Boris Johnson and Rhosllannerchrugog are not two names you'd normally find in the same sentence. Or even the same planet. But a mere 15 years ago, the tousled-headed Tory twit stood for Parliament in Clwyd South.
In the course of a largely inglorious 1997 election campaign, I had one moment of canvassing magic. After weeks of hesitation, my team of crack Tory troops finally decided to mount an operation in Rhosllanerchrugog, an old mining village in Clwyd South, the seat I was then contesting. Rhos, as it was known for short, had an awesome reputation among the Conservatives of that region. The few scouts who returned reported that it was full of savage anti-Tories. So bitter were local feelings about Conservative policies towards Welsh mining villages, I was told, that it was doubtful there was a single Tory in the place. The view was that we would be lucky to get out in one piece. So we canvassed in more promising areas until one morning, not long before polling day, there was nothing for it. After a certain amount of deep breathing, we poured out of the battle wagon in the heart of Rhos and began to work the streets. It would be fair to say that we had a pretty cool reception. One man offered half-heartedly to "brick" me, and everyone else declined, with varying degrees of asperity, our invitation to vote Tory, until I saw a young woman pushing a buggy up the street. "Hello!" I cried, in the approved Central Office manner, thrusting out my hand. "I wonder whether I can count on your vote?" The poor woman looked tired. She was wearing tight jeans and white socks, and I had that panicky feeling that her baby was about to cry. She pulled her cigarette out and screwed up her eyes. "Which party did you say you were from?" she said. "I'm the Conservative candidate," I said; and at once it was as if the sun had come out. She beamed at me. "Oooh!" she said. "The Conservatives! Yes, I'll definitely be voting for you. Count on me!" I was stunned, and in my confusion, I did what good canvassers should never do in this situation. "B-but why?" I asked. "Oh well," she said. "You'd never catch me voting for that John Major and his Labour Party!" Thinking fast, I withdrew the leaflet I was about to give her, featuring a picture of John Major, gave her some more general Conservative advertisement, and I still believe, with the help of that innocent semi-deception, that we secured that woman's vote on the day.