IAN CRAIG takes an in-depth look at the region's political scene in his latest Politics File column

HERE we go, here we go, here we go.

As you read this there’ll be less than 24 hours to go until polls open in the Newport West by-election, and it still seems too close to call.

Labour’s Ruth Jones remains the bookies’ favourite - but not by much - and it’s fair to say the party’s pulled out all the stops in campaigning to retain the seat Paul Flynn first won for the party in 1987.


Seven Newport West by-election candidates attend hustings in Pill

By-election candidates face off at hustings

Newport West by-election to be held on April 4 following death of Paul Flynn

My spies tell me the party’s campaigners have rarely been absent from the streets of Pill, Stow Hill, Malpas, Allt-yr-yn et al over the past few weeks, and at the weekend they pulled out the big guns, with Jeremy Corbyn himself popping down the M4 for a visit.

It would have been nice to see him stoop to speaking to the local paper of the people who will actually be voting in the election, but apparently we were beneath his notice. What this says about his actual interest in the by-election I’ll leave you to decide.

Meanwhile, Mrs Jones has also received the endorsement of Paul Flynn’s widow Sam - which may swing a few voters who were particularly fond of the Labour stalwart.

The Conservatives have also been putting the work in on the doorstep, with party members and supporters from far and wide flocking to the city to drum up support for Matthew Evans.

It’s a shame they don’t quite seem to be receiving the backing from the party nationally.

I get that it’s a very busy time in politics, but a Conservative win in Newport West would be a much-needed boost for a party which seems to only be hanging onto power in Westminster by its fingernails, and this is surely the best chance it's had in more than 30 years to win back the seat Paul Flynn stole in 1987.

And it may yet happen - Matthew Evans is a very popular man in Newport and has the name recognition none of the other candidates aside from Ukip's Neil Hamilton do. But if he does win it’ll be down to the work he and his team have put in - and not the national party.

Plaid Cymru and the Greens have really pulled out the stops as well, with far more effort put into campaigning than I’ve seen in previous elections. Plaid have even set up a city centre campaign office and leader Adam Price - a man of undeniable popularity, if perhaps not as recognisable as predecessor Leanne Wood - has been to the city plenty of times to lend a hand in lobbying for candidate Jonathan Clark, while earlier this week Green Party co-leader Sian Berry popped down to lobby for Amelia Womack. Whether this will pay off at the ballot box, where both parties have typically struggled to win much support in Newport, remains to be seen.

South Wales Argus:

Unfortunately the Lib Dems have suffered a few unfortunate gaffes over the past couple of weeks. Firstly a leaflet for candidate Ryan Jones had the wrong date for the by-election - although they’ll have the last laugh if a General Election is called for a month's time.

And then earlier this week the 14-year-old son of a Conservative campaigner was somehow sent a letter naming him as a counting agent for the Lib Dems on Thursday night.

This was apparently the result of clerical error on the part of the council, but unfortunately doesn’t look too good for a party still smarting from the fallout of the coalition.

This must be pretty frustrating for Mr Jones, a man undeniably committed to Newport, regardless of what you think of his political views.

Ukip hasn’t been quite as omnipresent in campaigning as they promised they would be when the by-election kicked off, and they’ve possibly been hampered somewhat by disquiet on the part of the local branch on the selection of Neil Hamilton over a local candidate.

But if the party’s proven anything over the past few years it’s to never count them out.

Newport's made history in by-elections before, and returning Neil Hamilton to Parliament after more than 20 years would be in the spirit of the city's rebellious nature, if nothing else.

While, as one of the newest parties on the block, it would be easy to count Renew out, there’s no denying they’ve made a herculean effort into campaigning - even flying a plane over the city at the weekend.

A victory for candidate June Davies may be a little beyond the realm of possibility, but a finish in the top half is far from out of the question - and would in itself be a significant victory for a party which is less than two years old.

While the remaining parties - the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, the Democrats and Veterans, For Britain and the SDP - don't have anywhere near the resources of the others, and may struggle simply on a name recognition standpoint, in this day and age being different from the norm may work in their favour.

It's easy to say the by-election is a two-horse race between Labour and the Tories, but anyone assuming this may be in with a bit of a shock on Thursday night.

See you on the other side.