Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: The scramble for third place in Welsh politics

Nigel Farage
Image caption Nigel Farage believes UKIP's prospects in next year's assembly elections are good

With David Cameron having confounded predictions to form a majority government, three party leader resignations and a post-mortem into why opinion polls failed to predict the Tory win, it would be easy to miss some major political changes going on in Wales.

It goes without saying that it was a fantastic night for Welsh Conservatives and a grim one for Welsh Labour, but there is a fascinating scramble going on for third place in Welsh politics.

Relative newcomer UKIP is now hailing itself as the third party in Wales, after bumping Plaid Cymru down to fourth place in share of the vote.

Shortly before quitting as UKIP leader, Nigel Farage looked forward to next year's Welsh assembly election, where an element of proportional representation comes into play, and the prospect of the first UKIP AMs in Cardiff Bay.

It might not have Welsh MPs, but the party is already turning its mind to efforts to push deeper into traditional Labour territory in south Wales.

And what of Plaid Cymru?

It will, of course, point to its three MPs compared to the duck scored by UKIP in Wales.

At the last general election Plaid blamed its failure to win more seats on its exclusion from the television debates.

There is no such excuse this time, indeed Leanne Wood was widely praised for her performance against the likes of Cameron and Miliband on the UK stage.

Image caption Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood enjoyed unprecedented UK-wide media explosure

Given Plaid's level of exposure at the time of an SNP nationalist surge in Scotland, whatever Plaid Cymru might say publicly about its performance, there can be little doubt wise heads in the party will be asking some serious questions about where it goes from here.

And then there are the Liberal Democrats, now with just one Welsh MP, in Ceredigion.

Never mind third place, political survival must surely be the immediate priority for the Lib Dems?

Were they punished for going into government with Conservatives, implementing tough public spending cuts, breaking a key 2010 election pledge on student tuition fees - or all of the above?

Politics is often brutal, and parties that fail to diagnose and address their shortcomings quickly can expect more punishment.

The assembly election next year could be very interesting.

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