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Live Blog: BBC Senedd election leaders’ debate

29 Apr 2021 13 minute read
Mark Drakeford. Picture by Christopher Jones / Alamy Stock Photo. Adam Price. Credit: Euan Cherry/WENN. Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds. Picture by Keith Edkins (CC BY-SA 4.0). Andrew RT Davies picture by Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0).


How will the different parties feel after that? Well, it’s an odd conclusion perhaps but I think most of them may well be quite happy.

Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price got the performance he needed. There was nothing major to knock Mark Drakeford’s Labour off course. Lib Dems, Abolish, Greens, Brexit Party and UKIP were happy just to be there and be visible to voters in a way they aren’t for 95% of the time.

I think perhaps it is the Conservatives that will feel most frustrated tonight. Things have turned sour at Westminster, their polls suggesting a real breakthrough at the Senedd have evaporated over the last two weeks. Andrew RT Davies did fine in the debate but it was quite a quiet performance – he didn’t grab the debate by the scruff of the neck. In fact he seemed to speak for less time than all the other leaders.

What did you think? Feel free to leave a comment below outlining your thoughts!


So that’s that. Jamie Jenkins reminds voters they’re still the Brexit Party that so many voted for at the EU elections.

Amelia Womack says Labour votes are wasted on the list – if they vote Green they will win.

Neil Hamilton says the Senedd does not represent ordinary people. He goes back to the greatest hits on Brexit.

It feels a little bit as if Reform UK and UKIP are still fighting the Brexit referendum to an extent.

That was an odd, short debate that didn’t really tell me much I didn’t know. Amelia Womack was very impressive however, Jamie Jenkins surprisingly sensible and Neil Hamilton was Neil Hamilton.

Perhaps they should have thrown a few other parties into the second debate – Propel, Gwlad, Communist – just to add a bit of variety and make it more entertaining, if nothing else.


I’m not sure what vote Reform UK is going for. They’re a bit too sensible to win the far-right populist vote – or are they? Are voters looking for a more sensible version of UKIP and Abolish the Assembly? Aren’t they then just the Conservatives? They look like a party looking for a reason to exist at the moment, at least in the context of this debate.

The main points of their brochure I have in front of me – House of Lords and BBC License Fee – have nothing to do with the Welsh Parliament.

Jamie Jenkins moves on to his party’s main pitch – an anti-lockdown platform. He says they would protect the most vulnerable only in order to avoid damage to the economy. There is no need to lock everyone else up now that most have the vaccine.


Neil Hamilton like Richard Suchorzewski wants to abolish the Senedd but wants elections for everything else – NHS boards and school boards. He says the Senedd is a one party state, and doesn’t have a large enough tax base, which is however a more substantiative point than Abolish ever made.

Amelia Womack backs Welsh independence and says Wales could be more nimble and build a nation fit for the 21st century. The UK has a deficit as well and the money they give Wales is a share of that, she says. We would have freedom to build a future free from the lack of ambition of Westminster.

Jamie Jenkins says the Senedd has its place. He doesn’t want Wales to be an annexe to Boris Johnson’s government. We should have a referendum on both abolish and independence and campaign for the status quo, he says. The question needs to be put to bed, he says. He says the abolish vote is just an anti-Labour vote.


Jamie Jenkins is coming across as by far the most sensible of the Abolish/UKIP/Reform UK triangle of populist parties. He says they have a plan to take advantage of Wales’ tidal energy.

Amelia Womack against Neil Hamilton is like watching the 21st century argue with the 19th. Womack points to flooding in Wales which has impacted the lives of people in Wales now.


On to the second debate. Why on earth hasn’t Nathan Gill turned up for this as the leader of Reform UK? He left the Senedd after being elected to it the first time in 2016, too.

Amelia Womack is here for the Greens instead of Anthony Slaughter but for a good reason – so that there isn’t an all-female panel.

Neil Hamilton of UKIP goes off on a climate denial rant. He says Wales produced ‘amost no’ CO2. I think he’s trying to steal Richard Suchorzewski limelight for most memorable performance for all the wrong reasons.


Closing remarks follow a familiar pattern. So who won that?

Andrew RT Davies didn’t speak much but I think had one or two of the best moments – especially the comparison between Wales and a rugby team. It’s clearly a pre-prepared line because he repeats it in closing. It’s those kinds of images that stick in people’s minds.

Jane Dodds was quite impressive but I can’t particularly recall anything specific that was said. She was quite positive and constructive on every subject. I liked how she said ‘sleaze’.

Mark Drakeford was a little bit anonymous, but maybe he will be perfectly happy with that. He doesn’t really need to do anything big to succeed from here, just avoid any large gaffes.

Adam Price did much better than at the ITV debate, passionate while also keeping his cool. He only managed to land one blow on Labour however, which is really who Plaid need to differentiate themselves with to win left-wing voters.

Richard Suchorzewski was terrible but let’s face it, wanting to abolish the Senedd probably doesn’t have much to do with the substance of the matter. No doubt many who weren’t aware of his party beforehand will now be aware of it.


Adam Price had an ‘I agree with Drakeford’ moment earlier, now Drakeford says he agrees with Adam. Coalition incoming, anyone?

It doesn’t feel like Andrew RT Davies is being given much opportunity to talk compared with the other leaders. He begins discussing business – his strongest subject, one would think – and is shut down quite quickly.

On to independence. Adam Price is given free reign to give his pro-independence speech first which is very kind of Bethan. You can tell that this is his favourite subject, and he goes roaring away.

Andrew RT Davies back to constitutional chaos – and hits Abolish again for potentially causing the same. He says the tools the parliament has need to be taken out of the toolbox.

He is asked about the difficulties of the UK Government. He swerves it and says he is focused on the Welsh Parliament election. He is dragged back to the Downing Street troubles, and this time defends Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the hilt. But he says that the public don’t care about it. Jane Dodds condemns the sleaze with all the gusto and enthusiasm of a 19th-century Welsh liberal.

Adam Price says that an independence supporting party would send a jolt of electricity into Westminster and make them sit up and take notice of Wales.

Richard Suchorzewski says Wales is sleepwalking towards independence, and also calls for an independence referendum. *shrug emoji* He confirms that he will be taking a salary from the Senedd, of course.

Drakeford goes back to his best line in the ITV debate – Tories don’t believe in Wales, Plaid don’t believe in the UK, we believe in both. It is a good line, to be fair.


Michael Jones from Tonypandy wants businesses to have the support they need after coronavirus.

Mark Drakeford says that proposals are there to spend on businesses waiting on the desk of whoever becomes First Minister. Adam Price asks why are businesses being made to wait until after the election. Drakeford says the rules don’t allow it during the election. Price says he could have recalled the Senedd and Plaid would have supported it. That looks like a first hit for Adam Price against Drakeford there.

Andrew RT Davies said the roadmap and spending plan should have been there before the election. He’s been a little quiet so far – he hasn’t sought to intervene in the debate, which mostly seems to be going on at the other side of the room.

Richard Suchorzewski of Abolish is asked if abolishing devolution wouldn’t also abolish thousands of jobs in Wales. He doesn’t answer, then has an absolute mare when he says some businesses are closed in Wales that are open in England. He is asked which ones, and can’t answer. Drakeford says he’s talking absolute nonsense, and he has no answer to that either.

He then goes into a rant about the Welsh Language. Adam Price says he doesn’t just want to abolish the parliament but the language as well.


There’s been half an hour of this so far and it’s been pretty substantive. Not as bad-tempered as the ITV debate. Perhaps five leaders and a cavernous studio makes squabbling more difficult, or perhaps they watched the ITV debate back and realised it didn’t look great.

The next questions is about young people, education and mental health.

Richard Suchorzewski seems to be trying to pin bad mental health on Welsh devolution. He doesn’t even seem sure what he’s trying to say. Mark Drakeford just buts in over his drivel, completely ignores it and Bethan lets him carry on.

Having run into trouble when questioned on some of his manifesto promises in the ITV debate, Adam Price looks taken aback to be questioned on it here again. Perhaps a shorter manifesto is a good idea so that you can’t be challenged on every point! He then has a better moment on tuition fees.

A lot of the social media comments so far amount to ‘why on earth are Abolish there instead of X party?!’


Mark Drakeford comes to life! It’s his turn to slam Abolish the Assembly, saying that Wales’ Covid and vaccine success would not have happened without devolution. Abolish is becoming something of a foil for the other leaders to bounce off. They’re not paying much attention to each other at the moment.

Andrew RT Davies brings up constitutional chaos. I think we had that on the bingo card.


Adam Price going in early for his ‘slam Abolish the Assembly’ Facebook clip.

Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies however achieves it in coming out swinging for the Senedd – you don’t abolish the Welsh rugby team if they don’t play well, you change the coach. That’s the best answer of the night so far.

Jane Dodds then has a good moment in shutting down Andrew RT Davies interrupting her. That will impress many viewers. Jane Dodds says she is ashamed of the Lib Dems coalition and austerity.

Mark Drakeford a little anonymous so far, but perhaps being comfortably ahead in the polls he will be happy to let the others squabble. Adam Price probably needs to draw him back into the debate if he wants to peel off those Labour voters.


The first question is about the NHS and more specifically mental health. Andrew RT Davies is carrying on his trend of speaking like an auctioneer – much faster than I cat type and indeed, listen. He didn’t used to do that. He seems to be very keen to get his entire answer out without taking a breath.

Bethan Rhys Roberts seems to have come prepared – challenging the leaders on the details of their manifesto promises. Asking Drakeford why he hasn’t solved problems in the NHS for 22 years. Expect to hear a lot of that tonight. Adam Price is straight in there as well listing the perceived failings of Labour on the NHS.

Abolish are just going to offer the same solution to every problem – the clue is in their name. He calls for ‘one NHS’. There wasn’t ‘one NHS’ before devolution, of course. The Welsh NHS existed for decades before the Senedd. Bethan asks him for detail. He bizarrely suggests just sending patients to England, which probably won’t land well with audiences.

Paul asking the question has given a much more detailed and nuanced answer on the matter than the Abolish party leader.


Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price has the prime ‘middle of the room’ slot. The two right-wing parties are on both sides.

One of the most interesting elements will be the juxtaposition between Labour’s ‘it ain’t broke’ Mark Drakeford and Plaid’s ‘it needs to be fixed’ Adam Price. Drakeford going big on trust – a safe pair of hands. Adam Price going big on the need for change – fighting for everyone to get the chances they were given. Demand a better future – build a new Wales.

Abolish quoting Tom Jones. I’m not sure many will be taking their political advice from him…


This debate has already caused plenty of controversy due to who the BBC have invited to be part of the debate. They first only invited Labour, Plaid, the Tories and Lib Dems. Then they invited Abolish after YouGov showed them polling above the Lib Dems, despite them never having won a single election. Then under pressure to include other smaller parties, they invited the Greens, Reform UK and UKIP to a separate debate afterwards.

Expect Abolish’ inclusion, in particular, to attract plenty of comment online.


We’re about to embark on what is probably the most high-profile event of the Senedd election apart from the election day and the results day themselves, which is the 90 minute long BBC debate – starting at 8.30pm.

Only a week from now Wales will go to the polls to elect all 60 Senedd Members which will decide the formation of the next government and the First Minister.

Many will of course have voted already by post due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may call into question whether this debate is happening a little bit too late into the campaign to have a large impact of how people cast their votes.

The BBC have invited five parties to this main debate – Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives, Abolish the Assembly, and the Liberal Democrats. UKIP, Green and Reform UK will have their own separate debate later.

Here is some analysis for you of what the different parties might be trying to achieve during the debate.

In Welsh Labour’s case, it’s steady as she goes with polling showing them pulling ahead of the rest of the pack. Plaid Cymru meanwhile definitely need ‘a moment’ to put them on the front foot.

The debate itself will be live on BBC One Wales and BBC iPlayer.

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Andrew Robinson-Redman
Andrew Robinson-Redman
3 years ago

Have just watched The Leader’s debate on the BBC with interest. To hear Adam Price complaining as he sees it of the corruption in the UK Government as reason enough for seeking Independence for Wales would be acceptable but for the fact that he refuses to publically call to account his own County Council in Carmarthen. Please sort out your own house before criticising others would be a welcome start.

Aled Griffiths
Aled Griffiths
3 years ago

Do not think ,your concerns about a local authority,even if justified,are comparable to the blatant and boastful abuse of ethical expectations and standards that have typified the performance of the Westminster government in recent years. I have been disappointed by the actions of previous incumbents at No 10 but never disgusted. Yes, I disliked Margaret Thatcher and her policies, but never doubted her integrity. The current resident, is dishonest, lazy, ludicrous, and the cause of serious harm to the welfare , health, and economic wellbeing of many thousands of individuals. The Sendedd has performed measurably better and more ethically. Adam… Read more »

Andrew Robinson-Redman
Andrew Robinson-Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Aled Griffiths

If a case which Adam Price has known about for more than17 years and one that he has described as ” the worst case of non-feascence that I have ever come across” is not A REASON FOR CONCERN THEN NOTHING IS. If you or your family were in the position of losing their home due to the corrupt behaviour of the local council, then I would hope that you would not be so dismissive of my comments. Public enquiries, Ombudsman reports have all found serious failings in this case. It is no good taking the talk if one is not… Read more »

G.A. Williams
G.A. Williams
3 years ago

The point in the original ‘Nation Cymru’ post about the timing of the debate is important. Many thousands of postal votes will have been returned before this debate was broadcast. The debate should have been aired at least a week previously. BBC Wales has served us very badly. And I would seriously question the decision to include the abominable Richard Suchorzewski in the main debate and to omit a Green Party representative. That said, Bethan Rhys Roberts and Nick Servini performed admirably.

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