, Tom Theophilus would be the obvious choice for Younger Persons Champion in a new administration, as he heads towards his ninth decade.

Tom may face some tricky questions from local people over his ducking and diving on the issue of the council's Modernising Education Programme, which will see the closure of Ysgol Pantycelyn in nearby Llandovery and some local primary schools.

Standing against him are a Tory and the redoubtable Jacqui Thompson, briefly held as a political prisoner on the orders of chief executive Mark James and council chairman Ivor Jackson.

Jacqui probably knows more about Carmarthenshire County Council than just about anyone else, and she would certainly bring her forensic skills and encyclopedic knowledge of council affairs to the job. In addition to campaigning on increased transparency and accountability, her interests include education and social care.

Although Cneifiwr has only met Jacqui on a handful of occasions, he has been struck by her quiet, calm determination, an impression shared by others who have met her for the first time.

Jacqui lives in Llanwrda where she keeps pigs, including a prize boar called Mark (no relation).

Update The Tory candidate is a London barrister who doubles up as master of the Emlyn Beagles. Enough said.


Frequently and unfavourably compared to a chocolate teapot by people who like chocolate is Kevin Madge, deputy leader of the council and Labour's leader in Carmarthenshire. So close is the relationship between Kev's Labour group and Queen Meryl that for the last eight years Labour has almost ceased to exist as a separate entity at county level.

Whenever Kev has spoken, which unfortunately for his party has been far too often, he has churned out endless variations on a speech in praise of Meryl and Mark.

This is a straight fight between Labour and Plaid's Emyr Williams. If Kev loses, he may decide to spend more time on Garnant golf course, one of the more spectacularly unsuccessful white elephants that have become such a speciality of the county council.


Another straight fight, this time between David Jenkins (Plaid) and Labour's Shahid Hussain, whose campaign has run into a spot of bother over his thoughts as expressed on Twitter about women, Tottenham Hotspur fans, older people, rugby and the regrettable necessity of having to go to meetings.

Shahid's future now depends on an internal party investigation.

Next stop: Gorslas.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

This is so entertaining, congratulations!
To describe Caebrwyn as a political prisoner...well what can one say...brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I haven't laughed so much for ages. Great stuff. Local politics is so dull because no one care enough about it to take Mick. Lets hope others follow your lead.