We live in a democracy and a country that prides itself on freedom of speech, do we not?
Well, Wales it seems has opted out.
Literature Wales – sister quango of the Arts Council of Wales who receives nigh on 1million a year from it – has refused outright to give me a press pass for the Wales book of the year next week (and I do write for Welsh newspapers, regular columns etc) albeit that all the cosy taxpayer funded Welsh literature websites, Welsh literature mags and periodicals, and all the other Welsh Establishment gravy train literary junkies will all be out in force.
The PA to CEO Lleucu Siencyn (Lucy Jenkins for all you English readers) managed to discover that all press passes had been dished out within seconds of hearing my voice without any reference to seating allocations etc etc. One must further ask how the PA to Ms Siencyn would even know this data anyway, and so quickly?
Orders from on high perhaps?
Have someone there to report on Welsh literati shenanigans who hasn’t joined the gang? And won’t be bought?
Forget it, can’t have Ruck there to spoil our fun now can we? Duw mon, he just might report some inconvenient facts!
I can guarantee a few things though. The works submitted for the Wales Book of the Year will have been written by Welsh writers replete with taxpayer bursary bucks, Welsh publishers will have been paid by the taxpayer to publish them and even the Prizes will be tax-payer funded.
It will be interesting to see what a Nielsen Bookdata printout of sales will reveal in a few months time.
Hard times? Not in Wales, and to cap it all the Welsh government will only communicate with me through their Head of News, Simon Jenkins – although perhaps I should view this as a compliment, they must be taking me very seriously indeed!
Please read on.
On Tuesday this week, Martin Shipton, Chief Reporter with the Western Mail did a follow up to my Letter on Uncut (28.6.13) on the Arts Council of Wales’ taxpayer funded jolly to the Venice Biennale ie 7 people from the Arts Council going on a 3-4 day promotion of a Welsh artist exhibiting the recording of a man snoring in a telescope.
It will be interesting to know if any of his work had been sold thus ensuring some payback for the taxpayer? After all, never mind the expenses (£1500-2000 each including £260 per night hotels), it also cost the taxpayer £400,000.
In respect of tax-payer funding for Welsh arts, more particularly the Welsh publishing ‘industry’, it should be noted that in spite of media exposure in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Jeremy Vine show, the Sunday Politics et al, John Griffiths, the culture minister (and responsible for funding to Welsh writers, publishers, Welsh Arts etc etc) is still refusing to be interviewed or even comment on all these matters.
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money going into books that no-one reads, millions going to state of the art printing plant and machinery, millions going to all kinds of Welsh ‘art’ regardless of quality ( the Arts Council of Wales dishes out 34 odd million pa of taxpayers’ money to causes that show little if any return for the taxpayer) – and yes I know, the ebook has yet to blip on the Welsh government’s radar.
And yet in spite of all this, minister John Griffiths feels that his department is not accountable? Nor it seems, does he believe that he is subject to democratic scrutiny. On the other hand this is Wales, so why spoil the habit of a post-devolution lifetime?
Neither indeed does that wonderfully independent side-kick of the administration, the Wales Audit Office, believe there is a case to answer albeit that the evidence is there for all to see..
Now if you think all this isn’t bad enough then observe what has happened over my last Letter re 130M Euros prospective private sector project in north Wales being pulled due to the Welsh government’s diffidence and desultory responses.
I personally have contacted Edwina Hart’s office, made requests for interviews and comment and what has been the response?
Classic old Welsh Labour. “Dive for cover boyos! Bugger accountability and scrutiny, it’s only taxpayers’ dosh!!”
My point here is that devolution has allowed a Welsh establishment to rule with autocratic disregard for the norms of a free and open democracy, a distinct contempt for any kind of criticism or scrutiny, let alone accountability, and obsessive delusions of self-importance and wilful entitlement.
The Taffia will have no truck with dissent, no truck with those who merely look in from the outside.
They are killing the Welsh economy, the education of Welsh youth and the Welsh Health Service and all because they believe that England raped Wales and its Welsh-speaking Nirvana many, many years ago.
On Newsnight (10.7.13) Margaret Hodge, the Boudicca of public spending accountability, was heard to say about the BBC ‘You are accountable!’
She should set up court in Cardiff Bay if you ask me, now that really would get the Welsh politicos running for their pleasure cruisers!
Come to think of it, Ed’s ‘death throes of old politics’ doesn’t apply to Welsh Labour either.
Give more powers to the Welsh Assembly?
God help Wales.