Wales politics

Vote 2011: Less than a week to go to assembly election

There is now less than a week to go until Wales heads to the polls and elects 60 assembly members.

I've heard it said by AMs that their election in 2007 and the subsequent coalition negotiations did not receive enough attention from media outside Wales. Could they have foreseen at that time that this year's election would happen while the world's media was preparing for a royal wedding?

The last full week of the campaign saw a visit by the prime minister and candidates fall victim to making unguarded comments on social networking sites.

Monday

Easter has been a long time coming this year, and the good weather made its arrival even more welcome. With the sun smiling on Wales, you would be forgiven for allowing your mind to stray from the election campaign.

The glut of bank holidays has made this election a curious stop-start affair. The question of whether we should have an additional national holiday in Wales is often raised in the assembly, but it is usually proposed for 1 March in honour of St David.

The last full week of the campaign began and ended with days off: the first for Easter and the second thanks to Anglesey residents Prince William and his new wife, the Duchess of Cambridge.

We used the time off on Monday to ask people whether they can tell the difference between the policies on offer from the four main parties. Try your hand at policy poker.

Tuesday

The televised leaders' debates had a huge impact on the campaign for last year's Westminster general election.

Welsh party leaders took part in their equivalent on Tuesday night. You can see them do it all again on BBC One Wales this coming Monday night.

Image caption Assembly election campaigns do not normally coincide with a royal wedding

Kirsty Williams, Carwyn Jones, Nick Bourne and Ieuan Wyn Jones lined up to answer questions in front of the cameras of our colleagues at ITV Wales.

The oddest moment came when Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones began to answer a question while holding a pen aloft in each hand. We're not sure if this was meant as a sign of his readiness to sign coalition deals. When he was deputy prime minister, John Prescott was lambasted as "Two Jags". This election is obviously being held in a period of austerity, because the best the deputy first minister can aspire to is "two (ball-point) pens".

Wednesday

The battle for Ceredigion is hotting up. Plaid Cymru candidate Elin Jones has asked whether her Liberal Democrat rival, Elizabeth Evans, could serve as an effective AM if she won the seat but stayed on as a local councillor. To answer the question, the Lib Dems provided a list of Plaid candidates who are also councillors.

Wednesday began with the news that Labour's candidate in Ynys Mon, Joe Lock, had posted some distasteful comments about Margaret Thatcher on Facebook and said that he preferred his Tories "impaled on a large spike".

Some politicians are enthusiastic about how social media allows them to bypass the traditional media and communicate with the electorate. That may be true, but social media is also useful to journalists too - it gives politicians even more scope to commit gaffes.

Thursday

The very next day, the Conservatives found themselves in the same situation - issuing an apology on behalf of a candidate for offensive comments he made on Facebook last year.

Matt Smith, contesting Cardiff Central for the Tories, got a rap on the knuckles from his party for comparing the left-wing Respect party to paedophiles. He was roundly criticised by political opponents. Except Labour. Perhaps mindful of the previous day's controversy, Labour decline to comment.

At the very least, the row was bad timing for the Conservatives. The story broke on the same day that David Cameron was in north Wales trying to hammer home a key plank of the Tory campaign - that they are the only one of the four main parties who would maintain health spending in line with inflation. It's a pledge that rivals have attacked, saying it would force bigger cuts in other departments.

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