Howarth to fight safe Welsh seat

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Indy Politics
Alan Howarth, who defected from the Tories to Labour in 1995, gave a further boost to the party's prospects yesterday when he was selected to fight the safe Labour seat of Newport East.

The MP for Stratford-upon- Avon was successful in the first ballot of party members meeting at Ringland Labour Club. He polled 141 votes, with Reg Kelly, an official of the Communication Workers Union, collecting 58, Bryan Davies, the MP whose Oldham Central and Royton seat disappears due to boundary changes, polling 49, and Helen Jones, a Merseyside solicitor, collecting 18.

Ron Davies, the shadow Welsh secretary, expressed delight. Scotching reports of a "fix", he said Mr Howarth had won the respect and affection of the constituency. "There never was any question of anyone being parachuted in."

Mr Howarth said: "I am very moved and deeply grateful. There is a huge will for change in Britain and millions of voters at the general election are going to take the path I have taken."

The outcome of the contest is seen as a boost to Labour prospects nationally, largely because, as party members affirmed yesterday, Mr Howarth represents middle England, which polls suggest is swinging towards Tony Blair.

He inherits a majority of nearly 10,000.