Rhodri Morgan said now is not the time for the Labour party to panic
First Minister Rhodri Morgan has described Labour's European election results in Wales as "truly awful" and a "tremendous wake-up call".
Mr Morgan said his party would not have done any better "even if it had Ryan Giggs" as a candidate.
It was Labour's worst election performance in Wales since 1918.
Mr Morgan blamed the "toxic combination" of the recession, the MPs' expenses scandal and the "perception" of divisions within the party.
He said there was nothing more he could have done to improve the result, which saw Labour come in second in the overall vote, behind the Conservatives, whose leader David Cameron travelled to Cardiff on Monday to celebrate his victory.
Labour's vote fell 12% to 20%, and it lost one of its two MEPs, while the Tories were on 21.2%, up 1.8%.
"It's an ego trip for me to think if I had spent more time out on the campaign trail it would have made much difference," said Mr Morgan.
You have to unite the party because divided parties never win elections
First Minister Rhodri Morgan
"To be honest, we had very good candidates but I don't think it would have mattered if it had been [Manchester United and former Wales footballer] Ryan Giggs and [singer] Katherine Jenkins in the top two of the list. I still don't think we would've got more than one MEP.
"Because when the tide is running against you, because of these three factors I have mentioned, you have to accept the tide is running against you and all you can do is swim desperately for the shoreline. But you ain't going to get there."
Conservatives and Plaid Cymru will each send one MEP to the European Parliament, as will the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which won its first Welsh seat.
Mr Morgan said now was not the time to "panic".
"You have to unite the party because divided parties never win elections," he said.
"And you have to make sure that you overcome the recession. We hope that by this time next year, by the likeliest date of the election, the recession or the perception of the recession, confidence about the future of the economy, will have returned.
"And also that the expenses row which has been so corrosive of the bond of trust [is resolved]."
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said Labour voters were giving the party a "kicking" by not voting
He gave his backing to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, insisting the election was not a verdict on his leadership, and maintained that Labour could revive its fortunes and win the next general election.
Mr Morgan, due to stand down as Welsh Labour leader in the autumn, said: "It's time to move forward now. We have lost the battle but we have got the prospect of success next year in the war. This was Dunkirk.
"We can do it, but only if we solve those three things."
He said the one redeeming factor of an otherwise "appalling result" was the hope that it could galvanise Labour supporters who ignored the warning that staying at home would let the Tories in.
"I think it will be much easier to persuade them that we are not making this up to stop you watching Coronation Street.
"It could galvanise Labour voters and get them from sitting on their hands, which is what they have done in this election."
Not since the time of Lloyd George has a party other than Labour won in Wales
David Cameron, Conservative leader
Earlier, Conservative leader David Cameron said there was no room for complacency among his party after an "historic" victory in Wales.
Speaking to a band of Tory supporters and staff outside the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, Mr Cameron said there were no longer any "un-crackable bastions" where the Conservatives could not win.
"Not since the time of Lloyd George has a party other than Labour won in Wales and today it is the Conservative Party," he said.
"Let us redouble all our efforts to be the modern, compassionate Conservative Party that we started to build almost four years ago."
Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said his third-place party had succeeded in the constituencies it targeted.
"The three parties in Wales are extremely close, so it could have gone either way as to which was becoming the largest party," he said.
"But it does show that where we go head to head with Labour, every one we targeted we won."
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