IT’S a wretched day with storms heading in but Lyndon Jones is out on manoeuvres.
Mr Jones, the leader of Swansea Conservatives, became the councillor for Bishopston in 2017 and is the prospective councillor for the Gower ward again at the local Government elections on May 5.
Serving the constituency is a key part of any elected politician’s job, and Mr Jones seems to have thrown himself into the role.
As we sat down at The Lamplighter Community Cafe, Bishopston Road, a new map of local footpaths and bridleways he helped publish was thrust into my hands.
After our interview he was off to visit a hedge-laying project down the road, despite the copious rainfall.
Mr Jones reminded me how The Lamplighter became a response base for the Bishopston area during the Covid pandemic.
Outside, a little later, Mr Jones pointed out an area of pavement which he’s had widened outside Bishopston Primary School, and listed other schemes he’s helped with, including setting up an annual Christmas parade.
Since 2017 Mr Jones has had another hat – leading Swansea Conservatives.
The party gained four councillors in 2017, taking its tally to eight out of 72. It gained a ninth subsequently when a non-aligned councillor joined.
For Mr Jones it has been the latest in a series of roles for the Conservative Party, spanning nearly five decades.
“I joined the party when I was 17,” he said. “There was no real opposition to the Labour Party locally.
“A number of us formed a young Conservative group in Gower.”
The Gorseinon born-and-bred youngster went to work for Unilever after school at its Carmarthen office before being employed by Jonathan Evans, the then Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.
Mr Evans lost his seat in 1997 after one term but was elected as an MEP in 1999.
Mr Jones kept working for him and travelled to Brussels around once a month, at one point almost brushing shoulders with the king and queen of Belgium in a restaurant.
By that time Wales had its own Assembly – something Mr Jones and his party had opposed.
He said: “I organised the ‘Just Say No’ campaign. When you put in another tier of Government, you get another tier of bureaucracy.
“Would it (the Assembly) create more jobs? What about trade?”
He said that under the former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Walker – another of his employers – a quarter of all inward investment to the UK had come to Wales.
“But we took the decision to work positively with the Assembly, and that’s what we have done,” said Mr Jones.
Over the years the 66-year-old, who lives in Gowerton with his rescue cat Pickle, has served as party chairman and president of the Welsh Conservatives.
He was on the board of the UK party, served on the candidates’ committee and as a parliamentary assessor, and in 2016 was made a member of the order of the British empire for his political work.
Mr Jones also has a part-time job as a lobbyist.
He said he only stood as a prospective councillor in 2017 after narrowly losing out to Labour’s Rebecca Evans in the Assembly elections in the Gower constituency the previous year.
He said: “I had taken up issues here and some people said to me, ‘You should stand.’ I hadn’t intended to.”
Mr Jones said his main focus was representing Bishopston, and that casework could take up several hours at weekends.
Asked what he thought the key issues facing Swansea were, he replied: “The city centre is like a ghost town. Yes, we have got the new arena coming, and we support that.
“But you’ve got to have shops as well.”
I put it to him that city centres everywhere have been badly impacted by Covid and other factors, but by his reckoning there were 80 empty shops in Swansea before the pandemic hit.
Mr Jones also said he felt the city centre was “absolutely filthy”.
I suggested that people didn’t have to drop litter.
“There is no need for people to do it,” he said. “But we need to pick that litter up. You’ve got to make an effort.”
As party leader, Mr Jones has to get his point across in council debates.
I wondered out loud if his approach was a bit too easy-going – that he was too nice in fact.
“I am a nice person actually,” he replied. “Some of the political nonsense that goes on is a waste of time.
“I got into this job because I wanted to make a difference.”
But he felt the Swansea Conservatives did fight their corner.
Mr Jones’s roles have also included chairing the council’s education scrutiny panel, which examines budget proposals and hears from head teachers and senior officers, among other things.
He said it was important to him that young people in Swansea benefited from job opportunities generated by the £1.3 billion city deal for the Swansea Bay City Region.
Our interview took place before the Swansea Conservatives’ manifesto election manifesto was published, and before conflict broke out in Ukraine.
I asked what a vote for his party would mean on May 5.
“We would keep council taxes low, bring shops back into the city centre, and get the streets cleaner,” he said.
Some services, he said, would be moved from the centre to outlying areas – a sort of “levelling up” local style, I suggested.
Our conversation moved to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but not for long.
Mr Jones said national politics had an impact on council elections but that local issues had to be addressed by those elected to serve Swansea.
Asked what qualities he had as a potential council leader, he said: “I put people first and foremost. It’s the most important thing.”
A couple of hours later my phone pings – it’s a photo of Mr Jones in the rain with the aforementioned hedge layers.
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