THE MISTRESS OF THE MAN FROM OFCOM

March 6, 2018

rebecca_logo_04THE WALES Director of broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, Rhodri Williams, is to step down.

It follows a turbulent time for the Cardiff office of the main UK communications regulator.

Last October Ofcom in London admitted that a controversial contract — awarded by the Cardiff office to the Welsh lobbying firm Deryn Consulting — had broken its procurement rules.

The contract was awarded in February 2016 without going out to tender.

We asked Ofcom if the contract was a factor in Rodri Williams’ decision to step down.

It did not answer the question.

A spokesman told Rebecca yesterday:

“Rhodri decided to leave Ofcom after 14 years.”

“He will leave Ofcom this month and we wish him all the best for the future.”

The clear favourite to replace Rhodri Williams is his deputy, Regulatory Affairs Manager Elinor Williams.

She is also his wife — and, before that, his mistress.

Her marriage to civil servant Geraint Williams collapsed in 2013.

Rhodri Williams’ marriage broke up shortly afterwards.

Rhodri and Elinor were married last year.

Rebecca does not investigate personal affairs — unless the relationship raises issues of public patronage.

Rhodri Williams

RHODRI “BILLIONS” WILLIAMS
RHODRI WILLIAMS is a poacher turned gamekeeper. Gaoled in the 1970s for his part in the campaign to create a Welsh TV channel, he tried to become a media tycoon in the 1990s. This is where the nickname “billions” comes from. He was one of the founders of Tinopolis, the Llanelli-based independent production company, but was dramatically dismissed in 2001. He was accused of diverting a valuable contract to a rival. Rebecca has investigated his career in the article A Man Of Conviction? Rebecca editor Paddy French has declared an interest in the coverage of Rhodri Williams — see the article A Licence To Censor for more details.
Photo: Ofcom

The couple met in the 1990s and Elinor Williams went on to work for public bodies controlled by Rhodri Williams.

She joined the Welsh Language Board in 2003 when he was Chairman.

She joined Ofcom Wales in 2007 when he was Director.

She stood in as Director when Rhodri Williams was seconded to London.

Her experience — and her personal connections — may deter qualified candidates from applying for the Director post.

Ofcom told us:

“We can confirm that appropriate measures are in place to ensure that any potential conflicts of interest are avoided.”

(After this article was posted, Ofcom also asked us to add the following statement:

“We are conducting an open and transparent recruitment process to appoint a Director for Wales.”)

♦♦♦

IN FEBRUARY 2016 Ofcom Wales negotiated a contract with the high-powered lobbying firm Deryn Consulting.

Formed in 2011, the company is owned by Cathy Owens, a former advisor to the late Rhodri Morgan, and former Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Nerys Evans.

The contract was to provide the Cardiff office with “monitoring of proceedings, debates and Government announcement in Wales and UK-wide.”

The existence of the contract — which did not go out to tender — did not emerge until a year later.

Journalists began investigating and Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Neil McEvoy started to ask questions.

In February 2017 Western Mail chief reporter Martin Shipton published an article about the affair.

Team-Deryn-June-2016

POWER BROKERS
DERYN CONSULTING is a powerful lobbying business. Formed in 2011, it’s owned by Cathy Owens (pictured, far right), a former adviser to Rhodri Morgan, and ex-Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Nerys Evans (on the left). Owens has a reputation as an abrasive character: once describing journalists as “bastards”. Nerys Evans is a former Plaid Cymru Director of Strategy. Chairman Huw Roberts, the only man in the picture, worked for BBC Wales and ITN in London. He was also a spin doctor to former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies.
Photo: Deryn

The piece revealed that Nerys Evans and Deryn chairman Huw Roberts were also members of Ofcom’s advisory committee for Wales.

Ofcom defended the awarding of the contract without going out to tender.

Deryn were:

“able to provide a bespoke service tailored to suit the specific needs of Ofcom in Wales: so, for example, monitoring of National Assembly for Wales committees is provided immediately after committee sessions.”

Ofcom declined to reveal the value of the contract.

Assembly Member Neil McEvoy was not impressed.

He told the Western Mail:

“There are well-established rules for public procurement of goods and services.”

“But they’ve awarded a contract to Deryn, without any competition …”

“It’s impossible to know whether Deryn offered the public value for money since no other companies were able to bid for the contract, even though there is no shortage of such companies.”

“Overall, this is highly damaging to Ofcom’s reputation.”

“The person on the street is getting tired of the cosiness and the constant stitch-ups amongst the Welsh political elite.”

He asked Ofcom to investigate.

Ofcom moved quickly to scotch the scandal.

It immediately — but secretly — axed the contract and in October last year partially abandoned its defence of the process.

Ofcom’s Director of Corporate Services, Alison Crosland, wrote to Neil McEvoy to say she had reviewed how the contract was awarded.

“This concluded that the way the contract was awarded was not consistent with Ofcom’s required processes and a competitive procurement should have been undertaken.”

But she decided that patronage had played no part in the decision:

“The review concluded that the decision to procure the service was  based on its usefulness, and the fact that employees of the supplier hold positions on the Advisory Committee had no bearing on the decision.”

Neil smiling lrg

NEIL McEVOY
THE OUTSPOKEN Assembly Member was expelled from Plaid Cymru in January following a spate of complaints. One of these came from Deryn directors Cathy Owens and Nerys Evans who accused McEvoy of bullying and intimidation. Nerys Evans, a former senior Plaid Cymru politician, said McEvoy “has sought to undermine and harm my reputation, and that of my company, Deryn, by a campaign of bullying and smears.” McEvoy claims some of the complaints against him were orchestrated by Deryn because he’s critical of the company.

“As a result of these findings,” she added, “those colleagues [responsible for the contract] will receive further training to ensure that procurement policies and procedures are followed properly in future.”

Rebecca understands “those colleagues” included Rhodri Williams and Elinor Williams.

The Ofcom contract was important to Deryn.

Shortly after the Ofcom contract was awarded in February 2016, Cathy Owens claimed “it’s been a spectacular few months for Deryn …”

2016 also proved successful financially.

Deryn was able to declare a dividend.

Cathy Owens received £78,000 and Nerys Evans £47,000 on top of their undisclosed salaries.

We approached Deryn for a comment but there was no reply by the time this article went to press.

♦♦♦

IT’S NOT known when the affair between Rhodri Williams and Elinor Williams began.

It’s been common knowledge in Cardiff and London for many years.

They were known as “Mr and Mrs Williams” because her married name was also Williams.

He is 61, she’s 46.

They first met in the 1990s.

In 1994 he was editor of the S4C programme Heno when it covered a talent competition held by the Welsh-language magazine Golwg.

Golwg was looking for amateur models and one of the contestants was Elinor Williams.

In October 2003 — by now married to civil servant Geraint Williams — she was appointed Director of Marketing and Communications of the Welsh Language Board.

ElinorWilliams

REGULATORY AFFAIRS
ELINOR WILLIAMS is a highly qualified candidate for the post of Director, Ofcom Wales. She joined Ofcom first as Communications Manager and then as Regulatory Affairs Manager. She held the post of Director, Ofcom Wales in 2012 when future husband Rhodri Williams was in London as acting head of UK Government and Regulatory Affairs.
Photo: Ofcom

Rhodri Williams — then chairman of the Welsh Language Board — said:

“We are delighted that Elinor will be joining us at the board.”

Two months later, he was offered the post of Director, Ofcom Wales.

The salary was between £80,000 and £110,000.

(His then wife, Siân Helen, is a close friend of former Labour Assembly Member Delyth Evans.

Delyth Evans’ partner is Ed Richards, who had been a media policy editor advisor to Tony Blair

Richards was appointed deputy chief executive of Ofcom early in 2003 and later took the top job in 2005.

He was not involved in the appointment of Rhodri Williams.)

In 2007 Elinor Williams joined Ofcom as Communications Manager.

She was later promoted to Regulatory Affairs Manager.

Rebecca asked Ofcom if Rhodri Williams was involved in these appointments.

Ofcom told us:

“We do not discuss individual employee matters.”

In January 2012 Rhodri Williams moved to Ofcom’s London HQ to become acting UK Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs.

While he was away, Elinor Williams was promoted to acting Director of the Wales office.

There was no appointment process — Ofcom says the post was “back-filled”.

Applications for the post of Ofcom Director Wales, close on March 19.

♦♦♦

Note
You can read more on this subject in the article  — Update: The Mistress Of The Man From Ofcom — published on 9 May 9 2018.

Correction
This article was corrected on March 10. We stated that Elinor Williams was appointed Ofcom’s Regulatory Affairs Manager in 2007. In fact, that position was Communications Manager — she was later promoted to Regulatory Affairs Manager. Apologies for the error.

♦♦♦
Published: 6
 March 2018
© Rebecca
♦♦♦

COMING UP
THE SISTER OF THE WOMAN FROM AUNTIE
PATRONAGE AND NEPOTISM have long been features of broadcasting in Wales. The Rebecca investigation of BBC Wales — which already includes the articles The Son Of The Man From Uncle and In The Name Of The Father? — continues with a detailed analysis of the crisis that engulfed the Corporation between 2008 and 2011. The article examines the controversial relationship between former Director Menna Richards and her sister. The current regime — headed by Rhodri Talfan Davies, the son of former BBC boss Geraint Talfan Davies, and a family friend of Menna Richards — declines to answer questions on the affair …

♦♦♦

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EXCLUSIVE — GORDON ANGLESEA: THE FINANCIAL REWARDS OF CHILD ABUSE

February 2, 2017

anglesea_head_rewards
INCOMPETENCE BY North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones led to convicted paedophile Gordon Anglesea keeping his police pension.

The Commissioner has acknowledged Anglesea deserved to lose his pension but, in the eight weeks between Anglesea’s conviction and his death, failed to ask the Home Office to revoke it.

Rebecca understands the pension — which is fully-funded from the public purse — is worth up to £25,000 a year.

Jones’ inaction meant that Anglesea was being paid some £500 a week while he was in prison.

Jones has also decided that his widow, Sandra, should receive a widow’s pension  of 50 per cent.

She will receive up to £12,500 a year for the rest of her life.

Rebecca has also discovered the Commissioner did not consult the Home Office over this decision.

We have written to policing minister Brandon Lewis asking him to issue a “forfeiture certificate” under the Police Pensions Regulations 2015.

This would automatically revoke Anglesea’s pension — and prevent his widow from enjoying the proceeds of his child abuse.

♦♦♦ 

THE CONVICTION of Gordon Anglesea on October 21 last year immediately placed his police pension in jeopardy.

He was gaoled for 12 years after a jury unanimously convicted him on four counts of indecent assault on young boys in Wrexham in the early 1980s.

He was a uniform inspector in the North Wales force at the time.

Under the Police Pensions Regulations 2015 a former police officer can be stripped of his pension if the offences were

committed in connection with the [officer’s] service as a member of a police force and in respect of which the Secretary of State for the Home Department has issued a forfeiture certificate.

anglesea

There are compelling reasons to believe Brandon Lewis, the current policing minister, would have issued the certificate.

The first is Gordon Anglesea’s high profile.

When he was first named as a child abuser in the early 1990s, he successfully sued four media organisations, including HTV, and accepted damages of £375,000.

Concerns that his success may have been assisted by North Wales Police and fellow freemasons were important factors in the setting up of Britain’s only child abuse Tribunal in 1996.

The £14 million inquiry, headed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, expressed “considerable disquiet” about Anglesea’s testimony but decided there wasn’t enough evidence to brand him a child abuser.

The second powerful reason why Anglesea would have been stripped of his pension lies in the nature of his offences.

Three of these took place while he was in charge of the Wrexham Attendance Centre.

This was part of the youth justice system and was a Home Office initiative staffed by serving officers of the North Wales Police.

Anglesea wasn’t just abusing one of the boys at the centre — he was abusing his position as a police officer, abusing the youth justice system and abusing the trust placed in him by the Home Office.

It’s clear Commissioner Jones also felt Anglesea’s offences merited the revocation of his pension.

After Rebecca — and local journalists — asked a series of questions, Arfon Jones issued a statement on January 26:

“I concluded this was a case where the forfeiture of pension was appropriate.”

A great deal of money was at stake.

The pension scheme Anglesea was part of when he resigned from North Wales Police in 1991 was far more generous than it is today.

It was a fully-funded scheme and officers were not allowed to make personal contributions of their own.

For every year of service Anglesea was entitled to one sixtieth of his pensionable salary.

Rebecca understands it could have been worth as much as £25,000 a year.

♦♦♦ 

AS SOON as Anglesea was convicted, there were two reasons why the issue of his pension became a matter of urgency.

The first was public confidence.

Many people in North Wales would find it morally wrong that a paedophile who used the cloak of public office to conceal his offences should be rewarded for his crimes.

(It was, of course, part of Anglesea’s defence that his victims invented their allegations to gain compensation.)

arfonjones

The second was a matter of financial efficiency: if Anglesea didn’t deserve his pension, the sooner he was stripped of it the better.

In the event he enjoyed his full pension — perhaps as much as £4,000 — in the eight weeks he was in prison.

Rebecca investigated further.

We asked the Home Office if Commissioner Jones had applied for the all-important “forfeiture certificate”.

A spokesman told us:

“the Home Office does not comment on individual pension forfeiture cases or requests made by Police and Crime Commissioners.” 

We put a similar question to the Commissioner.

A spokesman said the answer was “no”.

In other words, even though he considered Anglesea should lose his pension, Commissioner Jones did not ask for the forfeiture certificate.

His only explanation was:

“Gordon Anglesea passed away before the process was concluded and the agreement of the Home Secretary was secured.”

He then makes it clear that the decision to grant Sandra Anglesea 50 per cent of her husband’s pension was his alone.

gordon

Anglesea’s death, he said

“meant his wife was granted a widow’s pension …”

“There is no precedent in law to with-hold that 50 per cent especially as the beneficiary has not been convicted of any offence.”

Rebecca asked if Arfon Jones had consulted the Home Office before making this decision.

Again, the answer was “no”.

The Commissioner says he took legal advice before making his decision.

♦♦♦

WE HAVE written to policing minister Brandon Lewis asking him to issue a forfeiture certificate.

Having decided Anglesea’s pension could be revoked, Commissioner Jones was morally bound to refer the matter to the minister.

The issue of whether Sandra Anglesea should receive a widow’s pension should have been irrelevant.

If Arfon Jones had done his job properly Gordon Anglesea would have been stripped of his poension long before he died – and his widow would have automatically lost her entitlemnent.

♦♦♦

Note
1
The Commissioner would not reveal the details of Anglesea’s pension. It was a fully-funded, final salary scheme but officers were allowed to take a substantial amount as an initial lump sum. The current salary level for superintendents is between £63,000 and £75,000.

COMING
A FORCE FOR EVIL
HOW DID Gordon Anglesea get away with it for so long? 
The answer is he used the cloak of public office to conceal his crimes and counted on protection from North Wales Police. This forthcoming article lays bare the conspiracy hatched at the highest levels of the force in the early 1990s to cover up its failure to investigate child abuse — and to protect Anglesea at all costs. In the process, the force helped Anglesea win a famous libel case and made a mockery of the £14 million North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal …

♦♦♦

rebecca_logo_04

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CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

Note: this article was originally published on the Press Gang website. 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

♦♦♦

THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

♦♦♦

EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

♦♦♦
Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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