OVER more than three decades representing Newport West in Westminster, Paul Flynn gained a representation as a man who never minced his words.

Born in Cardiff on February 9, 1935, he was a lifelong Labour Party member, having first become interested in politics in the 1945 General Election when he was just 10 years old.

Speaking to the Argus in 2017 he said: “I’ve always, since I was a child, been interested in politics.


Newport West MP Paul Flynn has died, aged 84

Newport MP Paul Flynn to quit 'at the earliest possible opportunity'

Paul Flynn: A look at a career in politics

“I can vividly remember the 1945 election.

“I was living in Cardiff at the time in (1970s prime minister) Jim Callaghan’s constituency.

“We hadn’t had an election during the war and, as a 10 year old, I really lapped it up.

“I took a great deal of interest in it and when the bug gets you you’ve got it for life.

“I can remember going to meetings of the local MPs and the local Labour Party, and hearing (NHS founder) Aneurin Bevan in Sophia Gardens in, I think, 1948 when he was minister for health.

“He was a very spellbinding speaker. I remember one of the jokes he cracked which was that we’d had a wonderful increase in the birth rate, but he wasn’t taking personal responsibility for it. To a 12-year-old that was a very memorable joke.”

South Wales Argus:

Newport's two MPs in 1989 Roy Hughes, left and Paul Flynn at Westminster

After his education at St Illtyd’s College and University College Cardiff, he worked as a chemical engineer at the Llanwern Steelworks and later as a researcher for Labour MEP Llew Smith.

His first foray into politics came in his late 30s, when he was elected to Newport Borough Council, and later Gwent County Council. He cut his teeth on the Westminster campaign trail by running for Denbigh in the 1974 General Election, coming in third – but ahead of future leader of Plaid Cymru and deputy first minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.

And it was on his second try 13 years later in 1987 that he won the seat he would hold for almost 32 years when he was elected as MP for Newport West.

During his three decades in Parliament Mr Flynn spent most of his time on the backbenches – a role he seemed more than content to play – with only a two-year stint in Neil Kinnock’s shadow cabinet from 1988 until 1990 and then three months on the front bench under Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 following a series of resignations.

Something of a renegade, he always put his own views ahead of party politics, and frequently rebelled against the Labour whip when the party took a direction he disagreed with.

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn overlooking Reykjavik in 1993

He was a vocal opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in 2009 read out the names of the 176 British military personnel who had been killed in Iraq up to that point since hostilities began in 2003 in Parliament.

Mr Flynn also campaigned alongside the Argus against the planned closure of Newport’s passport office, and in 2011 joined us in handing over a petition with 24,000 signatures at Downing Street.

He gained national attention for his role in the scrutiny of collapsed charity Kids Company by Westminster’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in 2015 – which was even dramatized into a musical in 2016, with Mr Flynn portrayed by Anthony O’Donnell, who appeared in James Bond blockbuster Skyfall and television programmes including Gavin and Stacey.

Mr Flynn also opposed nuclear power and campaigned for more safety measures in sports such as boxing and rugby which involve repeated blows to the head, and successfully campaigned for the sale of bull bars, large metal frames fitted to the front of cars and other vehicles to protect them from crashes, to be banned in the UK due to dangers to pedestrians - a victory he said he was particularly proud of.

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn addressing a TUC rally in 1980

In 2007 he suffered a mini-stroke, but soon bounced back and returned to work.

More recently he was a vocal opponent of President Trump, and in 2016 led a Parliamentary debate calling for the billionaire - then a presidential candidate - from the UK.

He also recently became a key figure in the campaign to legalise the use of cannabis for medical use in the UK, and in 2017 called on people to break the law by smoking the drug in Parliament. Although he presented a Private Member’s Bill calling for the law to be changed, it never made it onto the statute books.

Mr Flynn was also a vocal anti-Brexiteer, and steadfastly maintained his position despite Newport voting 55.99 per cent to 44.01 per cent to leave the EU in 2016 - a position for which he came in for some criticism.

But, as with any politician as long-serving as he was, Mr Flynn’s tenure in Parliament was not entirely without its speedbumps.

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn in a fortified area to protect Latvian Radio Station RIFA in April 1994

In 2005 he was accused of libel after he wrote articles calling into question the practices of a company allegedly purchasing endowment policies for profit and ultimately paid out more than £36,000 to settle the claim.

And in 2011 he came under fire after calling into the question the loyalty of the British ambassador to Israel, who was Jewish. He later apologised and withdrew his remarks.

He was also well-known in political circles for his outspoken blog – which House of Commons officials attempted to get him to stop using in 2008 – as well as a series of books taking an insider’s look at Parliament, with How to be an MP, published in 2012, considered required reading for new Parliamentarians.

Speaking in 2017 he said: “They’re not only the best books on the subject, but they’re the only books on the subject.

“That’s probably what I’ll be best known for in Parliament, for writing the books.”

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn addressing a protest against the closure of Newport's passport office in 2010

Speaking in 2017, he reflected on his time in Parliament, saying: “I agree with people who say I’m not as good as I used to be – I say that’s right – I’m much better than I used to be.

“As arrogant as that sounds, the longer you are there, just like most jobs, you learn more and you’re in a better position to do the job.”

But last year his age finally seemed to catch up with him, as he was conspicuous by his absence in Westminster. And in October he announced his rheumatoid arthritis - which he had suffered with from a young age - had escalated to the point it had become extremely difficult to do his job fully, and he would not contest the seat at the next General Election.

This marked the end of a storied career in Parliament, and one which clearly caused the Labour stalwart great frustration. Speaking to the Argus last year he said: "Unfortunately there is no other choice. I was happy to carry on.

“But unfortunately this is more severe than anything I’ve ever dealt with.

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn, pictured in 2007

“I greatly regret that.”

Mr Flynn was married twice – first to Ann Harvey from 1962, which whom he had two children, James and Rachel, who died in 1979 aged 15.

Writing in 2010, Mr Flynn remembered the day he lost his daughter, saying: “Nothing worse than this could ever happen to me, I thought. Life can never hurt me so painfully again as I am hurt now.”

The couple divorced in 1984 and he married Samantha Cumpstone the following year. They remained married until his death.

Reflecting on his time in Parliament in 2017, Mr Flynn said he felt like he was "just starting out" and called his career “a huge kaleidoscope of wonderful events and marvellous opportunities”.

“I’ve loved every minute of being in Parliament and I want to go and do it forever,” he said.

South Wales Argus:

Paul Flynn, pictured in 2005

“It’s an extraordinarily privileged position to be in.

“You can achieve things, some small things for individuals that are deeply satisfying, and also make a change on the big picture nationally and internationally.

“I get as much satisfaction from settling a claim where somebody local has been treated unjustly as I do from giving President Trump a mouthful of abuse he richly deserves.”