WITH less than a week to go until voters in Newport West go to the polls to chose their new MP, candidates in the by-election went head-to-head at a hustings.

This evening's event at the University of South Wales, was a largely civil affair, with tempers rarely flaring as the candidates fielded questions from the audience on issues including health, austerity and University Credit, devolution and climate change.

All but one of the 11 candidates in the by-election were at the hustings, which was chaired by Ian Lamsdale of Newport City Radio, with co-founder of the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party Jonathon Harrington representing his party's candidate Richard Suchorzewski.


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The most bad-tempered moment came towards the end of the event when, in her closing remarks, Labour's Ruth Jones said: "There are many parties running in this election, but I have to be honest with you, it’s a clear choice between me and the Tories”, which was met with a cacophonous reaction from the audience, many of whom had made their appreciation of some of the other candidates clear.

Green Party candidate Amelia Womack used her comments to stress her and her party's credentials on renewable energy, and said she would be "a strong, independent voice in Westminster".

“If you vote for me you will have an MP who will never allow hatred to seep into our politics," she said.

For Britain candidate High Nicklin took every opportunity to link the current political climate back to examples from history, and was keen to rebuff any claims he or his party harbours racist views, saying: "We are happy about multiculturalism when it leads to egg foo young and chicken tikka masala. We are not happy about it when it leads to misogyny and child marriage.”

Ian McLean of the Social Democratic Party emphasised his party's centrist, pro-Brexit stance, and said it stood for "sensible politics".

"If I was elected as your MP I would do the best I can for Newport West, and the best I can for the UK," he said.

Plaid Cymru candidate Jonathan Clark used many of his comments to hit out at the two controlling parties at either end of the M4.

“We need to do something different," he said. "If Labour and Tories are the answer it’s the wrong question. Neither have delivered for Newport.”

And Mr Harrington used his remarks to criticise the Welsh Assembly, saying the money spent on it could be put to better use.

In his closing remarks he said: "All these fine words about fighting for the people of Newport are fine. It won’t make a blind bit of difference because it’s all devolved”

South Wales Argus:

June Davies of Renew stressed her party's separation from traditional political lines.

“Voters don’t actually have to vote red, yellow or blue," she said. "They’ve actually got a range of different choices and we need to get people to think differently. People don’t want to vote tactically for the least worst option any more.”

Conservative candidate Matthew Evans emphasised his record as former mayor and leader of Newport City Council, saying: "I have a track record of getting things done."

He added: “Regardless of your politics I will ensure I take everyone’s views into account.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ukip's Neil Hamilton focused all his comments and answers on Brexit and the European Union. Speaking at the start of the hustings - which came just hours after Theresa May's Brexit deal was rejected for a third time - he said: “The key issue of the day for all citizens of the UK is whether Britain should be a free, self governing nation.

“This by-election is the chance for the people of Newport West to give voice to their options on what the government has done with the referendum result.”

Phillip Taylor of the Democrats and Veterans Party said a vote for him would be a vote to overturn the current political system, and a step towards his party's flagship policy of direct democracy.

“It’s up to the people to decide if they want to go ahead with the same failed system of the past with the same failed politicians of the past,” he said.

In her closing remarks, Mrs Jones said electing her to succeed Paul Flynn would "send a message that enough is enough".

"Send me to Parliament and I will stand up for the people, the jobs and the economy of Newport West,” she said.

And Liberal Democrat Ryan Jones urged voters to back him, saying voting for the other main parties would not change what he called the "shambles" in Westminster.

“The people of Newport West demand better, we deserve better and if you send me to Westminster I’ll demand better for you there,” he said.

The by-election will be held on Thursday, April 4.

Find out more about the 11 candidates below:

- Jonathan Clark, Plaid Cymru

- June Davies, Renew

- Matthew Evans, Conservative

- Neil Hamilton, Ukip

- Ruth Jones, Labour

- Ryan Jones, Liberal Democrats

- Ian McLean, Social Democratic Party

- Hugh Nicklin, For Britain

- Richard Suchorzewski, Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party

- Phillip Taylor, Democrats and Veterans Party

- Amelia Womack, Green