It's all white in the assembly

Lib Dem leader Mike 'German' is about as ethnic as it gets in the Welsh assembly. David Davies is part Hungarian and Bryan Gibbons is an Irishman. Apart from that, Assembly Members are as white and British as they come.

(Before Plaid-sympathising readers reach for the diatribe button, be aware: I'm talking census terms here.)

There are often calls to make the assembly more representative. It's already more than half female and attracting an increasing number of young candidates. But when it comes to ethnicity, it's all white.

And so, more or less, is Wales. In the 2001 census, 96% of Welsh people gave their ethnic origin as White British. That's 9% more than in England. Just 1.7% described themselves as members of an ethnic minority group, the largest being Asian/Asian British at 0.9%

But that still means the assembly isn't quite as colourful as it might be. If it were mathematically representative, we'd expect at least one and one fifth assembly member to be from an ethnic minority. Requiring just a teeny swing from the Tories to get a list seat in South Wales East, Plaid's Mohammad Asghar is the ethnic candidate most likely to get elected. If he were to win and then grow an extra leg he'd be perfect for the assembly's sense of balance (though perhaps not his own).

As far as I'm aware, however, there are no ethnic minority candidates contesting guaranteed or near guaranteed seats. It may well be that the assembly goes another four years with Brian Gibbons' brogue as the nearest thing to ethnic diversity. In today's Wales, is that good enough?

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posted by Blamerbell @ 10:17 am,


At 7:26 pm, Blogger Wynne Jones said...

Personally, I think you're making too much of an issue here. Why the obsession with skin colour? Does it matter what colour the Assembly members are? Not at all. They could be green with silver stripes on them for all I care. The issue is whether they are doing their job properly, not whether they are white, brown, black or whatever. Neither does it matter what genitals they have.

At 7:39 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

People look to elected bodies to reflect and represent all areas of society. Ideally, you'd get a mix of politicians from all the different backgrounds in the country they serve.

That's why parliaments aren't exclusively male only places anymore.

It's only a matter of time before they become more ethnically diverse too, and that must be a good thing.

At 9:03 pm, Anonymous daran said...

In South Wales Central if the Conservatives were to take the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff North while the Labour vote didn't collapse in the rest of the region, then Labour could
pull one seat back on the regional list. Enter Ifti Khan, Cardiff Labour community campaigner and another possible first AM from an ethnic minority.

At 7:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really shows how stupid the system is if someone could be elected because his or her party has been rejected by voters in two of first past the past constituncies.What sort of mandate would Ifti Khan have because no one would have voted for him full stop. In 2012 he would lose his seat if Labour regained either the Vale or Cardiff North.

At 9:20 am, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

What mandate would he have? Surely the same as every other list candidate who has been elected - that the total number of seats for each party in the region reflects the total number of votes the party earned on the second ballot. Even if they were to lose those two seats, Labour voters in Cardiff North and the Vale of Glamorgan would be entitled to fair representation in the Assembly.

Mind you, if elected, he would probably be gone as early as 2011, unless Labour's decline is terminal.

At 5:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skin colour......?! Huh....I would have thought that elected bodies should reflect more economic class than skin colour. After all, colour is only skin deep.

At 7:16 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"I would have thought that elected bodies should reflect more economic class than skin colour."

Maybe... if we all lived in three-tier exclusion zones depending on whether we are upper, middle or lower class.

The reality is quite different. Ethnic minority people often live in ethnic minority communities, sometimes totally detached from the political process.

Politics, at its best, is a melting pot of the diverse elements which comprise society. That means people of all classes, sexes and ethnic backgrounds and not people simply presuming to speak for, and therefore silencing, society's important minorities.

At 4:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article says it all: Wales is 96% white (the figure for the whole of the UK is more like 92%). As a result it's hardly surprising that the Assembly is all-white and nor is it a cause for concern. What would concern me more would be moves in the direction of positive discrimination which put ethnic minority candidates forward for the Assembly for the sake of it.


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