I hadn't met Ken Clarke properly until yesterday. Our former Chancellor came to Montgomeryshire to support my election campaign. The great man was everything I expected him to be. First port of call was the home of ex-MP, Robert Harvey, near Meifod, where a few of Ken's old friends met for a drink - including Lord Gowrie and Delwyn Williams, the former Conservative MP who represented Montgomeryshire between 1979 and 1983.
Delwyn's Wife, Olive was with him - and she launched into me like a tigress. It seems that before the 1983 election I had referred to Delwyn as a 'hanger' in public, and signed the nomination papers for an independent candidate, David Rowlands. She seemed to be blaming me for Delwyn's defeat. I really have no recollection whatsoever of the 'hanger' comment - but would have thought it to be an electoral positive, even if I had said it. Never been a 'hanger' myself, but always accepted that the majority of the public are. Olive was correct about my signing David's papers though. He was my closest colleague on the Montgomeryshire District Council at the time, and I couldn't have refused without causing offence. Can't believe it made the slightest difference to the result though. David only got about 400 votes. Anyway, Olive let fly and I took it on the chin. Delwyn was in his usual convivial form.
Next stop was the Derwen Farm Shop, where we met Rachel Joseph who owns and runs the business. Wholly non political visit to promote local food. Enjoyed some of Rachel's goat's cheese fudge, which I strongly recommend.
Next stop was the birdwatching hide at Coed-y-Dinas where we met Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Clive Faulkener who outlined the recent avian traffic. It soon became clear to me that Ken is a genuine authority on ornithology. I could see that Clive was impressed.
Last stop was Welshpool Town Hall, where almost 100 people had turned up to hear Ken speak. I was chairing. Ken told me he would speak for 20 minutes - but didn't draw breath for 45. He is a brilliant speaker - and made sense of the Northern Rock crisis for the audience. He had driven up from London in the afternoon and after spending time talking to everyone in the room drove himself home to Nottingham. Peter Cannon presented him with a Havana, which he said he was going to smoke on the road home - to help keep himself awake. Ken Clarke is a truly big beast.