Sunday 14 May 2017

Donkey Derby: Red Rum sweeps all before him

Politics is a brutal business; an ungrateful or indifferent public and criticism in the media go with the territory, but for real cruelty and treachery nothing is likely to surpass the machinations of your own party colleagues.

It seems that Bill Thomas, until last week's elections one of Labour's councillors for Lliedi ward in Llanelli, and his son Clive were recently refused entry to the party's AGM, even though Bill is still technically the Labour mayor of Llanelli for a few more days.

Bill was a hard working, respected and popular councillor, described as a "true gent" by one prominent Plaid rival. What marked him out was that he was not afraid to speak his mind, often to the discomfort of his party's top brass and senior council officers. For years he tried to highlight the folly of building houses on flood plains, and he campaigned long and hard to protect the Burry Inlet from releases of raw sewage which he believed were responsible for devastating damage to the cockle beds, and the impact that had on the livelihoods of the cocklers and the loss of species such as oyster catchers.

For his pains, Bill was repeatedly ordered to sit down and shut up in the council chamber, often by Labour colleagues, and it was ironic that on the day voters went to the polls, the European Court of Justice announced that the UK authorities were guilty of allowing pollution of this fragile ecosystem.

But despite his willingness to stand up for issues which the Labour Party and the powers-that-be would rather not have aired, Bill remained a loyal member of his party.

When he was unexpectedly deselected by Labour in Lliedi, Bill could have stood against Labour as an independent, but he chose not to.

According to reliable sources, Bill lost the selection process when a number of normally inactive members suddenly came out in support of Rob James who had just moved to Llanelli from Neath.

Although James appears quickly to have made friends with Tegwen and Co, rank and file members can have known precious little about the ambitious young man who had turned up on their doorsteps. Ordinary members would have been surprised to learn that Rob James' record as a councillor in Neath Port Talbot was less than exemplary and that he had gained a degree of notoriety in his former stomping ground for being largely invisible during his five year term there.

But perhaps that misses the point. James's victory in the selection process had nothing to do with his track record, which was nothing to boast about, and everything to do with who he knew in the party machine.

When during the election campaign a Plaid candidate published details of James's attendance record at NPT, he threatened legal action. He also made what he termed a "formal complaint" against this blog, demanding to know where the attendance figures came from while giving the impression that he was the victim of a smear campaign.

After it was pointed out to him that the figures came from Neath Port Talbot council, James was not heard from again, but he appears to have continued to proclaim in Lliedi that the figures were lies, and that both he and his "young family" were being targeted by opponents. There is not a shred of evidence to support that claim.

Rob James's decision to stand in Lliedi was vindicated on polling day when not only did the newcomer win, but he won by a country mile, beating Bill Thomas's vote in Labour's best ever year in 2012 by 237 votes on a turnover which was only slightly up from 34.9% to 39%.

As Jac o' the North notes here, if this had been a horse race, the stewards would be taking an interest in this truly remarkable outcome.  A distinctly mediocre hack with poor form was transformed into Red Rum. Where did those 237 votes come from?

But Rob's run of luck did not end there because days later Red Rum romped past Kevin Madge with almost 40 years spent in local government in Carmarthenshire to become the new deputy leader of the Labour group.

Meanwhile, the Labour vote in Rob's old ward in Neath Port Talbot suffered a dramatic collapse.


Anonymous said...

Bill was too truthfully verbal/vocal . But a l9ad of voters say they do not understand how labour had the highest votes ever . Maybe a survey should be done on postal votes who actually did vote labour ? Devichand Bowen Richards Caiach were out . Who caused the most public embarassment to council ? Richards was in running for leader of indys with farmers votes so it says it all . And visitors recently westminster and wag .

Anonymous said...

A very cocky young man . Swoons around and talks the talk which he obviously cannot walk the walk like a few others atatched to him . Labour Llanelli are a laughing stock with the idiots they have in there now . Some were even in the backward class at school yet claim to be professional buisness women . Dew dew

Anonymous said...

With the usual Labour Party duplicity -look out Jeff Edmunds you may find that you are next year defending your post from this "young" man PS Is he actually living in his ward or is he staying in a HMLC }house of multiple labour councillors }

Anonymous said...

The way in which the Labour Party dealt with Bill Thomas has been nothing short of shameful. With both Bill and Sian Caiach sidelined from their seats at County Hall, hands must have been rubbing in glee. Free of those pesky people at last! How dare they question the most honest and transparent council in Wales!

Anonymous said...

Could you confirm what sort of AGM this was please? Llanelli CLP has not had one recently so there was no 'party' AGM. In any event there are no CLP meetings during election time.

Jac o' the North, said...

I submitted a FoI request to Carmarthenshire County Council asking how many postal votes were cast in Lliedi and how those votes were distributed among the 7 candidates.

The response was the expected: "we do not hold information relevant to your request as the law requires us to mix the postal vote ballot papers with the ballot papers from polling stations before we separate into candidates, hence we have no way of knowing which postal voters voted for which candidates".

A strange system, open to corruption, and criticised many times in recent years by judges and others as postal voting corruption has been exposed and shown to be the norm in certain communities.

There is no doubt in my mind that Labour in Llanelli - and elsewhere in Wales - is controlling the postal vote to its own advantage and gaining the postal votes of people who may not have wanted to vote Labour.

In certain wards in Llanelli there is the added factor of the Polish vote, to which Labour has access through Labour members' control of the Polish-Welsh Association.

For one of the directors is Janice Williams, Rob James's predecessor in Lliedi. The other director is Jeff Hopkins, agent to the town's former Labour MP Denzil Davies. The third person of note is Halina Ashley, who acts as interpreter, being Polish herself, and of course, a Labour Party member.

But why be surprised - this is how 'Welsh' Labour has always operated. And now, as support falls away, the need for such corruption becomes even greater.

Anonymous said...

Then how was postal box already counted before some got to the verification and boxes from polling stations had not arrived ?

Stan said...

In reply to Anonymous 9.45
"or is he staying in a HMLC }house of multiple labour councillors } "

I've seen comments along these lines before. But it's certainly true that back here in Neath, a certain local address was listed as Rob James' when he was a councillor here. The same address is also listed as the home of a newly elected Welsh Labour councillor representing the Cimla ward, by the name of Adam McGrath.

Could that be your "HMLC" I wonder?

Anonymous said...

Rob James had been tipped as a successor to Nia Griffith as Llanelli's next candidate for MP. Thanks to Theresa May that's gone down the drain as Corbyn generously offered his sitting MP's the right to stand again without formal re-selection for this surprise snap election.I'm sure we all wish Rob well for 2022 and Jeff Edmunds good health in the meantime.

jeff3 said...

oh dear blair left much to much greed in this party the true labour people get thrown out greed it seems is plenty full throughout wales

Anonymous said...

And fozia akchtar is telling people she is standing for mp next against rob james . Hysterical . She will be shortlisted ofcourse as labour rules say chose atleast one woman one ethnic minority . But she will never get selected .