“All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order”

Two by-elections on 4th April 2019, and it’s a Parliamentary Special this week on Andrew’s Previews:

Newport West

House of Commons; caused by the death of Labour MP Paul Flynn at the age of 84. He had served since 1987.

You’re not from Newport
You’ve probably never been there either
I’ll bet you a fiver
You’re not from Newport
You’ve probably never heard of Pillgwenlly
Or been to Liswerry
– Goldie Lookin’ Chain, You’re Not From Newport

Well, your columnist has been to Newport, and Pillgwenlly has previously featured in Andrew’s Previews. In fact I have fond memories of the place. The UK leg of the World Quizzing Championships was held in Newport one year in the 2000s, and during that day I beat off all comers to win the prestigious and mysogynistically-named “Last Man Standing” competition, a Fifteen-to-One-style quiz featuring the cream of the UK’s quiz community, including several current and future Eggheads and Chasers. And some random twentysomething who kept his head down while they were busy eliminating each other. The question which won me the quiz asked which band had recorded the album The Man Who, so in tribute to that here’s the most successful song from that album, Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

A question which may be asked often by visitors to Wales, whose weather tends towards the wet side. Goodness knows what the Romans thought about that climate when they got here, but it didn’t put them off. The Romans built a substantial fortress at Isca Augusta which was named after the River Usk, a tributary of the Severn, and the Legio II Augusta who garrisoned the place until the end of the third century. Extensive Roman remains can still be seen there today. Caerleon, as the place is now known, became one of the centres of the Kingdom of Gwent, the major port on the Usk estuary and a place of legends; the twelfth-century Bishop of St Asaph and noted historical fantasist Geoffrey of Monmouth placed Caerleon as the capital of King Arthur. That in turn inspired later literature: Tennyson wrote some of his Arthurian output while staying in Caerleon, while another Arthur associated with the place was the mystic and author Arthur Machen, who was born in Caerleon in 1863.

But Caerleon never became great again. The Norman invasion of Wales led to administration from far-away Monmouth, and rather than fortifying Caerleon the Normans built a castle further down the Usk estuary at Newport. The Welsh name of Newport, Casnewydd, refers to that “new castle”. The original Newport Castle, a motte-and-bailey structure of which nothing remains today, was replaced in the fourteenth century by an imposing stone castle on the riverbank, and in typical style a town grew up around it. The castle was sacked by Owain Glyndŵr’s supporters in 1402 and never fully recovered from the experience; but like Caerleon, Newport did well from trade on the river and became sufficiently important to be represented in Parliament, as one of the towns contained in the Monmouth District of Boroughs.

But the Industrial Revolution changed the area forever. In 1792 Parliament authorised the Monmouthshire Canal Navigation to link the coal and ironstone mines in the Valleys to the Usk estuary at Newport; opened from 1796 onwards, the canal was fantastically successful and put Newport firmly on the map. The profits from the canal financed the building of extensive docks in Newport, to counter the Severn’s large tidal range. Docks continued to be added for over a century, and by the outbreak of the First World War Newport was said to have the most extensive docks in the world. That system included the world’s largest lock; giving access to the South Dock Extension, that lock was 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide.

Not all of those docks survive today; those that do are in the Pillgwenlly division which is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Wales (it has a large population born in the Middle East, and makes the top 70 wards in England and Wales for “other” ethnic groups and the top 100 wards for long-term unemployment). In order to link the docks with areas across the river without affecting shipping traffic, one of the UK’s very few transporter bridges opened here in 1907; the Newport Transporter Bridge is still in operation today.

That trade needs people to run it, and Newport greatly expanded in population in the 1830s. With those immigrants predominantly coming from England and Ireland, the town became majority English-speaking for the first time; and tensions grew. In 1839 Newport town centre was the scene of the last armed rebellion in Great Britain, led by the Chartists. The 1838 People’s Charter was a petition calling for such radical ideas as universal suffrage by secret ballot and a salary for MPs; this did not go down well with the authorities, and the Chartist leader Henry Vincent had been locked up in Monmouth prison for his efforts. Things came to a head with a full-scale armed riot on 4 November 1839, in which up to 5,000 Chartists attacked Newport’s Westgate Hotel where some of their sympathisers were rumoured to be imprisoned. The Hotel was successfully defended by 60 soldiers and 500 special constables under the command of the Mayor of Newport Thomas Phillips (who was wounded), and the ringleaders of the Newport Rising were subsequently the last people in England and Wales to be sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Following public pressure, that sentence was commuted to transportation for life.

Newport’s docks may have been extensive, but they were in decline well before the Great Depression got going. Things perked up on the employment front after the Second World War, as in the 1960s the large Llanwern steelworks commenced operation. Also in that decade the Severn Bridge and the M4 joined Newport to the UK’s motorway network. This was a two-lane motorway which in the event didn’t have the capacity as built to handle the traffic which materialised, as the M4 handles not just local Newport traffic but also longer-distance connections to Cardiff, Swansea and beyond. The Severn Bridge was relieved in the 1990s with the construction of what’s now called the Prince of Wales Bridge, but the Newport Bypass is a problem. It had to be widened to three lanes each way virtually as soon as it was built; but the twisting alignment, steep gradients and closely-spaced junctions, the fact that it ploughs through densely-populated urban areas and the presence of the Brynglas tunnels – a two-lane bottleneck – make further improvements to the route impossible. For nearly three decades the politicians have been talking about relieving the Newport Bypass by building a second motorway to the south of Newport – generally known as the M4 relief road – but to date nothing has come of all this talk. The Welsh government had been expected to announce in the near future whether to go ahead with building the road, but that announcement has been delayed until after this by-election is over.

Llanwern steelworks is much-reduced these days, and the government has moved to fill the jobs gap by siting a number of public-sector organisations in Newport. The Office for National Statistics and the UK Intellectual Property Office are based here, the Passport Office has one of its centres here, and Newport was briefly the home of the UK register of political parties (this register was established in 1998 and thus predates the Electoral Commission; before the Commission took the register over it was administered by Companies House). Insurance is also a major economic sector, with Lloyds TSB’s insurance division and GoCompare having their head offices in Newport, while Admiral Insurance also have a large office next to the intercity railway station. Newport was put on the international map by hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup and the 2014 NATO summit, both of those events were held at the Celtic Manor resort. The town’s major cultural exports include the rap collective Goldie Lookin Chain.

Now you need a certain sense of humour to appreciate the GLC: many of their songs are far too unsafe for work for me to put videos of them here or even list their titles before the 9pm watershed, and the band have caused several sense-of-humour failures over the years. In 2005 the Welsh FA had to apologise after inviting the GLC to perform in advance of a Wales v England football match in Cardiff, in which set they dedicated their song Your Missus is a Nutter to David Beckham while his wife was in the audience. One wonders what the Office for National Statistics makes of the claim that “Gun crime statistics are sometimes misleading” in the GLC’s number 3 hit Gons Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do, while the lyric in the same song “Politicians are shamed and they haven’t got a clue” sounds like a prediction of 2019 but might have caused some tension when Rhys Hutchings got himself elected to Newport city council. Yes, the voters of Newport really did elect Rhys from GLC as a local councillor: he was on the Labour slate in the 2012 local elections, and served one term before retiring in 2017.

Newport has a long political tradition; as stated it was part of the Monmouth District of Boroughs from the sixteenth century, when Wales gained representation in Parliament for the first time. Legal action arising out of the 1680 election, when Monmouth tried to return an MP without involving the other boroughs, confirmed that the electors were the freemen of Monmouth, Newport and Usk. From 1715 onwards this was a pocket borough controlled by the Dukes of Beaufort, and it didn’t see a contested election from then until the Reform Act; the 1832 election, on the new franchise, returned Whig Benjamin Hall, who later became First Commissioner of Works and may have been the Ben after whom the bell Big Ben was named.

Hall was succeeded as MP for Monmouth Boroughs by another Whig, Reginald Blewitt, proprietor of the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper, who took over as Mayor of Newport after Thomas Phillips’ injury in the 1839 Rising. Blewitt also built up the ironworks at Cwmbran, but financial trouble forced him to leave the Commons in 1852. The resulting by-election was gained for the Conservatives by Crawshay Bailey, a prominent industrialist whose name has been commemorated in song:

Crawshaw Bailey had an engine
It was always needin’ mendin’
And depending on its power
It could do four miles an hour
Did you ever saw
Did you ever saw
Did you ever saw
Such a funny thing before?

Nobody challenged Bailey’s re-election afterwards, and he served until the 1868 election when he retired. After that the Monmouth Boroughs developed into a key marginal which flipped frequently between the Conservatives and Liberals and where majorities were often small: in the 1880 election the Liberals’ Edward Carbutt defeated outgoing Conservative MP Thomas Cordes by a majority of 61 votes, and a rematch between Carbutt and Cordes five years later saw Carbutt re-elected by 2,932 votes to 2,921, a majority of eleven. The 1900 election was gained for the Conservatives by Frederick Rutherford Harris, who was subsequently unseated by the Election Court for campaign spending irregularities; the Tories held the resulting by-election in 1901 with a reduced majority of 343. In the 1906 Liberal landslide the Monmouth Boroughs elected Liberal candidate Lewis Haslam, a very wealthy man from the Bolton cotton-spinning industry.

Monmouthshire did well out of the 1918 redistribution, which increased its representation from four MPs to six. As part of that process the Monmouth District of Boroughs was dissolved and Newport became a constituency of its own, with the same boundaries as the Newport county borough. Lewis Haslam won the first election to the Newport constituency in 1918 as a Liberal endorsed by the coalition government; in was a sign of things to come, Labour candidate John William Bowen, chairman of the Union of Post Office Workers, came in second.

Lewis Haslam died in 1922 prompting a famous by-election which changed the course of history. This was a time when the Lloyd George Coalition government was under severe strain, and the Newport Conservatives had already broken ranks with the national party by selecting a candidate for the next general election, civil engineer and self-made man Reginald Clary. The Liberal candidate selection exposed the strains in the party, and eventually produced an anti-Coalition candidate in the form of William Moore, the Newport coroner. Labour re-selected John William Bowen. The major issues of the campaign included alcohol, with the Liberals and Labour in favour of the Licensing Bill and the Tories against. Press expectation was that the race was a genuine three-way marginal with Labour best placed to win on 18th October; but when the result was declared, at 2am on 19th October 1922, the Conservatives’ Clary had prevailed with 40% of the vote, to 34% for Labour and 26% for the Liberals.

Nine hours later, at 11am on 19th October 1922, at least 286 Conservative MPs met at the Carlton Club in London to decide whether the Coalition should continue. The Newport by-election result was seen in the meeting as a rejection of the Coalition by the voters, and the Conservative leader Austen Chamberlain had come under attack from his backbenches over its continuance. The meeting debated a resolution that the Conservatives should fight the next general election as an independent party. Chamberlain and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour were against the resolution, while Stanley Baldwin and Andrew Bonar Law – who had decided to attend the meeting only at the last moment – were in favour. The vote was 187-87 in favour of the resolution, and the Coalition government fell. Austen Chamberlain resigned as Conservative party leader, David Lloyd George offered the government’s resignation that afternoon, and George V asked Bonar Law to form a new government. Bonar Law immediately went to the country, and the 1922 general election returned a Conservative majority. And you thought Brexit was dramatic.

Included in that Conservative majority was Reginald Clary, who would go on to have a long career as MP for Newport, including defeating Labour’s John William Bowen three more times. However, Clary was out of the Commons for the 1929-31 Parliament after being defeated by Labour’s James Walker, a trade unionist from the iron and steel industry and longtime Glasgow councillor. Walker lost his seat back to Clary in 1931 but returned to the Commons in 1935 as MP for Motherwell, representing that seat until January 1945 when he was killed in a road accident. The 1945 Motherwell by-election resulting from Walker’s death was another famous one, as Robert McIntyre became the first MP for the Scottish National Party.

Reginald Clary died just 12 days after James Walker, at the age of 62. The resulting Newport by-election on 17th May 1945 was a more sedate affair; the wartime truce was still in effect and new Conservative candidate Ronald Bell, a barrister who had fought the Caerphilly by-election in 1939, won rather narrowly against opposition only from the Independent Labour Party chairman Robert Edwards. But Bell was the shortest-serving MP for Newport; the 1945 general election was called less than a week later, and with normal politics resumed Bell lost heavily to Labour on 5th July. He did eventually get a long parliamentary career, representing South Buckinghamshire and later Beaconsfield from 1950 until his death in 1982, and was heavily active in the Monday Club. The 1982 by-election arising from Bell’s death was contested on the Labour side by a young man called Tony Blair – whatever happened to him? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

The new Labour MP for Newport was Peter Freeman, who was managing director of his family’s tobacco factory in Cardiff. Ironically a non-smoker, Freeman had been a gifted sportsman in his youth and won the 1919 Welsh tennis championship; ten years later he was in parliament, having won the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency in the 1929 general election. (In those days the Brecon and Radnorshire seat included Brynmawr and other mining areas in the Heads of the Valleys, making it a lot more Labour-inclined than it is now.) Freeman had lost his seat in 1931 and had previously contested Newport in the 1935 election.

In 1950 two sitting MPs contested Newport, with Freeman seeking re-election against opposition from the Conservatives’ Ivor Thomas, a journalist and scientist who was outgoing MP for Keighley. Thomas had been elected for Labour in the 1942 Keighley by-election; he was a junior minister at the start of the Attlee administration, piloting the Civil Aviation Bill through Parliament and also serving in the Colonial Office, but then crossed the floor to the Conservatives. The Tories put him up for election in Newport (near his birthplace in Cwmbran), but Freeman saw Thomas out of the Commons without too much trouble. In the 1955 election Freeman also defeated future Tory MP (Cardiff North, 1959-66) and stockbroker Donald Box.

Peter Freeman died in 1956 at the age of 67. The resulting Newport by-election on 6th July had a very well-known defending Labour candidate. The socialist credentials of Sir Frank Soskice were impeccable: his father David Soskice was an exiled Russian revolutionary journalist, while he was also related through his mother to Ford Madox Brown, Ford Madox Ford and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, Soskice’ career was in the law; he had been called to the Bar in 1926. After service in the Second World War Soskice was elected as Labour MP for Birkenhead East in 1945 and served throughout the first Attlee administration as Solicitor General, for which he got his knighthood. Sir Frank had rotten luck with the Boundary Commission; his Birkenhead East seat was abolished in the 1950 redistribution and he lost re-election in Bebington that year. A by-election was quickly engineered in Sheffield Neepsend to allow Sir Frank to return to the Commons, and Attlee promoted him to Attorney General; but the Sheffield Neepsend constituency was itself abolished in the 1955 redistribution, leaving Sir Frank with no political home until the Newport vacancy turned up. Donald Cox returned as Conservative candidate for the by-election and Plaid Cymru contested the seat for the first time: their candidate was Emrys Roberts, who later served as general secretary of the party and was leader of Merthyr Tydfil council from 1976 to 1979. Unlike the previous two Newport by-elections, this one was not a game-changer: Sir Frank Soskice increased the Labour majority.

In the 1964 election Sir Frank Soskice easily defeated Tory candidate Peter Temple-Morris (who would go on to be a long-serving MP for Leominster, defecting to Labour during the 1997 Parliament) and was appointed Home Secretary in the new Wilson government. This is always a difficult position to hold and Sir Frank did not impress, with poor health adding to more difficulties with the Boundary Commission and a difficult passage for the Race Relations Act. In 1965 Wilson moved Sir Frank to his final Cabinet post as Lord Privy Seal. Soskice retired to the Lords in 1966, taking the title Lord Stow Hill after the steep road connecting Newport city centre to St Woolos Cathedral.

By new Newport was a safe Labour constituency and their new candidate Roy Hughes had no trouble taking over Sockice’ seat. Hughes had started his career down the pits in Monmouthshire at 15 while completing grammar school, and served in the Welch Regiment during the Second World War; after the war he had been a manager at Standard Motors in Coventry, a Coventry city councillor and a TGWU officer. He had a long Parliamentary career, retiring to the Lords at the 1997 election as Lord Islwyn.

Hughes’ constituency by then was Newport East; the 1983 redistribution had seen major changes in Wales and one of those was that Newport was divided into two seats. The dividing line is very intuitive: Newport West includes everything in Newport to the west of the River Usk, plus the Christchurch area and the Celtic Manor resort which for some reason are in the same electoral division as Caerleon. The constituency has had unchanged boundaries ever since.

It has not had unchanged political representation. The boundary changes diluted the Labour strength: the western half of Newport is weaker for Labour than the eastern half, and the seat also gained the Tory-voting villages on the coastal strip between Newport and Cardiff which had previously been a detached part of the Monmouth constituency. Nonetheless this was an open seat and a good Labour nomination to go for, and the nomination was won by Bryan Davies, secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party. A former history teacher and lecturer, Davies had been MP for the London constituency of Enfield North from February 1974 but had lost his seat to the Conservatives in 1979. He was up against Tory candidate Mark Robinson. From a business and sporting family (his father John Robinson ran a paper and packaging company and had served as High Sheriff of Avon, his grandfather Sir Foster Robinson had been captain of the Gloucestershire cricket team), Robinson had made his career in international organisations, working for the United Nations for six years and for the Commonwealth for another six.

Robinson won the new seat, defeating Labour by 38% to 37% with 24% for the Liberals, a majority of 581 votes. That wasn’t the end of Davies’ political career though: he returned to the Commons for the 1992-97 term as MP for Oldham Central and Royton, and was later Government Deputy Chief Whip in the Lords from 2003 to 2010. Mark Robinson started his parliamentary career on the Foreign Affairs select committee before joining Government in 1985 in the Welsh Office. He lost his seat in 1987, but returned in the 1992-97 term as MP for Somerton and Frome.

Mark Robinson increased the Conservative vote in the 1987 general election; but Labour increased their vote by more and gained the seat. The new MP was Paul Flynn who had represented Newport West ever since. Flynn was born in Cardiff in 1935, one of five children; his father, a postman, died when Flynn was five years old. In 1955 he started work in the steel industry as a chemist; after being made redundant in 1983 he briefly became a broadcaster before finding work the following year as a researcher for Labour MEP Llew Smith. He was a Newport councillor from 1972 to 1981, a Gwent county councillor from 1974 to 1982, and had fought Denbigh in the October 1974 general election.

In office Flynn quickly joined the frontbenches as an opposition spokesman on health and social security; but he resigned from that position in 1990 and spent most of his Parliamentary career on the backbenches. Until 2016, that is, when Jeremy Corbyn briefly ran out of people who were prepared to serve under him in the Shadow Cabinet following the EU referendum result and a no-confidence vote supported by 80% of his MPs; Flynn joined the Shadow Cabinet for the first time in July 2016 as shadow Leader of the Commons and shadow Welsh secretary at the age of 81,. At the time, he was reported at the time to have been the oldest frontbencher since Gladstone. He returned to the backbenches in October that year.

Away from the Commons Flynn had served as chairman of the Broadcasting Council for Wales, and was a fluent Welsh speaker and member of the Gorsedd of Bards. He had written several books on television and politics and was also an early adopter of the internet, being one of the first MPs to communicate with his constituents by email. Flynn’s website was regularly voted as the best MP’s website.

Flynn had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for all his adult life, and in late 2018 announced that he was bed-bound and keen to retire from the Commons; however, he wished to avoid a by-election if possible. As a lifelong pro-European, he was keen to vote against the government’s withdrawal agreement and pledged to do so even if he had to be stretchered into the Commons; however, in the first Meaningful Vote on 15th January 2019 Flynn was the only MP (other than the Speaker, his deputies, the tellers and Sinn Féin, who all have excuses) who did not vote in the 202-432 defeat of the government. Flynn died a month later on 17th February 2019, aged 84. He had hoped that his epitaph would be a phrase originally used to describe him by the sketchwriter Simon Hoggart: “the thinking man’s Dennis Skinner”.

Paul Flynn had been re-elected in 2017 for an eighth term of office as the second-oldest MP after Skinner; Ann Clwyd, who turned 82 last month, now takes over that position. (The oldest Conservative MPs currently serving are Sir Bill Cash and Kenneth Clarke, both of whom are aged 78.) In June 2017 he had beaten the Conservatives by 52% to 39%, a majority of 5,658 votes, with no other candidates saving their deposit; that was an improvement on the 2015 and 2010 elections when his seat was marginal between Labour and the Conservatives.

Newport West has consistently returned Labour members to the Senedd in Cardiff. From 1999 to 2016 its AM was Dame Rosemary Butler, who served as the Welsh Government’s first education secretary from 1999 to 2000 and was the Senedd’s Presiding Officer from 2011 to 2016. In 2016 Dame Rosemary retired and handed over her seat to Jayne Bryant, who had been runner-up in the 2014 European Parliament election as the second-placed candidate on the Labour list for Wales. Butler’s majority had fallen to just 1,401 in the 2007 Assembly election, but Bryant had a healthier lead of 4,115 votes in the 2016 poll; she had 44% of the vote, to 29% for the Conservatives and 14% for UKIP.

By contrast, the results from the 2017 Newport council election (held five weeks before the snap general election) suggest that Labour have a fight on their hands to hold this seat. Across the twelve electoral divisions covered by the constituency Labour polled 36% of the vote, with the Conservatives close behind on 35% and a localist slate (the Newport Independents Party) polling 13% and carrying Bettws division. This is one of those cases where the seat count (16 councillors for Labour, nine Conservatives and four seats for the Newport Independents Party) is deceptive. On the other hand, Bettws is a very working-class area (it makes the top 75 wards in England and Wales for “semi-routine” occupations) so Labour can expect to do better there at parliamentary level. Hopefully this by-election will do better in the turnout stakes than the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012, when one of Bettws’ ballot boxes reportedly had no votes in it at all.

Flynn’s announcement last year that he intended to resign gave the local parties plenty of notice to select candidates, and Labour have had a defending candidate in place since January. She is Ruth Jones, a local resident, NHS physiotherapist and former president of the Welsh TUC who fought Monmouth in the 2015 and 2017 general elections.

The Tories have selected Matthew Evans, a former Mayor of Newport and leader of the Conservative group on Newport city council. He represents and lives in the affluent Allt-yr-yn division, and fought this constituency in the 2016 Welsh Assembly election.

UKIP will be looking to defend their third place from 2017 with a candidate who has, well, name recognition. Neil Hamilton was the Conservative MP for Tatton from 1983 to 1997, getting involved in all sorts of controversies and legal trouble (the failure of one libel action against the Guardian prompted that newspaper to fill their front page with a photograph of Hamilton headlined “A liar and a cheat”). After managing the deeply-impressive feat of losing the safest Tory seat in Cheshire at the 1997 general election, Hamilton had a brief career as a TV personality before finding a new political home in UKIP. In the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections Hamilton was elected from the UKIP list for the Mid and West Wales region, and from 2016 to 2018 he was leader of the UKIP group in the Senedd – although the statement of persons nominated for this by-election reveals that he lives in Wiltshire. This isn’t Hamilton’s first go at being elected to Parliament for a Gwent constituency: he was the Conservative candidate for Abertillery in the February 1974 general election. His description on the ballot paper is “UKIP Make Brexit Happen”, which was a gamble at the time his nomination went in (the deadline was 8th March) but would appear to have been vindicated by subsequent events.

Plaid Cymru have rarely troubled the scorers in Newport West; they have saved their deposit in only one of the Westminster elections since this seat was drawn up. In 1992 they fielded a joint candidate with the Green Party as part of an electoral pact in Gwent, to little discernible effect. Their candidate this time is Jonathan Clark, who has fought Monmouth five times at Westminster or Senedd level but lives in this constituency.

Fifth here in 2017 were the Liberal Democrats, who have selected Ryan Jones. A local resident, Mr Jones runs a construction business which employs 30 people in Newport.

The Greens were sixth and last in this constituency two years ago, and like UKIP they have selected a candidate with a national profile. Local resident Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales; she fought Camberwell and Peckham in the 2015 general election and Cardiff Central in the 2016 Assembly election, where she was top of the Green Party list in South Wales Central.

This being a parliamentary by-election, there are a lot of other also-rans. First of them alphabetically is June Davies who is the candidate for Renew, a centrist party firmly on the Remain side of the political divide. All the remaining candidates would appear to be Leavers in some form or another. Ian McLean is standing for the Social Democratic Party, which these days is a very different beast from the SDP founded by the Gang of Four all those years ago; the SDP of our time is a very anti-EU group. Hugh Nicklin is the candidate of the For Britain Movement. Richard Suchorzewski, who was runner-up behind Nigel Farage in the 2006 UKIP leadership election, is standing for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, and the Democrats and Veterans Party have selected Phillip Taylor who completes a ballot paper of eleven candidates.

So, how can we characterise this Newport by-election? Will it be like the one in 1922, which led to the fall of a government? Will it be like the one in 1945, which was reversed within weeks by a general election? Will it be like the one in 1956, which confirmed the status quo? Who knows. But I’ll finish this preview as I started it, with the GLC who wrote a tribute song to the late Paul Flynn MP; unlike most of their output it’s safe for work, and you can listen to it here.

Newport council divisions: Allt-yr-yn, Bettws, Caerleon, Gaer, Graig, Malpas, Marshfield, Pillgwenlly, Rogerstone, Shaftesbury, Stow Hill, Tredegar Park
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newport
Postcode districts: CF3, NP10, NP18, NP19, NP20

Jonathan Clark (PC)
June Davies (Renew)
Matthew Evans (C)
Neil Hamilton (UKIP)
Ruth Jones (Lab)
Ryan Jones (LD)
Ian McLean (SDP)
Hugh Nicklin (For Britain Movement)
Richard Suchorzewski (Abolish the Welsh Assembly)
Phillip Taylor (Democrats and Veterans)
Amelia Womack (Grn)

June 2017 result Lab 22723 C 17065 UKIP 1100 PC 1077 LD 976 Grn 497
May 2016 Welsh Assembly result Lab 12157 C 8042 UKIP 3842 PC 1645 LD 880 Grn 814 Ind 333 Cymru Sovereign 38
May 2015 result Lab 16633 C 13123 UKIP 6134 PC 1604 LD 1581 Grn 1272
May 2011 Welsh Assembly result Lab 12011 C 7791 PC 1626 LD 1586
May 2010 result Lab 16389 C 12845 LD 6587 NBP 1183 UKIP 1144 PC 1122 Grn 450
May 2007 Welsh Assembly result Lab 9582 C 8181 LD 2813 PC 2449 EDP 634
May 2005 result Lab 16021 C 10563 LD 6398 PC 1278 UKIP 848 Grn 540 Ind 84
May 2003 Welsh Assembly result Lab 10053 C 6301 LD 2094 PC 1678 UKIP 1102 Socialist Alliance 198
June 2001 result Lab 18489 C 9185 LD 4095 PC 2510 UKIP 506 BNP 278
May 1999 result Lab 11538 C 6828 PC 3053 LD 2820
May 1997 result Lab 24331 C 9794 LD 3907 Referendum Party 1199 PC 648 UKIP 321
April 1992 result Lab 24139 C 16360 LD 4296 PC/Grn 653
June 1987 result Lab 20887 C 18179 Lib 5903 PC 377
June 1983 result C 15948 Lab 15367 Lib 10163 PC 477


Norfolk county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tom Garrod who had served since 2013.

A quick note on the only local council by-election taking place today. We’re in what’s sometimes called the capital of the Norfolk Broads, the village of Wroxham some miles to the north-east of Norwich; this is one of the more accessible parts of the Broads to outside visitors in that it still has a railway station, Hoveton and Wroxham on the Norwich-Sheringham line. The village anchors a county division which runs for some distance along the south bank of the River Bure, from Upton at the eastern end to the musically-named Great Hautbois at the northern end. The area was important in the Second World War as the home of RAF Coltishall, an airbase for fighter aircraft which operated until 2006; part of the RAF base is now occupied by HMP Bure, a prison mainly housing sex offenders.

Prisoners, of course, are not eligible to vote. Those who do vote in this division tend to vote Conservative; this is a safe Tory division where Tom Garrod beat the Liberal Democrat candidate 59-20 in the 2017 Norfolk county council elections. We are just four weeks away from the next elections for the local district council, Broadland; in the 2015 Broadland elections the Conservatives won all the district council seats within the division, and a by-election in Coltishall ward on the snap general election day in 2017 was an easy Conservative hold.

Defending for the Tories is Fran Whymark, who has been a district councillor for the Wroxham ward of Broadland council since winning a by-election in 2014. The Lib Dems have reselected Stephen Heard, who finished as runner-up here in 2017 as a Lib Dem and in 2013 as an independent candidate. Also standing are Julia Wheeler for Labour and Jan Davis for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Broadland council wards: Blofield with South Walsham (part: Hemblington, South Walsham, Upton with Fishley and Woodbastick parishes), Coltishall, Wroxham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR10, NR12, NR13

Jan Davis (Grn)
Stephen Heard (LD)
Julia Wheeler (Lab)
Fran Whymark (C)

May 2017 result C 1744 LD 588 Lab 315 Grn 162 UKIP 148
May 2013 result C 908 Ind 550 UKIP 543 LD 533 Lab 315
June 2009 result C 1788 Grn 603 LD 485 Lab 291
May 2005 result C 2096 Ind 1226 Lab 948 LD 863 Grn 224