In less than a month, Wales will decide who the next First Minister will be and which party or parties will be governing the Senedd for the next five years.
In the first of a series of three, Wales Decides presenter, Rob Osborne takes a look at the key battleground of Brecon and Radnorshire, speaking to the candidates and the people ahead of the May 6th election.
Brecon and Radnorshire is a rural constituency in mid Wales, representing the Brecon Beacons, Builth Wells, Llandrindod Wells and Crickhowell.
Politically, it has been a two-horse race between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats have always represented the constituency in the Senedd but with Kirsty Williams, who has represented the area since 1999, stepping down in this election, can the party hold on to their seat?
Their candidate for the upcoming election is William Powell, better known as Bill Powell. He is a familiar face in Cardiff Bay as he was an Assembly Member for the Mid and West Wales region between 2011-16.
Speaking to Rob Osborne, he said: “I think people will reflect that the Liberal Democrats have consistently stood up for the local population.
“We haven’t let them down. I approach that with some humility but I wish to continue that tradition.”
Discussing the idea of calling a referendum to rejoin the European Union, he said: “I would say in my view that we don’t need, at this time, a referendum on the EU, we don’t need a referendum on the independence of Wales.
“These things are maybe debates for future time but are not for now. The Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats overall are obviously known to have been and remain a pro-European party. The issue is settled for the time to come and we’ve got to respect that.”
When it comes to Westminster and the General election, it is a different story. The seat is currently held by the Conservatives and they have their eyes on it for Senedd election too, with their candidate, James Evans hoping to make electoral history by winning the seat for his party.
He said: “The Welsh Conservatives are standing on a platform. We want to grow our economy, we want to build more hospitals and get more nurses and we want to see better schools employing more teachers.
“That’s the policy I want to stand on to have that really strong economy that grows Wales and which helps fund all our vital public services.”
When asked if Wales should have its own government, he answered: “I think Wales should have its own government but the problem is it’s been run by the same party for twenty two years. We need to see a change. The Senedd needs radical overhaul, there’s too much waste.
“We need to see the Senedd slim down, more decisions being made by local government and councils and having proper devolution and not everything centralised to Cardiff Bay.”
Grenville Ham used to be the Green Party leader here in Wales but is standing as Plaid Cymru’s candidate for the Senedd election.
He said: “I don’t really stand in these things to win. I don’t really go into it thinking I really want to be a politician at Cardiff Bay earning loads of money. I just want to stand for what I believe in and I genuinely believe that Plaid Cymru policies are going to best for the future of my children.
Discussing the support for Welsh independence is in the area, he said: “I think Brecon and Radnorshire is one of the least independent leaning constituencies but on my street, there are three or four houses, some of which I don’t know who they are, who have got Plaid Cymru stickers on their windows so things are changing.”
Two other parties standing in Brecon and Radnorshire are ‘Abolish the Welsh Assembly’ and ‘Reform UK’.
Claire Mills, representing Abolish said: “If I was lucky enough to be elected, I would continue to work on behalf of my residents with any issues, problems, case work that they may have whilst holding the government in Cardiff to account and also working towards abolishing the Assembly.
“So at the end of the day I want to talk myself out of a job. We feel like we need one NHS, one education system and one UK government.”
Representing the Reform UK party in Wales is John Muir. He said, "Reform is saying effectively that we’ve been in a kind of lockdown on many different levels. One of them of course is the one that relates to Covid and the other relates to the issue to do with parliamentary representation.
“Reform recognises that there is need for major change in this area which would benefit Brecon and Radnor as well as the country as a whole.”
Gethin Jones is the Labour party candidate for the constituency but was unavailable for an interview. A statement from the party read, “Welsh Labour has been making the difficult decisions required to move Wales forward.
“We have the right plan to get us through the pandemic and to use what the crisis has taught us to build a fairer future in Brecon and Radnorshire.”
Here is the full list of candidates standing in the constituency as of today. Nominations close on April 8th:
William Powell, Liberal Democrats
James Evans, Conservatives
Grenville Ham, Plaid Cymru
Gethin Jones, Labour
Claire Mills, Abolish the Welsh Assembly
John Muir, Reform UK
Emily Durrant, Green Party
Sam Holwill, Gwlad
Mid and West Wales regional parties:
Abolish the Welsh Assembly
What are the main issues for the people of Brecon and Radnorshire?
But what are the people’s priorities?
The most common answers were the economy, education and health.
One person said: “My main thought about the vote is that they learn their lessons that we’ve been through with Covid and they actually sort out the NHS.”
Another added: “The person who gets voted will actually have a true commitment to education.”
A third person said: “I think moving forward we’ve got to think about the economy and what help is given to businesses and so on.”
The rural town of Builth Wells is just a stone's throw from the Royal Welsh showground. The show has been cancelled for the second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic and is having an obvious knock on effect on local businesses.
Jo Jones runs a B&B in the town and says the hospitality trade is ‘devastated’ by this.
She said: “It’s bigger than Christmas for local trade. Much bigger than Christmas. The implications for keeping businesses open and going and employing local people is huge.”
Her priorities are “certainly the economy, certainly the environment, education and jobs.”
You can catch up with Wales Decides here.