Labour hold Newport West in by-election despite turnout slump

Uncertainty over Brexit and resurgence UKIP sees Labour’s majority slashed in Leave-voting Welsh city

Ruth Jones, LAbour, Election
Ruth Jones will take the seat of veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, who died in February
(Image credit: Twitter)

Labour has retained the Newport West parliamentary seat but saw support for the party slump in a by-election marred by low turnout.

The seat in south Wales was held by MP Paul Flynn for 32 years until his death in February, and is viewed as a Labour stronghold, The Guardian reports. The constituency’s new MP will be Ruth Jones, a former president of the Wales Trade Unions Congress (TUC).

Her victory was hard won, however, with Labour hampered by a turnout of just 37.1%, compared with 67.5% in the 2017 general election. Jones racked up a decreased majority of 1,951 votes over Conservative rival Matthew Evans, reports the Daily Mail.

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By contrast, Flynn’s majority in the 2017 election was 5,658.

Jones paid tribute to her predecessor in her victory speech, saying: “Everyone knew someone helped by Paul Flynn.”

Meanwhile, Eurosceptic party UKIP saw a significant resurgence in yesterday’s contest, finishing third after more than doubling their votes compared with the previous by-election.

Newport voted Leave by a margin of 56% to 44% in the 2016 EU referendum.

All three leading parties “claimed they were satisfied with the result but expressed concern about the mood they had come across while campaigning”, says The Guardian.

Offering his “warmest congratulations” to Jones on social media, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote: “This was always going to be a difficult by-election at a time when people are disillusioned with Westminster politics and the Tories’ failure to negotiate a Brexit deal.

“However, last night’s result demonstrates that the people of Newport and Wales are rejecting austerity and know that Labour is offering a real alternative.”

BBC Wales political editor Felicity Evans says the result is a “good hold for Labour”, adding that the Conservatives “will be pleased to have held off the UKIP challenge for second place when the UK government is under such pressure over Brexit”.

However, this by-election “should not be taken as a barometer for for future elections”, as politics “is a rollercoaster right now”, Evans adds.

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