Getting to grips with politicians

The weeks continued with the one-day training at Mold and the rest on my own at the Holywell office.

It appeared David Nicholas had become my mentor. On the second Wednesday I shadowed him as he did regular diary jobs and worked on off-diary stories.

The following week he took me to a meeting of the Flintshire County Council; later he came over to Holywell to keep an eye on me when I attended my first meetings of the Holywell Urban and Rural District Councils. One of these was an evening meeting and my first experience of getting expenses for working at night and banking up a half-day off in lieu.

Welsh politics was quite complex at the time and Holywell itself was even more of a mixture.

As a Parliamentary area Holywell was covered by two different constituencies.

The urban district was in the Flintshire East constituency which was held by Labour, the MP was Eirene White who had held the seat since it was created in 1950.

West Flintshire constituency, which included the Holywell Rural District Council, was also created in 1950 and had been held since then by Nigel Birch, a Conservative.

I attended a dinner with Nigel Birch which gave me a story I dined off for many years (more on that in the future).

The Labour MP barely made any impression on me at all. In fact I only got her name right because I Googled it.

I don’t remember the political makeup of the local councils at that time as local politics did not always reflect national politics.

The three main parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal, were represented on the county, urban and rural councils. It did not mean, however, that one of those parties actually controlled a council.

As well as the Big Three there were always candidates for Plaid Cymru at the national and local levels and the local councils also attracted Independent and Ratepayers Association candidates.

Reporters needed to know all the councillors, their allegiances and where, at times, their priorities lay. Often the Independents were local business people.

It also meant that at times no party would have overall control of the council.

Sometimes Labour might need to persuade the Liberals or Plaid, even both, to work with them. Independents, at that time, had their own reasons for being on the council, often business reasons, and this could well mean them allying themselves with the Conservatives.

As I have said, at the time I was still formulating my own political views but was definitely leaning towards the left.

I knew even then that reporting had to be even-handed. It was my duty to gather the facts and report them. I couldn’t leave something out, or twist a quote to favour one side.

In later years my ability to separate my working life and interests and my personal life and interests was sometimes queried by colleagues or superiors.

All I could say was that I could separate the issues, even when the actions of some politicians made me seethe, I never allowed either life affect the other.

I did get the chance over the years to meet politicians of all persuasions. This began at this time, and certainly when dealing with councillors and MPs in my patch, I did not reveal my own leanings.

My interest in politics had to be dealt with in the way I sought knowledge of any other subject at that time – through books.

Bearing in mind that the government at this time was Labour, Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister, I started to look into the background of that party and how it worked in with my general ideals of socialism.

As it happened the postwar Labour Prime Minister, Clem Attlee, died at about this time, only a couple of years after the man he defeated – Winston Churchill. Soon afterwards I was browsing the shelves of a secondhand bookshop when I found an original copy of The Labour Party in Perspective by Clem Attlee, published in 1937. It remains a part of my political library which I have built up over the decades.

All this work did not play havoc with my social life. An occasional evening job midweek did not matter much as during the week I tended to stay home and saved my weekends for socialising.

It was also at this time I discovered the benefits working life could have on my social life.

Most towns in the area had cinemas, some of which were independents or small local chains.

One of the major cinema chains was, of course, the Odeon Cinema group which included one at Rhyl.

This would often screen major films before their release to smaller chains.

The Odeon Cinema manager in Rhyl (I have a strong feeling his surname was Kelly) used to have midnight press screenings and if an invite landed on Peter’s desk he often asked me if I would like to go as I lived in Rhyl.

There are girls who are quite impressed at an invitation to a screening for a major new release, especially a late night press reception with drinks and nibbles laid on.

Often gave me a good start to the weekend.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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