(Title Image: BBC Wales)
There are two weeks to go until we find out who’s won the Welsh Labour leadership contest. The three contenders met on BBC Wales’s Wales Live programme last night for another debate – which you can watch here.
“Exciting”, “gripping”, “nail-biting”, “inspiring” – none of them describe this leadership contest, so to save you the trouble, here’s a summary of the key points.
As usual, the candidates are listed in the order they sat from left to right.
Eluned Morgan AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales)
Do you believe Brexit is in the best interests of Wales? – The people should decide whether to stop Brexit or not; she would lead a campaign to stay in the EU in any second referendum. 60%+ of Welsh goods are exported to the EU and we’re unclear what position Wales will be in after Brexit. People were made promises that can’t be delivered.
What are your plans for income tax from April 2019? – Eluned wants to appoint an expert commission to look at tax across the board, not just income tax. She wants to grow the economy before doing anything else, is “sick of living in a poor country” and wouldn’t want to increase taxes for the rest of the term – but will consider a social care levy in the next Assembly.
How will you stop GP surgery closures? – Her husband is a GP so she’s aware of the pressures facing them. Prevention is the best cure; obesity is a serious problem as well as mental health – neither really need GPs to deal with them and there needs to be a greater focus on improving quality of life by changing lifestyle habits.
What would you do to improve mental health services for young people? – There are big disparities between what services you can access in different parts of Wales, with it often being harder to access services in rural areas compared to the cities (Vaughan Gething disagreed and didn’t think it was based on any evidence).
What would you do to get people interested in Welsh politics? – She began her campaign by listening to people beyond Cardiff Bay and developed her manifesto off the back of that. It would be a big statement for Labour in Wales to have a woman leader 100 years since the first women MPs were elected.
Mark Drakeford AM (Lab, Cardiff West)
Do you believe Brexit is in the best interests of Wales? – It’s not in the interests of Wales and Labour backed Remain. As a leader of a government he will have to negotiate as best an outcome as possible for Wales, but also prepare for what’s coming as a lot of the big decisions will be made in London. If an early UK general election isn’t forthcoming then a second referendum should be an option.
What are your plans for income tax from April 2019? – It’s party policy not to put up income tax this term. When considering changes to tax he has to consider people at the bottom first of all. The way to get more money for services in Wales is to improve the economy and retain graduates.
How will you stop GP surgery closures? – The NHS treats more people every year and some professions are in short supply. He will ensure the NHS remains a publicly funded service with no privatisation. People need to see a wider range of professionals than just GPs, with GPs reserved for more serious cases.
What would you do to improve mental health services for young people? – Lots of good stuff has been done on mental health but transitioning from child to adult mental health has to be improved.
What would you do to get people interested in Welsh politics? – He’s committed to lowering the voting age, changing the date to vote (to weekends) and making the voting process easier. Mark also wants Labour to have a more open nomination process.
Vaughan Gething AM (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth)
Do you believe Brexit is in the best interests of Wales? – The public has changed their mind and he wants a “People’s Vote”; Labour shouldn’t enable a “Tory Brexit” and should fight it and stop it. Labour members and the trade unions are clearly behind a second referendum. Vaughan would be “delighted” to have an early election, but a “People’s Vote” is achievable if Labour gets behind it and take leadership of it.
What are your plans for income tax from April 2019? – There’s a manifesto commitment not to increase tax for the rest of the term and the real challenge is how to improve the economy as we don’t have enough high earners. He also supports some form of ring-fenced levy or money for a National Care Service.
How will you stop GP surgery closures? – The Welsh Government are working alongside GP leaders to reform how primary care works, including a greater role for community nurses and pharmacies. Wales is the only UK country with a joint plan for health and social care.
What would you do to improve mental health services for young people? – There’s additional money in the budget for youth services and mental health is a priority for the NHS as a whole. The challenge is how fast improvements can be made.
What would you do to get people interested in Welsh politics? – It’s important to consider how politicians behave and conduct themselves. Policies also have to be clear and matter to people in their day-to-day lives.
The headlines were made by a brief 30 seconds or so of cattiness between Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething which perhaps do a disservice to the debate as a whole.
I don’t think anything’s really changed from the Sharp End debate and it was fairly even. If I had to pick a “winner” it would be Eluned Morgan again, who seemed to have a much clearer idea of what she wanted to do in government than the other two.
Vaughan vs Mark seemed, at times, like a generational clash between the soundbite-heavy New Labour style of Vaughan Gething and the more traditional, wistful Old Labour style of Mark Drakeford. Mark probably understands the Labour membership better than anyone though and while Vaughan scoffed at a reference Mark made to Clement Atlee towards the end, it’s the sort of thing that will likely have gone down well with committed Labour members….
….if many were watching in the first place.