July 2 2001


Why Bryn grins

One of my moles has just phoned in from his run deep in the bowels of County Hall to tell me that tomorrow's meeting of the council's Policy and Resources Committee is to discuss a recommendation that the Chief Executive should have yet another pay rise.

It goes without saying that the the matter will be discussed behind closed doors.

My mole informs me that the proposal is to hike his salary up to £99,708 (backdated to 1 Jan) from the present level of £91,000 approx.

Come next January that will rise to £102,201 - an awful lot of dosh as well as a palindrome.

This will mean that, since he joined Pembrokeshire six years ago from Llanelli Borough Council, Mr Parry-Jones' salary will have risen by 50%.

Old Grumpy hopes that someone will have the decency to propose tacking on an extra £292 to make it up to a nice round hundred grand.

After all, a personage of his importance shouldn't have to waste his time counting all that loose change.


Doubting Thomas

Last week's piece about the enormity of my onions has aroused a good deal of healthy scepticism.

One New Labour wiseacre, his voice heavy with disbelief, informed me that when measuring the girth of something, you should put the tape round it only once.

As he claims to be both a socialist AND a supporter of New Labour, his comments can, perhaps, be disregarded.

On the other hand, he could have been having a sly dig at Gordon Brown's habit of announcing the same spending increases two or three times, in an attempt to hoodwink the electorate into believing that the government is putting more money into public services than is actually the case.

Next week I will produce photographic proof of my claims, which is more than Mr Blair can do in regard to the supposed improvements in schoolsanhospitals


Who benefits

Speaking of Mr Brown, I notice he has promised an overhaul of competition law, including an eye-catching proposal to introduce criminal sanctions against company directors who get involved in price-fixing cartels.

On radio's Today programme, the Chancellor said that the new law would be pro-business and pro-competition.

This is a contradiction in terms because the last thing businesses need is more competition.

Competition drives down prices and profits, and benefits consumers, not businesses.

And a good thing too.

If increased competition benefited business, why would companies want to enter into anti-competitive, price-fixing arrangements?


Bonnie Prince Clarkie

The Tories seem to be in the middle of a bad attack of King-over-the-water syndrome.

I refer, of course, to opinion polls showing that a majority of the party's activists think good ol' Ken Clarke is the leader most likely to lead them back into power.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I would point out that Mr Clarke was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Major government that suffered such a spectacular defeat in 1997.

On the basis that it is governments that lose elections, not oppositions that win them, the Major/Clarke axis bear a larger share of the responsibility for the most recent debacle than even Mr Hague.

It is argued, though, that blokish Ken is just the man to attract back the six million middle of the road voters who defected to New Labour and the Lib Dems in 1997 and 2001.

But that ignores the risk that even more voters will jump ship in response to Mr Clarke's strident advocacy of the single currency and greater European integration.


Referenda - trick or treat?

So, we will be offered a referendum before the UK joins the Euro, what could be more democratic than that?

Well, plenty of things, actually.

A general election, for instance, if only because the result holds for five years, at which point we are given a chance to change our minds.

But a referendum result is forever, unless the result goes against the political establishment, when, as the people of Ireland are about to find out, you will be asked to vote and vote again until you produce the right result.

The referendum in Northern Ireland, which brought into effect the increasingly shaky Good Friday Agreement, is a classic case of how the referendum process can be abused.

If you remember, the rules of that particular poll were that both sides of the community, Nationalist and Unionist, had to sanction the agreement.

Opinion polls showed that the Nationalist were solidly in favour, while Unionist opinion was much more flaky.

Up pops Mr Blair with his famous handwritten promises: no prisoner releases without decommissioning, and no place in government for political parties with links to paramilitary organisations which retained their arms.

Suitably reassured, the Unionists gave the agreement their blessing.

But Mr Blair's promises have not been kept and, increasingly, Unionist sentiment has swung against the deal, culminating in Mr Trimble's resignation.

Decent Unionists such as Mr Trimble, who fought hard for a yes vote but now expresses doubts about the direction things are moving, now find the referendum result being used against them.

An overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland backed the agreement, the argument runs, so those refusing to go along with the so-called peace process are acting undemocratically.

This adds insult to injury, because having had their vote filched by verbal trickery, they now find it turned against them by the thieves.



Scared writless

Old Grumpy has still not received a writ from Cllr Brian Hall regarding the defamatory statements I am alleged to have made about him over a year ago.

Indeed, though I am aware of correspondence between Cllr Hall and my former employers, Newscom Ltd, I, personally have received no communication from him or his solicitors. So, how he can claim, as he did in a letter to my putative employers, Haven FM, that "my solicitors are pursuing a claim for defamation against [Old Grumpy}", is something of a mystery.

Another who is keeping a low profile is former County Council Leader Eric Harries.

I understand that Cllr Hall's defence to my allegations that he wrongly claimed expenses for several trips to Haverfordwest is a letter from Chief Executive Bryn Parry-Jones stating that the journeys were made in accordance with a resolution of the council which provides that expenses can be claimed in respect of : "Attendance at meetings by the Leader or his nominated representative(s) etc".

Last December I wrote to Mr Harries, who was Leader at the material time, seeking confirmation that (a) He had nominated Cllr Hall to represent him at these meetings and (b) That he had written records of these and any other nominations he had made.

To date he has not favoured me with the courtesy of a reply.

I must drop him a line and jog his memory!

Also keeping his head down is Director of Leisure and Development Roger Barrett-Evans whose conduct of the Enfield planning fiasco has attracted fierce criticism on this website.

Eventually my revelations of the truth of what was going on got under the County Council's skin and their chief spin doctor Dai Thomas complained to my Internet Service Provider, Freenetname and had my site closed down.

According to Thomas what I had written was "overtly defamatory and factually inaccurate" though he was careful not to be specific about where I had actually erred.

Exactly the same material now appears on my present site and, though the Council claim that Thomas's actions were perfectly legal, no attempt has been made to repeat this Stalinist act of censorship.

Even stranger is that I have received no communication whatsoever from either Mr Barrett-Evans or his solicitor.



Old Grumpette and I are a bit of an arty-farty couple.

She paints watercolours and I just love baked beans.

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