The calm before the storm... perhaps an over-used phrase, but I'm sitting here in the Liberal Democrat HQ in Aberystwyth and it is very quiet.  The light is dropping fast, the shops are closing and even students are drifting homewards - the pub will wait until the weekend.

But tomorrow the people of Wales will go to the polls in the local elections.  In many respects, and in the views of lots of people, local government doesn't matter - but tomorrow could not be more important.  Who wins and who loses will set up and frame the result of the General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017.  Let me put it more clearly - the local elections are being used, even abused, as a means of accentuating the scale of Labour failure and bolstering the result of the Conservative Party.  Theresa May, advised by Lynton Crosby, has sidelined the debate on local services and local government in the interests of securing a larger mandate in her vision of elected dictatorship.

So here I am in the Ceredigion Liberal Democrat offices - working above the shop, as it were, in one of the UK's nicest seaside towns: Aberystwyth. This is a place that has all the benefits of a seaside holiday resort without actually feeling like it. You have the crashing waves, the rolling surf, a medieval castle, strong soaring cliffs and small narrow busy streets. There are shops, cafe and restaurants galore and due to the University there is a youth, an optimism, a bustle that is genuine, sincere and doesn't feel cruelly seasonal or weather dependent.

And as you look around you also know that there is a rich seam of liberalism. Now when it comes to elections I'm not soft and try not to get carried away with optimism - I know that what has been hard won can be swept away - but here in Aberystwyth there is a determination and pride.

Having lived in the City of Stoke-on-Trent it was always something of a guilty confession that I was no fan of football. With two major clubs in the City: Stoke and Port Vale, it was crucial to know when the match days were. Indeed when we are campaigning for votes a throwaway joke was that on match days we would be “down in the terraces of the Victoria Ground”. On hearing this folks assumed I was a Stoke City fan and that I would be there cheering them on. In fact on a match day, especially for Stoke, it was perfect day for delivering the literally hundreds of terraced houses down and around the old Victoria Ground. The new Britannia Ground is not far away now, but those terraces and more are still there waiting to be delivered by you.

(this article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice on 22nd January, 2017)

Now the local bus company is Potteries Motor Traction – a hark back to a previous era and so now cut down to just PMT. But when running campaigns it was always important to make sure that we had Potteries Voter Traction. Anyone could muster up negatives, everyone could join the latest campaign the real issue was if you could get traction, respect and therefore votes enough fromresidents that would propel you over the winning line.

The last few days have been a whirlwind, exhausting, fascinating and in the traditions of all things Welsh, a stunningly beautiful journey. I'm on the train from Welshpool to Aberystwyth and it's busy. As we roll through the countryside you struggle to sit and work as just looking out of the window at the landscape is an enchantment all of its own.

But we are approaching Machynlleth and the guard tells us all that it where the train will divide and the front two coaches will go onto Aberystwyth. I raise a wry smile as my train becomes the very image of the Brexit debate dividing Britain and because I am outward looking, inclusive and passionate about my fellow citizens and community I am on a train to Aberystwth. In contrast the rest of the train in unhitched and taken on a different route to a different destination by UKIP, the Tories and the naysayers.

And as the rolling hills sweep down to the coast and the low lying wetlands open up to reveal the westerly limits of Wales, I realise that I am on the right train... The right train for my immediate destination, the right train for my life and for my fellow passengers who are from and of these parts, and who have voted Liberal and Liberal Democrat for years, with them too, I am on the right train.

So over the coming days and weeks, no matter how busy you are, please find some time to get on board the General Election campaign train, get involved in your local Liberal Democrat campaigns and stop the Tories dividing our train, our country and our community. Together, we can draw a line in the sand and say this far and no further. I will be working for the Liberal Democrats because I like people, because I care about my community and because I oppose division and exclusion. I hope you feel able to.

Right, we are pulling into Borth and it's next stop Aberystwyth, I better be ready cos it's going to be busy.

(This article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice, Sunday 15th January 2017)

I have just moved house, leaving London, settling in Chesterfield.  London has been amazing, but it was time for change.  In between that decision and the reality came the Sleaford and North Hykeham By-election: one of the campaigns that I shall forever be proudest of running.  But Sleaford was a turning point for me, a junction when I decided to re-engage with front line electoral politics and take to the streets again.

So last night travelling back to Stoke-on-Trent at short notice to scout the territory was a further development for me.  Let me explain.  I stood down from Stoke-on-Trent city council in 2002 after four of the best electoral years of my life, but had left due to a mix of work, ambition and life changes.  I haven’t really been back there since and so today when Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, announced his resignation I realised I was ready to return.