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First woman of colour elected to Senedd says online trolls put off minorities

·3-min read

The first woman of colour to win a seat in the Welsh Parliament says a lack of diversity in politics is partly down to the “brutalisation” people risk receiving on social media.

Natasha Asghar became only the fifth non-white member of the Senedd in its 22-year history after she was elected to represent South Wales East for the Welsh Conservatives in last week’s election.

The regional seat is one previously held by her father, Mohammad Asghar, the first ethnic minority member of the Senedd when he was elected in 2007, who died in June 2020.

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Ms Asghar said she and her father had received comments from online trolls about their skin colour.

The former QVC presenter said one of her priorities was to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up positions in Welsh or UK politics, and said she understood why others are put off.

She told the PA news agency: “There aren’t many women of colour in political positions here in Wales, or men either. I think it’s very important to have someone to represent the different types of people here.

“But politics is a very volatile job. I think a lot of people from ethnic minorities feel that it’s very sensible and good to have a stable job like a doctor, dentist, teacher, lawyer, these conventional careers.

“Whereas in politics you have to fight for your job every five years, and there’s that instability which, if you have a house, mortgage, children, then it may be a little daunting to take on that responsibility.”

Ms Asghar said the responsibility for opening up opportunities in public life for minorities lay with politicians and the media to help tone down the hostility faced online.

First woman of colour in the Welsh Parliament
(Ben Birchall/PA)

“We often see politicians hammered on social media and the media for policies, or things they do in their personal lives, and I think it’s important we work together to try and encourage people to make politics a career and somewhere people want to be,” she said.

“I think a lot of people are scared of the brutalisation people experience on social media. So many politicians get trolled, they get death threats.

“It’s not the ideal job that some would want to get into because they think ‘why do I want the headache?’

“But at the same time the satisfaction you get from helping others is beyond the comprehension that I’ve ever had with anything else.”

She said her late father, who entered the Senedd as a Plaid Cymru member before defecting to the Tories, had a “heck of an ordeal to deal with” during his time in politics.

“He was the first one to defect, he was the first man of colour, and I saw the amount of hatred that he experienced from keyboard warriors, and that hurt.”

Ms Asghar said she became used to people commenting about her weight and skin colour during more than 10 years as a television presenter, and as a result “nothing fazes me any more”.

“Thick skin is something that runs in the family, and I certainly hope I can carry that on for the next five years in Parliament.”