By Emily Withers
After nearly 32 years as Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn has died aged 84. Flynn, well-known as an outspoken backbencher, worked tirelessly as a campaigner on several key issues including nuclear disarmament and legalising medicinal cannabis.
Born in Cardiff in 1935, Flynn was brought up by his widowed mother alongside his brother. After a good education, he attended Cardiff University where he studied industrial chemistry.
Flynn first became involved with politics in 1956, when he joined the Labour Party. After 16 years of involvement with local politics in Cardiff and later in Newport, Flynn was given his first position of political authority in 1972, when he was elected to Newport Council. It was not until 1987 that he was elected to Westminster as MP for Newport West.
Almost immediately upon his arrival to the commons, Flynn was given his first, albeit brief, experience as a frontbencher, where he was given the role of junior spokesperson for Wales. After this, he spent two years shadowing social security, before beginning his long service as a backbencher.
Flynn’s career as Labour backbencher is one that led to him being dubbed “the thinking man’s Dennis Skinner” by journalist Simon Hoggart. He campaigned tirelessly for the legalisation of medical cannabis, which he became an advocate for in 1999, and encouraged people to rebel against its illegality. Worried about the dangers of nuclear powers, Flynn strongly criticised the potential use of nuclear weapons, along with voicing his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is no doubt over where Flynn lay on the political spectrum. On one occasion in 1996, he proposed a Bill for the abolition of the monarchy, and stated that the House of Lords should be replaced by a second elected house. His staunch republicanism led to much criticism over the years, but never an accusation of lack of passion. Flynn’s strong opinions were voiced on many topics, spoken in both English and fluent Welsh.
Flynn’s stand-out career led to him being selected to re-join the front bench alongside Jeremy Corbyn as shadow Welsh secretary in 2016, making him the oldest frontbencher since William Gladstone.
Alongside his parliamentary career, Flynn published several books on politics, and was passionate about literature, even becoming a member of the Gorsedd of the Bards.
Tributes have been flowing in from politicians of all parties to a man who dedicated his life to campaigning. His death will result in the first by-election of 2019 and the first since June 2018.