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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
What happens next in Cardiff Bay?
By Adrian Browne
Political reporter

Rhodri Morgan
Who's playing ball? Mr Morgan is looking for new partners
After all the speculation about the different forms of coalition assembly government we might end up with after 3 May, the real negotiations can begin.

The voters of Wales have spoken and the politicians in Cardiff Bay are adjusting to a new political landscape.

Labour is the largest party, but would need support from another party to form the assembly government, the Lib Dems being the most likely candidates.

Or the other parties could try to form a coalition to keep Labour out.

Such a 'rainbow coalition' would be tricky to engineer, requiring parties to get into bed with partners they would rather not be under the duvet with.

It would involve Plaid Cymru working with the Conservatives - a bitter pill for some of the more left-leaning Plaid members to swallow.

The Tories have spent months preparing their supporters for the possibility of entering a coalition and the symbolism of such a move should not be underestimated.

The Senedd
The makeup of the new assembly government is still to be decided

Achieving some power in Cardiff Bay could be presented by David Cameron as a key step towards the party returning to power at Westminster.

Labour's most likely partners are still the Liberal Democrats, previously their team-mates from 2000-2003.

There are doubts, though, whether the Lib Dem party membership would agree to another deal.

Labour leader Rhodri Morgan is unlikely to be phoning Nick Bourne, the Conservative leader in the assembly, anytime soon.

The Tories have already said they would not 'prop up' Labour and Mr Morgan has pledged not to take his party into any kind of coalition with the Conservatives.

And Plaid Cymru? Before the election, Labour rubbished reports it could consider a deal with Plaid.

Labour Party members "simply wouldn't wear" a coalition with Plaid Cymru, according to Welsh secretary Peter Hain.

But some sort of arrangement between the two cannot be entirely ruled out.

Some Labour figures have been describing Plaid as the most mature opposition party, since leader Ieuan Wyn Jones helped Labour gets its budget through before Christmas.

Mr Jones has said his party would not "support a failing Labour government". But he also said he would talk to all the other parties "if it is in the interest of Wales".

Perhaps, if enough Plaid policies were to be included in the assembly government's programme, it might no longer be a "failing Labour government" and Plaid could hop aboard in some form, with or without seats around the cabinet table.

Labour could also try to govern alone. But, as Mr Morgan has acknowledged, such a strategy seems fraught with risk.

His predecessor, Alun Michael, tried that and ended up losing a vote of confidence and leaving assembly politics altogether.

There are no easy options.

Ministerial cars

Party groups in the Welsh assembly will be meeting over the next five days to discuss their feelings about the way forward.

The views expressed in those private meetings will be crucial indicators of what form of assembly government is most likely to emerge.

Before 3 May describing the poll as 'the most unpredictable assembly election' became a bit of a cliché.

The outcome of the election, in terms of who gets the ministerial cars, is almost as difficult to call.






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