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Monday, February 05, 2007

In three months

With less than three months to go before voters go to the polls to elect the third National Assembly for Wales, speculation as to the outcome continues apace. Continuing a long-running theme of theirs, today's Western Mail considers that the best chance for a rainbow coalition is the installation of Dafydd Elis-Thomas as First Minister. Whether the Presiding Officer could even win the support of his own group for that position is questionable but the idea is a mildly amusing diversion nevertheless. Alas the paper goes and spoils it all by asking Dr. Denis Balsom to give his assessment of who is going to win what.

Dr. Balsom's view that Labour is likely to lose Clwyd West, Cardiff North, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Aberconwy and Llanelli, while picking up a regional list seat in Mid and West Wales is a fair bet. However, my understanding is that Llanelli at least is no sure bet for either Labour or Plaid. I would also not be so sure about John Marek holding his seat or of Plaid hanging on in Ceredigion.

My concern with Dr. Balsom's analysis is that he has not taken account of the impact of some of the Tory gains on other parties. Thus it is likely that if Jonathan Morgan wins Cardiff North then the Welsh Liberal Democrats will pick up a list seat in South Wales Central, putting us on 7 seats. On balance, if I was asked to predict the outcome I would say that Labour will have 25-26 seats, Plaid Cymru on 11-13, Tories on 12-13, Independents on 1-2 and the Welsh Liberal Democrats on 7-10 seats. All this proves is that there is no point speculating as anything can happen.

Far more important is the report on cancer services in the same newspaper. The Assembly Health and Social Services Committee review into this subject concludes that there are key shortfalls in the provision of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery in Wales - all of which could have potentially disastrous effects on a patient's treatment and chance of surviving cancer. It also found that patients are struggling to access these services in some parts of Wales and are suffering distressing and sometimes harmful delays in diagnosis and treatment and that Wales needs to boost its cancer workforce and investment in equipment.

I know that in Swansea the NHS Trust is not meeting its targets on cancer treatment and that as a result patients will suffer undue distress and risk. These are the issues we should be talking about, not who is going to win what seat in three months time. That is because whatever happens on 3rd May, the first task of any new Assembly Government, irrespective of its colour, will be to put this right. We should not be distracted from that task by all the talk of coalitions and ministerial limousines.
The fact that the Lib Dems could gain a list seat if the Tories win Cardiff North really shows how undemocratic the electoral system is for the assembly. Although it will be interesting to see voters reaction to the performance of the Lib Dems on Cardiff City Council. At the moment they seem in deep trouble with possibly the highest council tax raise in Wales on top of the fiasco over CPZ who knows what could happen. At this stage it looks as if chaos will rain after May unless the Lib Dems and Labour form a coalition again.
I dont pretend to like the electoral system but its objective is to achieve proportionality so the outcome reflects the way people vote. Thus if Welsh Liberal Democrats gain a list seat in South Wales Central they will do so because they get enough votes on the second ballot paper. There is nothing undemocratic about that.
The one thing that you will see from this next election is Plaid Cymru being displaced as the opposition party. A process that has been going on since the 2003 election.

But will they be replaced by the Tories with Nick Bourne being the new leader of the opposition? How would that scenario play out in the new assembly? I am curious whether that would make a Plaid/Labour coalition (the “Red Green Show”) more likely, since Plaid would never ally themselves with the Tories!!

Then we have the Liberal Democrats. I agree with Anon. I think the CPZ fiasco, as well as the council tax rise and done serious damage to the party, and I can see that causing them to lose votes in Cardiff, and possibly losing control of Cardiff in the 2008 local elections. From this side of the “Pond” (from both the ICWales and BBC Wales websites) the LibDem administration looks like they could not run the “Trumpton” Town Council never mind Cardiff.

It’s a shame because they have the most attractive assembly manifesto. I think after the election there should have a “purge” of Stalinist proportions, both in Cardiff and Wales.

I predict Labour and Plaid will get into bed (and a pretty small one at that) together, which will upset large sections of their memberships.
I note your pessimism about Lib-Dem prospects. Not often politicians predict their party is going to come last
While I can understand (but not agree) with your view that Merak might keep Wrexham and Liberals could take Ceredigion, you can not be serious in saying that Llanelli might not be won by either labour or Plaid!! We both know that the Conservatives will be lucky to keep their deposit, which leaves the LDs - coming out of knowhere!!
I did not say that Llanelli might not be won by either Labour or Plaid, though I accept I could have been clearer. My point was that it is no means certain that this is a Plaid gain as Denis Balsom implied nor can Labour justify their apparent confidence that they will hold on there. It will be Labour or Plaid but it is too close to call.
One other issue that will hit the Lib Dems is that they have been in power for three years in Cardiff and Swansea. You'll be lucky to keep 6 seats and then old German will be for the chop.

Will Black be the new leader?
Wishful thinking Seren!
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