Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones, Plaid Cymru Torfaen's candidate for the next general election Credit: Plaid Cymru Torfaen

ONE of Keir Starmer’s top team is being challenged for his place in Parliament by a candidate promising to “put Torfaen on the agenda”. 

The constituency has been represented since 2015 by Nick Thomas-Symonds who is a member of the Labour shadow cabinet as minister without portfolio. 

Cwmbran resident Matthew Jones has been selected as Plaid Cymru’s candidate for the general election, which is expected this year and must be held before the end of January, said he wants to be in Parliament to “talk about the issues people raise in Torfaen”. 

The 35-year-old said he recognised “every opinion poll from the last year or more” has suggested Labour will form the next UK Government but he disputed residents would be sidelined by electing an MP to sit on the opposition benches rather than a likely cabinet member. 

“It wouldn’t be a voice on the sidelines that has no influence. It depends on the size of the majority but if you look at what has happened in last few years votes have been won on three or four votes and Plaid Cymru has had three of four MPs in that time so it does have an influence and can stand up for the communities and people we represent unlike a Labour MP who has to do what Keir Starmer says and has been doing what Keir Starmer says.” 

He added: “Anyone in Torfaen who wants positive change and an MP who will talk about Torfaen all the time and put Torfaen on the agenda in Parliament will get that in me.” 

Labour has held Torfaen since the constituency was created in 1983, and before that the Pontypool constituency had only ever been won by the party, and elected influential MP Leo Abse and Paul Murphy who was a minister and member of Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s cabinets. 

The upcoming election will be fought on redrawn boundaries with parts of Croesyceiliog, Llanfrechfa and Ponthir and Llanyrafon transferring from the Conservative-held Monmouth Parliamentary constituency into Torfaen. 

Mr Thomas-Symonds’ majority reduced from a high of 10,240 at the Jeremy Corbyn-inspired 2017 general election, to just 3,742 in 2019, the party’s lowest ever winning margin in the seat. Nearly 60 per cent of Torfaen Borough Council residents voted to leave the European Union in 2016. 

The Conservative vote has also been growing over the past 10 years and it has selected Nathan Edmunds, from Cwmbran, as its candidate. The Brexit Party, now known as Reform, finished third in 2019 and the total votes cast for it and the second-placed Conservatives were more than Mr Thomas-Symonds’ total. 

Plaid candidate Mr Jones said: “People are calling out for a change and we need positive change, if you had a Tory MP you don’t get that and a Reform MP wouldn’t do that either.” 

Mr Jones lives with his partner in Oakfield, Cwmbran and works for Plaid Cymru at the Senedd and attended Ysgol Gwynllyw in Trevethin.