Saturday, April 2, 2011


Like everyone else in North Wales, we all knew Brynle Williams as the farmer who very nearly brought down a government.

As one very astute political observer later told me, one more week of fuel protests and Tony Blair would have had no option but to resign, and imagine what a very different world we would have been living in today.

I first met Brynle at a BBC Christmas party in Bangor in 2001, where both of us had been invited as regular contributors.

Over a few glasses of wine, the conversation turned to politics and as neither of us were members of a political party at the time, we had a very open discussion.  Naturally, I asked Brynle whether he would be interested in standing for the Assembly and in his usual honest style, he said yes but had not decided which party could have him!

With Brynle, despite the twinkle in his eye, you were never sure whether he was being serious or not but would anyone really doubt that Brynle was anything but one of the most natural Conservatives they would ever meet?

Later, when I decided to take the plunge into politics, Brynle was one of the first to congratulate me on my nomination for Aberconwy. Afterwards, he sort of took me under his wing and insisted on introducing me to as many friends within the farming community as he knew, taking me to the mart in Llanrwst and around various villages in the Conwy Valley where always stopped to have a chat with people. In fact, as a leafleter he was a nightmare as he would barely get around ten houses in an hour because everyone wanted to have a chinwag with him!

The picture above is when I went over to the Anglesey Show and bumped into Brynle at the Federation of Small Businesses stand. He insisted on dragging me around to meet everyone, and was gladhanded by almost every person we passed on the field. He was even greeted by a chief inspector in full uniform, after which Brynle said "Funny how being a politician makes people forget your past. That b****r tried to have me arrested at Holyhead for throwing burgers into the sea!"

Unorthodox in all things, he was never one for sticking to the script. I remember my first party conference in Cardiff when we had all been told, as candidates, to keep strictly to a five minute speech. Not Brynle - he just walked on stage and let rip with a stream of consciousness about everything and anything that popped into his mind. Ten minutes later, he was still going strong and giving the organisers a nightmare as a senior shadow Cabinet member was due to follow him.

Perhaps my two best memories of Brynle are in the final days of the Aberconwy campaign in 2007.

We were both in Trefriw in the Conwy Valley - a nightmare for canvassing as half the village is on the side of a hill. Brynle naturally said that he would do the bottom stretch whilst leaving the hillier sections to me.  After about an hour, I came back down to see Brynle hovering outside a cafe looking like a naughty schoolboy. He beckoned me over pointed inside and said, "come with me and say nothing" and dragged me into the premises. There sitting, having lunch, was Denise Idris Jones, the Labour candidate. Brynle sort of feigned surprise at seeing her (even though he had been waiting outside looking in through the window for ten minutes) and then introduced me as his great friend who was going to do great things in politics (he was half right!).

I have never seen someone gulp their lunch down so quickly and leave. Brynle, of course, found the whole situation totally hilarious whilst I stood there doing an impersonation of a fish out of water.

Then there was the night of the count itself. At around 11pm, Brynle had set up court in the lounge of the newly refurbished  Cae Mor Hotel next to Venue Cymru in Llandudno where the votes were being counted. With a bottle of white wine in front of him, he was relaxed and looking forward to starting his work again the following week.  He said to me that I shouldn't be too disappointed if I didn't win as there was certainly more to life than to politics. However, he did say to me that if I chose to stand again in any winnable seat in North Wales, that he would want first refusal!

A couple of months ago, I was abroad when I had a missed call from Brynle. I did return it when I got home but it went straight to answerphone and it is a regret that I didn't get the chance to speak to him then.

Brynle was truly one of a kind.  In a world where political parties turn out candidates that, at best, are bland, unopinionated and slavishly follow the party line, he was a breath of fresh air and a bit of a rebel in his heart, which is probably why we got on so well!

I shall miss him, and so will Welsh politics.