On first glance, the Senedd might appear relatively diverse for a political institution in the UK. It made headlines in 2003 when it became the first legislative body in the world to have 50% women. Yet, one stark fact casts the claims of the Senedd to be world-leading on diversity into doubt; there has never been a BAME woman elected to the Welsh Parliament in the 21 years it has been in existence.
While some rightly praise the Senedd’s history in ensuring high levels of women members, the truth is that this has been down to the use of positive action by parties who have been relatively successful in elections. For example, Welsh Labour have routinely used All Women Shortlists and the twinning of seats to ensure female representation.
The reality is that there is nothing in place to ensure that this level of gender representation continues at the next election, or that we see parties selecting higher levels of BAME candidates, LGBT+ candidates or disabled people as candidates to ensure a much more diverse Senedd after May 2021.
That’s why last week a coalition of organisations decided to write to party leaders asking them what they were doing to ensure that things changed. Ourselves (ERS Cymru), Women’s Equality Network Wales (WEN Wales), Race Council Cymru and EYST (Ethnic Youth Support Team Wales) wrote to First Minister Mark Drakeford MS, Adam Price MS, Paul Davies MS and leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds to ask them for three interventions.
- To publish existing party diversity plans,
- Commit to collecting and publishing data on the diversity of their candidates and eventually elected representatives in the 2021 Senedd elections and 2022 Local Government elections,
- Make manifesto commitments for 50:50 gender balance alongside increasing diversity of representation of LGBT+ people, people of colour and disabled people in the Senedd through positive action to ensure that the Senedd is reflective of the population it serves.
Party leaders must take responsibility for ensuring greater diversity in the Senedd after the next election and we look forward to their responses to our letter setting out which actions they are taking.
If parties carry on failing on diversity then significant parts of our communities will continue to be underrepresented. We must ensure that next May our Welsh Parliament is truly representative of the people across Wales.
Image: Unsplash royalty free