A COUPLE of weeks back the Argus revealed Newport West MP Paul Flynn is planning on stepping down from the job he has held since 1987 in the face of poor health.

For his part, Mr Flynn has said he’d like to avoid a costly by-election if possible and he’s convinced there’ll be another General Election in the coming months, providing a natural time to hand over the reins.

But, if this doesn’t happen - and the mood music coming out of Westminster in the past few weeks seems to be that Theresa May is likely to hang on for the time being - we’ll be in for a by-election some time soon.

So the question on everyone’s lips is who’s being lined up to replace him?

Labour will obviously be keen to keep control of the seat Mr Flynn has held for the past 31 years and, based on voting history alone, they shouldn’t have too much of a battle on their hands in the traditionally Labour-voting constituency.

While the Conservatives generally put in a good show of campaigning – a frankly bizarre lack of effort in last year’s snap election aside – when it comes to polling day, Newport’s Labour faithful always seem to come through.

So who will the party put forward as Mr Flynn’s heir apparent?

A name I’ve heard bandied about quite a lot over the past couple of weeks is Newport council leader Debbie Wilcox. She’s impressed people both within the party and outside it in the two-and-a-half years since she took up the reins at the council, and shortly after the Welsh Local Government Association.

She’s won acclaim for her passionate speaking style and as someone not afraid to stand up the powers the be, regardless of political affiliation, as clips of her laying into local government secretary Alun Davies over council merger plans show.

If she decides to stand she’d surely be in with a very good chance of winning.

But, for her part, Cllr Wilcox tells me she’s undecided about whether or not she’ll put herself forward as it would mean relinquishing her role standing up for local government in Wales – a job she is extremely passionate about. So the door may be open for someone else to come forward.

Who that would be, I don’t know.

As one of the safer Labour seats in the UK the party could of course parachute someone in from elsewhere in the country, but this would be something of a cynical move and could backfire spectacularly at a time when faith in politicians is not exactly at a high point.

In the meantime, the Conservatives will surely see this as the best chance they’ve had in some time to win back the seat they lost 31 years ago.

Despite early polls suggesting they were in for a shock victory in Newport last year - Mr Flynn himself told me he was getting ready to pack up his office - in the end support swung back to Labour, presumably helped more than a little by the central party managing to alienate the city branch by enforcing a candidate they didn’t want.

With that opportunity squandered, this will be the next best opportunity the party’s had in some time.

There’s a number of potential candidates the party could field, with Natasha Asghar, who’s already run for Newport East twice, surely near the top of the branch’s shortlist.

Extremely charismatic and with the benefit of youth on her side, she’s exactly the type of person the Conservative Party needs in its continued efforts to dispel the idea of it being made up exclusively of middle aged white people living in countryside manors.

As the daughter of South Wales East AM Mohammad Asghar, she’d no doubt face allegations of nepotism, but she’d hardly be the first relative of another politician to stand for office. If the party puts resources behind her there’s a real chance she could do well.

And if she decides not to run, there are a number of other passionate Conservative campaigners in the city who would jump at a chance to run.

Or, of course, the party could parachute in another candidate and alienate all their supporters in the city.

While the other smaller parties will no doubt put in a showing, there’s no denying it’s likely to be a two-horse race in Newport.

While there’s a passionate and dedicated Ukip branch in Newport, with the central party taken over by alt-right internet trolls, it remains to be seen whether they’d be inclined to put resources behind a by-election campaign.

Likewise, Plaid have never seemed terribly inclined to put any work into winning power in Newport, despite a small group of dedicated campaigners, and support for the Liberal Democrats never seems to have recovered since the party betrayed its voters by getting into bed with the Conservatives in 2010.

While Mr Flynn has left the door open to stay on until the next election, he's suggested to me he might be out sooner rather than later.

The people of Newport West could be going back to the polls sooner than expected.