PARTY politics in Llanelli are certainly never dull. In the lead up to the 2017 General Election there was mud slinging galore on social media as Labour and Plaid Cymru battled it out. I well remember having letters posted through the door of my home suggesting I look at this or that person and these goings on, etc.
We stood accused of favouring Labour, then Plaid Cymru. We were up so and so’s a**e and we were sycophants to Lee Waters, Nia Griffith and Leanne Wood. We were welcomed and equally loathed wherever we went. It was Winston Churchill, still not the flavour of the month in some parts of Wales who once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
I well remember being party to a whisper that things were not as they should be in the Plaid Cymru camp around the time of the selection for the candidate to stand for MP in Llanelli. If memory serves me well, I was practically thrown out of the Glenalla Chapel for daring to ask what was going on at a time when the almost certain choice, Sean Rees had somehow been moved down the bench in favour of Mari Arthur, a little known candidate from Trimsaran.
On the evening I turned up to a ‘secret meeting’ at the chapel I was told quite clearly that I was not welcome and that the meeting had nothing to do with the selection of a candidate. That we know now was horse manure.
It was the turning point in the Llanelli Plaid Cymru selection process and the fall out from that meeting is still being felt today. The local party as was and the local party who have allegedly taken over and locked out the old familiar faces and in some instances driven them to resign must now be looking towards the next election and hoping that the storm will die down and that they will be left to build some semblance of order in order to convince the local electorate that Plaid Cymru have a local party and a local candidate already nose to the grindstone working for that elusive victory, which has slipped so narrowly away from their previous candidate Helen Mary Jones.
Fast forward to February 2018 and the local party do not appear to be getting any closer to peace and harmony. It is reported that at least 15 of the local party members have resigned and more may follow.
Not one for missing an opportunity Labour’s Lee Waters pointed out to Llanelli Online what he attests to being a Plaid Cymru meltdown in Llanelli. ‘I think it is a story’ he told us.
Fifteen resignations is a story but in order to tell that story fairly and accurately, one must have some words from those involved. Despite attempts to court the musings of Plaid Cymru locally and Nationally, we had been as they say ‘sent to Coventry’.
The words arrived by way of an email, ironically landing in our ‘Spam’ box setting out the state of play at the Llanelli Plaid Cymru offices albeit from those locked out and looking in from the outside.
The email from Howell Williams, Secretary acting on behalf of the Town Branch reads as follows:
A vote of no confidence in the Chair (Deris Williams) and Secretary (Mari Arthur) has now been unanimously passed.
Every member of the Town Branch wants to see the party moving forward and winning in our target seat of Llanelli once again but we could not be further away from that as things stand.
Unfortunately, there have been problems at a local level since the imposition of a candidate within the Constituency last April.
Despite this, many of our stalwarts tried our best to keep things together and attempted to do so in the interests of the Party but we are now considering giving up.
After the election, a minority of the party locally made it very clear that they were not prepared to work with others and their conduct subsequently has been very worrying and in some cases distressing.
A series of formal complaints have been submitted as a result of actions both of Mari Arthur and a few other members.
These complaints have not been dealt with by the Party’s official disciplinary procedures, and still over 6 months later there has been no response nor attempt to resolve this crisis. This is the reason why so many members are now leaving and why some branches have effectively collapsed.
Below are some examples of inappropriate behaviour:
- An infiltration of the Party by members of other political organisations during the campaign.
Party members blocked on Plaid Llanelli social media, newspaper columns deleted, council work removed.
- A “Secret Group” established online and using what can only be described as abusive terminology and deliberately encouraging bullying attitudes.
- Series of social media attacks and a constant barrage of harassment for a period of over 6 months aimed at members, their families, friends, Plaid colleagues and Plaid AMs.
- Despite several recommendations from the Chief Executive, the Constituency Chair has failed to e-mail certain members regarding their conduct on social media.
- Several inaccurate, inappropriate statements made to the press which have only added fuel to the fire.
- Serious, unfounded allegations made against a number of members causing considerable distress in recent months.
- Party members and Councillors have been locked out of the office since August 2017, as of now 180 days while others including Labour Party representatives have been permitted access including the leader of the opposition on Carmarthenshire County Council. Additionally, the office door has been slammed in the faces of long-standing Plaid members.
- Canvassing training session for the Llanelli Town Branch cancelled due to refusal of access to the office premises. Request was made to the Constituency Chair and Secretary to allow access but this was ignored.
- Hard copies of Constituency minutes are reportedly missing from the office.
- The undermining of other Constituency Officers and Councillors in their everyday duties by the refusal of the Constituency Chair and Secretary who are in possession of keys to allow access to the office and its facilities.
- Holding of unconstitutional meetings where decisions have been made and imposed on the membership.
- Party members and Councillors intimidated and abused at public events.
All of the above breach a number of the Party’s standing orders and procedures.
It is therefore with sadness when we say now that we are seriously considering our positions after decades of loyal service to the Party in this constituency.
If that were not enough to be going on with another section of the email claims:
The Llanelli Town Plaid Cymru Branch has written to the Plaid Cymru National Chair Alun Ffred Jones, Leader Leanne Wood and Chief Executive Gareth Clubb to call for a full and independent investigation into:
- The process of selection of a candidate by the Party centrally for the 2017 General Election.
- The formal complaints submitted in August 2017 by 26 members in relation to the conduct of the selected candidate, that have not been addressed in accordance with the Party’s official disciplinary procedures.
- The National Chair’s suspension of two members without due process.
- The locking out of certain elected officers and members from Plaid’s working office in Llanelli since August 2017.
- Many Llanelli members have already resigned owing to these issues.
- No progress has been made to resolve the crisis within the Constituency.
- All complaints and communications from members have to date been ignored.
- Any local political activities have become impossible.
- A vote of no confidence in the Chair and Secretary of the Llanelli Constituency was unanimously passed at a meeting of the Llanelli Town Branch on 5 February 2018.
A significant number of the remaining Party members across Llanelli are now seriously considering resigning from the Party.
Labour must be rubbing their hands with glee as they read this article. As someone who has followed both political parties closely during the run up to the 2017 election and subsequent local and county council elections I have tried to extract information from Plaid Cymru at local and national level and it really was akin to being a rent collector in the 1970’s. No one wanted to answer the door.
Sean Rees lost the candidacy for selection to stand as MP and he lost his election bid for County Councillor. He did make it to the benches of the Llanelli Town Council, where he cuts a lone figure amongst the sea of red of Labour councillors.
Mari Arthur in her speech following Labour’s win at the 2017 election said that it was not over, far from it, the work starts now or words to that effect. Llanelli is a small place but Mari Arthur has seldom been seen in the town since that defeat.
Helen Mary Jones went off to pastures new. To date she is the only candidate who has come close to stealing this staunch Labour held seat.
Plaid Cymru’s problems appear set to escalate as the in fighting continues. The decision to do their washing in public comes as a welcome relief for Llanelli Online. For one brief moment we questioned our existence.
We will be watching and listening with interest and unlike the door of the office at Bres Rd, which has allegedly been locked for some time. Our door is open to people of all denominations, all parties, all colours and creeds.
On January 27th we sent an email to Plaid Cymru’s Leader Leanne Wood. It read: Hi Leanne, Gwyn Hopkins has made some serious claims regarding the affairs of Plaid Cymru at a local and national level specifically disciplinary procedures. Simon Thomas AM has also voiced his concerns. Two Plaid members in Llanelli have resigned and it is claimed 15 more followed? Could you let me know what the state of the party is at the moment with regard to disciplinary procedures and at a local level in Llanelli. Since the last elections we have not heard anything of Mari Arthur. Will Plaid have a candidate for Llanelli at the next elections?
We have not received any response.
We sent a copy of a letter we received from Gwyn Hopkins, which read:
On January 17, Simon Thomas AM admitted that the recent application of Plaid Cymru’s disciplinary procedures has been appalling. This is also an apt description of some of the events permitted and endorsed by the Cardiff-based Plaid leadership in the Llanelli constituency since April 2017.
Some of their actions have been so deplorable that – in spite of being a Plaid member and quite an industrious activist for 44 years and a Plaid county councillor for 28 years – I tendered my resignation from the party in a letter to Gareth Clubb dated December 13, 2017.
Moreover, at least 15 active Plaid members in the constituency have also resigned – more will undoubtedly follow.
We asked the Plaid Cymru Leader if Alun Ffred was out of control and if the party was in self destruct mode?
We asked: If Alun Ffred has breached standing orders what action will Plaid Cymru be taking?
We have not received a response. What was that we said about questioning our own existence?
Following the publication of this article Sean Rees commented: “This press release has been issued by the Llanelli Town Branch following the Branch meeting that took place on Monday 5th February.
“As the Constituency’s Press Officer, I have no comment to add at this stage.
“My priority now as always is to the communities that I have the privilege of representing as a Llanelli Town Councillor.”