FIRST minister Mark Drakeford has said Wales missed chances to tackle coronavirus at the start of the pandemic. 

In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Radio Cymru, to mark his 67th birthday today, the Welsh Labour leader was asked if he thought there were things he could have done differently over the past 18 months. 

Mr Drakeford said: “Well of course when you look back and think what we know now that we didn’t in that period you can see things, I’m sure, looking back knowing everything we do now about the spread of coronavirus, the speed it moves from one place to another, at the start there were chances we didn’t use to do more, and more quickly.” 

However the first minister who has led Wales’ response to the pandemic added: “I don’t think at the time it was possible to make different decisions. Looking back, with what we know now, yes you can see.” 

In the interview he also said how the cabinet had met four times this week before he announced new measures, such as Covid passes, on Friday and said: “We’ve been lucky in Wales during the pandemic, the decisions, difficult decision we’ve made, on the whole, people in Wales have supported what we’ve done and that’s been a great support of course.” 

His words are sure to be seized on by those who are calling for Wales to hold its own Covid inquiry, into decisions taken in Wales, and separate from the UK wide inquiry. Mr Drakeford has consistently said he supports holding a UK wide inquiry so the Welsh experience is examined in the context of the pandemic in the UK. 

The Welsh Government’s position has been supported today by comments made by Prof Hugh Pennington, who chaired an inquiry into the 2005 E.coli outbreak in Wales, who said a Wales only inquiry coud create an “enormous degree of overlap”. 

The first minister’s interview was pre-recorded, in Welsh, earlier this week and he also discussed the talks on a possible deal with Plaid Cymru, to work together in the Senedd, announced earlier this week. 

Mr Drakeford said the deal is intended to help his Labour Party, which has only half of the 60 seats in the Senedd, to tackle “difficult and challenging” issues. 


Asked, by presenter Dewi Llwyd, the main thing he would like to achieve from the deal the first minister said reform of council tax. 

He suggested he would like to hold a similar revaluation of council tax bands to the one carried out in 2003. The re-banding proved controversial with many homeowners complaining their homes were placed in higher bands due to rocketing property prices which didn’t reflect their income and that the tax takes no account of earnings. 

The first minister said: “If I can give you one thing we’d like to achieve, to reform the way we do council tax. It’s not fair at all and we haven’t done things like review the list of homes here in Wales since 2003, so it's 20 years now with the same list, but to do it is incredibly hard because some people miss out, a lot of people win, but some people lose out whenever you try and do something like that. 

“It’s hard, trying to do it with 30 votes, trying to change the law, hard policies well there’s not one government since 2003 that’s succeeded to do it. I want to try and do it now because there’s an opportunity to do it, if we can do it with Plaid Cymru, we’ve agreed a number of times,….. if there’s a possibility to do it together, that gives a path to do something that’s too hard to do if you just try and do it as one party.” 

READ MORE: Problem debt 'rocketing' in Wales, says new report

Here are the highlights from the interview including Drakeford on Boris Johnson, pressures of the job, cricket and his most memorable birthday

His relationship with Boris Johnson 

“Well to tell the truth there’s not a lot of a relationship there. I haven’t spoken to the prime minister since last June. We have a lot more opportunities to speak to other ministers in the UK Government but when I compare it to the chances we had to speak and do things with Theresa May, for example, there were a lot more opportunities and when I look back to the period when Rhodri Morgan was first minister and he was dealing with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in the same party, Labour, so that does make a difference, but they could speak, well, every month without hesitation. After Boris Johnson became prime minister that has been different.” 

Does he ever wish he remained as a university lecturer for an “easier” life? 

“You do think you are missing out on some things, there are times I don’t have the time to have gone to the allotment or just to see Glamorgan play cricket. I went last Sunday to watch them it was so nice, the weather was nice, the cricket was great, at times you do think I’d have more chance to do things like this but sure enough the time will come.” 

Glamorgan lost the game to Gloucestershire by 10 wickets. 

The National Wales: Mark Drakeford Picture: Huw Evans AgencyMark Drakeford Picture: Huw Evans Agency

Previously announced plans to stand down during the current Senedd term 

“I haven’t changed my mind. I think to do the job of first minister for more than five years I think is too much and I want to transfer the opportunity to someone else when they have time to show what they can do before the next election so some time before halfway through the term the day will come to think about, preparing to give the opportunity to someone else.” 

Whether his successor will be the fifth successive, white, middle aged man to lead devolved Wales 

“Yes of course the day will come when someone else from another background will come through. At the end of the day it is up to the members of the Labour Party one of the things I was keen to do internally to be clear it is up to the members, one member one vote 

“To me when I vote, any election, any election in Labour, the person’s ideas are most important, not man, woman or anything else, and I chose the person whose ideas are closest to mine.” 

And his most memorable birthday 

“I was 14 we were moving house, to a brand new house in Carmarthen, I went to school, and thought nothing would happen today, but got home at the end of the day and everything was packed and there was a cake my mam had prepared. I can’t think how she did it, now, but it was all there to have a birthday.” 

The full interview on Dewi Llwyd ar Fore Sul can be heard by clicking the link to the BBC Sounds website here. It starts at 9.10am.

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