The Senedd election was rightly dominated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on health, on the education of our children and on how we can rebuild the economy as we come out of this crisis. These were the issues being discussed by most of the political parties and raised in online meetings. Yet within hours of the results being announced and a new set of ministers being appointed, the Welsh Government suddenly remembered an even more urgent priority - the need for more Senedd Members. It seems that 60 Senedd Members, sitting alongside 40 Members of Parliament in Wales and a host of councillors, are not enough politicians and we need another 30 or so. Strangely enough when people raised the issue of creating jobs during the election campaign, I don’t think they meant jobs for politicians!
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced a universal basic income is be trialled in Wales. There are no further details yet but, in theory, every adult in a specific area - regardless of their means - would receive a regular sum of money from the Welsh Government on top of their earnings. Finally, the Welsh Government will be seeking out more powers for itself. When not campaigning for more Senedd Members, more powers and cash for everyone, I am hoping ministers in Cardiff Bay might turn their attention back to the issues of health, education and the economy.
We have all become adept at online meetings over the last year. But on Friday afternoon, newly elected Monmouth MS Peter Fox and myself held a joint advice surgery in person to discuss issues of concern to local residents. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have their place, but it is good to be getting back to normal and meeting constituents face-to-face.
The return to normality will hopefully continue with most lockdown restrictions ending next month. Many people are emailing to say that with over half the country vaccinated, including nearly all of the elderly and vulnerable, it is time to lift restrictions in their entirety. Others are nervous about the Indian Covid variant and have suggested keeping restrictions in place and preventing foreign travel in or out of Britain. The bad news is that coronavirus will continue to circulate across the world and mutate for many years, maybe forever. Nothing can stop this and unless we hermetically seal off our borders, we will continue to face outbreaks. The good news is vaccines seem to be effective against all known variants. No government wants to keep people in lockdown for a minute longer than necessary and if the evidence continues to show vaccination is working, then we can hope for further restrictions to be lifted over the coming months.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 26 May 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 27 May 2021*