Could next year’s Assembly elections see a non-Labour coalition?
In all the chatter regarding the â€œBlair legacyâ€ nobody seems to mention devolution. The West Lothian question raises its head on a regular basis now that England is governed by a party elected by Scottish and Welsh electors but nobody seriously suggests devolution be reversed. However Blairâ€™s legacy could include the loss of Labourâ€™s Welsh heartland.
West of Offaâ€™s Dyke there are a good few questions to be asked and answered about next years elections. Labour actually got fewer votes in 2003 with the â€œpopularâ€ Rhodri Morgan than they polled in 1999 with â€œBlairâ€™s poodleâ€, Alun Michael. Numerically could they really go lower?
Is it really a matter of the opposition parties motivating their people out to vote? Can a non-Labour coalition emerge after a fierce election battle?
For the Tories and Lib Dems they face the challenge of getting their message across in the â€œWelshâ€ media which covers the assembly elections. The â€œBritishâ€ media ignores the elections on the whole, which helps Plaid Cymru, who suffer in general elections from the media obsession with the three unionist parties. Join me on a tour of the battlefields of Cymru.
North Wales. Plaid activists have a spring in their step thanks to the Sinatra style come back of former President Dafydd Wigley. The extra 10,000 votes needed for Plaid to secure a second seat on the regional list, secure their existing seats and gain the new Aberconwy seat may seem a tall order.
However Mr Wigley secured 70,000 votes when he fought the almost identical North Wales Euro Seat in 1994 a massive 30,000 more than Plaid polled in 2003. Plaid would have been well ahead in the new Arfon seat in 2003 and should see off a spirited Labour challenge this time. Cllr Gareth â€œMr Llandudnoâ€ Jones should see off the invisible Tory candidate in Aberconwy aided and abetted by a spectacularly useless existing Labour AM.
The Tories should win Clwyd West, however the Labour vote may collapse altogether, due to the dental and hospital crisis in the area, allowing Plaidâ€™s favourite ex-policeman Phil Edwards to emerge as a serious challenger. Expect Labour to win back Wrexham but struggle in Delyn, Clwyd South and Vale of Clwyd (at the hands of the superb Plaid candidate naturally). The biggest threat to Wigleyâ€™s return may come from a twist in the electoral system if Plaid pull off a shock in one of the three Clwyd seats.
Mid and West Wales One of the toughest fights will be in Ceredigion. Sitting Plaid AM Elin Jones has assembled a tough determined team to see off the Focus wielding invaders. The Lib Dems are superb constituency campaigners however their newly elected MP has made no impact in Westminster and they captured the parliamentary seat with a big student vote that is unlikely to turn out in an assembly election. Helen Mary Jones should storm back in Llanelli but Preseli Pembroke and Carmarthen West are both hard to call. The Tories may have problems getting their people to vote in the â€œWelshâ€ election and Plaid have strong candidates in both seats. Your guess is as good as mine.
South Wales West. Swansea West is the only Labour held seat that the Lib Dems might manage to win if they can get the students out. If Labour are in meltdown they will lose Neath to Plaid. Expect nothing much to change in the rest of the region.
South Wales Central Expect a bitter fight in the Rhondda between MEP Jill Evans for Plaid and the Nat hating, sitting AM. An unlikely Labour defeat here would have Nationalists dancing in the streets of TNS. The Tories will win Cardiff North and should win Vale of Glamorgan. This will cost them a list seat that will probably go Lib Dem unless the school closure controversy in Cardiff has really damaged them. Watch out for a big swing to Plaid in Cardiff West
South Wales East. Independents will play a big role here. Assuming Trish Law wins the by-election in Bleanau Gwent Labour will fave a dilemma. Do they pour resources in to try and win it from her or divert resources to defending Caerphilly where former secretary of state Ron Davies will stand for Forward Wales. He may split the Labour vote and let Plaid in. A modest swing from Labour to Plaid on the list would see the first ethnic minority AM elected at the expense of a Tory. Labour voters you know it makes sense!
The aftermath may be even more entertaining.. A result of Labour 23 Plaid 15 Tories 13 Lib 8 Ind 1 will make the Assembly interesting and will almost certainly see a non-Labour government formed.
Cymru Mark was a Liberal then Lib Dem activist for 20 years in Leicester, Wyre Forest and Hackney. He joined Plaid in 2001 and is their assembly candidate in Vale of Clwyd. He is betting on Dafydd Wigley returning to the assembly and will place a separate bet on Plaid securing 16 or more seats.