Rebel 'plot' to topple greatest Welshman

Neil Kinnock alleges poll fixing in favour of Owain Glyndwr over Nye Bevan. But where's Catherine Zeta-Jones?
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The Independent Online

They are two of the towering figures of Welsh history, and one of them will tomorrow be crowned the greatest. But the search for Wales's greatest hero has been overshadowed by allegations of vote-rigging and dirty tricks as Welsh nationalists and the Labour Party vie to have their champion claim the number one spot.

Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service and socialist icon, is running neck and neck with Owain Glyndwr, a rebel leader who 600 years ago almost won Welsh independence.

But the Labour Party has accused nationalists of a "deliberate, organised campaign" to fix the vote for Glyndwr.

Former leader Neil Kinnock has also weighed in, accusing nationalists of "under- mining" the poll.

Last week Robin Gwyn of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, claimed that Bevan was leading and emailed an appeal "to get Owain back on top urgently". Mr Gwyn has since apologised and the national museums intends to review its email policy. And Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, has denied any involvement, but its leader, Dafydd Iwan confirmed members had been encouraged to vote for Glyndwr: "We believe he's a true nationalist hero."

In the BBC's 100 Greatest Britons, last year, Glyndwr came 22 places above Bevan, claiming 23rd place to Bevan's 45th.

Mr Kinnock, himself currently number 51 in the Welsh top 100, has voted for Bevan. "The courage and creativity of the man was manifest in the way he put poetry into politics," he said. "But he left more behind than words - the NHS and the foundation of post-war public housing." Another former Labour party leader, Michael Foot, who wrote a highly acclaimed biography of Bevan, also backed him to win. "He deserves it but he would have laughed at it," said Mr Foot. "If you asked Nye's opinion he would've gone for the poets."The poets in question are Dylan Thomas, who currently lies in seventh place and R S Thomas, number 18.

The organisers of the poll to find "100 Welsh heroes", a Welsh heritage website Culturenet Cymru, believe that the final 10 reflect Welsh history well,and deny the vote could be rigged. More than 40,000 people have voted since January.

Musicians and actorsalso make their mark. Tom Jones was an early leader and still has an outside chance of winning. James Dean Bradfield, lead singer of rock band, the Manic Street Preachers, was in 13th place.

Also riding high - though hardly well known outside their fan base - are Mike Peters, lead singer of The Alarm, who recently charted as "Poppyfields", with an accompanying video using a teenage group as stand-ins, and Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell. The Mike Peters campaign has been run by a Dallas-based fan called Misty Mitchell, who set up dozens of email addresses under false names, enabling her to vote for him several times. The organisers only learned of her vote-rigging when she rang to confess.

Richard Burton is at number 6 and Catherine Zeta-Jones - the only woman in the top 20 and one of only 10 in the top 100 - is number 16. But that other famous daughter of Wales, Shirley Bassey, failed to make the list at all, despite being recently voted one of the greatest black Britons.

Welcome in the hillside: the top 10

The voting so far

1 Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), described by Churchill as a "squalid nuisance", founded NHS; 2 Owain Glyndwr (1349-1416), rebel leader who fought for Welsh independence; 3 Tom Jones (1940-), "The Voice" who made it from the valleys to Vegas; 4 Gwynfor Evans (1912-) Plaid Cymru's first MP; 5 David Lloyd George (1863-1945), "the Welsh thief" according to Kipling. He introduced the old age pension and National Insurance. Only Welshman to become Prime Minister; 6 Richard Burton (1925-1984), actor and hellraiser; 7 Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), poet and hellraiser; 8 Gareth Edwards (1947-) 1970s Welsh rugby legend; 9 Mike Peters (1959-) lead singer of The Alarm/"Poppyfields"; 10 Robert Owen (1771-1858) philanthropist mill owner, forerunner of Co-operative movement.

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