With parties jostling for prominence and a coordinated campaign underway to build the personal profile of the First Minister, you can tell a Welsh Parliament election is in the air…
Coronavirus has highlighted the effects of devolution and shone a spotlight First Minister like never before. Pre-COVID crisis, the identity of the First Minister was largely oblivious to the wider public. I suspect that before the crisis Mark Drakeford could have ventured from his home in the salubrious suburb of Pontcanna into the city centre and enjoyed relative anonymity. The Welsh Labour leader may now be facing a “new-normal” of his own.
While the profile of the First Minister’s office has been raised, on a personal level, he remains something of an unknown to the public. As the election for the Welsh Parliament looms closer however, Welsh Labour spin doctors are making a concerted effort to introduce the electorate to Mark Drakeford.
In recent weeks, we have endured Drakeford informing us of his love for cheese and painful spectacle of him playing Drake or Drakeford on the radio. In a somehow more bizarre twist, we have also learnt that the First Minister has been living in a hut at the bottom of his garden due to Coronavirus.
Such efforts are being made because Labour are painfully-aware that Drakeford has about as much personal appeal as the cheese of which he speaks so highly. The First Minister desperately needs a PR boost, and frantic staffers are trying everything (and seemingly, anything) to make it happen.
Instead of jovial questions around food preference and which part of his property he is occupying this week, one would hope that the First Minister would be subjected to some real scrutiny by the media. Cosy interviews may lead to instant gratification for social media, but after more than twenty years of Labour governance in Wales, surely there is much more to answer for.
The Welsh media must resist the lure of allowing politics to become fixated on the individual. In the coming months, the debate should not focus on the individuals jockeying to be First Minister, but on scrutinising the policy platform on which they stand and the track record of their parties.
For the media to allow itself to get caught up in Drakeford’s “Call Me Mark” campaign would be a disservice to the people of Wales at such a crucial juncture.