OBV Profile: Mari Rees

'I believe in the politics of decency,' said Rees. 'So I believe the health service and education should remain free for all at the point of delivery, that businesses are encouraged to grow in socially responsible ways and in the importance of promoting co-operation and respect for others, so leading to more stable and fairer communities.'

Rees, 48, has been selected to fight at the next parliamentary election by the Preseli Pembrokeshire Labour Party and she hopes her philosophy of change can help her overturn one of the smallest majorities in the Welsh Parliament to take the Preseli Pembrokeshire seat.
The eyes of the local media are sure to be on this part of Wales at the next general election when Rees battles it out with the current seat-holder, Conservative MP Stephen Crabb.

As the only black candidate contesting the seat in the small rural town, Rees, who is of mixed-heritage, can only hope that her grass-roots appeal and her undisguised idealism can help her transcend race to appeal to the wider community. Admittedly, a keen equality activist, ensuring equal rights for minority-ethnic groups is at the heart of her politics, but she warns that attention should not be taken away from other disadvantaged groups, which includes white, working-class farmers.

'The rural poor is a group that is tremendously underrepresented. In West Wales there are pockets of real deprivation and because they are so marginalised in geographical terms, you don't tend to see them talked about much in the media.
'Barack Obama put it quite well in the speech he gave on race the other day. He talks about his need to balance how he views racial politics and that's something I feel quite strongly about.'

As the daughter of former Gwent county councillor Dr Russell Rees and a Ghanaian parliamentary candidate, a career in politics was expected of Rees - but the former BBC radio journalist says that she stumbled into it "by accident."

'I've always been political but I hadn't actually envisaged a political career; it was more a series of circumstances that pushed me in that direction. I think that if you are involved in any sort of development work with excluded people, as I am at the moment, you have almost a moral duty to show them that part of the solution to their problems is to acquire power and to be able to access policy makers.'

After being made redundant from BBC Wales, the London-born journalist enrolled on a part-time MA course in film at the University of Wales, before joining the Valley's Race Equality Council as a community development worker. While there, she applied and was selected to take part in Operation Black Vote's award winning Welsh Assembly Shadowing Scheme. This involves Rees shadowing Welsh Assembly member, Lorraine Barrett for a period of six months to learn about the role and responsibilities of an assembly member.

'My shadowing experience has probably been different from everyone else's because I already knew my mentor, but it has been great and I congratulate OBV for introducing this scheme and encouraging black and minority ethnic people to engage in the democratic process in Wales.'

The scheme ends this month, but Rees hopes to continue working with her mentor on an impending research project after this period. It seems that now she has walked down the corridor of power she is not in a hurry to turn back.