Wales politics

Policy poker: Do you know what's in the parties' hands?

Play cards
Image caption The parties have laid their cards on the table in the election campaign

Is there enough to distinguish the politicians competing for support in the Welsh assembly election on 5 May? We asked a group of voters if they could match the policy with the party.

Thumbing through the manifestos produced by the parties for the assembly election on 5 May can bring about a sense of déjà vu as similar policies are offered for approval.

Which party, for example, is proposing a national cancer plan? The answer: Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Labour says it has already produced one.

What about transport? Labour wants a not-for-profit company, similar to Glas Cymru, to run the Wales and Borders rail franchise. So does Plaid.

Whether it is more out-of-hours health services, legislation on the Welsh language or plugging gaps in public spending, similar ideas pop up throughout the manifestos on offer at this election.

So, in what admittedly might be the most unscientific experiment ever conducted in the name of journalism, we shuffled a list of policies from the four biggest parties in the assembly election campaign.

Ten members of the BBC Wales People's Assembly were asked to match the policies with the party they thought was responsible.

Without researching the manifestos, they had to rely on their own knowledge or guesswork to nominate four policies each for Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and Plaid.

Out of 160 potential matches, they scored a combined 56. The highest score was a commendable 10 out of 16.

One of the 16 policies on offer was a Welsh language bill to recognise the official status of Welsh and English and the equality between the two languages.

Everyone thought it was a Plaid brainchild. In fact, it comes from the Welsh Conservative manifesto. There is a similar pledge from the Lib Dems. Plaid says it wants legislation passed in the last assembly to bed down and to increase the number of organisations providing services in Welsh.

Most of our People's Assembly members thought a policy to create a direct air link between Wales and north America also came from Plaid's manifesto. In fact, it was from the Tory version.

'Virtually indistinguishable'

Asked for their reflections on the election campaign, one said: "All of the political parties seem to be coming out with what they think the electorate wants to hear, they are virtually indistinguishable from one another."

We got multiple answers to questions from another poker player - perhaps a sign that he could not tell one party from another.

And this from a contestant who says he has read the parties' leaflets and pays attention to what politicians say on TV. "There is a lot of consensus," he said.

Another said there was "some amusement and confusion" in his family about which party was saying what.

"Altogether we were rather worried that we did not know exactly what each party stood for," he said.

"Complete guesswork," admitted one player who said that not a single piece of literature dropped through her front door in the first fortnight of the campaign.

Based on the information she read on the BBC Wales News website she felt "a lot of the policies are very similar with all four parties".

Remember: the assembly election is not the only vote taking place on 5 May - there is the referendum on whether to adopt the alternative vote system for electing MPs, where candidates are ranked in order of preference.

One exasperated People's Assembly member wondered if that meant he could have a first and second choice in our poker game?

That would be cheating, we're afraid.

But you can click on BBC Wales' issues guide if you want to find out what the parties are saying about the important issues.