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Wed, 8 February 2023

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I am proud to be the first woman of colour elected to the Senedd – but the expansion scheme is a mistake

I am proud to be the first woman of colour elected to the Senedd – but the expansion scheme is a mistake
3 min read

Drastic plans to radically reshape the political landscape in Wales are looming on the horizon in what will be the biggest shake-up to democracy since devolution began in 1999.

Labour and Plaid Cymru are hellbent on squeezing more politicians into the Senedd – a contentious move which comes with a price tag of around £100 million.

Their pipeline project – which the Welsh Conservatives are vehemently against – would see an extra 36 politicians in Cardiff Bay, taking the total to 96.

People up and down the country are being faced with ever-increasing cost-of-living pressures and the last thing they need right now is to be footing the bill for Labour and Plaid’s pet project. Our NHS under immense pressure with 700,000 people languishing on an NHS treatment waiting list, people struggling to get a doctor’s appointment or a check-up at the dentist. I am a firm believer that what Wales needs the most is more doctors, nurses, dentists, and teachers – not politicians.

Politicians should be elected on merit – not simply because they tick the right boxes

Not only are Mark Drakeford and Adam Price looking to put more bums on seats, but they also want to impose a gender quota. Having made history last year by becoming the first woman of colour to be elected to the Senedd, I genuinely want to the Welsh Parliament become as diverse and inclusive as possible.

I am astounded that since its creation some 23 years ago, the Senedd has only seen four ethnic minority men and just one woman to date. I want to see a Senedd that has more women, more people of colour, more disabled politicians, and more members of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, politicians should be elected on merit – not simply because they tick the right boxes, which is what I fear will happen in Wales under these plans. I am proud of the fact that I am the first woman of colour to be elected to the Senedd, but I did not get here simply because of the colour of my skin. I got where I am today on my own merit through equal competition.

There should be no gender balance. No all-women shortlist. No positive discrimination. People across Wales, who we as politicians serve, deserve to know that Senedd members are in post because they are good at their job – not because they tick all the boxes to fulfil an artificial quota.

I have been inundated with emails and calls from constituents raising concerns and their objections to the Senedd expansion scheme. They are clear in their views that money should be spent on healthcare, education, infrastructure, and roads instead of extra politicians.

The proposed changes claim to strengthen the Welsh Parliament and to better represent the people of Wales, but how can that be true when it is being forced upon them? My Welsh Conservative colleagues and I believe Labour and Plaid should let the public have the final say on these plans.

If the Labour and Plaid coalition group – a term they despise – are so confident this expansion scheme will be supported by residents in all four corners of the country. If they are so confident the people of Wales are happy to see up to £100 million spent on more politicians and these proposals will better serve the people of Wales and give them a stronger voice, then why not put it to the people?

This is the people’s Senedd so let the people decide on the future of Wales.

 

Natasha Asghar is the Welsh Conservative member of the Welsh Parliament for South Wales East and shadow minister for transport and technology.

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