Saturday 18 February 2017

Llangennech - A Suspension and Tegwen's Reaction

Events have moved so fast over the last week, and so much information has come in that this blog will post two separate pieces today.

Early yesterday evening reports came in that one or more Labour Party members had been suspended in the Llanelli area. The best information available is that, so far at least, just one person is involved, and that the decision was made not in Cardiff, but in London after Jeremy Corbyn intervened.

If that is correct, it speaks volumes about the 'Welsh' Labour Party. Despite having clear and unequivocal evidence of collusion between Labour Party members and UKIP, despite clear evidence that some members have been flirting with the extreme right, and despite the open contempt shown by a raft of Labour figures, including Llanelli's AM, Lee Waters, councillors and candidates for official party policy, the best Carwyn Jones could come up with was to try to shift responsibility for sorting out the mess onto Carmarthenshire County Council.

Earlier in the day Jonathan Edwards MP wrote to Corbyn, and it would seem that it was Jonathan's letter that finally produced action.

The letter is worth producing in full:

"Annwyl Jeremy,

Labour party members campaigning with UKIP in Carmarthenshire

I write an open letter to bring to your attention the activities of Labour activists in Carmarthenshire which I know, having worked with you over a number of years, will cause you considerable concern.

Since I was elected to the House of Commons, you and I have both campaigned on fundamental issues such as human rights; protection of minorities; religious and cultural diversity; solidarity with working people; an ethical foreign policy; peace and global disarmament.  I know these are values which are fundamentally important to you as a progressive politician.  Above all, we stand on a common platform against the politics of the far right which bases its politics on sowing division and hatred and, in particular, the targeting of minorities.

I regret to inform you of the activities of Labour party members and activists in the Llanelli constituency in relation to Welsh medium education in the village of Llangennech. 

I am sure you will be familiar with the Labour Welsh Government's education strategy of promoting and increasing bilingual education provision as part of its strategy to achieve one million Welsh speakers.  Welsh as a language faces significant pressures in its traditional heartlands, a social symptom of economic decline as our young people have to move to find meaningful work.  Increasing bilingual education provision is a key part of the strategy supported by both Labour and Plaid Cymru at a national level.

Regrettably, the Labour party in Llanelli has run a nasty, divisive campaign against the plans of the local Plaid Cymru-led Council to implement a policy initiated by the then Labour-run Council administration and approved by the Labour Welsh Government.  I am informed by local residents that parents who support the plans have been intimidated by local activists.

Most surprising to you might be the fact that one Labour County Councillor referred to bilingual education as "apartheid" during a debate in the local Council.   These actions are undoubtedly influenced by political considerations as we approach this year's local authority elections.  Both County Council seats in Llangennech are held by Plaid Cymru. 

I know it will be an issue of grave concern to you that the Labour party in Llanelli is actively coordinating efforts with UKIP in Llangennech community.  UKIP Assembly Member Neil Hamilton recently campaigned with Labour in Llangennech – a visit we now know was coordinated in liaison with the official Labour party candidate for Llangennech ward.  Labour party members pictured on social media wearing Labour party rosettes are too seen in the picture with UKIP's Neil Hamilton. Furthermore, recent comments to local media from a Labour supporter in Llangennech suggest your party will contest the Llangennech Community Council elections in a joint campaign with UKIP.

Finally, and perhaps most shocking, I have seen that the Labour supporter who is orchestrating this joint campaign with UKIP has shared deplorable images from the Tea Party and English Defence League on social media.

Sadly, none of the issues I raise are a surprise to me.  The institutional anti-Welsh prejudice of Labour locally is why working class politicians like myself find their natural home in Plaid Cymru.  However, I am sure considering your principled position on these issues you would be horrified by the activities of these representatives of your party.  Furthermore, with these activities taking place within the constituency of your Shadow Defence Secretary, I am sure you will want to ensure your Shadow Cabinet is not brought into disrepute by these worryingly close links with UKIP.

I would hope that you, like me, would consider the fight against intolerance, prejudice and the far right as the struggle of our times.  If we are to succeed there must be no compromise in our rejection of the politics of hate and division.      

I ask that you, as the Leader of the Labour Party, investigate the activities of Labour members in the Llanelli constituency to ensure the voice and opinions of the far right are not given a platform in your party membership or those who seek public office in your party's name.

Yn gywir iawn,

Jonathan Edwards AS/MP
Dwyrain Caerfyrdin a Dinefwr / Carmarthen East and Dinefwr"


Following news that there had been a suspension, Jonathan was asked by the press for his response:

"It seems that Jeremy Corbyn has responded to the worrying collusion between his party and UKIP within a matter of hours, whilst the First Minister, Labour officials in Wales and elected members in Llanelli have done nothing for weeks.

"A suspension and investigation is a welcome course of action but the scope of it must be expanded to suspend all members and candidates that we have shown to be involved in actively campaigning with UKIP or have permitted such cooperation.  The toxic actions of the Labour party in Llangennech are not the result of just one individual.

"As this investigation gets underway, I would expect all those who have perpetuated the divisive rhetoric of the far right, including those who brand this Welsh Government policy as 'apartheid' to be barred from standing for public office in the name of the Labour Party.

"Furthermore, with only three Labour councillors voting to support its own policy on Welsh medium education, Labour head office should ask itself whether those who disregard party policy should be allowed to represent the party at all."


A defining characteristic of the Labour Party in Llanelli (and the Amman Valley for that matter) is the intensely tribal nature of their politics, and it will be anathema to many that it was Jonathan's intervention which triggered the suspension.

If dissenting voices have proof that the suspension had nothing to do with Jonathan Edwards, this blog will be pleased to publish it.

When it comes to tribalism, no Labour Party figure could be more tribal than the grande dame of Llanelli Labour, Tegwen Devichand, about whom much more in the second piece which will follow later today.

As we have seen, Tegwen Devichand was one of the first to ship up outside the school in Llangennech last year to fan the flames of bigotry and division. 

The following screenshot was taken at 7pm last night and shows that, with breathtaking chutzpah, she responded to the news of the suspension by "liking" Jonathan's letter three quarters of an hour earlier.

Having finally sensed which way the wind was blowing, it seems that self-preservation kicked in at the very last minute.


Anonymous said...

The behaviour of some of the Llangennech protesters and the shenanigans of the local Labour Party, as highlighted through your posts and social media, have been both an enlightening and disturbing experience.

The 'no surrender' Orange Order mentality that exists within elements of Labour in Llanelli is not only worrying but also damaging to the political party that should be holding the Tory government to account.

Instead, what we see is bigotry and right-wing rhetoric and support for UKIP, a party that have no serious policies other than their pathological hatred of Europe.

The events at Llanelli should be of concern to all who believe in tolerance and democracy.

Anonymous said...

I am watching what labour now do against all these members . I hope they dont just make an example of Michaela and go through ALL members who have made a mockery of the parties rules and policies and the Co-op movements . The majority of these are members of also . This needs to stop now along with bully tactics .a total clean up is called for