Before I progress with my tale, I should clarify something which seemed to cause some confusion elsewhere. I was not successful in my application and so will not be representing the Liberal Democrats at the Assembly elections next May. But I still hope to help in some small way.
My application did cause some comment in the Welsh media. One called it ‘entertaining’. I will say this to the nationalists. Ceredigion is a beautiful part of the country with some wonderful people – you do not have to be born in Wales to appreciate that fact.
To return to the story, things were progressing well. I was successfully interviewed to join the list of Welsh approved candidates, my application was approved, and I was invited to the hustings – now to prepare.
To address the obvious question which would come my way (and indeed did). Why would the good people of Ceredigion elect an Englishman to represent them in the Assembly of Wales? I would argue that just because someone comes from Wales does not guarantee good representation (Plaid Cymru’s recent failure to back the Welsh language is just one example) and that you should consider the candidates, the parties and the policies on their own merits. (I had other arguments along these lines).
The theme of my campaign was to emphasise how Ceredigion can play an active role across Wales and the UK to generate recovery. Whereas Plaid Cymru wish to drill through Offa’s Dyke and have Wales sail off into the Irish Sea, in my view I did not think that isolating Wales was the answer to Ceredigion’s problems.
Ceredigion has a high number of public sector workers and small businesses – it had suffered during the recession and with cuts on the way could suffer further. So the regeneration of business and the development of the private sector to create jobs was my top priority. I had some ideas and proposals towards this objective.
The other themes I planned to talk about were suggestions re: maintaining the provision of health and education services, boosting tourism, and the protection of rural communities. I also hoped my campaigning against tuition fees might win over a few student votes (NB: the hustings were before the recent Welsh government’s announcement on fees).
If selected, I was planning to wage an active campaign throughout the area using traditional methods such as canvassing by door and telephone, and regular high street stalls in the towns, as well as new social media methods such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web sites etc.
This all went in my manifesto. I then wrote to all the local party members and prepared my speech. Looking back I am thinking I should have telephoned the party members too (there were a lot of them!) so that’s a lesson to learn for any future applications.
After arrival, I visited two of my favourite Aberystwyth pubs – Rummers and The Scholars Arms, got an early night and then the next day it was off to Aberaeron, an attractive village about 16 miles down the coast. Admittedly I had not been to Aberaeron for some time but it was refreshing to see that it had hardly changed.
I read somewhere that David Cameron had impressed his hustings audience by speaking entirely without notes. Both Cameron and Nick Clegg have done this several times more recently of course and so, while I am not in their league in public speaking terms, I thought I would give this method a go.
So after a quick sandwich, a final rehearsal of my speech, and last minute items of research, my preparations were complete. I arrived at the hall ready to give it my best shot.