The last debate

The final Welsh leaders'debate on Friday threw a clear spotlight on some of the major themes that have arisen so far in the campaign.

The early exchanges between Owen Smith and Stephen Crabb summed up the central question: are people feeling the economic recovery?

Owen Smith's claim was that there was an "epidemic" of insecurity in the jobs market and growing inequality as reflected in the rise in the use of food banks under the Conservative-led coalition.

The counter claim from Stephen Crabb was to accuse Labour of portraying the Welsh economy as being "Victorian" when most of the new jobs are full time and permanent.

Whoever wins on Thursday will have done so by persuading people to trust them on the economy.


Another feisty exchange related to the formation of a government in the event of a hung parliament.

Owen Smith openly floated the idea of a Labour minority administration, and dared Leanne Wood to ensure Plaid Cymru didn't oppose it in a way that would allow a Conservative government in.

This is Labour's strategy.

A formal coalition and an informal deal with the SNP have been ruled out. Labour leader Ed Miliband pressed the nuclear button on Thursday when he even went as far as to say that, in effect, he would prefer to be in opposition than do a deal with the SNP.

It was a clear indication that Labour is preparing for a minority government and it will dare the nationalist parties to bring its legislative programme down.

Minority government

But Plaid says it'll only fail to support a programme of government from Labour if it fails to address its concerns, so if the minority government falls then Labour has no-one to blame but itself.

The prospect of a blame game between Labour and the nationalist parties falls into the hands of the Conservatives who are trying to make political capital out of it at every opportunity.

I expect we'll hear plenty about moral legitimacy over the next few days. A senior Welsh Conservative suggested to me that he felt Labour would be able to form a government even if it had up to 15 fewer seats than the Conservatives but if that figure rose to between 30 or 40 then Labour would struggle to carry the moral legitimacy argument.

Of course it's not a question about being the largest party but about being able to form a government. The former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy told Radio Wales on Sunday morning that Labour could justify governing without being the biggest party if most of the MPs in the Commons were from the left.


The big winner from last week's debates was the audience. The campaign so far has been stage managed with little exposure of the political leaders to the public, or the group that are referred to in newsrooms as "real people".

Like elsewhere, this has happened in Wales. David Cameron has been in a brewery, a timber mill and the Royal Welsh showground where he addressed party members.

Ed Miliband has come closer to being exposed to the public with his people's question time sessions in Cardiff and Barry in recent weeks.

A quick word on Plaid's involvement in the UK-wide debates.

Senior figures tell me they were expecting plenty of coverage in the media that traditionally covers politics as a result of Leanne Wood's participation in the UK leaders' debate - but the extent of the interest in her has caught them by surprise.

The challenge for them is turning that media attention into votes.