Senedd Election 2021: What can we expect from the ITV Wales debate?

Mark Drakeford, Adam Pirce and Andrew RT Davies will be taking part in the debate on Sunday evening Credit: PA Images

It's an election like no other, so it'll be an election debate like no other. 

There are very big questions that anyone watching will want answered: about the handling of the rest of the pandemic, about the way Wales will recover from the pandemic and the kind of government we will have after May 7th.

Can we expect a period of five years when more differences will open up between Wales and England or will we see a government that lessens those differences?

Will taxes go up or stay as they are? Will our health service change as the pandemic recedes? How will our education system change? Will there be any new roads or rail lines and will those that already exist be improved?

These are huge questions and our debate is a chance for you to see what answers are being proposed by the three men who can credibly claim they have a chance of being First Minister. 

As I say, it will be an unusual debate thanks to the pandemic restrictions. 

The leaders will be kept at a two-metre distance and will be separated by screens

There'll be no audience to cheer or jeer. The three leaders will be in our studio but socially distanced and for extra safety separated by perspex screens, all of which will deprive us of the traditional the will-they-or-won't-they post-debate handshakes. 

So we will have to look for other signs of the political dynamic between the three men. How confident is each of them about what they think their parties will be able to achieve in terms of votes and seats in the Senedd? 

Polls suggest that there could be shifts in support which might worry Labour and encourage the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru. Maybe the way they behave during the debate might give us clues as to what they're picking up from canvassing. 

Will Mark Drakeford and Adam Price send any signals that they might consider working together in partnership if need be? A coalition government or some other less formal relationship between their two parties remains a possibility, even if they play down the prospect in public. 

Will anything Andrew RT Davies says suggest that he's thinking of possible partnerships with any other parties? Or will his messages be for Conservative supporters thinking of giving one or more of their votes to one of the anti-devolution, anti-lockdown parties?

  • Take a look behind the scenes:

These are the sort of things that I and other politics watchers will be looking out because they'll give clues to the possible direction of Welsh politics for the next five years.

There is a real existential sense to this election: not only because of Covid, but also because the question of how Wales is governed is on the table in a way that it hasn't really since the first election to the then Assembly.

Support has undoubtedly grown for independence in recent years but so has support for abolishing the Senedd altogether.

Support has undoubtedly grown for independence in recent years but so has support for abolishing the Senedd altogether. Even within pro-devolution parties, there's now a range of views about how much working together there should be with the UK Government. 

So you can expect the future of Wales to be one of the subjects discussed in tonight's debate and in a second programme which will be on air tomorrow night [Monday] featuring the smaller parties vying for your vote.

  • Watch Wales Decides: The ITV Wales Debate with Adrian Masters on Sunday 18 April at 7pm.

  • Follow the coverage online using the hashtag #ITVElectionDebate. The debate will be livestreamed on the ITV Wales Facebook and Twitter channels and on our website.