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.


Anonymous said...

Lee Waters - perhaps the most vacuous politician to ever sit in the National Assembly for Wales (and that's saying something!)

He offers zero evidence for his statement that the change was "predetermined". He says Ms Beddows was not a member but Labour was already in the process of suspending her! Then he offers zero leadership to bring this whole saga to an end, indeed his accusation that processes weren't correctly followed only serves to further inflame the issue.

Perhaps the underlying issue her is that Lee Waters isn't particularly bothered by what's going in our community as I understand he lives some 50 miles away in the Vale of Glamorgan. Sorry, that's probably a "sensitive" issue too!

Lee Waters said...

For the avoidance of doubt I do think it is now time to move on. I though that was implicit from my comment that we need to learn lessons from the affair, but I'm happy to make it explicit.

Jac o' the North, said...

In essence, Waters seems to be saying, 'I stayed out of it because was not a party political issue, and then I was appalled to learn that Labour members were involved, and worse, had invited down Neil Hamilton'.

The Llangennech school issue was political from the point when certain persons in the local Labour Party saw it as a stick with which to beat Plaid Cymru ahead of May's elections. How else do we explain the posters put up around the village reading "Don't let Plaid Cymru dictate . . . " I'm not saying that all the objectors were Labour members/supporters or that all local members of the party were behind the campaign, but there was a strong overlap with no other party involved until Ukip showed up, at the invitation of the group.

"We all agree about the objective of doubling the number of Welsh speakers by 2050 . . . " Do we? I guarantee that there are people in the Labour Party, known to Lee Waters, who would like to kill off the Welsh language once and for all, and justify doing so by arguing that the language is 'divisive'. (Unlike them, of course.)

"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. We only have your word for that, and I don't buy it.

"Careful about giving Hamilton a platform", you quote me as saying - with the implication that I was wilfully encouraging collusion." For me, the question here is why were you in contact with Michaela Beddows at all, for you claim not to know her? If she was a stranger to you, then on any mention of Ukip, you should have blocked her. If you knew she was a Labour member then you should have initiated action against her there and then.

These exchanges over the invitation to Ukip also call into question the detachment you elsewhere claim. They suggest that you were in regular contact with Gary Jones, Michaela Beddows and perhaps others. Doesn't Beddows call you 'Lee'?

Coming up to date, would Lee Waters care to comment on the disgusting article that appeared in the Western Mail on Thursday that tried to link Cymdeithas yr Iaith with tyre slashing and intimidation in Llangennech?

Tyre slashing that the police confirm had nothing to do with the school dispute (and intimidation that probably never took place). Who gave those lies to the WM? And then there was the article in Private Eye this week. Has 'Welsh' Labour's press office been trying to follow up earlier successes like Aneurin Glyndwr?

Let us stop bullshitting each other. This dispute in Llangennech is highly political, and it was politicised by some very nasty people associated with the Labour Party, who have since been flirting with even nastier people on the political fringes. The Labour Party should be ashamed to have such creatures in its ranks.

The final three or four paragraphs of Lee Waters' apologia are nothing but sanctimonious piffle and unworthy of comment.

Jac o' the North, said...

I've just read Lee Water's comment. I'm sure we can all understand why he should want to leave this ugly affair behind him but his contribution only prompts further questions.

Where do we move on to, Lee? Are you saying that the campaign waged by certain Labour Party people against the council's decision should end? If so, good, but to achieve that can we now expect you (plus Nia Griffith, even Carwyn Jones) to show more leadership than hitherto in reining in people like Gary Robert Jones and Michaela Beddows who are using Llangennech school as a political weapon?

Because unless Labour starts reining in its anti-Welsh elements (and what I'm talking about isn't confined to the language) then your protestations and appeals are worthless.

What I've alluded to is that yours has always been a hybrid party, an informal alliance between those who love Wales and those who view Wales as a Brigadoon-style vote factory that is only allowed to be a country when there's a rugby international being played. If you like, it's the Cledwyn Hughes patriots against the Neil Kinnock boyos.

This split in 'Welsh' Labour goes deeper, and is certainly longer lasting, than any spat over Corbyn, and it could yet contribute to the demise of your party. That's what I'm hoping, and that's why I shall examine your hybrid party in more detail in the post I'm currently working on.

Anonymous said...

I trust you're advising protestors and the press to 'move on' too?

Anonymous said...

P11 this week's Llanelli Herald. Mr Waters seems to have a fairly comprehensive grasp of how this whole thing could've been avoided. He repeats such platitudes as "They [protestors] felt that people weren't straight with them" , "There has simply not been enough honesty about this" so one must ask: Why didn't he, or our absentee MP, explain it to them? Why not take them aside and explain everything to them? Why was it not his or Ms Griffith's responsibility to explain to the parents where this was coming from and who was actually responsible? In the article, you will notice an admission of sorts " categorisation is Welsh Government policy... the problem with the policy is..." the other problem is the admission is 2 years too late.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Lee Waters that it is time to move on and that the whole situation could have been handled in a more open and transparent way. It seems there should have been a lot more communication/meetings between the school, and the Plaid Councillors leading up to the proposal to change catogory of the school to gain support of the parents in the english stream and allay any fears that they had in respect of it. It is alleged that Gwyn Hopkins refused to meet with these parents. There is an interesting letter in the Herald this week which states under a FOI the people who replied to the consultation process with a 'Llangennech postcode' there were 700 objections and 33 supported the proposal. Given that less who supported proposal would reply, which is only natural, that still leaves a lot of residents from Llangennech whose 'fears' should have been addressed and not ignored. It would be interesting if to see Gwyn would make a statement on here or in the press either saying that he did acknowledge the reservations of hundreds of his constituents and what he did about it or if he didn't why he did not. Also a correction in your blog. It was not a Labour meeting in Gorseinon. It was a 'Meet Carwyn' event where which was intended for members of the public. Details here.

dd said...

We do not have the postcodes of the '700' objectors The Labour crowd and councillor were harassing and doorstepping ua to fill in prepared forms which they were collecting as objections they were waving these forms in our faces It was awful Why didn't Lee Waters Stop them? Many of us phoned council after to let them know we didn't object The council only asked for objections Hence it was highly unlikely that many would take the initiative and write in independently to say they supported the change Face it - the large majority of the village want this change Gary Jones has used this from the beginning as his political platform to get elected for the council
It gets worse with lies appearing in the papers that we have slashed tyres, sworn and spat at people We are not like that Please Lee Stop your followers spreading these lies about our village
You say - its time to move on You can move on to Barry but we have no where to move to- we are in Llangennech a lovely community which a small group of your supporters have whipped up a storm - for their own selfish political ambitions the vast majority of us Accept the democratic decision of our village The best you can do now is stop the nastiness - they are your supporters after all Show some leadership

Jon Coles said...

Anonymous 25 February 2017 @12:20 simply repeats an unverified assertion. Gwyn Hopkins addressed the issue of the that assertion's accuracy when he pointed out its deep statistical improbability in The Herald weeks ago. To suggest he did not is a lie.
I know, because I edited the article in which he responds to the alleged 700 figure.
As I told a reporter who wanted to report that number as fact, 'get the data and establish whether or not the results stand up to scrutiny on standard measures of accuracy and impartiality'. I suspect they don't because I never heard of the issue again, other than as a bald and unverified assertion repeatedly made but never evidenced.
I can tell you that had I seen the letter that was published, it would not have appeared because it simply repeats something which cannot be established as either true or accurate. This week, Gwyn Hopkins responds and the correspondence will be closed. Not because it is 'time to move on', but because arguing about how many people can dance on a pinhead - or even are pinheads - is not adding anything to the news story.
I have seen the data, by the way. There are issues with the some of the responses (on both sides) and, as the basis for any meaningful opinion poll, the form letters and accompanying material delivered with it and relating to it in Llangennech are so hopelessly skewed as to render the results invalid for the basis for any reasoned conclusion in response to them.

Jon Coles, Deputy Editor, Herald Newspapers

DDD said...

Cllrgwyn hopkins wrote a letter to welsh magazine , golwg, which made it quite clear what school options are open to children re welsh or enlish medium education in thevicinity. I would advise him to publish it in english and circulate around the english speaking media and press. I think it sets the scene factually and also closes the case. .Like we say in Llanelli , Ymlaen

Cneifiwr said...

Diolch Gaynor. Mae'r Cynghorydd Hopkins wedi ymateb i'r sylwadau ar y blog, a bydda i'n cyhoeddi darn newydd yfory, gan gynnwys gwybodaeth arall.

Draenog said...

Does that mean Lee that you've asked the protestors to retract their case to the Ombudsman because if not, this nightmare is not over.

The decision has been made and it's time that everyone involved accepts the decision so that we can all as a community support the headmaster, staff and pupils in the transitional period.

Anonymous said...

Its good to see a journalist come out and support the truth . The heralds gone up in my opinion . Too many are shying themselves from this especially the local ones . Gwyn has always been a good cllr and does not deserve these rumours about him . Labour are so shaneful . They always drop gossip to other parties to spread and ruin the candidates rep who they know have a good chance of winning seats . And they seem so believable yet destroyed decent men and women in process . Look at Bynea and Llwynhendy areas what they did there . One person is still very very ill through it and i feel its degrading how low they go to attack decent people .