Welsh Conservative leader RT Davies calls on BBC not to broadcast Drakeford Covid press conference
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, has called on the BBC not to broadcast the First Minister’s Covid-19 press conference today.
Mark Drakeford will announce that exercise classes, swimming lessons and soft play centres can all restart on May 3, earlier than planned in Wales. He will also say that hospitality such as pubs can open indoors on May 17.
But both the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have accused him of using a Welsh Government platform to promote the Labour party in the May 6 Senedd election, a charge that Mark Drakeford denies.
According to Andrew RT Davies, Mark Drakeford should not announce plans for easing after May 6 now but should have done so before the election period began earlier this month.
“Labour are undoubtedly using the machinery of government to influence the election,” Andrew RT Davies said.
“In many ways good on them for trying, but BBC Wales shouldn’t be willing participants. They should refuse to televise Labour’s party political broadcast from the government lectern.”
He added that he was “please to see that Labour have adopted the Welsh Conservatives roadmap out of lockdown”.
“They could’ve done so weeks ago and saved businesses a lot of pain and anguish, but Labour always prefer to play politics. We will end the games and ensure the Welsh economy is front and centre of our recovery.”
Mark Drakeford told the Local Democracy Service yesterday that he had no qualms about announcing changes as he always did through a Welsh Government press conference.
“I’m absolutely certain that if the news was bad opposition parties would be demanding I was there to take the press conference,” he said.
“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.”
His words followed an intervention by Plaid Cymru Adam Price, who has written a letter to the head of the Welsh Government’s civil service, Permanent Secretary Shan Morgan, to demand that she intervene as the “guarantor of the neutrality of the machinery of the state”.
During what’s known as the purdah period of an election, there are rules in place to make sure that no party can use the resources of the government or the civil service to gain an unfair advantage.
According to Price, to “set out the hypothetical policy choices a future Labour administration might make” would break the purdah neutrality rules.
The First Minister had earlier said that bringing forward the easing of some Covid restrictions has nothing to do with the upcoming election in Wales.
Speaking on a BBC Wales Ask The Leader programme Mr Drakeford said: “The coronavirus rates in Wales are the lowest in the UK – the vaccination rates are the best in the UK.
“That creates a context in which we could restore more freedoms to people more quickly than we had anticipated.”
He added that he would add further details on easing the lockdown on Friday: “I want to do it in the orderly way that we do.
“That decision will lie the other side of the election, but I will set out what a Labour government would do in the three weeks that follow the election, as we have regularly given a forward signal to indoor hospitality to the rest of the tourism industry and other things about what we think the public health context would now allow.”