Wednesday 27 June 2018

Tory Time in Saron

Update 28 June

Last night saw another meeting of Llandybie Community Council, normally an event which resembles the Carlsberg Complaints Department in those ads of old. Having had the dubious pleasure of Rob James's company for the recent AGM, it was Aled Crow's turn this time. Like most community council meetings, watching paint dry is normally more exciting, and councillors have been left scratching their heads at their sudden popularity. Perhaps the LibDems will turn up for the next bash.

Unlike Rob, Aled can at least claim a family connection with Llandybie council because his uncle, Meirion Bowen, was a member representing the BNP a few years back.

While all this was going on Rob James was out canvassing, with one lady voter of mature years telling him to stuff his leaflet where the sun doesn't shine.

That'll be a "don't know" then.


Back in 2002 Theresa May famously told the Conservative Party Conference that some people thought that the Tories were the "nasty party", to the stunned disbelief of her audience whose understanding of the world is limited to whatever the Daily Mail or Daily Torygraph have to say.

At the time many observers made the mistake of thinking that this was Theresa criticising her party and that what she really wanted was a softer, cuddlier and altogether kinder political movement, but her long stint as Home Secretary and more recently as a strong and stable prime minister make the Tory party of old look almost pleasant.

Fortunately so far Carmarthenshire has remained steadfastly resistant to the Tory message, although almost 11,000 fans of the not so strong and stable Theresa voted for Havard Hughes in last year's general election in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, their excuse presumably being that they were just following the orders of the Daily Mail and were blissfully unaware of just how inept and dire Central Office's choice of candidate was. Voters who had the misfortune of seeing Havard in action in the hustings and in what was surely one of the most cringeworthy broadcasts ever aired on S4C (and that's saying something), still bear the psychological scars.

With hindsight, the reason why Havard Hughes won so many votes probably had a lot to do with his strategy of staying as far away from the punters as possible, and the same went for his party leader.

Fast forward to the sizzling summer of 2018, and it's all change. The Tories have managed to find a local candidate to stand in the forthcoming Saron by-election for Carmarthenshire County Council, and they have been out in force trying to drum up support.

Like everywhere else, the Amman Valley has moved on, but Tories remain a rare breed in the area. Finding enough people to nominate a Conservative candidate could be tricky, so it was fortunate that  the Tories were able to track down five people willing to sign the nomination papers for that nice young man in a blue suit in the local Young Conservatives Club, otherwise known as the Ael y Bryn care home.

Step forward young Aled Crow who clearly has ambitions which stretch way, way beyond Saron. If his Facebook page is to be believed, Aled used to like nothing better than an evening out on the Felinfoel down at the Welfare Hall.

But as we all know, horizons and waistbands tend to expand over time, and Aled is now rubbing shoulders with some very interesting people - the sort of people most of us would run a mile to avoid.

Here's our boy with the fragrant Alun Cairns who has just killed off the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project which would have given a massive boost to the local economy, while putting the finishing touches to a gala event to rename the second Severn crossing in honour of HRH, in accordance with the wishes of a very silent majority.

Thanks to Cairns, rather more people will now think of the bridge as "Pont y G*nt".

Scroll down Aled's Facebook page, and you will be treated to many more pictures of Aled posing with popular figures, including Michael Gove, Carmarthenshire's very own Mark James and the reptilian Gavin Williamson, Theresa May's new Defence Secretary who appears to be as deeply loathed within the Conservative Party as he is outside it.

Somewhat incongruously rubbing digital shoulders with Gavin Williamson is a smiling Mr Igor Shchegolev, an Aide (note the capital 'A') to President Putin, and Vlad's former Minister of Communications and Mass Media.

How times have moved on from the days when would-be councillors would sell their grandmothers to get a mugshot in the South Wales Guardian. 

Saturday 23 June 2018

A four horse race in Saron - updated

Following the death of the late Alun Davies (Plaid), a by-election has been called for Saron ward on 19 July.

Standing for Plaid is Karen Davies, Alun's widow. Karen is a well-known figure locally and works as a pharmacist. She has been a community councillor in Llandybie since 2012.

As noted in the previous post, Alun was a popular local figure who rose above tribal politics and got along with his political opponents. It was therefore shocking that both Labour and the LibDems contacted County Hall within hours of his death to demand a by-election, showing utter disregard for the feelings of Alun's family and friends.

Also throwing their hats into the ring are a LibDem, Caryl Tandy, and a Tory hopeful called Aled Crow.

The last LibDem to be elected to the County Council was Ken Rees in Llanelli who subsequently defected to UKIP.

There may be some very elderly readers who remember seeing a Tory being returned to Jail Hill, probably in about 1870, but the Amman Valley, with its memories of what Thatcher did to the local economy, is unlikely to change the party's fortunes, especially as the Conservatives, with the help of Jeremy Corbyn (a "jobs first Brexit"), are now paving the way for the destruction of what is left of Welsh industry up in the north-east.

That leaves Labour. Readers will recall that the new Labour leader, Rob James, paid a surprise visit to Llandybie Community Council a couple of days after Alun's death, presumably to familiarise himself with the territory.

Conventional wisdom had it that Labour would field Anthony Jones, the former councillor for Llandybie, but it seems that Anthony was unable to convince the Momentum cadres who now run the party from Llanelli of his ideological purity.

The red rosette has instead been pinned on Tom Fallows who recently went down to a massive defeat in the Iscennen by-election for Ammanford town council, triggered in response to "popular demand" by the Independents. Unfortunately for Tom and the Independents, popular demand did not translate into votes, in Tom's case despite or possibly because of an extraordinary last minute attempt by Rob and the editor of the SWEP, Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star titles to smear senior Plaid figures in the county.

Meanwhile back at Llanelli HQ, Rob is rumoured to be plotting to oust Lee Waters AM when selection time comes round.

The prospect of being asked to choose between Red Rob and Murky Waters is almost enough to make you feel sorry for rank and file Labour members in Llanelli.

Well, almost.

Friday 1 June 2018

Saron and Llandybie

Many people in Llandybie and much further afield will have been saddened to hear of the death of Alun Davies on Monday at the age of just 60. Alun served his community in various roles for many years. Most recently he was a popular county councillor for Saron ward, a member of Llandybie Community Council, a former chair of the Plaid Cymru Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency party and a tireless campaigner and fund raiser for Wales Air Ambulance.

The tributes to him describe Alun as a genuinely nice guy who was liked and respected by his political opponents, a big and gentle man who was a familiar sight at countless public meetings.

Alun's death will mean a by-election, and normally political foes could be expected to show respect by waiting a couple of weeks, at least until the funeral, before triggering an electoral contest, but Rob James, the newly installed leader of the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council ("elected" by tossing a coin), clearly has little time for such niceties. Constrained only by the fact that Monday was a bank holiday, he hit the ground running on Tuesday, insisting that the council kick-start the electoral process.

Polling day will be 19 July, and the nominations process will begin before the funeral.

Saron ward returns two members, and in last year's council elections Alun topped the poll with 810 votes. Carl Harris (Plaid) came second with 679 votes, while Labour trailed in third and fourth places with 588 and 439 votes respectively. The two Tory candidates came in a distant fifth and sixth.

It is worth recalling that 2017 was a good year for Labour in general, but the party went backwards in most of Carmarthenshire outside Llanelli, despite being in opposition.

We will not have to wait long to find out who Labour will field, but one possible contender will be Anthony Jones who lost his Llandybie seat to Plaid last year. Prior to that setback, Jones was one of the bigger and noisier beasts in Labour's Carmarthenshire menagerie, with ambitions to become leader of both the Labour group and the County Council itself, unsuccessfully playing Brutus to Kevin Madge's re-interpretation of Kenneth Williams' performance as Caesar.

"Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!"

If Anthony Jones does throw his hat into the ring, he will be hoping that voters in the Amman Valley have forgotten his time on the council's planning committee where he managed to incur the wrath of both Ammanford Cricket Club and the residents of Penybanc.

It remains to be seen what Labour will do in the case of the now vacant seat on Llandybie Community Council. The party could choose to stand back and allow Plaid to co-opt a new member, or it could force another by-election as it did recently in Iscennen ward in Ammanford.

Readers will recall that Labour went down to a heavy defeat in Iscennen after forcing an unnecessary election, with the unsuccessful Labour candidate arguing on this blog that his party had triggered an election in response to popular demand. Cough.

The otherwise clean Iscennen campaign was marred a day before voters went to the polls when Rob James and the editor of the Carmarthen Journal, SWEP etc. launched a ham-fisted and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to smear his political opponents.

Despite that drubbing, the indications are that Rob James will insist on forcing a second contest in Llandybie because the Labour leader unexpectedly travelled up from Llanelli to attend the AGM of Llandybie Community Council on Wednesday.

In common with most community councils, Llandybie rarely gets to welcome members of the public or the local press to its meetings, and such was the surprise of councillors at the sight of the increasingly Gothic looking Labour leader, that he was asked in what capacity he had decided to grace them with his presence. "As an observer", came the reply.

Clearly Rob still has some way to go to becoming a household name even in his own household because when he temporarily left the room, the chair of the council AGM for the evening, Cllr Anthony "Whitey" Davies, asked his fellow councillors who the surprise visitor was, despite sitting opposite the Labour leader in the chamber of County Hall.