A report by Race Alliance Wales (RAW) shows that ethnic minority people in Wales believe they face ‘significant and complex barriers’ to entering political and public life.

132 people from ethnic minority backgrounds took part in the study, including individuals involved in politics, those who aspire to be, and members of the general public.

The study, which is the first in a series commissioned by RAW in the wake of Black Lives Matter, explored representation in elected politics and in public bodies. Most contributors said they want to see a fairer, more diverse and representative public and political sector.

Over 60 per cent of respondents said that institutional racism discourages them from entering political or public life, and 43 per cent felt there were not enough positive ethnic minority role models in public life in Wales, with many looking to England, or internationally, for inspiration.

The report highlighted the lack of data on the number of ethnic minority people in elected office in Wales, but said from their own analysis, that from 22 local authorities in Wales, with a total of 1241 councillor positions, only 37 were held by ethnic minority people, equating to just under 3 per cent.

They also identified that only two members of the Senedd were from an ethnic monitory, and that a BAME female MS has never been elected to the Welsh Parliament.

In comparison, the report says that around seven per cent of the Welsh population are from an ethnic minority.

One respondent said: “I want the people that represent us to look like us, to feel like us, to sound like us, because if they don’t, then how can we have confidence that they understand our needs?”

Some respondents said they felt that that public or political life was “just not for me”, but “for the elite and wealthy”, and 63 per cent said they felt that none of the Welsh political parties represented BAME people. Respondents expressed a lack of trust and faith in Welsh institutions, and many said they did not understand politics.

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Respondents identified barriers and difficulties in running for election as an ethnic minority candidate. One respondent said:  “a lot of ethnic minorities won’t have the financial resource” to complete the unpaid work of running for election.

One respondent said: “In an election you probably won’t win, to throw everything at it, takes a lot of toll – a lot of voluntary work, leaflets, door knocking – a lot of time taken. With young kids, balancing that and work is not easy for anyone to do, particularly for females from ethnic minorities”.

Experiences of racism when out door-knocking were also highlighted. One respondent said that when canvassing for a political party they were assumed to be handing out takeaway menus.

One respondent said canvassing had become harder since Brexit, saying “I’m worried to knock the door because I don’t think they see European immigrants as immigrants; I think they see brown people and Asian people as immigrants. And I think they voted to get us out.”

Prospective candidates were also worried by the prospect of online and direct abuse faced by people in the public eye.

Some were told they should not stand for election if another ethnic minority person was already standing, being told that “one was enough” or that they would “split the BAME vote”.

Some respondents identified a “glass ceiling” in Welsh politics, identifying the fact that while there are BAME councillors in Wales, there are only two BAME cabinet members in local government, and no BME leader or deputy leader.

One councillor said: “Being the only BAME councillor feels odd. I feel they’re thinking ‘what the hell is he doing here?'”

Respondents said that complex applications, the need for networks and nepotism blocked ethnic minority people from public positions. Mentoring, coaching and shadowing were identified as helpful for increasing representation.

The report makes a series of recommendations, including:

  • Political education in schools
  • Increased provision of programmes run by people of colour, for people of colour
  • More transparent processes and detailed advice on how to complete applications
  • Placing limits on the number of times an individual can stand for a position,
  • Diversity action plans, with specific targets for representation

One politician told the report that you need "a thick skin” to enter politics as an ethnic minority person, but that with persistence “you can achieve.”