Brecon and Radnorshire by-election candidatesImage copyright BBC/Getty Images

Voters go to the polls in Brecon and Radnorshire on Thursday in the second Welsh by-election this year – and the first electoral test for new PM Boris Johnson.

The poll was triggered when a recall petition unseated the incumbent Conservative MP Chris Davies after he was convicted of a false expenses claim.

There are six candidates in the race, competing for the attention of around 53,000 voters in the predominantly rural constituency – geographically the largest in Wales.

The Brexit Party

Image caption Des Parkinson says Parliament “just can’t make its mind up” on Brexit

Des Parkinson, 71, is a retired Dyfed-Powys Police chief superintendent who has worked for the party’s Welsh MEP Nathan Gill in the past.

The by-election is the first Westminster test in Wales for the new Brexit Party, which came top in the EU elections in Wales and across Great Britain in May.

Founded by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the organisation has attracted many former UKIP activists.

Mr Parkinson told BBC Wales that the Brexit Party wants to “change politics for good”, claiming that since the referendum there has been indecision, discussion and votes.

“Parliament just can’t make its mind up,” he says.

The Brexit Party candidate is opposed to the withdrawal agreement made by former prime minister Theresa May, calling it “disastrous” and the “worst deal in British history where we would give £39bn to the EU and get nothing in return, other than more uncertainty”.

He said the UK government should prepare for no-deal with the EU – “otherwise you don’t get a decent deal” – suggesting that leaving with the EU without a deal would cause “some disruption” but “over a period of time things would balance out and deals would be done”.

Mr Parkinson wants council tax rises in Powys reversed and is also opposed to the expansion of wind farms.

Welsh Conservatives

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Davies was the third MP to face a recall petition

Chris Davies, 51, was an auctioneer before he became an MP in 2015. He also ran a veterinary group in the constituency.

In the by-election, Mr Davies is fighting for his political life – after winning re-election in 2017, he was unseated by a recall petition triggered by his conviction for a false expenses claim.

He had pleaded guilty to the charge after trying to split the cost of £700 worth of pictures between two office budgets by creating fake invoices, when he could have claimed the amount by other means.

Mr Davies has apologised, saying: “If you look at the technicality here there was no financial gain.

“Clearly the authorities have been through my accounts and everything I’ve done with a fine-tooth comb over the last four years, and that was the only mistake they could find,” he added.

Losing the election would mean the Conservatives – who have been struggling and often failing to command majorities in key votes – would be in an even weaker position in the Commons.

Mr Davies is emphasising his local credentials in his bid to hold the seat after being re-selected by local Tories to be their candidate. “I understand the farming community, I’ve worked in it all my life,” he said.

He said he was not “frightened” of a no-deal Brexit, although he’d rather see an agreement on the UK’s leaving of the European Union. He voted for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement every time it had been put to MPs.

Mr Davies also claimed he was the only candidate who would be able to work “closely” with new PM Boris Johnson.

Welsh Labour

Image caption Tom Davies says there is an appetite for a “socialist option” on the ballot paper

Tom Davies, 29, lives in Brecon where he was born and is currently working for a legal team in a private company based in Cwmbran.

His party has come third in the last two Westminster elections in Brecon and Radnorshire, behind the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Davies has already had a taste of electoral politics as a member of Brecon Town Council.

“We need to ensure we are protecting the communities around Brecon and Radnorshire from the Tory austerity policies, and protect them from Tory Brexit policies,” he said.

“[They] look like they are going to be seriously damaging for Wales as a whole and indeed Brecon and Radnorshire, in terms of agricultural sectors and businesses around the area.”

The Labour candidate claimed hard-working families were being pushed to the brink, saying: “We are seeing more people relying on food banks.”

Mr Davies has said he supports a “final-say confirmatory referendum” on Brexit and would campaign to remain in the EU, in line with the policy of First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Rejecting any question that Labour could, like Plaid Cymru, have stood aside to give the Liberal Democrats a clear run, Mr Davies said there was “clearly an appetite for Labour in Brecon and Radnorshire and a socialist option on the ballot”.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

Image caption Jane Dodds says she is “absolutely opposed to a damaging no-deal Brexit”

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds is a child-protection social worker. She lives in Welshpool, in the neighbouring constituency of Montgomeryshire, with her husband Patrick.

The by-election is important for the Lib Dems – in a seat which was formerly a Lib Dem stronghold and in a nation where there are no Lib Dem MPs.

Winning would be an early scalp for the Liberal Democrats’ new leader Jo Swinson too.

Ms Dodds said her campaign was focusing on local issues, “making sure we have basic services, such as banks and good broadband”.

“It’s about supporting our farmers and our agriculture – that we have good services and we have the opportunity for our children and young people to remain in mid Wales through affordable housing and through good well paid jobs,” she said.

Remaining in the EU was a central plank of the Lib Dem campaign in the EU elections, but Ms Dodds said the by-election “isn’t about changing Brexit”, claiming residents were “fed-up” with the issue.

“I am absolutely opposed to a damaging no-deal Brexit,” she said, warning it will significantly hit farmers.

However, pressed further, Ms Dodds said: “We are a pro-European party and we want any deal to be put to the people in a people’s vote.”

UKIP

Image caption Liz Phillips claims UKIP was the party which secured the referendum on Europe

Liz Phillips is a personal assistant to former UKIP leader Gerard Batten. She currently lives in Kent, but said she had lived for a long time in the Radnorshire town of Rhayader.

She said she had five points of attack – “making Brexit happen”, “scrapping the Welsh Assembly”, opposing windfarms, “binning the BBC licence fee” and ensuring Brecon and Radnorshire “is firmly put on the tourist map”.

Ms Phillips accused UKIP’s main rival, the Brexit Party, of being “only a party in name”, claiming that unlike UKIP, it does not offer people full membership.

“UKIP was the party that brought about the referendum and is the one that stayed firm all the way through,” she said.

“No flopping between different parties, no going back to the Conservatives. UKIP is still there,” Ms Phillips added.

She said she would like to see a Brexit “where we are completely out of the clutches of the European Union”.

“If this means no deal, so be it,” she said.

“This country can survive quite happily and did for many, many hundreds of years without any interference from the EU.”

Monster Raving Loony Party

Image caption Lady Lily The Pink says she offers a way for voters to say they want “none of the above”

Lady Lily The Pink is the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for the by-election.

She said a vote for her was “the only way to say ‘I want none of the above'”.

“Like a large proportion of the electorate I’m angry,” she said in a statement, “angry at the failings, the loopholes and the all-too-often self-serving system of governance we currently have”.

“I’m not a real politician. I’m not even a real Lady, I am however a real Loony – and I’m using comedy, satire and fancy dress in an attempt to get us all heard.

“I’m standing – sitting, slouching, occasionally leaning – in this by-election campaign to give voice to those who have the right to vote yet who feel there is no point in voting.”

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