Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Felix Aubel: living in my father's shadow
Felix Aubel meets Margaret Thatcher 1986
Standard bearer: Felix Aubel (right) meets his party leader Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative party conference in 1986

A church minister known as one of the most colourful characters in Welsh politics says his life pales in comparison to that of his father.

Felix Aubel was born in Cardiff to an anti-Communist soldier from the former Yugoslavia and a teacher from Aberdare.

He began his political career with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1980s before joining the Conservatives.

His autobiography tells how his views - a pro-devolution Tory who believes in ghosts - were shaped by his father.

Aubel has stood many times for Parliament but never won election: he was once described by the Welsh language campaigner Ffred Ffransis as being "too honest" to be an MP.

He told Vaughan Roderick on BBC Radio Wales that he still felt he was living in the shadow of his father.

Felix Aubel

Born in 1918 in present day Slovenia, then part of the Austrian Empire defeated in the First World War, Felix Aubel Sr found his family persecuted by the Serbs who dominated the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia.

He joined the Army and was captured by the Nazis during World War II.

Aubel said his father survived the experience due to an encounter with Max Schmeling, the famed German heavyweight boxing champion.

"Max Schmeling was the landowner of an estate outside Dresden and he took my father under his wing," he said.

"He taught my father considerable boxing skills and that's how basically he survived as a prisoner of war - earning his trade as a prizefighter and giving 50% of his earnings to Schmeling."

At the end of hostilities, Felix Sr was sent by the victorious Allied forces to Britain to work in the south Wales coalmines.

Although a refugee he felt fortunate to leave Yugoslavia where his pro-royalist Chetnik resistance group had lost the post-war power struggle to Marshal Tito's communist Partisans.

Felix Sr instilled strong anti-socialist sentiments in his son, accusing Britain's postwar Labour government of sending many of his fellow Chetniks to their death at the hands of the communist regime.

"His great hero was Winston Churchill ... my father imposed the idea into me that socialism was communism without the gun."

As in Yugoslavia, there was bad blood within the Aubel family - Felix Sr still felt the wrath of his elder siblings after his mother died giving birth to him, and changes in inheritance law meant his father's entire estate went to his elder brother.

Felix Aubel as a baby with his parents
Family ties: Felix as a baby with mother Kathleen and father Felix Sr

But Felix Sr vowed to make a new life for himself in Wales, marrying schoolteacher Kathleen Beynon and setting up as a shopkeeper in Trecynon.

Aubel recalled that it was firmly decided that Welsh would be the language of the household.

"Father realised that as Slovenian culture had been repressed by the Serbians and the Austrians, Welsh was a minority language within the British Empire and therefore we had to preserve our language and culture for posterity," he said.

Family life was disturbed by a surprise visit from his father's eldest brother, who had prospered under the communists in Yugoslavia and served as mayor of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

"He turned up in the shop to try and have a reconciliation.

"Father's gut instinct was to kill him in cold blood - he actually put a knife to his throat and it took several men to hold him off.

"He always said his greatest mistake in life was not to kill him before even speaking to him."

Felix Sr died of cancer in 1987 at the age of 68 and was never reconciled with his estranged family.

But the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s gave his son the opportunity to visit his homeland.

"We went out to independent Slovenia in 1999 - we met seven members of the family," said Aubel.

"The bitterness there is still incredible - some members of the family were speaking for the first time since the Second World War although they only live within one and a half miles of each other.

"Hatreds run deep ... my fear is if the United Nations pulls out of places like Kosovo and Bosnia you would have an eruption of this brutal war which goes back centuries."

Felix Aubel and Jeffrey Archer
On the campaign trail: Felix and Jeffrey Archer in Cardigan in 1996

Felix Aubel has also reconciled himself to never entering Parliament despite several attempts over a twenty year period.

He first stood for the newly formed SDP in the Cynon Valley, losing to Labour in the 1983 general election and again at a subsequent by-election in 1984 following the death of MP Ioan Evans.

Aubel left the SDP in disagreement with their policies on defence and devolution and joined the Conservatives.

His best performance as a Tory candidate was in the 2001 general election when he came within 750 votes of toppling the Liberal Democrats in Brecon and Radnorshire.

Aubel stood down as a candidate in 2004 and says he is busy enough with his lecturing, media career and Congregational ministry in Carmarthenshire to consider standing again.

But he says he remains loyal both to the Conservative cause and his dream of seeing a full law-making Parliament for Wales in his lifetime.

Fy Ffordd fy Hunan (My Way) by Felix Aubel is published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch

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