06/16/2024

Wales News Online

Local & National News for Wales

WITH both her parents involved in politics – her father was an MS and her mother was, for a time, a mayoress – it’s fair to say that politics runs in Natasha Asghar’s blood. But her path to becoming the first woman of colour in the Welsh Parliament is entirely her own.

Born in Newport to Mohammad ‘Oscar’ Asghar, then an accountant, and Firdaus Hussain, a doctor, Ms. Asghar has come in a full circle, representing the area in which she grew up.

The newly-elected South Wales East MS’ political career mirrors that of her father’s – joining Plaid Cymru before defecting to the Conservative Party in 2009, but their paths were separate.

Like her father, Ms. Asghar studied politics at university but said there was never any pressure from the family to pursue this path.

“My mother is very conventional and wanted to me pursue something like law or medicine,” she said.

“Oscar and I got into politics around the same time.”

Natasha went to Rougemont School in Newport and spent some of her youth in Cardiff before moving back to Newport.

When it got to decide what she might study at university, Ms. Asghar said she wasn’t sure. Her father Oscar had asked her what she liked doing.

“I liked to talk,” she said.

“If you look back on all my school reports every single one says the same thing, it’s the one criticism.”

This coupled with work experience with a Senedd member, and a Member of the European Parliament helped steer her towards politics.

Upon leaving university Ms. Asghar worked as a banker for four years before embarking on a ten-year career as a radio and TV presenter.

During her banking days, Natasha stood as the Plaid Cymru candidate for the 2007 National Assembly for Wales election in Blaenau Gwent and for the Wales seat in the 2009 European elections.

For the past four years, Ms. Asghar has been commuting between London and Wales to help care for her mother, who suffers from numerous health issues.

When asked what her greatest influence was, aside from family, that encouraged her into politics, Ms.Asghar said it was attending a protest against the Iraq War in the early 2000s.

She said: “I felt deflated and wanted to give up; I hated politics at the time.

“It didn’t make a difference.”

But she says her family encouraged her to not give up if it was something she was passionate about.

Since Covid, Ms. Asghar has worked for a PR firm producing adverts for the UK government in relation to social distancing, track, and trace, etc for the ethnic minorities in a variety of different languages.

But it’s no secret the impact that Covid has had on her family after her father Oscar died in June last year.

Although his death wasn’t coronavirus related Ms.Asghar wasn’t able to mourn in the same way.

Speaking about it, she said: “It was horrific.

“I lost someone who meant the world to me during Covid.

“He didn’t die from Covid but he passed away during covid.

“For the struggles of people who lost loved ones during covid or from covid, I completely understand and sympathise because you’re not able to mourn properly, you can’t hug people who want to offer their condolences, funerals were perhaps not done as we were used to prior to the Covid days.”

She also talked about her concerns for the future of the NHS and the “burden” it is going to face, particularly with the number of operations postponed due to Covid.

Ms. Asghar said:

“Once things start reopening those people are going to need their operations more so than ever because they’ve spent a year at home in pain or suffering or just waiting for that appointment.”

She raised concerns over the doctors and nurses becoming “even more overburdened than they were during Covid”.

“I’d like to work with the health boards quite closely to ensure that their wellbeing is taken care of to the best of everyone’s ability because without them we are nothing,” she said.

Another key issue for Natasha in her role as an MS is regeneration.

She said:

“When I was growing up, I used to love going to the town centre.

“Newport town centre was a thriving place and we had so many great shops to go to.

“People would come from Cwmbran, Torfaen, Islwyn – all across the region – to shop in Newport because we had opportunities there.

“At Christmas time we used to do our carol service at St Woolos Cathedral, walk our way down, and there used to be a Pizza Hut, which is not there anymore.

“It was really lovely and a safe place to be but now when I go to the high street, honestly, it breaks my heart.

“I see the childhood that I had and the things that we used to do, now young people don’t have any of that and the sad part is that everything’s shutting down.”

Ms. Asghar said that Covid has “wreaked havoc” and it’s not anyone’s fault, but it “saddens” her because “a lot of the things that I had the privilege of growing up within Newport, other people won’t have that”.

She said: “I really want to see South East Wales thrive.

“I really want to see the economy here booming through and through.

“Not just from shops but from tourism, from transport, from every aspect and that’s what I want to do.

“I want to be known as the first woman of colour was there for everybody not just for people from an ethnic background.

“I want everyone to be aware and know I’m here for everyone’s benefit.”

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