While browsing the 'Liberal Democrat' newspaper this summer, an advert leaped out at me – candidates wanted for the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2011. One word came into my head – Ceredigion. My campaign had begun.
I spent some happy years as a student at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and have frequently gone back to the area. Ceredigion is a beautiful part of the country and is well recommended for holiday breaks – whether you like walking or cycling, driving around the area or just lazing on the beach. It is also an excellent place to study.
‘I’m applying to be a Lib Dem candidate for the Welsh Assembly’, I told my wife.
‘How much money do they get?’ she replied – which I guess most wives would ask if one is contemplating a career move. Having looked it up and satisfied her that we would not go broke, I put my application together.
There was a long road ahead, of course, but there was nothing to lose by trying. Having now wound down from the general election campaign I had itchy feet to get moving again.
Welsh affairs are shamefully ignored by the London media so a bit of background. The National Assembly for Wales opened for business in 1999 and has 60 Assembly Members (AMs) and, like the Scottish Parliament, is elected every four years by a form of proportional representation (PR).
Why PR? Because otherwise there might be no Conservatives at all – there were no Tory MPs in Scotland or Wales after 1997 and even now they only have one in Scotland. (PR to benefit the Tories? Oh, the irony!)
Since 2007 Wales has been ruled by a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition. The First Minister is Carwyn Jones (Labour) who answers every question with ‘it’s the UK government’s fault’. The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is Kirsty Williams who is a very impressive campaigner and constantly has the First Minister on the run during questions. And the proceedings of the Welsh Assembly are far more polite and professional than the House of Commons (which isn’t difficult).
Ceredigion has a Liberal Democrat MP (Mark Williams) who had a tremendous result at this year’s election increasing his majority from over 200 to just over 8,000. Ceredigion’s current AM is from Plaid Cymru.
I obtained and completed the application form and off it went. Two questions came to mind for which I would need answers – one, why should Ceredigion’s voters elect an Englishman to represent them and, two, how could I lead a campaign while living elsewhere? (My answers in the next chapter).
Initially I also applied for the regional list of Mid and West Wales (these are the ‘top-up’ AMs to ensure a proportional balance in the Assembly) but decided to withdraw as it became impractical and I wanted to concentrate on Ceredigion.
The regional list selections were all carried out first and meanwhile I kept in touch with events and what was happening in Ceredigion.
Finally I was delighted to get the invitation to the hustings. I was on my way.