From homelessness to next year's election: The things we learned while catching up with the First Minister

Credit: PA

We are almost six months on from when the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus to be a global pandemic and even now, the First Minister is still holding press conferences every week to update us on the situation in Wales. To find out more about how he has been handling it and his next priorities, we caught up with him for the latest episode of The New Normal podcast and here are some of the key things we learned:

1. The First Minister has full confidence in his Education Minister

Despite the exam grading fiasco which saw a u-turn here in Wales as well as in other parts of the UK, Mark Drakeford says that Kirsty Williams "has been an outstanding education minister." He said the last five years has seen a great deal of successful change in the education system here in Wales "and a lot of that success can be attributed to Kirsty Williams herself."

2. Coronavirus decisions ‘weigh’ on him

Some of the early decisions confronting the First Minister could have made the difference between the collapse of the NHS or it being able to cope. When asked if he always felt up to the job, he said:

"If you don’t have an element of self-doubt you’re probably not fit to do the job. So I don’t mean at all that I’m always certain that I got it right or anything. You make the best decision you can in the circumstances you’re in and of course you sometimes go home worrying whether it was the right decision. If you didn’t do that I don’t think you’re right for the job.  When you’re having to make those decisions for real rather than theoretically they do weigh on you and they should weigh on you too."

3. He still thinks Wales is better off being part of the UK

Throughout the pandemic the First Minister has criticised some of the UK Government’s handling of decision-making without fully engaging the devolved governments. He’s also been criticised for sticking too closely to the ‘Four-nation approach.’ 

But he tells the podcast: "I still think there’s strength in working together. The United Kingdom has been a source of strength to Wales during the pandemic."

4. He is against postponing next May’s Senedd Election

There has been speculation that the vote to choose a new set of Senedd Members might have to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the First Minister doesn’t think that’s a good idea:

"I’m absolutely opposed to it being postponed. The Senedd badly needs refreshing. I am very committed to there being elections next year although I can’t predict what the events between now and then will do that to that ambition."

5. He wants to pay more attention to homelessness and renewable energy

The First Minister said he wants to make housing at the centre of what the Welsh Government focuses when we move past the worst stages of the pandemic.

"We're very keen to build more social housing in next assembly term...

"There are some very big agendas that have had to take second place because of coronavirus.

"We haven't been able to do everything I wanted us to do in terms of renewable energy, which is where I think in the long term the future of the Welsh economy rests."

Listen to the podcast: