Conference review: Breaking down barriers

Head of Public Affairs, Craig Lawton, reflects on the Grasshopper panel discussion at Welsh Conservative conference 2024. 8th March 2024


Founded almost nine years ago, Grasshopper Communications set out to improve community and stakeholder engagement in Wales.

Since then, the organisation has grown and developed to provide public affairs and political advice, media and public relations support, creative design, and social value research and insight. We now have offices in Cardiff and London.

However, ensuring diverse communities continue to get the representation and have a voice remains at the heart of what Grasshopper Communications does.

It was therefore a pleasure to be able to sponsor a panel at the recent Welsh Conservative conference in Llandudno.

Partnering with Conservative Women’s Organisation Wales- which aims to support women at all levels of public life in Wales- Grasshopper’s breakfast fringe heard from Wales Minister Fay Jones MP and Monmouth MS Peter Fox as we discussed how the barriers to getting elected can be reduced.

With more than ten years of experience engaging with political representatives, I set out how it is clear that diversity at all levels of elected office is important. Without differences in background, experience, and views, the policies that political parties develop will never fully reflect all communities.

As the first female minister within the Wales Office since the late Cheryl Gillan in 2012, Fay Jones’ experience of campaigning and representing the often three-way marginal seat of Brecon & Radnorshire will be critical to ensuring that the UK Government’s policies in Wales represent communities across the length and breadth of Wales in the run up to the next General Election.

Support and advocacy for women in public life should be rooted in policies and procedures, as well as championed by male colleagues.   

When leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Peter Fox played a crucial role in encouraging women of varying ages and backgrounds to stand as local government candidates. A commitment to equal representation through active steps and mentoring ensured he could build a cabinet that had equal representation of men and women by the time he left to join the Senedd in 2021.

As Natasha Asghar made clear during the fringe’s Q&A session with Welsh Conservative members and activists, continued commitment to breaking down barriers is critical to ensuring we see a more diverse group of politicians in Wales. Her challenge to panelists was to set out what positive steps each would be taking in the future. I reiterated Grasshopper’s commitment to advertise and recruit from under-represented groups, with blind applications being a key part of this commitment.

It was heartening to hear that, just like Grasshopper, Fay Jones too offers internships which pay the real living wage.

Commitments such as these from organisations and politicians alike will not diversify either political representation or the public affairs and communications sector overnight. However, as Peter Fox and his colleagues have shown, persistent support and positive action can make a difference in who chooses to stand for election. This is the first step to ensuring all of Wales and Welsh society is properly represented, stood up for, and ultimately listened to.


Grasshopper Communications’ fringe event at Welsh Conservative 2024 Conference was the first in a series of events and discussions taking place this Spring conference season.

Keep an eye out for Grasshopper at more Welsh political party conferences soon!