Monthly Archives: November 2015

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend’s Labour MP): plenty of time for arms dealers; no time for climate change

I will probably come as no surprise to most that I write to my MP fairly regularly and, to be fair, she usually gets back to me with considered and often detailed responses. However, actions invariably speak louder than words, and there has sometimes been a disconnect between what she says and what she does.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 21.42.46

Madeline Moon, third left.

No where has this been so blatant and reprehensible than over issues of warmongering, and especially worrying as a longstanding member of the Defence Select Committee.

In September 2014, I had cause to write the following, under the heading Spineless Madeleine Moon succumbs and votes for another futile war”:

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 21.46.11

Her Facebook pic

Ithought our Labour MP, Madeleine Moon, was asking most of the right questions on Thursday. She posted this on Facebook:
As we move towards tomorrow’s debate I remain very worried about air strikes leading to mission creep.
Questions I feel need answering include;
What role will the Gulf states play militarily?
What role will the Sunni tribes play in attacking IS?
What role will the Sunni and Kurds play in a future Iraqi state?
What role will Russia and Iran play in this conflict?
How can we be confident that Iraq will not end up like Libya where a humanitarian mission led to regime change and a failing/ failed state?
Is the Iraqi army capable of following through on the ground after air strikes?
Is it just coincidence that we are having this vote the day before the Conservative conference? And so on. 
There were no answers given to any of these questions, but unlike the her colleagues with the courage of their convictions (listed below), she crumbled and vote in favour of war and the death of civilians and the further radicalisation of young Muslims.
Utterly spineless!!

Fast forward just a few months to February, and she was one of just 40 MPs who were on the guest list of a high profile arms dealers dinner in London. She was the guest (along with Wrexham MP Ian Lucas) of a company you may not of heard much about, Finmeccanica, an Italian company (with some Libyan connections) that has become a big player in the UK military industrial complex. Its website boasts the following:

  • Finmeccanica is the second largest defence company in the UK, employing 8,500 people
  • Finmeccanica has invested nearly £2bn in the UK since 1995 and is the largest overseas investor in the UK defence sector
  • Finmeccanica operates from 10 different locations/sites across the country from Christchurch to Edinburgh
  • Finmeccanica in the UK was the first defence company to sign a strategic partnering agreement with the UK MOD
  • Finmeccanica is the largest Italian investor in the UK
  • Finmeccanica is the third largest exporter of defence products in the UK
  • Finmeccanica invests around £200m in Research and Development in the UK

None of the 10 sites, by the way, is in Wales.

So with votes on further bombing raids on the agenda, I think we can now assume they will have the backing of Moon. It will be good for business, and probably another slap-up meal.

What a pity, then, that when something of global importance required her attention – something that is a threat to you and me, as much as the poor souls being bombed to smithereens because there might be an islamist terrorist in the vicinity – Madeleine Moon found her diary a bit too full (lunch date with some other warmongers perhaps?)

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 21.53.08I refer to the debate on 19th of November that was essentially about the position the UK should be taking at the upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference. Sadly, Moon was not alone in having ‘more important things in her diary’! Only 54 ish MPs made it at all, according to Greenpeace, and many of those arrived late or left early

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 21.56.44

Not David TC Davies MP

Full marks for Huw Irranca-Davies making it, but he is one of just 4 Welsh MPs to bother it appears, and one of those was the highly dangerous, climate change denying Tory MP for Monmouth, David TC Davies (answers on a postcard as to what the TC stands for!). Sadly, only one out of three PC MPs made it, and it appears that Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell were otherwise engaged too.

All-in-all, a very sad state of affairs that reflects badly on MPs priorities in general and Madeleine Moon’s in particular, from a Bridgend perspective.

Six new wind parks, Green Gas Mills & ecobond three

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Hi there,

It’s been enjoyably hectic over the last few months.

As you probably know, we use your energy bills to help us build new wind and sun parks, and we’re building six new ones right now – between them, they could power around 10,000 homes in Britain.

The first of those six is very nearly finished – nine windmills in Dalby, Leicestershire. Five windmills are already in the ground and the entire project is due to be finished by the end of the year. Once complete, it will provide enough green energy to power nearly 5,000 homes.

Just as we can make green electricity from renewable sources and put it into the Grid, we can do the same with green gas. We’ve recently launched a new way of doing just that, using grass from marginal farmland and turning it into green gas for the Grid. It’s an exciting prospect, and we’ll be putting the first three of our Green Gas Mills into planning this year.

We’ve also recently announced that we’re building three new hybrid green energy parks – adding solar power to existing wind parks across Britain.

We’re certainly not twiddling our thumbs at the moment. The more people that join us, the more sites like these we’ll be able to build. It’s thanks to our customers that we can do this – all 170,000 of you and growing.

Another way we’ve been able to increase the amount of green energy we build is through our ecobonds – giving customers and the wider public the chance to invest in our work and share in the financial benefits of the Green Energy Revolution.

ecobonds are about introducing a bit of fairness into the financial sector – giving people access to the kind of interest rates that banks charge borrowers, but don’t pay savers.

We launched ecobond three a little while ago – it’s going really well, and you can find out all about it on our website here.

That’s about it for now, apart from a very British mention of the weather – it’s been a pretty windy year so far and our windmills have generated around 40% more green electricity than during the same period last year. So despite the government’s obvious opposition to green energy, the wind is very much in our sails.

Thanks for being with us.

Cheers,

Dale

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“Fracking will not be taking place in Bridgend”

I recently sent this letter to Madeleine Moon:

Dear Mrs Madeleine Moon MP,

I am writing to urge you to vote against the government’s Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015, when they come to Parliament in the next few weeks.

These regulations will expose some of the UK’s finest and most environmentally sensitive landscapes to the impacts of shale gas & oil exploration and extraction.

According to documents uncovered via Greenpeace FOI requests, the shale gas & oil industry has been directly lobbying to prevent proper safeguards for protected areas:
http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/10/27/energy-files-fracking-company-expressed-concern-over-national-park-drilling-ban-months-before-it-was-repealed/

This is clear evidence that the loophole in the regulations – which allows firms to drill horizontally under protected zones – will be exploited, resulting in sensitive nature and wildlife sites being circled by fracking rigs trying to access gas or oil beneath.

The substantial risk of noise, air and light pollution to our national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) is further supported in the RSPB and National Trust report ‘Are we fit to frack?’ here:
https://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/shale_gas_summary_tcm9-365778.pdf

This research found that when fracking was permitted on the outskirts of a National Park in the US, the park was exposed to substantial noise pollution – damaging the tranquility of the area and threatening local wildlife.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd committed to an outright ban on fracking in protected areas in January this year. I urge you to do all you can to make sure this ban is upheld.

Sincerely,

Andy Chyba

The reply I received simply flagged up that the new devolution powers will give responsibility for future licensing to NRW, but also contains the interesting statement, and I quote:

“I have also received assurances from Natural Resources Wales that Fracking will not be taking place in Bridgend.”


As regards the the request to vote against the regulations that could allow fracking in places like National Parks, she makes the following reasonable enough point, without saying how she would vote:

“As the English votes for English laws bill was passed in Parliament just last week it is not clear yet whether I will have any say in the house over this issue as it is now an England only issue.”

Solidarity and empathy for families of the victims, but fuck solidarity with France

This is directed primarily to all those people that have felt that it is an appropriate response, to the events in Paris last Friday evening, to superimpose French tricolore flags all over the place, including things like their infernal Facebook profile pics. In the words of a great marxist rebel “They know not what they are doing”.

There are two major problems with such actions.

Firstly, it smacks of more than just a hint of, at best double standards, and at worst latent racism. Why use the french flag when a terrorist atrocity occurs there, but not show similar ‘solidarity’ for similar and worse atrocities, this year alone, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Kenya, Yemen, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gaza etc, etc. Perhaps the victims were just not white enough for you, dare I say?

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 09.01.38Of course, part of this, and the excuse most people will absolve themselves with, is the fact that the media coverage of these atrocities ranges from piffling to none existent. And as regards the Facebook pics, Facebook made it easy for people to add the flag with a couple of clicks, but never offered such facilities for the other events. So lets deflect any accusations of bias and racism towards the media and Facebook then. At least that way we can sleep a bit easier, knowing we have done all we can with those couple of clicks. How easily we let ourselves be manipulated. We haven’t the time in our hectic lives to take responsibility for educating ourselves and holding organisations that are supposed to serve us to account, have we? Much easier not to ask too many equations and trust our governments to do the right things on our behalf. We voted them in after all, and we are not stupid, are we?

This brings me on to the second major problem with showing solidarity with France. The French government comprises a similar bunch of mass murdering bastards as our UK government and the (worst of the lot) US government. Neoliberal capitalists control our governments.

Buy it here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/how-the-world-works/noam-chomsky/9780241145388

Buy it here:

They persuade our governments to rampage around the world to protect their neoliberal, capitalist interests. They stir up trouble in far flung lands, encouraging extremists by arming and often training both sides in these local squabbles. It is fantastic for the arms trade and great for helping to secure access and favourable deals on vital commodities, especially oil and gas. Leftie conspiracy theory? Read Naom Chomsky’s ‘How the World Works’, if you can be bothered to question anything about the what the fuck is going on around you.

So let’s get it clear. The French had it coming. They have been bombing in Iraq for some time and started a bombing campaign in Syria in September.
Witnesses at the Bataclan said the gunmen shouted in French, “This is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world.” He was probably French.

The rise of anti-islamic racism in France, alongside the bombing campaign, are just the start of reasons why France has become a prime target for the terrorists.

So solidarity with France is solidarity with the racists and the bombers, whether that is what you intended or not. And it is solidarity with the French response to this attack, its retaliation to the ISIS retaliation, and so the cycle goes on. So far, the official reports of the French strike back stress that ‘no civilian casualties have been reported’. That does not mean that there have been none of course. Early unofficial reports suggest air strikes had also hit a stadium, a museum, clinics, a hospital, a chicken farm and a local governmental building. Water and electricity were cut across the city as a result of the raids, the group said, adding that at least 30 air strikes had been carried out. In your name.

But a lot worse has been done in your name, and by British troops – those heroes you were saluting just last week. But hey, you don’t want to hear about that either, do you?

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Wales Green Party Strategy 2015-17 – “My gast has never been so flabbered!”

Apologies for quoting from Carry On Up the Jungle, but this really is quite a carry on!

I have never seen eye-to-eye with Royston North, aka Jac O’ the North, who describes himself as a right-wing nationalist. A lot of his sources are suspect at best. He once wrote of me thus: “Chyba has a background in the military or the police, and may be operating as a spy.” But hey, he is never less than entertaining and sometimes he gets hold of interesting things.

Today he has published another attack on the ‘mythical’ Wales Green Party that does at least have some substantive sources. Having left the Party after the General Election, I have had no real interest in following their activities. I am told that they, including the usually publicity-seeking Pippa Bartolotti, have been keeping a very low profile since the election anyway, no doubt licking their wounds after another poor performance at the polls. But it seems that they have been regrouping behind the scenes, devising some cunning plans for success in the Assembly elections. Thanks to Royston, those plans are now in the public domain. They are entitled: Wales Green Party Strategy 2015-17. As it is a staggering 28 pages long, I will not reproduce it, but it can be found here  and as an attachment at the end of this piece.

The entire document is written anonymously except for the the last “Annex”, so let me dismiss that first of all.

Annex 2 takes up the last 12 pages and is written by Peter Varley, Elections Co-ordinator subordinaire. It his ‘number crunching’ analysis of election data that starts, as it indeed goes on, with: “I’ll start with some wild guesses about how other parties will do”. He goes to conclude from these wild guesses that: ‘Some of the implications are downright weird – for example, in MWW (Mid and West Wales), if the Corbyn bubble continues to expand, we should target Plaid Cymru, but if it bursts, we should target the Lib Dems’. Weird is the word!

He then proceeds to have a series of self-confessed ‘wild guesses’ about the Greens prospects, based on a series of highly suspect scenarios of his own devising. The statistics invariably show huge gaps that need scaling to get anywhere near to a list seat. The best he can come up with is in MWW, where he postulates that an increase from 8660 of an extra 5000 ish votes will do it. That’s as good as it gets. Yet he sees fit to conclude at the end of it all: “Based on these figures, we would probably gain two AMs, in MWW and SWC, and miss out by about 1000 votes in SWE and SWW.” Well, if “Wild Guess Pete” says it is so, that is good enough for me!

As for the rest of the document, I guess it is reasonable to conclude that a strategy document is the collective effort of the Strategy Group set up to supposedly ‘learn lessons from the General Election campaign’. The members of this ‘task force’ are listed in ‘Annex 1’, along with the group’s remit. The relatively coherent structure and vaguely academic style of the document would appear to eliminate Bartolotti and Slaughter as the main authors, but their perspectives are evident enough, and the fact that the rest of the group (bar the aforementioned Varley) are all relative newcomers with little grasp of the historical context, let alone the current realities, explains why the whole thing is so hopelessly misguided.

It shoots itself in the foot (and that may as well have been the head) right from the very outset. Key point number one states:
“Whilst the 2017 local elections are important, the current objective must be to win at least one seat in the Assembly elections. The reputation of Wales Green Party will be damaged, possibly irreparably, if we fail to do so, so all efforts must be concentrated on this.

First and foremost, I explained just yesterday, in the PS footnote to the Compass piece, just why the 2017 local elections are all-important, and why devoting time, effort, resources, finance and members goodwill to chasing success anywhere else first is futile. But the second italicised sentence has Bartolotti’s fingerprints all over it. Substitute her name where it says Wales Green Party, and it all of a sudden becomes spot on (perhaps with the addition of ‘even more’ before the word damaged) and the thrust of the whole ‘strategy’ becomes evident. It is a last gasp attempt to salvage her reputation.

I am not going to go through it all with a fine tooth comb (the Jac O’ the North blog does a lot of this), but there are a few other things that need pointing out for their sheer blatant inaccuracy and/or stupidity.

I quote:

“We will demonstrate that Labour aren’t the party people want them to be by promoting a positive Green vision, with policies and achievements at local and regional levels, is at the heart of our strategy.” (pg3)

Apart from being grammatically nonsensical, promoting a positive Green vision does NOT demonstrate anything about the Labour Party – it is a non-sequitur – especially when framed around non-existent achievements, certainly at regional level.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.21.08The very next point on page three bins the ‘Second Vote Green’ strategy that very nearly landed a list seat for Jake Griffiths in SWC in 2011 and has been successful in Scotland. It might ‘seem like a sensible tactic’ because it is a sensible tactic. Expecting strategies to yield success at the first time of asking, and binning them immediately when they don’t just emphasises the conviction that they do not have any idea what they are doing.

Stating that the Climate Change issue is their USP and then quoting stats that state only 1.9% of the Wales population has the Environment as their main issue of concern simply doesn’t stack up as part of an election strategy designed to win anything.

Suggesting Cardiff and Gwent are examples of strong local parties shows, perhaps, how quickly things can change in the few months since I left the party , but it is strength that certainly has no track record. (Cardiff went into meltdown after the 2011 campaign, and Gwent is a far flung collection of individual members that had to rely on occasional telephone conferences not so long ago.)

In the list of 2016 Assembly Election strategies (pg5), it states:

“We do not advocate a targeting strategy as this has been unsuccessful in the past, and the nature of the Assembly regional top-up system means that all regions stand some chance of success. “

Former GPEW Deputy Leader and architect of the successful TTW strategy refined in the West Midlands.

Former GPEW Deputy Leader and architect of the successful TTW strategy refined in the West Midlands.

Target-to-Win (TTW) is the tried and tested, almost foolproof strategy of achieving secure electoral success in the medium-to-long term. It has been successful in just about every part of England. It has not yielded results in Wales for the very simple reason that it has not been implemented anywhere consistently enough. It takes years of consistent effort. As for ‘all regions having some chance of success‘, that ranges from slim to negligible, at best. Spreading resources thinly never, ever works.

Section 4.3
Regional Campaign Teams will seek to improve Green vote share amongst postal voters by encouraging Green voters to register for a postal vote

Since when did a Green postal vote count for more the Green ballot box vote? What a complete waste of time.

Just about all the money comes from members' pockets.

Just about all the money comes from members’ pockets.

Section 4.4 – they are looking spend/waste another £56,000 + on this vanity exercise. What happened to learning the lessons of the General Election? Imagine what could be done with this by the few local parties capable of pursuing a meaningful TTW strategy. Successes in 2017 would be virtually assured.
£34,000 of this is being blown on three short-term appointments of people, with half of that going to a Campaign Manager just off the ferry from Ireland, with a return ticket booked in 6 months time and who is not even committing to stay here for the full duration of that 6 months. He must be feckin’ brilliant!

5.1.4 “A sick society makes people sick” – there’s catchy! Which parts of our sick society is that going to appeal to?

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.33.055.2 “We should be radical, honest and evidence-based. We should not be controversial for the sake of it, but if something comes up which we disagree with, we stick to our beliefs. This approach will set us apart from other parties.” The problem here is with the second part. I have already seen virtually the same statements in the materials of both Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru. I wouldn’t mind betting it is in all the others. Best not talk about Brighton Council then. As for Moral Foundations Theory ……

5.3. Other Parties (or more specifically Plaid Cymru, as it is the only one mentioned!).
Where to start here! At least it confirms that the sectarian attitudes that drove me away from the party are still there – in black and white. I quote:
Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.41.42“Plaid Cymru does not want a relationship with the Greens, though we have previously tried for a joint strategy” Simply wrong! Plaid have long been open to working with the Green Party. Witness the strong relationship between Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett at the GE. Leanne goes way back with Caroline Lucas too. It is Bartolotti and Slaughter that are the problem, not the Greens in general! I had secured a good working relationship with Leanne this time last year. It was my main platform in last year’s leadership election. It is therefore not just Bartolotti and Slaughter’s fault. I wrote this exactly 12 months ago today. Nothing has changed, so enough here.

As for Greens being consistent – Pippa is certainly renowned enough for that, but again I have to raise Brighton Council as undermining the the claim that Greens have never compromised their principles. (And please don’t look too closely at the records of Greens elsewhere e.g. Ireland, Australia etc.) The staggering thing here is that Bartolotti’s track record has been laid bare repeatedly, but because a lot of the revelations have been maliciously motivated, she has been excused accounting for them by her cronies on the WGP Council. Hypocrisy upon hypocrisy.

The rest of the document is largely aspirational ideas for how to run a better party. It is mostly reasonable but will mostly go undone.

So full marks for such a thorough and detailed strategy document. It is no doubt the ‘best’ strategy document, in terms of quantity if not quality’ of any party contesting next year’s Assembly elections. Sadly, documents do not win elections. It is the successful application of sound strategy that does this. It is therefore of no consequence that this document will not be enacted upon to any great extent as it is so thoroughly misguided and naive that it truly beggars belief. Throwing money at a few paid ‘officers’ is a major cop out and a tragic waste of money. They may be excellent people but they are not magicians capable of doing anything with the proverbial pig’s ear.

It is all so desperately sad. I once held high hopes for the Green Party. I still hold most of its underlying ideology close to my heart. Caroline Lucas’ success drew me into the Party and offered real hope. I am still one of her biggest fans, but she remains the only truly bright beacon of hope. GPEW is progressing meaningfully (painfully slowly but reasonably surely), in all regions bar Wales, where growth in membership numbers cannot hide the stench of stagnation in terms of political influence and electoral progress.

The imminent change of leadership, like it did for the Labour Party, offers the chance for a change of direction and a change of ethos. I know two of the candidates well enough to know that they are no Corbyn. One will offer no change whatsoever, the other will complete the destruction of the party in Wales by tearing it apart and being found to be an even bigger egotistical attention seeker than dear old Pippa. That leaves the hopes for a brighter future in the hands of the mystery candidate from Mid Wales. She has some encouraging credentials and some strong supporters. I look forward to seeing how she shapes up at the hustings on Saturday. But it is all such a perilous predicament for the party.

Despite what many will say, I wish the party well and hope to see it become the respected contributor to the left of centre alliance we need to see built in Wales. Its potential contribution would be welcomed, and only then can it even aspire to to being it’s own strapline of ‘For People, For Planet, For Wales’, rather than ‘for its own amusement’ which is what it largely is right now. It has a long, long way to go and it is to hoped that all those new members of the last 12 months do not melt away again, as quickly as they arrived, when they realise what they have signed into. The steady growth in ‘Grace’ members is a sure sign that this is already beginning to happen.

Can it turn things around? I sincerely hope so but that has to start immediately and be in evidence at its AGM on Saturday and in its choice of new leader in the next few weeks. I shall be watching with interest and just the faintest glimmer of hope.

Click image

Click image

Green Party Strategy 2015 – 2017

Gerwyn Williams’ Grand Designs or Blot on the landscape?

Having been alerted to the fact that some significant sums of money have passed through Gerwyn Williams companies quite quickly recently (I hope the taxman is watching him!), I thought I had better check on what he is up to. All his test drilling sites are being monitored regularly and there is negligible evidence of anything going on at them, but what of his luxury retirement home?

photo

New hospital on the right. Bus station on the left.

As previously reported, progress has been painfully slow this year, but having popped down there today, there is evidence of activity that would probably equate to the sums of money passing through his company accounts. For a start the lift installers were on site today, and one of them commented that it is the biggest lift they have ever installed in a residential property. You can gauge this from the installation on the roof. Secondly, there is a sizeable indoor pool being installed in the ground floor. Thirdly, the workman on the scaffold is fitting the white polystyrene insulation to the outside of the building jutting features, and the more expensive kingspan insulation to the external walls of the rooms.

photo copy 2

“Darling, the QE2 has docked in next door’s garden!”

This suggests that the finishing cladding will follow quite quickly – and let’s hope he’s ordered something attractive to help reduce the visual impact of this municipal-looking edifice. It has gone through its ‘car-park’ and ‘shopping mall’ phases and now resembles a hospital. What the next-door neighbours must think, with this the only thing between them and the beach, is anyone’s guess, because, it has to be said, that the views are truly magnificent.

photo copy

Newton beach, with sun carressing Nash Point on the right.

photo copy 3

Gerwyn’s place in background to the right

So, it is easy to see what the six-figure sum could have been spent on, and it would still leave much more needed. For example, I wonder if Gerwyn is going to have to protect this hugely expensive asset with flood defence measures. The sea wall has recently been upgraded, but that has obviously not been enough to satisfy one of Gerwyn’s near neighbours.  They have gone to the significant cost and trouble of having flood barriers installed on their property. They are designed to be erected quickly when a flood alert is issued, but they either know something I don’t about the risk today, or are simply not taking any chances and leaving part of it up all the time.

Wouldn’t that be ironic though? The filthy frackers tip us over the edge of disastrous climate change, and one of ‘their own’ sees his dreams washed away as the seas rise and the storms gather. Poetic.