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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK

UK Politics

Michael rules out coalition

Alun Michael: Confident he can proceed without the Lib Dems

Labour's elected leader in the Welsh Assembly, Alun Michael, has firmly ruled out any coalition deals and said he intends to form a minority administration.

Wyre Davies in Cardiff: Alun Michael says a minority administration can work
After an unexpected surge in Plaid Cymru support at the elections on May 6, Labour won only 28 of the 60 seats in the National Assembly, leaving it three seats short of an overall majority.

There had been intense speculation that Labour would sign a deal with the Liberal Democrats, who won six assembly seats.

That would have left Plaid Cymru as the major opposition group, with 17 seats, followed by the Tories, who won nine.

However, Mr Michael, who is expected to be elected first secretary when the assembly meets for the first time in Cardiff on Wednesday, has now made it clear that no formal deals will be made.

Instead, he said he preferred to seek consensus with other parties to develop a new style of politics away from the Westminster model.

"What we need to see is the development of trust, understanding and debate over policies which will deliver for the people of Wales the best possible improvement of services and the best possible improvement to the quality of their lives."

Mr Michael said that through devolution, the government had given the opportunity for a different electoral system, and that he was not seeking a "quick fix" to secure a majority vote.

[ image: Dafydd Wigley: Says Michael is entitled to become first minister]
Dafydd Wigley: Says Michael is entitled to become first minister
He would be seeking consensus with parties, issue-by-issue, he said.

Already, Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley has indicated his support for this approach, saying on Tuesday that his party would not oppose the election of Mr Michael as first secretary.

"As leader of the largest party I think Alun Michael is entitled to become first secretary and we would not vote against it," Mr Wigley said.

"I think the consensus style is the appropriate one for the assembly.

"There are many aspects of policy that are shared by Labour, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru - and even some by the Tories - and where we can build consensus let us do so," he said.

His party would treat each issue on its merits and oppose the government when it saw fit to do so, he added

He denied that any deal had been made with Labour to allow Plaid Cymru peer Lord Elis-Thomas to become presiding officer of the assembly - the equivalent of speaker - in return for Plaid support for Mr Michael as assembly leader.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas, formerly MP for Meirionnydd, ex-leader of Plaid Cymru and lately chairman of the Welsh Language Board, is one of the most influential figures in the nationalist party. Securing his position as Presiding Officer would be a major boost for Plaid.

Mr Michael is due to name his cabinet on Wednesday. A senior post is expected for his rival in the Labour leadership contest, Rhodri Morgan, who was elected to the assembly for Cardiff West.

Mr Morgan commands widespread support from the Labour grassroots in Wales. In the vote for the Labour Assembly leadership in February, a majority of the ordinary members backed Mr Morgan against Mr Michael, who was Prime Minister Tony Blair's preferred candidate.

Mr Michael won the contest thanks to the use of block votes by trade unions who formed one third of the electoral college and who did not ballot their members on the issue.

There may also be a top job for ex-Welsh Secretary Ron Davies who last week became the first member of the assembly, when his Caerphilly constituency was the first to declare a result.

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