Saturday 18 November 2017

Gesture politics

It's been a very long time since Cneifiwr found time to watch a webcast of Carmarthenshire County Council's monthly meeting of full council. The Independent benches are a shadow of their former selves, and there are a lot of new faces on both the Plaid and Labour benches.

Labour had submitted a motion calling for the rainbow flag to be flown over County Hall on 1st December every year to mark World Aids Day.

World Aids Day is the initiative of an organisation set up in 1988, and according to its website, "it’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness".

Plaid put up an amendment pointing out that the internationally recognised symbol for Worlds Aids Day is a red ribbon, and several of its councillors argued that flying the rainbow flag, a symbol celebrating LGBT rights, would serve only to reinforce old misconceptions that HIV and AIDS affect gay men only.

Cllr Carl Harris reminded councillors that most AIDS and HIV sufferers in the UK were heterosexual, and he might have added that worldwide gay men make up only a small minority of people with AIDS or HIV. Among those affected are thousands of people in the UK given contaminated blood imported by the NHS from the US, including haemophiliacs.

Flying the rainbow flag would send out the wrong message, but he offered the Labour group an olive branch and said he was happy to consider other options, including trying to do something practical to help AIDS and HIV sufferers in Carmarthenshire.

As the camera slowly panned the chamber we were treated to the sight of a lot of councillors wearing red or white ribbons, or both. One of the new intake of Labour councillors was so festooned with symbols that he could have been mistaken for a Christmas tree.

Cneifiwr mischievously found himself longing for the bad old days when Cllr Pam Palmer, Abergwili's answer to Alan Partridge, would have felt compelled to stand up and contribute, but we had to make do with poor old Jeff Edmunds instead.

Jeff, sounding even more lugubrious than ever, admitted that all this rainbow, ribbon and colour stuff was something that had passed him by until he had had it explained to him the night before. He agreed with both the motion and the amendment, and wished that somehow they could be brought together.

In practical terms that would have involved Labour withdrawing its motion and taking up Cllr Harris's offer of a meeting to come up with something a bit more sensible, but it was not to be.

Having said that he supported the Plaid amendment, he then voted against it.

The Plaid amendment was then passed after Labour insisted on calling a recorded vote which involved the chief executive calling out the names of all councillors and asking Mrs Rees Jones to do her sums. That was another ten minutes of our lives we will never get back, and Labour inevitably went down to a heavy defeat.

Readers with longer memories than those on the Labour benches will recall that the flying of flags over County Hall has been the subject of controversy on a number of occasions in recent years, including a refusal by the council, then run by Labour, to fly the rainbow flag to mark pride celebrations back in February 2015.

Mr James will not be moved, it seems, and we are instead treated to the sight of the Union Jack being hoisted on numerous feast days to celebrate various birthdays and anniversaries relating to the Windsor clan, including the birthday of somebody called the Countess of Wessex.

This bizarre chapter left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why would Labour insist on flying the wrong symbol from the rooftops of County Hall on World Aids Day and refuse Cllr Harris's offer of cross-party cooperation to discuss alternatives, including the possibility of practical measures which would probably be appreciated a great deal more by AIDS and HIV sufferers than all the flags and ribbons?

Was this just another example of what has become known as "virtue signalling"?

The first clue as to what lay behind this was Labour's insistence on calling a recorded vote, which they knew they would lose.

Although the council's constitution is too polite to say so, the real purpose of recorded votes is to provide political ammunition. "Look at this, voters. They voted in favour of removing apple from apple pies/killing of the first born/a nuclear waste dump in Tyisha/rounding up fluffy kittens (delete as appropriate)".

On this occasion, Labour saw an opportunity to claim that wicked, homophobic Plaid had vetoed proposals to fly the rainbow flag.

If there were any lingering doubts, Cllr Gary 'Poumista' Jones weighed in on Twitter shortly afterwards:

Those familiar with Labour in Llanelli would not have expected anything else. Accusing political opponents both within the party's own ranks and on the outside of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism and any number of other -isms and phobias is deeply embedded in their culture. The only exceptions are Cymraegophobia and xenophobia, seen as vote winners.

Having dealt with red ribbons, the council then turned its attention to a second Labour motion in favour of white ribbons.....


Jac o' the North, said...

Gary Jones has himself provided ammunition by so clearly linking Aids with homosexuality. He's not homophobic, is he?

Ah! the perils of hasty tweeting.

Anonymous said...

It just goes to show that amongst the Labour ranks there is not a brain cell spare . Both Councillor Lenny & Harris spoke eloquently ,pointing out that the red ribbon is the symbol of world aids day and not the rainbow flag , the recorded vote was a sheer nonsense but what was clearly evident was the party whip of Labour - voting like donkeys because the party told them to vote .
Labour Party whips are more Stalinist than Stalin

Stan said...

On the website World Aids Day which I assume to be the Bible for these things, it relates how back in 1991 the red ribbon was chosen as the symbol to represent awareness and support to those affected by AIDS:

"They avoided traditional colours associated with the gay community, such as pink and rainbow stripes, because they wanted to convey that HIV was relevant to everyone. They chose red for its boldness, and for its symbolic associations with passion, the heart and love."

Clearly those Welsh Labour councillors you have down your way are just like those we have in NPT - thick as two short planks or will say anything to grandstand. Come to think of it - you've got one of our beauties, haven't you?

Anonymous said...

And has Llanelli Online or Llanelli Star reported Llabelli Labour's stigma? Of course not. Well done Cneifiwr

Anonymous said...

Stated from the independent bench?

Anonymous said...

If the Council wants to fly the Pride Flag then the following days would be suitable.

IDAHO/IDAHOT day in May -

Pride Week - Date not announced yet for 2018 -


The whole of February is LGBT History Month -

Anonymous said...

The Pensions Regulator Flag should have been flying years ago or was Carmarthenshire not in bed with them back in the years before the pension was changed and jobs given out in a most Cuban fashion.