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As last week’s AGM was the last council meeting which chief executive would, er, Chair, Mark James took the opportunity to say farewell to the captive audience. A brief and modest thank you all round and a nod of good luck in the direction of Wendy Walters would, of course, have sufficed.But no, this is Mark James. First up was Emlyn with his oozing, loving tribute. It was so cringeworthy that it even solicited a comment from the usually ridiculous figure of Cllr Giles Morgan that there was clearly a bromance in the air. Dear loyal Emlyn had even made a book full of photos of Mr James to present as an offering, which he did, almost on bended knee. There may have also been tears.
Emlyn also took a swipe at ‘anonymous bloggers’.

It didn’t stop there, oh no. That was just the warm-up, the main event was Mr James’ own tribute to himself; a half-hour Power Point presentation, made all by himself, about himself. It was an unedifying spectacle of arrogance and misplaced self-praise, heaped upon himself without a shred of grace nor humility, a snapshot into the warped world according to Mark James. Need I say more.

However, it was his comments about the press and bloggers which summed up the supreme arrogance of the man and which also deserve a response, one I have sent directly to Mr James and will publish on this blog in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s The Herald’s excellent ‘Cadno’ with his observations and farewell message;

Cadno sings a goodbye song

OH WHAT a circus! Oh what a show!
All of those tears shed for the old CEO!” 

Maybe those aren’t the Tim Rice lyrics warbled so fetchingly by David Essex, but the rest of the song neatly captures the hysteria that followed the death of Eva Peron, whose husband was one of South America’s more determined dictators. 

Somehow the above sprung to Cadno’s mind as he watched the parade of hand-wringing tributes to Mark James CeeBeebies. 

First up was Emlyn Dole. 

There is no polite way of putting this: where Emlyn did not suck, he blew.

Cadno was reminded of an incident years ago when he was a young outdoors clerk for a firm of solicitors.

He had to take some documents to Court for his employer. While he was waiting, Cadno sat behind a much older solicitor who was in earnest conversation with his client. The old solicitor was one of those who still turned up to Court with a waistcoat and watch chain and Cadno remembers he had a reputation for persuading Courts to see slightest glimmer of hope in even the most hopeless of cases.
We’ll call him Hywel. 

Hywel was deep in conversation with his client, a well-known thug who – charming while sober – turned into a violent maniac when one over the eight. 

On this occasion, the thug had punched someone’s lights outside a pub and been collared by the officers in a passing panda car (giving you some idea how long ago this was). 

Cadno earwigged, hoping to catch tips.
Hywel leaned in towards his client.
What was his plan? 

“Right, boy, I’m going to tell ‘em you’re very sorry. I’ll tell ‘em you were provoked. Then I’ll tell ‘em your missus is pregnant. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get the onion out.” 

And so back to Emlyn Dole’s gushing tribute to Mark James. 

Emlyn did not get out a single onion. The greengrocers of Carmarthen must have had a bumper time of it. 

But wasn’t he so miffed about what people he never reads say about his precious mucker. There was no sycophantic praise from Emlyn… he gave credit where it was due. That must have been true, because Emlyn said so. 

He made Mark James sound like a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Yoda.

Which must be true if Emlyn thinks it. 

There was no doubting Cllr Dole’s deep sincerity and attachment to Mr James. Which rather illustrates the importance of the separation of the political executive and the administration. The lines between both have become uncomfortably blurred in Carmarthenshire – and they did in Pembrokeshire before it defenestrated its former long-serving CEO.  

At least Mr James departed on his own terms.
And then he gave his own speech. 

And what a charmingly graceless humble-bragging performance it was. 

“Humble-bragging?” Cadno hears you ask, readers.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Cadno will elucidate. 

Humble-bragging is making an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.  

Wow, readers! Does Mark James not half like the old humblebrag?! 

Inviting councillors to join him on a trip through all of his yesterdays, he began by relating that he was not keen on the Carmarthenshire job when first approached. Indeed, readers, rather like Saint Peter, he denied it three times before putting his name forward. He was sure, however, to self-deprecatingly mention what a go-getter the agent who touted him for the job thought old CeeBeebies was. 

Cough.
Humblebrag 

He related how, all those years ago, he did no preparation for the final phase of the interview process.

Cough.
Humblebrag. 

Instead he wandered around the town of Carmarthen and found inspiration in the site of the empty mart and thought of what a waste of space it was in a prime development location. 

Pointing out those accomplices… councillors … who were still on the Council from those days, he was pleased that his vision for ‘getting something done’ was one that had got him the job and – lo! – for seventeen years kept him in it. 

Cough.
Humblebrag. 

Now, readers, whatever his faults as a person, Mark James’ speech gave a very good idea of just what kept him in control at Carmarthenshire for such a long period of time and how he was able to bend administrations to his will. 

He praised councillors by name and by group for their vision and determination in agreeing with his determination and vision. 

The old oil can was liberally deployed and no opportunity was spared to lard on praise in a way which – ever so humbly – reflected back on himself. 

Cough.
Humblebrag. 

And then, the beneficiary of an unlawful libel indemnity who has not hesitated to splash around nebulous suggestions that fair comment is potentially defamatory said that he did not read newspapers and denigrated those who had dared to criticise him as barely able to speak their own name when dragged out into the light. Presumably through the benefit of that same unlawful funding. 

As graceless performances go, Mark James’ took some topping. He doesn’t read his critics, he just sues them on the backs of Council Tax payers. 

No wonder Rob James observed that when people thought of the reputation of the local authority (opaque, over-sensitive to criticism, reluctant to accept scrutiny), they thought of Mark James. A little tin god in a bully pulpit who was ready to settle the libel claim against him by Jacqui Thompson until the Executive stumped up the money for him and who lied to the press when he said no offers had been made to settle the judgement debt he secured as a result of Council Tax payers’ unwitting largesse. 

That’s the problem when you spend seventeen years in one job, readers. Eventually the skeletons come tumbling out of the closet and the real you becomes apparent.  

The tax avoidance scheme on a seven-figure pension pot. 

The fact that, as far as Mark James is concerned, he can throw the £35,000 he promised to hand over to his employers and then to charity into the gutter if he chooses. 

That’s a measure of his character and the inheritance he leaves for his successor. 

A wise owl reminded Cadno this week that it was entirely possible that nothing would become Mark James’ career more than his departure from it. 

Nothing underlined Mark James’ character than his reaction to a small still voice in the crowd singing: “The king is in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether/He’s altogether as naked as the day that he was born.”