Carmarthenshire's Tories are few in number, as we saw in the recent county council elections where they polled just 2%, but they would nevertheless make an interesting study for any sociologists.
They fall into two broad types. First we have a smattering of home-grown talent who would mostly describe themselves as businessmen. Then we have the rather more exotic imports who actually run the flea circus. These include a cast of characters, mainly in their 30s, who could have stepped straight out of the pages of old works of fiction. We have, for example, a huntin', shootin', fishin' would-be local squire and London lawyer; a Violet Elizabeth Bott ("I'll thcweam and thcweam until I'm thick"); and now, in the shape of Christopher Salmon, a man who bears a resemblance to characters from the pages of Boy's Own Paper.
Chris Salmon will be standing as Conservative and Unionist Party candidate in the elections for Police Commissioner of Dyfed Powys Police in November, elections that nobody really wants.
Every cloud has a silver lining, they say, so perhaps we should look on the bright side and be thankful that the Tories will not be fielding John Davies, the former leader of Pembrokeshire Council. Mr Davies wisely stepped down from his previous role just before the brown stuff really hit the fan in Haverfordwest, and his keen sense of self-preservation ensured that he withdrew quietly from the Tory selection process when it became clear that he was on to a loser.
So who is Chris Salmon, I hear you ask.
He tells us that he grew up in a farming family in the old county of Radnorshire. Unlike some of his Tory chums, he is not keen to tell us where he went to school, but it probably was not the local comprehensive.
From those humble beginnings, he went to Oxford (not mentioned on his campaign site) and from there to Sandhurst. He served as an army officer for 4 years until 2007 in the Rifles.
Since then, his career becomes a little more foggy. His website tells us, in the past tense, that he "has worked" in business, while the Daily Telegraph describes him as a consultant.
In his army days, Mr Salmon served in various places, including a spell in the inglorious British occupation of Basra in Iraq.
To be fair, Mr Salmon is not proud of the British record in Iraq, as he told Conservative Home. People who argued about the legality of the war were missing the point, he said. What mattered most was reform of the British armed forces. Risks needed to be taken, and reputations put on the line (and lots more in the same platitudinous vein). Something needs to change, he opines, but somehow can't quite put his finger on what that something is.
Basra taught the Brits no end of a lesson, he tells us historically, as indeed did the Boer War. Here the Oxford Modern History and Economics graduate gets himself in a bit of a tangle.
The Boer War "foreshadowed much that was to come - barbed wire, trenches, repeat fire rifles...", he tells us. He could have added that the British also came up with the innovative idea of concentration camps in which half of the Afrikaner child population died from malnutrition and disease, along with thousands of women, Africans and other non-whites. He also thinks that this happened in 1910.
If you are casting around for numbers to make up a pub quiz team, it might be better to leave young Chris on the bench.
In the 2010 general election he stood in Llanelli and polled 5,381 votes (14.4% of the votes cast), coming a rather distant third.
In the run-up to the election, Chris Salmon ran a reasonably active campaign. He popped up in Kidwelly, for example, to give his backing to the group fighting the Coedbach biomass plant. The Coedbach group, whose prominent supporters include Meryl Gravell, has an amazing record of objecting to anything that smacks of alternative energy. Back in Llanelli, he joined opposition to the council's plans to close two care homes. More about this below.
In an election statement to the Llanelli Star (here) he told readers,
Even lifetime supporters of other parties want to know where I stand on issues that matter to them — the economic mess, job opportunities, Government waste, the NHS, schools, immigration.
Those are all eminently good questions, so where does he stand?
Helpfully, the Guardian published the results of a questionnaire carried out by TheyWorkForYou in the run-up to the 2010 election. Chris responded as follows (my paraphrasing):
- Should the rich bear the brunt of any tax increases needed to tackle the deficit? Young Chris is not really sure, so he sits on the fence on that one.
- Should the Government aggressively tackle climate change? No, says Chris.
- Should Britain increase public spending? Definitely not, he says.
- Are immigration levels too high? Ermm, not really sure.
- What if Iran develops a nuclear weapon? Chris would support sending the boys in, no doubt so that they can "learn no end of a lesson" once again.
- British troops should stay in Afghanistan as long as they are needed. Absolutely, says our hero.
- Should more money be spent on flood protection? Ermm, not really sure about that one.
- Extra public money should be spent to ensure that the Llanelli care homes can stay open. "No", says Chris.
So it is that we have a candidate who presumably supports the massive cuts to police budgets in the Dyfed Powys area, along with reductions in spending on other things which are of no interest to local people, such as social care and flood defences, just as long as we can still send "our boys" off to the Middle East for more stirring adventures.
How the police commissioner elections in Dyfed Powys will pan out is anybody's guess, but the Tories' prospects are not bad in a contest in which there may be just a couple of candidates and not many more voters.
As a footnote, it is worth adding that the only other candidate declared so far is Christine Gwyther for Labour. Christine was sacked as Agriculture Minister by the saintly Rhodri Morgan and has clocked up an impressive record of losing elections.