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Haverfordwest: Rally to unseat MP takes to streets

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HUNDREDS of people took to the streets of Haverfordwest on Saturday (Oct 14) as part of a campaign to unseat Preseli Pembrokeshire’s Conservative MP.

Organised by Labour campaign group Momentum, the rally – which was the first such event since the Suffragettes visited in 1908 – featured television personality and author Owen Jones along with politicians and activists.

The event, described as ‘an unprecedented day of action against local Tory MP Stephen Crabb’, followed a cross-party meeting of the People’s Assembly last month, at which senior members of Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the Lib Dems and Momentum came to an agreement to cooperate in campaigning directly against the MP.

In June’s snap General Election, Mr Crabb’s majority was cut to 314 from almost 5,000 as the Conservative Party led by Theresa May lost their majority and formed a minority government supported by the DUP.

Subsequently, the Labour Party has remained on an election footing, and Saturday’s rally in Haverfordwest formed part of a wider Momentum-led campaign to unseat eight prominent Tory MPs.

Labour AM Eluned Morgan opened proceedings, stating that without a Labour Government in Westminster, the Welsh Assembly was ‘restricted’.

Ms Morgan criticised Mr Crabb for ‘taking his own constituent to court’ when he was DWP minister. “People here know the name of Stephen Crabb, but not in a good way,” she added, telling the crowd that ‘without Preseli Pembrokeshire, Jeremy Corbyn will not be Prime Minister’.

Branch Secretary of Carmarthenshire Unison Mark Evans said that the workforce across local authorities had been reduced by 20% over the past five years. “This is causing stress levels to rise – it is not unusual for our members to be working four or five jobs to make ends meet,”  he added, recommending that local authorities led by Labour and Plaid Cymru should refuse to implement cuts and instead take money from reserves.

Local activist and Head of the People’s Assembly Jim Scott thanked Mr Crabb ‘for getting everyone this active’, while leader of the Green Party in Wales Grenville Ham claimed he had entered politics after being ‘haunted’ by footage of Stephen Crabb dancing.

Other high-profile speakers included Paul Rutherford who successfully took the DWP to the Supreme Court over the bedroom tax, and representatives of Disabled People Against Cuts and Women Against State Pension Inequality, along with Ceredigion’s candidate in 2017 Dinah Mulholland.

However, the star speaker was Owen Jones, who told an audience of over 200 people that ‘if we have an inspiring message we can turn things around’.

“This Tory government, just a few months ago was drunk on its own triumphalism – now look at them, fighting amongst themselves like rats in a sack,” he added, to loud cheers.

Explaining that this was the first such rally in Haverfordwest since 1908, Mr Jones referenced the history of protest movements including the Chartists and the Suffragettes. “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

It is not clear whether, given that it could be anywhere up to four-and-a-half years until the next general election, what direct impact if any this Momentum-led campaign will have, but it clearly touched a nerve with numerous attenders. One told The Herald that it was ‘great to see people getting off their a***s and doing something’.

The rally was followed by a comedy event in the Merlins Theatre that evening, which featured performers including The Artist Taxi Driver.

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One thousand march to save Withybush Hospital A&E services

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Over 1,000 people marched in Haverfordwest today (June 16) to show their support for the A&E department at Withybush General Hospital.

The protesters marched from Haverfordwest football club, leaving  at 11.30am and made their way via Bridge Street to Castle Square, and then around to the Riverside Shopping Centre, and back to the field behind the football club where a family fun day had been organised.

There were rumours that there would be inclement weather for the protest, but just on cue, the sun came out as the first walkers left the field for what many were describing as a “now or never” attempt to retain services at Withybush.

Conservative politicians joined the march including local MP’s Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb as well as Paul Davies AM. County Councillors and representatives from the Labour party were also at the protest, amongst others.

Stephen Crabb MP told The Herald that all of the University Health Board’s proposals for Withybush Hospital included a “downgrade”, and that this was not acceptable for the people of Pembrokeshire. In a passionate interview with Herald TV he said that today was the day that “local people fight for the services that they deserve.”

Mr Crabb said that he knew that recruitment of staff was a “challenge across the whole of the UK” but the Health Board need to be told they need to do more for Pembrokeshire.

Just before the protest, the admin of the Save Withybush Group on Facebok posted: “Over 22,000 have joined this group and almost 23,000 have signed the petition so we know there is massive support among the people of Pembrokeshire to save our hospital. Now we just need everyone to turn out this Saturday and show Hywel Dda Health Board that we mean business and that they will not get away with closing our A&E or any of the vital services at Withybush.”

Drivers of vehicles honked their horns as they drove past the protest which was led by musicians from the Saint City Jazz Band from St Davids.

Many people told Herald reporters that they felt that the hospital had been “deliberately undermined” ans that uncertainty created by the Health Board themselves in relation to hospital services was having a negative effect on the recruitment of staff.

This large march and fun day is described by organisers as the first stage in a summer of action to fight for services at Withybush Hospital.

Those who have not already done so are urged to fill in the consultation document published by Hywel Dda University Health Board.

  • Photography by Mike Hillen and Aad Oostermeijer.
  • Additional reporting by Matthew Roberts

 

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Pembroke Dock: Dog in black bag found dead in water

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A SHOCKING image of a dead dog which was found in the water at Pembroke Port, wrapped in a black bag, has been sent to The Herald.

The image was sent to us by a local man who pulled the bag out of the water.

Once on the dry land, he realised that tragically the remains of a dog was inside.

The shocking uncensored image is below.

WARNING: Upsetting imagery follows.

A witness at the scene told the Herald that police were called to the scene following the discovery.

The man who made the discovery told us: “The bag was down floating by the tugs, Pembroke Port, it looked like a tent bag at first.

“We pulled it up and took it on the walkway to cut it open – we didn’t know what it was.

“Once it was opened, we could see there were stones inside, and then as we opened it more it was obvious the dog was inside.

“To be honest, it looked like it had been in there a while.”

The man then told us that as he left the scene, a member of the tugboats called the police.

“It’s not nice, horrible to see, not nice at all. It didn’t look like a young dog but you don’t have any idea really with it in that state,” he added.

The Herald has contacted Dyfed-Powys Police for more information.

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Judge halves jail term for man convicted of fraud

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A FIRST CLASS honours graduate who targeted stores in Haverfordwest for fraud will soon be free after senior judges halved his jail term.

Siphosenkosi Hutton Maplanka was jailed for 12 months at Swansea Crown Court on March 22.

The 31-year-old, of Ger Yr Ysgol, Burry Port, near Llanelli, admitted three counts of fraud.

Maplanka targeted Debenhams and Tesco branches on July 12 last year, Judge David Stockdale QC told London’s Appeal Court today.

His mode of operation was to take clothing from displays and put it in a bag and then seek to exchange it.

He would claim to have bought the items previously from another store in the same group.

Using this method, he got Debenhams to refund him £260 and Tesco to shell out £140.

He came unstuck when he returned to Debenhams on July 23 last year and tried to repeat the scam but was recognised by staff.

Maplanka had been before the courts on 13 previous occasions for 22 offences, including 10 frauds, said the judge.

His barrister, John Tarrant, argued that his jail term was far too harsh and should be reduced.

Maplanka’s crimes were not sophisticated, nor the result of significant planning, claimed the barrister.

While he had ‘similar’ previous convictions, they dated back several years – and he had won a first class honours degree since then.

Judge Stockdale, sitting with two other judges, said Maplanka’s crimes were ‘not in our judgment sophisticated’.

The frauds ‘did not require significant planning’ and the loss to the stores was ‘modest’.

Maplanka’s previous convictions were ‘a significant and potent aggravating factor’, said the judge.

But he added: “In view of the absence of offences in the last five years and, allowing for all we have heard and read in mitigation, we do consider the sentence is manifestly excessive.”

Judge Stockdale reduced Maplanka’s jail term from 12 months to six months.

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