Unless the pandemic postpones next year’s Senedd election on 6 May, formal campaigning will probably start straight after Easter. It’s already started, of course. The presentation of Covid 19 responses by two separate governments in England and Wales of different hue have been highly political. Our efforts have started too: this year we’ve engaged with Members of the Senedd from all major parties. We’ll have our own policy-asks and we’ll challenge candidates to address them.
Working with the current Welsh Government we’ve well-established practical relationships with Ministers. Despite restrictions there’s been no let-up in engagement. In fact the “new ways of working” have given us more face-to-face time with our key minister – albeit on-screen.
This year we have (physically) met the agriculture and rural affairs leads from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives. Key topics have been the impact of restrictions and the recovery of the rural economy – and our Rural Powerhouse themes: profitable and sustainable farming, a planning system designed for rural communities, a fully-connected countryside, a simpler tax regime and investment in skills and innovation. We’ll be stepping-up our activity with the political party offices. These feed and brief candidates throughout the campaign.
The outcome of this election is less predictable than any of its predecessors. A concurrent – or near concurrent- UK general election will not be a factor, and many now see the Welsh Labour and Conservative Parties more distinct from their UK-wide counterparts. That 20 regional seats are dictated by the list system also fogs any vision of outcome. Since we last went to the polls we’ve started to see Welsh taxes and we’ve seen separate approaches to tackling the pandemic. Arguably this Senedd election is more “Welsh” than ever before. Those who believe Welsh elections are largely dictated by UK-wide events may start to think again.
And finally, there are those whom we gain and those whom we lose. We’re yet to see the influx of new candidates, but, for the first time, 16-17 year-olds will be eligible to vote – balanced perhaps by silver voters of today’s longer life-expectancy. Those we lose? – Among 6 already retiring is the sole, Liberal Democrat and Minister, Kirsty Williams, the (now) Independent Minister, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas and the Former first Minister, Rt Hon Carwyn Jones.