Wednesday 1 November 2017

Toxic Tales - it's Llanelli Labour again

One unexpected outcome of the previous post was that it prompted Lee Waters AM to announce that he is planning to move to his constituency after two years of merely pretending to live there. Rather more inevitably, the post produced a flurry of tweets from those twin Llanelli Labour foghorns, Rosemary Emery and Gary 'Poumista' Jones.

Lee Waters was once again mightily pissed off after his latest appearance on this blog, with Rosemary and Gary Poumista Jones rushing to console their boy.

"Don't worry Lee, everyone he attacks gets elected", bragged Poumista on Twitter.

Cneifiwr would never be foolish enough to imagine that this blog has the power to make or break political careers. All it can hope to do is draw the attention of its readers to the activities of some of our elected representatives and their supporters.

Politics has always attracted crooks, creeps, and hypocrites, as Martin Shipton's new biography of George Thomas reminds us, but the last few years have produced a bumper crop of rotten apples, extending from Trump all the way down to Boris Johnson ("you're a nasty piece of work", said Eddie Mair memorably), Nathan Gill, Neil Hamilton and, right at the bottom of the electoral muck heap, the likes of Gary 'Poumista' Jones in Llangennech.

Like his more successful peers in that list, Gary Jones is a clown, or what Jungians would call a trickster whose mask conceals a divisive and manipulative personality which plays on our basest instincts in the pursuit of power.

Small wonder that Jones should thrive in the Labour Party in Llanelli, which while it has many decent members, has developed a peculiarly toxic culture characterised by bullying, intimidation, lying and dog whistle tactic which set it apart from the other mainstream political parties and the independents.


Gary Jones spends a huge amount of his time on Twitter, and his phenomenal output includes gems such as this:

Jones has never denied helping to plaster the village with hate-filled posters ("Don't let Plaid dictate and kick out the English speaking children"), and he campaigned alongside the likes of Michaela Beddows, Jacques Protic and Neil Hamilton against transitioning the school in Llangennech.

That campaign eventually failed, despite repeated attempts to rekindle the row, and Gary Jones went on to get himself elected to Carmarthenshire County Council.

It is in his capacity as county councillor that Jones has secured a seat on the board of governors of Ysgol Llangennech despite being fundamentally opposed to the school's ethos. In a recent exchange on Twitter he announced that he would like to reverse the decision on the school's status taken earlier this year, adding for good measure that he would like to make all schools dual stream:

It's worth pausing for a minute to consider what that would entail. Quite apart from the implications for the Welsh language in Carmarthenshire and the fact that Jones's pipe dream runs directly counter to the policies of Carwyn Jones's government, it would lead to years of upheaval and turmoil and waste scarce resources on an almost unimaginable scale.

It would be tempting to dismiss this as the ravings of a fringe lunatic, but the Labour Party has made Gary Jones a member of the county council's powerful Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Committee.

Those who hoped that Llangennech would finally be allowed to put the school row behind it reckoned without their new county councillor who is clearly determined to use his new position to fight on. 

His latest idea is to call for Welsh place names in Llangennech to be made bilingual, no doubt to cheers from Michaela.

Cneifiwr put it to him that a better option might be a bilingual Gary Jones, to which he replied that he was happy as he is. Ignorance and bigotry are bliss.

Describing himself as an unconventional county councillor, he recently informed his Twitter followers that he had begun learning Greek which he clearly thinks is more useful than the language  of so many of the people he now represents. Not to mention the school where he is now a governor.

Jones followed this brief exchange with an invitation for this blog to comment on a planning application to store dangerous chemicals at the former RN site in Llangennech, now known as Stradey Business Park.

Stradey Business Park

Caebrwyn recently covered the application to store hazardous chemicals on her blog here, and Cneifiwr has written at length about the business park before (here, for example).

Before we turn our attention to planning matters, it may help Gary Jones to understand a little of the history of this site.

This is a strange and disturbing tale, which began back in 2007 when Labour was running the county council in coalition with Meryl's Independents. As Cneifiwr's blogpost from 2014 noted, the deal was sufficiently odd for it to attract the attention of the Western Mail at the time. Then as now important questions remain unanswered.

What is clear is that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark James, helped two private individuals "known to some of the officers" acquire a valuable piece of public real estate for a remarkably low price. After he had persuaded councillors to approve this pig in a poke arrangement, it was revealed that the investors were David Pickering, then chairman of the WRU, and a Mr Nigel Lovering.

Among the mysteries are why the county council acted as a broker between the MoD and the two men, and why Mr James decided to get councillors to give it a legal seal of approval when delegated powers could have been used.

Part of the deal included an undertaking to let the local football club use a small part of the very large site, a promise which was later broken.

At any rate, the re-named Stradey Business Park went on to win some hefty grants from the county council, and a retrospective planning application for a massive array of solar panels was waved through.

While all this was going on, the park received a steady stream of visitors from County Hall, and many of them were happy to pose for the cameras in their eagerness to be associated with a deal that would deliver "jobs, jobs, jobs".

The Labour Party was especially keen to emphasise its association with Mr Pickering's park, as we can see from this family outing where just about the entire Labour group on the council, as it was at the time, turned out with Nia Griffith. For whatever reason, Keith Price Davies was not there. Perhaps he had more sense than to associate himself with a chemical compound made up of Mark, Meryl, Pickering and secretive business dealings.

A family outing

That brings us to planning application S/36316 to store arsine and phosphine on the site owned by Messrs Pickering and Lovering through R and A Properties, which is the name of the entity making the application.

Arsine and phosphine are both highly toxic, and phosphine is spontaneously flammable if exposed to air. A quick Google search using the words "arsine accident", for example, yields 120,000 results, including many reports of fatalities. A similar search on phosphine yields even more horror stories.

The application form is rather thin on information, but in response to a question how many people could be affected by a major accident, the applicants coolly state "approx. 100". The real figure may be somewhat higher because there are both residential properties and a care home close by.

The form does not ask for details relating to security, the conditions under which the chemicals would be stored, how long they would remain on site, transport arrangements, whether or not the applicants have been in discussion with the Fire Brigade, etc., etc.

The business park covers a huge area, and is easily accessible to the public. Security is minimal.

We will have to wait to see what the planning officer's recommendation is, but residents have good reason to worry because, as we have seen, R and A Properties has some influential friends and supporters, some of whom are well known to Poumista.

For his part, Jones appears to be peddling the notion that all this has something to do with Plaid Cymru.  Not only did he invite this blog to comment on the application, but he is hawking a letter round to residents asking them to contact their "Labour County Councillor" (Llangennech has both a Plaid and a Labour county councillor), and their Labour community councillors. Unsurprisingly, this same letter has appeared on Alan Evans' LlanelliOnline website under the heading "Public Notice".

What is clear is that for Gary Jones this issue has less to do with the risks posed to local people than an opportunity to play politics. Four legs good, two legs bad. Or in this case, good old Labour versus wicked everybody else.

A fo ben bid bont, runs the old Welsh proverb, but Gary Jones would not understand the words or the sentiment.

Burry Port

Next stop is Burry Port, or the "Saint Tropez of South Wales" according to Stephen James, a former Independent county councillor and serving town councillor.

Well, perhaps not, but we must tear our thoughts away from those cavorting topless sunbathers and head for the Town Council chamber where the feathers have been flying of late, with accusations of bullying and intimidation and complaints winging their way to the Ombudsman for Public Services. The sort of thing normally associated with Labour in Llangennech and the Labour group on Llanelli Rural Council, in fact.

The town council is currently comprised of 9 Independents, 8 Labour and one Plaid Cymru member. The lone Plaid councillor votes with the Independents, the alternative being a 9-9 deadlock.

Readers may recall a mention in the previous post of a strange article written in Alan Evans-ese on LlanelliOnline, the hyperlocal Llanelli website which is very much hoping to persuade Lee Waters to support a grant application so that it can continue to churn out Labour propaganda publish news stories.

That article, which attracted the attention of our old friend Michaela Beddows (see the comments section), said the Plaid councillor, Cllr Peter Freeman, had made allegations of "outrageous behaviour" on the part of the Labour leader, Cllr John James.

For reasons best known to itself, LlanelliOnline insists on referring repeatedly to Cllr Freeman as a "co-opted" councillor, even though he was returned in the same way as all other members.

Needless to say, Cllr James was unable to shed any light on anything that he might have done to merit those accusations, and LlanelliOnline said it was unable to clarify matters either, leaving readers to assume that this was all much ado about nothing, and that the Plaid councillor must have imagined it all. The piece then went on to rubbish a journalist who had come to report on these imaginary goings on:

Mr Freeman claimed to have invited an impartial journalist (note taker) from the Carmarthen Journal, Grace Powell (not working for Carmarthen Journal). Attendees told Llanelli Online that they saw Cllr Freeman and the note taker hugging prior to the meeting.

A couple of days later, LlanelliOnline published a second article (here) setting out the views of the Labour leader on the town council. John James is also one of the town's two (Labour) county councillors.

James rubbished suggestions that he had been involved in organising a rent-a-mob at a meeting held on 21st September. The 40 or so individuals who packed the meeting (an enormous turn-out for any community council) were just ordinary members of the public wanting to see their councillors at work, he claimed. Then in the next breath he said it showed how strongly local people felt attached to the council's former Technical Services Officer (TSO), Lee Fox, although it turns out that Mr Fox had been TSO for less than a year.

Rather than rely on LlanelliOnline, let's turn to a statement put out by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor in a press release. Not only is the statement a model of clarity, but it confirms an account of events received by Cneifiwr from a different source.

From   The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.

As Mayor and Deputy Mayor we have maintained a silence in the press and social media in the belief that the responsible thing to do was to deal with confidential staff issues within the Council. 

Unfortunately Cllr. John James’ recent comments, and the recent Star headline, cannot go unchallenged.

At the heart of the problem is the decision of a member of staff to resign after eleven months in the post. When he informed the Mayor of his decision he was asked to take 24 hours to reconsider his decision and to also talk to his family. The following day he informed the Mayor that he had decided to go and asked that he be allowed to leave straight away.

It must be made perfectly clear that nobody asked him to resign, in fact the Mayor asked him to consider his actions carefully when he wanted to resign.

Since that time there has been repeated insistence by the Labour Group that discussions be held in public about his resignation despite the strong advice from the Town Clerk, the County Council Monitoring Officer and the Ombudsman that this should not happen. We must also point out that in the last five years when Labour were in control and Labour Mayors chaired the Council meetings they ended almost every meeting of the Council by excluding the public and the press so that we could deal with staff and ex-staff issues.

By insisting that we comply with the advice, and that we remain professional and responsible, the Independent Councillors have suffered harassment, personal attacks and verbal abuse. Some Independent Councillors have also reported to us that they have been intimidated and bullied by people who attended the Council meeting on 21st September. It was for that reason that Police presence was felt necessary at the following meeting on 13th October.

Following his resignation the Council took the opportunity to change the requirements and the status of the job to better fit the growing demands on the Council and advertised the job accordingly.

A month after he resigned and following some intense interventions on his behalf by some Labour Councillors, the former member of staff informed the Council that he had changed his mind and would like his job back. However, this was a job that no longer existed following the changes by the Council. He was informed that the job had been advertised, meaning that it was open to anyone to apply.

The former member of staff clearly did not like the Council’s answer and subsequent events suggest that he commenced a campaign with his supporters to intimidate and force the Council to give him what he wanted. It is sad that some Labour Councillors are putting pressure on the rest of us and disrupting the normal work of the Council.

Members of the public and the press are welcome to attend Council Meetings but as a result of the behaviour of some at the meeting held on 21st September the Town Clerk deemed it necessary to issue ‘’Guidance on the admission of the public and press to Council meetings’’ to those attending the next meeting.

There are however occasions when the public and press are excluded as Cllr John James, a former Mayor, is fully aware and has himself excluded them in almost every meeting during his tenure.

Finally during the meeting of the 21st September Cllr John James as the leader of the Labour group on the Town Council attempted to intimidate the Mayor into holding a public discussion on an ex- staff issue while the former member of staff was present in the audience. In his unwise and unprofessional attempt he carried out an attack on the Mayor and the Town Clerk which was unprecedented, disrespectful and insulting. His behaviour was unacceptable and does not represent the professional way in which the Council should conduct its business. It was for this reason that the meeting was suspended in order to ensure that the Council’s reputation was protected.


There is not much to add to this account apart from a few further details.

Mr Fox and his wife are, as they are perfectly entitled to be, Labour supporters, and along with Cllr John James, Mrs Amanda Fox is now both a sitting Labour county councillor and town councillor.

At the meeting on 21 September, Cllr James laid into the Mayor, cheered on by the gallery. When the Mayor proposed going into closed session to discuss what was after all a sensitive employment matter, it is claimed that Cllr James turned up his verbal assault on the Mayor, telling him to look him in the face.

When the Mayor tried to ask the town clerk for advice Cllr James said "Don't look at her".  He even said if the Mayor wanted advice he should call in the building caretaker.

After an adjournment the Labour group returned and agreed to proceed in closed session,  but then Cllr James named one of the Independent councillors and said that he had a complaint against Lee Fox, who it should be remembered was sitting in the public gallery. At that point the Mayor decided that he had had enough and suspended the meeting.

It is alleged that the bullying and intimidating behavour continued after the meeting, with one of the Labour supporters calling the Deputy Mayor a "F***ing Dictator" A female Independent councillor was surrounded by 4 or 5 men angrily shouting and verbally abusing her.

The lone Plaid councillor then called for an extraordinary meeting of the council because, clearly, the issue of the Technical Services Officer had not been properly discussed, and unsurprisingly this made him a target at subsequent meetings.

Just as with the meeting on 21st September, it is alleged that the Labour Party put out a call to its supporters, urging them to turn up in force again.

Matters turned nasty at a second subsequent meeting, when the Independent group voted Cllr Freeman on to the council's various committees, much to the evident displeasure of Cllr James, who is alleged to have said that Cllr Freeman was not fit to be a councillor.

In completely unrelated news, WalesOnline last week reported that Labour in Swansea has been caught inviting supporters along to council meetings to ask questions which would enable the council leader to give answers that show the Labour Party in a good light.

Well, fancy that.

Radio Rosemary

Rosemary need not detain us long; if receiving an unending stream of recycled tweets praising Lee Waters, Tonia Antoniazzi and Nia Griffith interspersed with stuff churned out by Labour's press office excites you, subscribe to her Twitter feed now.

Having said that, her latest offerings include some slightly less on-message re-tweets from Labour Against Anti-Semitism and another group called JVL Watch which has just been blocked by another account called Jewish Voice for Labour.

Prepare to enter a Pythonesque world where the Judean People's Front is engaged in a class struggle against the People's Front for the Liberation of Judea which is in turn fighting the Judean Popular People's Front. This is a world where nothing is as it seems, where unlike Ronseal's products the label and the contents have nothing to do with each other, a world where sinners are saints and abusers are victims - provided they are members of the Labour Party.

Labour Against Anti-Semitism has come up with a conspiracy theory according to which Jared O'Mara, the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam who has been suspended by the party pending investigation into allegations that he made a string of homophobic and misogynist remarks, was in fact the victim of a Zionist plot.

Whatever your views about Nick Clegg, it is fair to say that the people of Sheffield Hallam, standards in public life and the quality of UK political discourse in general were the losers when O'Mara took the seat from the former LibDem leader.

We will almost certainly never know if Mossad was behind O'Mara's (temporary) fall from grace, but what is indisputably true is that O'Mara left an extremely unpleasant trail of comments on social media deriding women and gays, and resigned from the House of Commons' Women and Equalities Committee only after his hypocrisy was exposed.

But O'Mara is Labour, and therefore a victim.


Jac o' the North, said...

Labour really is the ugly face of Welsh politics.

In the old days Labour activists would have defended thuggery and intimidation as 'fighting for the proletariat' or similar bollocks, but now, with socialism reduced to the silly sentimentalism we see in the @Poumista handle, it's all about power and patronage.

But we should we expect no more at local level when the message comes from the 'Welsh' Government that power is an end in itself and should be used for no better purpose than to build up a crony Third Sector funded by public money that will help Labour hang on to power?

That is 'Welsh' Labour in operation. Sod the people, use power to hang on to power. And most important of all, to stop someone else achieving power and exposing how corrupt and useless Labour was.

stan said...

A crackingly good read as usual, Cneifiwr. I wasn't familiar with the story of the former RN site and how it came to be acquired and developed. My wife shouted from the next room "are you eating kippers for breakfast?" "No," said I. "Just my usual tea and toast. What you can smell is yet another fishy deal done behind closed doors in Carmarthen, involving the Usual Suspects."

How on earth are these people getting away with it? All the minutes, paperwork and that withheld valuation report on the site should be in the public domain, no question about it. Couldn't you ask Poumista and Councillor Rob James to take this on board, or would it likely upset too many Labour friends of theirs?

One Llanelli said...

The great Llanelli public are sensing it, attitides are shifting, the signs are there. References

1. Emery, R., Jones, G.P. A meta-analysis of Llanelli citizens who ask questions of the unionist Labour party operations in Llanelli. Twitter (2015)

2. Griffith, N. The U-turn: a political case study. Twitter (2016)

3. Waters, L., et al. Welsh Language Education and The Demogogue's Spoon. Facebook / Twitter (2016)

4. James, The Rob. A Reflective Commentary: AWOL at NPT now an expert on Parc Howard, Ammanford, Llangadog and Llanerch. Personal Goals: career progression as an AM or MP. Facebook / Twitter (2017)

Anonymous said...

When the Llangennech site dubious sale and resale deal came up in camera the Plaid local members Gwyn Hopkins and Gwyneth Thomas were all for it, spoke in favour of it and the C C Plaid group voted for it unanimously. All parties were equally fooled by the officers led by M V James who insisted this was necessary to allow trusted business men "known to them to provide hundreds of jobs and even more homes for the village". .

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @1.10. That's always the problem with these schemes - as a councillor once remarked, Mr James can be very persuasive, and when "jobs, jobs, jobs" are promised, it's a brave soul who asks questions.

Yes, Plaid councillors voted it through, and in common with everyone else, they were effectively bounced into rubber stamping a deal which appeared out of the blue. What is interesting however is that Labour embraced it so enthusiastically, as we can see from the group photo.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see the old Labour Party I grew up with in the south Wales valleys is still alive and well in Llanelli.

I had thought that things had changed for the better in the intervening years, but alas it seems that 'old habits die hard' for some people in the Labour Party.

And that Poumista you refer to, what an absolute clown.

Unknown said...

Ah Rosemary, only a couple of weeks ago she denied ever calling Plaid 'Borderline fascists' during the Llan school saga, despite the screenshot published by your good self quite some time ago!

Anonymous said...

Cllr John James who was once the chair of Plaid Cymru branch Burry Port - but then jumped ship to Labour in order to win a cushy council seat- the intelligence of an amoeba, and as intellectualy challenged as they come