March 14 2006

Only words


Grumpette (I've been instructed to drop the Old) decided I needed some intellectual stimulation so she bought me the book, "Unspeak" by Stephen Poole, on the Internet.
Mr Poole is a journalist with the Guardian, but nobody's perfect.
The theme of the book is that modern political discourse is infected by 'Unspeak', a derivative of Orwell's 'Newspeak'.
'Unspeak', according to Poole, is the use of language to unconsciously shape opinion - an insidious form of brain-washing.
So 'Friends of the Earth' is both the name of an environmental campaigning body and a political statement in its own right because, anyone who disagrees with its philosophy must, by implication, be an enemy of the earth.
Being a Guardian man, many of Poole's examples come from the mouths of George Bush and Tony Blair, though he does have the occasional pop at the left as in 'People's Democratic Republic [communist dictatorship].
What this comes down to is that, while most of us try to use language to describe reality, politicians and their allies use it to manipulate reality.
While researching the item on Hall and Ryan (below) I came across a classic example of the genre in the District Auditor's report on their relationship.
At paragraph 34 of the report, the DA writes: "The communication between Dr Ryan and Cllr Hall dated 16 October 2000 identifies that they were examining business opportunities in Pembrokeshire. This varies with the intentions set out in Dr Ryan's September letter to the Council."
Both the letter of 3 September 2000 and Ryan's fax to Hall dated 16 October can be found at Hall-Ryan
Could I suggest that, in light of those two documents, the DA might have written: "Dr Ryan's fax to Cllr Hall dated 16 October 2000 clearly indicates that they were intent on using their positions within the council to actively pursue business opportunities in Pembrokeshire. This is clearly not consistent with the firm undertakings provided to the council by Dr Ryan in his letter of 3 September in which he promised that, in order to avoid any conflict of interest, any new company in which he was involved, would not trade in Pembrokeshire."
It is not surprising that the District Auditor took more than seven months to produce this flawed report.
When whitewash is being laid on this thick, you have to allow for the drying time between coats.

Little by little

Just over a year ago, I wrote about Dr Michael Ryan's complaint to the county council in October 2004, that he was being harassed by Cllr Michael Williams and myself (see Freedom come).
Among his long list of grievances was: "Publicly insinuating that one of my clients could have benefited from expenses directly associated with an inward investment project."
This is a reference to what I had written about the four day tour of Pembroke Dock in November 2000, by Dr Ryan, Cllr Brian Hall and a Mr Pat O'Sullivan.
This was just one month after Dr Ryan had sent a fax to Hall outlining their plans to clean up in Pembrokeshire (See Hall-Ryan).
According to this fax, under the heading "Marketing" " it was claimed that "To date Dr Ryan and Brian Hall have been requested to participate in a number of projects, such as:
Hotel recreation & Conference Centre Project(Masterplanning and Project Management)
International Investment Project aligned to Pembroke Dock redevelopment (my emphasis)
European Commission Objective 1 Project Finance Design & Submission."
Given that the two of them were already involved in a project in Pembroke Dock, it was natural to ask if this four day tour, during which Hall claimed expenses and Ryan was paid £500 per day + hotel bills, was for their own benefit, or that the taxpayers' who were picking up the tab.
I also speculated on the role of Dr Ryan's "client", Mr O'Sullivan, and whether the council had paid his expenses.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I now know a bit more about Mr O'Sullivan.
Searching the Irish company records website, I find that Mr O'Sullivan's relationship was rather closer than Dr Ryan claimed in his letter of October 2004.
Indeed, they were former business partners, because in July 2001 (just over six months after their tour of Pembroke Dock) the pair formed a company - the grandly named Intro Europe International Ltd.
The company never traded and it was dissolved in early 2004 (after I had started asking questions)..
Of course, Dr Ryan and Mr O'Sullivan were not business partners at the time of the November 2000 tour, but Ryan certainly knew of the relationship in October 2004 when he complained to the council about what I had written about his "client".
I will deal with this subject in greater detail next week.

Faceless critics


My attention has been drawn to a rash of websites that have sprung up under the umbrella of
It seems that the author(s) of these sites have it in for Cllr Malcolm Calver, the clerk of Manorbier Community Council and, to a lesser extent, myself.
It is said by one contributor (manorbiermartin) that I think that "everyone else is on the fiddle".
And, he asks, is old Grumpy judging people by his own standards?
If this piece of innuendo is meant to suggest that I might be on the fiddle, all I can say is that, if manorbiermartin gathers together the evidence to back up his claim, my enemies in county hall will be delighted to have it.
However, to save him the trouble, I should say that, since being elected in June 2004, I have not put in a single claim.
Even someone as intellectually-challenged as manorbiermartin appears to be, should be able to work out that fiddling your expenses in such circumstances presents certain logistical difficulties.
What I find particularly objectionable about these websites is not their content, however, but their anonymity.
Anyone can discover who owns the website by simply going into Nominet or one of the other webname registration sites.
However, unless I am missing something, it is not possible to do the same for, and the rest.
So come on manorbiersam, manorbiermartin, and the rest of you, if you've got something to say, let us know who you are.
Otherwise, not only will you be shown to be a bunch of gutless wonders, but you will be guilty of sending out what are, in effect, poison-pen letters.
Mercifully, because it is all done electronically, we are spared the green ink!!!!


Old Grumpy was interested in an item that appeared in last week's Western Telegraph under the headline "" 'Shambles' of police precept".
Much of the article consisted of quotations from a speech made by the Leader Cllr John Davies regarding Dyfed Powys Police's council tax precept for next year.
According to Wales' biggest selling weekly snoozepaper Cllr Davies told a meeting of the county council that the way the police authority had dealt with the precept was "nothing but a shambles".
The strange thing is that one of the the county council's three representatives on this shambolic body is um, er, Cllr John Davies.
Even stranger is how he got there: he appointed himself to the £6,500-a-year post using the powers given to the Leader by the council's constitution.
But what is really hard to understand is how Cllr Davies, who is paid £46,000 per annum for doing what is supposed to be the full time job of representing his constituents and leading the council, can spare the time away from his desk in the Kremlin.
No wonder he had to give up milking the cows!

Face the facts


Another WT story that caught my eye concerned my complaint that Milford Haven doesn't get its fair share of the council's capital spending budget, in reply to which the Leader is quoted as saying that, next year, £2.3 million is to be spent on the improvements at Blackbridge.
In fact, according to the county council's own estimates, the correct figure is £178,000, but what's the odd £2.1 million between friends.
Also, during that debate, cabinet member Rob Lewis claimed that £5 million was being spent at the Torch Theatre.
Unfortunately, consistent with his usual standards of impartiality and fairness the Chairman refused to let me point out that the money being spent at the Torch has little or nothing to do with the county council
It seems that Cllr Lewis has a rather cavalier attitude towards facts (see Humble pie) though, as he is charged with the responsibility for culture, he is entitled to a bit of artistic licence.
I have always been most careful, when discussing capital spending, to draw the distinction between spending on general items (improvements to council houses etc) and site-specific programmes (new schools etc).
Next year's £60 million capital spending budget is divided £33 million - £27 million between these two headings.
Milford Haven's share of that £27 million is £228,000 or 0.8%.
Over four years, including next year, the total amount of money allocated to new school buildings is £30 million.
Milford Haven's share?
Precisely zero.
What was disappointing, but not surprising, was that, while the three Milford Haven members from the opposition groups spoke out strongly against this apparent unfairness, the town's two Independent Political groupies, Cllrs Anne Hughes and Martin Davies, sat quiet as mice.

Polo mint

The Mercury had an interesting story headlined "Company's £17,000 Blackbridge debt cannot be recovered".
This was in regard to the money owed to the council by Crownridge Steel Ltd as a result of its failed stainless steel manufacturing enterprise at the former Mine Depot at Blackbridge Milford Haven.
The Leader also said that the council was owed an undisclosed sum because of the company's failure to carry out repairs to the sea wall as required by the terms of the lease.
Cllr Davies said that the money could not be recovered because the company had gone into liquidation.
However, Old Grumpy recalls that, when Crownridge went belly up back in 2002, the Cabinet passed a resolution: "That the guarantors be pursued in respect of amounts properly due to the Council." (Cabinet minutes Oct 2002 item 73)
My understanding is that one of those guarantors is the Hon Rhodri Philipps, the son of Viscount St Davids.
According to a council spokesman "attempts by the council to trace the whereabouts of Mr Philipps have proved unsuccessful."
My own investigations have proved rather more fruitful because, when I searched Google it yielded someone of that name who captains a polo team based at Cowdray Park (See also Polo neck).
And it sounds like quite a pleasant existence because one of Rhodri's top players is Jack Kidd, who, I read, often brings sister Jodie along to watch.
There are also reports of the team's exploits at St Tropez, and in a snow polo match at Klosters.
Doesn't sound to me like someone who's short of the odd seventeen grand.
And the name of this polo team?
Why, Prodigal, of course.

Tinpot dictators

The suspension of Ken Livingstone has led to a lively debate about the Code of Conduct, and the statutory bodies set up to enforce it.
What must be remembered is that the Code, and the enforcement apparatus, grew out of the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life whose purpose was to restore public confidence in local government by ensuring that elected councillors act in the public interest rather than their own.
Anyone who doubts the need for such a Code should log on to and read the determination of the case involving Cllr Betty Adams (link is on the left, halfway down the home page).
Not only does this case demonstrate the need for the Code, it also highlights the complete ignorance of the principles of democracy among some of the tinpot dictators who populate local government.

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