Labour selects Monmouthshire County Councillor to challenge Welsh secretary at next general election
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
Labour Party members have selected a Monmouthshire County Councillor to challenge Welsh secretary David TC Davies at the next general election.
If elected Catherine Fookes will become the Monmouth constituency’s first female MP, though the next election is due to be fought on re-drawn boundaries which will match those of the county council.
The candidate is currently the council cabinet member with responsibility for equalities and engagement on the Labour run authority and performs the role on a job share basis with another councillor. She is also the chief executive of equalities charity, Women’s Equality Network Wales, and chair of Fabians Cymru, the Welsh arm of the “left leaning think tank”.
Party members backed Ms Fookes at a selection meeting in Monmouth on Sunday.
Ms Fookes took 70 per cent of first round votes, with three other candidates – Sally Ashby, a Chepstow town councillor; Penarth mayor Laura Rochefort and London Haringey councillor Emily Arkell having been shortlisted.
Ms Fookes, a mother of two who has lived in Monmouth for 20 years, having grown up in Dorset and studied French and business studies at university, said: “I’m really delighted to have won and had really good support from the members.”
Ms Fookes was elected as the town ward councillor, on the county council, for the first time at May’s local government elections when Labour seized power from the Conservatives at County Hall, winning four more seats than the Tories.
She also stood for Labour in the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections, coming second with 8,438 votes with the Conservatives retaining the seat with a 5,147 majority
Labour hasn’t won the Monmouth Parliamentary constituency since 2001, with former MP Huw Edwards defeated by Mr Davies in 2005.
The MP, who was appointed Welsh Secretary when Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October, currently has a majority of 9,982.
Ms Fookes said: “I definitely think we have a real chance this time. People are fed up with the Tory chaos in Westminster and want a real change.
“He (David Davies) supported Liz Truss and Boris Johnson and is very much associated with the chaos.”
While Mr Davies campaigned for Brexit, Monmouthshire was one of just four counties in Wales to vote in favour of remaining in the European Union during the 2016 referendum but Ms Fookes said the party should avoid re-opening the debate on Britain’s relationship with the trading block.
She said: “We do have economic ties with Europe, however this government have not really taken advantage of that and have done things like breaking international law and made us a laughing stock. We need Keir Starmer in Number 10 to put things right.”
A date is yet to be set for the next General Election, which must be held by January 2025.
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