Drakeford unrepentant about holding briefing to announce the latest easing of restrictions
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
First Minister Mark Drakeford is unrepentant about holding a briefing on Friday to discuss releasing more lockdown controls.
He will tomorrow announce that exercise classes, swimming lessons and soft play centres all to restart on May 3, earlier than planned in Wales. He will also say that hospitality such as pubs can open indoors on May 17.
He had been roundly criticised for planning the announcement by rivals in the race for the Senedd, who said senior civil servants should front the briefing.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said: “I’m absolutely certain that if the news was bad opposition parties would be demanding I was there to take the press conference.
“In the end I am responsible for the decisions the Welsh Government makes. Ministers have to take that responsibility. I will do it tomorrow as First Minister. There will be no politics in it.
“I will not be saying anything about the campaign or Labour’s position in it. I will be reporting the public health position, the advice that we have had and I will be indicating to people, as I have done every three weeks, the things we hope we will be able to look forward to.”
‘No easy decisions’
Mark Drakeford spoke as he was making a campaign stop in Llangollen with Clwyd South candidate Ken Skates and UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Outside Llangollen Health Center, where Sir Keir chatted with local vaccination staff for around 20 minutes, Mr Drakeford answered his critics over the move.
Sir Keir Starmer backed up his colleagues stewardship of the pandemic in Wales. He said: “How you lead in difficult times is a much better measure of a leader than leading in easier times.
“I think Mark and Welsh Labour have led incredibly well over the last 14 months, in contrast to Boris Johnson.
“That’s my assessment. What is more important than my assessment is I have been in Wales a number of times during this campaign and when I talk to people on their doorsteps or in the street, that’s what they’re saying to me.
“Everybody knows there are no easy decisions so full tribute to him – that’s a real test of leadership.”
Mr Drakeford also revealed wasn’t counting his chickens, even though some bookies have stopped receiving flutters on Labour winning the most seats in the poll.
He said: “No, I wouldn’t dream of doing it. I genuinely mean Labour should never take a single vote for granted in Wales.”
Mr Drakeford also sidestepped worries about a new poll from YouGov commissioned by Wales Online which suggested Labour could lose five MSes, with the Conservatives and Plaid making gains, as well Abolish the Assembly picking up five regional seats.
He said an ITV/YouGov poll out today which he said showed them “strengthening” their position and “keeping all our seats in North Wales”.
He added: “Although the poll is more encouraging for us, especially in north Wales, over the next two weeks we will be flat out.
“Every day I feel we are making ground, showing people we have a very strong offer for north Wales.”