Natasha Asghar becomes first woman of colour to be elected to the Senedd

Natasha Asghar has made history by becoming the first female from a Black or Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) background to be elected to the Senedd.

Ms Asghar will represent the South Wales East region for the Conservative party.

Reacting to her win, Ms Asghar said it feels "absolutely amazing" to be the first BAME female MS.

She follows in the footsteps of her late father, Mohammad Asghar, who was also MS for South Wales East until he died in 2020. He was the first person from a BAME background to be elected to the Assembly, as it was called then, and was also the first muslim Assembly Member.

The South Wales East regional seats were won by two Conservatives and two Plaid Cymru representatives in this election.

"As soon as she said my name, it was a feeling of pure elation," said Ms Asghar, who is of Pakistani heritage.

The newly elected politician said people had been congratulating her since Friday night but she did not want "to take it as a given" before it was officially announced on Saturday afternoon.

She said she was "really honoured" and "touched" to have won a seat and hopes to help create "a better Wales for all".

"I've worked closely with previous ethnic minority members in the past," she said.

"And I remember the first person of colour who joined the Assembly many years ago said 'I'm blessed that I'm the first but I sincerely hope that I'm not the last' and to be the first woman is just incredible.

"It's not something I actually realised until someone said it to me the other day and I realised 'wow, actually that's true', so being the first is a huge honour for me."

Mohammad Asghar died suddenly at the age of 74 in June last year.

Her party's leader, Andrew RT Davies said he was "thrilled to see Natasha Asghar make history in South Wales East by becoming the first female from a BAME background to be elected to the Senedd".

Speaking about her late father, Ms Asghar said: "He was a very huge part of my life and he passed away very suddenly last year, still even his name chokes me up.

"I know he wanted to stand in the election himself, he was getting ready to pursue his last term potentially.

"Being here today just made me understand why he did it, he loved Wales. There is no one in the world I know who loved south east Wales more and passionately crusaded the cause for all his constituents, no matter if they voted for him or not.

"And I certainly hope to carry that legacy on for sure."

Despite the positive step towards better representation that Ms Asghar's win is, some feel progress is not being made quickly enough.

Jess Blair from the Electoral Reform Society Wales said: "The election of the first woman from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background is a massive step forward but one BAME woman in 22 years isn’t enough progress.”

Three people from a BAME background have been elected in the 2021 Senedd Election, with Vaughan Gething and Altaf Hussein being the other two alongside Ms Asghar.

Ms Blair also pointed to an issue with female representation, calling this election "a real step back" for gender diversity.

The total number of female MSs is down to 26 from 29 prior to the 2021 election.

Overall, three female MSs lost constituency seats to males while Sarah Murphy in Bridgend was the only female to take a seat from a man. In the regions, the female MS count is down by one.

One of the significant female MS losses this year included the Brecon and Radnorshire seat, previously held by Kirsty Williams since 1999 and now claimed by Welsh Conservative James Evans.

Ms Williams did not stand for re-election and her party fielded a male candidate, Bill Powell, anyway instead.

As was the case for the Vale of Clwyd, where the incumbent Labour MS Anne Jones stepped down from the role to be replaced by a male Labour candidate, who ultimately lost out to Gareth Davies for the Conservatives.

In Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, the Conservatives held the seat but replaced Angela Burns with a male, Samuel Kurtz.

Listen to Natasha Asghar on The New Normal with Adrian Masters, November 2020: