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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.