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.