Abuse faced by politicians, difficulties maintaining a healthy family life and financial concerns are stopping better representation in Welsh politics, according to a major new report.
‘New Voices: How Welsh politics can begin to reflect Wales’ – which is being launched today, Thursday 12th July, at an event in Cardiff – comes after a survey of over 250 Welsh politicians as well as in-depth interviews with key people in each party.
A total of 17 recommendations are made by ERS Cymru on how to improve representation, which include putting in place gender quotas, a requirement on Welsh political parties to develop a joint code of conduct around intimidatory behaviour and better processes by social media companies for those wishing to report abuse.
Featured in the report are harrowing examples of abuse and harassment in politics including individuals who reported being sent excrement through their letter box and another who said they had opened a letter filled with razor blades.
Of the 266 respondents to the survey, 121 said they had been abused or harassed either in office or while campaigning , which is 45.5% of total respondents and includes 54.0% of female respondents.
In addition to abuse and harassment, the reality of being a politician was found to be a barrier to better representation with the implications on family life being a major factor, particularly for councillors who often have to balance part or full time jobs with their duties in addition to caring for family members.
The financial implications of becoming a candidate were also found to be prohibitive to many who might consider standing.
Commenting on the report Jess Blair, ERS Cymru Director, said:
“This report offers a shocking account of the realities of being a politician in Wales. Some of the abuse faced by elected representatives is appalling.
“It’s no wonder given the implications on the lives of those who stand for office that many from communities that aren’t currently represented have been put off from standing.
“We need to look at modernising our institutions and work with parties to identify and develop a more diverse set of candidates. Alongside this we also need to take the levels of abuse and harassment that politicians are facing seriously, and create a set of responses that can more effectively deal with this.
“That over half of female politicians who took part in our report have said they have been abused in office is horrifying. Given this it’s no wonder that many people look at politics and think that’s not for them.
“We hope that this report acts as a wakeup call for political parties, institutions and even social media companies. Our recommendations are varied and may make uncomfortable reading for many parties who currently take little action on diversity, yet we believe they are necessary to create a politics in Wales that better reflects the population”.