HE'S one of the grand old men of Welsh politics, and he's turned 90. But for former Torfaen MP Leo Abse, taking it easy is not an option. ANDY DOYLE reports.

YOU might think turning 90 would be the cue to slowing down a bit.

But legendary reformer Leo Abse - arguably one of Gwent and Wales' greatest politicians - is still living every day to the full.

The outspoken former Labour back-bencher and Pontypool and Torfaen MP of 30 years has just published his latest book, is well into writing his next, and is very much enjoying life with a second wife who is fifty years his junior.

He was back in Torfaen this week toasting the county borough's new mayor and turning 90 in April with old friends.

"Never retire," he told the Argus.

"That's my advice to everybody now that I have reached 90."

And the only way to "keep alive" according to Mr Abse, is to "have the love of a good woman".

Both he and his 40-year-old wife of seven years, Ania Czepulkowska, are well aware of the feverish media interest in their unusual partnership.

The Royal Academy of Art-trained Polish artist - once an electrician in the Gdansk dockyards - says it's hard for people to understand.

"For us it just works - I change his light bulbs and do the odd painting!" she joked.

Her husband describes their meeting nine years ago when she walked past his London house and stopped to admire his passion fruit tree as "the greatest act of serendipity in my life".

"After my first wife(Marjorie) died, there came what I call my bleak years.

"My brother Wilfred - an eminent psychoanalyst - told me I must remarry and that it must be somebody young!"

And for those who question the motives behind a May to December marriage like theirs, he had a ready answer.

He joked: "She married me for sex, I married her for money."

One of greatest Welsh legislators of his generation - achievements include reforming the divorce laws, protecting adopted and fostered children, and decriminalising homosexuality - continues to astound with his energy.

His books include fiercely critical biographies of Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, and an explicit analysis of sexuality in politics.

Never afraid of controversy and famous for his flamboyant wardrobe, he told the Argus he would rather be remembered for making a difference than winning popularity polls.

"Calculating, puny politicians would say there were no votes in it - in any case every time I worked on a major piece of legislation my majority went up," he said.

"I never had any concern for high office and being untrammeled by this enable me to do what I did."

So what's his take on the current outgoing PM?

"A complete disaster for the Labour Party. I belong to Real Labour, not New Labour." he said.

  • Born Leopald Abse in Cardiff on April 22 1917.
  • Younger brother Dannie is well known poet, older brother Wilfred(1914-2005) was an eminent psychoanalyst.
  • Studied law and served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.
  • Selected to stand in Pontypool by-election in 1958 when Daniel Granville West became life peer. Retained seat
  • Served as Labour MP for Pontypool from 1958 to 1983, and for Torfaen from 1983 to 1987.
  • Was chairman of Welsh Parliamentary Party 1976-1987.