Lee Waters

Lee Waters (born 12 February 1976) is a Welsh Labour and Co-operative politician, who was elected as the Member of the Senedd for Llanelli in May 2016.[1]

Lee Waters

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport
Assumed office
14 December 2018
First MinisterMark Drakeford
Preceded byNew Appointment
Member of the Senedd
for Llanelli
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Preceded byKeith Davies
Majority382 (1.3%)
Personal details
Born (1976-02-12) February 12, 1976 (age 44)
Amman Valley
Political partyWelsh Labour Co-operative
ResidenceBrynamman, Amman Valley
Alma materUniversity of Wales, Aberystwyth
OccupationPolitician, journalist
CabinetDrakeford Government

Early life

Waters grew up in Brynamman in the Aman Valley.[2] His father was a coal miner who was made redundant[3] and his mother was a hair dresser.[2] He has stated he did not grow up in a political or "militant" family but remembered his father, who was supportive of a ballot rather than industrial action at the time, going on strike.[2]

He studied at Amman Valley Comprehensive School[3] and while at school wrote a piece for Wales on Sunday about his fellow students asking whether they were planning on staying in their community. He found many were keen to leave.[2] He has criticised those who told him at 15 that "if you want to get on, you have to get out".[3]


Waters grew up with an interest in current affairs and kept scrap books of newspapers.[2] He was in a class of three studying politics in school, and later was the only student in the class.[2]

He went to study at University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He joined the Labour Party in 1994 upon starting his studies[2] and went on to the University's Parliamentary Placement Scheme where he worked in Westminster.[2] Upon graduating he took a year out to work for his local MP Alan Williams during the 1997 general election.[2] This was followed by an internship in the United States House of Representatives as an ESU Capitol Hill Scholar for a summer.[2][4]


After graduating Waters received multiple job offers: from the PPS to the Secretary of State for Wales Nick Ainger, from Peter Hain MP, and from Ron Davies MP. He went on to work as the Political Secretary to Davies in August 1998 as part of the leadership campaign between him and Rhodri Morgan.[2][4] Davies' campaign famously ended after his "moment of madness" in 1998.[5]

In 2001 Waters joined the ITV Wales political unit where he reported as a lobby correspondent and presented the weekly politics programme Waterfront, becoming chief political correspondent.[6] He stated he moved out of the industry after he lost interest in learning short hand and did not see it as a job "for a grown up".[2]

He chaired the Governing body of the highly regarded Barry Island Primary School for over seven years.[7]

In 2007 he became Director of the green transport organisation, Sustrans Cymru.[8]

He was Vice-Chair of the successful 2011 Yes for Wales campaign,[9] leading on communications for the campaign after being appointed to the cross-party steering committee by the First Minister.

Waters joined sustainable cycling charity Sustrans Cymru in January 2007.[10] He led a campaign involving his organisation Sustrans Cymru, the BMA, and the NAHT, who wrote a joint letter arguing for an independent commission to review whether the National Assembly for Wales was underfunded.[10] This campaign formed the groundwork for the Holtham Commission.[10]

In 2013, he was appointed the director of the Welsh independent think-tank, the Institute of Welsh Affairs.[11][12] Upon joining the organisation he found it to be "nearly bankrupt" with tired staff and three months of funding left,[2] and described his time in the role as highly fundraising-orientated.[2] He left the role in 2016 in order to campaign to become the Senedd Member for Llanelli,[13] a race which he won with a majority of 382.[14]

In December 2018 he became Deputy Minister for Transport.[15]

Political views


He vehemently opposed the M4 Relief Road which he viewed as failing to improve transport within Wales.[16] He was critical of the decision taken by the UK Government under Theresa May to remove the tolls on the Severn crossings, stating it would "lead to six million more vehicles a year" on the roads, and that Westminster were "unleashing" extra traffic to try to incentivise the construction of the M4 Relief Road.[17]

He is instead involved in Government projects including the South Wales Metro and improving bus services which make up the majority of public transport ridership in Wales.[18]

Foundational economy

Waters has been a proponent of the concept of the foundational economy. The concept was developed by the University of Manchester's Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. Bowman and Froud et al describe the theory as focussing on health education and welfare, as well as "mundane activities like utilities, retail and food processing which produce necessary everyday goods and services which are used by everybody regardless of income or social status."[19] It "focuses on how the sheltered sectors of the economy can be reorganised in ways that generate welfare gains and diffuse prosperity" after years of UK policies which its authors state failed to create competition and markets and instead focussed on job creation and GDP growth alone.[19]

Waters support for alternative economic thinking has produced eye catching headlines, after his comments in June 2019 that stated the Government has "pretended we know what we're doing on the economy" for 20 years.[20] His speech stated that "all the orthodox tools we can think of at growing the economy in the conventional way" have only produced static GDP over 20 years across the UK.[20] Plaid Cymru stated the comments were "remarkable", while the Welsh Conservatives described them as "deeply concerning", however the First Minister Mark Drakeford defended Waters by saying he was right to reject the old ways of thinking especially as Wales faces "the global shifts of increased mechanisation, automation and of course, Brexit."[20]

Personal life

He has two children and resides in the Llanelli area


  1. "Welsh Assembly Elections 2016: Labour hold Llanelli as Lee Waters named new AM". South Wales Evening Post. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  2. "PressReader.com - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". www.pressreader.com. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  3. Barry, Sion (4 March 2019). "From the Amman Valley to having his hands on the tiller of the Welsh economy". walesonline. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  4. "Member Profile". National Assembly for Wales. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  5. "Minister quit after 'gay sex extortion'". The Independent. 4 November 1998. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  6. Lee Waters. "Lee Waters". the Guardian.
  7. "Quality award for Barry Island Primary". www.teachshare.org.uk. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  8. "Welsh Government:Wales leads on UK's biggest push to cut car use". gov.wales. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  9. "Another 'Yes' man takes appointment". South Wales Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  10. Shipton, Martin (31 December 2010). "Lee Waters, 34, is the director in Wales of the sustainable transport campaign body Sustrans". walesonline. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  11. "Lee Waters faces questions over his role as head of the Institute of Welsh Affairs while he fights for election". WalesOnline. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  12. "Staff". iwa.org.uk.
  13. Deans, David (27 July 2015). "Lee Waters confirms he wants to be Labour's Assembly candidate for Llanelli". walesonline. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  14. "Llanelli - Welsh Assembly constituency - Election 2016". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  15. https://twitter.com/WalesPolitics/status/1073255284666261504
  16. Deans, David (3 June 2019). "M4 relief road expected to be dropped". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  17. Deans, David (22 October 2018). "Six million more trips forecast at toll end". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  18. "Plans for London-style bus system in Wales". BBC News. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  19. Bentham, Justin; Bowman, Andrew; et al. (November 2013). "Manifesto for the Foundational Economy". The Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change Working Paper. 131 via HumMedia.
  20. "'We don't know what we're doing on economy'". BBC News. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2020.