FILM director Orson Welles once proclaimed that popularity should be no measure for the election of politicians, and that if it were, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in the US Senate.

Swap the Senate for Parliament, and the fevered gatherings beloved of American politicians for Newport's Pill Millennium Centre on the first spring night of the year, and Donald Duck may indeed have been in the running.

The Muppets were absent from the hustings organised at the venue last night by Renew, one of 11 parties contesting the forthcoming Newport by-election, but then so too were the candidates of Labour, the Conservatives, the SDP and UKIP.

South Wales Argus:

But Donald is clearly popular around these parts, held in high enough esteem for his oversized smiling image to adorn the wall at the back of the centre's stage.

He was a colourful reminder in these circumstances of how many people on these shores view the state of British politics at the moment, though some may regard it as more Looney Tunes than plain old Disney.

Candidates of six of the parties contesting the forthcoming Newport West by-election - Green, For Britain, Plaid Cymru, Renew, Liberal Democrats and Abolish the Welsh Assembly - and a representative of the Democrats and Veterans, all under Donald's mischievous gaze, took on fearlessly the challenge of reintroducing into political debate those seemingly unfashionable adjectives 'calm' and 'considered'.

And in the absence of some who might be considered the frontrunners to secure a seat in Parliament on April 4 - maybe they feared that Donald would dominate proceedings - this septet acquitted themselves admirably, in a hustings also accompanied by a soundtrack of squeaking training shoes from the adjacent sports hall.

Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack told the audience of around 60 that Newport needs to be protected from "austerity and Government cuts". On the inevitably raised issue of Brexit, she said that people must have the opportunity to vote again, while what is needed instead of an M4 Relief Road is a sustainable transport system "accessible to everyone in Newport", where 28 per cent of people do not have their own transport.

For Britain candidate Hugh Nicklin said ordinary people have been "neglected" by politicians for years. He invoked the name of Newport Chartist John Frost as someone who had stood up against an "indifferent Government", and he condemned the "antics" of MPs in Parliament who he claimed are "trying to avoid Brexit". He called the M4 Newport's "lifeline" and said For Britain is in favour of "making things like motorways available to people".

Richard Suchorzewski, for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly, said it was "somewhat disingenuous" to make the by-election about Brexit, when key issues like health, education, and transport are devolved, and people should ask "what has the the Welsh Assembly done for me and was it worth the cost?" On Brexit, he said "if we live in a democracy, we have to obey the will of the people", and warned that as the M4 Relief Road is a devolved issue, MPs could only exert a "soft influence".

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Clark said the true cost of the M4 Relief Road would be nearer £2 billion, which could instead fund an integrated transport system for south Wales. He said the road would leave Newport "enshrouded in motorways, and noise and particulates pollution". He said it would be "nice" to have a people's vote on Brexit, though it would also have been "nice to have a referendum in the first place that was not based on bigotry, hate and scaring the hell out of people".

Stan Robinson, standing in for Democrats and Veterans candidate Philip Taylor, said that while we should be talking about housing, health, education, defence and other issues, "we can't, because above all else comes our democracy, which is precious". He said the Brexit referendum result should be honoured, and the party stood for "direct democracy", and people should be given a vote on every single issue.

For Renew, June Davies said it is vital the political "status quo" be challenged and Westminster prevented from "riding roughshod over the people of Newport and Wales". She said Brexit will be "disastrous" for the Welsh economy and there is "no other option but to revoke Article 50", and she called for investment in railways, bus routes, and a South Wales Metro system, along with the 'blue' instead of the 'black' route for the M4 Relief Road.

Liberal Democrat Ryan Jones accused Theresa May - against a backdrop of MPs receiving death threats - of doing nothing more in her Brexit speech on Wednesday "than adding their names to the list of enemies of the people". He advocated giving people another say on Brexit, and called for more efficient and effective bus services as part of an integrated transport system. He pointed out that the local Lib Dem position is to support the M4 Relief Road 'black' route, though Welsh party policy favours the 'blue' route.

As well as Brexit and the M4 Relief Road, audience questions also touched on Wales' Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and whether such an approach should be adopted across the UK, and what candidates thought could be done to tackle the issue of prostitution in the Pill area of the city.