TV debate puts NHS centre stage as election day nears

BBC Wales Leaders' Debate

The final leaders' debate gave the opposition parties what they wanted in throwing the focus of the campaign well and truly onto the NHS.

The first half hour was emotionally charged, loaded with policy and robust exchanges. Compulsive stuff.

Carwyn Jones himself set the tone in his opening statement by focusing entirely on health services and the inevitable mention of the lack of a junior doctors strike in Wales.

The simmering row in England has given Labour a useful point of contrast when dealing with attacks on the NHS, and the strike this week could not have been timed better for them as we approach polling day next week.

There was a marked contrast to last week's leaders' debate, when the opposition parties spent much of their time ganging up on Carwyn Jones.


There was a broken-up feel to this, with different rows breaking out among different leaders at different times.

Nathan Gill and Kirsty Williams locked horns over EU steel dumping and Andrew RT Davies attacked Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood for doing deals with the Labour administration.

An interesting theme was also the consistent attacks by Carwyn Jones on Leanne Wood about Plaid's plans to reorganise the NHS and their plans to only pay off the debt of students who return to Wales.

This came despite Labour repeatedly saying that this election is a fight between them and the Conservatives.

In the end, a clearly annoyed Leanne Wood had enough, and accused him of misrepresenting her policies.

Afterwards, Plaid said they took the criticism as a compliment, saying it clearly showed Labour were rattled by a Plaid threat.

Labour for their part feel there are soft Plaid votes out there up for grabs in marginal seats like the Vale of Glamorgan and the Vale of Clwyd, where they are up against the Tories.

No precedent

Elsewhere, Nathan Gill struck a different tone. So far in the assembly campaign he's been at pains to move away from any talk of the EU as the party tries to show it's deadly serious about devolution.

That all appeared to come to an end with repeated references to the EU during the debate. This struck me as an appeal to get their core voters out.

A big question is whether UKIP voters, who are clearly enthused by the EU referendum, will be enthused enough to turn out next week.

There's no precedent to fall back on so we'll all have to wait and see, but the impact of the UKIP numbers, particularly in the marginal seats could be huge.

One party insider described a strong UKIP vote in a tight marginal as "like a bomb going off" because of the impact it could have on the votes of the other parties and, as a result, the final result in many counts.