'Trailblazer' octogenarian back on Commons front bench

Paul Flynn MP
Image caption Comeback: Welsh Labour MP Paul Flynn enjoying his front bench comeback.

Even by current Westminster standards, with round-the-clock drama the routine daily fare, this is a sight few expected to see: Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn sitting on the opposition front bench at the age of 81.

Mr Flynn agreed to come to the aid of the party after the resignation of Chris Bryant as shadow leader of the House left Jeremy Corbyn with several vacancies in his shadow cabinet. It's believed he is the oldest front bench speaker since Gladstone.

He began with this statement: "You may be a tad surprised to see me in this position, Mr Speaker, because for the past 26 years I have been a backbencher by choice - not just my choice, but the choice of the past five leaders of my party. Today, however, I am here for very positive reasons, as part of a diversity project in my party at which we have done splendidly.

'Trailblazer'

"There are now far more women on the front bench and in Parliament than ever before - although not enough -and far more ethnic minorities, but there is currently a total absence of octogenarians. I believe that my appointment to this post will be a trailblazer which will lead to an all-octogenarian shortlist in the party, and will make the wealth of experience and wisdom among my fellow octogenarians available to the House. It is important for us to have people here who can remember life before there was a health service."

Mr Flynn's appearance coincided with the release of next week's parliamentary business - with the committee stage of the Wales Bill scheduled for Tuesday.

That sounds routine enough - except Labour currently has no shadow Welsh secretary to lead the official opposition during those debates.