THE LUDICROUS county council plan to take away 60 parking spaces on Aberystwyth promenade, while at the same time introducing charges on the rest of the seafront, points to staggering and gross ineptitude within the authority.

There are at least two possible explanations for this madness. 

Either we are witnessing a supreme display of utter indifference to the truly serious economic and social damage certain to be inflicted by this proposal. 

Or we are faced with something equally disturbing, though in a different way - sheer stupidity.

Either way, the conclusion must be that this exceptionally awful plan was hatched inside a sealed box, its architects blanked off from the outside world and indifferent to the damage their blinkered and ill-conceived scheme would cause.

The arguments against it are well rehearsed but, as almost invariably with plans put out to public consultation, the public’s views are being ignored. It makes a mockery of any claims of a democratic input.

For a perfect illustration of a wholly fake - and therefore blatantly dishonest - public consultation, look no further than this highly controversial plan to start charging for parking along the totality of the promenade. That went out to purported public perusal last month. Yet councillors were told that any responses were unlikely to stop the plan going ahead. Because high-handed officials have already included completely theoretical £400,000 takings from the proposed scheme in the council’s draft budget.

It is so obvious why this proposal is blinkered and ill-considered. 

If parking charges are introduced, people who daily go to work in Aberystwyth and leave their cars on the seafront will overnight be confronted by new spending totalling hundreds of pounds a year. They can’t afford that.

Shops, cafés and restaurants in the town whose custom depends in large part on people getting to Aberystwyth by car would immediately be disadvantaged. A plot to wreak immediate damage on an important part of the town’s economy couldn’t hope for a better strategy.

People living in the town and in nearby countryside about to be stung by an extortionate 11.1 per cent increase in council tax (add to that town and community council and police charges) now face, in addition, being financially penalised simply for going for a walk by the sea along their much-loved promenade. This would be like confiscating a birthright. It’s outrageous.

Consider, too, advice about the advantages of walking for physical and mental well-being, for social interaction, and the real price of this proposal is revealed.

Tregaron councillor Ifan Davies opined at a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee that charging for parking on the seafront was a “no-brainer”. Or you could simply say that, yes, this is a proposal totally devoid of cerebral involvement.

Now comes a new, and additional, madcap proposal - to get rid of about 60 parking spaces along a lengthy stretch of the promenade from the Old College to the south beach and replace them with double yellow lines. 

 The council should come clean. It wants to close down Aberystwyth.

 Why we need to stand up for Gaza

ENTIRELY falsely, a UK cabinet minister, Michelle Donelan, suggests an academic at an Edinburgh university supports Hamas and is subsequently forced into an abject climbdown, with the taxpayer picking up a £15,000 bill for damages.

Professor Kate Sang, of Heriot-Watt University, said Donelan had attacked her in a letter posted on social media in October to make a “cheap political point”, after she and Dr Kamna Patel, of University College London, were appointed to an advisory group at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a public body managing government research funding.

Sang had earlier shared a Guardian story about government plans to clamp down on pro-Palestine marches and called the restriction “disturbing”, while Patel had retweeted a post describing Israel's actions in Gaza as “genocide and apartheid”. 

Donelan later retracted her comments, saying there was “no evidence” Sange supported Hamas. She now faces calls for her resignation as science secretary, while the Lib Dems have demanded a Cabinet Office inquiry into the department’s use of taxpayer funds to cover her legal costs, and for her to “pay for this out of her own pocket”.

It’s a cautionary tale on the perils of a reckless rush to judgment, and highly relevant for Charlotte Church, who the other week found herself accused of “anti-Jewish racism” after leading a 100-strong choir singing in support of freedom for Palestine at a concert in Caerffili - a fundraiser for the Middle East Children's Alliance, which supports children in Gaza.

The singer was vehement and indignant in her rejection of the claim, saying on Instagram: “I am in no way antisemitic. I am fighting for the liberation of all people. I have a deep heart for all religions and all difference.”

According to The Campaign Against Antisemitism, Church crossed a rubicon when the choir chanted the slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, a reference to the land between the Jordan River, bordering the occupied West Bank and Israel in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea to the west. 

Opinions on what that means range from the democratic to the genocidal. Critics say it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and others, say it refers to “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice”.

Charlotte Church said: “Clearly, if you know the history of it all, it is not an antisemitic chant calling for the obliteration of Israel. It is not that in any way, shape or form. It is calling for the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Because this phrase is open to interpretation, context and intent become all-important, which makes it unsafe to accuse someone of antisemitism simply for using the words.

More broadly, the distinction between expressions of antisemitism and condemnation of the government of Israel over the horrific deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, and the relentless destruction of Gaza, is clear. To criticise the Netanyahu government is one thing. To be antisemitic is something entirely different.

Equally, to demand freedom for Palestine is most certainly not an expression of support for Hamas, whose utter savagery on 7 October will never be forgotten.

With reports of antisemitism increasing, the need for rigorous fact-checking is more important than ever. Antisemitism is despicable. But let it never be confused with blameless debate about what’s happening in Gaza.