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August 21, 2017

THE Crown Prosecution Service is broadening the definition of “hate” in terms of crimes which the police have to investigate and encouraging them to clamp down.
Yet, as my last post about homeless people in Cardiff on Saturday, showed there are fewer police officers actually maintaining law and order.
So few that I am beginning to wonder what would happen if a serious crime were committed near me.
I have tried to call the police but it is like trying to converse with the Pope these days. Calling at a police station is no better. Most are unstaffed or incredibly busy desk sergeants are unable to deal with your enquiry unless you walk in with a large knife in your back covered in blood screaming “MURDER, MURDER” at the top of your voice and even then you are likely to be asked if you think the problem is serious enough for immediate attention. At the hospital, you are likely to be asked why you did not go to your GP first by a surly uniformed official at accident and emergency.
It seems that if I reported threats, abuse or insults online – and, believe me, I could – a squad car with CID officers notebooks poised and ready would race to my premises at breakneck speed with sirens blaring.
If I was given ten pounds for each time someone has abused or insulted me, I would now be a rich man.
It goes with the territory. One of the first things I was told as a trainee journalist was that I would need to develop a thick skin. I didn’t know what that meant then, but I do now. I definitely do now. People who ask awkward questions and write inconvenient truths do not go to the top of Christmas card lists and get showered with bouquets and lavish praise.
The deeply patronising Alison Saunders, director of the CPS, is tasked by the government with informing us all about what is threatening, abusive and insulting and, it seems, prioritising these new crimes above others.
This is a dangerous form of totalitarianism and social engineering which will eventually lead to a world where everyone is too frightened to speak or write at all for fear of breaking the law. They will be mouthing and writing inane and platitudinous praise at each other on social platforms which factor out negative or forthright expression.
Twitter and Facebook have built into their systems a barring or banning facility which means that the author can bar or ban you from their site if you write something they don’t like.
This is like going into a pub and the publican barring you because you made unkind comments about the lineage of his daughter.
The publican has the power because it is his pub, not yours, of course. You have said something insulting and abusive and he has the right to tell you to sup somewhere else.
But if his daughter genuinely is of dubious lineage, you have told the truth.
It would be negative, insulting and possibly abusive to him but not a crime and no business of the police.
An example of this occurred when I was told by an employee of the Institute for Welsh Affairs that a response to the Welsh Assembly’s report on Creating a digital dialogue – How can the National Assembly for Wales use digital to build useful and meaningful citizen engagement? I posted on this blog “GRAVE NEW WORLD” was unsuitable for publication on their website because I breached their comments policy
Free speech, in the final analysis, is your right to insult and abuse me and my duty to protect your right to do that and vice versa so that we live in a world free from totalitarianism and state control of any kind.
It means we don’t have leaders like Kim Jung-un who we all worship and adore when alive and wail and scream hysterically over when they die.


August 19, 2017

A SHOPKEEPER this morning confronted a man who had been sleeping outside his shop in a Cardiff city centre street. He angrily lashed out at this man and warned him to stay away from the front of his shop.
He had to take the law into his own hands because the police no longer intervene in such things.
Earlier, at around 7am, yes, 7am, I had seen four menacing, shabby, unshaven men gathered around a multi-pack of cans of cider under the flyover near where I live in Newport clutching bottles of alcohol with broken glass all over the floor. It was a pitiful scene.
I have grown weary and sick of people squatting outside Tesco shops begging for money, which is usually spent on alcohol or some other drug, and I am starting to resent the presence of these people who now litter streets and habitually take from others but never give anything back.
The incident in Cardiff, where the problem of what we used to call alcoholic “down-and-outs” sleeping on our streets is particularly gruesome, made me think of what constitutes vigilantism.
We now have ordinary citizens capturing paedophiles by posing as teenagers online to lure them into a trap and then hand them over to police.
How long will it be, I wonder, before people like that shopkeeper, who is clearly sick and tired of finding homeless people asleep on his doorstep, say “enough is enough” and attack these people.
I am deeply worried about a future where law abiding citizens will start to lash out at the alcoholic homeless on our streets because the police just turn a blind eye.


August 11, 2017

AS A boy growing up in Gwynedd, the epi-centre of extremist Welsh nationalism (I have memories of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon in 1969 when I stood probably waving a daffodil aged eight and the terrorist activities as well as the Free Wales Army graffiti on walls). I always felt certain that I was Welsh through and through and had sympathy for the protestors against what was an insulting imperialist imposition of an English/German token figurehead upon us timid, winsome Welsh.
A recent dip into genealogy, however, has revealed that my given surname came more out of places like Somerset, Birmingham and London than places like Swansea, Bethesda and Llangefni and that my ancestors on that side were almost certainly English immigrants, not Welsh pure breeds at all.
This is the fatal flaw in extremist Welsh nationalism (indeed, any kind of extremist nationalism, which usually emanates from a far right mind-set and always seeks to separate and divide rather than join and mingle). Just because your family happens to live in one part of the world does not mean they have done so since the beginning of time. Genealogy teaches that we are usually more like leaves blown from place to place rather than trees standing firmly in one place always.
The Wales Governance Centre and Institute for Welsh Affairs has invited me to an all-day event in Cardiff Bay on September 18 to celebrate 20 years since the formation of the National Assembly for Wales. Tickets for the shindig, with speeches by Carwyn Jones, Elin Jones and Leighton Andrews are going for up to £140.
They trumpet loudly the fact that Wales said YES to devolution in 1997 (just, and with most of the money spent in funding the YES campaign) and are even now preparing their eulegies and celebratory fanfares for an institution which they insist gives power to the people of Wales previously denied by the English. They are, of course, hungry for more power and to further separate Wales from England.
Two hugely significant, principled people will be absent: Ron Davies, the true architect and father of Welsh devolution who has been written out of history by Welsh Labour as he remains unforgiven for his colourful sex life (he tried to revive his political career by joining Plaid Cymru when his back slapping friends turned into backstabbing enemies) and Rachel Banner, another figure written out of Welsh history because of her popular and principled vigorous campaign against.
Also absent because many of them are now dead will be those radical fighters for a free, fearless and independent Wales, many of whom were inspired by and worked in close proximity to Irish Republican Army terrorists, who also regularly used guns and bombs to intimidate and challenge London-based power brokers.
Julian Cayo-Evans, Denis Coslett and John Jenkins – who all went to prison for their stubborn, violent resistance to English rule – would have a right to turn up at the event but what, I wonder, would they think of the Welsh Assembly? Some of the fanatical Welsh nationalist fighters who occupy the blogosphere don’t seem to think much of it, branding it as merely a new form of imperialist conceit which does little to empower the Welsh. Some of those gathered at Cardiff Bay for the event may not even know that extremist, militant nationalist terrorism ever happened in Wales.
Two books, Freedom Fighters Wales’s Forgotten “War” 1963 – 1993 by John Humphries, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2008, and To Dream of Freedom, the story of MAC and the Free Wales Army, by Roy Clews, Y Llolfa, 2004, will enlighten them.
Humphries, the Newport-born former Western Mail editor, speculates on whether Welsh terrorism will occur again and reveals much about the macho, red-in-tooth-and-claw anti-Welsh nationalist prejudice on his newspaper then.
“At the Western Mail the front page headline was “Sabotage at Treweryn” but inside the office the reaction of the then editor Don Rowlands was to pin responsibility on the outrage on Plaid Cymru,” writes Humphries. Their journalists then repeatedly helped to maintain the status quo by merging Welsh nationalism with terrorist acts casually in their reports.
He reveals much, also, about the way Special Branch and MI5 tried to address what was a growing problem by watching, sometimes intermingling, waiting and swooping, particularly before the investiture when fears of an attack on the Royal Family was at its height in Wales. He reveals neither MI5 nor Special Branch “was prepared to share intelligence relating directly to Investiture security with the Welsh, for fear of their sources being compromised.”
“Neil Galbraith, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Wales, thought he knew exactly where the problem lay: with Col Williams, the reactionary chief constable of Gwynedd. According to Galbraith “the old man of the Welsh mountains” was inordinately conscious of any apparent attempt to “subordinate the authority” of the chief constable to external influence, Home Office or otherwise.”
Three pages of a classified 29 page report Subversion in the United Kingdom, written by Burgess and Maclean investigator Dick Thistlethwaite, director of the counter subversion division of MI5, dealt exclusively with Welsh extremism.
Friction and tension between the neighbouring countries of England – bigger, bolder and better resourced – and Wales – smaller, slighter and hugely self-conscious about its contrasting economic disadvantages – has existed for centuries and, sadly, still does (just look at the way politicians at the Assembly regularly refer to politicians at Westminster and vice-versa).
Caernarfon Castle, where Charles was crowned in a ghastly ceremony stuffed full of patronising pomp specially designed by Lord Snowdon, who appeared on the day alongside Princess Margaret in what looked like a Chinese army outfit, was the fortress for Edward 1 in defeating the Welsh in 1283 and was then used by the English to keep the Welsh out and maintain their grip over the rebellious fighting mountain tribesmen in hardy and unyielding parts of north Wales.
Humphries used Freedom of Information requests and gained help from the National Archives and the National Library of Wales for his book so his is the more scholarly, authoritative work but Roy Clews, whose book features a foreword by Sian Dalis Cayo-Evans, the daughter of Julian, is more reasoned in his portrayal of them so was able to dig out more information about their modus operandi rather than about how the press and the police reacted to them.
The causes of resentment and conflict between the two nations are difficult to trace to one point in history, more a process over centuries than an event but these two books start broadly at the early 1960s. Humphries’s book has a useful timeline for this period in Welsh history which starts when two valleys near Bala, north Wales, where drowned to supply water for Liverpool residents. They were forced out of their homes though not without protest as they marched on Liverpool with banners in a vain demand to keep the thirsty English from drowning them.
Dai Pritchard, of New Tredegar; Dave Walters, of Bargoed; Owen Williams, of Nefyn; Robert Williams, of Criccieth; and Edwin Pritchard, of Nefyn, released oil from a transformer to cause an explosion and stole detonators for a bomb attack on Treweryn in 1962.
Bombs then blew up many water pipelines, blew out windows at the Welsh Office, blew down walls in tax offices in Chester and Cardiff, and two men George Taylor and Alwyn Jones were killed while assembling bombs near the railway line along which the royal train would pass to Caernarfon in 1969 where another bomb would go off as well as one at Holyhead and numerous others. There were even plans to blow up the Severn Bridge when it opened in 1966.
Extremists then targeted holiday cottages owned by mostly English immigrants after a referendum granting devolution to Wales was defeated in 1979 and 20 estate agents in England were attacked as well as numerous cottages in Wales were burnt down when their English owners left them empty.
Humprhies highlights the collusion between the journalists and then Secretary of State for Wales George Thomas, later Lord Tonypandy, who described those responsible as a “cowardly bunch who creep up in the dark to do their dirty work” and that the spate of attacks had earned Wales notoriety as “a land of violence”.
Significantly, journalists comprised the majority of the 72 prosecution witnesses called to give evidence at the Free Wales Army trial at Swansea Assizes in April, 1969, when Cayo-Evans and Coslett were jailed for 15 months on firearms and explosives charges and controlling, managing, organising and training FWA members, some of whom had earlier appeared on the David Frost TV show dressed menacingly in green military garb when the popular presenter ridiculed them as being a ramshackle Dad’s Army.
Clews features a drawing of an FWA soldier with the Snowdonia white eagle badge on their caps, full military uniform and carrying a loaded gun.
Cayo-Evans told him “It was never our intention to storm over the border in armoured cars and tanks. Ours was to be more of a war of propaganda, punctuated by acts of sabotage and shows of strength. Of course we wanted arms badly and getting them presented a lot of problems. We bought, begged, borrowed, stole whatever we could get. War souvenirs, granddad’s revolver, rifles forgotten by the Home Guard, sporting rifles and shotguns, in fact anything that could be fired. To be honest I think that any folk museum would have been pleased to acquire some of our arms.”
After being sentenced, Coslett made an emotional speech in Welsh from the dock, in which he said he was trained to use violence by the British Army (so too, was John Jenkins. who started Mudiad Amddifyn Cymru and was jailed for ten years at Flintshire Assizes in 1970). “I do not believe that it is possible to kill the soul that has been inspired by the spirit of freedom. The only arm I shall now use is the pen .. I am ready for your sentence ….free Wales.”
Clews also lets us in on the bitter battle between Plaid and the extremists with Welsh language campaigner and first Plaid MP Gwynfor Evans saying: “I’m tired of talking about the FWA. All this publicity for them does nobody any good.” Clews concludes thus “He could truthfully have added, least of all Plaid.”
John Jenkins told Clews he opposed the leaders of Plaid Cymru “because they are prepared to sacrifice their people, their country and their heritage on the shrine of their respectability and pacifism.”


July 31, 2017


July 29, 2017

JACQUI Thompson’s blog Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and More is also blocked on the internet service provided by European coach operator Flixbus.
I had earlier reported that it was blocked on Newport City Council’s free internet service on their buses, too.


July 18, 2017

THE Crown Prosecution Service has dropped a charge against blogger Jacqui Thompson for “criminal harassment” of Carmarthenshire County Council chief executive Mr Mark James
The problem, or problems, I have with this compelling, absolutely key case for free speech and democracy is this: Is Jacqui a journalist or a politician?
A blogger is a very vulnerable fish swimming alone outside any protective and nourishing shoal and very often politically motivated, mischievous and hopelessly ill-informed about the law. Great reading, which we would never have been able to access before the internet, but often full of holes, glaring errors and accusations which might or might not be backed up by verifiable facts and more than one trusted source (exemplified best in the frequently vicious and threatening abuse emitted on Twitter and Facebook by millions of desktop publishers).
However, her determined and energetic campaign is hugely valuable because it has cast a light on the issue of just how transparent and accountable local councils are. Not at all, it would appear from this case.
She apparently started her blog after being denied planning permission by Carmarthenshire County Council (meaning that she was aggrieved and motivated against the council at the outset). I have subsequently learnt that she serves as a local councillor, too, but not for the county council.
Her full-on criticisms of the council and the way they do business are refreshingly forthright and frank and go against practically everything a trainee journalist would be taught, with direct accusations of corruption and dodgy dealing by officers (which, of course, is why Mark James – named Shit of the Year by Private Eye – successfully sued for libel with a law lord condemning Jacqui at the High Court).
Jacqui accused him of something she had no evidence he had done and is now having to pay him monthly for the rest of her life as an alternative to losing her house
She continues with her blog, however, and continues to claim that Mr James is now harassing her and not the other way around. She also claims that the council itself has broken rules by working on Mr James’s behalf and misspending money.
She was ejected from the council chamber and arrested by police when she tried to film proceedings on her mobile phone and stubbornly continues to assert her rights as a citizen to attend meetings and report on them in her own inimitable way. Many people support her and one has started another blog chronicling the activities of Gwynedd County Council.
My understanding is that there is no difference between the rights of a journalist and a member of the public.
The main difference is that journalists qualify in media law and have access to expert legal advice which naturally tends to take a conservative stance to avoid costly legal proceedings.
The key difference though, I have come to realise, is that the journalists have a “relationship” with the movers and shakers which far too often compromises them. They aspire to be part of the elevated, comfortably off middle-class morally certain high ground and soon learn that the worst possible way of raising and not falling in polite society is to upset those in power.
Why risk offending someone who might get you into that swish golf club or mention you favourably at interview when that fantastic job comes up?
When I attended council meetings, what I couldn’t report was far more important to me than what I could. Any mistakes in matters of fact could cost my employer a lot of money, so I naturally took a cautious approach as, broadly, I do in all my writing. When I was told that the councillors and their officers had to consider issues “in camera” – public and press banned – I accepted it and left the chamber.
When a councillor said that some direction, decision or approach was in the “public interest” and best for the community, I tended to accept it rather than challenge it.
That approach was something I was taught to do and because I operated in an insecure environment and never felt confident in my managers (Watergate reporter Bob Woodward once said that good reporting was always done in defiance of management) I accepted far more than I challenged as a survival strategy.
Little personally was at stake for me in those heady days of full employment and no internet.
Established community journalism is rapidly dying a long, slow and painful death and councils and governments have quickly grasped that they can write the news themselves now. They publish their own “news” sheets and official material on their websites often reporting court cases where the council has prosecuted offenders, they rarely have established journalists even in attendance at meetings and are rarely challenged by them. They now carefully police the radically contrary views of citizens like Jacqui Thompson.
This new breed of citizen journalists or bloggers may now be our only hope.
I think we need to know exactly why the CPS has dropped this criminal case against Jacqui at the very least.
Published attacks must always be part and parcel of a healthy, open democracy.
Politicians and officials complaining about that is like sailors complaining about high waves at sea.
Very annoying and sometimes sickening – but hardly harassment.


July 6, 2017

MORNING Assembly was not a religious experience at Friars School, Bangor, for me – far more about conforming to a specified regime of discipline and confirming the power base of that specified regime of paid professional disciplinarians who we all ceremonially stood up for when they entered the hall (the only time in adulthood this would happen for me would be at magistrates and crown courts when judges entered although there was a prayer element in council meetings I covered, too, for some mysterious reason).
It was also a useful way of getting people to appear at school on time in one place and gave the head (in his black gown only worn for that occasion, although we always speculated that he wore it when caning boys, which always took me back to crusty old public schools, sadistic teachers and Mr Chips) an opportunity to address us all as our spiritual and disciplinarian head, warn us against insolence and abuse of any kind, encourage us to excel and at all times respect our elders and betters OR ELSE!
Friars was a very different school to the one it is today. Current head Neil Foden, I am reliably informed, gets “world leading” results by expelling troublesome pupils.
I don’t know if Mr Foden still insists on a morning assembly and still appears in a flowing black gown and a hymn is sung and a prayer is said. I suspect, for some reason, that it is not or is purely optional exactly as it was in every practical sense when I was a boy (I’ve never been a morning type and sometimes missed school altogether and far too frequently missed out on Calon Lan and the Lord’s Prayer).
I do know, however, (I somehow survived the painful ordeal of comprehensive school supply teaching in south Wales inner cities in adulthood though I still carry the scars) that school staff nowadays bend over backwards to meet the needs of parents and pupils so forcing the little darlings to go and to worship strikes me as extremely unlikely.
Which is why I found it surprising to learn that two Cardiff schoolgirls, however, have asserted their rights as atheists (such remarkable certainty from such young people for whom almost everything is uncertain) and are lobbying the Welsh Assembly government to make it illegal for schools to insist that pupils attend.
One of the girls has her own Twitter account and is hawking her story around radio studios accompanied by her father, who just happens to be a reporter with a firm foothold at (yes, you guessed it) the Welsh Assembly government and who regularly reports from a biased perspective on their activities in what remains of the established “Welsh media”.
Responding to Rhiannon and Lily’s petition last month, the Welsh Government said: “Collective worship should be sensitive to the range of beliefs and non-beliefs held by pupils in the school and should give pupils the opportunity to worship, without encouraging them to do something that is against the teachings of their own religion or beliefs.
“Parents can request for their child to be withdrawn from collective worship and schools must agree to such requests in all circumstances.” So, absolutely no story and a meaningless petition. They don’t have to go if their parent or parents request it.
Plaid politician Neil McEvoy said: “It is really great to see young people engage in politics and taking an interest today in the public gallery. I think it is right to progress this (the teenagers’) petition.”
Really? Wouldn’t they be better off getting to school early to get more studying done knowing that legally they don’t have to go to assembly or worship in any way as atheists. That way they could really concentrate and get some God-given good grades.