Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In which I discover that spelling Aberystwyth is far less difficult than one might think...

Until Friday, I had been to Aberystwyth only twice, once on a family holiday more than thirty years ago, once to report back on the Welsh Young Social Democrat merger ballot. Neither occasion had been entirely successful. And so, it was with a little trepidation that I accompanied Ros to the jewel of the Cambrian Coast for the first stop of our second tour.

The train journey to Wolverhampton passed uneventfully, the hire car collected and we were off. Leaving Shrewsbury, we soon crossed the border into Montgomeryshire, bypassing Welshpool and heading off into the hills of Powys. The road passed through fields filled with young lambs and, as the miles passed, it became apparent just how big Montgomeryshire really is, and just how sparsely populated.

All of a sudden, we were in Ceredigion though, and the roadside was festooned with green and gold stakeboards, green for Plaid Cymru. gold for Mark Williams. And there really are a lot of them, as the seat's status as the only Plaid/LibDem marginal implies. Plaid really want the seat back, having lost by just 219 votes last time, but Mark is doing what he can to keep it in the LibDem column.

Having been greeted by Mark, his family and a group of local activists, we were whisked off to do some canvassing. Finding such low levels of Conservative or Labour support is unusual and it was reassuring that supporters from 2005 appear to have remained loyal. One resident told me that he had voted for Roderic Bowen, and for Geraint Howells, and that I could be confident that Mark could count on his vote. For this is a place where liberalism is a philosophy with deep roots. Non-conformist, independent people, who need to be persuaded one at a time, and who have a strong sense of community that, as a long-time city dweller, I have had to live without.

The bookies will tell you that this one is going to be close, and they may well be proved right. But if Mark loses, and I dearly hope that he doesn't, he will have done everything possible. And Aberystwyth on a sunny afternoon is really quite beguiling...

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