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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Lord Geraint

Very sad news indeed! Lord Geraint of Ponterwyd has died. He was a great Liberal and a great Welshman. He will be missed. I remember when I first got involved in the Welsh Liberal Party, as it then was, Geraint was the only Liberal MP in Wales and the Welsh Party's Leader. I was a young, impatient party member with very fixed ideas about the direction I wanted the Party to move in. I started to attend Welsh Executives and often disagreed with Geraint's wiser counsel. During one such discussion I made it clear that I disapproved of him taking such a firm lead, asserting that whatever his position, he was "not the Welsh Party". It is difficult to describe the look he gave me but whatever he was thinking he did not say it. Although I may or may not have been right on that issue, I was wrong in the generality.

Geraint had Welsh Liberalism coarsing through his veins. He embodied a particular brand. For many years what he stood for and what he did was synonymous with the Welsh Liberal Party. He led us through crises and triumphs and was always available for help and advice. Possibly we should have asked him more often. There is one story from the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election that I will always remember when I think about Geraint but which is most probably apocryphal. The Party had brought in Andy Ellis to help run the campaign. Andy was an outstanding campaigner who transformed our fortunes in many such by-elections and later ended up as Chief Executive of the Federal Party. He was not however, renowned for his dress sense. Geraint took him in hand. He told him that if he was to campaign in rural Wales then he needed a suit and in particular a pair of braces. He reportedly took Andy to Cardiff and ensured that he was fully equipped for the task at hand. The braces it turns out were to hold onto when talking to farmers across farm gates and considered an essential campaigning tool.

Geraint was responsible for a number of the more interesting Welsh Nights at Federal Party Conference in recent years when he arranged the export to Bournmouth et al of Welsh Male Voice Choirs and Tenors etc. He also offered me a huge amount of encouragement in my first term as an Assembly Member, which was always appreciated. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will not be the same without him.

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