Has the time come for a government of national unity in Wales to tackle the coronavirus?
Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
The nation is on a war footing.
The inexorable spread of the coronavirus means we are facing the biggest crisis to hit Wales since the Second World War.
It is an enemy that has no ideology, no political creed. It does not discriminate between left and right. It does not discriminate between unionist and nationalist. It is coming for us all, our friends and our families. We cannot be a house divided when it does so. As a nation we must be united. We must stand together if we are to stand at all.
Warring ideological tribes united during the Second World War to defeat the common foe of fascism. There are whispers of something similar happening in Westminster now; the powers that the government wants to tackle this crisis are so great, the potential measures, so stringent, so draconian even, that they need broad-based political support. The burden is too heavy for one party alone.
It is a time for big bold moves; a time to be courageous. I believe the time has come for a government of national unity in Wales to deal with this pandemic. This is not a time when we can afford to have any of our best players sat on the bench.
It is hard to overstate the seriousness of what is happening. What we have on our hands is literally a matter of life and death. Our NHS faces the prospect of being overwhelmed by demand. Some of those who survive the illness could be left needing far more care.
Businesses face ruin through no fault of their own. Workers face job losses. Many jobs have been lost already. Work for freelancers is drying up. Families don’t know if they will be able to pay the bills. The nation has ground to a near-standstill. Our schools are having to close.
There will be strains on mental health with people feeling more alone and isolated than ever; deprived of human interaction. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at much higher risk of dying than the rest of the population.
This is the beginning of this crisis. Things are going to get an awful lot worse before they get better. There will be mistakes despite people trying their very best. With such pressure things will inevitably go wrong. Does any one party really want to take the rap when they do? This is a huge responsibility, a huge burden for any government. Is it really worth carrying it alone?
There are extraordinarily talented parliamentarians across the Senedd chamber. To make use of those talents in a national emergency is a sign of strength, not weakness.
When the ship of state faces flooding, the water rising fast, it is time for all hands to the pumps.
This is not a time for hyper-partisanship. It is not the time for squabbles or petty point-scoring. We cannot and must not go low, when the stakes are so very high. That does not mean that there will not be any disagreements of course. It does not mean we completely stifle all public debate. That is the lifeblood of our democracy after all. But if there is ever a time to show that there is more that unites us than divides us then this is it.
It is a time for reaching out, across benches and ideological divides, in a spirit of kinship and common purpose.
Our public services are being manned by heroes. They are our nurses, our doctors, our social care workers, our police officers. They are putting their lives on the line so that others may live. The least the rest of us can do to honour them, is work together.