Seeing as William Hill have decided that Plaid Cymru's Dylan Rees is the overwhelming odds-on favourite to take the Ynys Môn seat at the General Election its only proper that the Druid takes a critical look at the 'anointed one'.
So what do we know about Rees?
The first surprising thing we learn about Rees is that he's not actually from Anglesey - in fact, he's not even really from North Wales. He was born in Carmarthenshire in South Wales and brought up in Northumbria, before moving to Wrexham with his parents when he was 10 years old - when he also began learning Welsh. So, like the Conservative's Anthony Ridge-Newman, Rees is not a true 'local' candidate. The Conservatives have been criticised in the local press and by residents in general for their controversial selection - but is it not a little curious that in the constituency that Plaid Cymru recorded their second largest vote in North Wales (11,036 votes) that they were also not able to find a true local candidate? Has the example of Ieuan Wyn Jones not inspired anybody? Anybody…?
Anyway, after studying Politics and Law at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, Rees went on to spend most of his working life as a Police Officer throughout North Wales including stints at Llangefni and Amlwch, before landing up as an District Inspector in and Holyhead. (Incidentally, what is it about Plaid Cymru's rather creepy obsession with selecting ex-Police Officers as candidates - they now have no fewer than three PPCs in North Wales who are ex-North Wales Constabulary men). Rees left the Force in 2003 in order to "pursue his political ambitions" and also landed a job as Senior Homelessness Officer for Ynys Môn County Council at the same time.
Now at the top of his Plaid Cymru Candidates page he lists his three top pledges for Ynys Môn if elected as:
- Tackle the Island's law and order difficulties
- Make more homes available for local people
- Transform the island's economy
Its informative that he mentions the economy last - almost like an afterthought. And his 1st and 2nd pledges only ranked as the 7th and 13th most important issues to North Wales residents in the latest Wales YouGov poll. Rees might want to reconsider his priorities.
Anyway, as an ex-Policeman perhaps its obvious that he might choose Law and Order as his top pledge - surely this is his area of competency, right? Well, as Rees retired in 2003 as District Inspector for Holyhead, lets take a look at the crime statistics for Anglesey during his last two years and see. Luckily the figures for 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 are recorded in Hansard in a Home Office reply given on 17th May, 2004:
So domestic burglaries in Anglesey more than doubled during this period - a dramatic increase and much, much larger than any other region in North Wales. And on top of that violent crimes also increased by over 50%! Assuming Rees was the top man in holyhead at least during this period it doesn't look like a very good record to the Druid.
Another question that immediately jumps into the Druid's mind are to what extent does Dylan share his views on Policing with his ex-boss, North Wales ex-Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom? To residents of Anglesey Brunstrom will need no introduction, but to those who don't know him take a look at this:
Dubbed the "Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taliban" and "Mr Speed Camera" by the national press, Brunstrom was without doubt the most controversial Policeman in the country and known for his obsession with fining speeding drivers and his calls to legalise cannabis, ecstasy and heroin.
Does Rees agree with ex-Boss Brunstrom's views? Well, its impossible to look inside and know a man's mind, but as recently as 2006 Rees sent a letter to the Daily Post defending his ex-Boss when Brunstrom was criticised for a funding crisis in the force (what happened to all those speeding ticket fines?). Furthermore, Rees has popped up numerous time (here, here, and here for example) with concerns over traffic and speeding on the Island -- so he obviously shares some of Brunstrom's fetish with traffic offences.
As an active officer until 2003 It would also be interesting to know Rees's position on ID Cards and New Labour's slavish policing 'targets'. If you're reading, Dylan, do let the Druid know.
So Is the Anointed One the right man for the Anglesey?
Rees seems a competent campaigner and politician. He spent five much-publicised days marching around Anglesey to highlight local Post Office closures and has even launched a YouTube campaign to save leisure facilities on Anglesey.
He has rightly attacked Labour MPs for their hipocracy over Post Office closures, but has himself publicly called for a reduction in prison numbers whilst at the same time calling for a new prison to be built in Anglesey! And even does so within the same press release!
However, what most worries the Druid about Rees's 'anointed one' status is his complete lack of any private-sector business experience. Ynys Môn is reeling from huge job losses...
- Anglesey Aluminium, Holyhead - 400 jobs
- Eaton Electric, Holyhead - 250 jobs
- Eastman Chemical Company (Peboc), Llangefni - 100 jobs
- Vion - Llangefni plant went down to one shift - 140 jobs
- Menai Electrical, Gaerwen - 50 jobs
- Anglesey Country Foods, Gaerwen - 200 jobs
…and this list doesn't include Octel or all the jobs lost at smaller companies which supported the larger ones above. On top of that, the only remaining large scale private-sector employer, Wylfa Power Station, will begin decommissioning later this year. What the Island needs now is jobs - lots and lots of jobs - and somebody with the experience and vision to help create them.
Now the Druid has nothing in particular against Plaid Cymru - true to his oath he only wants the best for Anglesey - but what kind of candidate does Plaid Cymru offer Anglesey in these terrible economic circumstances? A man who has worked in the public sector throughout his life and has no experience whatsoever about either how business works or how to create and keep jobs. (Furthermore as Plaid have selected two of Rees's brother officers in other seats in North Wales - one might ponder on the true value that Plaid Cymru really puts on enterprise and business).
The Druid hopes that Anglesey residents think very carefully about Dylan Rees's CV before casting a 'patriotic' vote for Plaid Cymru come the General Election.
P.S. Before anyone shouts bias - the Druid intends to investigate the suitability of all the candidates. I chose Rees first as he is the front runner.