There was also debate on ITV Wales Wednesday night (here), but as I was concentrating on this one I’ve decided to cover the BBC Welsh debate, due to be held on 30th May.
The topics included: Brexit, health (which is devolved), the cost of living, education (which is devolved too) and policies for younger generations.
As usual, I’m going to list the participants as they appear on the podium from left to right.
Theresa May (Conservatives)
Vacant air. 0/10 – Bwark-bwk-bwk-bwwwaaaaark!
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)
Vacant air. 0/10 – The revolution will not be televised.
Caroline Lucas (Green)
Never in our lifetime has our future seemed so uncertain, but when people come together they can change the course of history.
Theresa May has no mandate for a “Hard Brexit” and Labour left the field open with no opposition in Westminster. The Greens supports holding a second referendum after “looking at the small print” of any Brexit deal with an option of staying in the EU. The Greens also believe free movement is a “wonderful thing” and should be defended.
It can’t be right that big businesses are making money from the NHS. Greens would take the private sector out of the NHS in England by scrapping the contracting system in force there. Scrapping Trident would raise enough money to sustain the NHS’s future – an extra £3-4billion a year for 30/40 years.
Levels of poverty in the “fifth biggest economy in the world” are shameful; the rich and big businesses should pay more in taxes. Greens would like to see rent controls, while people are overwhelmed by welfare system bureaucracy introduced by a “cruel and callous Conservative government”.
Theresa May’s cuts to education and proposals for grammar schools in England are damaging. Teachers need freedom; schools are too like production lines and stifle children’s freedom to grow. Greens support smaller class sizes to make it easier for teachers to deliver one-to-one support.
Young people have been betrayed by this government and previous governments, losing precious things like freedom of movement and being put into debt through tuition fees. A safer environment needs to be left for future generations too.
7.5/10 – Passionate, composed. A very good performance.
Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats)
Tim entered politics to stand up to people who take you for granted – like Theresa May, who couldn’t be bothered to turn up. A “decent Britain” is under threat, moving to a “Hard Brexit”that will damage the UK for generations. If the UK wants to be a leader in the world, it shouldn’t turn its back on the world.
He wants to be able to look his children in the eye and say he did everything he could to prevent an extreme Brexit; the public should have a final say on any Brexit deal, and if the people reject it we should be able to stay in the EU.
Experiences with the NHS are often very personal. The NHS isn’t the best funded in the world, even if the workers are the best. Lib Dems would raise income tax by 1p to fund the NHS and social care. A quarter of NHS workers are from the EU, and preventing them from moving here, or continuing to live here, damages ourselves.
The value of the pound has crashed and we haven’t left the EU yet; staying in the single market can protect jobs and keep prices down. Tim wants a government that makes sure everyone is decent to one another – and that’s why Westminster opposition is important in this election.
We’re 8 weeks off headteachers each cutting at least one teaching post in England; Theresa May is doing to England’s schools what’s she’s doing to England’s hospitals. Government shouldn’t interfere in teachers jobs and should let them get on with it. Bringing back grammar schools would undo social mobility.
Tim lives in a part of the world where young people leave and don’t return because it’s too expensive, so it’s important to build more homes. 3/4 of young people voted Remain, and someone has to stand up for them – the Lib Dems will. On tuition fees it was important “not to make promises you can’t keep”.
6.5/10 – Came across reasonably well and his “When I were t’lad” anecdotes didn’t seem that contrived – but used the Remainer card a bit too often. He sounded like Kirsty Williams at points; is there a Lib Dem elocution school?
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)
Plaid’s vision and values can benefit everyone in the UK. She addressed Theresa May directly: “You may be too scared to come here, showing weak and unstable leadership. Real leadership means being willing to defend what you stand for.”
Plaid accepts Brexit and has moved on, but Wales is at risk of trade deals that could see NHS privatised, barriers to exports and a claw back of devolved powers. Plaid MPs would fight for Welsh interests; 200,000 Welsh jobs are reliant on tariff-free access to the single market.
The health and social care system isn’t equipped to deal with an ageing population; it makes sense to merge health and care systems together to prevent things like bed blocking. We should be prepared to pay for it from taxes, with the wealthiest “stumping up a bit more”. Additionally, in the Senedd, Labour have voted seven times against scrapping zero hours contracts for care workers.
We can’t expect the UK’s deficit to be eliminated for two decades, and the UK is the only advanced economy where wages have declined despite economic growth. Inequality can be addressed by introducing a living wage, but we need an industrial strategy that lifts wages due to high in-work poverty.
Education today is the economy of tomorrow. Plaid opposes reintroducing grammar schools and will offer teachers a premium in exchange for improving their skills to Masters degree level.
Plaid supports free education, but Labour’s policies in Wales and at UK level on tuition fees contradict each other. Social security reforms that disadvantage young people – like cuts to housing benefit – should be reversed.
7/10 – Displayed stamina by doing two debates on the hop. Seemed to lose some pep, but put in a good shift and landed a few punches too, particularly on Paul Nuttall. Should’ve used a frying pan.
Paul Nuttall MEP (UKIP, North West England)
UKIP is the only party truly committed to Brexit, taking back control of our laws, borders, waters and money, wanting to re-invest the money going to the EU into the NHS.
Any Brexit deal would be better than being in the EU. He encouraged the Conservative’s Brexit negotiators to “have courage” and “be bold”; the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs them because of the trade deficit. He’s convinced the Conservatives will make “dodgy deals” on things like fisheries and the divorce bill. It’s also “very European Union”to keep holding referendums until they get what they want.
Immigrants are putting pressure on the NHS. UKIP is committed to putting £6billion into the (English) NHS and £1.4billion a year into social care – taken directly from the foreign aid budget, cutting it back to 0.2% of GDP; “charity begins at home”.
UKIP are a “small state party”and want to put more money in people’s pockets by: scrapping VAT on domestic fuel bills, scrapping green levies and increasing the personal income tax allowance. UKIP also opposes any rise in national insurance. Rents are high because we’re not building enough houses due to immigrants. Scrapping High Speed 2 would save £50billion too.
It’s a scandal some school classes have 30+ children in them, and so many teachers are leaving the profession due to the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy. He supports grammar schools, but they need to be in working class areas too; he also wants German-style technical training.
Tuition fees are a barrier to university, and UKIP would reinstate grants for students from working class areas – but there are too many people going to university on “non-courses”. UKIP will also scrap the Barnett formula to give fairness to England and leaving the EU would easily raise enough money to build new homes.
5/10 – Listed policies well, and even had a good point every now and again – like German technical education – but didn’t come across brilliantly, blaming everything on immigration. Disappointed by the lack of frying pans.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP, Glasgow Southside)
This election “really matters”. Scotland needs strong voices at Westminister more than ever. Conservative cuts are damaging services and pushing people into poverty. The next few years will determine the type UK we’ll have.
She campaigned passionately for the UK and Scotland to stay in the EU, and Scotland should have a choice on its own future. The priority now is the Brexit negotiations, but Theresa May is threatening to walk away from the EU with no deal if nothing’s agreed, which would be “catastrophic”. An opportunity was missed to find compromise across the UK on Brexit and the single market after the vote.
Since the SNP took office, the NHS budget has increased and staff numbers have increased. They’ve also integrated health and social care, while Scottish ambulances are the best performing in the UK. The Conservatives are going further than they need to on austerity and business tax cuts; if they scaled back it would free up more money for health.
Inequality should be one of the biggest issues in the election, as it’s increasing. 5 million children could be living in poverty soon. We shouldn’t damage the economy by leaving the single market, the minimum wage should rise in line with the living wage and decency should return to the benefits system.
Early years and childcare is really important; her government is also trying to reduce bureaucracy and recruit more teachers. Money is also being given directly to headteachers so they can decide how to spend it.
Younger people shouldn’t be set against older people; opportunities should be provided and services protected regardless of age. Scotland has abolished Right to Buy and restored council house building, but homes still need to be affordable.
7.5/10 – Confident and assured, but seemed a bit bored too at points and perhaps found the whole thing not particularly challenging. Seriously, Scotland – you’ve got a life raft, get out of the UK while you can.
That wasn’t great viewing – these things rarely are – but I’d say on the whole all five of them did the best they could.
It’s right to question the legitimacy of a general election debate without the only two realistic candidates for Prime Minister. But it’s also right that those party leaders who could actually be bothered to turn up, and not run away from questioning, are heard and taken seriously. They actually want your vote it seems.
It was quite civil compared to other debates I’ve sat through, but maybe that’s because the leaders couldn’t tear strips from the two who weren’t there. Sadly, that matters.