Sunday 30 April 2017

Emlyn Dole Ate My Hamster and Leon Trotsky United - Update

Update 1 May

Thanks to all those of you who have sent in examples of the tactics being employed by Labour and its unofficial troll squads in Llanelli. We've got nearly another five weeks of this.

Down in the comments section on this post is a message from Kevin Francis of CUSC boasting that the group has made "many, many enimies (sic), far more enimies than you could possibly imagine", and that "enimies will most certainly be made and we make no apologies for this".

Here are a couple of examples of what he means. The first relates to a young father who was nominated to stand for Plaid in the council elections, but had to withdraw when his wife had to be rushed to hospital when she went into labour 14 weeks prematurely (the hospital was able to stop her from giving birth).

Red Mick, aka Mike Bassett, of CUSC put a different interpretation on things, needless to say, and posted the following comments on Llanelli Online's Facebook page (name blacked out because this person has had enough to contend with):

Bassett was challenged and repeatedly asked to apologise. In line with CUSC policy, no apology was given, and his victim was blocked.

But why make "enimies" one by one when you can target people en masse?

This one was posted as a comment to a Llanelli Star story introducing Plaid's candidates for the council elections:

Apologies for the fuzzy image, but it reads "Xenophobic, park closing, English hating fools".

Kev and Red Mick have probably just made even more enemies than they ever imagined.

If you cannot get enough of this sort of stuff, you can also treat yourselves to a comment on another story on Llanelli Online submitted by our old friend Michaela Beddows. Michaela, who always insists she does not have anything against the Welsh language, indulges herself with a rant at a Lee Waters press release announcing a new Welsh translation service for small companies.

Meanwhile, over in Llwynhendy Labour appears to be keeping the police busy again:

CSI Llanelli's finest are on the case, and fingers pointed knowingly in the conversation that follows, although wisely no names are mentioned. It's the usual suspect, they conclude, and bright spark Yolande Rees Hopkins tells the assembled weird sisters that she hopes "they take forensics".


This is the story of two initiatives in Llanelli which were founded with noble aims. One was set up to provide the town with a hyperlocal news service, while the other was conceived as a campaign for the benefit of local sports clubs.

Both have lost their way and become peculiarly self-destructive, and perhaps in their small way they illustrate what the Labour Party is doing to Llanelli as it fights to maintain its near century old control of the town.


A week ago this blog looked at the election campaign in Llannon, a ward currently represented by Council Leader Emlyn Dole (Plaid) and Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas (Lab.).

The piece (here) mentioned Alan Evans' Llanelli Online, which describes itself as a hyperlocal news website and a "one-stop shop for all your local news and sport", and was critical of the site's political bias and its reporting.

Unsurprisingly, Cneifiwr's article produced howls of protest from Llanelli Online itself and some of Alan's supporters, with a rambling response produced under a picture of a very stern looking Nia Griffith ("we are not amused"). What Nia Griffith has to do with this is not clear, but the message was presumably that Cneifiwr had (once again) offended the Labour establishment.

As regular readers know, Cneifiwr has for years worried about the state of the local press and the threat that that weakness poses to local democracy. The arrival of a new local news service would in normal circumstances be something to be welcomed, but from the outset, Llanelli Online quickly established itself as not so much a news service as a gaseous vent for the toxic fumes emanating from the Llanelli Labour Party.

There is nothing unusual about political bias in the media, of course. We all know where newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail stand. Local newspapers tend to be more cautious, on the whole. While the Llanelli Star and South Wales Evening Post are rightly regarded as being Labour leaning, they know that being seen to be out and out Labour propaganda sheets would alienate most of their potential readership.

In the case of a small hyperlocal news service hoping to attract advertisers, it would make sense to avoid overt and heavy-handed political bias, but Llanelli Online hitched its wagon to the local Labour Party from Day One.

An analysis of the site's political coverage shows that in its first two months, it ran approximately 60 stories with political content. Of those, slightly more than 50 were either cut and paste jobs of Labour Party press releases, uncritical puff pieces for Labour candidates or were written from the viewpoint of the local Labour Party, reflecting the party line on local issues. The remaining nine pieces were a bit of a hotch-potch. Siân Caiach gets three or four references, and there are a couple of reports on a visit to Llanelli by Leanne Wood and the opening of UKIP's offices in town.

That's a ratio of, give or take a percentage point, 80-20 in favour of Labour.

Cneifiwr has never pretended to be anything other than a blog written from the point of view of someone who supports Plaid Cymru, but then Y Cneifiwr is not an impartial commercial venture seeking to attract advertisers.

There are good reasons why every media organisation should espouse a set of values, and that can be done without overtly aligning yourself with a particular political party. It certainly does not bode well for the commercial success of Llanelli Online to be so closely tied to one of the most notoriously dysfunctional and toxic constituency Labour constituency parties in Wales.

A direct consequence of Llanelli Online's support for the local Labour Party is that, unsurprisingly, Alan Evans is finding that nobody else wants to talk to him, and that includes quite a few independent candidates as well as Plaid Cymru.

In a piece entitled Plaid's Silence Approach, bizarrely prefaced with pictures of David Cameron in a hoody, Harriet Harman and Danny Alexander ("Ginger Attack"), Alan attacks Sean Rees, Plaid's campaign manager, for accusing Llanelli Labour Online of political bias and not answering his questions.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Alan writes,

We do not subscribe to this view and we object in the strongest terms to such claims. We have a track record of covering local and national elections and that clearly shows that we have given equitable coverage and equitable treatment to all parties. 

For a hyperlocal news service which needs to straddle the political divide and attract advertisers, Alan has paddled way too far up Llanelli Labour's sewery creek.

But it's not just political bias which is likely to put off potential sponsors outside the Labour Party.

Evil Emlyn

Some of the material being churned out is not just biased, but bonkers fiction to boot. Take this classic which begins with the news that Private Eye reported that Emlyn Dole "was careless enough to allow an unwanted mobile home on his property" to burn down, contrary to the council's own recycling policies.

As this blog noted last week, it was strange that no other media sources reported an incident which Evans claims happened on the night of 2 January. It's the sort of story any newspaper would have loved to splash on its front page.

The reason why nobody else reported the story was that they concluded there was no evidence to back up the claim, and even that it was made up.

Alan Evans has been telling anyone who will listen that he has e-mails from Carmarthenshire County Council and the fire brigade confirming his story, and he repeats this claim in his most recent attack on this blog.

So where are these e-mails? If you can't produce the goods, Alan, less charitable minds might conclude that you simply made the whole thing up, and that would not do much for the credibility of Llanelli Online, would it?

How the article ended up in Private Eye when nobody else would touch it is not clear, but Llanelli Online gives us a few clues. Purely by coincidence, in an article published on 20 March reporting an event which allegedly occurred on 2 January - almost three months previously - Alan has a picture of Emlyn's home with a picture of what is purported to be the burned out remains of a mobile home, super-imposed on it.

"Private Eye on Leader" is an Evans classic: long, rambling and more than a little bonkers.

Having dealt with the mobile home, Alan takes us on a tour of various planning stories, including one about Persimmon Homes felling trees, the implication being that that Emlyn Dole was somehow involved. Then we have stories, denied by the council, that contractors working for the council (i.e. under orders from Emlyn) had dumped waste material, including ceramic tiles and glass, on football pitches across the county.

Next, we are told, Emlyn sent the bulldozers into Parc Howard to prepare the ground for a trampoline (see this post for an account of what was really just a cock-up by the council). Parc Howard is "owned by the children of Llanelli", Alan helpfully tells us, conjuring up images of a maniacal Emlyn Dole scattering kiddies to the four winds as he roars through the gardens on his bulldozer.

When Emlyn is not scattering waste across football pitches and destroying Parc Howard, he is neglecting his pest control duties:

There appeared to be an infestation of rats following Mr Dole’s appointment as leader with numerous Carmarthenshire residents calling for the ‘Rat Catcher’ to be brought back. One elderly couple, Dorothy McDonald and her husband were left in a mass of maggots and dead rats at their council bungalow. Sadly Mr Mc Donald passed away shortly after the couple had received help.

Rats did not exist under Labour, or if they did, they were waiting for Emlyn to be appointed leader before they knew it was safe to come out and terrorise Carmarthenshire.

Cruel, heartless Emlyn is also responsible for the mess at Pembrey Country Park and starving disabled people.

Alan goes on to accuse Emlyn Dole of setting fire to the mobile home (i.e. a deliberate act) and links this to the Jacqui Thompson story. The suggestion seems to be that Emlyn Dole wanted to deny Jacqui Thompson and her family a bolt hole after evicting Cneifiwr's fellow blogger from her home.

He ends by describing his output as "independent, investigative journalism" and calling on advertisers to help keep his service alive.

They are more likely to run a mile.

Leon Trotsky United

Another outfit which has become extremely active on social media in the last couple of months is CUSC SOPAP (Carmarthenshire United Sports Committee/Save Our Parks and Playgrounds).

Plain old CUSC as it then was first appeared when Kevin Madge was, in his words, trying to "create a level playing field" by bringing sports pitches, bowling greens, etc. in the south of Carmarthenshire in line with the rest of the county by ending massive council subsidies for their upkeep.

A lot of people, Cneifiwr included, were initially sympathetic because the County Council under the Labour-Independent coalition went about the so-called asset transfer process in a particularly heavy handed and incompetent way. When the then leader of the Plaid group on the county council, Peter Hughes Griffiths, called for a re-think and consultation, he was shouted down by Labour and told off by the council's Head of Law for trying to micromanage the Labour-led executive board.

For those who suspect Peter was indulging in political mischief making, you should know that he has spent all his adult life encouraging and helping young people to participate in sport, and football is the love of his life.

Eventually Labour backed down, and the asset transfer programme was re-launched. Difficult though the process was, there was never any good reason why sports clubs in one part of the county should receive heavy subsidies while those everywhere else have to stand on their own two feet.

Not long after these events, Labour lost control of the county council, and CUSC SOPAP, as it was now calling itself, morphed into a shrill and fanatically pro-Labour, anti-Plaid version of Woolfie Smith's Tooting Popular Front, complete with leather coats and Lenin caps.

CUSC SOPAP is run by a tiny group of activists, although they like to claim that they represent sports clubs (and now parks and playgrounds) across the county. In the same vein their Twitter logo also incorporates the logo of the Llanelli Herald, suggesting that they are endorsed by that newspaper, although it seems doubtful that they ever asked for permission.

Carmarthenshire being a small world, it will come as no surprise to learn that the revolutionary cadre in CUSC SOPAP are also buddies of Alan Evans, and readers of Llanelli Online may by now have spotted the link to those stories about glass and ceramic tiles on football pitches and Emlyn Dole's evil masterplan to flog off Parc Howard just as soon as he has bulldozed the place.

This in turn links into a narrative Llanelli Labour has been busily pushing ever since it lost power, and social media are full of people like Rob James, the new boy from Neath, singing from the same hymn sheet.

A bit like that other unofficial Labour hit squad in Llangennech, CUSC SOPAP is doing Labour's dirty work while Nia, Lee Waters and the rest look the other way. The other week the Llanelli Labour Party even put out a brief statement on Twitter saying that CUSC SOPAP, with its aggressive tactics, was nothing to do with the Labour Party.

Here's an example of the sort of campaigning being conducted by CUSC SOPAP on social media at the moment:

Other lows from this crew include an attack on the wife of a Plaid candidate in the county council elections.

Whether CUSC SOPAP actually represents any sports clubs is an interesting question, but it is unlikely that any respectable club would want to be associated with this sort of activity.

Just as the strategy being pursued by Llanelli Online of trying to be a commercial venture while being a mouthpiece for Llanelli Labour is likely to prove to be self-defeating, those with a genuine interest in sports must be asking themselves why a group ostensibly set up to lobby and campaign has degenerated into an unofficial troll squad for Labour.

It is fair to say that nobody is expecting Labour to win power at County Hall next Thursday, and that Labour is extremely unlikely to find itself running the county council for a very long time to come, and yet CUSC SOPAP has put all its eggs in Labour's basket.

A campaign group which genuinely cared about sports clubs and parks would be careful to make all the friends it can and avoid alienating everyone outside the Labour Party. But it seems CUSC SOPAP is more interested in playing politics.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Here's the line-up so far:

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru

Neil and Christine Hamilton (UKIP)

David Darkin (Labour)
Jonathan Edwards was recently once again in the news for being one of the most active MPs in Parliament, and the Plaid group in Westminster were the hardest working Welsh MPs.

Neil Hamilton, famously named a liar and a cheat by The Guardian, comes to us with a glowing testimonial from Labour Party members in Llangennech.

"They were lovely, genuine and a bit nutty in the nicest possible way.  ....So far he has done exactly what we have agreed and they are both checking with me and Jacqueline [Jacqueline Seward, Labour candidate in next week's council elections in Llangennech, Ed.] before saying or doing anything", said Ms MB.


David Darkin is currently appearing in Mother Goose as Labour candidate in Elli ward, Llanelli.

Friday 28 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: The Independents

The choice confronting voters in next week's county council elections is even more fraught with danger than usual if their pencil hovers over candidates describing themselves as "independent".

There are at least three kinds:
  • "Official" Independents (with a capital 'I') who sit and almost always vote together as a bloc;
  • Unaffiliated independents, the Norman Nomates of local politics;
  • Siân Caiach's People First candidates who this year appear on the ballot paper as independents.
As usual, quite a few of those standing as independents will also be closet Tories, Labour supporters or even Kippers, such as Gethin James, standing in Ceredigion as an independent although he is a prominent member of UKIP.

It's all a little reminiscent of the Aberporth North Minehead by-election in this old Monty Python clip. The only surprise is that Gethin has not re-named himself Bethin Bames, Bindependent.

But independents come in all shapes, sizes and flavours, and the Carmarthenshire Independents will emerge from next week's elections as a very different group from the one we have known for so long. There are likely to be fewer of them, for one thing, and gone are Meryl Gravell and Pam Palmer who dominated the group for so long.

Pam, who always laughably described herself as non-political, was the group leader, and one of the interesting things will be who takes over. Cneifiwr is putting 50p on Giles Morgan, the Prince Charles of Carmarthenshire's Independents.

A recent piece on this blog which mentioned Edward Thomas, the Independent standing for re-election in Llandeilo, attracted some critical comments from Edward's supporters, but the very mild criticism of the Independents which produced that response stands.

Here's why.

All councillors, whether they are backbenchers or members of the Executive Board (i.e. cabinet), have two principal roles. The first is to represent their wards and tackle all of the local issues which people want action on, from dog poo to blocked drains and planning applications. The second is to be a member of the wider council and to participate in decisions on matters which affect the whole of the county, such as education, the environment, social care, housing, regeneration and the Local Development Plan.

It is that second role that Independents struggle to fulfil because they do not have an agreed, coherent and co-ordinated approach to policy. Or if they do, they won't tell voters because they don't publish a manifesto.

One former Carmarthenshire Independent famously used to boast that he never had a policy in his life.

And yet, ever since Carmarthenshire re-emerged from Dyfed, Independents have sat at the top table with responsibility for matters on which they have no stated policy. The result in Carmarthenshire has for years been to surrender democratic control to the undemocratic rule of Mark James.

Leighton Andrews' proposed reforms of local government failed, but that does not mean that reform is not needed. Nobody should serve in a council cabinet unless they have signed up to a manifesto telling voters what they plan to do with that responsibility.

Ironically, Llandeilo also provides us with another graphic reason why voting Independent may not always be in a community's best interests.

By far and away the most serious problem confronting the town is air pollution, and nice as Edward Thomas may be, an independent backbencher was never going to be in a position to do anything about that.

The agreement to build a bypass for Llandeilo came about only because Adam Price and Plaid Cymru worked hard behind the scenes to cut a deal with the government in Cardiff, and that in the face of opposition from the likes of Lee Waters for Labour.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Local News and Parc Howard

A prerequisite for any democracy to function properly is a healthy and diverse media, and what we have here in Wales is neither healthy nor diverse. We rely overwhelmingly on right-wing British newspapers with little or no interest in what is happening in Wales, and the remnants of the traditionally Labour-leaning local press. What Alun Davies (Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language) terms our "native" media are growing weaker, although it is far from clear what he thinks needs to be done to address the problem. More accountability, but on no account should broadcasting be devolved to Wales and be made accountable, would seem to sum up the minister's latest pronouncements.

Increasingly voters rely on social media to find out what is happening locally and in the wider world, and all too often what they are served up is the same toxic mix that you get from the Daily Mail and even less reliable sources.

But the political parties themselves have a responsibility to try to ensure that local issues are aired in local government elections. With easy access to the social media, which is where most voters will after all come into contact with the parties and their candidates, there is no excuse for not engaging with the public on genuine local issues.

But not if you are the Labour Party in Llanelli, it seems. Tribal to its fingertips, the only thing that matters to Labour in Llanelli is the Labour Party.

Take a look at the party's official Twitter account, for example (click here).

A striking feature of Llanelli Labour's output, its message to voters, is how little the party has to say about Llanelli or issues of local concern. An analysis of the last few days shows that 60% of the constituency party's output relates to places in England, with the north-west of England featuring most heavily. Out of 50 tweets which feature a place, Llanelli received only 8 mentions, and nearly all of those were pictures of Labour activists out canvassing.

Here is a breakdown of places featuring in the constituency party's Twitter feed and the number of times they have occurred:

The Wirral 3
Oxford 2
Nottingham 2
Calder Valley (Yorkshire) 1
Moss Side (Liverpool) 1
West Ham (London) 1
Llanelli 8
Leeds 1
Pelenna (a ward to the east of Neath) 1
Flintshire 1
Tredegar 1
Ashfield (Nottingham) 1
Swansea 5
West Lancashire 2
Cardiff 1
Merthyr Tydfil 1
Anglesey 2
Tyneside 1
Leicester 4
Stalybridge (Manchester) 2
Manchester 3
Worcester 1
Lancaster East 1
Salford 1
Norwich 1
Scotland 1
Oldham 1

Llanelli is on level pegging with Greater Manchester. Strangely, nowhere else in Carmarthenshire gets a mention, not even - or especially not - the Labour Party in the Amman Valley, or the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Constituency Labour Party, to give it its official name.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour Party (Twitter account here) is a rather different beast. Apart from a few tweets in support of Ammanford United RFC, the bulk of its output is re-tweets of messages put out by Dyfed Powys Police and generic stuff put out by 'Welsh' Labour telling us that Carwyn is wonderful. Again, there is almost nothing in the way of original local material, which is perhaps not surprising given that the account is run by someone who lives in London.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire does not get a look in either, although all three Labour constituency parties would, you might think, be working together to try to get Labour candidates elected to the county council.

Not a bit of it.

If you think the last 48 hours were unrepresentative, go back further in time, and you will see that the picture is no different.

The mayoral election in Greater Manchester gets almost as much attention from the Llanelli Labour Party as do the council elections on its doorstep.


One of the very few local issues to have featured in Llanelli Labour's campaign, after it decided to go quiet about the bigotry and division it had stirred up in Llangennech, is the future of Parc Howard where the party has been trying to create the impression that the park will be closed to the public and flogged off.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is worth remembering that debate about the future of Parc Howard began when the Labour Party, in coalition with the Independents, put the park on the council's Asset Transfer List, and covert discussions took place with some mysterious potential investors.

In fairness much of the credit for uncovering this rather shady business has to go to people like Bill Thomas (deselected by Labour for his pains). Remarkably, it was going on while Labour was running the council.

But Labour lost control of the council after the coup against Kevin Madge less than two years ago, and Llanelli Labour has since been busy trying to rewrite history, most recently using Llanelli Labour Online to trumpet its new alternative "facts".

One of the first things Emlyn Dole did as Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council was to pledge and promise that the Parc would be retained in public ownership, but he was unable to abort the asset transfer process initiated under Labour until the date for expressions of interest on asset transfer in Llanelli had passed.

That happened eventually with the Labour led Llanelli Town Council stating that they had no interest in taking on Parc Howard. 
Parc Howard used to be a pretty vibrant placed with a cafe and a community farm, etc., but by now it has lost much of its former glory. Plaid first put a budget in place to ensure restoration works on the Mansion House, and the council began a series of meetings with interested parties to consider a means for creating an income for the Parc which would help to realise the £100,000 plus that is required annually to maintain the Parc. 

Those meetings are said to have gone well and have generated many proposals, including setting up part of the mansion as a Wedding/Events Venue, reopening the Cafe, making the Mansion House a home for the Heritage Six project, relaunching the Museum and strengthening the ties with Llanelli House and Library.

Under Emlyn Dole, the council decided that it should also invest in the Parc itself and set aside £150,000 for two new attractions, namely a new children's play area already installed and widely welcomed, and a new Web attraction for the youngsters the first of its kind in the UK.

But to err is human, as they say, and the council messed up work on the Web attraction. Council sources say that it was placed too near to the Taylor's house situated on the edge of the Parc, and thanks to an administrative cock-up, no planning application was submitted, even though it was required. 

The Web attraction will now be moved to a more suitable location, and it is the council's intention to use the very small site where the groundworks are already in place for another attraction more suitable to its location.

The council has also proceeded to ask for expressions of interest on the Wedding/Events venue. Part of this is the long overdue requirement for a car park, and the council says it has shown those plans to interested parties, including the Parc Howard Association, the Friends of Parc Howard, the Cultural and Historical Committee and members of Llanelli Town Council. 

Council sources say that the intention now is to bring forward a planning application after the election which will allow full public consultation on the car park, and to further pursue plans for the Mansion House itself. 

The parc will remain open to the public and in public ownership.

Monday 24 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Supporting local business

There are still 10 days to go before polling day, but the growing popularity of postal voting means that most of those who are likely to vote have already done so.

Percentages will vary from ward to ward, but it is safe to assume that people who request postal votes are more likely to vote than those who haven't. The result is that for the rest of this campaign, candidates are chasing the votes of probably only 15% of the voters in their wards.

This may help explain why Tegwen Devichand and Jeff Edmunds have started campaigning outside their own wards, and have now popped up in Five Roads where veteran Independent Jim Jones is defending Glyn ward.

Standing for Labour is Stephen Donoghue, who not long ago left Plaid to board Captain Corbyn's sinking ship, while Plaid's candidate is John Williams. There is also a Tory, James Hogg.

There are no local opinion polls, but nobody in their right minds is expecting Labour to take back control of the county council after 4 May, and the likelihood is that they will be reduced to a small rump. The only hope, and it is now a vanishingly small one, that they have of getting back into power is in coalition with the Independents.

Llanelli Labour's tactics in this election seem almost to have been designed to ensure that nobody, least of all the Independents, will want to go anywhere near them after 4 May.


Something which should annoy all voters are the meaningless claims put by so many candidates on their election material - and yes, all parties are guilty.

Someone once said that an effective test for bullshit is to insert the word not in a sentence. If the result is something nobody would ever say, then you are being served up with a pile of fresh, steaming manure.

"I will stand up for my community", is the classic.

Closely followed by "I support local business".

Here is Labour's leaflet for the county council elections in Llannon:

Local printers in Cwm Gwendraeth and Llanelli will wonder what supporting local business actually means.

Meanwhile, here is Labour's leaflet for the community council elections, this time printed in Llanelli. Only some of the mistakes are underlined, but voters in this strongly Welsh-speaking community will be surprised that Labour does not even know how to spell the name of one of the villages they hope to represent:

It is perhaps significant that the word "respectfully" has not been translated into the Welsh text.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Carry On in Carmarthen

Ifan Morgan Jones, lecturer in journalism, author and generally the fount of all knowledge, was pontificating on Twitter yesterday that there were a lot of 'unvetted candidates' saying silly things on social media, and he recommended that they should lock their accounts.

There are several things wrong with this. Firstly, wouldn't the world be a dull place if our would-be masters only spoke and tweeted on message, and would it not be a profoundly dishonest and undemocratic way of conducting election campaigns? And if Ifan is right, wouldn't it be sensible to wire candidates' mouths shut and remove all writing materials from them for the duration, because some of the daftest things are said and written in real life away from social media websites?

Take Charlie Evans, the young Tory hopeful in Carmarthen South, for example.

Five weeks ago at the beginning of his campaign he got into a spot of bother for producing English-only campaign literature and then talking a lot of nonsense about Welsh-medium education.

In the ensuing row, he locked his Twitter account and had a major spring clean before letting the public back in.

Charlie is in his early 20s but really belongs back in the 1950s. A committed evangelical Christian who is against same sex marriage; wants to see overseas aid cut; rushes to the defence of the rich for paying more tax than the rest of us; wants to see high earners paying less tax; thinks that free movement is an "absurd fantasy"; opposes sex education in schools and worships Theresa May, while retweeting fawning messages congratulating Mrs W on turning 91.

Marriage is for procreation only, says Charlie, who would like to stop people who love each other from tying the knot for any other reason, just as he would like to deny young people living in the UK the right to go and live and work in another country.

He's gone from nappies to being a fully-fledged Felix Aubel without passing through Aubel's pinko lefty phase.

It's the sort of thing Tory columnist Matthew Parris was talking about in The Times last week, except that Charlie is under 30:

But you don't need Twitter to say stupid things. Introducing himself at a hustings in Carmarthen, Charlie Evans gave his name and told his audience that he worked in the lingerie department of Marks & Spencers. "So, ladies, if you would like to come along for a personal fitting...."

If knicker sales at M&S in Carmarthen go into a sudden decline, this may explain it.

And there we have our Tory candidate. A sort of evangelical Leslie Phillips with intolerant views straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook. Ding dong, ladies!

Gwynfor for Labour!

Equally bonkers are Matthew Thomas and Julia Ault, a Labour duo in Camarthen West next door.

Gwynfor Evans won a sensational victory at the Carmarthen by-election in 1966, taking the seat from Labour. He fought all his life for the vision of a Wales free to govern itself and choose its own destiny. He was both a nationalist and an internationalist. Mahatma Gandhi was a major influence in his thinking.

The Labour Party employed a succession of dirty tricks against him, and he was convinced that Wales could never progress under Labour. Fifty years on, and Wales remains one of the poorest parts of Western Europe, the main difference being that we now have a partly devolved Labour government, with Labour MPs still firmly opposed to transferring power from Westminster.

Against that background, and knowing that many voters in Carmarthen will be acutely aware of who Gwynfor was and what he stood for, you would not imagine that the Labour Party would try to claim Gwynfor Evans for themselves.

You would be wrong.

Gwynfor was a pacifist and would have been horrified by Labour's decisions to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would have deplored the creeping militarisation of public life under Blair and Brown now being pursued enthusiastically by the Tories - all those march pasts, new war memorials, commemorations and pageants. But no, the real jingoists are Plaid Cymru, according to Matthew Thomas and Julia Ault:

Perhaps this is all part of Labour's cunning plan.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Llannon (Updated)

Llannon is a two member ward, currently represented by Emlyn Dole (Plaid), the council leader, and Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas.

Joining the battle are Phil Williams for Plaid; Dot Jones for Labour; Rob Owens (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and Alun Owens (Independent).

Someone's got to do it, but leading a county council at a time when local government finances are under huge pressure is a thankless task, and the legacy left by previous Labour and Independent administrations does not help matters. One of the most toxic gifts bequeathed by Meryl and Kevin Madge is the Jacqui Thompson case.

In the recent court case in which the chief executive, Mark James, was hoping to be given the green light to force an immediate sale of the Thompons' family home, his counsel told the court that Mr James's damages were his to do with as he pleased. He was not bound by an agreement to pay the damages over to the council, and could stuff the money in the gutter if he wished.

The report presented to the Executive Board when it met back in January 2012 included the following words:

The Head of Paid Service has confirmed that he is not motivated by a wish to benefit financially and that accordingly should his action be successful any damages awarded to him will be paid over to the Authority and will not be kept by him.

It is hard to reconcile that commitment with stuffing the money in the gutter, and Private Eye has picked up on this, erm, slight discrepancy.

Emlyn Dole will have been as surprised and dismayed as anyone when he heard the "gutter" remarks, and earlier this week issued the following statement to the Western Mail:

"The decision made by the previous council administration five years ago to indemnify the Chief Executive’s counter-libel action indicated that he would pay any damages awarded over to the council. Having investigated the matter, I understand that this undertaking is not legally binding. However, once the Chief Executive has recouped the substantial costs which he personally incurred in pursuing the damages awarded him by the judge in the counter-libel hearing, he may wish to consider what should happen to the money awarded in damages – including paying it over to the council. One thing is certain, the money will not be “thrown in the gutter” – an insensitive off-the-cuff remark made on the spur of the moment by his legal counsel in reply to an inquiry by the judge.”  

The BBC is understood to have been interested in following this story up, but was prevented from doing so by the rather daft purdah rules which apply during an election campaign.

Unlike public service broadcasters, the rest of the media is not bound by purdah rules, and you might think it would have been picked up by the local press, the story being of more than passing local interest.

One of the newest arrivals on the Carmarthenshire scene is Llanelli Online, which also markets itself as Carmarthenshire Media and Carmarthenshire Online. To describe this rabidly pro-Labour website as a news outlet would be pushing things a little too far, as much of its output rather obviously comes straight from Labour's campaign team.

Who is funding Llanelli Online is not known, but with diddly squat in advertising and no subscription income, plus start-up costs, it is hard to see how Alan Evans, the editor (and everything else) is managing to put food on his table.

Alan, a fervent admirer of Saint Tegwen and her daughter, Sharen Davies, was until recently employed by the Herald group, and it is an understatement to say that he is not a fan of Emlyn Dole.

A couple of months ago a short snippet appeared in the pages of Private Eye alleging that there had been a mysterious caravan fire in the grounds of Emlyn's home. This took many of us by surprise, not least because there had been no mention of the story in the local press.

It turns out that some of the local papers had looked at it and decided not to touch the story with a bargepole because it was fake news dreamed up by Alan Evans. A picture purporting to show the burned out remains of the static caravan was in fact an old rubbish tip.

Whether Alan was also behind Private Eye's cockeyed report on the Llangennech school row is not known, but friends of the satirical magazine have advised it to wear rubber gloves when handling material submitted from Llanelli in future.

Incendiary rubbish

Also hoping to retain a seat on the county council is Labour's Kim Thomas who briefly acquired notoriety when she described plans to phase out the English stream in Llangennech as apartheid. She subsequently went on to make even more extreme comments in an edition of S4C's Y Byd ar Bedwar, questioning the value of Welsh-medium education, despite being governor of a Welsh-medium school.

This was by far Kim Thomas's most spectacular contribution to local government during the last five years; normally she sits in complete silence in the council chamber. Strange then that you will not read a single word about any of this in her election leaflet which is notable for a few vague and questionable claims about her achievements and some very badly written and edited Welsh - perhaps she should have asked the pupils at Ysgol Cross Hands for help.

First up on her list of "achievements" is a claim that she successfully stopped an incinerator from being built on the outskirts of Cwmgwili.

This relates to a bizarre application submitted by a company called Clean Power Properties. As this blog noted at the time, there were major flaws in the application:

Hooking up a plant of this size to the National Grid would not come cheap, but perhaps the biggest question hanging over the project is what would happen to the heat, not least because the site is miles from the nearest centres of population, Ammanford being the nearest.

In reality, the project was never a flier, and it was rejected by the council's planning committee, never to be heard of again.

Kim also says she has campaigned for jobs for local residents in Lidl and a new retail complex at Cross Hands, where jobs stacking shelves and operating tills would presumably otherwise have gone to Oompa Loompas flown in every day to Pembrey Airport.

Rather more vaguely, she supports local business (though not all local retailers might agree with that one), and affordable housing. As well as motherhood and apple pie.

Update 29 April

The comment below was posted on the Llanelli Online site run by Alan Evans in response to this blogpost. The author, who gives his name as Kevin Francis, is a member of CUSC SOPAP. To save time and effort, Cneifiwr's response to the comments are highlighted in bold.

Kevin has been complaining that Cneifiwr was refusing to publish his comment. It would have helped if he had sent it in the first place.

Otherwise the text is exactly as it appears on Llanelli Online and Twitter.

" To clarify a few points for you and your readers on the piece in your Blog on Saturday 22nd April.
Alan Evans was never employed by the Herald Group. He is and always has been a freelance journalist. He placed many high standard pieces with the Herald who currently owe him over £5,0000 for this work . He is pursuing the  Herald  for that money so that he can indeed “put food on his table for the four children.” Perhpas you could mention that to your readers.
[Cneifiwr has never mentioned Alan Evans' children anywhere. The use of inverted commas implies that this was a quote taken from the blog, and as such it is a crude attempt to smear the author of this blog. Ed].
One thing is for certain if it were not for Alan the Herald would be unknown in the Llanelli area. The quality and bite of the pieces Alan wrote were an asset to the paper.
The Mr James business.
In the Western Mail article Cllr Dole who was not in court  said that the ‘gutter’ comment was an off the cuff remark by James’s counsel.
Is this true as far as you know and if so what is your source for such a remark?
[The remark was contained in a statement Cllr Dole made to the Western Mail, and was published by that newspaper. Cneifiwr verified the statement. Ed]
Alan has clearly stated that the judge asked the barrister Mr Spackman to go away and speak to Mr james and clarify where the money was going to. His return and response was the gutter remark. One can justifiably assume that that remark had been related to Mr Spackman by Mark James himself.
Llanelli Online was the only outlet to pick up on this as they were the only outlet in court on the day apart from the BBC. The others stayed away. Why do you think that was?
[You should direct that question to the BBC and other media organisations. However, Alan Evans' apparent sudden interest in the Thompson case is interesting given his close links with people such as Tegwen Devichand and other senior Labour figures who approved the unlawful libel indemnity and went on to defend Mark James to the hilt. Perhaps Alan has changed his view of the case and will now start asking Tegwen Devichand why she acted as she did. Ed].
You state the story on Cllr Doles Caravan has taken many of you by surprise, and no mention of it in the local press. That is because the local press would not print it, including the Herald. If you want to see the evidence then why not give Alan a ring. I am sure he would be delighted to share this with you as he tells us he is sharing it all again but with more detail and bigger pictures.
[We wait with bated breath. Rather than publish more dubious photographs, why does he not publish the e-mails he says he has from the county council and MAWWFIRE? Ed.]
 Is your attack on Alan bourne out of your bias toward Plaid Cymru? An accusation you have made against Alan in regards to the Labour Party,also your attack on his integrity and his family life are pretty defamatory and no one would blame him for taking you on given that he has the evidence to the contrary, we have also been told, The Herald was party to this including emails from the fire service and the council. Perhaps you should print that.
[Printed. Again, at no point has this blog ever mentioned Alan's family.Ed]
You also make assertions about Private Eye and Llangennech. It was other Herald reporters who fanned the flames there. Look back at Alan’s article and you will see a different reporting style. It gives both sides not a nationalist rant.
[See Jon Cole's response to these accusations on Llanelli Online. Ed].
I can assure you and your readers that Alan has given Plaid in Llanelli every oppurtunity to react to accusations made against them. There continued silence is very strange.
[Plaid Cymru and other non-Labour sources are free to respond or not, as they see fit. Cneifiwr's understanding is that many of them view Llanelli Online as pure Labour propaganda and will have nothing to do with it. Ed]
Alan is working tirelessley to get News and Sport to the people in this area and welcomes everybody no matter what there political views are to get in touch with him and share there opinions and stories.
Alan has no one backing him,he is doing this on his own and should be applauded for this work.
Kevin Francis.
[Good luck on that one. After a couple of months of relentless Labour propaganda and some frankly ludicrous reporting, including suggestions that Carmarthenshire has been hit by a plague of rats since Emlyn Dole was appointed leader of the county council, he's got quite a lot of bridge building to do if he wants to be seen as a credible and trustworthy source. Ed]


Election Tour 2017: Dafen (Updated)

Two posts today. Here is the first.

Update 23 April

The smear on the Dafen village website and one of the comments on this post urging Rob to give up show that panic is beginning to set in on the Labour side.

The suggestion that Rob is not qualified to give defibrillator training was not only false, but irresponsible. Most of us will have seen defibrillators hanging up in public places, and unless you have had training, you probably think that they require specialist knowledge to use. They are in fact designed to be used by anyone who can read and follow a few simple step-by-step instructions and perform CPR.

I had training a couple of years ago, and although I could not tell you exactly what to do from memory, the key message I came away with is that they are very, very simple to use.

The effect of the anonymous message is to suggest that defibrillators can only be used if you have had training, and that is something that could cost lives.

But if you have not been trained, please, please make the effort. It could be the most important thing you have ever done.

As for the comment left by Anon on this blog saying that Plaid is just using Rob and will spit him out when done is an insult to the man himself. Rob is his own man and is campaigning on his own merits.


One of the wards to watch when votes are counted in this year's county council elections will be Dafen, a two horse race between Tegwen Devichand (Lab.) and Rob Evans (Independent).

Rob is a larger than life, proud Welshman. A die-hard rugby fan who is also a registered paramedic and a serving member of Llanelli Rural Council, he is determined to give the 75 year-old veteran a run for her money.

The result looks set to be close.

Unsurprisingly, the dirty tricks brigade are out, and an anonymous post has appeared on the village website questioning whether Rob is qualified to give training in how to use a defibrillator.

Rob has been giving training in Felinfoel, where he lives, and has promised to give free training in  Dafen, regardless of the outcome of the election, as the village is due to get its own public access defibrillator.

Recently while out canvassing Rob came across someone who had just had a stroke in their home, and thanks to his intervention, that person has survived.

He is also campaigning for Welsh medium Cylch Meithrin provision.

A victory for Rob would be a big step on the way to changing the toxic nature of politics in Llanelli.

Friday 21 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Llandybie, Llandeilo and a little bit of Llanelli (Updated)

Update 21 April - Parliamo Italiano!

As Cllr Anthony 'Whitey' Davies prepares to head off to enjoy the almond blossom in Italy, it seems that some residents in his ward are hoping that it will be a case of addio (farewell) rather than arrivederci (goodbye until we meet again).

Planning application E/34305 would re-open a landfill site at the former Abernant Farm for the dumping of materials after extensive taxpayer funded remediation and restoration works. As one resident put it,

The proposal would adversely affect residents of Heol Ddu, as 3,100 loads of material would be carried by 32 tonne/9.1m long 8 wheel tipper lorries along the very narrow lanes through Heol Ddu to reach the site (lorries exiting through the housing developments along Nant Y Glyn Road in Glanaman). The dumping would continue for many years, operating six days a week.

Among the statutory consultees listed are three county councillors: Anthony Jones (Lab.) and Anthony 'Whitey' Davies (Ind.) for Llandybie, and Dai Jenkins (Plaid) for Glanaman.

Locals threatened with having their lives made hell for years to come naturally assumed that their councillors would respond and put the case against the proposed development forcefully.

It seems that only Dai Jenkins did, with neither of the Llandybie councillors bothering.

Stronzo! as they say on Montalbano.


It is almost a cliché to say that Carmarthenshire is a county of contrasts; it is in its way a mini-Wales with its post-industrial, semi-rural communities in the east, Llanelli in the south and the overwhelmingly rural north and west with their market towns.

That mix is reflected in the election campaigns now underway. Compared with the bitter trench warfare which is going on in Llanelli, fuelled by the peculiarly toxic nature of the Labour Party there, the local government election campaign in the rest of the county is a much quieter and more civilised affair.

But before we leave Llanelli for the moment, news came in yesterday that Labour has reported two more opponents to the police for errors in the imprints on their election material. One of those is Theressa Bowen (Ind., Llwynhendy), while the other is understood to be Huw Richards (Ind., Felinfoel).

Dyfed Powys Police will breathe a sigh of relief when election season finally ends because the Labour Party has clearly decided to shore up its campaign by using threats of legal action and criminal prosecution to intimidate its opponents as it spews out bogus claims of harassment, hacking and abuse of candidates' partners and children.

It is significant that Llanelli Labour is directing its attacks at Plaid and the Independents while developing a much more cosy relationship with the Tories and UKIP.

What many voters do not realise is that a good proportion of the claims made by Labour candidates that they have gone to the police are complete fabrications, while others, such as Rob James's bizarre attempt to rubbish his attendance record in Neath Port Talbot, should constitute wasting police time.

But let's leave the madhouse and head north, where some quieter but nevertheless very interesting contests are taking place.

One of those is Llandybie, where Anthony 'Whitey' Davies (Ind.) is going on holiday to Italy, saying that he booked it a long time ago, having apparently forgotten that the date of the election has been known for the last five years.

Nobody can remember the last time Cllr Davies made a contribution to a council meeting - or even if he has ever spoken.

Also representing Llandybie is Anthony Jones (Lab.) who has traditionally been able to take his support for granted without wasting too much shoe leather. His pompous delivery in County Hall never won him many friends, and on the odd occasion in the past he threw a few spanners in the works of his neighbour and colleague Kevin Madge, fuelling speculation that he had ambitions to lead the Labour Group.

All the indications are that Anthony will be spending a lot more time with his family after 4 May.

Llandybie is represented by two councillors, but Anthony Jones is the only Labour candidate. UKIP is represented by Nigel Humphreys (Isle of Wight), while Plaid is fielding Karen Davies and Dai Nicholas, both from the village. Karen's background is in the health service, while Dai has very extensive experience in marketing, business and project finance.

Also standing are Sandra Morgan (Tory) and another independent, Pat Jenkins.

Another interesting contest is taking place not far away in Llandeilo, currently held by Edward Thomas (Ind.). Also standing are a Tory and a LibDem, but this is in reality a two horse race between Keri Lewis for Plaid and Edward Thomas.

Edward Thomas is a nice enough man, but in common with most of his Independent colleagues he has little more to offer than being a local man, with no wider vision for the county beyond Llandeilo.

Keri is young by county council standards, energetic and very much of the new generation of Plaid candidates. This is the first time he has stood for election.

Labour is not bothering, which should come as no surprise considering Lee Waters' idiotic opposition to the town's £50 million bypass scheme on the grounds that, in his view, it made a mockery of Leanne Wood's green credentials.

Keri is a Chartered Environmentalist and understands the science behind the pollution which has afflicted Llandeilo for so long. In particular he has highlighted the threat to the long-term health of children in the town caused by particulates which make their way from the lungs into the brain and other organs of the body.

In an online debate on the bypass with Lee Waters (Barry Island, Lab.), it is fair to say that Keri won a slamdunk victory over the blundering AM whose time at the IWA seems to have convinced him that he is an expert on everything from the Welsh language to environmental science.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Complaints galore

Rob James who succeeded in dislodging Bill Thomas, one of Labour's best and most widely respected county councillors shortly after shipping up in Llanelli from Neath, recently sent Cneifiwr an e-mail marked 'Formal Complaint', giving this blog three days in which to respond.

He writes, "In your blog post, entitled 'Fear and Loathing in Llanelli', you have referenced a number of statistics on my attendance record in Neath Port Talbot. I believe this information to be incorrect, and this information has now been used in a Plaid leaflet. I would appreciate it if you could provide evidence of these figures and where you obtained them."

Rob was elected to Neath Port Talbot in May 2012 and remains a councillor for Bryncoch South ward to this day. According to the council, his home address is 11 Talbot Road, although according to his nomination papers in Carmarthenshire, his home address is 8 Old Road, Llanelli. 

Residents of Bryncoch South may be wondering whether their councillor really lives where he says he does and whether, like them, he has been paying council tax in Neath Port Talbot.

Having been elected, Rob made his mark by turning up to one of the first meetings wearing shorts, a T-shirt and dark glasses perched on his head. The old-school Labour leader, Ali Thomas, was said to have been apoplectic.

Things went downhill from there, with increasingly rare appearances, and a fellow councillor said he could not recall a single contribution to a meeting by Rob during the first four years of his term in office.

Residents of Bryncoch South began to notice that something was not right, and in September 2016 a member of the public wrote to the council asking for details of Cllr James's attendance record.

In response, Neath Port Talbot council said that it did not publish attendance statistics for its councillors, although it was committed to open and transparent local government, because there was no statutory requirement to do so. It was however trialing some new software which it hoped would enable it to publish attendance statistics from May 2017.

In the meantime, the council decided to respond to the request under the Freedom of Information Act, and Mr Rhys George, the council's Electoral and Democratic Services Manager, provided Cllr James's record for the period from May 2012 to April 2016.

For the period from April to October 2016, Cllr James's record has been pieced together by trawling through the attendance records contained in meeting minutes.

The results are shown in the following table:

Click to enlarge
Having stood down from his various committee appointments in late 2016, Rob James's attendance record has shown a significant statistical improvement, simply because he has had far fewer meetings to attend.

In addition to complaining to Y Cneifiwr, Rob has said that he has also gone to Dyfed Powys Police with a formal complaint.

To save a lot of police time and expense, we can only hope that the HM Constabulary refers Rob back to his council's Electoral and Democratic Services Manager.

In a separate move, Rob James says he has complained to Dyfed Powys Police that a leaflet distributed by the two Plaid candidates in Lliedi, Colin Jones and Dyfrig Thomas, did not contain an address on the imprint, as required under electoral law.

Turning to his followers on Facebook, Rob has also found time to complain that Plaid has subjected both him and his young family to "hateful attacks on an almost daily basis", and that Plaid has been spreading lies about him.

The "lies" presumably refers to  Neath Port Talbot's attendance statistics. "Attacks on his young family" would be deplorable if there were a shred of evidence to back up Rob's claims, but readers will search his social media timelines in vain.

Welcome to the world of post factual politics.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Swindon (Updated)

Update 20 April

A reader writes,  "I thought that I should mention that back in about 1960, there were some (two I think) railway coaches hitched together sideways, to form a bungalow, which were on the opposite side of the road and in close proximity to Penllwyngwyn Farm.  When travelling on the bus from Pontarddulais to  Llanelli, the bus conductor always shouted out "Swindon" when approaching the railway carriages".


As readers may be aware, Dai Lloyd's recent attempt to give a measure of protection to historical place names was vetoed by the Labour Party, with Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Infrastructure, declaring that the proposals were "premature".

Meanwhile, cultural vandalism continues unabated, with ancient farms, cottages and even geographical features being given twee new names. One example brought to Cneifiwr's attention is Pencraig in Llangoedmor, Ceredigion, a former farm now converted into holiday cottages which was recently re-named "Owl Farm".

Pencraig is by no stretch of the imagination difficult to pronounce even if you don't know a single word of Welsh, and there is even a small eponymous village over the border in Herefordshire which has somehow survived through the centuries with its name unmolested.

Perhaps it is time we renamed Ken Skates.

Now reports have come in from Llangennech (yes, afraid so) where Gary Poumista Jones, one of Labour's two candidates for the county council, is complaining that Plaid has blocked attempts to have a lane named "Heol Swindon".

A little known fact about Swindon, the rather unscenic English railway town, is that you can usually pick up Radio Cymru there - in fact the reception is better than in parts of Ceredigion. It was also the birthplace of Diana Dors.

Unfairly or not, Swindon has acquired a reputation for being a rather drab sort of place, and so why anyone would want to name a lane in a Welsh village "Heol Swindon" is a mystery.

And it's not the only mystery because the lane in question is known as Heol Penllwyngwyn, which is also the name of the adjacent main road. As far as the Royal Mail and the County Council are concerned, the address of all the properties along the lane (post code SA14 9UG) is Heol Penllwyngwyn, and the council's planning department has said it has received no applications to have the name of the lane changed.

The two current county councillors for Llangennech also say that nobody has ever raised the matter with them, and they have never blocked any proposal to change the name of the road.

Purely by coincidence, there is a very popular pub close to Llangoedmor called Y Penllwyndu, next to a crossroads where in days gone by rogues and vagabonds would be strung up, a fact commemorated on the pub's famous sign.

Fortunately the worst that can happen to Gary Poumista Jones is that voters will send him off with a resounding raspberry.