Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Campaigning styles - Lebanon v Montgomeryshire

Thought I'd call at National Grid's meeting at Cefn Coch today where they were explaining their decision to site a 20 acre electricity substation there. BBC/S4C came up to interview me about an outrageous suggestion made by NG that some of my comments may have promoted threatening behaviour against their staff. I'd been so stunned by the letter sent to me that I'd published it this morning - together with my response. Media wanted to talk about it.

Anyway, it turned out to be an 'event' not to be missed. Cefn Coch has never seen anything like it. Never been 10 policemen in Cefn Coch at the same time before. And there was 'the beast' - a gloriously muscled Gladiator type, dressed in black jeans and t-shirt, leaning on cars like Gene Hunt. Made us local men look a bit second rate in the eyes of the ladies present. And then the Cefn Coch Steel Band arrived. Actually, the instruments were a few oil drums. Never heard such a din - which sounded quite beautiful to me. And then the steel band led a march of banner waving parents and children around the village hall - with singing and trumpets. It was a scene of smiling faces and joyousness - except for the white faced NG officials who had never seen anything like it before. In truth, I hadn't either. Police were quickly stationed on the doors and it looked as if poor mesmerised souls inside felt totally marooned. They had been expecting to recite their 'meaningless' lines about why its essential for the national interest that our countryside and heritage must be trashed. Instead, they couldn't make themselves heard above the Cefn Coch Steel Band - which was only formed at 6.00. I predict X-Factor next series.

I had retreated some distance from this media show. Its a people's protest, and I'm only wheeled out if called on. Was having a chat with the driver of the NG coach, when an obviously non-local man (leather and ponytail) started shouting at me to lead the crowd into the hall. His idea was that I would flatten the policeman on the door. The crowd would then follow me in and I would become a national hero following my consequent arrest. I tried to explain to him that our campaign was based on friendly legal protest led by local protesters, and that it would be a terrible mistake for me to become the story - undoing all the amazing work the protesters have done over the last two years or so. This is how we do things in Mid Wales. He explained to me that he had grown up tactics were a bit different. In the end, we agreed that if our tactics proved to be successful, I would offer my services to train campaigners in Beirut in Lebanon, where he came form.

As for the bizarre letter from National Grid which led to me going to talk to camera at Cefn Coch, the offending bit read. "I do need to say National Grid is concerned that a number of your tweets in recent weeks may be unhelpful and indeed unwittingly prompt threatening behaviour by members of the public." I have never read anything so outrageous. Clearly an attempt to pressurise me into not supporting the protesters - my constituents. Bizarre. It was me that led 2000 protesters to Cardiff Bay to a brilliant rally last year, where we left without leaving even a sweet paper behind, and had there been an exit gate, we would have closed it neatly behind us. We pride ourselves on our civility. Problem is that National Grid do not understand democracy - this odd concept of people not agreeing with them, telling them so, and continuing to tell them so. And now they have to deal with a steel band as well - which will surely reappear by popular demand.


mairede thomas said...

I was dumb struck to watch BBC Wales News at 6.30pm and hear the report that National Grid were accusing you of something like incitement! This shows how worried they are that they have lost the support of the people here in Wales. It would be better if NG started to listen to local people rather than steam roller them with the usual 'consultation' which it would seem is now supported by untrue accusations against individuals and the right to perfectly normal and legal democratic behaviour.

Johnday said...

I was present at Cefn Coch and was horrified by the attitude of the "non-local man" (leather and Ponytail) that you refer to, indeed you will recall that I joined in a conversation that you were having with this person. He suggested that the only way to gain publicity for the cause was to use violence. I said that was not the way we protest around here and if there was any form of threatening behaviour all the protesters would support the police and abandon the meetings, in fact any such behaviour would work against our cause. You said that you agreed and fully supported what I had said, adding that the people of Montgomeryshire dealt with such matters in a democratic and peaceful manner. This person appeared to be disappointed with our point of view.
John Day

mike said...

Do you not think the man inciting you to violence was in fact a pro wind campaigner attempting sabotage? Wouldn't put it past them. You have to read the nasty sneering posts that staff from CAT keep leaving on MAP's Facebook page to see there are lots of outsiders here trying to bring about the destruction of our county for money. If your not aware of the actions of CAT staff Glyn then I would advise you to speak to MAP. No one in this county should support them ever again or encourage anyone to visit them.

Anonymous said...

I remember a time when caravans were torched by welsh nationalists i hope no one follows that route and starts attacking windmills. Where is the localism in this process? The people don't want it, the local authorities don't want it, there are other options, if the Victorians can tunnel from lake vyrnwy to Liverpool why can't national grid tunnel from mid Wales to Shropshire?