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Sunday, May 9, 1999 Published at 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK

UK Politics

Michael keeps his options open

Alun Michael: Not rushing to decisions

Labour has raised speculation that it could go try and go it alone and attempt to govern the Welsh Assembly without a coalition partner.

Vote 99 Special Coverage
The party failed to win an overall majority in the assembly or the Scottish parliament in Thursday's elections.

But while Scottish party officials have explicitly said they want to establish a partnership with the Liberal Democrats, Welsh Labour leader Alun Michael is being cagey about whether he will do the same.

When asked if he would negotiate a coalition or seek to run a minority administration, Mr Michael said people would have to "wait and see" until after negotiations.

The BBC's Wyre Davies: "There are few signs yet of an agreement"
"It's always unwise immediately after an election result to jump too quickly to decisions. We need to make sure we have decisions that last the length of the life of the assembly," he said.

'Hopeful of co-operation'

He added: "I'm hopeful from things that have been said by the other parties that there will be a degree of co-operation from other parties that will make sure that this is an assembly which works and of which Wales can be proud."

Labour holds 28 seats of the 60 assembly - three short of the total it needed for outright control.

Alun Michael: 'You will have to wait and see'
Mr Michael scraped in as a "top-up" candidate. Ironically it was Plaid Cymru's record showing which guaranteed his election under the assembly's system of proportional representation.

Because Labour did not achieve a decisive victory there is now even some doubts about whether he will be elected to the top post of first secretary, or "prime minister" in the assembly.

It is unclear if there is time for a coalition to be agreed before the assembly sits for the first time on 12 May.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Michael German has said he wants to hold talks with his party before he begins negotiations with Labour

'Battle of wills' ahead

However, the process may be assisted by the fact that Mr Michael and Mr German already have experience of co-operating in a power-sharing administration.

[ image: Michael German: Preconditions for coalition]
Michael German: Preconditions for coalition
The two men led their parties when they worked together in a coalition which ran Cardiff Council for several years.

Mr German has described Mr Michael as "a tough cookie".

"It will be a battle of wills to negotiate anything with him if I have to," he told BBC News Online last month.

Mr German also goes into negotiations with a list of preconditions which he spelt out weeks before the election.

He has insisted that any pact would have to have a programme broadly in line with the party's three main aims in Wales:

  • reducing the number of children in every primary school class to below 30
  • ensuring that nobody waits longer than six months to be admitted to hospital to see a consultant or for treatment - rather than just cutting the number of people on waiting lists
  • establishing a more open and accountable style of government in Wales.

Mr German has declined to say whether he will insist on a seat in the executive committee or "Cabinet" of the new assembly.

He has said that any coalition agreement must be "transparent" to assure party members and the wider public that there are no secret conditions to the deal.

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