Welsh parties say pandemic remains focus during final day of campaigning

Senedd election
Senedd election (PA Wire)
19:55pm, Wed 05 May 2021
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Parties have been making their final election campaign visits across Wales with leaders saying the pandemic has continued to dominate their conversations with voters.

Voting in the 2021 Welsh Parliament election will begin at 7am on Thursday, though counting will not take place until Friday due to coronavirus restrictions.

On Wednesday, Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford visited Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as areas of his Cardiff West constituency, and said his party had felt a “real sense of momentum” in the last week.

He told the PA news agency: “We’ve had more and more people come out to help, teams and teams of Labour canvassers out on the doorstep, and the feeling on the doorstep is warm.

“The vaccine is a constant source of conversation. Everybody wants to ask ‘have you had yours?’ The dialogue is all very informed by all the coverage that devolution and the Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic has had.

“The pandemic is by some distance the top topic. Economic recovery and jobs is a second theme, particularly grandparents and parents asking about their children. Will there be jobs for them, what will they get to do, that sort of thing.”

Mr Drakeford said he believed controversy over Boris Johnson’s funding for his Downing Street flat refurbishment had also “got through” to voters on the doorstep.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, spent Wednesday in Rhyl in North Wales, where he was joined by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, before Mr Davies visited areas in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan.

He said he believed people had warmed to his party’s message of wanting to focus on rebuilding Wales after the pandemic within the current framework of the United Kingdom, as opposed to his opponents’ calls for greater devolution or independence.

Senedd election (PA Wire)

“We’ve been focusing on jobs and people’s livelihoods and costs of living and I think people have responded to that,” he told PA.

“We’re going to be working tirelessly up to close of polls at 10pm on Thursday to make sure we have those final conversations with people, and hopefully they will realise after 22 years of Labour we need to make the change and we can’t afford another five years of them in coalition with Plaid.”

Mr Davies said voters were viewing the country’s vaccine rollout as a success “on a UK basis” and had welcomed action taken by the UK Government to protect Wales.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price conducted his final round of visits in areas of Carmarthenshire, and said he had been left “inspired” and “genuinely energised” by the response of voters.

He told PA: “I’ve fought enough elections to know the difference. I can sense something is happening. I don’t care what commentators are saying or opinion polls, because I know the ground is shifting.”

Mr Price said Labour voters were telling him that Mr Drakeford had “done the best job that he can in a difficult situation” during the pandemic, but were hungry for “new ideas and new energy”.

“I think we’re seeing a late surge in support for us in every part of Wales and from every part of the spectrum,” he said.

“But it’s traditional Labour voters, if you go online or offline, that are coming over to us at this late stage of the campaign.”

Savanta ComRes said its latest voting intention poll showed Labour remain on 36% in the constituency vote compared with its poll last week, with the Tories up one point to 28%, and Plaid Cymru down one point to 18%.

That result would mean Labour being short of winning an outright majority.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are on 6%, Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party and Reform UK are both on 3%, and other parties and independents amount to 6%.

In the regional list vote, the polling said Labour is on 32% (+ 1); Tories 25% (+1); Plaid 19% (-2); Abolish 6% (-2); Lib Dem 5% (-); Green 5% (+2); Reform 3%; Ukip 1% (-1); Other 5% (+2).

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