Growing up in a middle class household during the 1950s and 60s in a seaside resort in NE Wales is not totally conducive to getting an insight into national politics in general and local politics in particular.
For a start nobody really talked about politics to children and when I first started to take a real interest I was still years away from getting the vote – for those of us born in 1950 the lowering of the voting age to 18 didn’t make much difference because there was no general election until we were 20 and rapidly approaching 21.
I learned more about modern politics in a year at college than I had in five at the grammar school – and even that came from talking to fellow students.
From the age of 15 I did my best to find out about the various political beliefs, not just in the UK but also worldwide. Living in Wales did mean the Welsh nationalist movement was very much to the fore and I did know people in both the main political movements, Plaid Cymru, and the Free Wales Army.
Neither of them really appealed to me as one was too insular and the other seemed to be run by people who were throwbacks to school playground when “secret societies” used to be organised along the lines of Just William and his Outlaws, created by Richmal Crompton, or Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven.
In fact in 2005 The Welsh newspaper the Wersten Mail ran a story based on documents from the National Archives in which it was claimed the FWA leader had a mental aged of 12. Having met him once I think they had got him to a T.
When I was 15, that was 1965, I read about a man who had been with Fidel Castro when he ousted the Cuban President, Batiste, and formed socialist/communist government. This man, an Argentiniabn doctor called Ernesto Guevara but known as Che, had suddenly disappeared after resigning his senior role in Castro’s government. He was supposed to have gone to South America.
I found out everything I could about him, discovering erven more when I was at college, and found that I admired his principles even if I didn’t approve his means of getting there. It was similar to my ambivalent attitude to another revolutionary, turned statesman, Michael Collins, the first leader of the Irish Free State.
My interest in politics took real root there but I still had to find where my real interests lay.
Rhyl was not the best place to find answers to your political beliefs. The town was in a Conservativ*e constituency, held by Nigel Birch and later by Anthony Meyer (that’s right, the man who stood for party leadership as a stalking horse when the Tories wanted to get rid of Thatcher.
The town itself was a mix of politics with the urban council consisting of Conservatives, Labour members, Residents Association councillors and independents, including businessmen (yes I said men because not a lot of women ran businesses at that time).
At the end of the day the most important thing was to have Rhyl stay as a fun holiday venue during the season as most people in town relied on it one way or another.
I knew about the Russian revolution but was still uncertain as to the main differences between communism and socialism and wondered if they were just two sides of the same coin – each seeking power for the people but finding the need to take different routes to get there.
This is why in Basildon I was still seeking answers and it was in that new town that I actually found some of the answers.
Next time: searching through history for the roots of socialism.