ITV Wales debate

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Media captionDespite being a devolved issue - the ITV Wales debate kicked off on health

Who came out on top and will it make any difference?

Those are the two questions everyone wants to know after a major debate, and the day after the first Welsh leaders' debate on ITV Wales at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is no exception.

I'm not sure I can answer the questions definitively.

There were no obvious winners.

The Conservatives felt their man, Stephen Crabb, was effective early on with his claim that the Labour Welsh government was given the money by the coalition at Westminster for the NHS but it chose not to protect the health budget.

It was a claim he repeated, mirroring the words of the UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier in the day when he was in Newport.

Zero hours

Labour and the anti-austerity parties appeared to set the terms of the economic part of the debate as it was dominated by food banks and zero hours contracts.

Stephen Crabb tried to bring it back onto his terms as he accused his opponents of being in denial about the recovery, but many people must have come away from watching that segment with a negative view of the economy.

Leanne Wood clearly brought a degree of confidence after her participation in the UK-wide leaders' debates and that was reflected in some timely interventions.

There had been some speculation that Labour in particular may have wanted to give her a tough time in the same way it did with Nicola Sturgeon when she took part in the Scottish leaders' debate but it never really materialised in the same way.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams was generally considered to have put in a solid shift as she sought to defend her party's record in government.


There appeared to be a marked difference in style between the Westminster and the Assembly politicians.

The two MPs at times reverted to an aggressive Commons-style exchange on the NHS and the economy which wasn't mirrored by the two AMs.

And then UKIP and the Greens introduced a completely different style. Green leader Pippa Bartolotti is not a polished professional politician but it may be this very fact that people find attractive.

I bumped into Nathan Gill of UKIP before it began and he told me he was going to say things no-one else would and what everyone at home was thinking.

He had to make a splash in the section on immigration and he largely achieved that with some direct attacks on Stephen Crabb, standing next to him, asking why he was still there as the Conservatives had failed so badly in dealing with net migration.


Mr Gill then called on Labour's Owen Smith to "man up" on the subject.

My impression was that the debate struggled to find its own rhythm at the beginning but got better as time went on.

ITV Wales' political editor Adrian Masters succeeded in the tough job keeping everyone in check but one of the weaknesses of having so many on the panel is that often someone else has to be introduced at the point that it's becoming heated.

Round two will be the televised BBC version on Friday May 1.

Do the debates make a difference? I spoke to some dog walkers in Bute Park in Cardiff behind the college as part of a television package about the TV debates in general and I struggled to find anyone who thought they actually changed the way they vote.

One woman seemed to typify the attitude when she said: "I may watch for the first five minutes and then most probably turn over."