Byline: Martin Shipton
WHEN the first National Assembly elections took place four years ago, many people were full of hope that the new institution would deliver a kind of democracy that had not been seen before.
There was much talk of ``inclusive politics'', with an end to the kind of ``yah-boo'' conflict that had become the hallmark of Westminster. This was to lead, we were assured, to a situation where Assembly Members would regard their primary duty as being to the people of Wales instead of to their particular party.
Perhaps this was always a tall order, given the tribalism that has dominated Welsh politics for generations. But many of us were convinced that it was an ideal worth striving for and we remain convinced of that four years later. In a sense the election taking place today is more important than the one that launched the Assembly in 1999. At that time everyone was to a large extent making a leap of faith into a new era where the way the body would evolve was unclear. Because of the particular circumstances in which the Assembly was born - the resignation of Ron Davies followed by the imposition of Alun Michael - the first elections were not essentially policy driven. This time, with those matters firmly in the past, we now have an opportunity to move forward into an era where it will be possible to make tangible improvements to the quality of life in Wales. If this is to happen, however, there is a need for all politicians to be reinfused with the ideals that inspired those who participated in the Yes campaign at the devolution referendum in 1997.
That spirit, if pursued, should also bring on board those who up until now have been sceptical about the whole project.
Because we have in Wales a quite small national legislative body, it is all the more important that we have Assembly Members of the highest calibre. All of them need to be making a positive contribution, and for that to show. It is much harder for untalented Members to hide …