The millionaire barrister won the election — but was it fair and square?
Why didn’t he level with the people of North Wales about his intention to be a part-time commissioner? Was it because the hourly rate for the job just wasn’t good enough?
And why didn’t he tell voters that he had once been a mason in Wales’ most powerful lodge? Was it because he wanted to secure the masonic vote without antagonizing electors opposed to masonry?
And is becoming police commissioner for North Wales part of his campaign to land a knighthood for himself?
LAST NOVEMBER the outsider won the election to become the first-ever police commissioner for North Wales.
The favourite had been Tal Michael, son of veteran Welsh Labour stalwart Alun Michael.
Tal Michael had held the £85,000 a year position of chief executive of the old North Wales Police Authority which the coalition government had decided to scrap.
His experience of running the old authority combined with his nomination by the Labour machine in North Wales appeared to give him the edge. Plaid were not fielding a candidate and the Tories never stood a chance.
Things didn’t work out the way the Michael dynasty planned.
While the Father duly took the plum post of South Wales commissioner, the Son was well-beaten by Roddick.
Welsh-speaking Winston Roddick, who was born and raised in Caernarfon and has a home in the town, beat him comfortably with a majority of nearly 10,000 votes.
Labour, not surprisingly, hit back at Roddick after the election for standing as an Independent when he’s always been a Liberal Democrat.
But Roddick’s political leanings would have been known by Tal Michael’s camp and doubtless they made sure electors were well aware of Roddick’s leanings when they went knocking on voters’ doors.
And they may well have brought up the allegation that Roddick’s campaign team attempted to smear Labour’s Paul Flynn in the 1987 General Election. The story is told in Flynn’s book Unusual Suspects.
Roddick was the Liberal candidate in the Newport West constituency when his campaign team circulated a leaflet just before the poll.
It claimed that “Liberals in Newport West believe in campaigning on the issues not the personalities. That is why we have not published the information given to us anonymously by the Conservative Party, that if published, would prove that the Labour candidate, Mr Flynn, is not fit to be an MP.”
Flynn was shaken: “It hit hard. [Leaflets like these] were known locally as ‘yellow perils’. Because of their timing, there was no chance to refute any claims made.”
Flynn later discovered the “information” was based on a 14-year-old press cutting about him being fined for having an out-of-date MOT.
“it was poisonous and imprecise, allowing the voters to invent their own major crime that made me unfit to represent them. The Liberal Candidate, Winston Roddick, subsequently apologised in person for it.”
Flynn won the election comfortably.
Roddick has also come under fire for not declaring that he would not surrender his lucrative legal practice if he was elected.
The Western Mail revealed in November that it had “written evidence that Mr Roddick considers himself to have a general commitment of two to three days a week” as commissioner.
He told chief reporter Martin Shipton: “I am a barrister. If I am instructed as such, I will decide then whether to accept the instructions.”
He said he would work whatever hours were needed to carry out his duties as a commissioner even if that meant working more than a normal working week.
In 2011 Home Secretary Theresa May rejected a recommendation from the Review Body on Senior Salaries that part-time commissioners should receive a reduced salary.
This allowed shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith to make some political hay at Roddick’s expense.
“Did he tell the voters in North Wales that he was only planning to do a couple of days a week and spend the rest of the time working at the Bar? Or was this, like with his political allegiance to the Lib Dems, something he chose to keep quiet about?”
Roddick has strong views about the correct pay for people of his stature.
In 2008 he wrote to the then Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy to complain about the pay of barristers from legal aid.
The government had introduced legal aid reforms which were cutting the pay of barristers, forcing some of them to give up legal aid work.
“There are 350 barristers working in Wales and Chester of which approximately half undertake legal aid work.”
“They work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of society and do desperately important work.”
Roddick told reporters: “I think that the government are offering as low as £79 an hour, which you wouldn’t pay to a plumber.”
Roddick is one of those barristers who has undertaken legal aid work. The most up-to-date figure we have for the level of his earnings is for 1996-97 when the Lord Chancellor’s Office released a list of the top 20 earners from legal aid.
Winston Roddick was joint 11th highest earner with a gross fee income of more than £350,000. Some of this income may have covered work done in previous years and Roddick would have had to pay overheads and other costs out of it.
Even though he said that many barristers were leaving legal aid work because the hourly rate could be as low as £79 back in 2008, he’s now taking up the Police Commissioner role in 2013 when the hourly rate is just £39 an hour — less than half the rate.
No wonder he wanted to continue with his private practice.
The embarrassment over this issue may account for the delay in the appointment of his deputy commissioner. The deputy may find him or herself carrying out a substantial amount of Roddick’s workload when he is busy with more lucrative employment.
ANOTHER THING that didn’t surface during the election was that Roddick had once been a member of the most powerful Freemasons lodge in Wales — Dinas Llandaf, based in Cardiff.
This lodge is where senior, favoured members of the legal profession come together with some of the most powerful Tories in Wales.
The right-wing Stefan Terlezki, who was MP for Cardiff West from 1983 up until 1987 when Rhodri Morgan took it off him, was a member.
Another member is Gwilym Jones, Tory MP for Cardiff North from 1983 to 1997. Jones was a minister in the Welsh Office from 1992 to 1997.
One of the founders, Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards, is the current Provincial Grand Master of the South Wales Province.
Roddick told us he resigned in 1997 “whilst I was a Crown Court Recorder because I felt that there was a growing perception amongst members of the public that membership might compromise judicial independence.”
“My view was that not only should I be independent but that I should also be seen to be so.”
However, this means that his decision to resign was not taken out of opposition to freemasonry.
There is always the suspicion that the departure is motivated by expediency and that the former mason is really still a “brother” at heart.
Critics say you can take the freemason out of his lodge but you can rarely take freemasonry out of the man.
Roddick joined Dinas Llandaf in the 1970s and by 1983 he was lodge master.
In 1998 he was appointed Counsel General to the National Assembly.
His term of office in the £140,000 a year role came to an end in 2003. He did not rejoin Dinas Llandaf.
The attempt to appoint another member of the lodge, Gerard Elias QC, as his replacement as Counsel General was blocked by then First Minister Rhodri Morgan.
During last November’s election for police commissioner, the fact that Roddick was once a mason was not mentioned in his manifesto. The Wikipedia entry on him is also silent on the matter.
During the election for the position of police commissioner of North Wales, freemasonry could easily have played a substantial role.
The masonic province of North Wales covers most of the North Wales Police area.
Today, there are probably around 4-5,000 masons in North Wales and Winston Roddick’s first round lead over Tal Michael was under 3,000 votes.
The silence over his masonic connections probably did him no harm with the police constituency.
Roddick had worked as a police constable in Liverpool and rank and file members would have been attracted by a candidate who had first-hand experience of their jobs.
However, an overwhelming percentage of police officers do not approve of freemasonry which might have persuaded many not to vote for him.
We asked Roddick if the brotherhood had rallied to his cause and secured him the election. He said the question “borders on the fantastic”.
“It is wild and unsupported speculation and falls far below the line of what qualifies as legitimate journalistic comment.”
“I did not attend or address any lodge meetings, informal gatherings of masons at social or any other function, knowingly meet any mason or any official of any lodge at any time before, during or after the campaign.”
“There is one other point I should also like to make clear and I make it so as to demonstrate that you would not be justified in claiming or even suggesting that my historical links with freemasonry was something you uncovered.”
“I made it public on a BBC radio interview in 1999 that I had been a mason and why I had resigned.”
“It was information I had volunteered to those researching the programme. The programme was a highly popular one and the interview was broadcast twice.”
WE ASKED Roddick if his decision to run for police commissioner was motivated by the desire to gain a knighthood.
His previous stint as the National Assembly’s Counsel General in the 1990s garnered him only the gong of Companion of the Order of the Bath.
This afternoon his press officer told us the commissioner was in meetings all day: “Many thanks for the opportunity … , however we will not be responding on this occasion”.
THERE IS more information about Roddick and his membership of Dinas Llandaf in the article Brothers in Silk which is republished today.
© Rebecca Television 2013
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