Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The return of macho politics

The National Assembly for Wales has been rightly proud of its record on gender balance. At times over the last 10 years women have made up the majority of AMs and the majority of the Cabinet.

Things have slipped back a bit, women now make up 28 of the 60 places, but by international standards the Welsh Assembly remains one of the most representative legislatures by gender in the world.

But next May that will change. Eight women AM will relinquish their seats and in each case is almost certain to replaced by a a man.

Lorraine Barrett, Jane Davidson, Irene James, Trish Law, Val Lloyd, Jenny Randerson, and Janet Ryder are retiring and their local parties have selected men to replace them. Trish Law is also standing down and a man is very likely to succeed her. Nerys Evans' place on the Plaid Mid & West Wales list has been handed to a man - and though she may return to Cardiff Bay as AM for Carmarthen West it would be at the expense of a sitting female AM.

Only one retiring man (Andrew Davies) is likely to be replaced by a woman.

So all other things being equal it looks as though the number of female AMs will drop to 21 out of 60 in 2011.

None of the parties emerge with credit. Though Plaid Cymru and Labour make gestures towards positive discrimination they have had little impact on this round of selections. The Liberal Democrats have even less to be proud of and the Conservatives will end up as an all male group once again next year if their sole female loses her marginal seat.

If the results fall as expected the Assembly will still have roughly the same proportion of women representatives as the House of Commons does. But the Assembly was meant to be better than that.

Update: It has rightly been pointed out to me that the Conservatives have learned the errors of their ways somewhat and selected women in two marginals (Vale of Glamorgan and Aberconwy) as well as the top spot in South Wales West. If successful in all three would result in an extra two women AMs in the Assembly

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