Vote 2011: Welsh Labour may seek deal with other party

Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones and his Lib Dem counterpart Kirsty Williams chew the fat in the Senedd
Image caption Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones and his Lib Dem counterpart Kirsty Williams chew the fat in the Senedd after the results are declared

Speculation is growing that Labour could seek a deal with another party after falling just short of an absolute majority in the Welsh assembly.

Labour won 30 seats after considerable gains, but needed 31 for a clear lead.

However, senior Labour figures have all referred to their wish for a Labour first minister and a "Labour-led" government in place by next week.

Former Welsh Lib Dem leader Lord German said he thought talks between parties could start this weekend.

Lord German led his party when it went into coalition with Labour between 2000 and 2003.

Labour finished on 30 seats, Conservatives 14, Plaid Cymru 11 and Liberal Democrats five. No smaller party managed a breakthrough.

Although the Tories had a generally good performance, they suffered the blow of losing their Welsh leader Nick Bourne on the Mid and West Wales regional list. Both Plaid and the Lib Dems had a poor night.

As the last results were declared from north Wales on Friday, three of the most senior figures in Welsh Labour, First Minister Carwyn Jones, campaign director Leighton Andrews, and MP Owen Smith all referred to their desire for a "Labour-led" government.

BBC Welsh affairs editor Vaughan Roderick said the use of "Labour-led" was an indication that Labour is keeping its options open.

Lord German said he believed the use of the phrase "Labour-led" indicated to him that there was already forethought from Labour about a coalition deal.

Asked what her position was on a deal with Labour, and whether contact had taken place, Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "The ball is certainly in the Labour party's court - they've only been able to get the 30 seats, it must be very disappointing for them.

"As I said at the beginning of this election, our approach, after the people of Wales have spoken, would be to create a stable government here in Wales and to use our influence to push forward the elements of our manifesto that we've campaigned on."

Pontypridd MP Owen Smith, asked whether Mr Jones would opt for a coalition deal, said: "I think he's said very clearly that there is a strong mandate that's been sent by the people of Wales that they want a Labour-led government, that they want Carwyn Jones as First Minister.

"I think the ball is in our court now, to think about how we want to take that forward, what we want to do with that mandate."

Carwyn Jones said "We're keeping all our options open".

He said these included governing alone and on a case-by-case basis.

"The people of Wales have shown that what they want to see is a Labour-led government," he said.

"If people were unhappy with the Welsh Labour Party then we wouldn't have done as well as we have.

"We've got five exciting years in government ahead of us."

Asked by BBC Wales political editor Betsan Powys about the problems in the education system that had already been identified, Mr Jones said Labour knew there were "some parts of the education system that need improvement".

Image caption One J Morgan - Labour's Julie - beat another J Morgan - Conservative Jonathan - in Cardiff North

He also told Jamie Owen on the BBC Wales results programme: "You are right to say that once the day is over the real work begins. I know full well that from next week we've got a lot of work to do."

Mr Jones said the impact of the UK coalition had a big impact on the election. "We did find people on the doorstep time and time again saying they were unhappy with what's happening at a UK level."

Lib Dems finished behind the BNP in a number of seats, and lost two key constituencies, Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central.

Although Plaid's Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones held Ceredigion, deputy leader Helen Mary Jones lost her seat in Llanelli, which puts her out of the assembly for the first time since it was founded in 1999.

After a disappointing night for his party, Ieuan Wyn Jones said his party needed to look at the impact of having been in coalition with Labour for the past four years.

Image caption Labour's Vaughan Gething becomes the second ethnic minority AM

Labour was looking to take both Aberconwy and Clwyd West, but they were both won by the Tories. However, Nick Bourne lost his Mid and West Wales regional seat.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan paid tribute to the role Mr Bourne played in "transforming the image and fortunes of the Welsh Conservative Party".

"This result is a great loss to the National Assembly and to me personally."

Out of 60 assembly members, there will be 24 new faces in the Senedd.

But there was no breakthrough for either the Green Party or UKIP, which had each hoped to secure an AM through the regional list vote.

As well as assembly seats, people have also voted on whether to replace the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs with the alternative vote (AV). Counting started in the AV referendum at 1600 BST on Friday.

The turnout in the constituencies was 41.6%, down 2.1% on 2007, and slightly higher on the regional list.