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18 February 2016

Christian AM William Graham standing down in May

Christian AM William Graham standing down in May

When the ballot papers are counted and the new assembly is in place come May 5th, one of the faces that will be missed is that of William Graham AM.

William has served as Conservative Assembly Member for South Wales East since assuming office in the First Assembly in 1999 and is one of a small but influential number of committed Christians from across the parties who have done so over the life of the Assembly.

Two examples come to mind where William has been a main driver on issues that are of primary interest to many Christians.

The first is William's role in the House Committee that resulted in seeing a copy of the 1588 William Morgan Bible placed on permanent public display in the Assembly's Pierhead building.  The copy of this Bible, renowned for its religious and literary significance in Wales, was first offered to the Assembly in 2005 from all of Wales' Christian denominations. The Presiding Officer at the time however, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, despite his father being a Presbyterian minister, believed that there should be no public display of religion on the Assembly estate, and so the gift was accepted but the Bible was placed in the Members' Library away from the public.

Dame Rosemary Butler's election as Presiding Officer in 2011 however, gave William the opportunity to have the decision reconsidered. Rosemary was more of the view that the Assembly estate should be a place where the richness and diversity of Welsh life could be celebrated and so was amenable to having the William Morgan Bible put on public display.

A second example relates to an Individual Members debate, held in the Senedd in December 2014, that the Assembly should support the principles of the Assisted Dying Bill. William strongly opposed this and took the lead in organising a superb briefing meeting ahead of the debate with Baroness Finlay and Care not Killing speaking. In the room were AMs, medical practitioners and leaders from various faith groups.

William is also known as an astute politician and negotiator, and this has been demonstrated during his time as the Opposition Chief Whip. In 2005, for example, he was able to liaise effectively with Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru AMs and unify the opposition, resulting in Welsh Assembly Government's motion to introduce top-up tuition fees being defeated 30-29.

On the back of Cardiff's Millennium Stadium hosting the FA Cup while Wembley was being rebuilt, William pushed for a feasability study in order to bring the Commonwealth Games to Wales. Although this was not backed at the time by Welsh Assembly Government, it is now something that a number of prominent people are calling for.

During the time when the first national ICT strategy was being developed in Wales in 2001, William had the foresight to identify the need to combat socially undesirable images and data on the internet and tabled a motion in order for this to be raised.

William also took the brave move to bring the late Motorhead singer Lemmy to the Assembly to speak about heroin addiction in 2005. Although Lemmy's speech was distorted by the media, the awareness raised through his visit resulted in the issue being seriously debated in the Assembly.

William is a member of a United Reformed Church and is one of only five tee-totallers in the Assembly. Although he has not decided upon his next step, it is hoped that his encyclopedic knowledge of South Wales history will be used to benefit others.

If you'd like to send William an email to thank him for his work his address is william.graham@assembly.wales.

Image: William Graham