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'An election campaign like no other'

A week, and a lifetime ago. Theresa May speaking at Gresford Photo: PA, Steffan Rousseau

Amongst the politicians I spoke to this week were two who were very senior in their respective parties on opposite sides of the political divide.

But they both separately said the same thing, that in all their years of involvement in politics, they've never known an election campaign like it.

A month ago, it looked as if it would run along a fairly clear trajectory towards a Conservative victory. Now, nothing is clear. It seems that, week by week, day by day and minute by minute, things are changing.

Just seven days ago, a weekend of criticism saw cabinet ministers defending their party's policy on paying for social care in England. Then Theresa May came to Wales to announce a U-turn. Not that she's acknowledged it as anything other than a clarification of the original policy.

I was at Gresford Memorial Hall on Monday to witness it for myself. Journalists were seated at the back of the hall with the majority of the other seats occupied by Conservative activists You could almost hear those activists holding their breath as the Prime Minister announced the change in plans a tense silence - no booing or shouting - when journalist after journalist challenged her on the U-turn.

It was also strange to see her rattled, exasperated even when she almost shouted 'nothing has changed' and flung her arms out in frustration. When I interviewed her afterwards, my challenges on European funding for Wales must have seemed like light relief.

On that front, by the way, it's fairly clear from her answers to me that, despite dodging my question three times, the Shared Prosperity Fund which will replace European structural funding will see that funding shared out more evenly across the UK which will mean Wales will have to compete for funding with English regions. She also promised - or threatened, depending on your point of view - an end to governments who 'devolve and forget.' You can see my interview by clicking here.

Her visit came on the day that our Welsh Barometer Poll which tracks voting intentions, threw up another shock result which showed that the prospect of an historic Conservative victory in Wales that the poll showed a month ago had turned into an unexpected Labour victory. The surge, because there's no other way of describing it, can be put down to row over social care costs, the popularity of Labour's policies if not its UK leadership or possibly even the tributes paid to the late Rhodri Morgan. We have another poll on Thursday 1st June to see if the party has maintained its surge.

Flowers laid at Albert Square, Manchester Credit: PA, Mushtaq Mohammed

All that was overshadowed though by the terrible attack on Manchester. As we took in the full horror of what had happened, political parties decided to suspend campaigning.

Political hostility evaporated too, in the Assembly on Tuesday, when AMs observed two silences, one for the victims and families of the Manchester attack and the other for Rhodri Morgan. I was sitting in the public gallery for the tributes as were officials and advisers from his time as First Minister, political friends and foes as well as his brother, children and grandchildren. The tributes were heartfelt and the sentiments sincere. Politicians at their best.

The rest of the week had a strange tone to it with attention rightly devoted to Manchester and the aftermath of the attack, while campaign schedules and broadcasting coverage torn up. But even as that's been phased back in, I've noticed that politicians and campaigners as well as those who are deciding how to vote are unsettled by this most unsettling of all elections.

A deserted Old Green roundabout in Newport during the security alert Credit: ITV News, Adrian Masters

It's a sense of unease that was brought home to me in a way that I'd never expected when I was caught up in the security alert in my home city of Newport on Thursday. I'd stepped off the train into a city on lockdown, held behind cordons in places I've known all my life. Thankfully there was no terrorist incident on this occasion but for those couple of hours, beneath the good humour and tolerance of the crowds prevented, like me, from crossing our famous bridges, there was genuine fear. 'Why on earth would they target Newport?' one person asked?

Uncertainty and unpredictability have characterised this campaign so far and that's only likely to continue over the next twelve days.