It should have been a good news story of a new Shadow Cabinet- complete with all posts filled and no-one double or treble jobbing. Many fresh talents are included.Some are MPs who were elected in 2015. The number of women in top roles and the percentage of ethnic minorities is at record levels. Several who had resigned from the front-bench have now returned. They have earned our thanks and congratulations. It is what I pleaded for at Conference in Liverpool. If I get a chance I will congratulating them at the PLP. It took guts to leave and unselfish courage to return.
Sadly the media reaction was foul. There was not a single favourable headline from any part of the media. All led on the complaint from the Chair of the PLP. Another potentially good news story had been negatived. The thunderous message from conference was to Give Unity a Chance. Could we for once be wise and avoid self-harm? Is it possible to return to the days when we led the agenda on positive items that enjoyed majority public support? It’s astonishing that we have not learnt that lesson.
Threat of empty bench
Some people are aggrieved with the reshuffle. I am not ecstatic but I will remain silent on the irritating details to avoid setting another hare running. I have congratulated my two splendid friends Valerie Vaz and Jo Stevens who take on the two portfolios that I held for four months. Both will do well-far better than I could have done alone. I am doing all I can to help them settle down in the first difficult weeks of their new briefs.
I had little choice in accepting these jobs in June. It was either me or an empty bench that would have been populated by the SNP or Plaid Cymru - the ultimate humiliation for an elected majority opposition party. The notice given to me for one was a few hours, the other a few days. It’s been exiting. My staff, Sam, Cathy, Rhys and Matthew have risen magnificently to the challenge of two new jobs that were dumped on them. There is a relief that the work of getting the Welsh Bill through and making some fresh points at Business Question went reasonably well. We all feel the experience, that no-one of us sought or wanted, was worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable. Carolyn Harris was my helpful companion on the Welsh front-bench and Andy MacDonald a constant presence during Business Questions. Many thanks. The two jobs ended as swiftly as they began with a brief phone-call. There are many unique attractions for the backbencher which I look forward to with relish.
Tory made crisis
Now I am looking forward to the bliss of backbenches and freedom of asking my own questions at Select Committees and in the House. The Tories suggest a few Brexit 'bumps in the road'. It will be far worse. There is giant sinkhole ahead that the UK economy will fall into. This is no USA sub-prime created crisis as 2008. It was UK Tory-orginated and Tory bungled. The blame must be securely fixed on them. Today I spent chatting with constituents. Trust in Labour is deeply rooted in Newport. Local people know well and trust our full team of AMs and MPs. But they are puzzled and worried by the picture of a divided party that the media present. Ever the optimist I hoped that the Liverpool Conference would have been a turning point in abandoning divisions.
Alas. Not yet.
ITV Wales wrote this very fair accurate account of my position
Paul Flynn, the 81 year old who replaced two other Welsh MPs during the mass resignation from the Shadow Cabinet, says there must be a way for Jeremy Corbyn's opponents to return to the front bench "with dignity and respect".
Mr Flynn is both Shadow Welsh Secretary and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. He used his first Labour party conference speech since 1981 to disagree with Unite boss Len McCluskey's suggestion that the Labour leader's critics should "depart the field".
Mr Flynn added that Labour's "gap year of negativity" must end.
Mr Flynn, who's been MP for Newport West since 1987, thanked Jeremy Corbyn for his "job creation scheme for geriatrics". He replaced Llanelli MP Nia Griffith as Shadow Welsh Secretary and Rhondda MP Chris Bryant as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. Ms Griffith has said that she is now prepared to return to the front bench.
Mr Flynn recalled handing out Labour leaflets as a 10 year old in Cardiff South in the 1945 General Election. His mother told him that a candidate with an Irish name would never win a Welsh seat but the candidate, the future Prime Minister James Callaghan, proved her wrong -and so subsequently did Paul Flynn himself.