The first person of colour to be Lord Mayor of Cardiff has said representation needs to improve across the board in Welsh politics.

Dan De’Ath stood as a Labour candidate on the South Wales Central list at May’s Senedd election, with three of the party’s four candidates from BAME backgrounds.

But the councillor acknowledges it would have taken “a very extraordinary set of circumstances” for any of the four to have been elected as Labour’s dominance in constituency seats means it has never won a list seat in the region and didn’t expect to either.

De’Ath defends Labour, which he said had around 30 per cent BAME candidates in May, but hopes any moves to enlarge the Senedd will also make it more representative of all of Wales.

“If the number of Senedd members does increase then we absolutely have to make sure the people taking those roles are representative of modern Wales, not just in terms of race and gender but class and disability,” he said.

“I think working-class people are insufficiently represented. I would like to see more non graduates, more key workers, more non professionals, who are are the majority of people in Wales. They are not a minority group and it’s not unreasonable for those people to have a strong voice in their parliament.”

The dominance of those from middle-class professional backgrounds isn’t just an issue for Labour, or politics, but for councils as well as the arts and science, said the councillor.

He also said the Labour Party does encourage members “who are not the usual suspects” to apply to be candidates and welcomed that deputy leader, Angela Rayner, had urged key workers to join the party and put themselves forward.

Traditionally BAME voters in Britain have been seen as most supportive of Labour, and some research does support that, but the party has never had a non-white MP in Wales and its only ever Senedd member from a BAME background is economy minister Vaughan Gething who was first elected in 2011.

The Welsh Conservatives have two Members of the Senedd from BAME backgrounds including Natasha Asghar who in May became the first woman of colour to win a Cardiff Bay seat. Her late father, Mohammad Ashgar, was the first non-white person elected to the Senedd, as a Plaid Cymru candidate, in 2007 before defecting to the Conservatives.

But De’Ath doesn’t accept that the Welsh Conservatives, which has also put forward BAME candidates in target seats at Westminster elections in Wales, is better serving diverse candidates.

“Most BAME people’s values and experiences align more with the Labour Party and the Labour Party has been very clear we want to diversify ourselves and we aren’t in any way a perfect organisation. I don’t want to take anything away from Natasha Ashgar, it’s incredible having her there, but I feel Labour meets the needs of the BAME communities far better (than the Conservatives).”

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement globally was reflected in the city last year and De’Ath chaired a council meeting that agreed to remove a statue of slaver Thomas Picton from City Hall. He feels holding the ceremonial role, as the city’s 115th Lord Mayor, was important for representation: “People were really happy and it was a big honour to have people say ‘well done, we feel really proud’.”

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