Live Blog: First Senedd election debate on ITV
My final thought is that ITV probably did the right thing having a three-way debate. It would have been much more boring and impersonal with 6-7 candidates standing several meters apart in a cavernous studio. There may have been a bit too much of people talking over each other there but it certainly brought Welsh politics to life after a very humdrum campaign so far. Hopefully, however, the other parties will get a chance to shine in tomorrow’s second debate.
So who ‘won’ that debate? I think Mark Drakeford’s calm and collected manner personally came across very well, although he showed an ability to turn on the fire and brimstone where need be. His rehearsed ‘Conservatives do not believe in Wales, Plaid Cymru do not believe in the UK, and Labour believes in both’ was a good one.
However, perhaps the joint message by Adam Price and Andrew RT Davies that Labour have had their chance will also resonate with many.
Andrew RT Davies’ debate manner needs some polishing I think – he spoke at 200mph throughout – but his arguments will have resonated with those who fundamentally agree with his more devo- and lockdown-sceptic stance. His Colin the Caterpillar answer was very funny at the time but may become a meme for the wrong reasons.
Adam Price came across as very passionate, and emotional at times, about the future of Wales. His comment about the Conservatives enlarging the House of Lords was the only direct blow of the night. But perhaps as the party with the most to do in peeling away Labour voters they would have liked a few stronger attacks on Mark Drakeford’s record directly.
Oddly I thought Adam Price was probably weakest on the two questions where I expected him to shine – second homes and independence – but strongest on the matter of the NHS and care which are usually Labour’s domain.
Overall I think Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives as ideological opposites may have been too soon drawn into attacking each other while to make a mark at the election they actually both need to chip away at Labour’s lead. Meanwhile, Mark Drakeford stood there, happy to let them fight.
The last question is who are they looking forward to meet up with after the pandemic is over.
Andrew RT Davies says he wants to meet the creator of Colin the Caterpillar!?
Adam Price says he wants to spend time with his mother and his father, who he mentioned earlier in the context of care.
Mark Drakeford would like to meet up with NHS doctors and nurses to thank them for their work.
I think it’s host Adrian Masters who most deserves a pint after that.
We may have a first landed blow! Andrew RT Davies says that he doesn’t want more politicians to enlarge the Senedd. Adam Price asks him how many new Lords Boris Johnson has created in the unelected House of Lords. Andrew RT Davies rather oddly tells him to go there.
Here comes the constitutional question. Adam Price says that the UK Government needs to treat Wales with respect. He points to the UK Government’s refusal to extend the money for Wales firebreak furlough, changing its mind weeks later when England when into lockdown. He says that if Wales elected a First Minister that wanted independence it would send a jolt up the spine of the UK Government.
Mark Drakeford says the Conservatives do not believe in Wales, Plaid Cymru do not believe in the UK, and Labour believes in both.
Andrew RT Davies says people will want to focus on the pandemic and the economy and not constitutional chaos. It would knacker the next government rather than focusing on the economy.
Adam Price says the vaccine has been delivered by the NHS in Wales. Adam Price says he was a Westminster MP and that the system doesn’t work. He points to Conservative sleaze allegations. There is no solution to Wales’ problems at Westminster. Give us a chance to show what Wales can achieve, he says.
Andrew RT Davies says independence would be giving a drunk driver the keys to your car. Mark Drakeford says that Wales already has huge independence of action. He doesn’t think devolution is a completed journey but that independence isn’t an answer. We need a UK that guarantees that Wales’ powers cannot be rolled back arbitrarily, he says. But if people in Wales vote for a referendum they should get one he adds.
Andrew RT Davies says Wales needs a turning of the page and that he would fight tooth and nail for Wales any day of the week.
Adam Price says that Labour have not even used the powers that they have on matters such as social care. Mark Drakeford answers that Plaid Cymru is good at large promises but cannot deliver them. He is not serious about government, he said.
The idea that a Conservative Government in Wales would stand up against the UK Government is a joke, he said.
This is becoming very, very fractious now. Adran Masters asks them to cool it.
As with the previous segment that started off cordial enough and then broke down and became much testier. I’m not sure what potential voters would make from that. The starting question seemed made for Adam Price but the criticism from Drakeford that he had chosen a pie in the sky number seemed to land. However, Adam Price’s retort that the SNP had shown more ambition than Labour seemed valid as well.
Will voters like Adam Price’s passion or Mark Drakeford’s calmer style? Andrew RT Davies is continuing to speak far too quickly for me to be able to write down most of what he says!
An interesting question here on Second Homes. These questions aren’t quite sticking to the tried and tested areas I had expected.
Mark Drakeford says that it’s a complicated issue and he promises to get to grips with it after the election.
Andrew RT Davies says that the Welsh Government has not built enough houses. He promises to build 10,000 houses in government. He says too that local economies need quality jobs.
Young people are being priced out of communities says Adam Price. He has an action plan to increase tax on second homes, changing planning laws to introduce a cap on second homes, and bring second homes back under local ownership. He promises 50,000 homes to rent and buy. Host Adrain Masters asks him how he would do that and he seems a little thrown by the question, but then gets into gear on the need for a housing agency and says leadership will be needed to deliver it.
Andrew RT Davies says that you need to feed the market with a supply of houses. He says he would work with arms-length organisations to get them built. His answer to the ‘how question is, like Adam Price’s, a little vague.
Mark Drakeford says that it is easy in opposition to have a Dutch auction and to throw large numbers around. He says that his ambition sounds lower but that they will be built. We know that we have the money and we have the plan., he says. He adds the other parties are promising pie in the sky.
Andrew RT Davies says that is nonsense and that Labour have not delivered on their 2016 manifesto, including an M4 relief road.
Plaid Cymru says it’s pie in the sky to set such a low bar on ambition. Aneurin Bevan didn’t sit there and say we can’t afford to do this or that, Adam Price says. He adds that we have historically low interest rates and now is the time to build those homes.
Drakeford says Adam Price’s plans involve him borrowing £6bn from the UK Government while also accusing the Welsh Government of going cap in hand to the UK Government.
Adam Price says that the SNP have shown a level of ambition that Labour have lacked. He says Plaid Cymru are the only party that have handed their manifesto over to economists. The manifesto is ambitious because it has to be, he adds.
Things got a bit testy between the party leaders there, with Mark Drakeford losing his cool a little bit for the first time. I’m not sure who won that exchange though – Plaid and the Tories had a point that Labour were passing the buck, but Labour had a point that if they were any better they would have won an election by now.
It’s probably Plaid Cymru and the Tories who have the most to do in this debate so they will be frustrated not to have had a big standout moment yet. Mark Drakeford turning the tables on Andrew RT Davies over austerity was probably the closest thing to a stand-alone Facebook clip to come out of the debate.
‘Why should I as a disabled person give you my vote?’ asks Simon Green from Bridgend. Andrew RT Davies says that as someone with dyslexia he knows what it is like to be excluded.
Mark Drakeford says he has met Simon and says that we should not think about disability as a health problem and think about how society can help with the lived experience of people with disability.
Adam Price says only 46% of disabled people are in employment and that’s a scandal. He commits to close that employment and pay gap. He adds that we need investment in digital infrastructure.
Andrew RT Davies says that it’s a bit rich coming from Labour who have been running Wales from 22 years to promise to help people with disabilities. Mark Drakeford says that it is nonsense, and that Conservative austerity has starved people of the funds they need. Andrew RT Davies says we need a genuine turning of the page and a new chapter.
Adam Price says Mark Drakeford is a decent man but there is an accountability issue. Labour have been in power and should take responsibility for people not having the support they need, he said. Labour have to take responsibility because they have been the party in power, he adds.
The reason Labour has been in power is that they’ve won the trust of the Welsh people, Mark Drakeford said. There is a democratic arrogance in the way they talk about this, he adds. If they were better at winning elections they would have had the chance.
The second question is about the economy and mental health. Adam Price says that they are related and one of the biggest elements in good mental health is financial security. He says Plaid Cymru are committed to a Universal Basic Income.
Andrew RT Davies says that since the dawn of devolution the Welsh and Scottish economy have diverged and that Labour have failed to improve the economy. He is talking very quickly – quicker than I can type, anyway. The economy should reopen faster, he says.
Mark Drakeford is listing one of his policies – the youth guarantee for young people. He says there will be no lost generation of young people in Wales under his watch. He says that he has appointed Eluned Morgan as a specific mental health minister. He has also invested more in mental health during the pandemic.
Adam Price interrupts to say that mental health is not being treated with the parity it deserves. He says that he knows what it is likely to struggle with mental ill-health, but it does not get enough spending compared with physical ill-health.
Andrew RT Davies says that they have not yet launched their manifesto due to the Duke of Edinburgh’s death but it will include pledges on mental health.
Drakeford says that there isn’t much difference between the parties on mental health. He says mental health is grounded in other things and says the economy is equally important.
This is quite lively so far, but there is no content here that anyone who follows Welsh politics will not have heard many times before. It may well be reaching a new audience not usually interested in Senedd press conferences and plenary sessions of course.
All the leaders are doing OK so far – there have been no obvious knock-outs or big mistakes. Mark Drakeford the most studied and Andrew RT Davies probably speaking the most and fastest. Adam Price interrupted Andrew RT Davies’ first answer and that has taken things in a more fractured direction where the different leaders have been prepared to challenge each other mid-answer.
Adam Price praises Labour’s slow and steady approach, but said that Wales needs to shift gears now and that requires a new approach. Mark Drakeford says voters should stick with him and finish the job.
Andrew RT Davies says Wales has had a woret death rate than across the UK and the Welsh Government have not kept people safe. Adam Price challenges him and says the UK has one of the worst death rates, and that Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not turn up to the first COBRA meetings
Mark Drakeford agrees that far too many people have lost their lives, and says that the Welsh Conservatives have voted 12 times against the regulations. He says he is happy to work with the UK Government but makes no apologies for the way he has used Wales’ powers to keep people alive.
Andrew RT Davies challenges him, saying they have voted 70 times for regulations. Adam Price says other countries have death rates far lower than Wales and that we should learn lessons from them. Drakeford says he does not want rival Welsh and UK inquiries.
First question perhaps as expected on the Covid pandemic and what they would have done differently.
Mark Drakeford says that he would have moved more quickly to introduce more restrictions before the first wave of Covid. A very short answer from him there.
Adam Price says the Welsh and UK Government were too slow into lockdown – brings up the Wales and Scotland 2020 Six Nations game. He says the Welsh Government failed to focus on the care sector.
Andrew RT Davies said there needed to be more urgency in reopening the NHS in the summer when the cases were low. He also said there needed to be more in common across the UK so that messaging was clearer.
Nothing much new there – these are of course quite well-rehersed points of view that we’ve heard quite often before.
We’re about to embark at 7pm on the first debate on the Senedd election, which will include the candidates for First Minister – the incumbent, Labour’s Mark Drakeford, the Conservative Andrew RT Davies and Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.
Unlike the BBC – who have found themselves in the middle of a debate about which parties should be invited after first inviting the Lib Dems, then Abolish, then creating an entirely separate second debate segment including Reform UK, UKIP and the Greens – ITV have decided to keep things simple and only invite the three main parties.
ITV are billing this as a contest between the “three men who can credibly claim they have a chance of being First Minister”. It’s possible of course that the second most likely person to become First Minister this next Senedd term will be sitting at home watching on TV. It’s whoever Labour are going to have lined up to replace Mark Drakeford, either when he steps down out of choice towards the end of the Senedd term, or perhaps sooner if the election results don’t go their way.
What can we expect from the debate itself? I would think there would be questions of likely post-election coalitions, Wales’ constitutional future, and also of course Covid-19, the wider NHS, education and infrastructure projects such as the M4 bypass.
The debate will be live-streamed on the ITV Wales Facebook and Twitter channels and on ITV Wales’ website.
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