All parties contesting the Assembly election intend to fight for as many votes and seats as possible - but against a background of probabilities so strong as to be virtual inevitabilities. Neither can we totally dismiss opinion polls - although these can change by May 3rd. This post is predicated on the Labour Party losing 5+ seats, which at present looks to be a fair bet.
So, let’s look at the arithmetic. Labour will not be able to govern alone. It is probable that Labour could govern in coalition with Plaid Cymru, and possible that Labour could govern in coalition with the Lib Dems. For Labour to be forced into 'opposition' will require some sort of coalition between Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives - and probably the Lib Dems as well. This is the only logical interpretation of the information we have. I accept that things could change - but in my view this is unlikely.
I do not think that another Labour Government or another Labour dominated Government is much of a choice for the Welsh electorate. There is a responsibility on the Tories to intrude into this cosy little 3-party comfort zone. I believe that we Tories should make it clear that we too have an interest in being part of the government of Wales. And the voters should be told.
While denying it publicly, I believe that both Plaid and the Lib Dems are eyeing up a Coalition with Labour. They would both prefer the Tories to stay out of it. Or as Peter Black says, "Give it a rest, Glyn". Well, I don't think we should wait for an invitation to this party. We should be inviting ourselves.
In an interview yesterday, Martin Shipton asked me what I thought the obstacles were to a 'Rainbow Coalition'. I said there were many, but there were three main issues. The most important is the challenge we Tories face ourselves to satisfy the people of Wales that we are a genuinely 'Welsh' party, committed to the interests of Wales. This is crucial to make us acceptable as potential partners.
At present, AM's in other parties are concerned that they will lose support if they are seen to be too close to the Tories. My aim is to appeal over the heads of 'blinkered' AM’s to their supporters. I intend to ensure that people know that the only logical consequence of hostility to the Tories is to ensure that Rhodri Morgan remains in office. Already, I am meeting senior people in Plaid and the Lib Dems who are much more open to working with us than some of their AM’s. The biggest challenge for me will be to reassure our own members that we remain committed to representing all the people of Wales, including English people who have taken the decision to move to our great country.
The second obstacle is Plaid Cymru's desire for a referendum on law making powers in devolved areas in 2011. Well, I would sign up to that. It would not surprise me if Labour turn out to be the only party that won't sign up to it. What are the Plaid voters in Ceredigion and Aberconwy going to make of that?
The third obstacle is Proportional Representation in local government. More difficult for me this - because I don't agree with it. But I would be willing to sign up for a 'binding' referendum on this as well, albeit reluctantly. Whatever, I believe that we would be far more open to suggestion on this issue than Labour. What will Lib Dem activists think of that?
Martin asked me if I would be prepared to serve under a Plaid First Minister. I told him that the day we all agreed to jointly voting down the Final Budget last December, I had assumed that Ieuan Wyn Jones would take over when Rhodri Morgan resigned. In any coalition, it would be normal that the leader of the largest partner would provide the First Minister. So the answer to Martin's question is Yes.
So Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem AM’s had best be prepared to deal with at least one Tory AM who believes the option of working with them in a coalition after next May should be something that voters should contemplate. And I do not care how dismissive they are over the next 4 months. They have a potential mate they cannot get rid of.