April 8 2008



Election lowdown


The runners for the great local council race on 1 May can now be found on the county council's website www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk (bottom right-hand corner of the home page), though, as candidates have until Wednesday lunchtime to withdraw, the list may not be final.
What is final is that 12 members of the ruling Independent Political (sic) Group (Party?), including the Leader and six of his Cabinet colleagues, have been returned unopposed making them potentially the biggest party before a single vote has been cast.
Other Pembrokeshire Independent Group members elected without a fight are Cllr Wyn Evans who appears to believe it is OK to speak up in planning committee for applications submitted by his friends (Compound interest), and Cllr Lyn Davies whose blatant use of the planning system for his own political ends (Bending the rules) prompted a recent Monitoring Officer's report pointing out that such practices were undemocratic (Clipped wings).
Can it really be that everyone in Crymych and Narberth approves of this sort of behaviour?
But the biggest shock was the non-appearance of the label "Labour" behind the names of Cllrs Ken Rowlands (Johnston) and Umelda Havard (Merlins Bridge) who had, until recently, been the chairman and deputy leader of the council's Labour group.
From what I can gather, they have both defected to the Independent Political Party; bringing closer the day when Pembrokeshire becomes a one-party state.
I am told there is seething anger within the Labour party at what is seen as an act of betrayal because they had both been adopted as official party candidates and the first their colleagues knew about it was when the list of nominations was published.
By which time, of course, it was too late for the party to select alternative candidates.
Another blow for the Labour Party is the decision of former TGWU local secretary Danny "Quango" Fellows to run against one of its official candidates in Milford East.
Indeed, when I contemplate these Labour turncoats, opportunism is the word that springs immediately to mind.
After the election I might rename the Pembroke Independent Group the Pembrokeshire Order of Opportunists - nice acronym, too.
Meanwhile the Tories are fielding their biggest ever slate at a Pembrokeshire election, with 25 candidates entering the fray.
However, closer analysis, reveals that this Tory drive to "Turn Pembrokeshire blue", as they put it , may not be all it seems.
Why, for instance, when there are two winnable, uncontested seats in his home town of Haverfordwest, is Steve Crabb's agent Michael Bryan standing in the Labour stronghold of Neyland?
Surely not because the two unopposed candidates - Peter Stock and Mark Edwards - are both card-carrying Tories.
And why is Mr Darren Richards of Hundleton standing as a Tory in Pembroke St Mary (South) while Cllr Allen-Mirehouse is returned without a fight in um, er Hundleton?
And why is Di Clements, whose address is given as Martletwy, hoisting the Tory banner in faraway Penally while her own representative, Cabinet member for culture and sport, Rob Lewis, is allowed a walkover on her doorstep?
Not because Cllr Lewis featured prominently on Angela Burns election leaflet during last year's Assembly elections, I suppose.
And why are the Tories not contesting Burton, which is about as blue as as they come?
After all, the present incumbent David Wildman was first elected under the Conservative flag only to defect when he realised that the grass, manured as it is by special responsibility allowances, was greener on the IPG side of the fence.
I notice that the Tories' campaign leaflets claim that, under IPG rule, council taxes have risen while services have declined.
Strange, then, that they seem to be making so little effort to unseat those prominent members of the ruling group who must, presumably, be responsible for this unfortunate state of affairs.
The truth, I think, is that we have two Tory parties contesting these elections: an unofficial version that is serious about retaining and consolidating its iron grip on power, and another that is engaged in a cynical piece of political window-dressing.
Meanwhile, down on the Dale peninsula, sitting member Cllr Bill Roberts is facing a challenge from Cllr Martin Davies, who is attempting to swap his seat in Milford East for the green fields of Tish.
This is an unprecedented situation because they are both signed-up members of the IPG.
So, whoever wins, the ruling clique will have another seat in the bag.
So much for voter choice.

Fear and greed

Markets, they say, are driven by fear and greed, and the housing market is no exception.
So yesterday's news that house prices fell by 2.5% in March does not auger well for the economy.
When house prices are rising, people rush to buy for fear they are missing out.
When they are falling, they hold back for fear they will be caught in the trap of negative equity.
So markets overshoot on the way up and undeshoot on the way down.
You would have to be some sort of fool to buy a house today in the knowledge that it might be worth five grand less by the end of May.
And that's aside from the credit crunch.
Fasten your seat belts!

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