With the General Election less than two weeks away, the Argus is taking a look at each of the constituencies in Gwent. MICHAEL JONES looked at Islwyn.

ISLWYN encompasses the towns of Blackwood, Newbridge, Cross Keys and Risca and suffered greatly from the closure of the coal mines in the 1980s.

A traditionally Labour constituency, Chris Evans, who was first elected as an MP in 2010, is running again in next week's election. But he faces stiff competition from the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Brexit Party.

The constituency falls entirely within the county borough of Caerphilly, which, as with every other area in Gwent apart from Monmouth, voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, with 57.63 per cent of voters backing Brexit.


Islwyn was formed as a consistency in 1983 and was represented for the first 12 years by Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

South Wales Argus:

Neil Kinnock

He was succeeded by Don Touhig, also Labour, in 1995, who served as MP for 15 years.

Islwyn also saw one of the most famously colourful, if off-beat, politicians campaign to represent the constituency, with Monster Raving Loony Party founder running in 1992 and 1995. Although he came last in 1992, in 1995 he came out ahead of candidates for Ukip and the left-wing Natural Law Party, and only 408 votes behind Conservative Robert Buckland - who went on to win Swindon South in 2010 and was made solicitor general for England and Wales in 2014.

As with the majority of the rest of Gwent unemployment in Islwyn is higher than average, at five per cent. However, median weekly pay is on par with the UK average of £580 a week. Child poverty is high at 31.2 per cent, while 10 per cent of working-age people in the constituency are on disability benefits. But house prices are more than £33,000 cheaper than the national average, with homes in the constituency costing on average just £124,000. The number of businesses in Islwyn has also risen sharply from 1,190 in 2017 to 2,550, which is a 54.5 per cent increase, outstripping the UK average by 52.7 per cent.

Blackwood was the centre of the Chartist movement in the 1830s, with leaders John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and Williams Jones said to meet regularly in the Coach and Horses pub, which was demolished in 1958, ahead of the march on Newport in 1839, in which 22 demonstrators were killed.

The area was also the site of one of the worst disasters in the history of mining in South Wales, when an explosion at the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn on September 11, 1878, killed 268 men and boys. The constituency also has the dubious distinction of containing the most highly polluted road in the UK outside London, with figures showing the A472 Hafondyrynys Road in Crumlin had the highest pollution levels of any road outside the capital. The issue is believed to be caused by heavy traffic, particularly during rush hours. Caerphilly County Borough recently agreed to buy all affected homes - at 50 per cent above the market rate - and will demolish them.

South Wales Argus:

The A472 Hafondyrynys Road in Crumlin. Picture: christinsleyphotography.co.uk

Islwyn is also home to Cwmcarn Forest Drive, which has re-opened after being closed for four years due to an operation to fell more than 160,000 infected larch trees being launched.

South Wales Argus:

Cwmcarn Forest Drive

In 1912, distress signals from the Titanic were first received in Blackwood by amateur wireless enthusiast Arthur Moore. Other notable people from the town include world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe, who was born in Newbridge, and all four members of the Manic Street Preachers, who grew up in Blackwood and went to Oakdale Comprehensive School.

Actor Luke Evans is also from Islwyn, having grown up in Aberbargoed.

Labour’s Rhiannon Passmore has represented the area in the Senedd since 2016.

At a glance

  • Population: 76,614
  • Number of these aged 65 or older: 15,257 (19.8 per cent)
  • Median weekly pay: £580 (UK median £580)
  • Average house price: £124,000 (UK average £234,000)
  • Number of people on disability benefits: 3,765 (10 per cent) UK Average (3.01 per cent - lower number coincides with move to Universal Credit)
  • Unemployment: five per cent (UK average 4.1 per cent)
  • Number of businesses: 2,550

Your candidates:

  • Gavin Chambers (Conservative)
  • Chris Evans (Labour)
  • Zoe Alexandra Hammond (Plaid Cymru)
  • Catherine Jane Linstrum (Green)
  • Jo Watkins (Lib Dem)
  • James Freeman Wells (Brexit Party)