VOTERS in Monmouthshire have been challenged over whether they want change or to vote “for the same old, same old”. 

Labour candidate Catherine Fookes delivered her party’s “change” theme at a hustings in Abergavenny as she is aiming to take the Monmouthshire seat represented by Conservative Welsh secretary David Davies. 

Around 150 people attended the event at St Mary’s Priory Church rather than stay at home and watch the last of the head-to-head debates between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. 

The local Labour candidate however thanked those who attended on the warm summer evening for foregoing barbecues.

Before questions were put to candidates church warden, and former journalist, Caroline Woollard issued a reminder on language, recognising the passion political debate can sometimes provoke. 

Ms Fookes was first to break the rule when she described the local contest as a straight choice between her and Mr Davies from “David Cameron’s ‘cut the green cr*p’ party”. 

Her message was clear that just as the TV debate featured only the leaders of the two parties that can head the next government “only” her or the Conservative can win in Monmouthshire. She claimed the “loudest voices” on doorsteps are “let down Conservative voters” and challenged them did they want change or to vote “for the same old, same old”.

There appeared to be a consensus Labour will win the election, though Mr Davies said he didn’t accept the result is a foregone conclusion, and that allowed others to pitch for votes from those who may have seen returning a Labour MP in Monmouthshire as vital to turfing the Tories out of Downing Street. 

Green candidate Ian Chandler said the “polls are clear Labour will get a supermajority” and that meant local voters are “free to vote for the candidate most in line with your values” and who would challenge Starmer. 

Ioan Bellin said Plaid Cymru’s big demand of Labour is the scrapping of the Barnet formula “as the bare minimum” though the current secretary of state said at £1.20 for every £1 spent in England it provides “more than adequate funding”. He questioned the priorities of the Labour government in Cardiff. 

Liberal Democrat William Powell had been first to raise “Wales needs better funding” and Ms Fookes asked Mr Davies if he was “the secretary of state for Wales, or against Wales?”. 

Green Party policies include wealth taxes, a £15 an hour minimum wage for everyone 18 and over, and the candidate said the public wants tax increases to support public services and that “nobody else” wants to talk about bringing tax rates “up to fairly standard European averages”. 

Candidates face questions from the audience at St Mary's Church (LDRS)

The Greens and Plaid were furthest to the left but calls for the government to scrap the cap that limits benefits to just a family’s first two children was only something Ms Fookes would “love to do” as she warned “We haven’t got a magic money tree.” 

Labour’s focus is on getting the economy “back on track” while Mr Davies, who said he was standing on his record as MP for the past 19 years, said he recognised mistakes had been made “in the past five years” and was heckled with shouts of “what about Liz Truss” when he attributed the cost-of-living crisis to the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. 

But while there was support from most of the panel for raising benefits and taxes Mr Davies said he didn’t see the super rich “as the enemy” and warned high earners could take flight taking, he said, 30 per cent of personal tax income with them. 

June Davies, of the True and Fair Party, wanted to see an online, or Amazon, tax introduced while it would also raise the personal allowance, the point which people start paying income tax, to £21,000. She described the main parties “not just in Westminster but the Senedd as well” as “having run out of steam”. 

Independent Owen Lewis outlined his motivation to stand had been the closure of the Tudor Street Day Centre in Abergavenny and he wished to support the most vulnerable while both “Tory and Labour leaders have supported the war on Palestine”. 

Reform candidate Max Windsor-Peplow and Emma Meredith of the Heritage Party weren’t in attendance.