Plaid Cymru rising star who worked on through cancer

Steffan Lewis Image caption Steffan Lewis represented South Wales East in the National Assembly since his election in 2016

The death of Steffan Lewis at the age of 34 brings a tragic end to the promising career of a politician long tipped as a future leader of his party.

In his short time as a Plaid Cymru assembly member, he had a big impact on Welsh politics, particularly in the Welsh Government’s approach to Brexit.

The father-of-one was diagnosed with terminal cancer in late 2017 but refused to allow his illness to stop his work.

A politician who was well-liked across the assembly, Mr Lewis leaves behind his wife, Shona, and a young son, Celyn.

Image copyright Plaid Cymru Image caption Steffan Lewis with Plaid Cymru colleagues in October 2018

Brought up in Crosskeys and Tredegar, he became Wales’ youngest assembly member in 2016 when he was elected to serve the region of South Wales East.

But the fluent-Welsh speaker’s journey into politics began at a much younger age.

Born to parents who were both members of Plaid Cymru, Mr Lewis went to a primary school in Swffryd in Blaenau Gwent.

He later moved to the Welsh-medium primary school Ysgol Gymraeg Cwm Gwyddon in Abercarn, and later attended Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool.

Young politician

The Islwyn by-election of 1995, triggered when former Labour leader Neil Kinnock stood down as an MP, was when he “really started to get excited by politics and excited by political campaigning”.

Image copyright Plaid Cymru Image caption Budding politician: Steffan addressed the 1997 Plaid Cymru conference in Aberystwyth

It was around that time that the young activist went to his first Plaid Cymru branch meeting – and he addressed a party conference in 1997.

The Blaenau Gwent Westminster by-election in 2006 saw Mr Lewis, who is from Blackwood in the Gwent Valleys, stand as a candidate for the first time.

The Celtic football fan came third, but it spurred him on to getting into politics full-time – and a few months later he began working for Plaid Cymru in the assembly.

His work behind the scenes saw him serve as Leanne Wood’s speechwriter during her leadership.

Following the retirement of Jocelyn Davies, Mr Lewis was selected to be top of the Plaid Cymru list for his home region of South Wales East – and secured victory in the 2016 election.

Image copyright Steffan Lewis Image caption Steffan Lewis, pictured at around six years old, went to a primary school in Swffryd in Blaenau Gwent

Mr Lewis’ mother was a social worker while his late father was a former retail worker, but earlier generations of his family had been coal-miners.

“I’m just the second generation of Lewises not to go underground,”

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