(Title Image: ITV Wales)
The first major Welsh-focused televised debate of the 2019 UK General Election took place last night on ITV Wales. If you would prefer to watch it rather than rely on the summary you can do so here.
The main topics were Brexit (naturally), welfare reform/austerity, climate change and restoring trust in politics.
The participants are listed they stood from left to right.
David TC Davies (Con): Candidate, Monmouth
Why haven’t politicians been honest about the need for compromise on Brexit? – Only the Conservatives are in a position to deliver Brexit as things stand. In 2017, Labour and the Tories stood on a manifesto to support Brexit and failed to do so; the result needs to be accepted as he accepted the 1997 devolution vote. He also accepts tariffs would be applied with a “No Deal”, but a deal can be done and he rejected any idea the NHS would be privatised.
How will you make life better for people on Universal Credit? – The Tories won’t scrap it and people can borrow money at low interest if they’re waiting for payments. We’ve had nine years of austerity because the money ran out under Labour. We have record levels of employment and the Tories would borrow money to invest (up to £200billion).
Do you accept there’s a climate emergency? – There’s “an issue” that needs tackling and he’s pleased the Tories have a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050. The UK emits only 1% of man-made carbon emissions and there has to be a gradual transition over 30 years to avoid “throwing people out of work”. Extinction Rebellion’s views “against air travel” is too extreme. Nuclear has to be part of the energy mix too and he supports a moratorium on fracking.
How will you try to restore trust in politics? – There’s a wider issue with the language used by candidates, including some “idiots” in the Tory party.
Verdict: 6.5/10 – Came across as a stern headteacher about to give Year 7 a bollocking for walking on the mud but fought his corner well enough.
Jane Dodds (Lib Dem): Candidate, Brecon & Radnorshire
Why haven’t politicians been honest about the need for compromise on Brexit? – The Lib Dems are clear that they want to stop Brexit. Brexit can’t be delivered overnight, but stopping it can happen quickly. Getting Brexit done would result in years of loose ends which will divert attention from everyday matters like health. Parliament has had the option to vote for a deal, the public should too.
How will you make life better for people on Universal Credit? – They wouldn’t scrap it, but implementation has been a disaster and the Lib Dems would reduce the waiting time for the first payment and ban sanctions. They support measures to help single parents back into work such as expanding childcare. The Lib Dems would seek to invest an extra £9billion in Wales as a “Remain bonus” from scrapping Brexit.
Do you accept there’s a climate emergency? – Absolutely. Lib Dems would plant 60 million trees a year and would invest in tidal, wave and solar energy – but not nuclear. Young people have brought this to politicians’ attention and as a group, they need to do whatever they can. She hopes there’s cross-party support for this.
How will you try to restore trust in politics? – Inflammatory language needs to stop. We also need a proportional electoral system.
Verdict: 6/10 – Didn’t stray too far from “Stop! Brexit!” for the most part and tried to cram too much into her answers.
Nick Thomas-Symonds (Lab): Candidate, Torfaen
Why haven’t politicians been honest about the need for compromise on Brexit? – It’s a Tory failure to reach out to other parties and negotiate a deal to protect Welsh jobs; the NHS is also at risk of privatisation in a future deal with Donald Trump. He seemed to reject the (Labour) Welsh Government’s stance (second referendum, Remain), believing there had to be a “credible Leave option”.
How will you make life better for people on Universal Credit? – Labour would scrap Universal Credit. It’s made people in-work worse off and people out-of-work worse off too. The Tories made a political choice in 2010 to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s by rejecting an economic stimulus. Labour will also be clear on how its spending commitments will be paid for.
Do you accept there’s a climate emergency? – Yes, it’s right one has been declared in Wales. Green jobs are the jobs of the future and we need to focus on renewables and home insulation alongside the transition to electric vehicles. Labour supports nuclear and would like to see fracking banned.
How will you try to restore trust in politics? – People see public services cut to the bone and we need to see proper investment in communities.
Verdict: 6/10 – A bit shouty; didn’t put a foot wrong without ever excelling. Needed a bit more than “Tory cuts”.
Liz Saville-Roberts (Plaid): Candidate, Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Why haven’t politicians been honest about the need for compromise on Brexit? – It’s evident to anyone looking at the economics that there’s no form of Brexit that’s “good for Wales”. The only way to bring this to a close is a second referendum; Plaid didn’t stop campaigning for devolution when a referendum was lost in 1979. This is the defining issue of our time and Plaid won’t do anything to willfully harm Welsh communities.
How will you make life better for people on Universal Credit? – Plaid would look at how to raise 50,000 children in Wales out of poverty; so many of the means of dealing with this are devolved but little has been done by a Labour Welsh Government. Plaid would seek to devolve some extra powers on social security and there was also a “sheer in-built inequality in the UK” that needed to be reversed.
Do you accept there’s a climate emergency? – Yes, and when the history books are written, this period will be deemed to be a political failure – it’s already having an impact in places like Barmouth. Plaid is proposing a green jobs revolution based on Wales’ potential for renewables and wind farms would form a part of that. Whatever clean technologies do the job should be supported (not strictly ruling in or out supporting nuclear).
How will you try to restore trust in politics? – We need to put forward arguments that are cause-based. Too many parties act in their own interest to hold themselves together instead of standing for something.
Verdict: 6/10 – Fairly assured (her mini-speech on climate change was arguably the highlight), but gets a mark taken off for dodging the nuclear question. A bit underwhelming as a result.
Nathan Gill MEP (BXP): Candidate, Caerphilly
Why haven’t politicians been honest about the need for compromise on Brexit? – The only way to heal divides is to stop condescending the public; people were given a simple question in 2016 and the Welsh people said: “Leave”. What would Plaid do if Wales voted for independence and the UK Government tried to block it or ask the question again? Brexiteers aren’t going to disappear and this argument won’t stop. The EU sells more to us than we sell to them and they’ll be bending over backwards for a trade deal.
How will you make it better for people on Universal Credit? – The roll-out has been horrendous and is hitting people at all levels. The government has to give a helping hand when needed, but we can’t plant magic money trees. We have to trade our way out of poverty and can’t keep adding to the UK’s debt.
Do you accept there’s a climate emergency? – The climate has always been changing and he doesn’t believe it’s a man-made issue – but it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility for the environment. We should consider reducing the use of plastics and planting more trees.
How will you try to restore trust in politics? – He didn’t accept the language he’s used (“traitor” “appeaser”) was inappropriate as it’s how people feel. Parties need to start doing what they promise to do.
Verdict: 5/10 – Beyond the issue of Brexit he didn’t have much to say. Tried and failed to start shouting matches. Gets a mark taken off for man-made climate change denial.
Considering the absolute bin fire of an election campaign so far, that wasn’t too bad. It was even, dare I say it, relatively well-mannered if a little dull.
The fact it didn’t have a live audience to play to and didn’t focus much on devolved areas was great and should be the norm for these debates. It was also good to see climate change high up the agenda and refreshing that we actually got to hear the candidates say something as shouting over each other was kept to a minimum.
The only downside was….they didn’t seem to have a lot to say. There was a seeming lack of detail on policy, presumably because the party manifestos haven’t been finalised and published yet. They were all going for the killer soundbite but it never really came and none of them really stood out (other than in physical stature, of course).