Labour’s Jayne Bryant is one of the newest faces in the Senedd, succeeding Dame Rosemary Butler as Newport West AM last May.

IAN CRAIG met her at her home in the Gaer to talk about her first 12 months in the role, what she has learned and what she hopes to achieve during her time in office.

AS A KEY part of British culture for the past 59 years, most people across the UK can cite Blue Peter as an important part of their childhood.

But few can make the same claim as Newport West AM Jayne Bryant who says: “I always say I was radicalised by Blue Peter.”

“I watched it and decided I had to try to change the world and find out about climate change and the ozone layer and recycling.

“I joined Young Friends of the Earth when I was about 11 years old.

“I probably drank cans of Coke just so I could recycle them.

“I was obsessed with taking carrier bags back to Tesco filled with cans to help them get up to the top mark in their recycling campaign.

“I just wanted to get involved, I just wanted to help. I never thought of anything bigger than that.”

Born at the Royal Gwent Hospital, which now falls in her constituency, and growing up in Maindee, Ms Bryant went to St Julian’s nursery, infant, primary and secondary school.

Her father was a plasterer and tiler while her mother was a midwife and she said politics was always a presence in their home.

“My parents always encouraged and supported me and talked about politics,” she said.

“We always talked about what was happening in the world and, while I was growing up in the 1980s, a lot of my family was in the steelworks.

“So I very much knew what was going on, I was always encouraged to take an interest.”

She cites her grandfather, who was a blacksmith, as playing a key role in her political development.

“He talked a lot about family background and the difficulty his father had,” she said.

“His father left school at eight to work in a brickworks and didn’t know how to read or write.

“Every generation tries to give the next generation a better start in life than they had and that’s where my grandfather came from.

“I do worry now we are going backwards in that and it’s much harder for young people to have the same opportunities and standards their parents’ generation had.

“My family were really encouraging and supportive. I am very lucky to have had them.”

Joining the Labour Party at 17 years old, Ms Bryant said it was the 1992 General Election, which saw the Conservative Party in Westminster lose 40 seats to Labour, and win two other seats from the Liberal Democrats, but remain in Government, which ignited her interest in devolution.

“I remember buying a copy of a newspaper and seeing a map where everything was red in Wales. There might have been one blue,” she said.

“I just felt how have we still got a Tory government, and that hooked me on devolution.

“I didn’t get into it with the intention to get elected, I just wanted to be part of something which is really important to me.”

After studying history and politics at Keele University, Ms Bryant came back to her home city and was given a job working with then-Newport West AM Rosemary Butler, later Dame Rosemary, in the newly formed Welsh Assembly.

She said her time in the office of Dame Rosemary, who she would later succeed as Newport West AM, is what gave her the skills she needed to help constituents.

Ms Bryant also cited Dame Rosemary as paving the way for more woman politicians in Wales.

“It’s really important to think about those women who have gone before,” she said.

“One hundred years ago someone like me would have only just had the vote, let alone the opportunity to go to university or live the life I’ve lived.”

But she said she did not believe the playing field was equal, citing a number of experiences including when she unsuccessfully ran for the European Parliament in 2014.

“When I stood in the EU election people wanted to know about what my family thought about me going off to Brussels,” she said.

“Sometimes it felt like they thought I hadn’t thought about what I would do, but they never asked Derek (Labour Wales MEP Derek Vaughan), who has a family.

“I understand people are interested in me and I have no problem being asked about these things, but it was clear it was always me who was asked about my family.

“There are still issues and I think things like social media such as Twitter and Facebook can be quite offensive to people, comments can be quite hurtful when they don’t have to look someone in the eye and say it.

“It’s part of the society we’re in – people are quick to get on the keyboard and type but not quite to understand that person and their views.”

Among the issues facing Newport West, Ms Bryant said ensuring good-quality jobs are available was one of her top priorities.

“I have made it my business to speak to businesses in Newport since I was elected because it’s a great location, the skills are here and I want to make sure these companies stay here, but also we want to attract more businesses here,” she said.

She added she was keen to be able to do more to support the NHS and unpaid carers, while tackling poverty and inequality in the city was also important.

“Newport West is a fascinating constituency in the sense that there are some wealthy areas, I think we are something like the third highest wage income in after Monmouth and Cardiff North,but then you’ve got the challenges in equality, which is one of the reasons I got involved,” she said.

Ms Bryant said increasing the engagement of young people in politics was one of her key priorities.

“I really believe young people are interested in politics, but they can be put off by party politics,” she said.

“We should do whatever we can to encourage and support them whatever their views.

“It’s really important to me I get to those people.

“They have to know politicians aren’t something really distant.

“I went to school here, I’m from here, so if I can do this I want people to think ‘if she can do it maybe I can have a go’.

“When they see you and speak to you it’s a lot easier for them to see themselves in that position.

“If you see people like yourself in that position you’re more likely to do it.

“If you don’t think it’s for people like you then you’re less likely to do it.”

She added: “If you can show young people you are listening and taking action you’re more likely to make a change.

“The process is there and I really want young people to get involved and know they can do something.”

Ms Bryant said she considers raising the profile of Newport as a key part of her role.

“I want to make sure people see Newport as a great place to live, work and visit,” she said.

“It’s got so much going for it.

“I see my role as really pushing as much as I can, working with other people to help attract businesses and other organisations here and supporting them.

“There’s lots going for Newport but we’re not very good at shouting about the good things.

“We can always be a bit down on ourselves, as a fellow Newportonian I can recognise that.”

She added: “I was not elected to sit in Cardiff Bay.

“I am here to represent people here and that means being here as often as I can.

“I want to feel I have left Newport in a better state than I found it, whether that’s inequality, whether that’s jobs, whether that’s more people coming up through being interested in politics.

“I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and think I have done the best I can.

“I was brought up in a family where you work hard, you do your best and you don’t give up, you don’t make promises you can’t keep.

“That’s what I have tried to do, I’ll be myself and that’s how I’m going to be.

“At the end of the day that’s all I can do.”