Campaigning under the shadow of steel

In editorial meetings discussing election campaigns, a question that's often asked is "what has been the moment of the campaign so far?"

The moment in this context is the highlight or the one event which has set the tone for others to follow.

If I had to make that call now I'd say the moment came late on Tuesday March 29, when it emerged from Mumbai that Tata's UK steel operations were being put up for sale.

Despite the fact that there are limits to what any Welsh government is able to achieve because of its lack of financial muscle, steel has dominated the campaign so far.

No-one should be surprised. We're talking about the potential end of one of the last forms of heavy industry, and that was always going to strike a chord in Wales more than anywhere else.

The winner from the emergency of steel has got to be Labour. It has allowed Carwyn Jones to portray himself as batting for Wales in Downing Street and beyond.

Hospital hostility

The opposition parties are desperate to get the agenda back onto problems in the NHS.

Their wish may be granted if the steel story settles down slightly for a week or two as the hunt for a buyer continues.

I've just listened to a BBC Radio Wales hustings in Haverfordwest with regional candidates, where Labour's Eluned Morgan faced some very hostile questions from the audience annoyed by the downgrading of some paediatric services at Withybush hospital.

And Carwyn Jones himself was put on the spot on Friday night's Ask the Leader event in Llangollen when the first question was about why Labour had screwed up the NHS.

The YouGov poll for ITV Wales last week suggested that support for the Conservatives had fallen away, indicating that problems at Westminster over tax affairs, welfare reform and the response to the steel crisis was taking its toll.

The Welsh Conservatives are trying hard to regain the initiative with a number of measures like a higher proposed cut to the basic rate of income tax than was expected, and 80mph speed limits.

We've also had the manifestos now of Plaid, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP.

Plaid's was striking for scale of the efficiency savings in the NHS, and more broadly in the public sector, it wants to make in order to plough the money back into services.

As expected, the Lib Dems focused on a handful of policies like smaller class sizes which could in theory be taken off-the-shelf and slotted into another party's programme for government.

And UKIP's nearly fifty pages, which was appropriately launched at a theatre after all the dramatic infighting, was an attempt to show that it is serious about devolution without one mention of immigration.