The Newport West by-election on April 4 will be significant for a number of reasons - not least that it will see a new MP elected for the constituency for the first time since 1987. There are an unprecedented 11 candidates standing in the election, and, in the second in a series of interviews, IAN CRAIG met Conservative Matthew Evans.

MATTHEW Evans is no stranger to the campaign trail in Newport.

A long-standing Conservative councillor in the city, he led the council from 2008 until 2012 and was the city's mayor in the 2014-2015 civic year. And he ran for Newport West in the 2007 and 2016 Assembly Elections, both times coming second.

So he's a well-known face in Newport - and this could be just what the Conservatives need to finally get back control of the constituency which was stolen by Paul Flynn in 1987.


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Cllr Evans - who is descended on his mother's side from John Partridge, who printed publications for the Chartists and was jailed for hiding the movement's leader John Frost from the authorities - said the continued redevelopment of the city centre was one of the key issues he would focus on as MP.

"The city centre is always going to be a major issue and concern," he said.

"I've always felt very passionate about the city and the city centre and I want to see it succeed.

"Clearly things like Friars Walk were supposed to be the start of regeneration of the city centre, not the end, and I think we need to spend a lot more time addressing the issues within the city centre, ensuring we have high-quality developments - housing accommodation as well as looking at the independent sector, and getting more hotels and office accommodation in the city centre.

"I'm well aware there’s always been an issue with the image of Newport, so that’ll be a main campaign theme."

Cllr Evans has described himself as "strongly opposed to a second referendum on Brexit" and has also strongly based his campaign around urging the Welsh Government to give the M4 relief road the go-ahead. Although this is a devolved issue, meaning whoever ultimately wins the by-election will have no control over the ultimate decision, which is being made by first minister Mark Drakeford,

"People are tired of all these excuses," he said. "People need to know where they stand.

"Although it’s a devolved issue, it is something you can still campaign on, because it is something which, every time I speak to businesses, they ask when we are going to have a decision."

If elected, Cllr Evans said his priority would be "Newport, Newport, Newport".

Although he is concious that Newport has traditionally voted for Labour, Cllr Evans is optimistic about his prospects.

"It's a massive challenge, I never under-estimate that," he said. "There was a time when Paul Flynn had a majority of more than 14,000.

"And when it comes to the push they (Labour) have got a very strong organisation - there's no doubting with two AMs, two MPs and the vast majority of councillors they've got a very strong network in the city.

"Having said that, we are not in ordinary times. We could go anywhere from losing our deposit to taking the seat as far as I'm concerned - all options are on the table.

"I wouldn't be standing if I thought I was going to lose my deposit."


Age: 55

Originally from: Newport

Education: Studied Hotel and Catering Management at Thames Valley University

Professional background: Ran a successful corporate catering business in Newport

Political background: First elected to Newport City Council, then Newport Borough Council, in 1999. Was council leader from 2008 until 2012, and mayor in 2014-2015. Ran for Newport West AM in 2007 and 2016, coming second both times

Family: Married to Tina for 26 years, two children, Bethan and Jessica, and a rescue dog, Rosie

Hobbies: Keen rugby supporter, member and former captain of Stow Park Tennis Club, Bannatyne Health Club, community litter picks


- Jonathan Clark, Plaid Cymru

- June Davies, Renew

- Matthew Evans, Conservative

- Neil Hamilton, Ukip

- Ruth Jones, Labour

- Ryan Jones, Lib Dem

- Ian McLean, SDP

- Hugh Nicklin, For Britain

- Richard Suchorzewski, the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party

- Phillip Taylor, Democrats and Veterans Party

- Amelia Womack, Green Party