THE HISTORIC Westgate Hotel, scene of the 1839 Newport Rising, will be included in the city council’s new placemaking plan and cultural strategy after calls for the local authority to “reclaim” the building.
But the Chartists, who clashed with soldiers while intending to march on Westminster, were frequently sidelined during a heated debate in the Newport City Council chamber on Tuesday (November 28).
During a discussion in which tempers often threatened to boil over, councillors regularly strayed from the proposed topic of debate to instead trade verbal blows over wider party politics.
Conservative councillor Will Routley told the chamber he wanted the council to “do everything in its power to ensure the future of this historic building”.
But cabinet member Jason Hughes said he was “flabbergasted” by the source of the motion, accusing the Tory government in Westminster of “undermining” the Chartists’ “legacy”.
Fellow Labour councillor Pat Drewett, a Chartist historian, accused the opposition of a “politically motivated” motion and told the chamber the city council had never owned the Westgate Hotel.
But he was then rapped by others in the chamber, who alleged he was “making personal attacks” and “disobeying” the instructions of presiding officer Paul Cockeram.
Ray Mogford, a Conservative, accused Labour of “hijacking our motion” with an amended version.
There were more bizarre moments when Cllr Cockeram wished Cllr Routley a “merry Christmas” during the debate, and the latter went on to demand an apology from Labour member Stephen Cocks after being accused of “grandstanding in the local press”.
Amid the disruption, the council’s legal officer was called upon several times to navigate councillors through the debate.
Those marchers involved in the Newport Rising were striving for more voting rights for the common man, and with this in mind independent councillor Kevin Whitehead said the Chartists might have wondered “what the hell did we create” if they had been present.
He said councillors had “wasted a lot of time” trading accusations, but admitted he thought watching the debate was “better than Emmerdale”.
Allan Morris, another independent, called the to and fro “absolutely pathetic” and said Labour and the Conservatives “can’t agree to be seen to be working together”.
Despite their differences, both Cllr Routley and Cllr Drewett both paid tribute to the Newport Rising organisation, which from 2019 until a few weeks ago – when it was reportedly removed from the Westgate Hotel – had worked on restoring the building and preserving the Chartists’ legacy.