By Callum Sloper
It is incredibly uncommon to see an MP representing a marginal constituency for nearly 32 years successfully fight off any and all competition, yet Paul Flynn who held the Newport West Parliamentary seat for Labour from 1987, managed just that. His recent passing means that Newport West will be choosing a new MP without Flynn on the ballot for the first time in three decades.
The Labour Party has chosen Ruth Jones, a physiotherapist & trade-unionist, to try and succeed Flynn. Jones has already had two attempts at Parliament, failing in both 2015 and 2017 to unseat David TC Davies MP in the neighbouring constituency of Monmouth. While Newport West may seem a far safer option as it’s been held by Labour for three decades, their majority has fluctuated within a margin of roughly 3,500 to 5,000 votes in most elections. Fighting a new election without the appeal of Paul Flynn as an individual, who was well-known and respected in the area, will likely cost Labour further votes. The main opposition will come from Matthew Evans, a prominent local councillor & former mayor who has been selected as the Conservative candidate.
Evans also has previous electoral experience, having stood for Newport West in 2016 during the Welsh Assembly elections. The Conservatives will be hoping to gain this seat due to several factors including Brexit. Like most of Wales, Newport voted to leave the EU in 2016 but has been represented at parliamentary and assembly levels by anti-Brexit politicians. Labour’s Ruth Jones was heavily involved in the ‘Stronger In’ campaign three years ago while the Conservatives’ Matthew Evans is more in tune with the constituency on this issue, himself having campaigned to leave the EU. However, one major factor that could offset any benefit the Conservatives hope to gain from Brexit supporters is UKIP’s decision to stand Neil Hamilton AM as their candidate.
Hamilton may have been a household name in the 1990s but his profile dipped when he lost his seat in the House of Commons. He made a comeback in 2016 when he was elected as a regional AM for the Welsh Assembly and will now attempt to an MP once again. Realistically, UKIP is unlikely to succeed and so the Conservatives may not be affected by Hamilton’s decision to stand. The surprise candidacy from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party may also affect the Conservatives’ potential votes, with Tory voters typically being the least pro-devolution demographic of Welsh voters.
The full list of candidates who will be on the ballot are:
Jonathan Clark – Plaid Cymru
June Davies – Renew Party
Matthew Evans – Conservative
Neil Hamilton – UKIP
Ruth Jones – Labour
Ryan Jones – Liberal Democrat
Ian McLean – Social Democratic Party
Hugh Nicklin – For Britain
Richard Suchorzewski – Abolish the Welsh Assembly
Phillip Taylor – Democrats and Veterans Party
Amelia Womack – Green Party
Historically, Newport West has never voted heavily for 3rd party candidates and so it’s unlikely that parties other than Labour and the Conservatives will succeed. The by-election will take place on Thursday 4 April 2019 with polls closing at 10 pm. A result will be expected in the early hours of the following morning, a result which could mark an unprecedented shift in Newport West’s political outlook compared to that seen over the last three decades.