SHE was the first female party leader in Wales and became a member of the country's inaugural parliament before she turned 30, but Kirsty Williams insists she will never return to politics. The former Senedd member for Brecon and Radnorshire was elected to the first Welsh Assembly at the age of 28 in May 1999. She became the first female leader of a Welsh political party when she assumed power from the Welsh Liberal Democrats in 2008. and ended her political career serving as Minister of Education under two Prime Ministers, leaving office of her own free will in the May elections to the Senedd, after 22 years.
But while she paved the way for Brecon and Radnorshire as well as women politicians, Williams says being a woman politician has only gotten tougher in the past two decades. And she feels misogyny and the rise of social media has made it harder than ever for other women to blaze a trail like her. He even admitted this week that towards the end of his political career, he encountered death threats and abuse online, including comments directed at his children and vulnerable elderly relatives. "I'd definitely say it's gotten worse," said Williams, 50. “Obviously when I was first elected, there was no social media and I think it provides a platform where people choose to hide behind anonymity or fake profiles, whereas if you are a politician you cannot do that, nor would you like to. " Ms. Williams had appeared on ITV's Sharp End earlier this week, where she revealed that the abuse and death threats led to police surveillance of her home and a security officer accompanying her on ministerial visits. “I fear for many politicians, because abuse and trolling have a price in what you have to endure to do your job
Regardless of the political persuasion, I don't think that's acceptable. I think it's really dangerous for our democracy because it possibly discourages really good people from standing up. Either in local community councils or county councils or parliament. "
The married mother of three added: “It became really difficult for me to protect my children from that abuse, it became distressing for them to read about it. “Sometimes people don't have the courage to talk to me, but my children, my husband, and even my elderly mother-in-law have been said nasty words in an attempt to make a comment. “I think it is really dangerous. People who have big intentions and are motivated by all the right things and who would serve their community might choose different ways to do it and frontline politics will be made worse by their absence. " There are twice as many women MPs in the UK today compared to when Ms Williams first came into the limelight just before the turn of the century.
Labor's landslide victory in the 1997 election sparked a massive surge in women MPs, with 101 Labor Party women elected to the House of Commons that year. There were 120 in total, occupying 659 seats, a figure that has gone from 18.2% to 34% in less than a quarter of a century, with 222 women occupying 650 seats in parliament today. And yet, disparities and uncomfortable problems remain. Kim Leadbeater, who held on to the Batley and Spen neighborhood in Yorkshire by narrowly winning a by-election on Thursday, attracted media attention last week when she was seen being harassed and persecuted by a group of men while campaigning. their community. Leadbeater poignantly won the seat of his sister Jo Cox before she was murdered before hosting surgery in June 2016. Williams, who said he has deactivated his Facebook account since leaving office, admits that social media can be both a blessing and a curse. "Social media can be a really powerful tool for good," he said. “You don't want people to agree with you all the time, but there are more respectful ways to disagree and express your point of view.
Ms. Williams admits that, after such a hectic career, adjusting to normal life has been a different kind of challenge, and confirmed that she will definitely not return to active politics. “It certainly is a lot less stressful. Now I have much more time to spend with my family and, according to Covid rules, with my friends, ”he said. "It is an adjustment period because you go from working to 100 miles per hour, it has been strange, but it is definitely the right decision for me." Pressed on whether she could ever return to the temptation to return to the campaign, she added: “No. No, thanks. “I am very fortunate to have had a very long and happy career in politics. I enjoyed almost every minute. It has been a great honor to represent Brecon and Radnor in the Senedd and to serve as minister, but 22 years is a long time. "I am proud of what I accomplished, but now is the time to think about what to do with the rest of my life."