Wednesday 31 October 2018

Ukip's Gareth Bennett wasted money on "Unsuitable Office"

Prehaps we have misjudged misjudged Ukip's leader in  the Welsh Assembly , and in fact he is a political genius
One of Bennett's main policy planks includes his campaign to abolish the Welsh Assembly, and he seems to going about it by being useless and bringing the body in into dispute

BBC Wales reports that

"The assembly leader of UKIP leased an unusable office riddled with damp without a survey and against advice from solicitors, a probe has concluded.
Standards commissioner Sir Roderick Evans believes Gareth Bennett breached the AMs' code of conduct when he spent almost £10,000 in public money on a failed Pontypridd office project.
Leaked draft findings state the AM did not visit the property until months after the lease was signed.
Mr Bennett declined to comment.
BBC Wales revealed in April that the AM, who was not leader at the time, had abandoned a scheme to open a constituency office at the former Angharad's nightclub in Rhondda Cynon Taff".
Those of us who are older remember it as the  County Cinema
"The lease was due to last until April 2021 but it was terminated in September 2017 after it emerged the cost of repairing the building exceeded the allowances available to AMs.
Mr Bennett has apologised to the standards commissioner."
The draft findings, seen by BBC Wales, show the standards commissioner believed Mr Bennett had been "reckless".

"Sir Roderick found that £9,883 had been spent on the property, including £5,200 in rent and £2,477 in building materials.
Mr Bennett signed the lease in March 2017 but did not visit until the following July.
That summer, staff realised that the property, which had no electricity on the first floor, had damp on two floors and was in a state of disrepair.
But no survey or an estimate of the cost of the work had been obtained before the lease was signed.
After a survey was paid for by the assembly, damp was found to be extensive throughout the property."
Viewers of the BBC 's  "Home's Under the Hammer" will note that the biggest mistakes are not viewing the property before hand, and not readinf the legal pact
"Sir Roderick was also given evidence from Mr Bennett's solicitors that he had been advised against the scheme.
The commissioner was unable to say with certainty what had happened to the building materials purchased, although he concluded at least some had been used in the office.
Mr Bennett had told the standards commissioner that a builder had misunderstood he was awarded work in the office and had built some partition walls.
A member of staff who gave the builder access went on leave shortly after the lease was signed and did not return to work.
Sir Roderick had no suspicion that Mr Bennett derived personal benefit from the cash paid out.
Mick Antoniw, Labour AM for Pontypridd, said he could not comment on the standards commissioner's investigation or his conclusions."
"But on the basis of what is in the public domain already, my view is he has wasted an enormous amount of public money on a non-functioning office, has done nothing to serve the people of Pontypridd and if he has any decency he will voluntarily repay all the public money out of his own pocket," he said.
"The matter is set to be passed to the standards committee and AMs could choose to exclude Mr Bennett from the assembly for a period of time without pay."
A spokesman for Gareth Bennett said: 
"We don't comment on politically motivated malicious leaks."
"The spokesman previously said Mr Bennett paid £4,500 "out of his own pocket to ensure the lease was terminated".
The investigation was triggered after the chief executive of the assembly, Manon Antoniazzi, referred the matter to Sir Roderick.
An assembly spokesman said the institution was unable to comment and Sir Roderick declined to comment."
Of course this is a leaked report so maybe we don't know the full details or whether the probe has gone far enough.

 Plaid's Leanne Wood may have suggested a possible further area for  investigation .
Does anyone know who owns Angharad’s - the former dodgy nightclub in Ponty? It’d be good to know who this rent (taxpayers’ money) was paid to.
Yes it would but we should also question whether this "Constituency Office " was  on the ground floor  with an open front easily accessible by the public?

Leanne Wood when she was a Regional AM like Gareth Bennett had a Constituency  Office on Gelliwasted Road which seemed to meet that requirement and I believe Mic Antoniw shares an office with MP in Owen Smith in Market Street easy to find.

  I would have expected if Mr Bennett sought to base his in Pontypridd would follow suit.

Back in 2016 it appears he did as he posted on his website.

"First, I would like to congratulate the new President-elect of the USA, Donald Trump. Especially as we have a few things in common.

Not sure if you remember this, but back in March, when I was running for the Assembly, the Western Mail called me ‘the Donald Trump of Wales’. (This was their idea of a really harsh insult.)

Well, I am now in the Assembly – Martin Shipton and the Mail couldn’t manage to stop that from happening, though they did their best – and Don Trump has a rather bigger job on his hands, having been elected as the 45th President of the United States.
I would like to invite Donald Trump to join me at the opening party for my Constituency Office, which is on the 7th December at Gelliwastad Road, Pontypridd. I truly hope he can make it.

The only problem is, following the petition against him entering the UK back in January – signed by more than half a million people, and backed by numerous MPs – is President-elect Trump actually allowed to enter the country?"
So what happened since?

President Trump is of course a property magnate  it would have been interesting to see him turning up to open "an unusable office riddled with damp", it  would be a fitting metaphor for both himself and Mr Bennett .

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Michael D rocking Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park,

There's a few videos on this Blog but all are worth watching.

After yesterday's  depressing blog on the Presidential  election in Brazil belated but cheering note that Michael D Higgins has welcomed his re-election as president of Ireland as a vote for hope over fear.

He secured his second term in office with a landslide margin of more than 55% of the vote.
All 40 constituencies around Ireland were declared shortly after 7.30pm.  on Saturday Some 1,492,338 people voted.
Mr Higgins said: “The people have made a choice as to which version of Irishness they want reflected at home and abroad.
“It is the making of hope they wish to share rather than the experience of any exploitation of division or fear.”
He said his version of Ireland is one which draws on traditional genius and contemporary creativity.
“The presidency belongs not only to any one person but to the people of Ireland.
“I will be a president for all the people, for those who voted for me and those who did not.

I am so proud of this country, I am proud to be a president for all of you and with all of you, and I look forward with joy and hope to all that we will achieve together.
The response from outside Ireland has been positive , but perhaps  2Welsh Labour AM Alun Davies reaches a level of absurdity, though you  can see Michel D victory speech.
  1. Can I have an Irish passport please?

You may well ask Alun why he is not arguing for a Welsh passport  and our President of the Welsh Republic.

The only sour note Businessman Peter Casey, initially an outside contender whose last-minute surge in the polls following critical comments about the Travelling community saw him propelled into second place, got 23% of the vote.

Senior Fianna Fail politicians have poured cold water on the prospect of controversial presidential candidate Peter Casey joining their ranks and running for the Irish parliament in the next general election.
In the wake of his shock second place finish in the presidential poll, the businessman has been quoted expressing a desire not only to join the party but also to ultimately lead it back into government and become Taoiseach.

But it's Michael D whowe celebrate He is the subject of the song  of probably the finest  tribute song  to a living politician,"Michael D. Rocking in the Dáil" by popular Tuam band The Saw Doctors. The song first appeared as a B-side on the 1994 single "Small Bit of Love" and is also on the 2002 compilation Play It Again, Sham!

Although He has used his time in office to address issues concerning justicesocial equalitysocial inclusion, anti-sectarianismanti-racism and reconciliation. The role Uachtarán na hÉireann is largely non-political.

But we can get the true flavour of the man from this, before he was elected, (Warning he does use an expletive)

Ever since Mary Robinson won the Presidency of the Republic inn 1990, she and her successors , have held the office with dignity and humanity and a light to the World.
It's a pity we in Wales are not prepared to elect a man or woman to a similar position.

Monday 29 October 2018

Brazil elects a Fascist President but then he is not an anomaly.

Possibly not since the end of World War 2 has a major country elected a fascist to its highest office.
But that is no longer true  far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist has been elected as Brazil’s next president after a drama-filled and deeply divisive election that looks set to radically reforge the future of the world’s fourth biggest democracy.
Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper who built his campaign around pledges to crush corruption, crime and a supposed communist threat, secured 55.1% of the votes after 99.9% were counted and was therefore elected Brazil’s next president, electoral authorities said on Sunday.
According to Wikipedia 
Bolsonaro is viewed as a pro-life,anti-establishment and pro-gun politician, voicing opposition to most forms of gun controllegislations, arguing that law abiding citizens have the right to defend themselves (especially those living in rural areas).[70] Bolsonaro often rejects accusations made against him of misogyny and homophobia, and claims he is not a "far-right" politician, but simply a right-wing one.
Jair Bolsonaro is known for his strong opposition to left-wing policies. Most notably, he has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, abortion affirmative action (particularly racial quotas), immigration (particularly from Haiti, Africa and the Middle East, which he once called "the scum of humanity"),drug liberalization,land reforms, and secularism at the state level,[7] among other things. He has also made statements in defense of the Brazilian military regime](a dictatorship known for constant human rights violations and the CIA-backed state terror campaign against left-wing dissidents known as Operation Condor).He claims that torture is a "legitimate practice" and says that he would try to pass new legislation regarding the introduction of life imprisonment to the Brazilian penal code.Bolsonaro supports the privatization of state-owned companies and advocates free market policies,[82] although critics have stated that his policy-making record does not in fact show him to be a supporter of economic liberalism
In a 2017 interview with journalist Claudio Dantas Sequeira from O Antagonista, Bolsonaro said that his views are directly aligned with centrist to right-wing United States citizens' views on gun ownership, abortion, gender politics and trade, despite the "left-leaning media frenzy" against him. He reiterated that he intends to reverse some disarmament laws, improve public security, and also improve trade ties with the United States, which he said were broken during Lula da Silva's and Dilma Rousseff's administrations.
Bolsonaro has, during his long political career, expressed views that many regard as being far-right. He has made statements that some people considered insulting, homophobic,violence-inciting, misogynistic, sexist racist or anti-refugee. Other controversial political stances expressed by Bolsonaro have been the defense of the death penalty (which is currently banned under the Constitution of Brazil of 1988) and of radical interventionism in Brazil by the military, along with an imposition of a Brazilian military government.
American journalist Glenn Greenwald called Bolsonaro "the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world".[94] wondered whether Bolsonaro was "the world’s most repulsive politician".] British news magazine The Economist referred to him as a "radical", "religious nationalist", a "right-wing demagogue", and "apologist of dictators"

If you think this is an biased  viewpoint take his own words

“I would not employ [a woman] with the same salary [of a man]. But there are many women who are competent.”– SuperPop, RedeTV!, February 15, 2016 “Beyond Brazil above all, since we are a Christian country, God above everyone! It is not this story, this little story of secular state. It is a Christian state, and if a minority is against it, then move! Let’s make a Brazil for the majorities. Minorities have to bow to the majorities! The Law must exist to defend the majorities. Minorities must fit in or simply disappear!”– Event in Campina Grande, Paraíba, February 8, 2017 “Violence is combated with violence.”– The Noite with Danilo Gentili, SBT, March 20, 2017 “I went with my three sons. Oh the other one went too, there were four. I have a fifth also. I had four men and on the fifth I had a moment of weakness and a woman came out.”– Speech at the Hebraica Club, Rio de Janeiro, April 3, 2017 “If I [become president], there won’t be any money for NGOs. These worthless [people] will have to work. If I get there, as far as I’m concerned, every citizen will have a firearm in their home. You will not have a centimeter demarcated for indigenous reserves or quilombolas [settlements of the descendants of escaped and freed slaves that have protected status.]”– Speech at the Hebraica Club, Rio de Janeiro, April 3, 2017 “Has anyone ever seen a Japanese begging for charity? Because it’s a race that has shame. It’s not like this race that’s down there, or like a minority ruminating here on the side.”– Speech at the Hebraica Club, Rio de Janeiro, April 3, 2017 “The big problem in Brazil is that the government is at the jugular of businessmen. […] The worker will have to decide: less rights and employment or all the rights and unemployment.”– Event in Deerfield Beach, FL , October 8, 2017 “I’ll give carte blanche for the police to kill.”– Event in Deerfield Beach, FL, October 8, 2017 “Since I was single at the time, I used the money from my [congressional] housing stipend to get laid.”– TV Folha, January 11, 2018 “This group, if they want to stay here, will have to put itself under the law of all of us. Leave or go to jail. These red marginals will be banished from our homeland.”– Live video address to a rally in São Paulo, October 21, 2018 “You will not have any more NGOs to quench your leftist hunger. It will be a cleansing never before seen in the history of Brazil.”– Live video address to a rally in São Paulo, October 21, 2018 “You will see a proud Armed Forces which will be collaborating with the future of Brazil. You, petralhada [a derogatory term for Workers’ Party supporters] will see a civilian and military police with a judicial rearguard to enforce the law on your backs.”– Live video address to a rally in São Paulo, October 21, 2018
The worrying aspect of this is  Bolsonaro, views are mirrored by the Far right throughout democratic nations these days and there are echoes in the supporters of Trunp in the US, the AFD (which just made gains in Germany's state elections in Hesse, National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Lega Nord in Italy, and The Swedish Democrats .

In the UK Ukip have opened thier door s to the so-called “alt right” movement to join the party.

In a Post-Brexit Britain , faced with the economic disaster they had created , there will be elements in the Tory Party seeking scapegoats and immigration particularity Muslims and a the Left (which will include Liberals) will be blamed as saboteurs  and "Enemies of the people"

We are facing a very bleak future for democracy Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil will move to eradicate the opposition, in the manner of previous South American Military dictatorships  under a democratically elected umbrella.

How long before he is joined by others even on our own doorstep?

Sunday 28 October 2018

Wales needs to get behind Pont Bendigeidfan,

After the shame of seeing  the Second Severn Crossing renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge  against the will of the people of Wales to mark the heir to the English throne 70th birthday , comes an ambition suggestion for the third Menai crossing.
According to the BBC,
Benji Poulton, from Bangor, said the current designs being considered by the Welsh Government are “nothing special”.
His designs would feature the giant Bendigeidfan, of the ancient Welsh mythical Mabinogion tales, rising up out of the water to support the bridge.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said “all options” would be considered.
Mr Poulton recently visited an exhibition of the various proposed designs for the new bridge to cross between Gwynedd and Anglesey and thought he could come up with a better idea.
“They are fairly standard options. There is nothing special there that could live alongside the other bridges,” he said.
“So I went away thinking what could they do to create additional benefit, additional interest with the new bridge
Mr Poulton created a video outlining his plans and has petitioned the Welsh assembly to urge the Welsh Government to consider his plans.

“I did some research and found that there are a lot of additional benefits to [create] something a little bit special, a little bit different,” Mr Poulton added.“It would bring in additional tourism to the area and promote Welsh culture

Benji Poulton's Bendigeidfran bridge design

There's a small part of me that is concerned that the legend of is a a tragic and violent one and may be seen by some in Ireland a provocative seeing as it concerns an invasion by the British (original not the Anglo- Saxon sort) of the Island Ireland 
It is said The Irish king Matholwch sailed  to Harlech to speak with Bendigeidfan,high king of the Island of the Mighty and to ask for the hand of his sister Branwen in marriage, thus forging an alliance between the two islands. Bendigeidfran agrees to Matholwch's request, but the celebrations are cut short when Efnisien, a half-brother to the children of Llŷr, brutally mutilates Matholwch's horses, angry that his permission was not sought in regard to the marriage.[ Matholwch is deeply offended until Bran offers him compensation in the form of a magic cauldron that can restore the dead to life. Pleased with the gift, Matholwch and Branwen sail back to Ireland to reign.
Once in Matholwch's kingdom, Branwen gives birth to a son, Gwern, but Efnysien's insult continues to rankle among the Irish and, eventually, Branwen is mistreated, banished to the kitchenand beaten every day. She tames a starling and sends it across the Irish Sea with a message to her brother Bendigeidfran, who sails from Wales to Ireland to rescue her with his brother, Manawydan and a huge host of warriors, mustered from the 154 cantrefs of Britain. The Irish offer to make peace and build a house big enough to entertain Bendigeidfrân but hang a hundred bags inside, supposedly containing flour but actually containing armed warriors. Efnysien, suspecting treachery, reconnoiters the hall and kills the warriors by crushing their skulls. Later, at the feast, Efnysien, again feeling insulted, murders Gwern by burning him alive, and, as a result, a vicious battle breaks out. Seeing that the Irish are using the cauldron to revive their dead, he hides among the Irish corpses and is thrown into the cauldron by the unwitting enemy. He destroys the cauldron from within, sacrificing himself in the process.

Only seven men survive the conflict, among them Manawydan, Taliesin and Pryderi fab Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, Branwen having herself died of a broken heart. The survivors are told by a mortally wounded Bran to cut off his head and to return it to Britain. For seven years the seven survivors stay in Harlech, where they are entertained by Bran's head, which continues to speak. They later move on to Gwales (often identified with Grassholm Island off Dyfed) where they live for eighty years without perceiving the passing of time. Eventually, Heilyn fab Gwyn opens the door of the hall facing Cornwall and the sorrow of what had befallen them returns. As instructed they take the now silent head to the Gwynfryn, the "White Hill" (thought to be the location where the Tower of London now stands), where they bury it facing France so as to ward off invasion. The imagery of the talking head is widely considered to derive from the ancient Celtic "cult of the head"; the head was considered the home of the soul.
However the most symbolic part of the legend for modern Wales  actualy comes from the part where  Bendigeidfran,  lay himself down to serve as a bridge for his men when attempting to rescuer Branwen .
He He is said to have uttered the words "a fo ben bid bont" (he who would be a leader, let him be a bridge).
So this is the important  part of the symbolism of  Benji Poulton's proposal and if the safety and cost issues are no problem it is what Menai and indeed Wales's needs after the recent years of shame when the Welsh Labour Government have ignored our history such as. The Plans to create an iron ring sculpture at Flint Castle which have  have been described as "insulting to Wales". .

The Plann was to to create an iron ring sculpture at Flint Castle which have  have been described as "insulting to Wales".
The design, which the BBC claims is  said 
to represent the relationship between the medieval monarchies of Europe and the castles they built, 
However  it is clear as Izzy Evans at Nation Cymru pointed out at the time.
The ‘Iron Ring’ is, of course, the collective name for the ring of castles built by Edward I in order to cement his hold on the lands he stole from the Welsh princes.
Flint was the first castle in this ring of power – a chain of fortresses designed to encircle the north Wales coast and oppress the Welsh.
Its construction began almost immediately after Edward I began the First Welsh War in 1277.
Can you imagine any other nation celebrating its own conquest? Its own government glorying in its subjugation?
I am not a great fan of "Patriotic Monuments"  and a true symbol of Cymru would be us taking our seat in the United Nations , but we should support this proposal for Pont Bendigeidfan,  to counter the constant attack on our national identity  we have recently faced , from a Tory government and its allies in "Welsh" Labour.

One last thing we should resist strongly the expected calls tho call it by anglicised name like Bran the Blessed Bridge.