Over the course of six hours we saw every side of the First Minister.

There was the good. The desire to show his workings on why he made decisions he did, the attention to detail where he clearly was across his brief. And in some ways his performance was an order of magnitude above other Welsh Government ministers who have appeared in the same seat. There was also his clear compassion, where he evidently gives genuine thought to the impact his decisions will have on the people he governs. Not to mention his ability to appear real and unpolished such as when he becomes choked up talking about his mother in a care home.

But then there was the bad. The prickliness that can come out when challenged. The seemingly relentless desire to claim credit for what Wales did well while putting the blame for failings at the feet of the UK Government. The slippery ability to act above political manoeuvring while simultaneously shifting responsibility on to advisers, rivals or even the system itself. Perhaps most frustrating is the apparent inability to say: “I got that wrong”.

Will Hayward pulls no punches when it comes to scrutinising the decision making of politicians in Wales. You can sign up to his newsletter here to find out what is really going on in Wales.

In the space of one appearance Mr Drakeford showed both why at one point he was so popular, and also why his polling plummeted. The inquiry appearance itself really was 50 Shades of Dray.

The ponderous early days and the lack of leadership

A continuous itch that the inquiry looked to scratch was around the idea that the Welsh Government, who let’s not forget have been responsible for health in Wales for over 20 years, were slow to respond to Covid in the early months of 2020 before we locked down.

Here the First Minister, like Vaughan Gething, was asked about the decision not to cancel the Wales v Scotland Six Nations and instead leave it to the WRU. In what will become a theme, Mr Drakeford attempted to continuously juxtapose himself with the Boris Johnson-led UK Government.

On a Cobr meeting on March 12 the attendees were told cases in the UK were increasing, there were 5,000 to 10,000 cases within the UK and that we were four weeks behind Italy. They were discussing if mass gatherings should go ahead, particularly outdoor ones. The previous day the First Minister had been told cancelling mass gatherings could reduce infection related deaths by 2%.

Mr Drakeford says he argued at the Cobr meeting that mass gatherings should not go ahead. Mr Drakeford has previously said in his statement that mass gatherings were "an unwelcome distraction" and that it was "confusing" to say people should stay at home but it was okay to "attend the Cheltenham Festival or a concert".

Mr Drakeford told the inquiry that Mr Johnson took views of those around the table. "I was arguing for a four nation agreement, that mass gatherings would not go ahead, not on clinical grounds. I can't do that because all the clinical advice I have is that is not a supported course of action but I am arguing for it on the grounds of messaging".

The Prime Minister overruled it and did not ban mass gatherings. Mr Drakeford said he remembered this meeting because the Prime Minister ended it by saying: "Dom says no." The First Minister went to on say: "I did not know who Dom was at this point, this was the final thing that the Prime Minister said", referencing Mr Johnson's adviser, who went to Specsavers via Barnard Castle and some bluebells.

But this is where Mr Drakeford’s lack of leadership in the early days of the pandemic becomes apparent. He was asked why, given that he felt so strongly about this, didn’t he ban mass outdoor gatherings in Wales? Afterall Scotland had banned events with over 500 people.

He replied that there was not enough evidence that underpinned the policy yet. Even if we accept this (he had in fact been shown evidence that banning mass gatherings could reduce deaths), we still have the bizarre situation where he is saying that he argued for a UK-wide ban but he didn’t think the advice was there to do it in Wales?

It is hard to read this as anything other than being unwilling to make a hard, and likely at the time unpopular decision. Instead he passed the buck to the WRU. But even then he didn’t say to them “I really think you should cancel the game”, he instead told them “whatever decision you make we will back you”. One has to ask the question - where was the leadership?

The perception of failing to prepare properly was also repeatedly raised with a key question being why the Welsh Government cabinet does not discuss the pandemic for a month after the chief medical officer first warned there was a "significant risk" about the virus.

Mr Drakeford said that “the fact there was no discussion at cabinet until February 25 should not be read as there being no discussion between cabinet colleagues because there was great deal of discussion between cabinet colleagues in the way we would normally transact business”. However he said when they spoke about it on February 25 “at that point there is nothing for the cabinet to decide” because they were observing.

This idea, parroted by several ministers and advisers that “monitoring” the virus constituted “preparation”, was challenged by the inquiry chair Baroness Hallett (who incidentally comes across incredibly impressive). She interjected saying: “It's not just knowing what's going on around the world but 'what are we going to do when it comes here and there is a significant risk it is going to'."

Mr Drakeford tried to argue that at this point there were no cases in Wales and there was still a reasonable chance that the virus wouldn’t ever come to Cymru. But this is very disingenuous. Yes it is the job of the Welsh Government to monitor the situation but how about actually leading? Like all of us they could see the images from China, they could see that their healthcare system was being overwhelmed and that field hospitals were being built. Doctors were appearing in the media saying how this was much worse than flu. They could see that the virus had already been confirmed in other countries. Is it too much to hope that the leader of our country or his team would ask the questions “do we have the ability to build field hospitals or contact trace thousands”? Even if your officials are telling you that risks are low, isn’t it your responsibility as elected representative to scrutinise that advice?

It appears from Mr Drakeford’s evidence that everyone in Wales was talking about Covid EXCEPT the Welsh Government cabinet. Would it not have been reasonable to have expected them to have put a few people to actively making meaningful preparations? Instead Mr Drakeford admitted to the committee that the Welsh Government only started “taking Covid seriously” from March 4 - under three weeks before we were locked down.

“Being guided by the science”

Perhaps nothing underscores the issues of leadership more than the answer the First Minister gave when questioned about advice from Wales’ chief medical officer Frank Atherton.

Wales took six weeks longer than England to make face masks mandatory on public transport. Mr Drakeford said it was on advice of the Welsh CMO because Mr Atherton was “sceptical” about the merits of face masks, despite drawing from the same scientific research.

Mr Drakeford seemed to imply he supported introducing it but Mr Atherton disagreed fearing it would make people behave in a more risky way. To this the chair of the inquiry asked why he didn't overrule the advice saying Mr Drakeford “could have justified" making a decision" because [you] were trying to be cautious in Wales.”

The First Minister agreed but said this would have “undermined the CMO”. But if this was the case why is Mr Drakeford there at all? Why are we not simply making all policy based on Dr Atherton if we can’t undermine him? Baroness Hallett thought as much saying he was therefore "slavishly" following the science, something that he had earlier denied. To this Mr Drakeford said that to go against him would undermine all future decisions because they hadn’t been guided by the science this time.

The great care home contradiction

This was a particularly sensitive topic for the onlooking families as many of them had lost loved ones within care settings. Mr Drakeford was asked to explain why asymptomatic people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without testing for weeks longer than in England as Wales didn’t bring in tests until April 29.

To this Mr Drakeford said that tests for care home residents then would have taken them from other people. "We were creating a priority order, and that's the debate that lies behind that decision,” he said.

Wait…what? The idea that this decision was based on limited testing capacity was thoroughly rejected by Vaughan Gething both at the time and when he gave evidence to the inquiry just two days previously. You can read a full breakdown of this here.

Prickly over WhatsApp messages

The issue of using informal messaging apps to discuss big issues of governance has been an ongoing issue throughout the Covid Inquiry both in Wales and other parts of the UK. The seeming inability of any elected official to find any of the WhatsApps they used on a daily basis has clearly frustrated the inquiry.

Questioning over this was the time when Mr Drakeford became his most prickly and visibly annoyed. He was asked about the fact that the use of WhatsApp clearly broke the policies in place at the time.

He was asked: "Do you accept that using WhatsApp to discuss Welsh Government business was prohibited by those policies"?

He replied: “"I do accept that, it's the policy that's wrong, not the practice". He added that the policy was from 2009 when it was "no doubt a sound one" but that "in the circumstances of the pandemic, the policy did not make sense".

The inquiry barrister was having none of this asking if he felt that it would have been at least useful to the current investigation to have access to them, to which Mr Drakeford simply replied that he had provided plenty more evidence from useful sources.

The Firebreak situation

One of the big criticisms of the Welsh Government has been the fact it took them over a month to bring in a firebreak lockdown after they were advised to do so. Mr Drakeford argued that there were several “headwinds” stopping him doing that including the unwillingness of the UK Government to follow suit.

Mr Drakeford said he brought it up at a Cobr meeting, but the Prime Minister was "actively opposed" to a circuit-breaker. Mr Drakeford quotes evidence from Dominic Cummings where apparently Mr Johnson said: “no more, expletive, lockdowns, let the bodies pile high."

The First Minister was then asked why he wrote to the Prime Minister about having a UK-wide circuit breaker when it was obvious that "this was not something the UK Government or Prime Minister was ever going to countenance". To which he replied he wanted the Prime Minister to have "another opportunity to reflect on that advice" from advisers.

But all the while Mr Drakeford waited as the virus spread through Wales in the autumn. He didn’t need UK Government approval to order a fire break at the end of September. He didn’t even need them to extend furlough as it was still in place. The only thing stopping a Welsh firebreak lockdown when it was advised was the unwillingness of Mr Drakeford himself to countenance it. After stubbornly refusing to deviate from advice in the summer of masks here he was kicking the can down the road when the advice was clear.

Very anti UK Government - and of course that was the whole point

Mr Drakeford never passed up an opportunity to point out times that he perceived his job to have been made harder by the UK Government. This is unsurprising because this was his entire rationale for not having a Welsh specific inquiry into the pandemic in the first place.

Mr Drakeford spoke about how usually, there are yearly joint ministerial council meetings (JMC) which bring together ministers from the devolved and UK governments. Mr Drakeford says that in his various roles as a special adviser, minister or First Minister he has attended every one of these in some capacity, except those under David Cameron. He confirmed that there were no JMC meetings during the pandemic.

A comment by Mr Johnson was put to Mr Drakeford, that he did not hold such meetings because it would give a "false impression that the UK was a federal state". Mr Drakeford calls this "one of the most extraordinary statements".

He says he could have understood Mr Johnson turning down requests to meet devolved politicians because he was busy but "as a matter of policy he decided not to meet, and that did seem to me to be an extraordinary decision".

You can’t watch Mr Drakeford’s testimony and not accept that the Boris Johnson led administration was often an unaccommodating and infuriating partner for the Welsh Government to work with. A cursory look at their own statements shows that many members of that administration were openly hostile to the Welsh Government’s autonomy and indeed devolution itself. However this also can’t distract from the fact that time and again the First Minister used the UK Government as the Central Government boogeyman behind which he hid his own hesitations, errors and missteps.

The need for a Welsh Covid inquiry is more obvious than ever

While six hours may seem like a gruellingly long time for anyone to endure questioning, it also starkly highlights why people have called for a Welsh specific inquiry into Covid. Six hours speaking from the man who led Wales over the two years of the pandemic is only ever going to be able to touch on the very biggest issues.

There is no denying the merits of the questioning barristers or the diligence with which they have pored over the evidence. However they spent about a third of the six hours looking specifically at how the Welsh and UK Government’s interacted and the legislative frameworks in place.

Now from the point of view of the inquiry’s remit this makes total sense. They are the “UK” inquiry after all. But when the First Minister only spends four (ish) hours talking about the decisions that actually happened in Wales it is hard not to feel that many important issues are going to be overlooked. When there is another pandemic, there is a good chance that the Welsh Government will be the ones dealing with it. The people of Wales no more deserve to have the same errors made by their government than the people of England or Scotland - so how is it fair that our government’s actions are receiving proportionally less attention.