Jacob Williams
Monday 24th April, 2017

Election observations

Election observations

The close of nominations for the 2017 Pembrokeshire County Council elections earlier this month was somewhat underwhelming.

The revelation of who was standing, where, and the thirteen councillors returned to the council unopposed must have been pretty deflating for some.

Of the 47 seats to be contested, there are only a handful which look exciting, with the prospect of long-serving councillors being given the boot.

The Martletwy seat – large, strangely shaped and encompassing several communities – is a two-horse-race with incumbent ‘independent’ candidate, Rob Lewis, facing the Conservatives’ Di Clements.

Lewis, you’ll recall, was suspended from office in 2013 for his role in Partygate, where he’d used council resources for party political purposes.

Along with his colleague, David Wildman, he’d used his cabinet room computer to create many documents including election literature for his fellow ‘independent’ candidates at the 2008 and 2012 election.

It would seem Rob still hasn’t learned his lesson because, whilst within the rules this time around, he’s engaged in more questionable antics in an attempt to influence the 2017 local elections – and not just in his own seat.

Lewis and Elwyn Morse – neighbouring councillors and cabinet chums – were scouting round for candidates in the weeks leading up to the election nomination period.

David Simpson, representing Lampeter Velfrey since 2004, is unopposed this time around – but no thanks to the independent party’s creaking machinery.

Lewis and Morse were desperately scratching round for candidates, one of whom was asked to go up against Simpson.

The duo’s desperate recruitment exercise involved telephone calls and even home visits to potential standers.

And such partisan scheming by supposed ‘independents’ isn’t the only thing that stinks – because everyone’s saying it’s squeaky bum time in Martletwy for Lewis.

Stiff competition from Di Clements is said to be making for his toughest re-election bid yet.

One can’t help but think Rob’s time would’ve been better spent fighting his own battle.

JW also can’t help but wonder how many stooge candidates the ruling clique approached around the county who were convinced to stand.

With a bit of luck my moles will turn up a fresh batch of 2017 election computer files, which will reveal all…

News from Neyland suggests an outrageous sense of entitlement has been shown by the town’s east ward incumbent, Simon Hancock.

Doctor Hancock, as he’s selling himself in promotional literature, is pitted against a Plaid Cymru candidate.

He would have been facing a Labour challenger too, had the chosen comrade not pulled out late and unexpectedly, in mysterious circumstances.

The then Mister Hancock was elected unopposed as a Labour candidate in 2012 – and every prior election dating back to 1995.

However the council’s ruling independent party came-a-calling after the 2012 poll and proved a temptation Si was unwilling to resist.

That, or the £30k cabinet post!

Hancock threw in his lot on condition that they changed their name from the independent political group (IPG) to the independent ‘plus’ Hancock political group (IPPG.)

They were willing to go along with this bit of trickery to allow Hancock to keep his promise to never join the IPG.

And there are still some who wonder why he’s a doctor!

When he became aware that he was facing a Plaid Cymru candidate this time around, Dr. Hancock approached Tenby’s Cllr. Michael Williams – PC’s group leader on the council.

An indignant Hancock was most disappointed to learn of the challenge and was hoping for another free run, unopposed.

He quizzed Plaid Cymru’s leader on why they were putting up against him, and asked if there was anything Williams could do about it!

A PhD – in history, at least – obviously doesn’t teach life lessons, like the one that says certain feelings, no matter how sincere, are best left unexpressed.

In his literature, Hancock has adopted the slogan: “NO PARTY BUT NEYLAND.”

Of course, when his cabinet call came in 2012, there was no party but the IPG.

Or should that be IPPG?

An as yet unknown number of councillors will be retiring involuntarily this election.

But of the ten councillors retiring voluntarily, JW notes three have nominated candidates standing to replace them.

Tony Brinsden in Amroth, John Allen-Mirehouse in Hundleton and David Rees in Llanrhian all signed nomination papers for would-be successors.

This endorsement practice brings back memories of Burton representative, David Wildman.

In 2013 Wildman stepped down from the council in disgrace after I fingered him in my Partygate saga.

He also moved away, to England, whence he came, trying in vain to dress his decision up as a noble choice to spend more time with his family.

This, despite having been elected to a five year term as Burton’s representative less than a year beforehand.

Wildman used his community newsletter to beg voters to side with his man, Rob Summons, who, in near Hancockesque levels of entitlement he said he had “asked” to stand in his place.

From a crowded field, Summons comfortably won the 2013 by-election as the only ever candidate in Pembrokeshire history to openly admit his intention to join the council’s deeply unpopular ruling independent party, the IPPG, if elected.

Surprising, then, that for this electoral outing Summons cosied up to the Conservatives and got them to adopt him as their official candidate.

Some have concluded that this was a dastardly trick, to ward off a strong Tory challenger.

The evidence is convincing, and two other serving councillors have done exactly the same – if the theory is to be believed.

Tom Richards of Letterston is a founding member of the council and its ‘independent’ party. Following a close brush with his sole challenger in 2012, a Tory, he’s now seeking election under their banner – but still faces two others if he’s to be re-elected.

Rudbaxton’s Steve Yelland narrowly beat an incumbent Tory at the 2012 poll, but this time he’ll be the one wearing the blue rosette at the count. Like Richards, Yelland will have to see off two challengers if he’s to defend his seat.

As for Summons, if the theory’s correct, it certainly worked – he won’t need to win a single vote as he’s been returned unopposed as a Tory.

In Martletwy, just over the Cleddau from Summons’ Burton ward, Rob Lewis must surely wonder if he missed a trick.

As I’ve said, there aren’t many very interesting races, but Pembroke Dock has two which should be on anybody’s list of ones to watch.

Llanion could well see PCC’s first teenage councillor elected, in Labour’s Joshua Beynon.

The winner from the three hopefuls will succeed ‘True Blue Sue’ Perkins.

Or Sue ‘I did it for the kids’ Perkins, as the far-out-of-her-depth cabinet member is also known.

William Rees MBE has also dusted off his campaigning shoes.

Having tried his luck in Monkton in 2012, he’s moved his campaign wagon, but won’t be contesting his home ward of Pembroke Dock Market, which is the town’s other one-to-watch contest.

Big buddies with the Market ward’s notorious long-time councillor, Brian Hall, Rees even proposed Hall’s council nomination by signing his papers.

Billy’s unorthodox election strategy in Llanion has also seen him deliver election leaflets heaping praise on his pal, the self-styled ‘controversial councillor’ Bri.

Brian’s ‘Hall of shame’ contains such outrages as the time he openly boasted he’d get his thug mates from Manchester to break a BBC journalist’s arms and legs.

Whilst controversial may go some way in describing Hall, one word many wish could and should be used is ‘unelectable.’

Somehow Hall’s seen off several challengers over the years, this time facing independent Hayley Wood, who pledges to remain unaffiliated or a ‘proper’ independent, if elected.

Her record of public service includes her key role as a whistleblower in one of the council’s biggest scandals in recent years, child safeguarding.

The contrast!

Brian’s posters are all over the Dock, and his pal Billy’s also in on the game.

Billy’s banners decry the state of the maritime town and the local authority to which he seeks election.

Unfortunately, their inexpert design sends out mixed messages. In technical terms, as the photos show, they use contrasting graphic styles for connected lines of the same sentence.

Alongside bearded Billy’s mugshot, the choice of yellow text on black, sandwiched between black lettering on the white background, has led some to interpret one poster’s message as: “LOOK AT THE STATE OF WILLIAM REES.”

One suggestion is that these are guerrilla posters exemplifying highly thought-out subtlety.

Installed by his opponents, the theory goes, these artistic masterpieces must be assessed in artistic terms.

It’s quite a desirable theory when you consider a second design of Billy’s banners – from the same template – has been interpreted as saying:

“LET’S GET RID OF WILLIAM REES.”

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity…

There are quite a few things to note about some candidates’ election leaflets, which I might look at if I do a part two.

In the meantime, if you think you’ve spotted something interesting, feel free to scan it and email it to me:


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36 Comments...

  • Dai Trump

    I am beginning to wonder if it is even safe to vote!

  • Flashbang

    Kakistocracy is a state or country run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens.

    The word was coined by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829.

    Thank you Wikipedia for this definition.

  • John Hudson

    Councillors are required to list in the public register of interests, their membership of any body that aims to influence political thinking, i.e. political parties, within 28 days of them becoming aware of it.

    Is it significant that of the three ex-IPPG new Conservative candidates you mention, only Tom Richards’ membership of the Conservative Party – added 30 March 2017 – features?

    The new Council starts off with some 20% of the electorate being denied the opportunity to spoil their ballot paper through the 13 unopposed seats.

  • Ray Burgess

    Thank you Jacob. Informative and entertaining as ever.

  • William Rees

    Jacob when did you become an expert in aesthetics, I like the posters. I have had terrible problems with the one, ‘Let’s get rid of this awful council’ but this is a story for the future. I rather like the one ‘Let’s get rid of William Rees’. I think that is a campaign I could join, and please don’t call me Billy!

  • Martin Lewis

    I’m thinking of putting up a banner saying “Let’s get William Rees to answer the questions put to him on Facebook”

  • William Rees

    When Martin has the courage to stand himself maybe people will take him more seriously.

  • Martin Lewis

    It doesn’t take courage William. It just needs a bit of common sense, openness and honesty.

    To be taken seriously as a candidate William you MUST be willing to be challenged on policies, integrity, transparency etc.

    So far you’ve refused to respond to questions put to you on the Pembrokeshire Local Election 2017 Facebook group which you joined and introduced yourself in.

    I’ll challenge you again via THIS forum seeing as you don’t like being questioned on Facebook. Maybe you’ll be good enough to answer these questions:

    1. Why do your banners describe “this awful council” when you have personally signed Brian Hall’s nomination papers even though you have a chance to stand against him in your own ward? Getting rid of Brian Hall as a councillor and the IPPG would be a big improvement to the council, would it not?

    2. Will you give an assurance that you will NOT join the IPG/IPPG or any other group on the council, particularly any group set up by Brian Hall, if you are elected as an independent?

    3. Why do your banners mention the state of our town yet in your election leaflet you praise Brian Hall? He’s been a councillor in Pembroke Dock for over 12 years. Surely he’s more responsible for the terrible state of Pembroke Dock than anyone else?

    4. Why is your election leaflet so similar to that of Brian Hall and Terry Judkins?

  • William Rees

    I had decided that to answer your posting would not resolve anything. I really didn’t like the tone of the postings on Facebook and I’m not going to indulge in an exchange of insults – but a debate, anytime.

    So an answer to every question. Don’t forget that you say I won’t answer, and having answered, you don’t have to agree with my views, but I am always willing to discuss any stance I take.

    1. Awful council – I think they are awful and I have continually written to local papers to say so, a written complaint to the ombudsman about the way they operate and started a petition of no confidence in Bryn Parry-Jones. Remember them Martin?

    I disagree completely with the group Brian Hall is a member of and I was totally opposed to his ongoing support of BP-J, but this is what you find hard to accept.

    He is continually fighting to get investment into Pembroke Dock and any resident that has a problem he takes it up with a real zest. I don’t support the positions he takes in County Hall but I do support the way he fights for the town and its people. By the way you also had a chance to stand against him. A question you do not answer.

    2. I give a total assurance to your question.

    3. Why is he more responsible than anyone else? What about the two councillors who deserted their party? I wonder seriously how I will get success because I have upset the ruling group, but I will fight. I’ll tell you the saga of police complaints about my posters and council operatives removing one of them another time.

    4. I have supported Brian Hall’s elections every time and two elections ago made some suggestions for his leaflet. The first I knew of the content of this one was when I saw the printed version. I have not even seen Terry Judkins’ leaflet.

    Martin I am my own man, as you seem to be, I will answer any question honestly and have been doing so around the Llanion ward.

    On the basis of what I have heard on the Bush Estate I have printed another leaflet that I am starting to deliver tomorrow. You are welcome to a copy if you want one. Martin you might well find that I am not the enemy.

  • Martin Lewis

    Thank you very much for those replies William. Why you couldn’t have just answered so honestly on Facebook is beyond me.

    I don’t feel that I have to be willing to stand for council myself in order to interrogate the people who wish to do so to represent the town that I live in.

    I still find it very difficult indeed to comprehend the fact that you disapprove of Brian Hall’s actions in County Hall and your disgust at the ruling group and BPJ in particular, a man supported by Brian Hall right to the end, and your contradictory support for him in other areas.

    I’ve still to see any evidence of Brian Hall being personally responsible for bringing investment into Pembroke Dock, I think that’s a bit of a myth.

    But thank you once again for replying, you’ve gone up in my estimation simply for being honest and direct with your replies.

  • John Hudson

    Surely county councillors are there not just to represent their own constituents, but also to provide some cohesive strategic directions for the county as a whole.

    I have never understood how 60 independent or unaligned councillors, led by a small group with no mandate from the electorate can work for the benefit of the county.

    I guess we have the shining example of the schools fiasco. As Old Grumpy says, if this was left to officers and the 10 cabinet members, rather than the 60 councillors sitting in full council, we would be in a very different place. It was fortunate that councillors wrested control from officers/cabinet.

    I have no legal possibility of not paying my council tax. As the council, without a collective majority mandate, can dip their hand in my pocket unchallenged, then I too will continue to take an interest in the goings on at County Hall. There isn’t room for us all to be candidates/councillors, even if we were so inclined.

  • William Rees

    Martin, thank you for your generous reply. You are a focused guy like me and I hate to admit that I am getting to like you.

    We have some different opinions which is fine. We might find that there is a general direction we will agree on.

    Actually you are definitely correct, you don’t have to stand for council to be able to question those who do stand. I completely withdraw those remarks. The mess this county is in is because not enough people are doing the questioning.

  • John Hudson

    May I remind electors and taxpayers that we all have the public right to formally ask the council questions, and get a reply.

    We can also seek the views of relevant overview and scrutiny committees on matters within their remit.

    While we cannot all be councillors, we can all play a part in holding decision-makers to account. Particularly if you are of the view that many elected councillors do not take their role of challenge and scrutiny that seriously to be effective.

  • Galf

    I’m told that Dr. Hancock was going to use the slogan SIMON HANCOCK INDEPENDENT THINKER but the acronym was too close for comfort.

  • Michael Williams

    I have a huge respect for William Rees, who was a first class district councillor, but I would advise him to log on to OldGrumpy.co.uk and read about Brian Hall’s antics in the recent past.

    If anyone is unfit to be a councillor it is surely him.

  • Malcolm Calver

    William, perhaps you could advise us all what decisions taken by councillors over the last five years you believe to be wrong and therefore would not have supported.

  • Dave Edwards

    Having scoured the lists, I can’t see anyone standing for the Pembrokeshire Alliance. Another flag of convenience?

  • Malcolm Calver

    David, I also note that the ex-copper Tony Brinsden has also I believe reverted back to his Liberal past by supporting his potential replacement Ms Mary Megary.

    He did the independent cause and therefore Pembrokeshire no favours during the last twelve months, especially Jacob, but there that could be an automatic response after being elevated to the chairmanship.

    Come on Billy (William) surely after suggesting Pembrokeshire County Council is an “awful” council you can give us some example of its failures?

    I am aware you have become a member of a non-existing empire but surely you can spare us a little of your time and thoughts.

  • Flashbang

    Good luck with the election Jacob, what about rounding up all the undecideds and new councillors and making a play for becoming the majority?

    The county would certainly benefit from getting rid of the stench of the old guard who I fear will keep trying to get their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets.

  • Goldingsboy

    Any “Road” videos this year, Jacob?

  • Tracy Turner

    Congratulations on keeping your seat Jacob. And by a huge majority. Keep up the good work.

  • Loobeloo

    Best birthday present I have had today is you, Jacob, and Mike and Viv Stoddart have all been re-elected. Good news for Pembrokeshire, bad news for IPPG, keep up the good work, I salute you all.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Jacob, congratulations to you and the Stoddart family, there is a God out there.

  • Dave Edwards

    With around 16 hardcore IPPG re-elected and 12 Tory fellow travellers the potential for them to form a coalition is alarmingly close. A few SRAs dangled under certain noses could swing it.

    With no prospect of either the Plaid Cymru or Labour leader mounting a credible council leadership challenge, and the remaining Indie/Uglies largely comprised mostly of natural rebels, who could be agreed on to fill the post?

    One name keeps cropping up in my phone calls but I’ll let your contributors make their own suggestions.

  • Keanjo

    Well done Jacob but I’m afraid it will be a case of ‘the mixture as before’ an the shenanigans will continue.

  • David, following such an emphatic rejection by the voters of Pembrokeshire, it is inconceivable that Jamie Adams should continue as Leader.

    However, if you read his comments to the Western Telegraph, you might come to the conclusion that the fact that he has the support of only 25% of the members (if that) is just a minor inconvenience.

    As for an alternative, all that can be said at the moment is that that is a work in progress.

  • Dai Trump

    Jamie Adams’ comments to the Western Telegraph display his arrogance and contempt at its best, he still thinks he is the man in charge, please please please put him out of our misery.

  • John Hudson

    There seems to be a bit of confusion already over the Independent/Unaligned 34 or 35 and the Con 12 or 11.

    The Herald is already reporting that one Con could revert to ‘Independent’ type.

    The official voting returns list that 12 Conservatives have been elected either following a contest or having been unopposed.

  • Dave Edwards

    Something that has been little commented on was the rise in the number of members from political parties. Last session we had just 12 now we have 26 (12 Cons, 7 Labour, 6 Plaid Cymru and 1 Lib Dem). This is now 43% of the members. Maybe a sign that politics in the county is getting more grown up.

  • Dave Edwards

    Looking at the Leadership issue through the lens of a glass or two of Merlot, it strikes me that if the Tories can attract four from the Independents (all stripes) they could with the rump of the IPPG just scrape a majority.

    With Hancock’s vote obviously up for sale we might have to rely on Reg Owens to save the day!

  • Mike Stoddart

    David, you are comparing the numbers at the end of the term with those at the beginning.

    Immediately after the 2012 election there were nine Labour, five Plaid, three Conservative and one Lib Dem – 18 in all.

    So, while there has been a significant increase, it is not as dramatic as you suggest.

    For the record, the reduction from 18 to 12 was brought about by the defections of four Labour members: Simon Hancock, Sue Perkins and Allison Lee who found the attraction of IPPG membership and a seat in Jamie’s cabinet outweighed their loyalty to the party under whose colours they were elected, and Pat Davies who had a fall out with Paul Miller and left to become unaffiliated.

    Then there was Stephen Joseph – elected as Plaid Cymru – who hopped across to the IPPG because he thought it would help him get things done in his constituency.

    Owen James was elected as a Tory but never actually signed up to the group and made his way to the IPPG via a spell as an unaffiliated, while the sole Lib Dem (Bob Kilmister) had no choice but become unaffiliated because it takes two to tango.

    Travelling in the other direction was David Bryan who was elected as an independent but eventually made his way to his natural home in the Tory group.

  • John Hudson

    David, only 19,035 voters got the 47 candidates they wanted, 15,089 voted for other candidates and didn’t.

    Broadly about 19,000 were denied a say in their representation due to the 13 uncontested seats.

    Hardly a ringing endorsement of the county’s democratic process, particularly in the light of the 37,000 to 38,000 who did not feel inclined to vote for whatever reason.

    Could this have something to do with the way the council works and tries to engage the electorate?

    The council’s constitution still places a considerable amount of financial delegation and the allocation of reserves in officers’ hands, by and large out of councillors’ direct control.

    Members-only budget seminars are held in secret with no minutes being made public.

    The new leader and cabinet members are now to be chosen, but not by the electorate.

    One of the first jobs for the new council is to recast the budget, due to the late promises to reinstate some small cuts made to placate discontented councillors.

  • Keanjo

    As I understand it the Leader is chosen by Council which is as it should be. However he is then given the power to purchase the loyalty of a cabinet of 10 or 12 members with SRAs amounting to many thousands of £s without Council approval . If this is the case I cannot see that any improvement in the performance if PCC is possible.

  • John Hudson

    Keanjo, as I understand it, the council, if the majority wills, can appoint (and fire) cabinet members with a change to the constitution within the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000.

    This could result in a beauty parade of hopefuls making their bid to hold cabinet portfolios in which they have a special interest or knowledge.

    Whether this would be in public or behind closed doors would also be a matter for the Council.

    Can you see this coming off?

  • Keanjo

    Jamie Adams and his merry band were as bad as it gets. If they survived the system John Hudson describes, anyone will.

  • John Hudson

    What was disappointing is that the democratic body of the council could not get constitutional changes which would trim the power of the cabinet and officers’ delegated powers through the majority block IPG vote.

    The council is the seat of all authority delegated from Parliament and Welsh Government, and it is within its discretion to determine responsibilities within the legal framework permitted. Will anything change?

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