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Last Updated: Friday, 4 April, 2003, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Clear red water and coalitions
David Williams
BBC Wales Political Editor

Welsh Labour logo
Labour will hope to perform better than it did in 1999

Labour may just scrape through to its first overall majority, but it could just as easily slip back into a position which sees it, once again, looking to govern by coalition.

The assembly's electoral system is a nightmare for party strategists.

Labour only has one list seat, in Mid and West Wales, and it is looking to win back those constituency seats - Rhondda, Islwyn and Llanelli - which fell so dramatically to Plaid Cymru at the last election. It also has to win some.

Labour is certainly in a better position to do well this time, having learned the painful lessons of the divisions which cost it so dearly in 1999. Those problems have been rectified in areas like the Rhondda, but have they been put right elsewhere?

Surprising

Labour has also disentangled itself from its coalition partner - the Liberal Democrats. This is in the interests of both parties who could soon find themselves working on a new partnership agreement.

Another coalition, however, may be possible even if Labour emerge the winners. First Minister Rhodri Morgan said last autumn that he was prepared to consider a coalition with the Lib Dems even if his party won an overall majority.

Tylorstown, Rhondda
Plaid Cymru-held Rhondda will be a crucial seat for Labour
This was a surprising declaration in advance of the election and it did not go down well in the constituencies. We have heard little talk of such an arrangement since, and now he speaks only of Labour securing an overall majority.

Welsh Labour has also been sending out some pointed signals to its potential supporters in an attempt to position itself to the left of New Labour, most notably when the First Minister spoke of "clear red water" between Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

This went down well in some constituencies, particularly in the valleys. But socialism in pursuit of votes in the south does not necessarily bring the same enthusiastic response in the marginals of the north.

Essentially, the speech was seen as an attempt by Labour to reposition its tanks on Plaid Cymru's lawn.


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