Newly elected Conservative AM for north Wales, Antoinette Sandbach, gives us an insight into Welsh politics as she looks at her first week as an AM.
By Antoinette Sandbach
Having stayed up all night to watch the results on 5th May, I woke up to the news that the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Nick Bourne had lost his seat.
It was clear that whatever happened, the 6th of May was going to be an eventful day.
It was a huge, and unexpected, honour to find out that I had been elected as a regional Assembly Member for north Wales, knowing already that Janet Finch Saunders had taken Aberconwy for the Conservatives.Standing and hearing the results confirming my election made five years of unpaid hard work fade into a distant memory.
Driving to the Assembly on Monday with the music in the car and a lovely sunny day, I felt that a new chapter was starting.
I arrived only to be whisked away down an endless series of corridors; orientation, office key, meet IT and Members’ business support services… if I hadn’t had Lara allocated as a guide I would have got completely lost. Friendly and efficient, Lara knew exactly what she was doing, which at that point was a lot more than I did.
Swearing the oath was a solemn moment and brought it home – I am here, this is real, and it’s my responsibility to stand up and speak for constituents across north Wales.
Then it was form filling; read, sign, read, sign, on to the next floor; read, sign. I took an hour at lunchtime to walk out of the building, and have some time to think about the morning. It was like starting at school all over again.
Rosemary Butler’s appointment as Presiding Officer was a touching moment, as it is clear that she holds the post in deep respect. The election for Deputy Presiding Officer reminded me of the elections the week before, albeit on a smaller scale, and with a guaranteed win for the Conservatives as both candidates came from our group.
The Welsh Conservatives have been a hive of rumour and counter-rumour about election bids by various possible leadership candidates. Early on I decided to stay out of the process by simply saying to everyone that I would not sign any nomination papers.
A week in, and I am finding my way around the building, my office is set up and I have two fantastic people working with me. The focus is now on work – I have been here just over a week and have been appointed Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs.
Yesterday morning I met pupils from St Brigid’s School in Denbigh and had to keep my appointment secret, as the public announcement had not yet been made.
Even before the Plenary sessions started my diary began filling up rapidly. This has been my week in politics – pretty amazing so far.