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.
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|
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.
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:
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.