Letter from Wales: How the Welsh press is in hock to the Welsh government First pub. July 2015

Readers will know that I’ve had my run-ins with the Western Mail. Their reluctance to expose profligacy by the Welsh government has been perplexing. Until now.

Some digging on the Western Mail has revealed the following:

John Humphries, its former editor, deputy editor and news editor has written a taxpayer subsidised book titled ‘Freedom Fighters’, a treatise on the cause of Welsh language nationalism.

Meic Stephens, a writer for the Western Mail who has authored, edited more than 200 Welsh books (I gave up on counting the number paid for by the taxpayer). Former Literature editor at the Arts Council Wales and retired Professor of Welsh writing at the University of Glamorgan.

Mario Basini ( a recipient of a £1,686 taxpayer hand out to stay at home and scribble), was literary editor at the Western Mail for 4 years, the gentleman has been a presenter for BBC Wales and Radio Wales – as if one would ever expect anything less?

It gets better.

Please note the following FoI data:

In the last financial year, 2012-13, the amount of money the Welsh Government spent on advertising in a) The Western Mail b) The Daily Post c) all Trinity Mirror publications.

The information that you requested is provided below.  Please note that the figure shown for all Trinity Mirror publications excludes figures for the Western Mail and Daily Post.

Publication Advertising Expenditure 2012-13
The Western Mail £209,313.99
The Daily Post £190,770.11
All Trinity Mirror publications £193,319.18

Here are two responses to the above, one from Mr Martin Shipton (Chief Reporter at the Western Mail, whose book was paid for by the taxpayer as noted in my last Letter), and Rupert Smith, Head of Communications at Trinity Mirror, Mr Shipton’s master’s:

Jun 30 at 11:57 PM

Here is my quote for your latest piece. I ask you to use it in full.
“The pitiful rubbish you have sent me cannot even be classed as citizen journalism. You have produced no evidence whatsoever of a scandal in the Welsh arts world. It occurs to me that your posturing outrage stems from past decisions not to publish your offerings because of your demonstrable lack of literary talent.”

Rupert Smith “Hi Julian, We’re not making any comment. Best wishes, Rupert Rupert Smith Head of Communications”

Readers will note the total lack of any substantive correction or denial of the data posted. In the case of Mr Shipton, personal insult is all very well, but it doesn’t quite cut the ice does it?

Considering the above, it is hardly surprising then that the ‘independent ‘Welsh media, and in this instance more particularly the Western Mail, has been struck dumb in its reporting of the scandalous abuse of the taxpayer in its own ranks (apart from the usual exploitation of personal insult), this is in spite of my own exposures here on Uncut, at Welsh Assembly press briefings and in the national media.

The ‘newspaper’ along with its cronies at BBC Wales and ITV Wales is nothing but a disreputable passenger on the Taffia Express taxpayer gravy train looking out for the next fast buck.

Independent scrutiny of Welsh public life?

Like hell.

Letter from Wales: New evidence of how the Welsh media has effectively been nationalised First pub. June 2014

Now, you readers of Uncut may be thinking that in Wales things cannot get any crazier. Well, please note the following –

Rob Gittins, who lives in Carmarthenshire and is an award-winning screenwriter for such programmes as EastEnders, Casualty and The Bill, has had the publication of his two books, ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘The Poet and the Private Eye’ subsidised by public funds – make no mistake, the gentleman’s creative dexterity has certainly made a casualty out of the taxpayer!

But this is not all, do read on.

Martin Shipton, chief hack for the Western Mail no less, has written a political masterpiece on Welsh politics, titled “A Poor Man’s Parliament” (Seren 2011).

An admirable endeavour by anyone’s standards, except for one thing.

Mr Shipton observes, “…..a  stifling of public debate in Wales through the reliance on Assembly patronage of so many organisations.” So the book’s blurb maintains anyway.

Well, guess what?

His very own Marquandian and towering political critique was published with the financial help of  “Assembly patronage”!

And what did this giant of Welsh journalism, recipient of taxpayer generosity have to say about all this?

“I do not respond to enquiries from “citizen journalists”, particularly those with such an execrable reputation for accuracy as yourself.

You may quote me in full.



Readers will note, no denial, nor was there a response to my question as to whether or not he had received any royalties (courtesy of the public purse of course) from his taxpayer junky Welsh publisher, Seren.

Lovely insult is all very well, but as a humble ‘citizen journalist’ I do somehow seem to have access to political press conferences, I do interview leading Welsh politicians and God forbid I actually write for both the Welsh and national press now and again, oh and not to mention my contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting  – and to cap it all, I’ve even been known to write for the Western Mail, lucky chap that I am!

As for my reputation for inaccurate reporting, to date there has not been one serious or credible challenge to the facts I have reported both here on Uncut and elsewhere. Gwyneth Lewis, ex- Poet Laureate of Wales made an unwise and libelous personal attack on me in the Guardian a while back, wherein said newspaper had to correct and withdraw some of her juvenile nonsense somewhat sharpish, within hours in fact.

Naturally, the lady omitted to mention in her Guardian piece that she herself has received two taxpayer hand outs for her poetic musings amounting to £11,000, and a further grant of £75,000 to sail around the world looking for ports with a Cardiff connection.

Nice work if you can get it.

But here’s another unedifying titbit:

I have been communicating with Mr Shipton for nearly two years re the Welsh arts scandal, and not once has he mentioned his own journey on the Taffia Express gravy train.

And the gentleman has the eviscerating audacity and solipsistic, blustering arrogance to wail with self-righteous and unscrupulous indignation about Welsh Assembly patronage!

A great many people in this country are struggling to make ends meet, so why in God’s name does the Welsh Labour government deem it right and proper for the ‘artistic’ indulgence of the scribbling few (and most of them don’t even do this, they use ghost writers), who are already earning good salaries, to screw the taxpayer for what can only be described as a lazy Sunday afternoon hobby?!

‘Tales of the Welsh Media, don’t end here either.

For some time now, I have been wondering why the national press have been exposing what is going on in Wales re taxpayer funding for Welsh arts etc, but the Welsh media have been remarkably quiet, suspiciously so.

At first I thought it was just BBC Wales, after all so many of their people have been nobbling the taxpayer for both written and unwritten books that their evasion is hardly surprising.

Well, further digging has not only exposed Martin Shipton’s taxpayer funded literary efforts but Jonathan Hill, anchor man at ITV Wales News, has also had his book, “The Pembrokeshire Murders”, paid for by the taxpayer.

Publisher?….yes you’ve got it, Seren.


All three main Welsh media platforms BBC Wales, the Western Mail and ITV Wales all have staffers, journalists and presenters riding the Taffia Express taxpayer gravy train.

Welsh journalistic impartiality and courageous investigative reporting?

Welsh institutional cronyism and toxic Crachach  preferment,  make Rupert Murdoch look like a standard bearer for a benevolent and kid glove, journalistic Second Coming!

Readers must be aware by now, of the pitiful state of honest, open debate in Wales. You will have read in my other columns that in Wales no-one is prepared to bite the hand that feeds them.

There is no serious and ruthless scrutiny of the Welsh government, no intellectually refined political commentary. It refuses to respond to FoI  requests, it maintains a tight discipline of silence.

And the one institution that is supposed to hold the Welsh government to account, is nothing but a weak, passive, kow-towing disgrace to any society that values free speech and open, democratic government.

The Welsh media are all in the pocket of Druid Carwyn’s Assembly patronage, it is no wonder then, that to date none of them are reporting the recent matters I have put into the public domain, albeit that they are of considerable public interest.

Things cannot get any crazier in Wales?

You decide and don’t forget, to add insult to injury remember you the taxpayers will be paying the fees and expenses for the artists, writers and performers who are doing their thing at the Dinewfr Festival in West Wales this weekend.

Oddly enough, I haven’t received an invitation to give some authorial pearls of wisdom at this Welsh artistic extravaganza!