Monday 27 February 2017

Llangennech - Gwyn Hopkins

For the last two weeks this blog has been dominated by Llangennech and the wider story of the Labour Party in Llanelli. There is considerable overlap between the two, but barring any new surprises, the Llangennech story seems to be coming to an end. The turmoil within the local Labour Party, on the other hand, still has a long way to run.

In the case of Llangennech, the blog will publish some more material dealing with the lessons learned in the hope that this may be of use to other communities and researchers.

Today Cneifiwr publishes Cllr Gwyn Hopkins' response to some of the comments on this blog, along with a copy of a letter he wrote to the Llanelli Star.

Some readers will also have seen Cllr Hopkins' letter in the latest edition of Golwg which puts Llangennech in the wider context of primary school provision in the Llanelli area. Freedom of choice has been one of the main arguments deployed by objectors, but in his letter Cllr Hopkins asks how much freedom of choice there is for parents wanting truly bilingual (i.e. Welsh-medium) education for their children in Llanelli and Llangennech.

The following map starkly illustrates how little Welsh medium primary education is available in the area.

That there is considerable demand for Welsh-medium bilingual education was brought home to me over the weekend when I had the privilege of attending a three-day non-political event for families with children in Welsh-medium primary schools. Sixty families came, mainly from Newport, Cardiff and Swansea, and they were overwhelmingly ordinary working class people who had spent a lot of their hard-earned money to be there.

The enthusiasm and determination of the parents stood in stark contrast to the negative tone we have heard from some in Llangennech and elsewhere.

Cllr Hopkins will be standing down as county councillor for Llangennech in May after many years of service to the village. It is a great pity that the row, which has at times been intensely personal, should have clouded his final couple of years in office, but he can retire in the knowledge that he did the right thing, and future generations will owe him a debt of gratitude for the stand he has taken.


With apologies for the slightly strange mix of fonts and background colours which the software has applied, here first is Cllr Hopkins' response to comments on this blog:

Although – in retrospect - I agree that more should have been done to communicate and explain the County Council’s proposals with parents, this task was surely the responsibility of those making the decisions during 2014.  Here are the facts relating to the decisions made:
·         During the period May 2012 – May 2015 Carmarthenshire County Council was ruled by a Labour-led Independent/Labour Coalition. Kevin Madge (Labour) was Leader of the Council. 
·          During this period the Council’s ten – member Executive Board (Cabinet) was Labour-led.  It had 5 Independent and 5 Labour members with Labour’s Kevin Madge as Chairman (who had a casting vote, if necessary).  There were no Plaid Cymru Councillors in the Cabinet.
·         Also, during this period the Cabinet member for education was Labour Cllr. Keith Davies (who died in August 2015).
·         The Welsh Labour Government’s Standards & Organisation Wales Act (enacted on 4/3/2013) instructed Local Education Authorities to prepare a Welsh in Education Strategic Policy (WESP) to expand Welsh medium education by creating more Welsh medium schools.  This statutory policy was duly prepared and contained the directive “to convert 3 dual stream schools into Welsh medium schools by 2016”.
·         The WESP was approved unanimously by the Cabinet (not the Council) on 28/7/2014.  The choice of schools was – almost certainly – recommended by Cllr Keith Davies but was undoubtedly endorsed by the Cabinet.  The County has only 12 dual stream schools in the age range 4 – 11 to choose from, in any event.
Thus, subject to final endorsement by the County Council on 18/1/2017, the decisions relating to creating a Welsh medium primary school in Llangennech were recommended by the Labour Cabinet member for education and made by the Labour-led Cabinet – not by Llangennech’s two Plaid Cymru County Councillors who played no real part in the decision making process until 18 January.  The Cabinet, and Keith Davies in particular, should then have made arrangements for Cabinet members (Keith himself included), to meet with parents to explain the rationale of the decisions that they themselves had made (with appropriate LEA officers in support).

The allegation the Cllr Gwyn Hopkins refused to meet with parents is untrue.  He was never contacted by any parents to meet them about this issue.  Moreover, it is up to the individuals responsible for making policy decisions to explain and justify them, not people who played no part in the process.

The County Council received over 1400 submissions supporting and opposing the County Council’s proposals. There were 720 submissions against – 18 e-mails and 702 in the form of prompted, pro-forma letters (not much more elaborate than a petition).  The objectors organized a door knocking campaign to “persuade” inhabitants to oppose the proposals (not infrequently “helping” them to complete the forms) both within and outside Llangennech ward.  Even the door of Robert Sully, the former County Council Director of Education, was knocked and he lives in Llys y Pinwydd in Pemberton ward. There were also reports that they were knocking doors in Llanelli, 3 miles from the ward.  As far as being a valid, scientific and reliable statistical exercise this falls down heavily at the very first validity hurdle because the individuals collecting the data were very far indeed from being unbiased on the issue.  As such, the operation was a complete farce, totally unreliable and, therefore, impossible to take seriously.    

On the contrary, there were 698 submissions in favour – 119 e-mails and 579 letters.  The supporters did not organize a door knocking campaign to obtain any of these and very few of the letters were in the form of a template.  The vast majority are submissions written by individuals independently although, admittedly (as was the case with the objecting submissions), some are from individuals not living in Llangennech ward.  There is no doubt whatever that these are of much more value than the 720 proformas.


Set out below is a copy of Cllr Hopkins' recent letter to the Editor of the Llanelli Star:

Dear Editor,

Nigel Hughes accuses me of “spewing fake news” (letters 24 February).  Any alleged “fake news” that I have ever articulated pales into total insignificance compared to his outrageously absurd lie about me, with respect to the proposals to merge Llangennech Junior and Infants schools.  He writes: “proposals which he (that’s me) had devised”.  A solicitor relative of mine is of the view that this claim is so mendacious that I would be justified in suing its author.  I am considering it.  In any event, I challenge Mr Hughes to produce a shred of evidence to substantiate this incredibly stupid and ridiculous assertion.   Indeed, it puts even Donald Trump’s “post truths” and “alternative truths” completely in the shade.

However, I have to say that if I had in fact devised the Welsh Labour Government and Labour-led County Council policy of expanding Welsh medium education that occurred during 2013 – 15, I would be absolutely delighted to admit it.  In fact I would not stop boasting about it.  Alas, as a backbench member of the Council’s opposition group, it was not to be!

As someone who has taught Statistics to degree level for a number of years, I assess Mr Hughes’ method of deducing that 95% of the people of Llangennech are against the County Council’s proposals as absolutely ludicrous.  His pathetic process would fail the most elementary of statistical validity, objectivity, scientific, reliability and legitimacy tests. 

On January 18th the County Council voted 38 – 20 in favour of establishing a Welsh medium primary school in Llangennech as from 1 September 2017.  That would be described as a comfortable victory if it was the final score of a rugby match.  The issue is, therefore, over and done with - bar the shouting.  However, Mr Hughes and other protesters are intent on doing a lot of pointless shouting.  Moving on to consider other important matters would seem to be much more sensible and likely to be a lot more productive.  


Sunday 26 February 2017

2017: Year of Legends (Updated 27 February)

Visit Wales has launched a glitzy advertising campaign to persuade more visitors to come to Wales. The website ends with this rallying call:

Now, what’s stopping you? Come and create your own legends…

If the tourists flock to Llanelli (well, you never know), they won't need to go to the trouble of making their own legends, because the local Labour Party has been busy creating a whole raft of modern myths for them.

Michaela the Megaphone

First up, we have the cautionary tale of former Santes Michaela, now Michaela the Unmentionable. She was a Labour Party member, and then she wasn't. As recently as 9 February she was telling the Herald that she was planning to stand as a Labour community councillor. Two weeks later, Lee Waters said that "she does not consider herself as having ever been a party member", but the Labour Party suspended her and said that she had not informed them that she wished to revoke her membership.

We are indeed a land of mystery.

The Llangennech Massacre

Then we have a crack report put out by ace journalist Abbie Wightwick in the Western Mail, suggesting that an unholy alliance of Cymdeithas yr Iaith and parents in favour of Welsh-medium education had slashed car tyres, and verbally abused members of Michaela Beddows' campaign group.

After apologising to Cymdeithas, the paper then had to print a follow-up acknowledging that the tyre slashing was not believed to be related to the school issue. Next we learned that nobody had reported any incidents of harassment or abuse to Dyfed Powys Police, who must be scratching their heads.

But the Western Mail, Carmarthen Journal, Llanelli Star and South Wales Evening Post had all run with the false story by then.

This is our parochial equivalent of Donald Trump's bowling green massacre.

Santes Tegwen of Dafen, putting Britain First

The Vatican waits until someone has departed this world before it begins the laborious process of canonisation, and it requires "proof" that at least two miracles have been performed before a candidate can become a saint. In Llanelli you can meet a real, live saint, Santes Tegwen, whose career in local politics has been truly miraculous.

This blog recently disclosed that Santes Teg had shared Britain First material on her Facebook timeline.

First, she said she could not remember posting it. Then, a couple of days later it was being put about in County Hall that the post was not on her personal timeline, but on a 'dummy' account for dummy voters. Being a very important person, she did not manage the dummy account, but had entrusted that task to another member of the Labour Party. So it was all somebody else's fault.

The trouble with that one was that the post was on her personal account, and was still there several days after Cneifiwr wrote about it.

Speaking to the Herald, Lee Waters tried a new tack. "The post in question is not recent," he span, as though we were talking about something that had happened years, rather than weeks ago in December.

But time is relative, and there are constituents in Llangennech complaining that they wrote to their AM back in September, and still have not had a reply.

By the end of the week, Labour's myth machine was working at full steam. Jeff Edmunds told the Herald that someone had tried to hack his Facebook account and duplicate it.

It was the fiendish work of those nasty Nats who must somehow not only have hacked Tegwen's account, but placed on her timeline the sort of populist, rabble rousing stuff Tegwen would never touch with a barge pole.

Meanwhile, Santes Tegwen got around to culling some of her Facebook friends.

Llanelli Labour is unlikely to take Cneifiwr's advice, but if they did they would be rather less worried about hackers and ask themselves instead whether it was wise to leave Tegwen, with her track record of playing on populist fears, alone and unsupervised with an internet connection. They might also want to take a closer look at some of her friends both on and off Facebook.

But the mystery gets deeper, with Jeff telling the Herald that someone purporting to be a Labour member had e-mailed asking for statements, and those statements had appeared on blogs (plural) within hours.

Update 27 February

It occurred to Cneifiwr that many readers may have no idea of who Jeff Edmunds is. Without wishing to be unkind, he is not even a household name in Carmarthenshire, let alone the world beyond it, which makes the sudden interest in what he has to say even more puzzling.

For the record, Cllr Jeff Edmunds is leader of the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council, and for what it's worth, Cneifiwr thinks he is a fundamentally decent man who has landed an impossible job


The Welsh blogging world is small, and nothing like this has appeared on any of them. So which blogs would those be, and what did he tell them?

Jeff has reported the matter to Dyfed Powys Police, who must be scratching their heads again.

Nats under the Bed

Cneifiwr is not a fan of Facebook, it has to be said. Too many cute kittens, pictures of babies, people bragging about their visits to the gym and marathon running, rubbish jokes and dodgy "news" sources.

Why anyone would want to hack Jeff Edmunds' account is a mystery, but here is something which has come in from one of Merched y Wawr's field intelligence operatives, codename "Bara Brith":

Friday, 24 February 2017

Jeff and Nia in happier times
6.30 Awake and pull back the curtains to another sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack day. It is raining in Llanelli.

6.45 Have a black coffee.

7.00 Switch on the radio to listen to the news. Labour has lost in Copeland. I knew it was a bad idea to send Nia up there to campaign. We had held Copeland since 1935, almost as long as we have been in power in Llanelli, but then look at everything Labour has done for Llanelli.

7.05 Switch to Radio Two. "Heaven knows I'm miserable now", warbles Morrissey.

7.10 Tegwen has sent me a picture of a noose on Facebook. What can it mean?

7.30 Two shredded wheat. The milk has gone sour.

7.45 Go to the wardrobe to pick out something to wear for the busy day ahead. Black, black, black. Yes, I think I'll wear black again today.

8.00 A sound of retching from the hall. The cat has thrown up all over the rug.

8.30 I decide to write some notes for my speech at tonight's meeting - "How dialectical materialism has shaped recent developments in Llwynhendy".

8.45 Tegwen sends me a picture of some electric chairs.

9.20 Lee Waters sends me a message to call him immediately.

9.25 "Hello Lee. How's the weather in the Vale?" I ask, innocently. "I'm not here to chat about the weather, you fool," he snaps. "Get a grip, mun, and tell me what you are going to do about this mess. That bastard Conifer, or what ever that ludicrous Welsh name is, has posted more muck."

"I am working on it," I tell him, "and Gary Poumista Jones has a cunning plan. First we ask Dyfed Powys Police to arrest everyone who says anything negative about Labour in the village, and then we get our members to chant 'Lock her up, lock her up' every time someone says Leanne".

Lee is not happy. "Carwyn has been on the phone and I've never heard him so angry. He's blaming me, for God's sake, but I hold you responsible. Now, get on the phone to the press and tell them it's all Plaid's fault."

"What does Nia have to say about it?" I ask.

"I don't know", says Lee. "Nobody can get hold of her. According to her office she is addressing Vegans for Nukes in Surrey tonight. Just get a grip and sort it!"

Lee slams down the phone.

9.35 That speech is not going to write itself, and so I switch to Classic FM for some inspiration. They are playing the Death March.

10.00 Ping! It's a message from Christine Hamilton. "Hello, big boy. Neil says he thinks it all going splendidly, and he is happy to help in any way he can."

10.05 Tegwen sends me a picture of a guillotine. I can see this is going to be another one of those days. The rain intensifies.

Friday 24 February 2017

Llangennech - Lee Waters AM

Lee Waters AM (Llanelli, Lab.) has asked for the following comments to be published.
There are some key points here that many readers will disagree with, and some claims which simply do not accord with the facts. Michaela Beddows did consider heself to be a member of the Labour Party, and broadcast that message on social media. Only last week she attended a Labour Party meeting in Gorseinon to hear Carwyn Jones with other members of her group. She also claimed that 13 members of the protest group would be standing as candidates for Labour. That was almost certainly a gross exaggeration, but more than two members of the group are Labour members and activists. One is standing for election as a county councillor, and others may be selected to stand as community councillors.

Almost nobody outside UKIP seriously believes that the Welsh Government's target of 1 million speakers can be achieved without Welsh-medium education. Dual stream schools will not help to achieve that target, and it is a great pity that Lee Waters is so equivocal about this. He does not seems to want to accept the work done in this field by Alun Davies or the Commissioner, Meri Huws.

As far as Llangennech is concerned, Lee's comments will bring little comfort. We are where we are, but the Assemby Member appears to have nothing to say aboutt he future.

The campaigners have lost their battle, and no good can come out of fighting on. Labour has close links to the group and could use its influence to bring that chapter to a close. To say that the process was predetermined is, under the circumstances, irresponsible and will serve only to prolong the bitterness.

What a pity it is that Lee is not telling his constituents that it is time to move on, accept a lawful and democratic decision and come together to make the school work.
Lee has his say below, and readers are invited to have theirs.
It is interesting to note what you say about  Cymdeithas being advised to tread lightly as 'not to inflame an already sensitive situation'. It has been noted in your previous posts that I have dealt with the controversy 'quietly', but in my case you have projected more sinister motives onto my desire not to exacerbate divisions.
This is not the least bit surprising as this blog is a polemic, but there are those who should know better who see your posts as a form of hyper-local journalism. They are nothing of the sort, they are part of a partisan campaign with very clear intentions.  Fair enough, but let's just be clear about it.
I have tried to deal with the issues around the categorisation of Llangenech in a sensitive and respectful way. I have written openly in the Llanelli Herald about my reservations about the focus of Carmarthenshire Council (under both parties) of achieving its Welsh Government targets to increase the number of Welsh medium places for 7 year-olds by turning all dual-stream schools in the county into Welsh medium schools.
There is no right or wrong about this, it is a matter of debate. We all agree about the objective of doubling the number of Welsh speakers by 2050 but there is no clear route map of how to do this - we need to discuss it.
In my view the way the local campaigners have conducted themselves is a separate matter to the policy issue of how the goal is achieved. However, in my experience the campaigners - who are overwhelmingly not political - have worked patiently in engaging in the consultation process the council have run. When it became clear that the process was  predetermined some of them despaired.
When I became aware of the Neil Hamilton stunt (the day before) it was immediately clear that he was exploiting local discontent for party advantage. Much as I disagreed with the decision on categorisation I would never disrespect the parents or the school by taking part in a demo outside.
From what I have read Michella Beddows took the view that this was a non-party campaign and she would draw upon the support of anybody she could. I did my best to ensure the two members of the group I knew were Labour Party members did not take part.
I do not know Michella Beddows, and I can only remember meeting her once. I did not know she was a Labour member, and in fact after registering to join to support Jeremy Corbyn she did not in fact pay her membership fee so, it turns out, she does not consider herself as having ever been a party member. As soon as her role in organising the Hamilton stunt became evident the local Labour Party began moves to have her suspended - sometime before Jonathan Edwards started letter writing.
You have selectively quoted from the post I made on the group's Facebook page when they asked for people to join the demo. My intention was to gently warn them off their chosen course of action - this was a nonparty local campaign and is not my place to throw my weight around, nor my style.
"Careful about giving Hamilton a platform", you quote me as saying - with the implication that I was wilfully encouraging collusion. You do not quote the rest of my post: "They will grasp onto anything to make them look like a normal party. They are not. They promote intolerance and division".
I deplore UKIPs role in this. I share Huw Edwards's sadness of the way the village had been drawn into an ugly row.
As I tweeted over the weekend I genuinely believe if this had been handled more sensitively and patiently by the local Plaid Councillors at an earlier stage much of this could have been diffused.
In hindsight perhaps I could have be more vocal in warning of the dangers, but I was acutely aware of the sensitivities and I wanted no part in inflaming the situation.
Clearly lessons need to be learned from this whole affair. Openness and transparency around the future categorisation of schools is essential, as is a programme of genuine public engagement.
To my mind there are also broader questions about how the continuum is implemented and how we ensure that teaching of Welsh in English medium schools is dramatically improved, and we do not simply focus on one end of the continuum.
As the inquiry by the Assembly's Culture committee into how the policy of 1 million Welsh speakers is achieved has already found these are very complex questions. And they are not helped by inflammatory language, nor denunciations of anyone with a genuine concern as being anti-Welsh.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Llangennech - The Dark Arts (Updated)

Update 24 February

The Western Mail this morning apologised to Cymdeithas yr Iaith for the impression yesterday's article gave that its members were in any way involved in vandalism.

Later in the day it went further and announced that the police had said they did not believe the tyre slashing was connected to the schools issue.

Within 24 hours, this very damaging story fell apart. As one commentator said, we are now left with not much more than a claim that one unnamed friend of somebody else who did not want to be named said that someone else had been rude to them.

The best defence the journalist could come up with was that two of the parents had said that there was a link. It would be funny if the damage done was not so serious.

Despite that, the paper is still claiming that the Llangennech story only became "a national controversy" when Leanne Wood raised it in the Senedd last week, presumably in the hope that readers will have forgotten all the media coverage the story has received over the last two years.


When Carmarthenshire County Council approved plans to phase out the English stream in Llangennech on 18 January, there was reason to hope that the campaign waged for the last two years by the anti-Welsh medium group would finally come to an end.

It was a very divisive and ruthless campaign fought by a group of about six or seven families using very questionable tactics. It was backed by elements within the local Labour Party (remember that Cllr Tegwen Devichand was one of the first to pitch up outside the school gates), and also brought in UKIP, the notorious anti-Welsh bigot Jacques Protic and quite possibly other groups on the hard left and extreme right.

To quote Michaela Beddows who told this blog:

"You would not take one bullet into a battle you would take all the ammunition you could take and that is exactly what I am doing."

Villagers complained of harassment and intimidation; posters such as these appeared around the village:

Unfortunately, the campaign did not throw in the towel on 18 January. Although it should have been obvious to all that it was pointless to carry on and would exacerbate tensions, the campaign group called in Neil Hamilton, with several Labour activists and a candidate being involved in the decision and the planning.

Lee Waters AM was aware of what they were planning and could only say "be careful".

The group also cultivated other contacts with UKIP, including an individual who is a member of staff of the Welsh Assembly working for a UKIP AM. He has made threatening remarks against Cymdeithas yr Iaith members and is understood to be coordinating a similar campaign elsewhere.

It was only at this point that the tide turned against the campaigners.

Hamilton's visit was followed by a deluge of revelations of the way in which Labour members and activists had worked with their counterparts in UKIP, and Michaela Beddows was found to have shared EDL material on Facebook.

It was a bad week for the so-called dual stream group, but Michaela Beddows told the press last week that she was determined to fight on, and now a counter-offensive has begun.

First, an entirely one-sided piece appeared in Private Eye painting the campaigners as victims of a monstrous county council. It could almost have been scripted by Jacques Protic whose website is currently screaming "Carmarthenshire County Council declares war on the residents of Llangennech".

Private Eye does not have journalists on the ground, but relies on a network of contacts, nearly all of whom are media insiders. Protic is very unlikely to be one of those, and the campaign group in Llangennech would not have been able to plant the story with the magazine. The most likely source for that gem is someone in the Labour Party's spin machine.

Hardly had the print dried on that than the Western Mail came out with an even more dramatic account yesterday morning. Someone had slashed the tyres of cars belonging to three* members of the campaign group who were also complaining of being harassed in the streets and shops.

[*The Western Mail piece begins by saying that four vehicles had their tyres slashed before telling us that police are investigating damage to three cars]

Sensationally, in its print the version paper ran the story under a picture of a handful of members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith welcoming the council's decision in Carmarthen last month.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has always based its campaigns on the principles of non-violent protest and direct action. While it may very occasionally paint slogans on walls and occupy an office or two, it never targets individuals and never damages their private property. It is also a fundamental rule that if you break into an office or carry out similar "direct action", you wait until the police turn up and face the consequences. It's called civil disobedience.

To imply, as the Western Mail did, that members of Cymdeithas were somehow behind the tyre slashing or intimidation of campaign group members is utterly false, and senior journalists on the paper know that.

In fact, Cymdeithas yr Iaith was asked by supporters in the village to keep a low profile so as not to inflame an already sensitive situation before the 18 January vote, and it complied. It has even come in for criticism on social media for its lack of visibility and apparent detachment.

For the record, Cymdeithas yr Iaith is independent of any political party, and it has frequently criticised all political parties, including Plaid.

The story has deeply upset people in the village, several of whom have been in contact, with more expressing their views on social media. They see the story as a pack of lies, and say that there have been other tyre slashing incidents in and around the village which had nothing to do with the school campaign.

Unlike the "dual stream group", there was no organised pro-Welsh medium campaign. Not because there was not a significant body in favour of the change, but because for better or worse those in favour preferred to keep a low profile, avoid confrontation and maintain what they would see as a dignified silence.

It was the traditional Welsh response of turning the other cheek and refusing to respond to aggressive tactics.

Anyone who has met any of the parents who want a Welsh-medium school would know that these are not the sort of people who yell abuse or spit, and there is now anger in the village that the newspaper should have dragged the community through the mud.

Gary Robert Jones (or Poumista to use his Twitter handle) is one of the two Labour candidates for Llangennech in the county council elections, the other being Jacquleine Seward, a prominent member of the "dual stream" group.

Jones, who the other day told Huw Edwards that he was not a "valid" journalist, had a very busy day on Twitter yesterday.

First, he claimed that several people had been reported to the police and he warned others commenting on the story, including village residents, that they needed to tread carefully if they did not want to be reported as well. Who had been reported, he was asked?

"Nationalists", he roared. For "Nationalists" read anyone in the village who is fed up with the objectors and their campaign.

Cneifiwr suspects that Gary does not really want to win the election in May.

Then later on he was back on Twitter saying that the tyre slashings had nothing to do with the school issue.

So who was responsible for planting this story with the Labour leaning newspaper, and who stood to gain from it?

We now know that there have been other incidents of tyre slashing in the area, and none of those was reported in the newspaper. We can rule out Dyfed Powys Police as the source.

The Western Mail does not have anyone on the ground, and so reports of the tyre slashing and tales of verbal abuse must have come from someone living locally. According to Gary Jones again, although there is no way of verifying this, the victims of the tyre slashing told him that they had not linked the vandalism to the schools campaign.

The story claims, completely inaccurately, that the Llangennech affair became a "national controversy" when Leanne Wood raised the matter in First Minister's questions last week.

In reality, the Llangennech row has been covered on numerous occasions by the BBC, the Western Mail and other media sources over the last two years.

So who might stand to benefit from a story with hardly any basis in fact which paints the anti-Welsh medium objectors as innocent victims of a campaign whipped up by Leanne Wood and her shock troops in Cymdeithas yr Iaith?

No prizes for guessing the answer to that one. Just as with the Private Eye story, if Gary Jones's claims are true, the finger of suspicion has to point at the army of spin merchants employed by the Labour Party.

The Western Mail has done for Llangennech what the Sun did for Liverpool.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Llanelli: and finally....(Updated)

Update 23 February 

Hardly surprisingly, the recent reports on this blog have not gone down well with the movers and shakers in the Llanelli Constituency Labour Party who see this as just a Plaid conspiracy.

All Cneifiwr will say for the time being is that they should read the posts carefully. The information received comes from a very wide range of sources, including some from within the Labour Party who are disgusted by what they see.

This blog has received a few comments in support of Cllr Tegwen Devichand in particular which have not been published - not because they are hostile to the blog, but because they have been couched in such extreme, vile and barely literate language that they cannot be put up. One in particular came from someone who is clearly on the extreme right.

In the meantime, the Labour Party says that it is conducting an investigation. Let's hope that it is fair and rigorous, and unless significant new evidence comes in, let's wait for the outcome of that investigation.


And finally, at the risk of sounding a bit like the Trevor Macdonald of old with all those "bongs" punctuating his bulletin, here is a round-up on what now feels like day 94 of - what shall we call it? - Labkip, Watersgate, or just plain old Llanelli Labour's Omnishambles.

BONG! Nia Griffith MP had nothing to say about anything.

BONG! Neither did Lee Waters who was rather more interested in plans to encourage cycling in Cardiff.

BONG! Tegwen Devichand told the BBC that she could not "remember" sharing Britain First hate propaganda.

BONG! More evidence emerged of links between Labour members and candidates in Llangennech and UKIP, and a tweet was unearthed from a very vocal Llanelli Labour activist who described Welsh-medium education as "fascism". If it really was fascism, you would have thought that some party members would be rushing to embrace it with open arms.

BONG! Keith Davies, Llanelli's Labour AM before Lee Waters told the BBC that he was disappointed that Lee Waters and Nia Griffith had not been more supportive of the plan to turn Llangennech school into a Welsh medium school. "And then maybe it wouldn't have come to this".

Here is a clip from his interview with subtitles.

Unless there are any major new revelations emerge, we will now have to wait for the outcome of Labour's investigation into the Llanelli CLP. Shredders and delete buttons must be working overtime down there in the meantime.

Cneifiwr will be returning to work after a few days of not so relaxing blogging, but in the meantime the next piece will catch up on one of the stories the blog was following before the dam burst.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Labour launches another investigation into Llanelli CLP - and more

The big news this morning is that the Western Mail is reporting that the Labour Party has launched an investigation into its constituency party in Llanelli in the wake of revelations on this blog that Cllr Tegwen Devichand had shared propaganda put out by neo-Nazi Britain First.

The story is not yet available online, but here is a screenshot:

As readers know, the scandal goes way beyond the activities of Tegwen Devichand, who is deputy leader of the Labour group on the county council and the holder of a whole string of other positions. It includes collaboration with UKIP as well as bullying and intimidation both within the party and of members of the public and non-Labour councillors.

In a separate development, another county councillor, Theressa Bowen (Independent) said that her complaints against former Labour colleagues have in the last couple of days been rejected by the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Iain McNicol, who told her to take the matter up with the County Council.

Meanwhile, more evidence has come in of Labour activists and candidates, including Jacqueline Seward, cosying up to UKIP party officials.

Cneifiwr has also received separate but unverified reports from different sources of an investigation by the NHS of allegations of a major fraud involving a key figure in the Llanelli Labour Party.

Michaela Beddows

It will come as no surprise that Michaela Beddows is now busy painting herself as a victim while continuing to lash out in all directions.

Here she is in the Llanelli Star telling the reporter, "I'm just a mum – I'm not a politician or anything like that. Does it warrant a mother being put through all newspapers and on both TV and online?"

As for sharing propaganda put out by the neo-Nazi English Defence League, she said she didn't know who the EDL were, and appears deliberately to have tried to mislead the newspaper reporter.

Meanwhile, here she is having a go at Huw Edwards, the BBC journalist and newsreader, on another extreme right-wing Facebook page.


Huw Edwards grew up in Llangennech and had expressed dismay at the tone of the anti-Welsh campaign in his old village. This was hardly surprising given that parents and teachers were being intimidated and harassed, and the village was being plastered with posters like this:

Having announced to the world that she had joined the Labour Party to support Corbyn, she told the BBC over the weekend that she was not a member of the party - after it announced that it was suspending her pending an investigation. In the Llanelli Star she now appears to be saying that she was never really a member at all.
And so it goes on. 
In her interview with the Llanelli Star, Beddows says that her partner is urging her not to give up the fight. 
Let's hope that they change their minds because this campaign is going nowhere and is only serving to deepen divisions in the village, quite apart from making Michaela herself look very bad.

Unsurprisingly, social media is ablaze and the media are circling. Michaela has already attracted some very unpleasant "friends", and no doubt more of them will beat a path to her door, offering her a shoulder to cry on but intending to exploit her for their own sinister ends.

For her own sake and that of the village, Michaela's real friends need to tell her to call it a day.
Lee Waters

Michaela Beddows was one of the smallest fish in the party which suspended her, but which she now claims never to have been a member of.

Nia Griffith has maintained complete radio silence on the whole affair, but after initial silence Lee Waters has been fighting a spectacularly incompetent rearguard action, blaming the situation in Llangennech on Cllr Gwyn Hopkins.

There is now overwhelming evidence that Waters knew what was going on in Llangennech, but as recently as last week he was still hobnobbing with Beddows and others. 

Quite apart from anything else, did he not see the posters which sprang up around Llangennech? And did he not think that they were unacceptable, bordering on racism? Did he not realise that a campaign of intimidation was being waged under his nose?

And did he not realise what was happening in the party in Llanelli itself?


Monday 20 February 2017

Mistar Urdd, y Kippers a Chyflafan mewn Cwt Ieir

Helo blant!

Mae hi bron yn amser gwely. Ydych chi'n barod am stori fach?

Roedd yn ddiwrnod braf pan aeth Mistar Urdd i Ben-y-Bont ar Ogwr i gyhoeddi Eisteddfod yr Urdd 2017 a chwrdd â llawer o bobl bwysig iawn.

"Rydym yn mynd i greu miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg", meddai Wncwl Carwyn.

"Rwy'n caru'r iaith Gymraeg", meddai Anti Caroline Jones, Aelod Cynulliad UKIP , "ond dw i ddim am weld addysg Gymraeg i holl blant Cymru".

Teimlai Mistar Urdd braidd yn anghyffyrddus wrth iddo sefyll rhwng Anti Caroline ac Wncwl Carwyn, ond gwenai pawb arall o glust i glust!

A dyma Darren Bromham-Nichols sy'n gweithio i Anti Caroline yn ei swyddfa fach hyfryd yng Nghastell Nedd. Am enw anodd, blant!

Mae Mr Bromham-Nichols yn hoffi cŵn bach, ac mae ganddo ddiddordeb mawr mewn cwestiynau cyfoes, megis "I ba raddau ydy hiliaeth a sosialaeth yn elfennau annatod o ffasgaeth?":

While I think we can concede racism is more of a subject now and more is brought to the surface, none of us expect slaves working in the cotton fields or have to make sure we're not walking into the wrong “Whites” or “Coloureds” entrance. I mean, I've not been on a bus for a while but I don't expect they still make black people sit at the back any more...

Na, dw i ddim yn deall chwaith, blant. 

Tra bod Mr Bromham-Nichols yn hoff iawn o gŵn bach annwyl, dyw e ddim yn hoffi rabsgaliwns Cymdeithas yr Iaith. Ddim o gwbwl.

"Maen nhw'n eithafwyr plentynaidd", meddai Wncwl Neil Hamilton, sydd yn ffrind i Anti Caroline.

Ac yna aeth Mr Bromham-Nichols ati i ymchwilio Cymdeithas yr Iaith yn ei swyddfa fach hyfryd. A oedd Wncwl Carwyn yn rhoi arian i'r bobl ddrwg yma?

Er siom fawr Mr Bromham-Nichols, methodd ei waith ymchwil, ond roedd e'n benderfynol o fynd i'r gad yn erbyn gwehilion cythryblus yr hen Gymdeithas ddrwg.

"The hunters will become the hunted", meddai Mr Bromham-Nichols. "Tally-ho, what, what!"

Ac wele, draw ym Mae Caerdydd roedd yna ffermwraig ifanc o'r enw Dr Bethan Jenkins. "Rwy wedi penderfynu gwahardd llwynogod Cymdeithas yr Iaith rhag rhoi tystiolaeth i Bwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu y Cwt Ieir am nad ydyn nhw'n parchu mandad democrataidd UKIP", meddai.

Roedd Wncwl Neil, Anti Caroline a Mr Bromham-Nichols wrth eu bodd. "Am benderfyniad gwych", medden nhw.

Yn fuan iawn ar ôl hynny, cafodd Wncwl Neil wahoddiad annisgwyl gan aelodau Plaid Lafur yn Llangennech oedd yn eiddgar am ei weld yn y pentref.

"A wnewch chi gysylltu â nhw i drefnu gwibdaith a'r cyhoeddusrwydd?" gofynnodd Wncwl Neil i Mr Bromham-Nichols. Yn Saesneg, wrth gwrs.

Ac i ffwrdd ag ef.

Fe gafodd Mr Bromham-Nichols sgwrs gyfrinachol, ddifyr efo'i ffrindiau newydd yn ardal Llanelli fel aelod o grŵp preifat ar Weplyfr.


Ond yn anffodus, roedd rhyw hen lwynog cyfrwys yn clustfeinio, ac mi ddaeth y cyfan allan mewn cyfres o twîts.

Roedd yna gecru a chlegar byddarol yn hen dŷ cam Plaid Lafur, a'r plu'n hedfan ymhobman. "Nid arnaf fi mae'r bai", meddai Mr Waters, ac roedd pawb ond y Kippers yn flin ofnadwy.

Wel, dyna stori ryfedd!

Cysgwch yn dawel, blantos.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Labour in Llanelli and Llangennech - from bad to worse (Updated)

Before launching into the next post, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this series on events in Llangennech and the Llanelli Labour Party. Information has come in from a very wide range of sources - members of both Labour and Plaid, as well as others who are not members of any political party.

This will be the eighth in a series of posts, and I had no idea when I wrote the first of them that the floodgates were about to open.

Y Cneifiwr is now in its seventh year and it has covered a huge range of subjects. Looking back, one theme which has run through the whole course of the writing here is bullying.

Towards the end of last year, Radio Cymru highlighted the problem with some truly remarkable interviews with victims of bullying. The most moving piece of all was with a woman called Annette who recalled how she and her friends had bullied a small girl at school.

The episode had played on her mind for years, but when she eventually raised the subject with her old school friends, none of them could recall taking part in the physical and mental abuse they had inflicted on the girl.

That is not surprising because a characteristic of bullying, whether at school or in adult life, is that a pack mentality can take over, and people lose their sense of personal responsibility. In adult life, and in politics especially, this pack mentality can mean that not only do we sometimes lose any sense of personal responsibility, but victims become dehumanised and we come to believe that the ends justify the means. Many bullies live in a state of denial.

The bullying at Annette's school was eventually discovered by a dinner lady who brought it to an abrupt end. The school and the parents acted as if there had never been a problem, and the matter was brushed under the carpet.

Years after those events, Annette decided to try to find the victim, Josephine, only to discover that Josephine had died at an early age. Annette was unable to apologise for the suffering she had inflicted on the little girl, and that guilt hangs heavily on her to this day.

Annette is one side of the coin; the victims are the other. Commonly, victims stay silent for fear that if they say anything, the bullying will only get worse, and people in a position to do something might not believe them anyway or just cover it up.

As we all know, bullying can only flourish when it is hidden, but it takes real guts to come out of the shadows, whether you are a victim or a witness to it.

Thank you to all of you who have come forward.


What has emerged in this series of posts is a picture of bullying and intimidation in the Labour Party in Llanelli which has been allowed to develop unchallenged over many years, and it is spreading like a cancer.

In all of the testimony and evidence that has come in, the same names occur over and over again. Perhaps out of fear of rocking the boat and the consequences of standing up to people who have built up a powerbase, and most definitely out fear of negative PR, senior party figures have stayed silent and turned a blind eye.

Recently Kevin Madge told a member of the public that Momentum was active in Carmarthenshire, and that they were "vicious".

For those of you who are not political anoraks, Momentum is a group within the Labour Party which backs Jeremy Corbyn and his agenda for change in the party. Many of its members are genuinely decent people, but inevitably Momentum has attracted some rather less innocent figures with rather different agendas.

To many on the outside, Momentum is made up overwhelmingly of new recruits to the Labour Party; fresh-faced idealists who want to transform not just the party but UK politics as well.

In Carmarthenshire things are rather different. Far from being a vehicle for new blood and fresh-faced idealists, the same old faces have taken control.

Here is a picture of a Momentum meeting chaired by a familiar bee-hived figure who is neither fresh-faced nor a new recruit.

Not many fresh faces here
Tegwen Devichand is sitting in the middle. Also present at the meeting were Tim Evans of the SWP and Bobby Owens from TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). Both the SWP and TUSC have fielded election candidates of their own against Labour.

Update 21 February

Tim Evans has been in touch to say that he was not present at the meeting above. Cneifiwr apologises for any distress caused.

The SWP is a proscribed organisation in the Labour Party, meaning that you may not be a Labour Party member and a member of the SWP. This rule does not currently apply to Momentum, which is how the SWP and other groups circumvent the party rule book, but Cneifiwr understands that the rules are dues to change, and that in future Momentum members will have also to be members of the Labour Party.


A Labour Party member who has observed Tegwen Devichand at close quarters said that she seems to veer from extreme left to extreme right, and it should therefore come as no surprise that her Facebook timeline should include material such as this:

Britain First is, of course, a violent neo-Nazi group.


Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Waters-Beddows-Seward saga and who said what and when, it is worth saying that while the bigotry and ignorance shown by the anti-WM campaigners were bad enough, and their collaboration with UKIP and the fanatical hate merchant Protic were even worse, the most disgusting aspect of their campaign was the bullying and intimidation that accompanied it.

Here, for starters, is Jonathan Edwards MP:

Jonathan Edwards said he had since been contacted by parents and teachers who believe they are victims of "systematic intimidation by Labour party activists".  He questioned why Labour party officials and elected members have not taken action sooner, and added that the "toxic actions of the Labour party in Llangennech are not the result of just one individual.

And here is a parent writing on the Herald newspaper website:

I’m not a political person or a Plaid Cymru member, I’m just a parent in Llangennech and I have to say that I’m relieved that this is coming to an end at last.The local Labour party have bullied and silenced us for months. Door stepping, pressure, waving petitions in our faces, threatening us when we didn’t want to sign them, trying to make us feel like traitors while they go all over the tele and radio pretending that all of Llangennech is against these changes. They’ve been disgusting and intimidating. As a Llanegennech parent, I never asked them to speak for me and I know my friends didn’t ask them to either.

A couple of months ago, I also met some of the parents from Llangennech and can testify that they too felt bullied and intimidated. We also now know that the Beddows campaign group travelled far and wide blanket canvassing for support, even knocking on the door of a retired Director of Education who lives miles away.

As the constituency AM, Lee Waters must have heard reports of the tactics being used by the campaign group, and yet he was still happily mingling with them last week.

Labour's Response

Last week Nia Griffth was hundreds of miles away canvassing in Copeland, while tweeting calls for an increase in defence spending, which is now presumably more important than social care or the NHS. She does not appear to have found time to say anything about what is happening in her constituency party.

Lee Waters also kept a low profile for most of yesterday while he was out canvassing with a Labour councillor who was heavily implicated in a public attack on a fellow councillor who had suffered from mental health problems. "I know, I have seen her medical records!"

Then last night, Lee Waters finally broke his silence, blaming the situation in Llangennech on Cllr Gwyn Hopkins:

This is the same Lee Waters who was banging on about the need for Leadership, with a capital 'L', last year.

Nothing to do with me, and anyway Michaela Beddows had now left the party, he declared.

The trouble is, that it has everything to do with Lee Waters who lent his support to the Beddows/Seward group. We saw in a previous post how he had said  "Be careful", when she told him how she and Jacqueline Seward had gone about bringing in Neil Hamilton. Not, "don't do it".

This conversation took place in a closed group on Facebook, and for a little light relief, here is the moment when Waters and Co. realise that someone else can see what they thought they were saying in secret:

Beddows herself will shrug this off, paint herself as a victim (her coach, one of Labour's candidates in Llangennech, Gary 'Poumista' Jones, has already initiated canonisation proceedings), and then probably end up joining UKIP.

So far, nobody else has been suspended, but the group of which Beddows is one of the most prominent members clearly saw the Labour Party as a vehicle for furthering their campaign, and as we know, Llanelli Labour was only too happy to welcome them in.

Attempts have been made by a couple of individuals commenting on this blog to pretend that some members of the Llangennech school campaign group were not associated with the Labour Party, and the ward party removed a profile picture from its Twitter account (still locked, incidentally) which showed them wearing red rosettes and grinning at the camera.

Here's one of them standing next to Neil Hamilton. Her name is being withheld because while she is entitled to her views, it is completely unacceptable for the Labour Party to pretend that she has nothing to do with them.

Here she is again with Lee Waters:

And here she is again at a meeting at a meeting of Labour Party members with First Minister Carwyn Jones in Gorseinon last week. Seated in the same row are her friends Michaela Beddows and Jacquline Seward:

And finally, here she is with Llangennech Labour:

Where next?

The Llangennech school campaign group has inflicted huge damage on the village, having persuading themselves that the ends justified the means.

The school transition is now a legal fact, and the best thing the Labour Party could do is to tell the campaigners to disband and accept the decision. There is no point in carrying on, and the wounds need time to heal.

It is hard to see how Labour can allow Gary Robert Jones and Jacqueline Seward to remain as candidates in the council elections because of their involvement with the campaign group (Seward was a leading member of it), even if the party overlooks the small matter of Seward's collaboration with UKIP and Protic.

For the Labour Party nationally, there must be an investigation into the Llanelli Constituency Party - the bullying, intimidation and cosying up to Britain First, UKIP and extremist organisations on the hard left and right must not be tolerated.

And those members who were aware of the bullying and who are Facebook 'friends' of those posting neo-Nazi and other material need to examine their consciences and ask themselves why they did nothing about it.