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Plaid Cymru has today set out some of what it wants from Carwyn Jones if he wants the party’s support in avoiding stalemate in the Assembly.

AMs Elin Jones and Simon Thomas said Plaid wants the First Minister to publish a programme of government for the entire five-year term; an early indication of his likely budget priorities and to see how the legacy of the last government will be continued by this government.

Surely, I asked Simon Thomas, governments only publish programmes when, as happened with the One Wales coalition, they need to formalise agreements with other parties?

Not at all, he told me. Governments in fixed term parliaments often publish such programmes and in this case, it would give the other parties chance to debate the different plans on which Labour would be seeking co-operation.

On leadership matters, both Simon Thomas and Elin Jones agree that the timetable is up to the current leader Ieuan Wyn Jones who’s said he’ll step down sometime within the next two and a half years.

He’s said to prefer to go sooner rather than later but wants to oversee Plaid’s review into what went wrong at the election.

Simon Thomas said today that that review is due to last ‘well into next year’ and that Ieuan Wyn Jones should remain in post to lead it.

So I asked him if that meant there wouldn’t be a leadership contest this year.

‘There doesn’t need to be one,’ he said. ‘But it’s up to Ieuan Wyn Jones.’

When there’s a vacancy, will he be amongst the candidates? ‘When the time comes, I’ll say.’

Elin Jones meanwhile reiterated her position that she’ll ‘seriously consider it’ when the time comes.

‘No deals,’ Andrew RT Davies insisted when I asked him. ‘I don’t believe in deals.’

And when I put the same question to Darren Millar he used almost identical language, saying ‘There have been no deals with Andrew RT Davies about jobs or anything like that in the future.’

The deal or no deal question keeps being asked by people like me because Mr Millar has regularly been spoken about as a potential leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly and it was considered a given that he would stand for it when the vacancy arose.

Now it has arisen but he won’t be standing and will be supporting Mr Davies. A decision reached, he assured me, after discussing it with his family and based entirely on his belief that Mr Davies is the effective communicator the party needs now that Nick Bourne is no longer in charge in Cardiff Bay.

After all, the AM for Clwyd South reminded me, he’s only 34 and has time on his side.

But cynics will wonder why, as well as not standing, he’s also nominating Mr Davies.

Particularly since the other person who was thought to be a potential leader but isn’t standing, Angela Burns, isn’t backing either man.

Her failure to win nominations will disappoint many inside and outside the party, and not just because she would have broken the male domination of the Conservative leadership.

She also surprised many in the party by holding her Carmarthen West and South Pembs constituency with an increased share of the vote and is said to have strong views on the way the Welsh Conservatives can achieve what seems a distant goal – getting into government in Cardiff Bay.

But in the end, once Nick Ramsay had secured three nominations with the promise of a fourth, it became clear to those of us on the outside what had long been suspected: that there could only be two candidates.

That’s because both acting leader Paul Davies and new Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding said they would remain neutral.

That left only seven AMs in the group and a requirement for three nominations.

According to Darren Millar though, his decision was taken last week before the maths became clear.

A lot more will become clear over the next two months. That’s how long there is for the two candidates to persuade Tory members across the country that they’re the right man for the job.

It looks increasingly likely too that Plaid Cymru will be choosing a leader sooner rather than later too.

The election may be over, but its effects are only just beginning to be felt.

The dust is beginning to settle, the politicians are rested and refreshed and this is the week in which decisions will be taken which will have long-term consequences for Welsh politics.

I expect to see some movement by the end of Monday from Carwyn Jones about how he intends to deal the hand he’s been dealt. It’s a strong hand but the fact that he’s one seat short of a majority means it’ll need all his skill and strategy to play it.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts about what’s changed for each of the parties and speculation about what might happen next.

LABOUR

The Assembly group will need extremely strong discipline if it’s to sustain minority government over the next five years. Carwyn Jones has said that there is a range of options open to him from doing deals on a case-by-case basis, to more formal ‘supply and confidence’ arrangements or full coalition.

It’s pointless to speculate which he or his party prefers at this stage because there are so many variables that need to be taken into account. They’ll become clearer over the coming days.

For the party, even at this moment of success, there’s a longer-term question that won’t be answered for some time yet.

Poor electoral performances in 2007, 2009 and 2010 led to a great deal of soul-searching as a number of senior Labour figures suggested something was particularly wrong with Welsh Labour that needed fixing. Nobody’s asking the question now and it was clear during the campaign that the party is re-invigorated with a young and dynamic team now in charge of party operations.

However, it was only a year ago that Labour achieved its worst share of the vote in Wales since 1983. What it must demonstrate over the next few years is that the improvements are real and lasting and not dependent on a Tory bogeyman in Westminster.

CARWYN JONES

Something that’s been overlooked in post-election commentary is how much of a personal victory and validation this is for the Welsh Labour leader.

He already had an overwhelming mandate from his party when he was elected leader, but now he has the strong endorsement of the country. I think this is far more important than we on the outside realise.

There have always been those within his party who’ve grumbled that he’s lazy, too close to Plaid, and just plain lucky. A successful campaign which has shown how much of an asset he’s become to the party; confident performances in TV debates and the ringing endorsements of his UK party leadership has silenced those critics.

CABINET

Who will be in Carwyn Jones’ cabinet? Expect to see election mastermind Leighton Andrews rewarded with a significant role although not necessarily a different one. Pre-election he showed every intention of taking on the problem of education over an extended period. For similar reasons, Edwina Hart could well stay on in health. It’s surely time that long-term ally John Griffiths became a cabinet minister.

Labour’s manifesto hints at the possibility of a smaller cabinet. Certainly it points to a beefed-up role for Carwyn Jones himself, with a First Minister’s Delivery Unit and the FM taking on responsibility for economic development and energy policy. That could mean merging some departments. I should say that one senior Labour figure I discussed this with, dismissed the idea of a smaller cabinet saying,’why would you want more backbenchers?’

PLAID CYMRU

It quickly became clear during the campaign that Labour had taken many of Plaid’s best tunes and was belting them out with gusto. Plenty of internal and external critics are drawing unfavourable comparisons with the SNP’s campaign in Scotland.

There’s bound to be a question over the leadership of Ieuan Wyn Jones. But Plaid may think it needs to work out what went wrong before settling on a new leader.

What messages should it take from the SNP’s stunning victory in Scotland? Should it be more bold about independenceChange its name? But surely another lesson from the Scottish election is that Labour’s strategy of making the Welsh election part of a UK battle between Labour and the Conservatives may have failed in Scotland but worked here in Wales. That could well justify Plaid’s caution over talking about independence although it could be argued that Plaid’s role should now be to lead the debate and shape opinion.

The other question is whether or not it can do all this in government. Ieuan Wyn Jones has apparently told his party that it should go into government at every available opportunity. If he follows through with this policy (and if he’s in a position to do so), can his party do the job of holding an inquest, changing its approach, possibly changing its leader  – at the same time?

CONSERVATIVES

In the short term the Conservatives have a specific task – to choose a new leader who can continue the progress made under Nick Bourne. Who will get the job? Acting leader Paul Davies has to be in with a chance. Darren Millar must be a good bet. Andrew Davies wants it. Don’t rule out Angela Burns or Nick Ramsay standing.

If the Assembly group agrees on one candidate, AMs alone will have be responsible for choosing the next leader. If there’s more than one candidate, I gather the wider party votes, a situation which is thought to favour Andrew Davies.

On Thursday Alun Cairns MP said the election saw the return of two-party politics to Wales. That may be overstating it but, as the now-former leader Nick Bourne said in his interview with me, the campaign certainly was polarised.  In that same interview he speaks about his 12-year task of reinventing the Welsh Conservatives, taking them to the centre-ground of Welsh politics, ground that means more of the ‘Cymrufication’ – who would best take that legacy on?

I also asked him if it was time the party formalised that process by creating a formal Welsh party leader role – Nick Bourne has always been leader of the Conservative Assembly group rather than the party at large. He said that was a decision for the party, as was choosing a leader which is why he wouldn’t endorse any of the candidates. He also refused to speculate on the chance that he might become Lord Bourne.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Speculation is rife that some sort of deal with the Liberal Democrats is Labour’s preferred option. It’s often coupled with the rather cynical explanation that it would take less to win them over than it would Plaid. But as one senior Lib Dem put it to me, ‘Kirsty’s nobody’s cheap date.’

What’s more, despite everything, Kirsty Williams is in a better position than many predicted. Yes, it was a bad election for her party but there are still five Lib Dem AMs which gives them a foundation from which to rebuild.

I’m told that within the party, the leader is praised for recognising how difficult the election would be and dealing with it as effectively as possible. More importantly, it’s said that she’s trusted by party members to be open about any arrangements she may or may not reach with Labour and not to sign the party up to any deal it could be uncomfortable with.

She’s said that her priority is to promote the priorities the Lib Dems set out during the election, and is open-minded about how that’s achieved

PRESIDING OFFICER

There’s a good deal of confusion over this with even some quite experienced Assembly hands expressing the view that having a Presiding Officer from an opposition party would give Labour a majority of one. It won’t. The Assembly’s standing orders are clear: if the PO comes from the opposition, the Deputy has to come from the government party and vice versa. Their votes are (generally) taken out of the equation thus taking the situation back to stalemate.

The Assembly could decide to suspend the rules so that both PO and DPO come from opposition parties which would have the effect of giving Labour a 2-seat majority. But to do that requires a two thirds majority, i.e. 40 AMs must vote for it. That means Labour would need the support of either the Conservatives or Plaid Cymru to do it. Why would either or those want to make life any easier for Carwyn Jones?

Who’s in the running for both posts? Dafydd Elis-Thomas must still be a consideration, even though all the hints from him and from other Assembly figures suggest he won’t be returning to the Chair. The current Deputy, Labour’s Rosemary Butler is a strong possibility for the top job. The Conservative Angela Burns (if she doesn’t run for her party’s leadership) is thought to be interested. Her colleague David Melding has already said he’s not standing. For the Liberal Democrats, Peter Black has done the job from time to time.

Uncertainty is the only certainty on this last day of election campaigning before voting gets under way tomorrow morning.

That uncertainty may be interesting for people like me and nerve-wracking for politicians, but it’s the civil service for whom it causes a real challenge.

They have to be ready to swing into action to deliver a government programme from Friday onwards. Trouble is they don’t know who’ll form that government.

So how have they been preparing themselves?

I’m told there’s been a ‘rigorous process’ by which every party’s manifesto has been combed through to see what each of them is promising.

Department-by-department, civil servants have examined and discussed in detail the implications of all the proposals, the likely costs, the legality or otherwise and other strictly practical questions.

The aim is to be armed with all the facts and figures so that the relevant officials are fully prepared for whichever party or parties the next set of Welsh ministers come from.

What the civil service here won’t do, I’m told, is to play the kind of  role played by the head of the UK civil service, Sir Gus O’Donnell after last year’s inconclusive Westminster election.

In the build-up to last May, Sir Gus had led civil servants in wargaming exercises, working out the implications of different scenarios and then played an active role in bringing the eventual coalition partners together in as binding a partnership as possible.

Officials here have taken the position that they won’t make any assumptions about  possible permutations – so no ‘wargaming’ of different coalition arrangements.

While they expect to play a pivotal role, they won’t play a political role and that distinction is crucial.

There’ll be no ‘second-guessing’, I’m told.  Rather, civil servants in Cathays Park see their role as ‘being in a position to enable the democratic process to be run through.’

We’ll get our final clue as to what possible scenarios they might be confronted with on May the 6th in our eve-of-poll poll which will be published later.

I should be able to bring you the headlines of it in our lunchtime bulletin at 1.55pm ITV1 Wales and I’ll update with a link to the details  when we have them.

I’m going to disappoint you by not declaring a winner in last night’s Wales Decides Leaders’ Debate on ITV1 Wales.

I think each of the four leaders gave a good account of him or herself at the Coal Exchange.

Perhaps more importantly I don’t think there were any losers. I say importantly because I reckon that, as our YouGov poll has been showing, most voters’ minds have been made up for a while now.

So last night, apart from a few uncomfortable moments, nobody lost their temper or struggled for too long on areas they’re weak on and so while they might not have changed many voters’ minds, they won’t have lost any supporters.

Don’t take my word for it though. Esyllt Carr was speaking to members of the audience last night. You can see what they told her in Wales Tonight at 6pm.

And there are two more YouGov polls to go. The first, for S4C’s Y Byd Ar Bedwar programme will be published on Monday.

The second ITV Wales 1000 survey will be the first we’ve published on eve of poll itself, on Wednesday.

I’m raising the C-word on this evening’s Wales Tonight. After all we’re grown-ups.

Politicians from the four main parties don’t like you to use the c-word – of course I mean coalition – during an election campaign.

I can understand why: none of them know exactly how the maths will work out on May the fifth and none wants to commit to any deal before then.

And for some voters, the prospect of their party sharing government with another could put them off going to the polling booth altogether.

As I say, I can understand their reluctance to answer the question, so why am I and other journalists so eager to ask it repeatedly?

In the first instance it’s because coalitions have become such a big part of Welsh politics (and more recently UK politics).

In fact for seven out of the 12 years since the Assembly began, government has been shared by two parties.

So it’s more likely than it used to be, but the polls show Labour’s on course to win a majority so it shouldn’t matter this time, should it?

While that’s certainly true, what’s also true is that the electoral system for the Assembly, with 20 regional seats shared out amongst the parties, is designed to make majorities extremely difficult to achieve.

Add in the usual unknowable effects of a significant number of volatile and unpredictable constituencies and you have a scenario where, even with Labour doing very well, it still doesn’t reach that magic number of 31 seats.

In my interview with the Welsh Labour leader last week, Carwyn Jones  said that 30 seats would be very difficult to go it alone so that it’s still quite likely that Labour could have to look for a coalition partner.

Self-justification over, what are the possibilities then? I’ll tell you what I know.

Within Welsh Labour, opinion’s split.

There are many who have become relaxed about partnership with Plaid Cymru. The sky didn’t fall in and they feel the arrangement worked smoothly and efficiently.

They’re the ones who’d be delighted to see a One Wales II and what may surprise you is that not all of them are those in the Bay who sometimes get derided by other Labour members as ‘crypto-nationalists’ or ‘red-greeners’.

In fact more than one of those who’ve spoken to me about the desirability of One Wales II is outside that faction (such as it is) and, in one case, Westminster-based.

However it’s certainly true to say that a good number of Welsh Labour MPs and many others in the party at large favour turning to the Liberal Democrats first.

I’ve heard it said that doing so could mean a better deal with a Lib Dem group either weakened by a poor election result or eager to distance themselves from their party in Westminster.

Of course both of those scenarios raise problems – as one senior Labour person put it, ‘How could you do a deal with 3 or 4 people?’

Would the Lib Dems be interested? As Kirsty Williams said in her Face to Face interview, ‘I’m not ruling anything in nor ruling anything out.’

As for Plaid, most members I’ve spoken to about this privately express a preference for a second round of government with Labour.

The question is, what would Plaid gain from joining forces with Labour?

There is of course another possibility: a rainbow coalition of Plaid, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Potentially those three parties could have enough seats to outvote Labour.

Other commentators have previously noted that the conditions make a rainbow coalition less likely this time than it was back in 2007.

The three parties aren’t working regularly with each other as they were then and two of them are in government at Westminster, making decisions that are often unpopular here in Wales.

Furthermore there’s a good chance that the Conservatives could be the largest of the three after May 5th.

Nick Bourne said in his face to face interview that in that eventuality he would expect to be First Minister while, in his face to face interview, Ieuan Wyn Jones  said Plaid Cymru would never serve under a Conservative First Ministership.

There’s another factor though. Barring a major upset, Labour looks likely to make substantial gains on May 5th, to have ‘won’ the election whether or not it wins a majority.

One senior Plaid figure told me that that would make it very hard to see a non-Labour government in Cardiff Bay.

If that view is widely shared amongst Plaid’s leadership, it puts Labour very much in the driving seat.

But as senior Labour person put it to me, ‘It’s all about the votes’ and none of us can predict how they’ll be shared out.

There’s even the possibility of a Green or UKIP AM joining the other parties in Cardiff Bay.

I’ve had a go at explaining some of the basics of this for Wales Tonight at 6pm on ITV1 Wales.

And you may pick up some more clues in tonight’s Wales Decides: the Leaders’ Debate.

Jonathan Hill and an audience at Cardiff’s Coal Exchange put the four main party leaders on the spot.

Join them at 1035pm, ITV1 Wales.

Thanks to those kind people at Age Cymru who’ve sent me these pictures of the question time event I was involved in on Monday.