Jacob Williams
Thursday 30th August, 2018

Old dogs, new tricks

Old dogs, new tricks

The roster of by-election candidates for the Pembrokeshire County Council seat vacated by the now jailed paedophile David Boswell (Tory) is quite interesting to say the least.

Among the eight wannabes are three former county councillors – two who lost their seats in neighbouring wards at last year’s election, the wife of a serving councillor plus another candidate who stood unsuccessfully last year in Pembroke Dock.

There had been speculation for months that this long-anticipated contest would see a crowded field.

As is often the case, this can make it much easier for a candidate to slip through the pack to victory on a very small plurality of votes.

So it’s anybody’s guess who’ll triumph from among the eight names appearing on ballot papers.

One candidate analysts might automatically assume holds ‘favourite’ status is independent Jon Harvey – who came second to Boswell in last year’s general council poll by just six votes.

A famous feature of by-elections is low turnouts, particularly for low-level offices like councillors – but the unique back-story to this election could be a force for getting the vote out. Whatever happens, there can be no doubt in candidates’ and residents’ minds that every vote counts in a race like this.

This is something Jon Harvey will know only too well, hoping the wafer-thin defeat he suffered to outgoing Boswell in May 2017 will be a distant memory in a fortnight’s time.

And if his vote holds up then he’s surely a shoo-in, but he was, after all, the only non-party candidate in 2017 whereas now he’s one of six listed as either ‘independent’ or with a blank description alongside their name.

Social media discussion on the ‘Pembrokeshire Council Watch’ Facebook group has attracted some controversy on its discussion and coverage of this by-election, among other topics of late.

I’ve read some of the comments pertaining to this contest and its contestants, and they are, unsurprisingly, generally rooting for Harvey – who along with three others, is one of the Facebook page’s administrators.

But it’s the way Harvey’s been promoted over his opponents, in sometimes ‘attack mode’ by contributors including his fellow admins which has led to claims of a bitter atmosphere in what many expect to be an impartial arena.

This aspect of the Facebook group and some of its contributors received lengthy and unflattering coverage in the other week’s Herald’s Badger column (Pembrokeshire Herald, Friday 17th August, Badger Knows Best: ‘Boris finds a deeper truth,’ p70-71.)

It is reproduced here with the Herald’s kind permission – click to view in a readable size.

Jon Harvey doesn’t appear to have partaken in the complained-of antics, he can’t be held accountable for his colleagues’ online actions, and ultimately it’s the ward’s voters alone who’ll decide their new rep – but he may now regret not stepping down as one of the page’s administrators on becoming a candidate.

Though you’d never get the impression from reading it, there’s no evidence as to the group’s positive influence on voters’ intentions when it comes to its endorsements of political candidates.

Indeed there could be evidence that association with the group is injurious to one’s chances of convincing voters.

The group’s founder (Ryan Dansie) and two of its four admins (Jon Harvey and Hayley Wood) were all losing candidates in last year’s PCC election.

Fellow page admin Christopher Lawton is a member, elected without contest, of both Scleddau Community Council and Fishguard and Goodwick Town Council, and has made no secret of his future ambitions for a county council seat.

Nor has the page’s other admin, Marcel Laval, who says he intends to stand for a county council seat somewhere in the Pembroke area at the 2022 election – but who right now is angling to occupy David Boswell’s vacant Pembroke Town Council seat.

The spread of so many ‘independent’ candidates could be a key element to the St. Mary North by-election outcome.

But it’s three of those ‘independent’ candidates in particular whose names will be familiar to the most devoted Pembrokeshire council-watchers.

Between 2012 and 2017, Jonathan Nutting was the councillor for the town’s neighbouring St. Michael ward.

He had defeated the then incumbent, Aden Brinn. But the tables turned in their 2017 re-run when Brinn got the better of Nutting, who remains a member of the town council.

Nutting had sought to become the Labour candidate for next month’s by-election. Party members, however, voted instead to field Maureen Bowen – unsuccessful candidate last year in Pembroke Dock Central’s most unusual five-way race which saw 24 votes separate the top four candidates, and Paul Dowson’s victory by three.

A sign of things to come?

Now standing as an independent candidate – as in 2012 and 2017 – Nutting’s hoping the townsfolk will return him to County Hall.

It’s been widely known for some time that both Daphne Bush and Arwyn Williams intended to throw their hats into the ring.

Both were among the most stooge-like councillors of the 2012-2017 council term with their blind allegiance to the administration.

In particular Daphne’s almost pathological levels of loyalty to the establishment were up there with the likes of Carew’s David Neale and Martletwy’s Rob Lewis – who were similarly turfed out by their voters last year.

Daphne’s council tenure culminated in a particularly humbling defeat as, in her St. Mary South ward’s four-horse race, the townsfolk she’d represented in County Hall for five years put her three votes away from a not even close dead last.

The victor for that ward was Aaron Carey, a Conservative, and it is under this party’s banner that Aaron’s wife, Natalie, is hoping to emulate her husband on September 13th.

If she succeeds the Pembroke Careys would become PCC’s third husband and wife councillor duo after the Milford Stoddarts and the Haverfordwest Tudors!

As another councillor put to me recently, the more interesting speculation in this by-election is on who’s going to come last.

This is where the clever money says Daphne Bush might stand a chance.

Neither Arwyn Williams’ or Daphne Bush’s new literature makes any mention of their past association with Jamie Adams’ then-ruling independent party, their support for disgraced chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones’ humongous cash pay-off, nor their intentions to join a party or group if elected, merely stating they are both ‘independent.’

But it was a different bit of detail on Daphne’s promotional material that caught JW’s attention over any other.

Part of her pledge, if elected this time, is: “eradicating dog fouling and fly tipping…”

With abilities like this Daphne should probably be courting Nobel Prize committee members, not the good burghers of St. Mary North!

Some theorise – including your author – that Arwyn Williams chose not to seek re-election last year anticipating the tide was against him.

The tide which took out so many of his independent party colleagues.

Then again, this would necessarily ascribe to Arwyn the possession of self-awareness.

The old bruiser is back, fighting to represent the ward he held from 2004-2017.

His leaflet is compelling reading, as you’d never know about his political past nor much by way of detail of his record across thirteen years a councillor – his main claim seeming to be that the: “experience and contacts which I have amassed so far would prove to be an invaluable asset.”

Oh, and that it is “good to see the allotments are brimming full of vegetables.”

Some jokes just write themselves!

Arwyn Williams must hold the record for chairing the most meetings of Pembrokeshire County Council.

This came about because, during his year’s vice-chairmanship, he took the helm during his chair Peter Morgan’s long indisposition on health grounds.

It all meant he effectively served to chair two years’ worth of meetings.

Such exposure could come back to haunt Arwyn as he also holds the unenviable record of most adverse publicity in the role – from among the stiffest of stiff competition!

Hardly a meeting went by where the puppet-like Arwyn – on Bryn’s right arm – rudely shut opposition councillors up or lost his cool with the gavel.

Generally, Arwyn either allowed or perhaps more accurately created the conditions for meetings to transcend into farce.

Though a matter of public record, his abilities in the chamber might not exercise the minds of the ward’s voters, who may have short memories or not even care.

As part of his campaign for his new start in local politics, Arwyn’s given himself a rebrand – he’s hoping to bounce back as the chummy ‘Al’ Williams.

Some say ‘Al’ is hoping his voters will think he’s somebody else but, whether it works or not, I don’t fancy his chances this time around and it’s probably the reason I’ve agreed a bet with a fellow councillor on his prospects.

I’m not a betting man, having never placed a bet with a bookie in my life, but I saw Brexit coming, thought Donald Trump would be elected US president in 2016 even before he was adopted as the Republican candidate, and won last year’s high-stakes predictor.

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing!

Whilst one can never be sure of the way a contest like this will go – particularly with many candidates and a small electorate – anything could swing it, even the name awareness, however bad the connotations may be.

Nonetheless I’ve negotiated what I consider particularly favourable terms to the bet either way.

Should Arwyn go on to regain his former seat, I’ll be spotted in the supermarket booze aisle hunting the cheapest three bottles of Merlot I can find to fulfil it.

And if anybody other than Arwyn wins, a solitary bottle of plonk will be coming my way.

To the anorak wearers among my readership, these details of the bet’s terms give an interesting insight to my fellow bettor’s thoughts on the chances of a man who, after last year’s retirement from politics, many couldn’t dream of seeing back in the council chamber – even in their worst nightmares.

The stakes are high – you could say it’s Al to play for!

The by-election to Pembrokeshire County Council’s Pembroke: St. Mary North electoral division will be held on Thursday, 13th September.

In alphabetical order of surname, all candidates are listed below with the description appearing alongside their name on the ballot paper, if specified, in brackets:

Bob Boucher (Independent)
Maureen Bowen (Welsh Labour/Llafur Cymru)
Daphne Margaret Jane Bush
Natalie Sarah Carey (Welsh Conservative Party Candidate)
Lyn Edwards
Jon Harvey (Independent)
Jonathan Anthony Robert Nutting (Independent)
Al Williams (Independent)

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  • Martin Lewis

    Nice analysis as usual Jacob but that Boris chap would benefit from some plain speaking instead of echos of a middle class education coming out of his arse disguised as English.

    Ironically pretty much everything you’ve written about all candidates is true and echoes the sentiments of many commenting on PCW.

    With Stoddart never allowing comments on his excellent column over the years and you yourself having to be careful to vet comments on your own blog, Facebook’s PCW page is a breath of fresh air in allowing people to put some straight talking comments up about the likes of Arwyn Williams, Daphne Bush and Jon Nutting and highlighting their past misdemeanours while on the council in keeping the hated IPG and Bryn Parry-Jones in power for so long.

    It’s not “trolling” if you’re simply highlighting facts about a candidate and then offering an opinion about their last actions and especially their desire to hide these very facts from the voters by issuing naive and laughable campaign leaflets, particularly in the case of Arwyn Williams and Daphne Bush, both of whom have absolutely laughable leaflets.

    The scary thing is though, as you mentioned in your column, not everyone that puts a cross on the ballot paper is as informed as many of your readers and PCW participants!

    Judging by the votes cast in the last election in this ward for paedophile Boswell in first place and the close runner up Jon Harvey, versus the amount of votes cast for Arwyn Williams in the previous election, it’s quite possible you may be forking out some dosh to help keep the Chilean wine economy afloat in the coming weeks!

  • Flashbang

    Have any of these donkeys in their council careers done any good for any of their constituents?

    It looks very much to me that a ride on the gravy train is the only motivation they have.

    I can’t see that any of them would have any interest in holding the administration and staff to account which is the one thing the voting public wants.

    The thought of an out of control council getting another yes man is sickening.

  • Dai Trump

    Obviously you don’t hold ‘Al’ in high regard but I would rather vote for him than some of the other misfits on offer even if he is the councillor formally known as Arwyn.

  • Dave Edwards

    Just a few thoughts on the likely scenario come election count time.

    As you say, normally in a by-election turnout is small, but as the Boswell case had wide coverage, maybe that will give an unusually higher turnout. So for the purposes of this little bit of fun, I suggest that the turnout will be same as it was last May when 550 people voted.

    I imagine that the Labour vote of 122 will hold and in a strongly Conservative ward I can’t see that party getting any less than 122 either.

    So with 244 accounted for the six independents are fighting for 306 votes between them.

    We can assume each candidate has a starter of 10 (the number of residents who are required to sign a candidate’s nomination papers) so the number of voters to be courted is now only 246, to be shared six ways.

    I fully expect Nutting, Bush and Edwards to only end up with around 90 between them.

    Boucher may surprise us with say 40. This has Arwyn Williams and Jon Harvey sharing 176.

    So, if Williams only polls 50 (and bear in mind that he has polled heavily in the past) we end up with three candidates neck and neck in the 120s.

    Could end up with the classic “too close to call” and GOTV (get out the vote).

  • Malcolm Calver

    Since the demise of Cllr Boswell it begs the question what detrimental effect has it had on the ward, i.e what have the electorate lost out on?

    May I suggest very little or nothing so the time has come for a massive reduction in the number of county and community councillors in Pembrokeshire thus reducing the wage bill levied on ratepayers.

  • Dai Trump

    Interesting with three ‘independents’ in the race if Jamie’s lot will support Arwyn or one of the others.

    If he does get back in though with his interest in allotments perhaps he can contribute to the forthcoming debate on the future of the county farms!

  • Keanjo

    You have hit the nail on the head Malcolm, there really is no need or justification for 60 county councillors in Pembrokeshire and their number should be halved.

    At the same time the management structure should be examined and cut to a level commensurate with the council’s reduced budget. Pigs might fly!

  • Dai Trump

    Keanjo and Malcolm are right, the time for service cuts being matched by senior staff cuts is long overdue as is the need to cut the number of councillors.

    In terms of staff cuts in my view there is no need for directors of any service, all they do is muddy the waters and cook up reports to dupe and confuse members.

    A Chief Exec is needed as is a monitoring officer but the rest of the authority’s work should be handled by heads of service reporting to and directly responsible to councillors.

    The problem is that while perhaps 30 to 40% of the elected members would be able to understand what is going on and make decisions based on the information in front of them, the rest would not have a clue, without a top dog to tell them what to do they would not know which direction to nod and for how long they need to wag their tails.

    Support services in the authority have grown out of all proportion to the work being done on our behalf and their apportioned on costs hit and distort the profitable returns from those sections of the county council that are actually making money.

    I read Malcolm’s comment on the WT website today about the old Ocky White store in Haverfordwest. His view was walk away, I couldn’t agree more, PCC trying to develop and regenerate property have an appalling record because they don’t understand after years of failure and fiascoes if the private sector won’t touch it then it is not worth doing.

    None of the candidates presenting themselves for re-election have a clue about this and other cash critical issues for ratepayers like myself, the danger is if elected they will swell the ranks of the IPPG for the next big election and we all know how that could turn out.

    If Arwyn is elected as least he can play Uncle Fester to Jamie’s Gomez.

  • Geraint

    Dave Edwards might want to reconsider his point about the ten voters signing the election papers voting for the candidate following the recent byelection in the Gwynfi ward in Neath Port Talbot.

    The nominated Tory candidate only managed to gain four votes.

    If Jacob Williams could find someone to take on a wager for any candidate getting less than 10 votes he might get a few bottles of merlot back in to cover his potential losses!

  • Geraint, that’s a good point I also had in mind when reading Dave’s comment.

    I well remember the occurrence at PCC’s 2012 election in the Manorbier ward, where the last of the seven candidates attracted only seven votes!

  • Malcolm Calver

    The dramatic drop in support for Arwyn, not predicted by David (Edwards) allowed Harvey to win.

    As a result of the outcome of the election may I suggest that David should perhaps give up his predictions or at least taking bets with a certain county councillor over bottles of wine as he may be blamed for turning him in future years into an alcoholic.

  • Geraint Bevan

    Keanjo calls for the number of councillors to be halved. An easy point to make, but what would the consequences be?

    You might think you would save money, but would this be the case? Yes, allowances would go down but what would happen as far as accountability is concerned and making good effective decisions?

    To gain political control you would need 16 councillors. Once you have the cabinet, chairs of scrutiny, appointments to outside bodies such as the Mid and West Wales Fire Authority and Pembrokeshire National Park that all carry allowances that the leader controls I’m sure you will have well over half the council covered.

    Say for argument’s sake there are 14 councillors left divided into a number of groups you will have very few councillors that have a depth of knowledge to ask the pertinent questions about education, planning, transport, environment, social services and finance to just pick on some of the areas of responsibility that a modern unitary authority covers.

    You will be left with an authority that is controlled even more by its officers and a far quieter voice for the electorate.

    Just look at the proposals for hospital provision for Pembrokeshire from an authority where there is virtually no local accountability. Is that what you want for this county?

  • Keanjo

    Geraint, I take your point that 30 members might be too few to form a credible opposition but if 60 is really the minimum number, the cost is too much for a county with only a 120,000 population to bear and it demonstrates the need to enlarge administrative areas along the lines proposed by the WG.

  • Sospan

    The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales recently completed a review of the constituent wards of Pembrokeshire based on the minimum and maximum number of voters each county councillor should represent as set by the Welsh Government.

    They have concluded that 60 councillors is indeed too many for Pembrokeshire and have proposed electoral ward changes which will reduce the number to…59!

  • Malcolm Calver

    Sospan, how many of these county and community councillors have actually been elected?

    Fewer and larger wards would surely result in all members having received a mandate to represent their constituencies, whilst making cost savings at the same time.

  • Sospan

    Mr Calver, I am unsure as to how many seats were uncontested at the last county council election but do not dispute the rational of your argument.

    The future of town and community councils may become clearer after the Independent Panel review on town and community councils in Wales present their findings to Welsh Government in October.

    I was merely pointing out that the number of county councillors is determined by pre-set parameters laid down by Welsh Government to try to ensure that there is equal representation for the electorate across the country i.e. a county councillor in Carmarthenshire represents roughly the same number of people as in Pembrokeshire, etc.

  • Sospan

    Mr Calver, having checked the 2017 county council election results on PCC website, I see that there were 13 uncontested seats.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Sospan, I was aware of having equal representation across Wales but my view that is still overrepresentation.

    Thank you for the information regarding uncontested county council seats. We also have the problem of the vast amount of unelected community councillors in Pembrokeshire.

    Some community councils, which are supposed to represent the local population, have many councillors who are not prepared to put themselves forward for election but are quite happy for their mates to co-op them.

    I do believe we have over 800 community councillors sitting on 80 plus community councils. Surely the amount of community councils should be reduced to at least match the number of county council wards.

  • Redtoyota

    Given the content of this particular blog can any councillors here advise what recourse a member of the public has, if during a public meeting, a blatant and fraudulent claim is made by a PCC employee that can be (from public record) proven to be untruthful? i.e who can this be taken to in PCC for an appropriate investigation rather than a cover up?

  • Redtoyota, internally – probably by making a formal complaint, or externally – by going public with your allegation.

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