A fascinating by-election yesterday was a triumph for Labour. The death of the greatly respected Ron Jones created the vacancy. Ron had been a councillor for nearly 50 years. After an intensive campaign the new Labour candidate polled 47% of the vote. In the previous election voters had TWO votes. Ron topped the poll with 33%. With one vote only they registered a heartening swing to Labour confirming national trends
Labour’s Omar Ali fought an impressive campaign. He was the voice of restraint and reason at a chaotic Hustings that was held. These events need to be strictly chaired or they descend into a chaotic free-for-all. This one was out of control with the audience arguing at times amongst themselves and wild (possibly) libelous accusations going unchallenged.
The Tory candidate failed to impress because of his lack of fluency and a damaging accusation from an audience member. The LibDem struggled to identify himself with the fiercely parochial Pillgwenlly. The Plaid Cymru candidate did not turn up and his replacement was woefully ill prepared. Omar Ali’s lifetime experience as a ‘Pill boy’ was coolly persuasive.
There was an intensive campaign from all parties. The mural issue that obsesses the media was not raised at the Hustings or on the doorstep. A key issue was the future of the local PillMill centre. A group of volunteers has heroically brought it back to life. The best result of the Hustings is that one of the volunteers called on the candidates to help clean PillMill the following morning. I believe they all did. The LibDems are spinning that they increased their share of the poll from a microscopic 3%. No great achievement when there were Tory dustbin votes to be hoovered up. The candidate oddly described himself as a friend of a Newport Green party Leader. A LibDem-Green coalition? The Green ally stood in the General Election here in 2010. She amassed 1% of the vote then!
The result is a heartwarming confirmation of the loyalty to Labour of Newport people. Congratulations to Councillor Omar Ali. He has the heavy responsibility of representing a proud area that rightly makes great demands on its representatives. Good luck!