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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Time for change - like it or not

By John Stevenson
BBC Wales Political Unit

Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru faces a 'monumental rethink' before the next election
The ballot boxes are empty, the results declared and the successful candidates are packing for Westminster.

Life as an MP beckons.

In homes the length and breadth of Wales this weekend, candidates from all the parties will be getting reacquainted with family.

A month's electioneering meant politics became the full-time, all- consuming occupation for many candidates with precious moments with family kicked into touch.

Of course, Election 2005 also means those who are no longer MPs will now have more time to help with the washing-up or on the school run.

One felt witness to the end of a particular and defined political epoch
Jon Owen Jones, who lost in Cardiff Central, Gareth Thomas, from Clwyd West, Simon Thomas in Ceredigion and Huw Edwards in Monmouth will all have to readjust to life outside the Westminster village.

One of the most striking aspects of the 2005 results was the sheer variety.

When Labour swept into Downing Street in 1997 Welsh politics was pretty clear cut. Labour was king of all it surveyed, the Tories had nothing; Plaid Cymru was tucked up all warm and snug in its traditional western strongholds and the Liberal Democrats ensconced in mid Wales and the border country.

Labour's Maggie Jones and David Blunkett
David Blunkett's visit failed to save Maggie Jones in Blaenau Gwent
This election shattered more than one Welsh political mould.

Watching the results pouring in, one felt witness to the end of a particular and defined political epoch.

Taken for granted

We already knew that Tony Blair will not lead Labour into the next campaign. These results raised one fundamental question. How safe is Blairism without Blair?

Not so much Blair policies but the whole raison d'Ítre of the Blairite project.

Plaid Cymru were practically foretelling the second coming as the campaign started
Plaid Cymru were practically foretelling the second coming as the election campaign started.

One might almost be forgiven that Owain Glyndwr had reawakened from a sleep of centuries and that anything was possible for the socialist "party of Wales".

It was taken for granted that Plaid would recapture Anglesey from Labour: the possibility of losing Ceredigion hadn't even occurred.

Jenny Willott MP
Jenny Willott became Cardiff's first Liberal Democrat MP
Plaid's lamentable performance is in sharp contrast to the fortunes of the SNP in Scotland, which gained more seats.

Its performance raises serious questions which go to the very heart of the party's existence as a political organisation.

How many of the party's traditional core supporters are really that happy with being regarded as socialists?

What future is there for the current leadership by committee? How relevant is the rebranding as Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales?

For Thursday's performance shows clearly that Plaid certainly is not the "party of Wales," and it faces a monumental rethink prior to the 2007 assembly elections.

The Tories are back in Wales. The Welsh political map has bits of blue on it for the first time since the wipeout of 1997.

But The regenerated party faces a challenge: bridging the divide between the Tories at Westminster and the Tory group in the assembly, and to flesh out the title 'Welsh Conservative' into something more than a slogan.

Charles Kennedy was the biggest winner. It wasn't that much of a task to wipe out the minuscule Labour majority in Cardiff Central, but a huge achievement to win Ceredigion from Plaid.

Election 2005 saw the Lib Dems establishing what they have already established in England: credibility through winning in Cardiff Central, as an urban party and not grounded as a prisoner of their own history in rural Wales.

One unique factor cause more than one ripple: the intervention of candidates with no party allegiance.

One can argue that the intervention of Peter Rogers helped Labour to keep Anglesey, and Peter Law rode a coach and horses through a monumental Labour majority in Blaenau Gwent.

Changes to the Welsh political map may well resonate way beyond polling day