A row has broken out on social media following the retweeting by Cllr Glynog Davies and Jonathan Edwards MP of a blog entry, which some observers are calling an incendiary, inflamatory and extremist rant. The entry is from a blogger ‘Cneifiwr’ who we believe is based in Newscastle Emlyn regarding the proposed new school at Llanerch in Llanelli.
Llanelli Online ran an article recently, which commenced with the people campaigning for village green status for the field on which it is proposed to site the new Ysgol Dewi Sant stating that they were fully supportive of a new school and Welsh Medium Education.
The blogger titles the piece ‘Ysgol Dewi Sant – Plebs and jumped up Welsh tossers’ and goes on to ridicule the Llanelli based campaigners and politicians whose only goal to date appears to have been trying to retain the field for community use and act upon the wishes of local residents.
The blogger asserts: “It is understandable that many local residents would oppose the loss of an open green space near their homes, but the fields are no longer used for organised sports, and these days their main function is as a gigantic doggy toilet.”
That statement has already been contested by the Carmarthenshire League representatives who have maintained that the field has only been out of use for two seasons to allow the County Council to carry out essential maintenance work. Phil Jones from the Carmarthenshire League made the point very clear when he spoke at a public meeting and insisted that the league wanted to use the field saying it was the best field in Carmarthenshire. Mr Jones said; “The league cannot afford to lose any more teams, clubs or pitches in the Llanelli area. When these green areas have gone, they are gone forever.”
The blogger goes on to say: “To campaign against the plans for Ysgol Dewi Sant means in practical terms that around 480 children and the school staff would be forced to stay put in cramped and squalid conditions for years to come, and despite their protestations and public utterances, that would be the logical outcome of the recklessly irresponsible tactics adopted by Nia Griffiths MP, Lee Waters AM and Labour councillors, most notably Rob James.”
It is not clear in the blog entry how the blogger actually reached these conclusions. He goes on to relate the character of one of the campaigners, Heather Peters to a campaigner Michaela Beddows, someone he appeared to chose to chastise and ridicule relentlessly on his blog during the Llangennech School protests.
The furore over Llangennech School was enough to gain the attention of newsreader Huw Edwards who said the row made the US presidential election campaign look ‘genteel’.
He commented at the time: “Too often, people are intolerant of other points of view and they hurl abuse or seek to make trouble for those who dare to challenge or ask questions. Journalists who report ‘other’ views are routinely accused of ‘bias’. It is a dangerous, unhealthy trend.
“Let us hope that important lessons will be learned – by campaigners and journalists – about their use of language and tactics in such a sensitive area.”
Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood said at the time that she had concerns over the ‘frankly toxic’ atmosphere around the debate.
Much is also made of the election of County Councillor Rob James by the blogger. Some observers of the blog have contacted Llanelli Online to complain about what they perceive as someone who is carping from afar without an understanding of what the residents of Llanerch want. One commented: “We are being led to believe that this is another anti Welsh lynch mob led by Cllr Robert James ably assisted by the Llanelli AM Lee Waters and MP Nia Griffith hell bent on destroying the community of Llanerch’s chances of a new school.”
The campaigners insist that they are doing nothing more than challenging the County Council over what they believe is an unsuitable site for the school and exercising their democratic rights as residents of Llanerch and representatives of Llanerch and Llanelli by not giving the council carte blanche to build on a green field site over the top of an enormous sewage tank.
The blogger mocks Cllr James asking: ‘Would you buy a second hand car from this man? The style is one, which was used during the Llangennech campaign and appears to suggest that there is an element of mistrust in the councillor. History would dictate otherwise as the mass of the electorate registered their vote to elect him as County Councillor over the Plaid representative who was part of the campaign group until he had a sudden change of heart.
Speaking about the row to Llanelli Online AM Lee Waters said: “I’m not interested in personal abuse from an anonymous blogger. I strongly support a new school for Dewi Sant, it is much needed. But I don’t want to lose a precious piece of green space which has been used by generations of children to play on. I’ve urged the Council to find a brownfield site but, as ever, they seem determined to set aside reasonable concerns and push ahead. It’s a real shame and I feel for the school as we should be celebrating the fact they are getting a new building. Plaid in Carmarthenshire don’t seem to want to take communities in Llanelli with them. It’s not too late to reconsider”
The blogger turns his attention to Heather Peters. He writes: “The campaign against the relocation of Ysgol Dewi Sant is led by a small group of very vocal self-appointed activists calling themselves “Save Llanerch and Penygaer Recreational Fields”. Most prominent among them is Mrs Heather Peters who just happens to live opposite the site of the proposed new school.
“Mrs P and her deputy, Sharon Burdess, can be heard taking part in a lengthy “interview” with LlanelliOnline here, although strangely neither of them is identified by name as they respond to Alan Evans’ interesting interview technique, which boils down to delivering a monologue with brief pauses to allow his guests to agree with him.
“Let’s be generous and call this campaigning journalism, although Alan Evans’ collaboration with Heather Peters and Co again raises awkward questions about the objectivity of LlanelliOnline.
“E-mail correspondence also shows that Alan was active in the campaign, dishing out advice on tactics and questions to ask of the County Council.”
As with any content on social media posted by a person who wishes to remain anonymous, it is advisable to treat it with caution as pointed out by one of the best in the industry earlier in this article.
It is the social media aspect of the row, which will no doubt go on for some time and has already seen the Executive Board Member for Education and Children retweeting the contents of the blogger’s rant. Whether Cllr Glynog Davies or Jonathan Edwards support the rant in totality is open for debate. It has left some claiming that it is neither helpful nor fair or appropriate conduct for someone in such a prominent position to be retweeting what appears to be a highly charged and extreme point of view regarding the plans for the new school.
We attempted to contact Cllr Davies but did not receive a response. We understand that several members of the public have reported Cllr Davies for what they perceive as a breach of the code of conduct for a public serving official during a very sensitive consultation process on the future for a school in Llanerch.
In a response to a request for a comment a Carmarthenshire County Council spokesperson said:
“What Glynog Davies RTs from his own personal account is something you need to take up with him directly.”
We contacted Cllr Rob James and he responded with the following statement: “I could not be clearer on my thoughts with the proposed development of Ysgol Dewi Sant on Llanerch fields. With both of my children set to be going to the school in the near future, I have a personal interest in ensuring it is the best possible environment to provide welsh-medium education. Also, as a welsh learner myself, I find the claims that I am anti-welsh laughable.
“This whole issue has been mishandled by the Plaid-led administration once again and we are merely pointing to the errors in the original site selection exercise. ‘I will continue to call on the Executive Board member to conduct a new site selection covering the entire Llanelli town region, without the inclusion of those areas marked as important recreational spaces within the Local Development Plan.”