I suppose it was the 'Portillo Moment' of the (first?) 2010 General Election. It had all started in May 2007 when I lost my position as a member of the National Assembly for Wales, a surprising and deeply disappointing development - a sort of mini Welsh 'Portillo Moment' in itself. The question was whether I should seek selection as Montgomeryshire's candidate to challenge Lembit Opik. Mrs D was encouraging. So I went for it, knowing that winning would be highly unlikely - but possible if everything went well.
And everything did go well. Ironically, my (which soon became 'our' as the 'team' developed) aim was to provide what I called a 'public service' office, rather than one focused only on winning elections. But winning elections is what we started to do - for the first time in Montgomeryshire. We put up nine Montgomeryshire Conservative candidates in the 2008 Powys Council elections - and won six seats. We have never won a Council seat before! And won the 2009 European Parliament election in Montgomeryshire by a country mile. As we approached the 2010 General Election, it really did feel as though a win was on the cards. And then we had the televised 'Leader's Debates' - which seemed to have given the Liberal Democrats a huge boost. It seemed to me that defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory. Turned out that there was no Lib Dem boost at all. First suggestion of this was the 'Exit poll' - which I just did not believe. Luckily I did not emulate Iain Dale, and promise to run down Welshpool High Street naked if the Lib Dem implosion turned out to be true. The people of Welshpool had a lucky escape.
Tidy campaign. Got on with all the candidates. Especially liked the Plaid Cymru candidate, Heledd Fychan, who went down well. I probably took a fair number of 'her votes'. I suppose my commitment to the Welsh Language, and to making a success of the National Assembly for Wales, and regular appearances on S4/C must have had an impact. Because we had put together such an effective campaign team, I reckoned that we were destined for a good result. Highlights were the visits of William Hague and David Cameron to Montgomeryshire to support us during the campaign. But a swing of 12% looked beyond us. Lembit tells me the bookies had him 1-25 to win. You'd get better odds on being hit by a meteorite. And as Lee Waters tells me, those of us from farming stock are supposed to be a bit pessimistic. Actually he said 'miserable', but I'm trying to move on from that.
Mrs D and I were just leaving home for the count when I saw Betsan Powys on BBC Wales telling the world that the "result in Montgomeryshire was going to be much closer than we had all been expecting". We set off for the count sensing that we were going to do well, but it still didn't occur to me that we could actually win it. Perhaps if I'd believed the Exit Poll, it would have been different. Anyway, arrived to discover that we were leading, and already in the home straight. Must have been a combination of exhaustion and surprise that hit me for six. Before I'd recovered, the BBC wanted an interview. I know Mark Hannaby, so I agreed. By this time, the sharks could smell blood in the water, and everyone wanted to talk to me. Well they actually wanted Lembit, but he wasn't talking. You know the sort of thing. "Get Opik on. If he won't do it, get the Tory on. What's his name - Jones or Evans or whatever. What you mean 'he looks a bit dazed'. Don't give a damn about him anyway. Its not about him. Its about Opik."
Don't remember much about what happened next. Just remember being up on stage thinking that the Returning Officer needed to improve his Welsh, when I realised that he'd just told the hall that I had been elected MP for Montgomeryshire. Completely forgot that the world was watching. Lembit and I looked at each other, both of us floored by what had happened. I'm told we both accepted the result with graciousness. Seems I'd asked my team not to celebrate excessively - reason being that I've been in the same position as Lembit in the past. I know what that sort of disappointment feels like. And then everyone went home. And now, I cannot finish this post because I have to head off to Westminster to sign in, and meet David Cameron at 6.00 to find out whether we are in Government or not - or at least how the discussions with the Lib Dems are going. Life is going to be a bit different from now on.