NATIONAL Assembly figurehead Dame Rosemary Butler says she doesn’t intend to retire after she steps down at the next election in 2016.
The Newport West AM exclusively told the Argus on Saturday that she won’t be putting her name forward to run as candidate in the constituency again.
In an interview with the newspaper the presiding officer was highly critical of what she described as a totally unfounded “war on Wales” coming from Westminister - and dismissed comments by Prime Minister David Cameron that Offa’s Dyke was the line between life and death.
She also reiterated her calls for more AMs, and said Wales has the right number of politicians, but not in the right places.
Dame Rosemary, who fought and won 11 elections and who was first elected as a councillor for Caerleon in 1973, said: “I’m giving notice now that in two years I won’t be putting my name forward - that will be the right time for me to start looking at what I can do.
“I think there are some organisations I’m particularly keen on, and I might help as an advocate for them. In two years time other things might come up... I want to do things I really enjoy, things I think I can make a difference to.”
The Argus asked if she wanted to retire. “Nobody retires,” she said, adding: “I don’t intend to retire.”
Dame Rosemary announced her decision now, she explained, “because it’s going to give my constituency party plenty of time to do a really good selection.”
There is a “very good pool of people that they can choose from,” said the AM, but Dame Rosemary vowed to stay out of the process.
The presiding officer has had a long career in politics, during which time Dame Rosemary said she's had some “incredible experiences”.
She said: “I was elected in 1973, I was mayor of the city. It’s been a great honour and I’ve really really enjoyed it.
“It’s been a real privilege to be, particularly in the Assembly, helping to set up the Assembly... to try to get the institutions embedded in Welsh society.”
Part of Dame Rosemary’s mission as presiding officer has been to get the message out in Wales about what is going on in the Senedd.
Dame Rosemary says there has been good recent publicity for the Assembly – like with the new organ donation law – but that over the last few months “we’ve had some negative criticism from Westminster [which] I found very disappointing because they are waging a war on Wales, a negative war and totally unfounded. That hasn’t helped.”
“There are some extremely good things happening in Wales. We do things very differently in England. We don’t get the good coverage because when they report on television its England – they forget that Wales is different and doing things differently,” she said.
Dame Rosemary said the Offa’s Dyke comment by David Cameron was a “classic example; that is real rabble rousing stuff.”
“It makes people doubt and concerned when you don’t need to be concerned,” she said.
“If you are ill you don’t need any extra pressures with people telling you that the service you are going to get is no good, when the service you’re going to get is very good,” she said.
Dame Rosemary said she has no intention of giving up her presiding officer role until she stands down, and says she has a full summer program of getting out and about in her constituency.
She reiterated her long standing call for more Assembly members: “I know it’s not popular but if you are to truly scrutinise all the new bills that would come under the new powers we’re going to get, then you are going to need more members to make sure we get proper scrutiny.”
The AM wouldn’t be drawn on whether there should be fewer MPs in exchange, but added: “We have the right number of politicians, perhaps not in the right places.”