The current First Minister Carwyn Jones is on the brink of retiring and I wish him well. There are three Assembly Members from the Labour group seeking his job and the winner will be crowned as Wales’ next First Minister. They all support Labour policies of course but only one candidate, Vaughan Gething has given a commitment to building the much needed M4 relief road. The long queues around Newport are bound to be having an impact on the economy and the congestion will increase next year with the removal of Severn Bridge tolls. The Welsh Government have the money and borrowing powers to do the job - now is the time to get on with it. I hope that motorists who are fed up with sitting in traffic jams by the Brynglas Tunnels, and who happen to be Labour Party members, will bear this in mind when they cast their vote.
If after years of delay the diggers finally move in then the Welsh Government need to show a lot more consideration to local people than has been shown to those living in the Gilwern Clydach area where work has been going on for 5 years to dual the A465. On a visit to residents this week, I heard horror stories of noise, dust, of damage to property, poorly signed diversions and much more. Road building is bound to cause inconvenience to people but the Ministers responsible have a duty to keep that to an absolute minimum and to provide rapid compensation to those who have suffered material loss. This has not been happening. Most insulting has been the sudden appearance of Welsh Ministers happy to pose for press photos in a hard hat but unwilling to find the time to meet residents whose lives have been blighted.
I pay tribute to fellow MP and columnist Paul Flynn who is standing down at the next election after more than 30 years as the local MP. I first met Paul when he visited Bassaleg School in the 1980s where I was a pupil, and enjoyed asking him difficult questions as practically the only Tory in the class. He told me to become an MP so I owe him! Whatever our differences, Paul was my MP for many years and I would be the first to acknowledge his commitment to Newport and his willingness to help anyone with a problem, including lifelong Conservative voters. Moreover he is a great example of an MP who is proud to sit on the backbenches and speak his mind. Whoever is next elected to represent the constituency will have big shoes to fill.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 12 November 2018*