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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A sea of white faces

The Presiding Officer makes the very reasonable point in this morning's Western Mail that the Assembly needs to be more representative of Welsh society. In particular he believes that there needs to be AMs elected next time who belong to ethnic minorities.

Further reading reveals that what he is actually doing is placing himself firmly behind the candidature of Cardiff councillor Mohammed Islam, as the second list candidate for Plaid Cymru in South Wales Central. Councillor Islam faces a very tough contest against former Ceredigion MP, Simon Thomas and his ward colleague, Gwenllian Lansdown. He will need all the support he can muster.

Nobody can fault Dafydd Elis-Thomas on this. He is doing this openly and he is showing his party a practical way forward towards achieving a worthwhile goal. It is a path that other parties have trodden before and it is far from a done deal, but we do need to keep trying until we get a diverse Assembly that reflects the community we represent.
So how many ethnic minority candidates are the Lib Dems fielding in winnable seats?
We have one ethnic minority candidate in place at the moment. He believes that the seat is winnable. Either way the Welsh Liberal Democrats are not doing any better than anybody else on this issue.
I'm not (on this occasion) trying to be critical of the Welsh Lib Dems.

At the last election Labour fielded an ethnic minority candidate, Cherry Short at the head of its mid & west list (the only region in which they stood any mathematical chance of picking up a seat) and she missed out by about a thousand odd votes (or 21 if you consider the Llanelli result). Cherry also just failed to get elected in Monmouth in 1999, being pipped by David Davies.

This time around it doesn't appear that Labour will have any minority ethnic candidates in winnable seats. Most of them are of course already occupied by sitting AMs. It is possible that they might select someone for Cardiff Central, but it's hard to imagine her/him dislodging Jenny Randerson.

With very few AMs of all parties standing down this time it is hard to see where else a minority ethnic AM will come from unless Cllr Islam wins Plaid's second list spot (and then he isn't guaranteed to be elected since the Lib Dems will be challenging for a list seat and the Conservatives will undoubtedly take two if they fail again in Cardiff North). I know Plaid adopted a rule that all lists had to be topped by women, but it's a shame they didn't give the option of them being topped by either a woman or a minority ethnic man, since getting Wales' first non white AM would be a big feather in Plaid's cap and a very effective rebuttal of the charge that nationalism must by definition be racist.
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