Conservative Montgomery candidate Glyn Davies says he’s out of step with a campaign driven by the London-centric media
The 2010 General Election campaign has been like no other I can remember. When I was adopted as the Conservative candidate to contest Montgomeryshire, way back in 2007, I thought there was an outside chance of overturning the huge 7,000 majority enjoyed by the Liberal Democrats. At the time, very few people agreed with me. Even I reckoned that everything would have to go really well for us. For thirty months, everything went so well that I thought that outside chance of victory become much more. And so did many others. Perhaps self confidence has a tendency to overtake every candidate, but I reckon I’d reached the position of favourite.
Then we had the first TV Leader’s Debate. It changed the entire nature of the contest in Montgomeryshire. I must admit that I’ve never been supportive of this very non-British, media-driven innovation. I knew that what had been a genuine constituency contest between the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik and myself would become more aligned with the national position. I like the idea of voters making their decisions on the basis of who they want to represent them in the House of Commons, rather than it be just about who they want as Prime Minister.
But everyone else seems to think these TV debates are good for democracy. Yet again I seem to be out of step with modernity, though even I can see that they have stimulated public interest, which will lead to an increased turnout on Thursday – undeniably a ‘good thing’. I suppose British politics has changed forever. For sure, there’s no longer any room for ugly people at the top table.
Let’s return to the doorsteps of Montgomeryshire. The TV debates have probably had a greater impact in Montgomeryshire than in any other constituency in Wales, injecting a huge dose of uncertainty. I’d known this would be the case as soon as it was announced that an agreement had been reached to hold them. Up until then, the conversations had been about the performance and record of the incumbent MP, and my own record of local public service.
The change was immediate. Suddenly most conversations were about how the Party Leaders had performed. We candidates assumed an almost peripheral role. Thankfully, over the last few days this disregard for the merits of individual local candidates has decreased, as the novelty of TV debates has worn off. Local candidates are making a bit of a comeback, and there’s definitely more interest in policy.
Before I move on to the policy that matters in Montgomeryshire, I must comment on the other candidates here. I’ve been impressed by the Plaid Cymru candidate, Heledd Fychan. I don’t agree with her on a few things, but we share the same approach to politics. She answers questions straight from the hip – and isn’t afraid of taking an independent line. And she’s launched what I consider entirely justified and vigorous attacks on Lembit Opik, the sitting MP on his questionable record over his last term of office. I felt that I could not do it myself with the vigour it deserved because I’d be accused of being a ‘Nasty old Tory’. Anyway, I think she will have a significant future in politics – even if I do not want that future to start just yet.
I hope they’ll forgive me, but I do not feel that the other candidates have made any impact worth noting. All that is worthy of note is that we have a National Front candidate. We were all prepared to share a platform with him, except the Labour candidate, whose refusal to do so has been the only occasion he has attracted the slightest attention.
And so to the policies that have been raised with me – and it has been a real surprise. Top of the list has been immigration – in Montgomeryshire for goodness sake! The reality is that while the political ‘establishment’ to which I reluctantly accept I belong has been concerning itself with taxation, health, education and so on, the people have been worrying about the impact on Britain of too much immigration. We cannot ignore this concern and allow this issue to become the exclusive territory of extremists.
Another prominent issue has been the poor treatment of mid Wales by ‘The Government’, whether this be based in Cardiff Bay or at Westminster. How I agree with this. I have to admit that I have not heard a word of support for devolution. I reckon that this stems from a general contempt for anyone who’s identified as a ‘politician’.
Which brings me to the legacy of the Parliamentary ‘expenses’ scandal, exposed by the Daily Telegraph. Its like a cancerous tumour debilitating our democracy. Bearing in mind the huge personal commitment that we candidates make just to stand for election, it seems a touch unfair that the anger should be directed at anyone except the MP, who was a part of the deeply rotten Parliament that has just come to an end. But many people are so angry that they have lost all interest in politics.
I try to make an effort to restore some faith, but not much can be achieved talking to a closed door! I’ve been a Parliamentary candidate for almost three years, and have greatly enjoyed it. Hopefully, I will be elected an MP later this week. In Montgomeryshire, the Conservatives have never fought an election with a good deal organisation, local support and energy. Despite an extraordinary volatile campaign, we still think we are in with a chance of producing the ‘Portillo’ moment of the 2010 election.
This is the second of reports from candidates of all the parties from constituencies across Wales that we shall be carrying up to polling day. To read Ed Townsend’s campaign diary click here, for Jonathan Edwards’ click here, and for Nick Ainger’s click here.