Tales from Wales: I received a call from a Lib Dem member on the eve of poll that had a very strange request

Even members forget which party they are in at times...

When I was in Wales one of the things I was asked to do was act as the returning officer for an internal selection to pick our candidates for the regional list in Mid and West Wales.

Having never been a returning officer before I tried to make sure, as much as possible, that all the rules were abided by and all the candidates were given equal opportunity to engage with the membership.

We arranged hustings meetings across the region, which geographically constituted two thirds of Wales. Having run meetings successfully the members all had a postal vote that would be sent to our office in Cardiff for me to count, when the vote closed.

Some candidates took the selection much more seriously than others and towards the end of the process I started receiving a number of calls from people who had either lost their ballot papers, mislaid them or had realised they were just too late to send them back.

Because all the ballots were traceable it was possible to tell if this was true. As a consequence members who could identify themselves, and give sufficient evidence that they were who they said they were, I reproduced a ‘tendered’ ballot paper for.  If I could prove that in the unopened ballots that they were not duplicates I would accept the new ballot paper.

On the eve of the election I received a call from a lady in West Wales who explained that she had lost her ballot and that she understood I could help her out. Because it was the eve of me opening them I explained the process and asked her which of the candidates she would like to support.

‘The Plaid Cyrmu candidate,’ came the answer. After a moment’s pause I replied, ‘I’m afraid they aren’t standing in this election,’ and following a few moments of disappointed grumbling from the other end of the phone I read out the names of the candidates and when I arrived at the most active candidate’s name she said, ‘yes that’s the one, the Plaid Cymru candidate!’

Thankfully he won by more than one Plaid Cymru vote!


Tales from Wales: Myself and a Lib Dem MP attended a Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Party Meeting by mistake

Plaid Cymru

Myself and Colin Breed stumbled into a lift which was acting as the meeting room for a Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Party meeting

Having worked in Wales for a few years for the Liberal Democrats, as the party’s national campaign manager, I seem to have a number of stories that might be of interest.

But, the first one is concerning a time before I worked there.  Those old enough to remember will know of the old jokes of the Liberal Party, or for that matter the SDP, about them being able to hold Parliamentary Party meetings in the back of a taxi or for that matter a phone box.

Having elected Colin Breed in the 1997 election I went up to London for a for a few weeks to set up his office there, and whilst wandering the corridors of Westminster we jumped into a lift with three MPs – Cynog Dafis, Dafydd Wigley and Elfyn Llwyd.

From a conversation in Welsh there suddenly became silence. After a few moments of uneasy silence, mainly I suspect because they had no idea who we were, or from which party, we jumped out of the lift before them.

Colin said, ‘that’s my first parliamentary meeting, pity it was with the wrong one!’