Wales politics

Quality of politicians at issue for Welsh devolution

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Image caption People were reluctant to put themselves forward as candidates, the conference heard

The quality of politicians in Wales has been criticised at a conference in Cardiff on the future of devolution.

Lee Waters, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, said people were reluctant to put themselves forward as it was "a bloody miserable experience".

Former Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones said poor quality AMs had "nowhere to hide" in the assembly as it was much smaller than the House of Commons.

And Baroness Morgan of Ely said more people should consider standing.

The comments came during a debate at the UK's Changing Union conference looking at future devolution.

Mr Waters, who was once an aide to the former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, said the poor quality of political candidates was the "dirty secret" that "we all know is true".

He asked: "It's a bloody miserable experience - what rational person would put himself through this?

"But unless we do it ... it's never going to get any better. It's rubbish at Westminster too."

'State of crisis'

Former Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones claimed that poor quality politicians were less exposed in the House of Commons, which has 650 MPs compared to 60 members of the Welsh assembly.

"When I have spent time at Westminster, when you have seen the quality of the backbench MPs who are certainly there because they were appointed by their party... some of them are not the sharpest knives in the cutlery drawer," she said.

"The problem for our institution [the Welsh assembly] is that it's so small that if we have people who are not as able as some others... there's nowhere to hide in the assembly.

"Everyone has got a fairly prominent role."

Baroness Morgan of Ely - the former Labour Euro-MP Eluned Morgan - said: "I don't think it's any secret that political parties are in a state of crisis in terms of members."

Addressing the audience, she said they were "all engaged but nobody's putting themselves forward" to stand for election.

Former BBC Wales controller Geraint Talfan Davies, who was in the audience, called on political parties to be much more open with people about their low level of membership.

"All the parties in Wales strike me as being shell organisations - if you scratch beneath the surface there is very little there," he said.

"You see it in the way candidates are nominated and selected both for the assembly and indeed for Westminster."

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