Thursday 24 January 2013

Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you

"Everything is fine. All is well. I'm doing a good job. Give me a pay rise.
.....Wait, what are you doing with those Kalashnikovs?"

(Pic :
I want you to close your wait, that won't work. Just read the description below and see what images this might conjure up in your mind.
  • Those with executive powers are appointed, not elected, and aren't accountable to anyone but themselves.
  • Internet access for democratically-elected representatives is selectively blocked.
  • The local print press is undermined with the tacit approval of the executive.
  • The elected body is a puppet to the executive and generally does whatever the executive wishes.
  • Meetings behind closed doors regarding freedom of the press are considered the height of transparency.
  • Steps are taken to make watching the elected body as uncomfortable as possible to the public.
  • The constitution is, generally, made up as they go along.
  • There's a gathering separatist element in some parts of the territory, unhappy with the way things are being run from the centre and willing to take the unprecedented step of breaking away from their control.
  • The executive and elected body consistently ignores condemnation from relevant watchdogs and authorities and seems to take very little action to remedy the situation.
  • They have a track record of co-operating with "dodgy" individuals and groups that others would turn their noses up at.

North Korea? Myanmar? No, Carmarthenshire obviously.

If this were a country full of brown people living in mud huts and carrying AK-47s, Michael Stipe would be painting lines on his face. Other celebrities would be diverted away from important matters - like deciding which disease is the most glamorous to support - to comment on it.

Morrissey would write something for The Guardian about how we're in no shape to criticise the regime because we eat burgers, while people will bathe in Poundland All Day Breakfasts to raise money for relief efforts.

Lenny Henry would be on the back of a 4x4 being driven down mud lanes in hilly areas after being smuggled across the border. Midge Ure would be thinking of lyrics for the charity single. It would probably go something like this:

There's a soggy biscuit council
Who are a persistent stain on democracy
Doobie, doobie, doobie doo
Why? Kev, Pam and Mark

Let's be hypothetical for a moment.

Let's suppose something really, really bad slimed its way out of Carmarthenshire County Hall at some point in the future. Something much worse than anything that's preceded it. A scandal on the scale of Jimmy Savile or Baby P. Something that makes the UK press sit up and take notice en masse. Not just The Guardian, but the major UK papers ordinary people in Carmarthenshire read, including "red tops".

They'll do some digging for stories around the side of the main piece. They'll stumble across blogs and the South Wales Guardian story. They'll find the council's track record over the last few years quite "interesting" I'd imagine. One of the first stories that'll pop up will be a blogger being arrested for trying to film a council meeting. What was she trying to find out? What were the council so desperate to hide?

Fleet Street would have stories for months about "The Rotten Borough". It would take Ceausescu-esque levels of obliviousness to think that Carmarthenshire's PR department would be able to put any gloss on it. They'd probably try though.

Someone would be followed by cameras. Someone would have to make statements to the press on behalf of the council body that's politically accountable for all these deeds. Someone would have to justify any and all decisions made in that council chamber.

Kevin Madge (Labour) and Pam Palmer (Independent) are the public faces of what's happening in Carmarthenshire. They're accountable for all this nonsense - hypothetical or not. Maybe the press would turn their attentions to the devolved government in Cardiff Bay that didn't pay any attention to the warning signs and didn't do anything about it.

It probably won't happen, but I hope they're all prepared for that.

I'm starting to wonder whether some Welsh local councillors in ruling parties or coalitions are either naïve, sadists or are just incapable of thinking for themselves.

Do they think that if the heat is turned up enough, or if a scandal is big enough, that the executives aren't going to throw them to the wolves to save their own skins? "They voted for it." "They approved it." "I only offered a recommendation."

After it was so spinelessly decided to hand executive powers over to unelected officers, we've created the conditions necessary for, effectively, absolute monarchs. It's a system of monarchy right from the top to the bottom. Many haven't gone whole hog, others have. Like any good tyrant, they also have plenty of human shields in front of them to protect themselves.
It's not the chief executives standing for election, is it? Their head isn't on the block.

All you need is enough elected humps, combined with an unaccountable, paranoid executive hoisted up by a servile PR department with a commitment to blocking honest and upfront communication with the public. That increasingly describes many Welsh local authorities. In 2013. In a "democracy".

Before you think it's just "Crazy Carmarthenshire", there've been rumbles in Cardiff, Pembrokeshire, Caerphilly and Wrexham. Now Gwynedd too. Perhaps others that are being kept quiet. Lest we forget Anglesey as well.

It's not really a Labour problem then, but you have to wonder how a party with such electoral dominance here can be so inconsistent from county to county. You also have to question how and why some candidates are selected at local level.

Who are "officers" accountable to when they make mistakes? Who do they answer to full stop?

Why are "independents" even allowed to form groups to enable them to run a council by themselves or in coalition? What do they stand for? What are their agendas?

So, tonight thank God it's just Carmarthenshire. But it'll probably be you soon enough.


  1. You not been to St Clears then? Ho Chi Min and the other despots have made it the model of democracy. You may be interested to know that it is very closely based on Mussolini's model for a dictatorship. Please read anonymous blog on

    1. I beg to ask the question,why are public bodies expending public money on private enterprises Llanelli rfc comes to mind.This has resulted in a dead town centre.

    2. I presume it's because they believe that things like Llanelli RFC and the Scarlets are "important brands" for the town. That doesn't mean it's right to spend public money on them, of course.

    3. I agree,but is it legal,or is it a misuse of public funds?.Surely money better spent on services to the public.

    4. How does Llanelli RFC benefit the rest of Carmarthenshire

    5. Anon 21:32 - If you mean Llanelli RFC the club, then I haven't a clue. If you mean the whole Llanelli Scarlets regional set up and Parc y Scarlets, then presumably it's because it might bring in some overnight visitors, they can use the stadium for hospitality or to host events and it's one of the few things that Carmarthenshire is famous for. They can use the Scarlets as a shop window for local businesses via sponsorship etc.

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  3. More CBEs, OBEs and MBEs all round!


  4. Olly,

    I contacted the Electoral Commission a few weeks ago to query whether or not "Independent" is a protected term. After all, some people attach a greater value to candidates who are not affiliated with a political party, and are therefore free to vote with their conscience as opposed to following the party line. The notion of an "Independents Party", as we effectively see in Carmarthenshire, is something I believe should be prohibitted by law.

    Unfortunately however, it isn't.

  5. Please Anon 23:43, don't put the anti-imperialist liberation fighter Ho Chi Minh in the same bracket as Carmarthenshire, even in jest! Ho Chi Minh wanted an election on Vietnamese independence but the colonial powers wouldn't let him.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. I'll have more on local government in general in March (if I finish it in time).

    Cneifiwr - I'd expect them all to resemble haggard Soviet generals weighed down by medals by year-end.

    Anon 11:20 - If you're addressing me, then it's Owen, not Olly. :) I agree that "Independent Parties" should be prohibited. If I vote for an "Independent" I expect opposition and nothing more. I don't think they should even be able to form party groups of two or three. If they really want to run things they should at least follow the "Blaenau Gwent People's Voice" example, which is more credible and a damn side more honest with the electorate.

    Anon 16:59 - This might be an urban legend, but when Ho Chi Minh was a waiter he supposedly asked to meet Woodrow Wilson to discuss a negotiated Vietnamese independence but was turned away. We all know how that turned out The lesson - never annoy anyone serving/cooking you food!

  7. My apols Owen - 11:20