Newport West by-election: Lib Dem candidate fails to turn up for count due to 'longstanding commitment' at 1.10am

The Liberal Democrat’s candidate for the Newport West by-election failed to turn up for the count on Thursday night because of a “longstanding commitment”, the party said.

Ryan Jones took only 1,088 votes and finished sixth in the contest for the seat in south Wales – held for Labour by Ruth Jones following the death of the party’s veteran MP Paul Flynn.

Asked by the host of BBC show This Week, Andrew Neil, why the politician had not turned up for the late-night count, the president of the Welsh Lib Dems William Powell said: “Our candidate has a longstanding commitment that he’s got to honour this evening, unfortunately, but he’s run a strong and vigorous campaign.”

Mr Neil replied: “He’s got a longstanding commitment at ten past one in the morning? What kind of longstanding commitment is that?”

Although the Lib Dem representative attempted to defend the candidate by claiming he was “a well-respected local businessman”, the BBC host interrupted to ask another question.

“He’s in the construction industry but he’s not building anything at ten past one. He’s not sticking up a house at ten past one, is he?”

Mr Powell shrugged.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Welsh Lib Dems told The Independent the candidate was on “a family trip abroad booked before the by-election was called” and decided not to cancel the holiday.

The Labour candidate took 9,308 votes, giving Ms Jones a majority of 1,951 over the Tories in the by-election. UKIP’s Neil Hamilton took third place with 2,023 votes as the party saw support increase from its showing at the 2017 general election.

Commentators have suggested the result is significant given Ms Jones is a pro-EU candidate who has backed the Remain campaign but won in a constituency where most people voted Leave.