Opinion: Why Wrexham Labour Party should be ashamed: The curious case of Aled Roberts

It’s estimated that well over 30% of the Welsh population speak Welsh as their first language – that is growing year on year. Hundreds of thousands more across the world speak it – even in a distant corner of Argentina – the valleys of a Patagonia. My partner from Rhosllanerchrugog and her family speak Welsh. They are fiercely proud of their heritage and would be absolutely disgusted with the treatment of Aled Roberts AM. It appears that they don’t speak Welsh at the Electoral Commission!

Now let me declare an interest, I don’t know Aled Roberts, I know his mum – my partner – Sian sees her as one her extended ‘aunties’. Rhosllanerchrugog, where Aled is from is a close knit community – famous for its Male Voice Choir. They are fiercely proud of their heritage – and will be delighted today after Assembly Members voted to reinstate Aled. All this because the Electoral Commission failed to bother to translate their guidance to candidates into Welsh.

Politics can often be a dirty game – I should know, I’ve been at the sharp end often enough. What I will say though is that the Labour Party’s behaviour in the curious case of Aled Roberts has been a disgrace.

Ted George, a Labour councillor in Wrexham, confirmed that party colleagues on the authority had told a group meeting they had been approached by Liberal Democrats:

They wanted us to make representations to the Labour Assembly group asking them to help get Aled Roberts reinstated. We have decided to do nothing of the kind.

Aled was elected as an Assembly Member for North Wales in May. It then transpired that as a member of the Valuation Tribunal for Wales – he was ineligible to stand. He checked before though and was sent out of date advice from the Electoral Commission. They changed the rules in 2010, updated it in English but sent Aled the out of date Welsh, 2006 version. To be fair, they held their hands up, admitted liability and apologised.

This should have been the end of the matter: It wasn’t. Any fair minded politician would have put their hands up and said – fair enough. Not Labour in Wales. Their particularly tribal type of politics barred them from seeing sense. Luckily for Aled, the majority prevailed and he was reinstated by 30 votes to 20.

Councillor Ted George knew that Aled was let down by the failure of the Electoral Commission to translate properly. The visceral hatred of the Liberal Democrats by Labour prevented that. Wrexham Labour Party’s behaviour on the issue is illustrative of all that is wrong with politics. They have let down Welsh speakers across Wales from Rhosllanerchrugog to Rhosneigr. Their tribal behaviour has let down Wales!

This says it all about Labour – interested in self rule and not the public. Interested in point scoring and little else. Why is the behaviour of Wrexham Labour Party so significant? Ed Milliband set out his vision for the Labour Party in… Wrexham in late June. I think the selfish attitude of the local Labour has more resonance with anything that Milliband said. Labour has not changed and the curious case of Aled Roberts proves this!

Hawddamor ag ‘ch ‘n grai job Aled!

Dave Hennigan is a former organiser for the Liberal Democrats in Rochdale and Manchester (2004-2011)

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21 Comments

  • We should stop wasting money translating stuff into Welsh… if the French and Germans are happy enough to speak English then why shouldn’t the Welsh be?

  • I don’t quite understand the detail. So was he eligible for election or not?

    However I do get the gist; Your tribe hates our tribe because you don’t exist as individuals and aren’t quite human, our tribe however hates your tribe because of a host of particular reasons that just so happen to coincide despite our autonomous individuality and rationally arrived at opinions.

  • Mae’r Ffrancwyr yn hapus i siarad Saesneg? Ar beth planed dach chi’n byw?

    Newyddion da am Aled ūüôā

  • @ Simon McGrath

    I think I read somewhere that just under 5% of the population of the population asked for their census form in Welsh which gives us some indication of the % of the population who regard Welsh as “their” language rather than English. Another statistic from, I think, from the Welsh language board is that 10% of the population use Welsh every day. Nonetheless, I do think interest in the Welsh language is growing. With the growth in Welsh medium education we could reach the 30% figure David quotes.

  • I hope Aled is responsible for writing the next manifesto – spelling the party name wrong this year was an embarrassment too far!

  • Don Lawrence 7th Jul '11 - 3:51pm

    And if I remember rightly, circa 99.9% of people in the UK use Latin every day. Whether that is in situ, or ex gratia, it is clear that prima facie we should allow as a quid pro quo, the Staus Quo to continue. Perhaps we should insist it is taught too, after all it is the first language of a lot of dead people, as opposed to the dead language of a few people.

  • Tommy what a nasty thing to say. Aled’s first language is Welsh and he lives in Wales he has every right to have asked for and be given information in HIS native langue.

    If he was living and standing in England I might be able to see your point.

  • Don Lawrence

    ‘Dead language’ ?

    Definition please.

  • It wasn’t Labour who put forward an ineligible candidate. And accusations of tribalism are a bit rich from a party that has sought to blame Labour for every ill the country suffers and every policy the Tories want to implement. Regardless of the merits of the argument about poor advice, which have some validity, even if the Welsh Lib Dems are apparently incapable of reading instructions in English, your argument seems to rest on the observation that one political party opposes another, and this is unfair. Grow up.

  • Paul Cronin 8th Jul '11 - 2:31pm

    Must admit to being surprised at the result being 30 : 20, would have thought that the other parties would have taken the opportunity to kick the LibDems while they’re down!

    It it seemed to me that with Aled Roberts it was a clear case of an honest mistake made. Especially in the light of the decision regarding John Dixon, where the LibDems withdrew their motion requesting he be allowed to return.

    In a just world it would have been passed without opposition – however as we live in a world were tribalism and the blame culture rule …

    so maybe 30 : 20 is a good result after all!

  • Dave Hennigan 12th Jul '11 - 10:57am

    Sorry have been away since Thursday so just catching up with the comments. I happened to be at The International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, just a few miles from Rhos. I spoke to many of his friends and family about this issue – many of them non-Lib Dem. They were all unanimous in their disgust for the Wrexham Labour Party, who continue to harass Aled. Most people would just let him get on the job – not Wrexham CLP!

    Going through some of the comments:

    Tommy – Slightly facetious methinks!

    Ed – It is good news about Aled, although not for the Wrexham Labour Party who are being slammed throughout the Welsh Speaking Community for their tribal, self-serving, anti-Welsh actions.

    LeeT – You may be right that my figure of 30% was maybe a little high, although it was based on the fact that since 2004 when the 21.7% that Welsh language was spoken was estimated – it has now become the Official Language of Wales (it gained Royal Assent on Feb 9th this year – a positive example of the benefits of devolution) The language is certainly growing faster now but maybe saying ‘…closer to 30%’ would have been more accurate. Certainly a few days at the International Eisteddfod proved this – and I am sure when I attend the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham next month, that figure will be more like 90%!

    g – I thought the thrust of the article was quite clear – that the Electoral Commission should have updated their advice into Welsh first and foremost. The bit about tribalism refers to the behaviour of the Welsh Labour Party who knew this and behaved appallingly.

    So, all in all – I hope that Aled can now get on with the job. He has already made a positive start by refusing any allowances in the time he was suspended. Good Luck!

  • andrew bailey 13th Jul '11 - 10:59pm

    As Secretary of the Wrexham Constituency Labour Party it is news to me that we were invited to give any coment-support or otherwise re Aled Roberts position and I speak as someone who has known Aled for best part of twenty years as a fellow member of Wrexham CBC for most of that including a 5 year period in a coalition (sic)
    I trust Lib-Dem voice in the interests of clarity will retract any suggestion that Wrexham CLP refused to comment on Aled’s position -impossible as we were not act.
    That said happy to give my personal view a) A system where someone is “elected” on 6% of the poll when others with 4x that level aren’t is fundamentally flawed b) Whilst accepting that the Welsh advice was flawed it seems the Lib-Dems were the ONLY party to let down their candidates in this way -not just Aled & Mr Dixon there were two others!! c) the excuse that “this was an honest mistake” is a familiar one to many in wrexham it was used by Aled to the council’s standard committe when he should have declared an interest in matters connected to his children’s school !!

  • andrew bailey 13th Jul '11 - 11:13pm

    I would welcome any clarification from Mr Hennigan in what letters-tweets-e-mails etc the Wrexham CLP are harrasing Aled -none have come from the secretary (myself) and whist colleagues and labour friends have made personal views known to me -some “tribal” -some sympathetic it has not been a topic of debate in the Constituency Labour Party-a simple apology will do Mr Hennigan!

  • Dave Hennigan 14th Jul '11 - 3:36pm

    It appears that you don’t talk to your colleague, that’ll be Ted Andrew, did you read this bit from the above article:

    “Ted George, a Labour councillor in Wrexham, confirmed that party colleagues (You’ll be one of them) on the authority had told a group meeting they had been approached by Liberal Democrats:
    They wanted us to make representations to the Labour Assembly group asking them to help get Aled Roberts reinstated. We have decided to do nothing of the kind.”

    Are you calling Ted George a liar Andrew? You are throwing a smokescreen in front of an issue that has alienated many, many of your Constituents. Are you going to show your face at the National Eisteddfod?

    Hwyl am rwan!

  • andrew bailey 14th Jul '11 - 5:36pm

    Dear Mr Hennigan,

    Ted can speak for himself and it is plain that he was speaking on behalf of the Labour Group-your accusation is that the CLP-(constituency Party) should be ashamed as they refused to support Aled-we made no comment as we were not approached and frankly a spat between two prospective Lib-Dem AMs -Aled & Eleanor would not rate on our radar

    Can I presume that prospective AM’s have to complete a CV -length of public service-community work and bodies they are on and then there is some sort of interview process? In all of that NO-ONE in the party alerted Aled to the potential problem !! As an unpaid volunteer looking at forms for prospective councillors I am able to advise if there are any potential clashes of interest or refer them to the wider party. To quote the meerkat -SIMPLE!!

  • Dave Hennigan 16th Jul '11 - 2:46pm

    It’s ‘SIMPLES’ Andrew, you can’t even get that right!

  • andrew bailey 17th Jul '11 - 10:43pm

    Fussing about an “s” but not checking whether 4 of your members actually qualify for the body they want to stand for-sums up an incompetent party and no wonder we are recruiting from dissillusioned Lob-Dems.
    Thought it was too much to expect an apology for a factual error so am signing off.

    Da Bod Chi

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