Apologies to readers who had problems reading this post because of a graphic obscuring part of the text. I hope that this latest attempt to remove the offending code will do the trick.
Unless you live in a safe Labour or Tory constituency where your vote will be taken for granted, expect to see a lot of canvassers and party campaigners on your doorstep over the next 12 months. The European elections will take place on 22 May as a curtain raiser for next year's general election, and canvassers were out in force across much of Wales yesterday.
Given a choice, most people would probably opt for having a tooth extracted without anaesthetic rather than go knocking on doors and talking to strangers about politics, and if you do bite the bullet and go on the stump for the first time, it is likely that you will be a little apprehensive. Will someone set the dogs on you? Will they tell you to **** off and chase you down the garden path with an axe?
In reality the biggest risk you face in Carmarthenshire is that you are more likely to be invited in for a cup of tea and biscuits (three times in less than 200 yards yesterday). People who come to the door are overwhelmingly either polite or downright friendly and welcoming, and what has struck me as a virgin canvasser is how well informed and interested many people are, despite the best efforts of much of the media to trivialise or distort.
Despite getting almost completely negative coverage in most newspapers, it is encouraging to see how many people understand that Wales is a net beneficiary of the European Union. We get back much more than we put in both directly and indirectly.
If anyone believes that Westminster would suddenly start investing much more in the Welsh economy if the UK pulled out of the EU, you only have to look at HS2, the Olympics and Crossrail 1 and 2. Hundreds of billions have been earmarked or spent on London and parts of England, but Westminster is refusing to foot the bill for the electrification of the Valleys line (an issue which came up yesterday in rural Carmarthenshire).
There is also genuine anger about Maria Miller and other troughing Tory and Labour Westminster politicians, but nobody that I have met so far is thinking of voting for UKIP in protest.
After Maria Miller's belated resignation there will be a lot of attempts to draw another line in the sand, but as BlogMenai reminds us, other politicians have so far got away with it. Chris Bryant (Rhondda, Lab) received over £92,000 in expenses for his various second homes between 2004 and 2009, including nearly £21,000 for a new bathroom and other household improvements. The difference between Maria Miller and Chris Bryant was that what Bryant did was all within the rules.
Even that pales into insignificance, as we were reminded by Nigel Farage's toe curling performance on Have I Got News For You. The UKIP leader once boasted of how he had taken £2 million in expenses as a Member of the European Parliament.
As for the other UKIP MEP's, an interesting graphic has been doing the rounds on Twitter recently charting their track record. Unfortunately the Blogger software does not seem to want to display the picture correctly, but what is shows is that of the 20 UKIP MEPs elected since 2004:
2 went to jail for fraud
1 quit to form a rival party
2 joined the Tories
1 was kicked out of UKIP for calling women "sluts" and other gaffes
2 walked out
1 was expelled
1 was deselected and quit
1 retired mid-term
Apart from the EU and electrification of the Valleys line, one other issue rather closer to home has come up consistently over the last few weeks, and that is the scandals which have rocked both Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire county councils in recent months.
Unprompted and genuinely disgusted, it has been truly surprising to hear just how well informed voters in Carmarthenshire are.
Democracy is alive and well out on the streets, despite the best efforts of the top brass in County Hall.