25 February 2021
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has enabled Wales to wield its devolved powers more than ever before, according to the Acting Political Editor of Media Wales.
Drawing on insights from his new book Lockdown Wales and his first hand experiences of reporting on the pandemic for Wales’ largest news provider, Will Hayward argued that COVID-19 has awoken Wales' devolved consciousness at the latest session in Cardiff Business School’s Breakfast Briefing Series.
He got the session underway by asking a series of questions:
- Are people in Wales more aware of devolution that they were?
- Are they more aware of how it effects their daily lives?
- Are they more aware of their feelings towards it? And, have those feelings changed?
Addressing the first of these questions, Will said: “I think the answer is unequivocally, yes! COVID has dramatically changed how devolution is perceived in Wales.
“A really good example of this is the contrasts between now and a year ago. The idea that Wales would do something different at the start of the pandemic, was kind of unthinkable. There was this assumption that the UK government would lead.
“Fast forward to the lockdown at the end of 2020 and even the so-called ‘firebreak’ before that. These demonstrated a confidence that just wasn’t there before.”
Will observed that this change happened over a period of six months, undoing decades of entrenched custom and habit.
However, as he went on to explain, Wales’ decision to ‘go its own way’ over this period should be caveated by two disclaimers:
- Wales’ dependence on the Furlough Scheme controlled by the Treasury in Westminster.
- Wales’ porous border with England, especially in the North East of Wales.
A discussion of Wales’ leadership during the pandemic, followed.
“The development of a prominent leader within Wales is a key part of that devolved consciousness we are talking about,” said Will.
“We know that people get turned off by politics for a whole host of reasons, but one thing that means people will turn on is if they think what is being said will directly affect their lives...”
Will once again caveated this point by explaining that while popularity and awareness exists among the public towards devolved leaders, this might not necessarily be true of the wider Welsh Cabinet.
Before moving to the question-and-answer session, Will concluded his presentation by considering some of the lessons we can learn from the pandemic to move towards a better system of government and media coverage across the Union in the future.
Cardiff Business School's Breakfast Briefing Series is a network of events which enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.
Following lockdown measures, implemented by Welsh Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School’s Executive Education Team has moved the series online.
If you were unable to attend, watch this recording of the event.