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Obituary: Paul Flynn: 9 February 1935 – 17 February 2019

'Thinking man's Dennis Skinner' was indefatigable peace campaigner

Campaigning Labour MP Paul Flynn died in February after a long illness. A sufferer from rheumatoid arthritis, Flynn campaigned for the medical use of cannabis. In July 2017, he called on users to come to London and ‘break the law’ by using cannabis at the houses of parliament.

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) paid this tribute:

The MP for Newport West since 1987, after 15 years as a councillor, Paul Flynn was a strong advocate and supporter of the NFLA, speaking at a number of our meetings over the past three decades. He was a politician of great integrity, as the tributes from MPs of all political parties have emphasised.

Paul Flynn was a consistent opponent of both nuclear power and nuclear weapons throughout his political career. He was an indefatigable peace campaigner and a real pleasure to work with.

He was a strong supporter of the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and consistently challenged the need for Trident replacement in Westminster debates.

He was a principal speaker at the annual Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorative services at Tredegar Park for over 30 years. For example, he said: ‘I cannot think of any conceivable use that nuclear weapons could have, apart from the prestige they give us. They also undermine our position in international talks. How dare we tell Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, when we are going ahead with updating ours?’

As a Gwent county councillor he was a core part of the local campaign to oppose building a nuclear power station in Portskewett, south Wales, in 1979, which was cancelled shortly after the ‘Three Mile Island’ nuclear accident in the United States.

He was also the press secretary to the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance, playing a prominent part in getting all 22 local authorities in Wales to sign up to the aspirational “Nuclear Free Wales Declaration” in 1982.

Paul spoke at a number of NFLA Welsh Forum and Annual Policy Seminars, and made a fulsome tribute at the memorial service to our renowned former Welsh Forum co-chair, councillor Ray Davies, at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, remembered well by all those who attended it.

Paul would be greatly concerned about the negative turn in the nuclear weapons debate with the United States and Russia suspending the INF Treaty; and he would be continuing to advocate for renewable energy in the UK, particularly after the recent decisions by Toshiba and Hitachi to halt new nuclear projects at Sellafield Moorside and Wylfa.

NFLA passes on our deepest sympathy to his family and to his many friends in the peace movement.

NFLA Welsh Forum chair, councillor Ernie Galsworthy said: ‘Paul Flynn was one of the great Welsh politicians of the past thirty years. He stood up for many causes that at times were not seen as particularly fashionable, such as opposition to both nuclear power and nuclear weapons. He was right on both issues. We agreed with him on the need to divert energy policy away from nuclear power to safer, cleaner and cheaper renewables as well as to move on from the irrationality of possessing nuclear weapons – as he called them a “virility symbol of national pride” which is quite irrelevant these days. I pass on my deepest sympathy to his family. We need more independent minded and principled politicians like him and he will be sadly missed.’

The BBC tribute to Paul Flynn ended with these words:

‘Speaking to Radio Cymru’s Beti a’i Phobl programme in 1995 he said the best description of him had been one by the late political sketch-writer Simon Hoggart who had said he was “the thinking man’s Dennis Skinner”.’

PN adds: Paul Flynn was the author of several books, including: Dragons Led by Poodles: Inside Story of a New Labour Stitch Up (Politicos, 1999); Commons Knowledge: How to Be a Backbencher (Seren Books, 1997), which was later revised and republished as How To Be An MP: Learning the Commons Knowledge (Biteback, 2012); and his memoirs The Unusual Suspect (Biteback, 2010). He had a lively blog: www.paulflynnmp.co.uk

Topics: Radical Lives