Shhhh there's an election going on

Despite a Plaid Cymru resurgence, Labour need worry not.

YOU might not be aware of the secretive election taking place at the moment. The Welsh one, that is, not that in Nigeria. Most aren't. Least not in Wales itself.

Because in the wake of the possible ramifications of an SNP victory in the Scottish election, the poll that will decide the make-up of the currently Labour-run Welsh Assembly has pretty much passed by unremarked.
The attitude towards Welsh devolution amongst the public in the principality pretty much reflects that among Labour high command - a distinct lack of enthusiasm followed by grudging acceptance. And, as such,
Labour goes into the election with a sense of trepidation.

Polls suggest most don't even know there's an election going on. Unlike Scotland, Wales' indigenous media isn't strong - most people take their news from English sources. Only 15% of people, depressingly, buy a Cardiff, rather than London, printed newspaper; in some parts of the country, particularly the anglocentric north-east, it's easier to pick up English TV and radio than Welsh. It's doubtful whether the ramifications of devolutions have hit home yet and a low turn-out is likely. Low turn-outs favour opposition parties, as Labour knows.

Yet Labourites have reason to be positive. It is not as clear-cut as in Scotland; the Welsh Labour Government is not in such a parlous state as its Caledonian equivalent.

There are various reasons for Rhodri to take heart. That's Rhodri Morgan, by the way. Like Ken Livingstone, the First Minister is known by his first name alone to friends, foes and the public alike.

The opposition is not knocking on the door as hard as in Scotland. Despite an impressive war chest, which has seen Plaid Cymru run its slickest, most professional operation yet, Plaid isn't the SNP. Their policies are eye-catching - free laptops for every schoolchild, up to £5,000 match-funding for everyone looking to buy their first house - but their costings leave much to be desired. And the thirst for a nationalist
solution isn't as strong as up north.

Labour, with proportional representation, holds the trump card in Wales. There is no chance of an anti-Labour coalition. The only other option on the table is the so-called 'rainbow coalition' of Plaid, Conservative and Lib Dems, which some in the Tories would like. Nice idea, but impossible. The idea of Plaid and Conservatives working together is unlikely at best. The idea appeared to be killed off by Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones early in the campaign, saying his party would not serve under a Tory First Minister.
Although this was when the polls suggested Plaid would drop to third place - this week's two polls suggest a Plaid resurgence - sharing power with Conservatives still remains anathema to the nationalist grassroots.

So what's going to happen? Labour will remain the largest party. They will form a coalition by throwing a couple of bones to the Lib Dems, in the form of two cabinet positions (Lib Dem demands for for PR in local elections as a deal-breaker are being slowly brushed aside). Rhodri will be back in power. And life will continue, much as it did up until 2003, when a similar Lib-Lab coalition ran Wales, without the nation grounding to a halt.It's little wonder attention has focused elsewhere with so little surprises
on offer.

Move along now. Nothing to see here.

Matt Withers is Political Correspondent for Wales on Sunday. He lives in Cardiff with his proportional-representation-friendly calculator.
Kevin Doncaster/Creative Commons
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For 19 minutes, I thought I had won the lottery

The agonising minutes spent figuring out my mistake paired beautifully with hard, low wisdom tooth throbs.

Nineteen minutes ago, I was a millionaire. In my head, I’d bought a house and grillz that say “I’m fine now thanks”, in diamonds. I’d had my wisdom tooth (which I’ve been waiting months for the NHS to pull the hell out of my skull) removed privately. Drunk on sudden wealth, I’d considered emailing everyone who’s ever wronged me a picture of my arse. There I was, a rich woman wondering how to take a butt selfie. Life was magnificent.

Now I’m lying face-down on my bed. I’m wearing a grease-stained t-shirt and my room smells of cheese. I hear a “grrrrk” as my cat jumps onto the bed. He walks around on my back for a bit, then settles down, reinstating my place in the food chain: sub-cat. My phone rings. I fumble around for it with all the zeal of a slug with ME. Limply, I hold it to my ear.

“Hi,” I say.

“You haven’t won anything, have you” says my dad. It isn’t a question.

“I have not.”

“Ah. Never mind then eh?”

I make a sound that’s just pained vowels. It isn’t a groan. A groan is too human. This is pure animal.

“What? Stop mumbling, I can’t hear you.”

“I’m lying on my face,” I mumble.

“Well sit up then.”

“Can’t. The cat’s on my back.”

In my defence, the National Lottery website is confusing. Plus, I play the lottery once a year max. The chain of events which led me to believe, for nineteen otherworldly minutes, that I’d won £1 million in the EuroMillions can only be described as a Kafkaesque loop of ineptitude. It is both difficult and boring to explain. I bought a EuroMillions ticket, online, on a whim. Yeah, I suffer from whims. While checking the results, I took a couple of wrong turns that led me to a page that said, “you have winning matches in one draw”. Apparently something called a “millionaire maker code” had just won me a million quid.

A

Million

Quid.

I stared at the words and numbers for a solid minute. The lingering odour of the cheese omelette I’d just eaten was, all of a sudden, so much less tragic. I once slammed a finger in a door, and the pain was so intense that I nearly passed out. This, right now, was a fun version of that finger-in-door light-headedness. It was like being punched by good. Sure, there was a level on which I knew I’d made a mistake; that this could not be. People don’t just win £1 million. Well they do, but I don’t. It’s the sort of thing that happens to people called Pauline, from Wrexham. I am not Pauline from Wrexham. God I wish I was Pauline from Wrexham.

Even so, I started spending money in my head. Suddenly, London property was affordable. It’s incredible how quickly you can shrug off everyone else’s housing crisis woe, when you think you have £1m. No wonder rich people vote Conservative. I was imaginary rich for nineteen minutes (I know it was nineteen minutes because the National Lottery website kindly times how much of your life you’ve wasted on it) and turned at least 40 per cent evil.

But, in need of a second opinion on whether or not I was – evil or not - rich, I phoned my dad.

“This is going to sound weird,” I said, “but I think I’ve won £1 million.”

“You haven’t won £1 million,” he said. There was a decided lack of anything resembling excitement in his voice. It was like speaking to an accountant tired of explaining pyramid schemes to financial Don Quixotes.

“No!” I said, “I entered the EuroMillions and I checked my results and this thing has come up saying I’ve won something but it’s really confusing and…”

Saying it out loud (and my how articulately) clinched it: my enemies were not going to be looking at butt selfies any time soon. The agonising minutes spent figuring out my mistake paired beautifully with hard, low wisdom tooth throbs.

“Call me back in a few minutes,” I told my dad, halfway though the world’s saddest equation.

Now here I am, below a cat, trying to explain my stupidity and failing, due to stupidity.  

 

“If it’s any consolation,” my dad says, “I thought about it, and I’m pretty sure winning the lottery would’ve ruined your life.”

“No,” I say, cheese omelette-scented breath warming my face, “it would’ve made my life insanely good.”

I feel the cat purr. I can relate. For nineteen minutes, I was happy too. 

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.