The opening salvo in the general election battle began in earnest on Friday May 24 when Home Secretary MP James Cleverly visited the town of Usk.

The Monmouthshire constituency has been identified as one of Labour's key targets in Wales with candidate Catherine Fookes looking to unseat veteran MP David TC Davies who has been in the post since 2005 and was appointed Secretary of State for Wales in 2022. 

The visit began in the Three Salmons Hotel when the Home Secretary, James Cleverly and MP David TC Davies were welcomed by county councillor Tony Kear who spoke of Usk’s proud history with their successes in the Wales and Britain in Bloom competitions, being dubbed the ‘Town of flowers’, and twice representing the United Kingdom in European competitions.

They then met one of the hotel’s directors Jeff Cleverly, a similarity in surname that did not go unnoticed by James.

Following a private meeting, members of the press were invited to interview James and local democracy reporter Twm Owen and Beacon reporter Desmond Pugh took turns in pressing the Home Secretary on matters local and national.

In response to a question on local business rate relief dropping from 70% to 40%, both MPs pointed out that the Welsh Government has had more money given to them than any other nation yet have taken it upon themselves to waste £120m on electing more MSs to the Senedd, spending nearly £30m on 20 mile an hour speed limits, losing £60m on the Development Bank of Wales and money being lost at Cardiff Airport.

Mr Cleverly said: “What I find really frustrating is that the Labour-run Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay does not support Welsh people as generously as the UK government supports Wales.

“They top-slice that money, they waste that money which means there is a differential in business rate relief between Wales and England because of poor decision-making by the Labour government in Cardiff Bay.

Then both MPs travelled to Little Mill and met local conservative members MS Peter Fox, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in Monmouthshire Richard John and members of the Little Mill community before a walk around the village.

They first stopped off at the home of Alison Reynolds who was absolutely astounded to see the Home Secretary on her doorstep that morning.

Then followed a visit to the house of Stephen Clarke who said the one big issue he had was law and order.

“We had four police officers out here with speed cameras for two days trying to catch motorists doing 25 mph in a 20mph zone and I see kids on e-scooters up and down the street and nothing is ever done about it”.

Then the pair stopped to talk to two policemen - PCs Stephen Hayward and PC Tom Evans before having a conversation with resident John Walters.

They went to see former Welsh guardsmen Steve Fry who had been in the army for 24 years and had been mentioned in despatches by George Younger, Secretary of State for Defence in 1986, for services in Northern Ireland where he had served four tours.

They then stopped to chat to Llanbadoc Community Council chairman Colin Deakins and his wife who said about the extra proposed Senedd members: “When you look at Wales, we have 700-odd town and community councils, along with 22 unitary authorities - we are getting a bit over-governed”.

The tour ended up back in the hall’s car park where Mr Cleverly said farewell to members of the Welsh Conservatives  saying “In 1997, it was Tony Tony Tony, there was a real excitement about Labour, but it’s not there this time.”