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14 June 2017A MESSAGE FROM STaN
I am taking a break from column writing for a while. My apologies to anyone who may miss me.
05 June 2017Three Sheilas from Neath
Canvassing Neath East - again
It feels like Neath has delivered the Donkey vote for Welsh Labour almost since Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on one. But there are some areas that can be especially relied on to turn up trumps. One of these places is Neath East.
On 1 June 2017 Welsh Labour were there again, carrots a-plenty, knocking on doors, promising the Earth. "Remember now, we don't mention Corbyn. Plaid and the Tories are two sides of the same coin. A vote for anyone other than Christina Rees is a wasted vote and will allow the Tories to trample all over us. Only Welsh Labour can stand up for Wales".
After they had spread fear throughout the community and whipped those old plodders into a frenzy of hatred towards anything remotely Tory/Plaid related, they retired to the warm, comfortable, taxpayer-funded (but Neath Labour Party owned) office of Ms Rees to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. That's the office with a nice big flatscreen TV and large, comfy sofa, purchased out of public money. Then, they took the obligatory photo for social media. Here it is:
Team Neath - who are they?
So who were these dedicated disciples of Ms Rees? These principled, hardworking people who give freely of their time in order to convince the great unwashed that only Ms Rees and her precious Welsh Labour can lead us all into the Promised Land. I'll do my best to name this "Magnificent Seven" of Welsh Labour in Neath, based on their photo "to prove it ever 'appened".
First left - Councillor Arwyn Woolcock, who represents the ward of Lower Brynamman. Just lost his seat on the Council Cabinet where he was the Member for Finance and Corporate Services on a salary of £28,890. There is a consolation prize in that he will Chair one of the Cabinet Scrutiny Committees on a salary of about £22K per annum, likely for the next five years.
Second left - Mark Fisher. UNISON representative, employed by NPT Council. A Corbynista but prepared to play ball with Christina, who I think is confused what she is! Less than a year ago a Corbynista too, then one of the most prominent supporters of "Oily" Owen Smith until he bombed, then back under the Corbyn umbrella. But perhaps only for the next week or so......Mark was in the final three for the slot to be the Labour candidate in Aberavon in 2015, which young Boyo Kinnock just nicked by a single vote at the end. A keen Swansea City fan who benefited from a freebie from Ms Rees last year when he was gifted a corporate seat to watch Leicester City v Swansea at the Leicester home ground. Full story here:
Third from left - Jeremy Miles AM. Also in the final three for the candidacy of Aberavon in 2015, but subsequently gifted the Neath AM seat instead - something he's probably more comfortable with in any case. I'd best say no more as he's a solicitor and local Labour are already after me. His AM salary for 2017/2018 is £65,344.
Centre - Ms Rees herself. Definitely best say no more as she's a barrister. But hang on - isn't Carwyn Jones one as well? How come neither of them stayed in that lucrative profession then? Ms Rees' salary as an MP is £76,011. Carwyn picks up £142,940. Don't even go there on the expenses and pension as well. That may help explain it.
Third from right - Sheila Coleman. We'll come back to this one. I'll have lots to say to make up for the previous two.
Second from right - "Banwen Boy" Dean Cawsey, Ms Rees' office manager and also just elected as councillor representing the Onllwyn ward. Also her agent for this election. A man who has struck a rich vein of gold since leaving his post as a manager with Communities First in 2015. His combined remuneration from both publicly funded posts will give "Banwen Boy" a minimum income of £41,215 (he'll be on quite a bit more than that) rising to a stratospheric £53,315. He could well buy the whole of Banwen on that! I'd love to know how many were in the running for his job with Ms Rees and what assessments and interviews were conducted. A bottle of
Bollinger wine from Lidl for whoever can produce the job advertisement, like the one that's yet to surface for the job Ms Rees gave to her future son-in-law. His job, by the way, is now peaking at £27,876 a year. I'm wondering if they are keeping him in the background since STaN revealed who he was and started asking questions about how he got the job. His Facebook account is locked down and nothing is emerging on social media any longer.
Right hand side - Councillor Sheila M Penry, Mayor of NPT 2016/2017. One of 3 Labour Councillors representing Neath East. Prior to her year as Mayor she was Chair of one of the Cabinet Scrutiny Committees, on a salary of about £22K per annum. Received £21,438 as Mayor. Under the newly formed Council, this Sheila retains a Scrutiny Committee Chair post, for Streetscene and Engineering, so will stay on a salary of about £22K, again probably for the next five years.
I deliberately set out the remuneration that these people receive because many of the public have no idea. They get up early in many cases, clock in to a poorly paid job, one that often has poor terms and conditions, work their nuts off only to be paid a pittance in comparison to all those above. Contrast the incomes of those referred to above with, I bet, most of the households where doors were knocked in Neath East. It ought to be compulsory for anyone knocking on doors and asking for a vote to wear a badge announcing what they are already getting out of the public purse. Then we'd see those votes disappearing faster than most Welsh Labour councillors can get to a free bar or buffet.
But I digress. Now let's have that closer look at Sheila Coleman.
Coleman Communications / Sheila Coleman
Back in January 2016, Christina Rees decided she was in need of some Public Relations work. Why that should be, you'd have to ask her. She is barrister trained and qualified, has been at various times in her career an MP's secretary, a county borough councillor, a town councillor, a failed candidate for election as an AM in Arfon and for a seat in the European Parliament. Oodles of experience in the public eye, one would have thought. And since she was elected in May 2015 and was already in post for eight months, why would she suddenly need extensive PR advice? It can't have been to do with her role in being part of the mutiny against Corbyn because it pre-dated that. But whatever, MPs are a law unto themselves when it comes to spending money gifted them under the Allowances system, so employ a PR consultant and spend a total of nearly £5.4K of public money, she did.
The firm she used to provide these PR services was Coleman Communications, a local, Longford based company, actually a one woman band, run by the Sheila Coleman we see in the photo above. The odd thing is that Sheila is actually a specialist in the food and farming industry, not political PR work. But good to have advising you for all those buffets the MP and her staff get to go to then, in that they should recognise quality grub when they are served it.
The work undertaken was done over the early months of 2016, between January and March. 124 hours of PR work was claimed for, at a total cost of £5,388. Everything claimed for was classed as "PR Support" by Coleman Communications except that the last invoice (submitted by CC) also contained an item of "Media training in association with Gaina Morgan Media", £180. Ms Rees' staff were involved with this venture too.
Gaina Morgan is a former journalist, specialising in food and farming too, and is now, among other things, a TV presenter broadcasting from Bay Studios in Fabian Way. If you check Gaina's programmes on that local TV channel, Ms Rees has had numerous slots. Easy, comfortable slots, in my opinion, with a friend, or maybe she's a friend of a friend. Have you ever seen Ms Rees expose herself to a real media grilling? She should surely be at the front end of this latest political campaign. She is the leading Welsh MP in terms of positioning in Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet. Why haven't we seen her in the spotlight, being interrogated by a good interviewer on one of the main election programmes?
Take Me to Wales
Sheila Coleman and Gaina Morgan also, along with a couple of others, run a holiday service company called Take Me to Wales.
Don't bother looking this business up in Companies House because you won't find it. That's because it's registered as "Take Us to Wales Limited", where you'll find the company address is currently Woodfield House, Castle Walk, Neath, West Glamorgan, SA11 3LN. Why the "us" became "me", I have absolutely no idea.
Why did Ms Rees use Coleman Communications?
So, why employ Sheila Coleman, whose specialism is farms and food and seemingly offering "bespoke Welsh holiday trips for the discerning traveller"? And who is she? Well a search of Ms Rees' Twitter feeds soon threw up another Neath-based Coleman called "Sheila Margaret Coleman". And here she is meeting with Ms Rees, in December 2015. That's one month, actually a couple of weeks, before Coleman Communications went to work for Ms Rees.
This Coleman is, of course, the widow of Donald Coleman, the former Neath MP, who died in 1991 to be replaced by Peter Hain, now Baron Hain of Neath.
So who is the other Sheila Coleman, the one that did all that work for Ms Rees? Well, it's Donald and Margaret Coleman's daughter, named after her mother.
Questions our Neath MP needs to consider
Now I'm not suggesting anything illegal has taken place here. The works carried out by Coleman Communications have all been passed and paid by IPSA, the MPs' watchdog. But yet again it just looks bad, doesn't it? In the Court of Public Opinion, I mean. If Ms Rees was running her own business and wanted to give a mate's daughter some work, no problem. And if she wanted to appoint her future son-in-law and pay him a substantial salary, with a non-contributory pension to boot, no problem. But that's not the case here. This is all public money. So I think it's legitimate to ask the following questions:
1. Did Ms Rees know Sheila Coleman socially before this appointment was made? When did they first meet?
2. Was the work she did put out to tender, either open or selective?
3. If not, why not?
4. Why use someone whose specialism has nothing to do with politics - or was her brief actually to advise on food or farming? Was she brought in so that they knew how to recognise a good vol au vent when they were given one?
5. And while we are at it, was the job she gave to her future son-in-law advertised, as is required by IPSA, the MPs' watchdog?
6. If not, why not?
7. And if she has not followed IPSA procedure with the above, did she even advertise and follow the proper procedures for the jobs in her office now held by Dean Cawsey and Leanne Jones, both of whom are now NPT councillors as well?
Ms Rees is no stranger to the cronyism and nepotism endemic in Welsh Labour because she has benefited from it personally. As stated above, she was once an MP's secretary. Her CV shows that was between the years 1984 to 1996. Twelve and a half years in total on the public payroll in that job.
At that time she was married to Ron Davies when he was the MP for Caerphilly. I wonder if she had to compete for that job? I wonder how many applicants were considered and how tough her interview was? Don't bother with sending me answers on a postcard because I'm pretty sure I know what you'll say. And in any case, people tend to get a bit carried away when writing about Ron.
Christina Rees' election pledge to the electorate of Neath
Among the plethora of Welsh Labour and Christina Rees' election leaflets that have come through my door recently is one containing Ms Rees' pledges to the people of Neath. And the last of these reads "I will be open, transparent and accountable....".
Well, here's Ms Rees' chance to put her mouth where her money is (or something like that). Where were her staff jobs advertised, how many applied, how many shortlisted and interviewed? Let's see Ms Rees be open and transparent about how she is spending the public's money in a fashion that looks distinctly like blatant cronyism, possibly avoiding the procedures set out by IPSA as well. Simple questions to answer, I'd have thought?
The thing is, while no answers are forthcoming, it looks like there is something to hide. And then, every single time anyone who has read this looks at "Banwen Boy" Dean Cawsey, Leanne Jones, or "Shakey" - her future son-in-law, all harvesting these substantial sums of public money, these unanswered questions will spring to mind. Did these people get their jobs by competing for them, or were they gifted them because of some connection to her? Was due process as set out by IPSA followed? And why was a PR consultant who specialises in grub and cows paid £5.4K out of the public purse to do work for her? The public deserve answers.
Dealing with the shenanigans of Welsh Labour and its representatives locally has taken its toll on me. By the time I finish some articles I write, and remember they have to be researched as well, I feel like I need a good scrub. So I intend taking a bit of a break. Some recuperation and relaxation is in order. I'm sure I won't be missed by them but I promise them and others this. Like the Terminator once said, "I'll be back."
Thanks to those who have read, hopefully enjoyed and contributed.
02 June 2017The Myth of "Standing Up for Wales"
Regular readers of STaN (are there any?) will know the high regard I have for two of Wales' finest bloggers, Jac o' the North, based in Tywyn, and Y Cneifiwr, who is Newcastle Emlyn based.
Jac is presently running a fascinating piece of investigative journalism that features the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. It involves property deals and management in Cardiff Bay and a collection of other characters that is like something out of a film – or possibly a TV programme, as it's titled “Baywatch”.
And here is a link to the blog of the latter.
I would highly recommend that those of us in Neath who are being urged to vote for Christina Rees, to stop the Tories “trampling over Wales”, read the article on Nia Griffith, because there are a number of very interesting comparisons there to our former Neath MP, Ms Rees. Read the article to see how many you can find. It's dated 31 May on the blog. Particularly – you must read the excellent summary that Y Cneifiwr has produced that exposes Welsh Labour and its MPs for the sham that they are, in numerous votes that have been taken in Westminster that affect Wales. “Standing up for Wales”? What comedian thought of that one then?
I've extracted that particular section and reproduced it below. It's so important for people to see. I hope Y Cneifiwr will forgive me. The full credit for this excellent piece of work is his.
Extracted from "Nia's Last Stand" by Y Cneifiwr, 31 May 2017
And here is Labour's Westminster record on devolving more powers to Wales (“Standing up for Wales”):
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from voting on separate jurisdiction for Wales.
• Labour abstained from voting to stop the UK Government intervening in the actions of the National Assembly if it impacts water in England. Plaid voted against this.
• Labour abstained from voting to give the National Assembly for Wales powers over policing, police pay, probation, community safety, crime prevention. Plaid vote for.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from devolving powers over non-wind generating stations in Wales. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against devolving powers to regulate betting machines. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted not to devolve powers relation to alcohol and entertainment licensing. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against allowing public sector bodies to operate rail services in Wales. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against devolving powers relating to air passenger duty to Wales. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from voting to allow the Welsh Assembly to set Income Tax thresholds. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from voting to allow the people of Wales to decide whether to devolve powers over income tax to the Welsh Assembly. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from voting to devolve responsibility for the Job Centre to Wales. Plaid vote for.
• Labour and Tories voted against devolving powers relating to energy generation to Wales. Plaid voted for this.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from considering basing Welsh public funding on the needs of the country. Plaid voted for.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from allowing the Welsh Assembly to set the number of AMs it should have. Plaid vote for this.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from allowing the Welsh Government to decide on which infrastructure projects to invest in. Plaid voted for this.
• Tories voted against and Labour abstained from devolving powers over water to Wales. Plaid voted for this.
And if that were not enough, here is the record of Welsh Labour MPs on other matters:
• Labour voted with the Tories (or abstained) for the harshest of austerity measures – to slash public spending by a further £30 billion, mainly by capping welfare benefits. Plaid voted against.
• Labour and Tories voted to double the income of the Royal Family, despite austerity measures for the rest of the country. Plaid voted against.
• Labour voted with the Tories to reduce tax credit payments for the lowest paid workers in society. Plaid voted against.
• Labour and the Tories voted to cut benefits for disabled people and those with long-term illnesses. Plaid voted against.
• Labour didn’t bother to vote to ensure the Prime Minister had to take into account the objectives of Wales when conducting negotiations with the EU. Plaid voted for.
• Labour didn’t bother to vote to stop the Tories passing a law to allow the mass interception of people's communications, and the retention and use by the state of data, including personal banking, travel, and health data. Plaid voted to stop this.
If Christina Rees happens to knock on your door before 8 June, promising she will “stand up” for you in Westminster, why not run this off and give her a copy? Because from what I can see above, there's only one Party been “standing up for Wales” in Westminster. And it certainly ain't hers.
31 May 2017Labour's message - different strokes for different folks
If you've followed what I've written in the past you'll have picked up that I have a lot of time for Jeremy Corbyn and quite a lot of his politics, and little time for the negative campaigning of all parties but particularly Welsh Labour. Nor have I any time for most of the "names" within Welsh Labour. Come to think of it - I've no time for Welsh Labour fullstop.
Something that has really turned me off this particular election is the way Welsh Labour has sought to distance itself from the only decent thing within Labour at the moment (i.e. Corbynism) hedging its bets so that if he underperforms they can help do him in. If he does well they'll share in the plaudits. I don't see Corbyn mentioned in the Wales election literature. It's as if they are afraid to acknowledge his contribution yet it's his style of doing politics and his manifesto that has seen the resurgence of the Labour Party in the polls. It's got sod all to do with Carwyn and crew, that's for sure.
No-one exemplifies this hedging of bets better than our own most recent Neath MP, Ms Christina Rees. A woman that has twisted more times than Chubby Checker. A woman who has risen close to the top - but who would be fooled into believing she has done so on her ability and/or loyalty to Corbyn? He just ran out of options and even a turncoat is better than no coat at all when the weather is against you. She's the most senior Welsh Labour appointment that was in Westminster. But have you seen her up-front being on TV, being interviewed, making a speech or being grilled? You must be joking. Even the Labour Party have more sense than to give her airtime. And if you've ever seen Ms Rees being interviewed (lots of examples on the Bay TV Studios, Swansea - Facebook pages, where she is more in her comfort zone with Gaina Morgan) I think you'll understand why.
Anyway, have a look at these, which portray a little of how these Labour geographical "outposts" like Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour send out messages to try and convince their electorate to go with Labour.
It's a Westminster election, and in Wales they keep on with the mantra that it's only Tories or Labour. But in Scotland they choose to pick a fight with the SNP. Here the message is that a vote for the Tories will let the SNP in. Here it's the SNP that are the problem. They are the bogeymen (and women). And they are blatantly appealing to the Unionist vote. But the SNP can't "win" Westminster. They can only influence what will happen there.
Here the tactics turn full circle. Here the emphasis is that the Tories are the main enemy. The nationalist Plaid Cymru Party are however denigrated at every turn by remarks such as this, made by Christina Rees following the publication of Plaid Cymru's election manifesto:
The message in Wales is that a vote for Plaid will let the Tories in.
The message in Scotland is that a vote for the Tories will let the SNP in.
The Scottish people are not dealt the same scaremongering tactics used on those in Wales, about Tories "trampling over" them. The SNP, unlike Plaid, are not accused of doing the Tories' work for them.
There's an ugly, distasteful Welsh Labour campaign being conducted here in Wales and if you've received or seen the letters and recent card sent out to households by "Carwyn the Cult" you'll know exactly where I'm coming from.
I've hung on to the letter and card that have been posted here. IF Welsh Labour knock my door - which will be a first, incidentally - I shall ensure they have chance to explain why they are conducting such despicable and scaremongering tactics. FFS - Maggie Thatcher was in power over 30 years' ago. You just cannot keep using her government as an excuse for every single ill in Wales. Let's ALL take some responsibility for where we are today. Especially Welsh Labour - for a change.
22 May 2017Neath East - The Invasion of the Vote Snatchers
Team Neath were out in force in Neath East today, knocking on doors. Plenty of images posted on social media for us to enjoy, though I understand that the sack of carrots they had to give out to those obedient donkeys was kept out of the photos.
But I'm wondering where some of the Team Neath "usual suspects" are? Little or nothing is seen of Lord Hain in these parts. What of former canvassing stalwarts such as Mrs Debbie Harvey and Leighton Veale? In fact, I've not seen Mr Veale in any of the canvassing for the local election.
But at least it seems the local Neath East councillors have turned up, along with other familiar faces, including Councillor John Warman, Councillor Leanne Jones and Councillor Dean Cawsey, the latter two being employed by Ms Rees in her local office so they can hardly not show a face, can they? I also recognise Alex Sims, one of the unsuccessful Welsh Labour candidates for Bryncoch South. I do apologise for not knowing the others.
Got to say that in that last shot I can't see Ms Rees' name on those posters being carried. Any significance in that, I wonder?
Also, while that huge bag of carrots is secreted away somewhere, I've a feeling that emergency rations are kept in the basket on the front of Mrs Sandra Miller's mobility scooter. You can't risk running out when those loyal Jacks and Jennies need to be fed.
21 May 2017Fear is the key
On 16 May, Christina Rees (the latest Neath MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales) published a stinging response to Plaid Cymru's manifesto launch for the June 2017 election.
I have absolutely no idea what rift she is referring to between Plaid in Westminster and the Plaid leadership in Cynulliad but could it be connected to the fact all three Plaid MPs voted against the Brexit Bill? I do have difficulty following many of the arguments put forward by some of our Welsh Labour MPs. But whatever the supposed rift, how about this. It was posted the very same day as Ms Rees' tirade against the Plaid manifesto, bad timing as you will see:
The bloke with a head like a Martian (thanks, MP) is Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West. This is a nice photo of Ms Rees offering her support with his canvassing. Now Geraint happens to be one of those Welsh MPs who voted against the Brexit Bill. In fact he'd like to see a second referendum taking place. Other Welsh Labour MPs who opposed the Brexit Bill were:
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West); Chris Bryant (Rhondda); Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley); Stephen Doughty (Labour Co-op Cardiff South and Penarth); Madeleine Moon (Bridgend); Owen Smith (Pontypridd); and Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central)
Curiously enough, on the very day Ms Rees was railing against Plaid for an alleged Brexit split among its politicians, she was also retweeting messages in support of Kevin Brennan, Geraint Davies, Stephen Doughty (twice) and Jo Stevens. Those names familiar to you from that list above? Bang on. Every one of them is out of kilter with the support that other Labour MPs and the Labour leadership gave to the Brexit Bill. So, Ms Rees looks a bit of a bloody idiot making this point about a Brexit rift in Plaid, don't you think? As well as a prize hypocrite for happening to personally support all those Welsh Labour anti-Brexiteers, all in a day or two on Twitter. She never struck me as being the sharpest tool in the box so it's probably understandable.
Let's do the next one. "This General Election is a straight fight between Welsh Labour and the Tories". I assume she's talking about within Wales. What conceit is that! She's basically saying there's no point in voting for any other Party. It's not a straight fight between these two at all. Plaid Cymru MPs have been shown to be among the hardest working in Parliament. Labour are NOT going to be in government after the election, no matter if the people of Wales return 40 Welsh Labour MPs out of the 40 seats available. A Plaid MP, just like ANY other, will carry the same weight in terms of a vote in Parliament as one from any other Party - including Ms Rees' fear-talking Welsh Labour Party.
Plaid "cannot win the election" .....and voting Plaid "could hand victory to the Tories". Well with only 40 seats in Wales, Plaid have never been able to "win the election". You need 326 seats to do that. But neither can the SNP - so go and deliver that message to them and see what answer you get back. Hopefully the people of Wales will deliver the same answer to these arrogant, out-of-touch, Welsh Labour politicians who continue to peddle the politics of fear (of the Tories), not hope.
I could go on. I could dissect every empty and spiteful statement Ms Rees has made but I think you get the drift. It's all designed to drive fear into the electorate and to send the message only Labour can be our salvation. Same old crap I've heard for decades but regretfully some old donkeys are still gleefully taking the carrots they hand out.
Then have a read of this recent tweet put out by Welsh Labour, retweeted to give it legs by Ms Rees.
Note how all these social media statements came about within a few days of each other. Again, a pack of lies and BS, negative campaigning at its best and if you looked up the original tweet you'd see the responses were overwhelmingly highly critical of it. Leanne Wood tried to put the Tories into government in Wales - twice. That kind of guff is an insult to people's intelligence - even those who are Welsh Labour supporters. I'm beginning to think that Welsh Labour and its politicians see Plaid as the threat to its future, especially post-Brexit and once the futures of Scotland and Northern Ireland are resolved.
Welsh Labour is in a hole, it's in a dilemma. It's support is dwindling, no the donkey vote is galloping away. And it doesn't know quite how to deal with the Corbyn phenomenon. So it's trying to tread a careful path, keeping some distance from him but not cutting all ties, patently. If Corbyn makes a decent fist of it, they'll claim the success with him. But if he does badly they'll try to increase the gap between them and will again stick the knife into him - probably in the front next time and not in his back.
Who knows, will Welsh Labour even try and go it alone, desperate for survival in any form? Maybe the first move towards this is that they have even turned Carwyn into a cult for this election. Glad I typed that correctly, or then again, maybe I didn't, heh, heh! Imagine hitching your wagon not to a man of vision and principle like Jeremy Corbyn (whether you agree with him or not) but Carwyn Jones. I've seen Corbyn speak live and boy, is he worth listening to, no matter what your politics. I've heard Carwyn speak and if you could bottle his "charisma" you'd make a fortune selling it as a sleeping draught. Mogadon in action.
Anyone that thinks their future in Wales and Neath is better served by voting for Welsh Labour and Ms Rees, that's your democratic right, naturally. But consider this. Welsh Labour has been in power in the Assembly since it started in 1999. Labour was in power in Westminster for 10 of the 17 years since the turn of the millennium and 3 years immediately before that. And we've had a Labour run local council and a Labour MP in Neath forever. If you're still satisfied that's the best we deserve, go ahead and give them your vote. Me, mine will go elsewhere. Yes, I'm not stupid and I know Ms Rees will still be my MP on 9 June. But at least I'll be able to hold my head up. I'll have voted for Change, and I'll have voted for Hope. Because once you give up on that, you may as well become part of the problem, not its solution. And that problem in Neath means either continuing to vote Welsh Labour or in too many cases not voting at all.
19 May 2017The Curious Case of the Old Frenchie
On Neath Voice Facebook page recently someone posted up a topic that had the followers of the site suddenly piling in. I'm calling it "The Curious Case of the Old Frenchie". Yes, Old Frenchie aka Rubber Johnny had mysteriously appeared on one of the streets in Neath Town Centre. The post came complete with a mugshot of him, lying dishevelled and wilted, alone on a brick-paviored street. To protect Old Frenchie's identity the image above is a library one - so taken on tarmac, not paviors, I'm afraid. All that European money spent on refurbishing the streets of Neath, it somehow seemed appropriate that our Continental friend, Old Frenchie, now came to be resting on them.
Anyway, the person that posted about Old Frenchie ended the message with "Stephen Karl Hunt". Being a complete numpty on this social media business I turned to Mrs STaN for advice. "Look at this," I said, "is this person suggesting that Councillor Hunt was somehow responsible for Old Frenchie being there?"
"Don't be bloody stupid, STaN," she said. (I've heard that more times than I can remember). "It sends a message to Steve so he knows what's going on in this thread."
Others waded into the Facebook conversation. I watched from a distance, not allowed to participate because I don't really exist on Neath Voice.
"Where is the streetcleaner with the mobile bin and brush?" someone asked.
Another suggested, "Why don't you just pick up Old Frenchie and put him in the bin?"
That seemed like a perfectly good idea to me. If you didn't want to actually touch Old Frenchie wth your bare hand, you could pop in to Poundland and buy a pair of rubber gloves. You'd have five little cousins of Frenchie on the digits of one hand then though.
Ex-councillor Andrew Jenkins (and now ex-Labour Party too) waded in, a man that can sniff out litter and an opportunity to post onto Neath Voice from half a world away. "Disgusting how some people treat our Town Centre," said Andy. "If I was in Neath I'd pop down with my litter-picker and deal with it myself." A few more messages were posted by others, some rather rude and some I didn't understand, having been brought up as a Roman Catholic - what did I know about Old Frenchie and his sort? Then Andy piped in again. "Why don't we have a Neath Town litter pick?" I cringed at the prospect. An army of attention seeking Good Samaritans looking for mates of Old Frenchie, just piling these unfortunates into plastic bags and posting photos of it onto Twitter and Facebook. How could they possibly treat them like that?
I really felt for Old Frenchie. From the nature of the comments I could see that no-one wanted him on the streets of Neath. I imagined the dozens of people that had given him a wide berth, casting disgusted or furtive glances at him. Some might have laughed at or mocked his predicament. Maybe some had even spat on him. "Was it really like this for the beggars and homeless on Neath's streets," I wondered? Hadn't I personally witnessed people crossing the road rather than walk close by a Big Issue seller? "And don't get holier than thou," I said to myself. "Don't you do exactly the same thing when you see the ambulance chasing lawyers in town?"
"What would a post-Brexit Neath be like," I pondered? I imagined people on Neath Voice Facebook again.
"There's an Albanian in Victoria Gardens Stephen Karl Hunt."
"Hang on - I'll send a clean-up team around right now. Has he been there long do you know? Tell people not to go near him. This is a job for the professionals."
I checked Facebook again. Bloody hell - another Rubber Johnny had appeared outside Wilko. I imagined the panic this would cause among the population. Were we under some sort of attack by an organisation of Onanists? Two Old Frenchies in one day both not a few hundred yards from each other. Was there a solitary phantom wanker in town? Maybe some tosser was trying to send a coded message to the local councillors that covered the town centre?
Surely it ought to be made a police matter. That red scene-of-crime tape needed to be placed around those Old Frenchies to protect the evidence. How could they possibly have got there without there being some DNA traces? And we've got CCTV to look at as well. Check the footage for someone in a long mac, a hat pulled over their eyes, sweating profusely and carrying a box of Kleenex. That's got to be suspicious on a fine, late-Spring day.
"Ooh, la, la. Je t'aime beaucoup, Johnny Boy! Let me get you a drink. Milk-shake, n'est ce pas?"
I eventually went to bed with my mind in a spin, the matter still up in the air. After a sleepless night worrying about it I called up Neath Voice the next morning for an update. But the Old Frenchies' story had gone. Disappeared. I wondered if I'd dreamt it all. So I messaged Stephen Karl Hunt.
"No, it really happened" he told me. "But we were up to the task. A team went out there and terminated the Old Frenchies. I then pulled the thread to prevent people making fun of the tossers".
Their bodies had been picked up and they had been disposed of. No inquest, no further investigation. The Frenchies had gone the way of so many of their kind in the past. Stuffed into a hole. That's a hole in the ground in this case, I hasten to add. Landfill.
16 May 2017Neath and Pontardawe - Labour mandate or not?
While Welsh Labour can lay legitimate claim to a democratic mandate over NPT Council as a whole, that mandate is far less convincing when we abstract those seats and votes within the Port Talbot area, and consider Neath and Pontardawe and their valleys in isolation.
There are 64 council seats in total in NPT
In Afan, Welsh Labour took 26 out of 30 seats
In Neath and Pontardawe areas there are 34 seats in 26 wards
Welsh Labour won 17 seats. They ran 34 candidates
Plaid Cymru won 13 seats. They ran 28 candidates
Independents won 4 seats. There were 15 candidates
Total valid votes cast for the 26 wards 33254
Vote numbers per Party were as follows:
Welsh Labour 13658 41.1% of overall vote
PC 11625 35.0%
Independents 4653 14.0%
Conservatives 2679 8.1%
Lib Dem 468 1.4%
Greens 110 0.3%
UKIP 61 0.2%
Welsh Labour v Plaid straight contests
Neath South (2 seats)
9 seats total: 3 Labour, 6 PC
Welsh Labour vote 3319
PC vote 3929
Welsh Labour v Independents straight contests
2 seats: 1 Labour, 1 Independent
Welsh Labour vote 557
I think that Plaid Cymru and the Independents representing the Neath and Pontardawe areas have quite a case for strong representation in the Council in terms of senior positions within the Committee structures. Let's see if they fight for them and what that spiteful old dog called Labour will make of it if they ask for a share of his bone.
12 May 2017STaN's Election Tour - Part 3
Last leg of the bike journey. Am I glad of that. First stop -
22 votes. I could cry into my beer. Welsh Labour again swamped this ward, over it like a rash. I checked the Twitter feeds for the winning candidate Leanne Jones over the last couple of weeks before the vote.
April 21 - Leanne, hubbie and kids (known as Team Jones), plus Jeremy Miles AM canvassing
April 22 - Leanne and hubbie
April 25 - Leanne and Debbie Harvey (the Welsh Labour Dyffryn candidate)
April 28 - Team Neath meeting with Carwyn Jones. Leanne has personal photo with him
April 29 - Leanne and Jeremy Miles AM
April 30 - Leanne, Christina Rees MP and Dean Cawsey (another of Ms Rees' staff)
May 1 - Leanne, hubbie and kids (Team Jones)
May 2 - Leanne and the Lord of Neath, Peter Hain
May 3 - Leanne
I reckon the people of Tonna were browbeaten into it, overwhelmed by a tsunami of Welsh Labour canvassing, pestered and cajoled until they said, ENOUGH - I'LL VOTE FOR YOU THEN. JUST STOP KNOCKING ON MY F***ING DOOR, WILL YOU!
But seriously, if canvassing was the be all and end all this seat would have been won by 220 votes, not 22. Leanne was into the local Tonna rugby team as well (now don't be silly, I don't mean it like that) as well as the ladies' section of the Tonna Male Voice Choir. Welsh Labour are dab hands at knowing which buttons to press in the locality to hang on to that vote.
Lee Bromham-Nichols fought the seat for Plaid Cymru. Lee is actually the partner of Darren Bromham-Nichols, who fought the Resolven seat but as an Independent. I believe Lee works full time in the private sector. How could he possibly match the hours poured into the ward by all those bodies referred to in my list above? With the exception of "Hubbie", Mrs Harvey and those kids of Leanne's, I think the rest are sucking those public sector teats until they run dry. Correction - by definition, public sector teats can never run dry, they just produce more milk to fill 'em! These people aren't subject to the kind of time restraints and working pressures that those in the private sector of the economy live with every single working day. Life's one big jolly for them. Hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, pouring into the hands of those listed. Makes my blood boil!
And if you look at the result, you know who we can thank for that Welsh Labour win? The bloody Tories! Because if they'd not run a candidate in Tonna, Lee would have waltzed home and justice would have been done.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Nick Williams, the Independent candidate. He polled 10% but during the campaign was involved in a "Trial by Facebook" on Neath Voice, with accusations of racist remarks being thrown at him. It got so bad that Plod were involved, visiting one of Nick's accusers. The Facebook thread was pulled - very much belatedly in my opinion. An element of relative calm returned. But public witch hunts disappeared in the Middle Ages. I have no desire to see them return in a 21st Century format. That's my last word on this one.
The cruel irony of this Tonna result is that prior to the election, the ward was represented by a Welsh Labour female, who prior to May 2015, double-jobbed, working in 39 Windsor Road for the Neath MP, Peter Hain. And after this election it's represented by a Welsh Labour female who now double-jobs, working at 39 Windsor Road for the Neath MP, Christina Rees.
People of Tonna - what have you done?
Oh, the horror, the horror. If 22 votes wasn't bad enough in Tonna, here the difference is down to just two. Two votes! And look - the Tory candidate messed things up for Andy Lodwig as surely as anything that Welsh Labour did. I reckon if they hadn't stood a candidate then Andy would have topped the poll. This has to be a target seat for Plaid as well next time. The Bollinger Brigade had better get it down their necks while they can. You're drinking in the Last Chance Saloon, boys!
I understand that Andy observed a lot of activity at the count with officials looking in and under boxes etc - the vote was so close. If he'd been advised by those who had been through more than a few such things, they could have mounted a challenge on the night, asked for a recount maybe. But the opportunity slipped away. Andy is young enough and hopefully enthusiastic enough to come again. It's the non-Labour voters of Neath North I feel sorry for.
The people of Neath North and beyond have another chance to vote for the Tory candidate, Orla Lowe. She's standing in the General Election for the Conservatives in the Neath constituency.
Absolutely no doubt in my mind that the multiplicity of candidates and Parties in this ward again allowed the Labour trio in. The Tories ran two candidates, yet a Tory win in Neath East must be as likely as running into Christina Rees wearing a frock and full slap, or Halle Berry walking into the Protheroe and asking STaN if he likes his eggs hard or soft in the morning. It ain't gonna happen - ever! So yet again - the Tories helped bugger it up, and Labour slip in via the back door if you'll pardon the double entendres. It grieves me, this result, it really does. Some really good Plaid and Independents offering change to the same old, same old, same old from the old Labour trio who seem to have been there as long as dinosaurs ruled the earth. This HAS to be Welsh Labour's last clean sweep of this ward. Even the dinosaurs couldn't last forever.
Ooh - have I been waiting to cycle into this ward. It's easy to forget that young Jamie Evans (can he really be just 20 years of age?) had a fellow Plaid candidate, Ann Rees-Sambrook alongside him and what a fight this couple made of it. This was surely the surprise result of the election, Plaid coming from virtually nowhere since 2012 (the two Plaid candidates got 299 votes between them) to top the poll (Jamie) and Ann getting 437 votes herself.
I had followed the couple's campaign and thought I like the cut of these two. They knocked on doors, they talked to people, they got people believing things could change for the better, they got more posters up than their Welsh Labour opponents. They went into a Welsh Labour stronghold, held by the Deputy Leader of NPT Council (Peter "Reverend" Rees) and one of their most high profile, young councillors, Andrew "the Apprentice" Jenkins. And beat them up!
Andy was the biggest Labour casualty of the election. I don't think it's true that he went home and trashed his favourite litter-picker but I bet he felt like it. I thought he made a number of errors, faux pas in his campaign - and that's not hindsight. I could see it happening. Whether his more experienced colleagues saw them and said nothing, leaving the unfortunate Andy "jobless" after the result, who knows? Me, I'm not bothered. That may sound harsh but my focus was in seeing as many Labour councillors toppled as possible. I'm dissatisfied with the overall result in that sense, but Jamie, mega-congratulations to you, young man. I wish I'd had your confidence at that age. Definitely one to watch.
But let's ponder this result just before we leave. A straight Labour - Plaid scrap. IF the Tories and/or the Independents had thrown candidates in, there's a real chance history would not have been made by Jamie. IF we are to get the change we want in NPT, and that's ditching the present administration, then in my opinion there has to be a non-Labour alliance either official or unofficial. Parties/Independents will have to forgo fighting a seat for the common purpose. Otherwise I fear we'll never see the change so many of us want.
I'm afraid this is the last stop on the tour.
Labour had a relatively easy two seats here (they held the two seats anyway). The Lib Dem, Charley Cross, faced criticism on local Facebook for not canvassing the ward in the depth she'd have liked. It's difficult to match the coverage of the Labour Machine and I believe she entered the fray later than she'd have liked, relying perhaps a little too much on literature rather than on knocking doors. She'll fight another day, definitely, and I know contemporaries speak highly of her.
John Warman got 50% of the vote, a very good personal result. Obviously his constituents aren't bothered by his attendance records. Oh, I clean forgot - they wouldn't have known of them would they, because they are effectively buried by the Labour run council. Let's just say in the last year they are fractionally worse than the %age figure that voted for him and leave it at that.
Adam McGrath is a newbie to representing the Cimla ward, living coincidentally at an address that was previously given by a Labour councillor in the last administration. That's the "Invisible Man" who moved to Llanelli while still representing Bryncoch South. Perhaps the address is a Welsh Labour "safe house" where they can hide from the world. In the interests of security, naturally STaN will not be publishing it.
That is all. I've covered two valleys and more than a few hills on my bike tour. I'm just too knackered to get to the top of Cimla mountain and drop down into the Pelenna ward. Sorry folks. But here's the result if you'd like to see it:
One vote the difference! The Welsh Labour candidate at the foot of the table is the male half of Team Jones, his wife Leanne winning the Tonna seat. Just sometimes, I think there may be a God.
10 May 2017STaN's Election Tour - Part 2
Back on the bike refreshed now. Quite a steady pull up from Aberdulais where we left off but here goes. Our next stop is -
In Crynant we saw the Independent candidate, Sian Harris get 53% of the vote in a 3-way fight with Labour and Plaid. A stonkingly good result to wrest the seat away from the Labour candidate, who previously held the seat. This village is now home for Christina Rees MP. I love the fact that her local councillor is an Independent and not a member of her Party. On the voting figures I cannot see Labour winning this seat back anytime soon.
A two horse race in Seven Sisters with only one winner. Steve Hunt again annihilated his opposition, despite the Labour candidate against him being loudly lauded and backed by the Labour crachach, with Christina Rees and Hywel Francis being some of the big beasts playing a supporting role. It looks like as long as Steve is up for the fight, Labour will find Seven Sisters sterile ground. In fact I don't think Steve even had to ride through the village on a horse this time.
This is definitely one resulted I got right, yet I was really, really surprised by how close the Independent came to pinching it. Former council leader Ali Thomas' seat, this would have been a disaster for Labour if it went, and look how close it got. They had thrown a massive effort in up here. Sponsored rugby matches in Banwen, big beasts like Lord Hain and Hywel Francis giving Dean Cawsey personal support. And of course with Cawsey being Christina Rees' office manager, she was never far away either, as well as her other staff member Leanne Jones who pinched the Tonna seat by a narrow margin as well. When you look at the march of the Independents in this valley, Crynant, Seven Sisters - then in Glynneath when you drop down from Banwen being won by an Independent, the zeitgeist of this area suggests that Cawsey is going to really struggle to hold on to this seat.
An amazing result for first-timer Independent, Simon Knoyle. Just look at the size of that personal vote, 15% and 354 votes clear of the second candidate Del Morgan of Plaid, who was also elected. John Evans was not far behind in third - again an Independent, and a first rate bloke in his community. There has been a longstanding, local issue regarding the Tennis Courts here which has polarised opinions in the community. Plaid may well struggle to retain their seat if the Independents in NPT perform to their public's expectation, though that's not necessarily a given. Just look at where the two Labour candidates ended up. Their combined vote was only 8 more than the runner up Del Morgan. Eddie Jones held one of these seats for Welsh Labour yet bottomed out in the vote. The Party must be finished up here.
Just like in the Glynneath, Crynant and Seven Sisters seats, the Welsh Labour candidate again took a hell of a beating. UKIP now look a busted flush, even though their candidate is a local man but on a 10% voteshare even if all those votes went to one of the others it would make no difference.
Remember that as recently as 2016 this seat was a Labour one, won by Plaid in October 2016 following the death of Alf Siddley the Welsh Labour councillor for the ward. Take a look at those by-election results, less than seven months ago. Carolyn Edwards must be well pleased at how Plaid has consolidated their hold on this seat.
When the history of the Resolven election 2017 is written it won't be Des Davies or Trefor Jones making the headlines. The man in the frame will be Darren Bromham-Nichols. Darren is a local boy but now lives a few miles nearer Neath. Only deciding to run at the last possible moment, Darren ran a campaign that makes those US Presidential ones look positively camera shy. We had videos. Here's one of several:
We had interviews, we had meetings with locals, we had speeches from a lectern in Resolven Square, we had motor cavalcades complete with flags, we had Darren being let out of his "limo" by his equivalent of a Presidential bodyguard, we had loudspeakers, we even had Ruth Madoc doing the voice for the cavalcade loudspeaker broadcasts, about Darren "putting the camp into campaigning". I reckon the other two candidates were so gobsmacked they went into catatonic shock. The rest of us watched in awe, wondering what Darren would come up with next. An unforgettable performance, but "Dependable" Des held on, putting out a late, simplistic leaflet that lay claim to the fact that like Tyrannosaurus Rex he had ruled his domain, well, forever. It did the trick but wow, it was close. He must thank his lucky stars Darren hadn't worked the ward a while longer or he'd be toast Tyrannosaurus. Turnout increased by 7% to 48% (from the 2012 election), so it looks like the ward was more enthused, probably due to Darren's high energy campaigning. But not enough. Despite the intensity of the campaign and all credit to him, Darren stuck to his promise to stick to the issues and not to make the campaign personal in any way. I'll never forget it. And neither will Resolven or anyone who was part of it.
Time for a rest now before I finish my tour in Neath, taking in Tonna en-route. Apart from one outstanding, notable exception, writing about the results in these seats is going to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. So I'll have to pop into the David Protheroe to suss out what Guest ales they have on. "What" you say, "STaN drinking in Wetherspoons"? Well let me tell you this. It was good enough for some of the Welsh Labour candidates to call there on election night, with their Seven Sisters candidate Nia Herdman and "Banwen's Finest" Dean Cawsey dropping in, as well as Leanne and Andrew Jones (Tonna and Pelenna candidates for Welsh Labour). If it's good enough for their cultured and refined tastes, then it's good enough for old STaN.
09 May 2017STaN's Election Tour - Part 1
Well it's time to get on the bike and travel around the Neath wards, having a look at the individual ward results.
I've decided to start my journey in Bryncoch North ward, an area where I've sunk a few pints of Wadworth 6X in the Dyffryn Arms many years ago. We'll travel towards Neath, then up the western side of the valley, cycle up the Dulais valley to Banwen, then drop down to Glynneath. Back down the Neath valley, via Cwmgwrach, Resolven and Tonna, into that hotbed of dashed hopes and broken promises courtesy of Welsh Labour, the town of Neath itself. A place where I've again sunk a few beers in my time.
Just as if I was cycling it (and I've done that circuit many times, but starting in a different place) I'll take a break at various points - hence this article will be posted up in segments too.
The seat was retained by Plaid, being won by Wyndham Griffiths, who will be an outstanding asset to the community, a great replacement for the former hardworking Plaid councillor, John Bryant, who died a few months ago. He got 48% of the vote. There were only 42 votes separating the Welsh Labour and Conservative candidates despite Welsh Labour sending in some really big names to knock on doors. Perhaps that was the problem!
This was a strange one. The Tory man, Gavin Wycherley, announced on Facebook that his election leaflets were the most eco-friendly of all - because he never had any printed. Did he even knock on any doors? He wasn't at the count either. Does he even exist in real life you may ask? Oh, definitely so. On Facebook he was saying he was taking a holiday in Corfu, I think to to recuperate (?). Kavos, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Jan Lockyer, the former Neath Town mayor, was the Welsh Labour candidate, frequently assisted in her canvassing by our own Baron of Bollinger, her husband Alan. Other dignitaries who delighted the locals were Christina Rees MP, Jeremy Miles AM, Derek Vaughan MEP, and Sian James (the former MP for Swansea East, and close neighbour of the Bollingers). I don't think Wyndham had anyone helping him other than family, fellow local Plaid candidates and local support on occasions. If anyone in Bryncoch can confirm they spotted Leanne Wood, Bethan Jenkins, Neil McEvoy, Adam Price or any Plaid big beast - let me know.
The most disturbing selfie I witnessed in this election was snapped in this ward. For legal reasons I am adding nothing to this comment, other than - would YOU open your door if this lot walked up your drive?
Janice Dudley and new candidate Chris Williams (a local man) comfortably took both seats for Plaid. Welsh Labour deservedly lost the seat previously held by their Invisible Man, Rob James. Their vote crashed in comparison to the previous election where Plaid and Labour could hardly be split, and in fact Alex Sims, whoever he was, was only 27 votes in front of the leading Conservative! A special mention to Catrin Louise Block and Frank Little. Their vote share belies the capabilities and the contribution that these two have and can make to public life. It's a story we'll find in other wards too, where excellent candidates lost out. What it shows to me is that some people in politics still have principles. The easy way to power in years gone by in NPT has been to join the Labour Party. It ain't so easy for those whose beliefs and principles keep them elsewhere. But thankfully, people are waking up to this tactic.
It's Janice's turn to be NPT Mayor this year so it's perhaps fitting that she topped the poll. My friends in the ward tell me there just wasn't much electricity generated there by the election, but fear not, enough was generated in the neighbouring Dyffryn ward to light up the whole of Neath.
Another win for Plaid with Martyn Peters gaining a phenomenal 73% of the vote, Debbie Harvey (Welsh Labour) getting 27%. I believe this vote share is the second highest of NPT, the Lib Dem candidate in Coedffranc West (Helen Ceri Clarke) getting 75% (again against a Welsh Labour candidate, again against the spouse of an existing councillor, who happens to be Annette Wingrave who won the Cadoxton seat - what a coincidence).
When I visited this ward it was a sea of green and yellow Plaid posters, broken up here and there by a small number of Red ones of Welsh Labour. One thing's for sure - you knew there was an election on in this community! Councillors don't come with much more experience of fighting elections than Martyn Peters and once again he showed why he has seen off all that opposition over the years. Debbie Harvey was the first Welsh Labour candidate since 2004. It's rumoured that the last one is buried somewhere in Dyffryn Woods.
But Welsh Labour fired some heavy artillery into the ward. Jeremy Miles, Christina Rees (and her staff who always seemed to have plenty of time off to knock on doors), even the local Lord, Baron Hain on one occasion. They all turned out to support "Duffryn Debbie". Because fair play, she had in turn campaigned enough for them in the past. These big Labour beasts dared to venture into the domain of the Lion of Longford - but they never stayed long.
There have been some interesting stories coming out about things printed on Welsh Labour's election leaflets in this ward. I can't say any more at this stage as I believe the matter is a live issue.
A seat won for the second time by Annette Wingrave for Welsh Labour. Annette must feel she's escaped by the skin of her teeth, under fire from Plaid, Conservatives, Lib Dem and Independent. As it turned out, because all these candidates were in the mix, it delivered the seat on a platter to her. Annette's council attendances are not clever, not clever at all. But the public were denied that information, thanks to the publication policy (there isn't one) of the Labour controlled council. She lives in Llandarcy, well outside the ward. But enough locals evidently believe in her to give her a second chance. As it turned out I don't believe any of the candidates live in the Cadoxton ward - what's the trouble there then?
Who would believe it? Yet again Doreen Jones delivers for Welsh Labour! Doreen was joined in canvassing at one time by the Orange Baron, Lord Hain of Neath, and the man I call "The Talisman" after a description given him by Hain - Howard Davies, ex-agent of the Baron. The local Labour Party like to call him "The Silver Fox". Well, Orange and Silver together may have worked their old magic here.
Why did Plaid post a candidate who doesn't live in the ward or close to it? If they had not fought this seat because they had no local candidate then almost certainly Doreen would be checking out the cancellation policies on her travel insurance. Because the Independents had a good local man in Simon Peter Hopkins standing. What were Plaid thinking? Nothing against Daniel but why wasn't he run in the Neath area where he lives? Or was he local to the area at one time?
It seems to me that he was pushed into a poor third place because these are local elections and he was put up against two well known local people. How dull is that by Plaid? If the opposition to Labour in NPT are serious about ever getting rid of them they really need to speak to each other before candidates are chosen. Otherwise the public are going to be denied the representation and the changes they are crying out for in some areas.
OK, I need to check my tyres, and have a sarnie and a drink now. I'll be back in the saddle after that, and we'll have a look at Crynant, Seven Sisters, Onllwyn, Glynneath, Cwmgwrach and Resolven, where I'll take another break, probably have a meal and a soft drink in the Farmers. See you all soon............
07 May 2017NPT Local Election Results 2017
Well it's old news by now but here are the final results for NPT
However, while this is clearly how the Council is now made up, those trends of gains and losses are misleading. This is why.
In 2012, following the last local government elections Labour had an impressive 52 seats, Plaid had 8 seats and there were 4 "Other" - Independents.
But since 2012, we've had various by-elections and recent defections from Labour following deselection of sitting Labour councillors (and because Finbarr wouldn't sit straight in his chair a few years ago). And by the time of the 4 May election, this was the situation in NPT:
Labour 42 Plaid 8 Independent Unaffiliated 9 Independent Democrats 4
You'll note this gives only 63 seats not 64. That's because of the death a few months ago of John Bryant, the PC Councillor for Bryncoch North. That seat remained vacant until the election just been when it was retained for Plaid by Wyndham Griffiths.
You could say that the electorate has broadly reinforced, at least in the numbers game, the Labour representation at Council due to internal defections - in fact, given Labour one more!
This is how the individual wards stand now:
iN THE ABOVE TABLE, NEW COUNCILLORS ARE SHOWN IN BLUE ITALICS. THOSE WHO WERE PREVIOUS COUNCILLORS AND RETAINED SEATS ARE SHOWN IN BLACK ITALICS
Apologies that the image above has lost the Port Talbot ward and 2 of its 3 councillors. (I wish we could in real life). They are three Labour councillors who in fact had a shoo-in because no other candidates stood against them.
For lovers of historical fact, when the 2008 local elections were over, this was the make up of NPT.
Labour 37 Plaid 11 SDP 3 Ratepayers 3 Independents 6 Lib Dem 4
2012 was a great election year for Welsh Labour in NPT, with us being under a deeply unpopular Tory/Lib Dem national coalition. The global economic collapse was some 4 years previous, plus we were 2 years into the effects of the austerity measures introduced as the policy of that coalition government. Lib Dem seats were lost as Labour locally reaped the benefits of some tough national decisions that had been made.
But I find it hard to believe that Welsh Labour has actually got 6 seats more in 2017 (43) than it had in 2008 (37). Are the electorate mad? Are they putting some hypnotic chemical into our water round here? Please someone tell me what on earth Welsh Labour has done in the last decade here in Neath to possibly justify this?
I have to blame the opposition as well, they have to shoulder some responsibility for this. When you have to deal with a nasty, rabid, old dog that ought to be put down, you don't do it by trying to be nice. You get a fucking big stick to smack it with when it inevitably turns on you, and you don't give up on your task until the job is done. Just because you didn't get it euthanised in 2008, you don't leave it to build up its strength for four years then have another crack at it in 2012. Then let it chew on its bones another five years. You need to pester that dog unmercifully. You need that dog to know you are there 24/7, just waiting to deliver the fatal blow. You want to get that dog so paranoid and fearful, it can't concentrate on gnawing the bone, because it's so shit scared of you.
If you don't want to do it because you've grown to really like the wretched creature after sharing its bed for so long, then step aside and let someone else have a crack.
Neil McEvoy has done precisely that in Cardiff's local politics and does it every day in the Welsh Assembly. I've spoken to loads of people, including non-Plaid voters, who have said to me, "if only we had a Neil McEvoy here as well". Sadly, there's only one Neil. But people like him do exist across the land. It's just a matter of identifying them, signing them up and letting them off the leash.
That's how strongly I feel about Plaid's efforts in these elections and perhaps more importantly - the years between our elections. Not from their individual councillors, many of whom have fought amazing campaigns and some of whom have had unbelievable results. IT'S THOSE THAT LED THEIR CAMPAIGN NEED TO TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AS TO WHETHER THEY ARE UP TO THE JOB. Too many open goals to score votes against Labour were missed or wilfully ignored.Your Plaid membership and candidates deserve better. The electorate deserve better.
There, I feel a bit better for getting that off my chest.
COMING UP (very soon I hope)
That's the dead boring bits out of the way with a brief history lesson to really send you reaching for a drink.
STaN will next post up a tour of the Neath and valleys' wards, where it'll be (hopefully) a lot less boring and we'll meet some of the characters involved as well as some of the stories of the elections.
I'll break it up into 2 or 3 bites as there are so many wards. Not decided yet whether to go alphabetically or geographically, as you'd do a round the valleys drive. We'll see.
30 April 2017Reasons I won't be voting Welsh Labour
Why I won't be voting WELSH LABOUR
There is no suggestion of any impropriety or the breaking of rules by anyone specifically named or who could be identified by the facts that are posted. Everything you read, to the best of my knowledge, is or has been "within the rules". Within the rules, but whether what you read below is acceptable in the Court of Public Opinion, that's a matter for the reader.
1. COUNCIL TAX
⦁ Council Tax - we pay the second highest Council Tax per Band of the 22 councils in Wales
⦁ In 2016/17 your bill for just council services was 25% more than the Wales average, 24% more in 2017/18
⦁ In 2017/18 this is what you will pay in these towns if you are in band D
Neath £1,713.33 Labour
Abergavenny £1,470.06 - £243.27 CHEAPER Conservative
Brecon £1,429.39 - £283.94 CHEAPER Independent
Carmarthen £1,485.98 - £227.35 CHEAPER Plaid Cymru
Cowbridge £1,420.43 - £292.90 CHEAPER Labour
Tenby £1,155.59 - £557.74 CHEAPER Independent
⦁ It is hard to believe that if you lived in Tenby, over a council term of 5 years you would pay £2,788.70 LESS than if you lived in Neath. It's more or less pay 2 years in Neath for 3 years in Tenby
⦁ The Police precept has risen from £169 on a band D property in NPT in 2012/13 to £218 in 2017/18. That's a rise of 29% in five years, nearly 6% a year on average. The precept is decided here by the Police and Crime Commissioner - Alun Michael. He was the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth for 25 years from 1987. You may have seen pictures of him canvassing for Labour around here in earlier elections. Michael now has a staff of 26 people under him. They include an Equalities & Social Justice Manager. Yet not a single one of his staff is disabled and only one of his staff is from an ethnic minority.
2. THE STATE OF NEATH TOWN
⦁ Neath Town Centre is disgusting. The promised regeneration has failed to materialise. Beggars continually doss in shop doorways, accosting people at night. Even in the day they can be a nuisance. What happened to the promised clean up announced under Operation Avalanche last year? It provided a nice photo-opportunity for one of the Labour councillors in town. But that's about all.
3. LABOUR COUPLES - GRAVY TRAIN OR AN ACT OF DESPERATION?
⦁ In the council term just ending there were two husband and wife Labour couples on NPT council. In this election there are an astonishing SEVEN Labour couples standing for election.
⦁ Does this signify a desperation in the Labour Party finding suitable candidates or is it an outrageous attempt to jump onto the Gravy Train as even two sets of basic councillor allowances would give the successful couple an income of £26.6K per year for the equivalent of three days' work each?
4. COUNCILLOR ATTENDANCES
⦁ The Labour Party has deselected several of its councillors for the 2017 election. One of the reasons suggested is poor attendance records. So we have paid allowances to these councillors for the last five years and only now is anything done about it. A minimum of £13,300 a year to each one. Yet some who had poor attendance are still up for election in 2017. What guarantees are there that the next lot won't be a bunch of freeloaders too?
⦁ NPT will not publish figures for your councillors' attendances. Councillors themselves can look them up - but not you. Yet in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Bridgend, Powys, Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff councils you can instantly check on the attendance records of any councillor via those councils' websites. Ask yourself - why is it we are different to all the others? What is there to hide? Has the Labour Party deliberately kept this out of the public domain because they knew that so many of their councillors were taking the piss? And still are in some cases.
5. COUNCIL CABINET AND WHAT IT COSTS
⦁ Councils are allowed to have up to a specified number of "senior salaries" for councillors. They can choose to run the council with a lower figure if they want. For NPT the figure works out at a maximum of 18 "senior" posts, plus the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. LABOUR RUN NPT has chosen to fill all such "senior salary" posts for councillors. And nearly all of them occupied by Labour councillors, naturally.
⦁ The Council's "Cabinet" consists of 9 senior Labour councillors. Their collective salaries amounted to £268,930 in 2016/17 so over the full council term of 5 years these 9 councillors have cost over £1.3 million in salary. Cabinet salaries range from £28,780 to £33,460 per annum. These are the current Cabinet members:
Councillor Alun H.Thomas, Onllwyn ward - standing down
Councillor Peter A.Rees , Neath South
Councillor Mike L.James , Pontardawe
Councillor Edward V.Latham, Sandfields East
Councillor Mrs Sandra Miller, Neath East
Councillor Peter D.Richards, Baglan
Councillor John Rogers, Taibach - standing down
Councillor Anthony J.Taylor, Taibach
Councillor Arwyn N.Woolcock, Lower Brynamman
⦁ Of the nine, one councillor (Miller) has a husband who is also a councillor, who receives the basic salary of £13,300. One (Taylor) has a wife who is also running for election in 2017/18. And one (James) jointly owns the building rented as the office for Jeremy Miles (referred to below) and has a contract with NPT to provide specified taxi services on which the Council spent £350,000 in 2015/16.
⦁ Our highest remunerated individual Labour councillor is Peter Rees, representing Neath South and is the Council Deputy Leader. Here are his payments:
⦁ 15/16 £33,459.96 plus £295.25 expenses
⦁ 14/15 £33,459.96 plus £265.60 expenses
⦁ 13/14 £33,459.96 plus £524.15 expenses
⦁ 12/13 £32,539.65 plus £297.00 expenses
⦁ The highest remunerated couple are John and Sandra Miller who both represent the Neath East ward. They jointly receive over £42k per annum in payments, and have done so for each of the last 5 years of this council term. So they have received in excess of £210,000, and that's just council payments, not including what they are paid via separate employment or pensions. What has come into your household over the last five years, in comparison?
6. COUNCIL MAYOR
⦁ The Plaid Cymru leader on NPT has raised in previous years whether it is time to do away with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor role on the Council, so as to save money and protect services elsewhere. The proposal fell on stony ground among Labour members. The office of Mayor and Deputy still continue.... complete with enhanced allowances, chauffeur driven car, chains of office and expensive dinners presumably.
7. THE COUNCIL LEADER
⦁ No-one seems to have suggested doing away with another ridiculous extravagance. The retiring Council leader, Ali Thomas, has a hired Ford Galaxy, plus a chauffeur to pick him up from home in the mornings and drive him to the Civic Centre, take him home, and ferry him from function to function. This is a longstanding custom and practice, the previous Council leader, Derek Vaughan having had a car and chauffeur too. This is in addition to the car and chauffeur that is used for Mayoral functions. If both attend the same function, do you think they share one vehicle and chauffeur? What do you think? Well the answer is "No". They go separately. This is Welsh Labour and in Neath Port Talbot we are talking about.
8. ON NEPOTISM, CRONYISM AND THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNEASY
⦁ Our last MP was Peter Hain (Labour). He rented his office from a private landlord in Windsor Road. The landlord is the Neath Constituency Labour Party. The upstairs of that building is let out to another Labour councillor who sits on Neath Town Council. The new Labour MP, Christina Rees, has a similar arrangement with Neath CLP. The rent is paid to Neath Labour Party out of the public purse - yet the landlord (Neath CLP) is allowed use of the building by a clause built into the rental agreement. Could you imagine this arrangement anywhere else? Our MP and Neath CLP have shared the same telephone number for years. But who do you think picks up the bill? And the bill for rates, gas, electric and water, despite the fact Neath CLP has periodic use of the building.
⦁ In Pontardawe the Neath Labour Assembly Member, Jeremy Miles, has a private landlord too. The landlord is a business partnership that is an NPT councillor plus one. This councillor is a Cabinet member and his Council allowance in 2016/17 was £28,890. The rent payable by Jeremy Miles is about £8K per annum.
⦁ The outside of the Neath office of our MP, which is owned by the Neath Constituency Labour Party, has been extensively refurbished since May 2015 with the benefit of a Commercial Property Grant where property owners can get up to 50% of the cost of such works out of the public purse. Grantees must be a "micro, small or medium sized enterprise" as defined by the EU. How a local constituency political party comes under this umbrella and has been able to get its hands on this public money is a mystery best answered by those involved.
⦁ Peter Hain employed his mother, his sister and his niece at various times on the public payroll. He also paid his son nearly £6K out of his public allowances to build him a website in 2007.
⦁ When a senior Dulais Valley Labour councillor lost his seat unexpectedly in an election in 2004 he was subsequently employed by Peter Hain as his agent.
⦁ Christina Rees has employed the fiance of her daughter as a full time Caseworker in her Neath office. It pays £16k to £26K a year depending on experience, plus a non-contributory, civil service pension worth 10% of the salary. Vacancies should be advertised and competed for. Was it? Now that's a question I'd like to see an answer to.
⦁ There are three full time staff on the public payroll in Christina Rees' office, as explained above, one being her daughter's fiance. The other two are candidates in the council elections on 4 May. They both previously worked for the publicly funded Communities First, Western Valleys. If both are elected how will Ms Rees run the office when they are expected to attend council business? We pay for her office, her staff and our councillors out of public money so will we be short changed as a result?
⦁ The Labour councillor standing down in the Tonna ward this year was Peter Hain's office manager until his retirement in 2015. Following redundancy she immediately found another job just like it - she went and worked for Stephen Kinnock in the same role. An office manager's job for an MP pays up to £38K a year. A basic councillor's allowance is £13,300. There aren't many places in NPT where you'll be able to gross over £50K a year, particularly off the public purse. But working for a Labour MP at the same time as being a Labour councillor is one of them. Of course - Ms Rees' office manager in Neath could soon join this exclusive club. Her other member of staff, coincidentally, is standing in Tonna to try and succeed Kinnock's office manager. In Port Talbot, one of Stephen Kinnock's other office staff is similarly standing for election.
⦁ Of 650 MPs in Westminster, in 2012/13 Peter Hain was the second highest claimant for expenses for oil and electric at his "second home" in Aberdulais. He claimed expenses of £4,571.74 in that year just for his oil and electric bills, in a house classed for expenses purposes as a "second home" which meant it was supposedly occupied for less of a time than his luxury flat in the centre of London. That's £87.92 per week! Just for oil and electric. The oil was used partly to heat an oil-fired Aga, on which he cooked, and infamously claimed in an interview in 2006 that he thought food tasted better cooked on it. "At first I was a bit sceptical about the Aga. I thought it was a great big lump. But now I actually think it's fantastic. We found food cooked on the electric cooker tasted very second class." I bet you'd have liked £87.92 a week for help with your heating and electricity bills, but tough luck - you're not an MP.
When I think of the above, I find it impossible for me to place my vote against any name that has Welsh Labour alongside it. All I see is that if you are part of them, particularly part of their "inner circle", you can do quite nicely for yourself. In my opinion it's a system that works for them. It doesn't work for me.
But not everyone has a price...........That's why on 4 May I won't be voting for anyone standing for Welsh Labour. And I won't be on 8 June either.
29 April 2017Which Rob James is real?
Will the real Rob James please reveal himself?
What you see on Mr James' Facebook account associated with his bid to be the Welsh Labour councillor for the Lliedi ward in Carmarthenshire ........
.......... seems a much earlier version of this more rotund figure holding a UNISON placard outside County Hall, Carmarthen recently.
The question is - how old is the "slimline" version and why on earth would anyone want to present an image of an earlier version of themselves? Now why does that old expression about all fur coat and no knickers keep coming into my brain?
28 April 2017The Invisible Man shows himself - up!
My thanks to Y Cneifiwr, the Newcastle Emlyn blogger, for reproducing the above summary of Councillor Rob James' attendances over the years and for the thoroughly entertaining and informative articles dealing with the pre-election fun and games in the wild West of Carmarthenshire.
The statistics in the table are built up from two sources. Years 2012/13 to 2015/16 are basically information supplied by NPT Council itself following a Freedom of Information request by a third party. The figures produced from May 2016 to 28 October 2016 are built up by checking the attendance records during that period for all the meetings that Rob James was supposed to attend. Not very clever, are they?
But then something strange occurs. You'll see from the footnote to the Table that Rob seemingly no longer sits on the committees he previously did, being on the circulation papers in November 2016 then disappearing from the list in December 2016.
Not just something strange though, but something truly miraculous. Because if you were to check Rob James' attendances since 29 October 2016 you'd find an astonishing turnaround in the figures. He has attended 9 out of 10 meetings, a whopping great 90% attendance record.
Now what has caused this sudden dedication to duty? Well clearly, if you cut down the number of meetings you have to attend then it's a lot easier for percentages to go massively up - and also down, though in Rob's case it wasn't possible to go much lower. But I wonder if it was also the fact that quite simply, his failure to meet his responsibilities had been exposed to the world in my article dated 27 October 2016 entitled "The Tale of Councillor Rob James"
and a second article "The Invisible Man" dated 30 October 2016.
In my opinion Rob James' behaviour is contemptible. Over four and a half years he is invisible a lot of the time. When caught out he comes up with a load of excuses like committee meetings are not held at a convenient time in the day and he has a young family as well. But suddenly - he can get his attendances up there with the best of them.
Rob James is actually the clearest evidence that you can get that if records are made publicly available about councillors' attendances - they will improve, dramatically in many cases. This Labour led Council has let its citizens down badly. We do not get the service provided by Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Bridgend, Powys, Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff, where councillors' attendances are published as a matter of course. And Rob James is the result.
The fact is - he's not the only one. If you checked the attendance records of many of those Labour councillors just deselected, you'd find appalling attendances (I have), and you'll also find some pretty poor attendances for several of those currently up for election as well. (Just so the Labour Party don't get all holier than thou and say, "look, we've put our house in order now"). You'll find it's something they don't want to talk about much because they know they haven't got a leg to stand on. The fact is we've been paying the buggers while they didn't turn up, weren't able to find out about it, and Labour now thinks it's got away with it by deselecting many of those persistent absentees. Why didn't they sort it out at any time during the five years since the last election then? This dereliction of duty needs to be shouted from the rooftops so the public know how they have taken us for a ride while they themselves rode the Gravy Train.
Again, I'm really surprised that these unacceptable attendance figures have not been used by those opposing Labour. Why not? I'll tell you why. Because Plaid do not have a perfect record either, and nor do certain Independents. It's another case, regrettably, when I feel that their sense of duty to each other is given greater weighting than their duty to the public who put them there.
26 April 2017Carwyn's offer to you
And these are some of my local Welsh Labour team, "Neath's finest", standing together to lead the gullible to the Promised Land.
If it's OK with you, Carwyn, I think I'll pass on that one.
25 April 2017Two Wolves
24 April 2017Cock up - or conspiracy to deceive the electorate?
I suppose you could say this tall tale started on 13 January 2017 with this press release from NPT, still obtainable on their website. It relates to the redevelopment of the old Tesco Express and multi-storey car park building in Neath Town Centre.
Then a similar story was regurgitated in the propaganda rag called "Local Voice" produced by the local Labour Party in the weeks before the 4 May elections. Doubtless to try and somehow stop the stampede of voters away from them.
Here's the front page of that publication, headlining with "news" about the redevelopment of Neath Town Centre. Check that headline. An unequivocal "Brand new retail units to replace old multi-storey car park".
Read the further guff below it and there are no conditional statements, no caveats set out. The old car park/Tesco building "to be replaced by eight new retail units ........Construction ..... is expected to begin at the end of 2017". Anyone reading it would be left under no doubt that development is definite and a likely timetable is even put to it.
Except as often happens when you dig a bit deeper into Labour election promises - all is not that it seems.
Because it appears there is no detailed planning permission yet in place for this scheme. Only an outline permission which I believe was granted back in 2013. The statement put out in January 2017 said that during the demolition phase "the Council will commission a contractor to build eight new retail units....". Strange we've heard nothing of this as yet. Because with an election less than a fortnight away, they'd be shouting it from the rooftops, surely?
So, no detailed planning permission. As far as I know, no scheme even lodged with the council as yet. No contractor announced. Yet we are still expected to believe development will commence by the end of 2017.
Is there even funding in place for this project?
So these statements deserve to be treated with caution. I'm really surprised they haven't been tested and teased out by the official Opposition in NPT, Plaid Cymru. Plaid has some first class candidates standing, from those attempting to win a seat for the first time to those long experienced at the sharp end. But where's the campaign leadership? This was staring them in the face, headlining on Labour NPT's main propaganda newspaper.
It's been picked up already by the public on Neath Voice, the Facebook site set up by Steve Hunt, the Independent councillor for Seven Sisters. And when it was, the Labour Party, through their unofficial spokesman on there, Councillor Andrew Jenkins (the Reverend's Apprentice), seemed acutely embarrassed by the affair and actually named on Facebook a council officer he'd take it up with, concerned they may have been supplied with duff information. That's really bad form to air that on a public forum. It sends out the message loud and clear: "If the shit's gonna hit the fan, let's make sure it lands on council officers, not Labour councillors". Then we subsequently learned there was nothing in tablets of stone at all. No detailed planning permission and no firm date set for development.
Plaid Cymru, or more precisely those that run the election campaign for it, missed an open goal. The game played on.
And here we are now with the second half almost over and a great chance to have scored a corker gone begging. Sometimes I wonder if these matches aren't viewed as competitive by those at the top but as friendlies. The Opposition needs to become more street savvy. If you see a weakness in your opponent, bloody exploit it. Don't sit back as if the Marquess of Queensberry rules apply. If you have to hit your opponent below the belt, go for it. If you think you can get away with a sly boot in the bollocks, do it! Because rest assured, they'll do it to you. I've watched some of the bully boys (and girls) associated with the Labour Party over the years. And they'd have no qualms whatsoever about using foul means to gain an advantage.
Of course, the people who really lose out in the end are not the local politicians from any Party. It's the public get short changed, taken for granted by the ruling Party and let down by not having an opposition that is prepared to make a good fight of it. If Plaid don't want to make it a proper contest, they need to beware. There are more than a few good Independents out there just itching to have a go in their place. And even a few Lib Dems and Tories prepared to mix it up if they have to.
23 April 2017With friends like these
REMEMBER THIS, last July 2016?
Then we have THIS, just nine months later!
The words trust and credibility spring to mind with me, along with hypocrisy. But fair play to old Compo, he probably just ran out of people he could pick as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales.
For those less familiar with local politics the gentleman with the dark beard, third to the right of Jeremy Corbyn is none other than Christina Rees' office manager, Dean Cawsey, who will be standing for Welsh Labour in the Onllwyn ward on 4 May. Whenever you see Ms Rees, Dean will be close by, kind of like non-identical Siamese twins.
I genuinely feel sorry for JC that he has to turn to turncoats like Ms Rees. I know he's tried to build bridges, to offer olive branches to those who previously knifed him in the back. And for his reward, these sort of people will do it again the first opportunity that arises. Which with a General Election in June might now be rather sooner than he thinks.
20 April 2017Neath's No 1 Labour Couple 2017 - the runners
Now that all the runners are announced for the County Borough elections on 4 May I think it's time to review those in the mix for STaN's award for Neath's No 1 Labour Couple 2017.
There are a quite incredible SEVEN Labour couples standing in NPT which means that if all were to be successful then 22% of all the Council's 64 seats would be taken up just by these seven couples.
The reasons for all these couples running are debatable. The Labour Party membership hit new heights last year. So where are these new members? These seven couples are hardly representative of the new membership. In fact, Anthony Taylor and Michael Harvey (see below) were two of those councillors that signed a national letter against Corbyn's continued leadership in 2016.
The number of couples suggests to me Labour are in dire straits locally. They either have insufficient new blood of the experience and quality to put before the electorate or if they are there, they are kept out of things by the stifling, suffocating death grip of the Old Guard. That's not Old Guard as in "Old Labour" principles. It's Old Guard as in "New Labour" philosophy, the type that supported Owen Smith. And NPT council is full of these buggers. You can include Christina Rees and Jeremy Miles as out and out "Oily" supporters as well. Do not be fooled by Ms Rees' sudden show of loyalty towards Corbyn. It will last precisely as long as he does.
I have never heard of quite a number of the candidates that Labour has standing across the County Borough - this applies in my ward also. You'd expect some substantive experience of local politics or community involvement, so you can't help but feel this is desperation on their part. Then in one case, Mrs Janet Lockyer for the Bryncoch North seat, (who does come with experience of local politics), it seems she was entered into the race when the horses were already under starter's orders. No sign of her in the earlier Labour photo of women candidates, her name not listed among new councillors standing. So was she persuaded late on to stand because they just couldn't find anyone else?
Then look beyond the couples' list and you'll find quite a few councillors standing for seats where they do not live. For a party with a membership the size of Labour, I find that incredible. They should be having to reject people because there are too many wanting to stand in a particular ward, but no, they have to import people from other wards. They must be in desperate trouble.
THE LIST OF DECLARED RUNNERS
Anyway, here's the line up of husbands and wives (or should I be more PC and say "partners") with the seats they are trying for. We'll start to the east, outside of the Neath area actually, then work our way across. Images, where used, are official NPT Council "mugshots", lifted off the website.
1. Anthony J Taylor and Rachel Taylor - Taibach
Anthony is already the NPT councillor for Taibach having been elected in 2008. He has had a rapid rise to the top, to the post of Cabinet member for Economic Development and Property Services (salary about £29K a year). He has worked for Carwyn Jones and then for Derek Vaughan as a political researcher. Some say his wife Rachel previously worked in the constituency office of Hywel Francis MP before the election of Stephen Kinnock in 2015. She obviously fancies a return to the political scene. If it all went tits up for them Anthony could fall back on his role as a Harry Potter lookalike. But that's as likely as the sun rising in the west. Could be worth a punt.
2. Colin Clement and Ms Carol Clement-Williams - Sandfields East and Baglan respectively
Colin has a long working background in computers and works for a computer company in Bridgend. Yet his Twitter account may have been compromised recently by a rather naughty girl. It's also not a good idea to put what may be your date of birth as part of your "Twitter handle" (Not published by STaN - I've more sense). Colin is rather rude to Tories on his social media so this might be embarrassing if elected. Because he'll have to sit alongside quite a few of the "bastards" and "scum" as he has called them, if he reaches those NPT Labour benches! Carol is an existing NPT councillor and has represented Baglan since 2012 when the results list her surname as just "Clement". Evidently the "hyphen Williams" and "Ms" bit has come from somewhere since. Let's hope there's not a Tory in the family. She is paid the basic councillor salary of £13,300 per annum. Carol has been a Civil Servant for over 26 years and currently holds a management job in the DVLA.
3. John Miller and Sandra Miller - Neath East
A couple who have been around the local political scene for years. Sandra was first elected to represent Neath East way back in 1999 (the first elections ever in NPT were in 1995). Then, in 2004, hubbie John joined her. Not a couple to set the world alight on social media though Sandra dips in to Neath Voice Facebook page on occasions, again not setting the world alight. On the Council's Register of Interests it shows Sandra works for ABMU, the local Health Board. John does not declare any current job and now may be on old age and/or occupational pension. Sandra is the Cabinet member for Streetcare and Highways for which she gets a salary of £28,780. She has been on a cabinet level post since 2009-2010 according to Council records. With husband John on the basic councillor salary of £13,300 this makes the couple easily the most remunerated from the public purse of all those in this year's line-up with about £42K a year coming their way from the council not counting those other job(s)/pensions. So if they do win, affording a nice frock and a classy bib and tucker for those public appearances will be the least of their problems. A very busy couple politically as both sit on Neath Town Council.
4. Alan Lockyer and Janet Lockyer - Neath North and Bryncoch North respectively
Alan has been one of the Labour councillors for Neath North since May 2010 when Derek Vaughan stood down when he became an MEP. Alan is already a committee chair in NPT, giving him a councillor salary of £22K a year. He previously worked in the Education sector, lecturing Music in Neath College before retiring recently. Derek Vaughan is good butties with Alan and Janet (who likes to be called Jan), who spent time last year with him in the EU Parliament where they proudly announced on Twitter they dined with the New Zealand Ambassador to the EU. Jan is a former 2-time Neath Town Council mayor and is standing for the Town Council again this year. And also standing as a Labour candidate in the Bryncoch North ward. They are the holders of the 2016 trophy, clear winners in the judge's eyes for constantly announcing to the world via their social media their frequent holidays, day trips, days out, nights out, meals out, meals in, and attendances at so many functions where there are names that can be dropped. And they are happy to provide photographic evidence of these events too. A couple not shy of the limelight then, though Jan threw a spanner into the works for a couple of months early in 2017 when she locked her Twitter account, possibly embarrassed because of STaN giving her even more publicity. It has recently been unlocked! Read into that what you will. Clear favourites for this year's title as well.
5. Annette and Chris Wingrave - Cadoxton and Coeddfranc Central respectively
Annette is the current councillor for Cadoxton ward, though actually lives in Llandarcy. She receives the basic councillor salary of £13,300 per annum. She doubles - and trebles up by being a member of Coedffranc and Blaenhonddan Community Councils, though these positions are unpaid of course. It's rumoured her attendances at the various council meetings are not the best but she's evidently survived the Labour cull that killed off quite a few of her colleagues. Not much is known about husband Chris, who is standing against the Lib Dem candidate Helen Ceri Clarke in the Coedffranc West ward, other than he is (hopefully) a Labour Party member! Rank outsiders for the 2017 No 1 Couple title but if you fancy a long odds bet, who am I to tell you that you are probably wasting your money.
6. Michael Harvey and Debbie Harvey - Coedffranc North and Dyffryn respectively
Michael (or Mike as he prefers to be known) is the current councillor for Coedffranc North since 2012 and is not yet heading up a committee so gets paid just the basic councillor salary of £13,300 per annum. But with the contacts and friends he has in the Party's upper echelons expect at least the Chair of a committee if elected, getting him up to £22K. A former police officer but listed in the Register of Interests is the role of Crime Prevention Design Advisor employed by South Wales Police, so he probably retired from the day job, then got another one - seemingly with the same employer. His skills as a sleuth are clearly in need of sharpening up, having recently announced on Twitter that STaN was a poor bloke called ****. (Name not published as it's not nice to blame someone else for my alleged indiscretions - more to come in a STaN coming soon.) A big sports lover, especially keen on rugby union - the Ospreys. Debbie was a hairdresser who says in her campaign leaflet that she has a bad shoulder. She has drawn the shortest straw of all Labour candidates, fighting in the Dyffryn ward which is the seat of the formidable Martyn Peters, the Plaid Cymru councillor who has seen off the political aspirations and careers of more people than STaN has upset with his articles. And believe me, that's quite a few. Both sit on Coedffranc Community Council. They are good friends of the Lockyers, and of Christina Rees and Jeremy Miles, so have excellent connections. Have been seen dining at Moruzzi's with the Labour crachach and, like the Lockyers, have found it amusing to play Twitter games with the soubriquet of "Neath's No 1 Couple", basking in the glow that they are part of "the scene" and seemingly either immune or oblivious to the fact that people are actually laughing at them laughing. Second favourites for the title in 2017 but could rise to the top should any of the Lockyers expire due to riotous living.
7. Leanne Jones and Andrew Jones - Tonna and Pelenna respectively
Even though the entry rules demand one existing councillor in the mix, for sheer chutzpah, STaN has allowed this couple a special entry. After all, without Leanne working for Christina Rees for five minutes, would we ever have heard of them? As stated, Leanne works in Christina Rees' office - that's our Labour MP, by the way. She has the desk nearest the big flatscreen TV and nice sofa and also answers the door by the looks of it. She previously worked in Communities First, Western Valleys along with her colleague in Ms Rees' office, Dean Cawsey. Now frequently photographed along with Ms Rees and "Banwen's Finest" Mr Cawsey at the many events, buffets and evenings out our MP chooses to attend. She has also been photographed several times recently, standing by a street sign saying Tonna. Leanne is getting excellent experience of how to conduct yourself if you were to be one half of Neath's No 1 Couple. Less in the spotlight is hubbie, Andrew, though he has been helped to canvass in his pitch for Pelenna on 20 April by almost the full team from 39 Windsor Road. Yes, that's Ms Rees herself, Dean Cawsey, and Andrew's wife, Leanne. Then who the hell was manning the office we pay for, your guess is as good as mine? Possibly Ms Rees' future son-in-law who she gave a job to shortly after she was elected? It's unlikely Leanne and Andrew will win the title this year and STaN doubts that Andrew would want it anyway. Would you?
So there we have it. A mix of the experienced and the new kids on the block. A mix of those who love to boast of their lives on social media and those who cast an almost invisible internet presence. And definitely a mix of the committed and those who should be committed. There's our seven lovely couples, under starter's orders, waiting for the off. Not all will make it to the finish line, so let's wait until 5 May to see what casualties there have been before the title of Neath's No 1 Labour Couple 2017 can be awarded to the most deserving twosome.
Who's YOUR money on?
06 April 2017Twitter for Dummies
What an embarrassing start to the election campaign for one of Welsh Labour's hopefuls to win a seat in the Aberavon ward. Colin Clement actually lives in Baglan at an address that the council website states comes under the ward of Briton Ferry East. Anyway, Colin Clement is clearly a man in a hurry, and hardly was the ink dry on the Returning Officer's forms before he was tweeting these:
Colin Clement accuses Plaid of "hypocisy" (sic) in a tweet about the Baglan seat, pointing out that the candidate does not "live in the ward". What that has to do with hypocrisy (spelt properly) I have absolutely no idea. But maybe there's a history to this that general readers of his tweets will be unaware of, in which case I'm sure we'll find out in due course. The Plaid candidate actually lives in Baglan Moors, hardly half a world away. And a lot closer to Baglan than Copenhagen was to Port Talbot! I haven't noticed him calling out Boyo Kinnock as a hypocrite.
Of course, what is hypocrisy would be to insult a candidate because they don't live in the ward, when the seat you are standing for yourself is outside your own patch. And if it was hypocrisy merely to stand in a ward in which you didn't live, then half the bloody Council are caught by the definition, including Council leader until May, Ali Thomas. I'm not at all sure that Colin Clement has a complete grasp of how his tweets can be interpreted by the general public.
Check out the second tweet by Clement. Plaid are "a load of chancers" in Aberavon. Well, chancers or not, I'd have a bet they'll poll quite a few more votes there this time than in 2012 and might give one or more of these Labour plodders a shock. He'd probably prefer to have an uncontested election like his Labour mates in Port Talbot where three of them are already assured of their seats on the Council. No such luck - I'm afraid you're going to have to do some hard yards there, old boy.
Last of all, Clement's final tweet and social media posting. Who's going to tell him that there's no "A" in "Independents"? The product of Labour's wonderful comprehensive school education I expect.
But who can fathom the workings of a mind like Clement's, so stuck in the past and full of stereotypical Old Labour prejudice that his tweets or retweets include references to the Tories as bastards and scum. Some of the nicest, most genuine and generous people I have known are Tories. And some of the most avaricious, spiteful, mean sons-of-bitches are members of the Labour Party. Mere membership of a political party does not a saint or sinner make.
I was particularly struck by this retweet as recently as a couple of months ago.
This is the sort of juvenile trash that has got many a politico into hot water but in my opinion is a good pointer to the utter contempt in which Clement holds those who support the Conservative Party that presently governs the UK. I have news for him - every one of those "Tory virgins" he think it's funny to disparage is the daughter of someone. And some may even be the daughters of Labour Party members! Look - I know it's only a joke, but by re-tweeting it Clement becomes the joke himself. Isn't it a curious phenomenon? These Labour dinosaurs who rail against inequality and unfairness, stick up for the rights of women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, Muslims etc - then think nothing of retweeting a sexist, misogynist "joke" which most people of ALL PARTIES, ALL PERSUASIONS would find tasteless, out of touch and quite frankly, puerile and pathetic. Little things please little minds and all that....
As you'll guess, Clement's insults at the Plaid Cymru challenges, and his blind hatred of all things Tory pissed me off just a tad. I expect a bit more finesse and intelligence from any councillor after my vote, so if I happened to live in Aberavon, which thankfully I don't, Clement would definitely not be getting mine.
One other thing before I go though. Why is Clement "following" on his Twitter, one Chloe Forsyth, a politics aficionado unknown to me?
Curiosity got the better of me, and you know, I don't think Chloe is that interested in politics at all:
I clicked on the link in her Pinned Tweet above, purely for research purposes mind. See what I do for you lot, to leave no stone unturned. You do not want to go there! You have been warned. I'd post one or two of Chloe's other tweets, but they are not fit for a (cough) quality blog like this. But clearly fit to be followed by one of Welsh Labour's Aberavon hopefuls.
People wonder why I have an almost pathological loathing of the Labour Party - I should qualify that and say Welsh Labour. Well it's precisely because it provides succour to the likes of people like Clement, people whose Neanderthal-like thinking that politics is a battle between "good" Labour and "evil" Tories, with the rest of us stuck in between, should have died out years ago. It also attracts and seems to welcome the self-serving, the narcissistic, the real chancers (not Plaid in Aberavon), the wolves in sheep's clothing, con-men, nepots, crooks, bullies and charlatans. Everywhere I look it's riddled with these sort of undesirables and to me is the absolute example in Wales of absolute power corrupting absolutely. I hope they get the kicking in May that decent people deserve to see. But I'm old enough and wise enough not to hold my breath..........
03 April 2017Labour hunt Hunt
I see the Labour Party are piling their resources into trying to take out Steve Hunt, the successful Independent councillor in Seven Sisters. Descending on Seven Sisters Rugby Club last Saturday yet again was Christina Rees and her office staff, two of whom are standing as County Borough councillors on 4 May. Nia Herdman, the Labour candidate for Seven Sisters, was also present. Only two weeks ago Rees, Jeremy Miles and a stellar Labour cast that included Hain's "Talisman", Howard Davies, were door-knocking in the area. Also there on Saturday was Hywel Francis, Derek Vaughan and never far from a function, and great friends of Derek and Christina, the Lockyers. Here are most of them, posing for the inevitable Twitter post, and trying to convince the world that their farts don't smell. Because you see, in La La Looney Labour Land, everything they ever broadcast is "great", "fab", "beautiful", "lovely", "brilliant", "fantasmagorical" etc etc. If you don't believe me, just tune in one day to any of their social media accounts.
Just a nod from STaN for you about the inevitable "Likes" on this Twitter post - there's one from Harry Potter, and one from Mike Harvey (again).
Mike must be tamping that he and Debbie missed this one so I'm wondering if they weren't invited. It seems increasingly unlikely that Mike and Debbie will now wrest the title of Neath's No 1 Couple away from the Lockyers. My sources tell me that in Dyffryn, where Debbie has drawn the short straw, Labour has yet to knock doors in earnest. That's a shame for the people of Dyffryn because I have also heard there are more than a few houses there that are looking forward to Labour calling. I'd suggest they send out a strong team, possibly Ms Rees, Jeremy Miles, Lord Hain, Alun Michael, Derek Vaughan, Andy Richards, Beanz and Harry. The last two are dogs that have been made famous on Twitter by their owners, Beanz being Richards' dog and used extensively to get the animal loving vote out for Christina Rees when she stood in 2015. Harry is Mike and Debbie's dog. Debbie's done more than her fair share knocking doors for several of those aforementioned. Let's hope they now do the decent thing and turn out for her.
02 April 2017STaN's Law - Part 2 of 3
In STaN's Law, Part 1, I wrote about our current Neath MP, Christina Rees, and asked some questions as to whether the full recruitment procedures for employing staff had been adopted for new staff in her office. At least one of the appointments she had made runs the risk of accusations of blatant cronyism/nepotism, something followers of Welsh Labour politics are well used to seeing. I had hoped for something different from Ms Rees, but it looks like the same old book just in a different cover.
However, Christina is but a lightweight compared to her predecessor, Peter Hain, who has always boxed in the Heavyweight Division when it came down to looking after family and friends. There's an untold tale I'd like to tell you - because people like the Orange Baron should never think that because things happened a few years' back and no-one found out, that the story will ne'er be told.
In 2007, MPs were granted an allowance of about £10K a year called the Communications Allowance, to spend on such things as publicising and promoting their services, including the production of websites. The Allowance was done away with after a few years due to concerns about how it was being used. I'd advise you read this next link suggesting among other things that MPs were using the Allowance for self-promotion. Get away - I am absolutely certain that wasn't the case in Neath. No way would that nice man Peter Hain have done that.
But while it was available, Hain, never one to look a gift
allowance horse in the mouth, predictably used it to its full, entirely for the purpose it was recommended, naturally. And as part of his spend he duly set up a website.
He claimed a total of £5,883 for work done by a local company called Digital Guides Ltd to set it up. The company's registered office at the time was "Y Gored", Melincourt, Neath SA11 4BD, until May 2012 when it relocated to Cambridgeshire. I think that Y Gored was once the Gored Arms or Gored Hotel, one of the very few public houses in the Neath Valley I never sank a pint (or three) in.
I was initially pleased that Hain had seen fit to use local labour (let's re-jig that and write it as "local Labour", as we'll soon see). I'd never heard of Digital Guides but why would I have? After all, in this Brave New World of home working, consultancy and IT, people can make a living anywhere - even in Melincourt it would seem. Then I checked who the company's owners/directors were. And lo and behold, the sole director at that time was a chap called Sam Hain.
What a coincidence, you may think, that there's a guy living in a really swish property in Melincourt, did nearly £6K of work for Peter Hain, shares his unusual surname, whose name doesn't appear on MPs' expenses records - only the name of his company. Well I don't believe in coincidences like this and neither should you. After all - we are dealing with MPs here, and a Labour one at that, and in Peter Hain especially, one whose reputation for looking after his own was already legendary.
Sam is Peter Hain's son, of course, but you'll already have worked that one out. And guess what? No rules were broken again except STaN's Law! You'll remember that that's the one when you see the sheer cheek and effrontery of an action by a public figure and go, "No way, WTF is going on there?"
Though I have to say that using close relatives to carry out such services is now verboten since IPSA's days (post-2010) who doubtless looked at how much of this was going on and said, WHAT! We'd better adopt STaN's Law, because this is just taking the p*ss!!
But even though at that time such practices didn't break any specific rule, surely common sense and an appreciation of what is acceptable in the Court of Public Opinion should have made people like Peter Hain sit back a moment and ask themselves, should I really be spending nearly £6K of public money on a service provided by my son? Fat chance there then!
In 2012, Y Gored was placed on the market at an asking price of £250,000, dropped from close to £300,000 from an earier marketing - a princely sum for that area and a not inconsiderable capital asset for Hain the Younger to have accumulated by his mid-30's - in a backwater like Melincourt. It irks me that my taxes helped pay nearly £6K off the mortgage of Hain's son (if he ever had a loan for the property, that is). Nice property though - plenty of space for that huge ego of Peter Hain to relax in. It doesn't appear to have sold.
One of the rubs of all this is that the website was crap anyway. Have a read of this quote from an award winning LibDem blog called Quaequam at the time.
"It has much less functionality than the average Blogger account, and yet he boasted that "I have tried to make it possible for you to add your own views" – a feature which amounted to a facility allowing visitors to send him an email. Some web designer has been paid what one guesses must be a tidy sum for coming up with this fairly useless website at taxpayers expense, all in the name of “improving communications”. If Hain had been forced to use MySpace, for free, he’d have ended up communicating with more constituents"
That's a pretty damning indictment of what amounts to a waste of nearly £6K of taxpayers' money as far as I am concerned - paid into the grateful palm of his son.
Watch this space for STaN's Law, Part 3 of 3 for more revelations in the future about how Peter Hain used that Communications Allowance. Because, believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet.........
01 April 2017April Fools
A year ago to the day I posted an article about canvassing by the Labour Party. I never intended it as an April Fools Day skit but re-reading it this morning the link to All Fools somehow seems appropriate.
Here it is again in case you missed it the first time:
How many of those canvassing with the Lord are standing in the election of 4 May? All will be revealed soon.