At last, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn! Nothing could be drearier, in these election diaries, than continually to reinforce the received wisdom that he is a total disaster.
In Newport West, held by Paul Flynn for Labour with a majority of 3,510 over the Conservatives, a 37-year-old woman who works part-time as a teaching assistant said: “I’ll be voting for Corbyn, I will, because at least he has some morals in him.
“He wants to do good for people over making rich people richer. We’ll vote Corbyn. I like Corbyn. They say he’s a terrorist – all the media bullshit – just because he doesn’t want war doesn’t mean he’s a terrorist.
“Other people believe media hype. I never ever bother to read these newspapers. If I run out of toilet roll they’d be useful.
“As for Theresa May, do you remember the evil rabbit in Watership Down? She looks the spitting image. Even the teeth-marks.”
With this, the woman swept into a pub in Commercial Street. She had earlier got annoyed after being tapped lightly on the back of her foot by a pushchair propelled by a young woman of Asian descent, who at once apologised for the collision.
An unemployed 39-year-old man who arrived in Wales 16 years ago from Bangladesh, and worked in the IG television factory in Newport which has now closed, said he voted Conservative in 2010 and 2015, but now intends to vote Labour: “Jeremy Corbyn I think is a nice and soft leader.”
ConHome: “By soft do you mean gentle?”
The speaker: “Yes, gentle.”
ConHome: “Could anything persuade you to prefer Theresa May’s strong and stable leadership?”
The speaker: “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
Flynn, who has represented Newport at Westminster since 1987 and is 82 years old, likewise received some favourable mentions. An 18-year-old said with a smile he had visited her school: “Yes, I’ve met him. He’s lovely. He’s so cute.”
But Corbyn supporters in Newport are outweighed by non-voters, some of whom feel a bit guilty about not going to the polls. As as 60-year-old woman put it: “My mother, God rest her soul up there, she’d kill me for not voting.”
These non-voters do not, generally speaking, show up in opinion polls. They present, however, a considerable challenge to anyone who believes our political system commands general consent.
A number of people refused to discuss politics at all, and appeared to indicate they would feel compromised by having anything to do with such a grubby subject. Two men from Afghanistan, who arrived in Britain eight and three years ago respectively, conversed with each other in Pashto, but indicated that their English was not good enough to discuss the election.
Ken James, 61, who has worked for most of his life as an industrial cleaner, was sitting on a bench overlooking the muddy waters of the River Usk, which flows through the middle of Newport on its way to the Severn Estuary. He said: “To be honest I haven’t voted since I was 18. In 1974 I voted for the Liberals, believe it or not.
“I think it goes back to my father. He always said there are two groups of people you can’t trust. One is the police and the other is politicians.
“I’ve been unemployed now for two years. Perhaps you can understand now why I despise politicians. I left school at 15, I signed on at the age of 59, I missed an appointment with a work adviser, it totally slipped my mind, and I had three months of sanctions [withdrawal of benefit] because of that.
“All the years I worked, paid income tax and national insurance, to be treated like that, to me is absolutely disgusting. I lost my flat because of it.”
He has since managed to get another flat, but does not see why MPs, who say their main motive is to help people, should be paid anything like as much as £74,000 a year: “If they worked in a factory 40 hours or more a week they wouldn’t be paid that kind of money. That’s directors’ wages, basically.”
James is distressed that in the middle of Newport, you see young people “kipping in doorways”. Several people commented on this, including a shop assistant who said she sees these rough sleepers every morning when she comes into work.
She complained that potential customers for her shop are being put off coming to Newport by the sight of young people sprawled on the pavement, and went on: “Can’t they support the homeless in a more structured way?”
If the Conservatives are to win a landslide general election victory, they will need to take places in Wales such as Newport West, where 6,466 people voted in 2015 for UKIP, almost twice the size of Flynn’s majority.
Who knows what will happen during the campaign, but Labour has just managed to retain control of Newport City Council in the local elections, and these conversations show no sign as yet of a tide flowing from either Labour or UKIP to the Conservatives, whose candidate is Angela Jones-Evans.
There are certainly Conservative voters here, but those I met, such as 81-year-old Michael Hooper, have long been loyal to the party.
A woman sitting on a bench in Commercial Street, much of which is pedestrianised, said: “I won’t be voting. I think it doesn’t matter who gets in. There’s too much corruption in all the parties. I want to know when they’re going to start doing something about the paedophile ring.”
Soon after talking to her, I came upon an inscription on the steps leading down from Friars Walk, a handsome new shopping centre, towards the footbridge over the River Usk, built in 2004 and ingeniously supported by steel cables attached to two enormous masts.
The inscription records the six points of the People’s Charter, issued in 1838, which include “A vote for every man”, and “Annual Parliaments”, so MPs can no longer “defy and betray their constituents as now”.
This in turn commemorates the disastrous Newport Uprising of 1839, when an angry crowd of Chartists marched on Newport, where they believed some of their fellow campaigners had been taken prisoner. Troops opened fire, and about 22 of the Chartists were killed.
When I pointed out this inscription to a 34-year-old delivery driver who was sitting in such a way as to obscure a few words of it, he said in a jaunty tone: “I think it’s just there for show. I don’t think anyone pays any attention to it. I don’t pay any attention to politics. I think it’s all crap.”