It did look a bit like a clandestine, cross-party, anti-Liberal Democrat meeting over dinner. Secreted away in a shadowy corner of the Belle Vue at Aberystwyth, enjoying an intimate dinner, were Penri James, Plaid Cymru candidate for Cereidigion and me. I don't think its presumptuous to claim that both of us are main challengers to incumbent Lib-Dem MPs. We should have arranged a photograph to wind them up a bit. But it was all boringly innocent. Penri's a lecturer at Aber University, and a big wig in the Stapleton Society - and I was delivering last night's Stapleton Lecture. There's a tradition that the visiting lecturer is fed and watered in an effort to improve performance.
I'd been billed as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and that I was going to speak about our approach to wind farms in rural Wales. Actually, I spoke about my personal approach. Perhaps I surprised a few when I said that I actually supported the first major wind farm in Wales, the current Llandinam wind farm. In the early 90s, I still believed we could avoid more nuclear power stations by a full blooded renewable energy policy, and that onshore wind was one of several options we should be looking at. I was not unduly concerned about the odd onshore wind farm - where there was local support. It was the publication of the National Assembly Government's grotesque Tan 8 planning guidelines in 2004, that horrified me. It was brutal vandalism, perpetrated on my home area of Montgomeryshire. Even today, there are but few who understand the full horror of what has been perpetrated. Anyway, I let fly. Let me tell you what was so appalling about TAN 8.
It was a massive strike against local democracy. The document laid out precise boundaries within which wind farms would succeed in winning permission, even if local opinion and planners were opposed. Great for providing certainty for developers, but a case of 'B****cks to local democracy'.
It effectively scrapped the concept of 'cumulative impact'. Even today, I could live with the odd wind farm on sites where the impact of turbines and cables are containable and supported, but this poisonous Assembly Government document presaged wind farm landscapes, destroying something that I hold dear.
It was based on wildly unrealistic targets. The inevitable consequence was that Assembly renewables policy would become based solely on wind farms. The approach to developing other technologies has been abysmal - just as expected.
And the whole presentation of the debate was dishonest. Even today it's dishonest. I still hear people say that when they are weighing up the benefit of renewable energy against the impact of wind farms, on balance they accept them. I can scream "What about the bl00dy cables" as loudly as I like - but it's never part of the consideration. Its an irony that this dishonesty is about to derail the Government's plans. The reality is that the policy is in tatters and utter shambles. Because the cables issue has not been addressed, there are wind farm proposals without affordable access to the National Grid. As far as I can see, they're stuffed until 2015 at least.
No idea what the audience thought of it. I had no notes, and can become a bit theatrical and over-emphatic when I'm in verbal freewheel mode. Anyway, I really enjoyed myself, and I don't think I said anything that will lead to me being ditched as CPRW President.