Jacob Williams

Party planners

Wednesday 10th October, 2012
Party planners

It’s been far too long since I got my teeth into anything on this site, and I can already imagine the witty remark the author of that other website has got on standby to highlight my ineptitude. The truth is, not even I can deny my concern at a lack of content to write about. When things go quiet, I’m either missing out on something juicy, or the gossip in the tea-room is centred around me. But I have every reason to believe that my recent lull has been an example of the proverbial ‘calm before the storm.’

Information has come my way that confirms what anecdotal evidence has suggested for years, and it should convince even the most open-minded or forgiving of voters.

It is well known that the IPG operates as a political party inside the council chamber and in conducting council affairs, but, come election time, the party-political shenanigans –rebuffed as nonsense by many– ramp up a notch, putting the registered political parties to shame. The Independent Political Group is a slick political machine, and I now know that going in to the 2008 and 2012 local elections, devised and operated a comprehensive election strategy and campaign literature conveyer belt for its candidates.

You might have read the story on Old Grumpy’s site a few months back about Cllr. David Wildman creating an election leaflet for the eventually unsuccessful candidate, Byron Frayling. During the early stages of this revelation, I know that Cllr. Wildman denied any knowledge. The media-friendly aspect of this story was that the IPG had stood another candidate up against one of their own – the sitting Councillor, David Bryan. The conclusion I’ve drawn over this unusual plot, is that the motive behind it was to deprive Bryan the chance of a victory by default. Had Frayling not stood, Bryan would have been the only candidate, and would have retained the seat without the need to campaign for a single vote – as happened in 13 other wards across the county, Cllr. Wildman’s being one of them. I imagine the IPG felt it important to avoid the prospect of Bryan, a seasoned political campaigner for the Conservative party, the chance to assist with the election campaigns of Conservatives standing against IPG candidates. By planting a throw-away candidate against him, it was a dead certain guarantee that Bryan would be tied up during the hectic election run-up; busy concentrating his efforts on fighting to retain his own seat, rather than knocking doors for anybody else.

Who says local politics is clean, innocent and straight forward? Unfortunately, this episode turned out to be far too spicy for the Western Telegraph, to which Cllr. Bryan initially complained, but they did see fit to bury the story in its sister paper, the Milford Mercury which has a tiny circulation in comparison. As I mentioned, Cllr. Wildman initially denied any knowledge of creating a leaflet, and continues this line (of sorts) in the newspaper’s coverage, which reports that he: “…strongly refuted claims he had composed election addresses, but said he had helped prepare a leaflet using a 2008 template as a favour to Cllr Lyndon Frayling, Byron’s brother.” I can confirm that there are in fact eight ‘Byron Frayling files’ in my haul, including an election address, small flyers and a letter, which identify David Wildman as the author. I think it is worth noting that Cllr. Wildman’s quote to the newspaper continued: “I didn’t think of the implications at the time and it went out of my mind.” Given that he was also the author of over thirty other files for ten different candidates that stood in May’s election, it is perhaps understandable that this slipped his mind, though I doubt he would have given the same quote, had he been confronted by the newspaper with all of the evidence I’ve got.

Of course, Cllr. Bryan went on to win his election with a thumping victory, and, though his hand was forced, the election campaign he mounted has clearly not done him any harm as far as his electorate is concerned, but what about the bigger picture? This Byron Frayling business is but a drop in the ocean. My mountain of evidence shows that Cllr. David Wildman and Cllr. Rob Lewis not only played a part in authoring campaign literature as a couple of ‘favours,’ but were the “brains” behind the IPG’s county-wide campaign strategy, and put together the election literature of numerous successful and unsuccessful IPG candidates over the past two elections. None of this is coincidental. Not only does it turn the perennial post-election IPG power-grab theory in to hard fact, but more than that, it now reveals the machinations that go on before and during election campaigns, in order for this “Independent” party to keep its greasy mitts on the piggy bank, and the levers of power.

My huge haul of files shows that election literature was crafted by the duo for thirteen candidates in 2008, and fourteen in 2012. What is wrong, you might ask? Well, aside from it resulting in stabbing one of your supposed allies in the back, there is technically nothing wrong with one candidate writing the electoral literature of another, even though it completely disproves IPG rebuttals that it is not and does not operate as a political party. However, and here’s the important part – the campaign strategy documents, election literature, party-political documents and papers I have in my possession, have been created and stored using Pembrokeshire County Council computer equipment. Because of this, I find myself in an awkward legal position. Not because I have any doubts over the provenance of my information, but because I am a councillor.

The guidance for “The Code of Conduct for members of local authorities in Wales,” published by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, requires me to report any suspected breaches of the code by other councillors, and that failure for me to do so will, in itself, constitute a breach of the code. The following is taken from page 18:

Reporting breaches of the code

It’s what I refer to as an infinite regression. For instance, if I became aware that a fellow serving councillor – let’s say the imaginary Cllr. Fred Bloggs – had committed a deed which I believed constituted a breach of the code, I am required (by that same code) to report Cllr. Bloggs for his alleged breach. And if I fail to report that alleged breach, I too would be breaking the code, for which Cllr. Bloggs (or any other councillor who believed that I believed a breach had occurred) is under a requirement to then report me for not reporting Cllr. Bloggs’s initial breach, and if they didn’t, I would have to report them for not reporting me for not reporting the initial deed of Cllr. Bloggs in the first place.

I happen to know that a number of my fellow councillors read this website. Some in fear, some with a smile on their face – smiles that might now be disappearing, as they begin to realise that they are also under the same duty.

Aside from detailing what a councillor should do to maintain high ethical standards, and what to do in cases of suspected breaches, the code of conduct defines some of the things that might constitute a breach of the code. Some are obviously subjective and difficult to codify, due to circumstances such as time, place, and perceptions – ie, what one person sees as bringing the office of councillor into disrepute, might not be seen that way by another person.

The code covers the use of the authority’s resources on page 21-22, and, on the topic of their use for purely political and publicity purposes, the rules are crystal clear:

The authority's resources

Due to the aforementioned infinite regression, I am seeking further guidance myself, with regard to my position, but interestingly, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales‘s English counterpart (the Local Government Ombudsman) used to have the same ‘infinite regression’ requirement in its code of conduct for councillors serving in England but it has now been scrapped.

Over the next few days I intend to trawl through this mass of information (there are files too numerous to mention) and I shall serialise their publication.

After reading it, the next time you hear a serving councillor or candidate boasting of their true independence, you should have every reason to be sceptical.

Cabinet room conspiracy – a taste of what’s to come:

What's to come

←The Partygate Series

Archive

The party files, Pt. 1→

Plotting the 2008 election campaign


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4 Comments...

  • Tessa Hodgson

    Brilliant scoop Jacob, well done.

  • Matt Owen

    This is dynamite, they’re thick as thieves!!

  • Helen S

    Brilliant reporting Jacob and I can’t wait to find out more!

    How can the IPG carry on saying ‘we’re all independents and not part of a political group’ after this? What you’ve found out shows quite clearly that they don’t just horse trade after an election but they’re quietly working together as a group before and during elections.

    Like I say a fab exclusive for you and definitely one in the eye for ‘that other website’!

  • Phil Rowson

    Interesting…ever so interesting and very good!

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