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Paul Flynn makes comeback as shadow minister aged 81

Credit: Parliament TV

Paul Flynn, who's been MP for Newport West since 1987 has made a comeback as a shadow minister at the age of 81.

Mr Flynn left the Labour front bench 26 years ago and went onto write what's become the definitive guide to how to be an effective backbench MP.

But when he shadowed the Leader of the House this morning, he admitted that was not the whole story.

You may be a tad surprised to see me in this position, Mr Speaker, because for the past 26 years I have been a Back Bencher by choice—not just my choice, but the choice of the past five leaders of my party.

Today, however, I am here for very positive reasons, as part of a diversity project in my party at which we have done splendidly.

There are now far more women on the Front Bench and in Parliament than ever before—although not enough—and far more ethnic minorities, but there is currently a total absence of octogenarians.

I believe that my appointment to this post will be a trailblazer which will lead to an all-octogenarian shortlist in the party, and will make the wealth of experience and wisdom among my fellow octogenarians available to the House.

It is important for us to have people here who can remember life before there was a health service.

– Paul Flynn MP

The weekly business questions are mostly a chance for backbenchers to raise issues with the government and Paul Flynn has made full use of the opportunity over the years.

But today he stepped into the breach left by the mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and found himself able use his front bench privileges to raise a whole series of points.

Mr Flynn took full advantage, raising a couple of several topics close to his heart.

  • That when MPs debate the Wales Bill, they should be allowed to speak in Welsh "an ancient sophisticated language ... when the ancestors of those who created English were pagan barbarians who painted themselves blue with woad and howled at the moon from the top of mountains".
  • A second EU referendum, so that the UK can learn from the football field: "The English team Brexited swiftly and ignominiously; Wales remain, with honour".

He adopted a more serious tone to press for a closer examination of ministers' outside interests and for the families of 179 dead soldiers to have a chance to respond to the Chilcot report.

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