By the time you read this article we might have some idea of what the makeup of our Parliament will be. What might not be clear is what the government might look like - so what might happen next? 

I wasn’t involved in the negotiations with the Lib Dems in 2003 but I did hear dark tales of fish and chip suppers being arranged to celebrate a coalition only for one side to pull back. My first experience of putting together a coalition in 2007.

We’d had a disappointing election, winning only 26 out of 60 seats, far too few to govern on our own. The other three major parties had 33 seats between them and soon put together a coalition deal with Ieuan Wyn Jones as first minister, Nick Bourne and Mike German as deputies.

The last hurdle for them to cross was to get the support of the Lib Dems’ governing body. Rhodri and I had gone to Llandudno to the Wales TUC conference and were ready for what we thought was the inevitable.

I came down to breakfast the following day and asked Rhodri if he’d h heard whether the Lib Dems had confirmed their agreement. Cool as a cucumber he replied that they hadn’t agreed and the whole deal was off. No fuss, all matter of fact, as if he’d expected the outcome. If he had, he was the only one who did.

We still had the problem of not having enough seats though and discussions soon began with Plaid about a deal. These days it’s hard to remember how difficult that step was for both parties who had been bitter rivals in so many local elections.

It was unprecedented as far as we were concerned and so controversial that Rhodri decided we had to get buy-in from the wider party and a delegate conference was arranged at the CIA in Cardiff to decide the issue.

It was by far the most poisonous conference I have ever been to. Both those in favour and against spent a lot to time lobbying members and trades unions. On the day we heard some fiery speeches for and against. Some argued that we had no choice, others said we could govern as a minority.

Friends fell out with each other. Nobody wanted to be seen talking to journalists in case they were suspected of briefing “off the record”. In the end those in favour of coalition prevailed and we formed the government that I led from 2009 onwards.


I have to say that the scars of that conference soon healed. People reconciled and many of those who were strongly opposed to those like me who supported the coalition became good friends and supportive colleagues in the years that followed, but boy, it was tough.

In 2011 we won enough seats to govern so it was 2016 before we faced the situation again. The signs leading up to the election weren’t good. Al the polls suggested we’d drop to 24-25 seats, so it was a relief and pleasant surprise to reach 29. A good total, but not enough to govern effectively. We were never going to form an alliance with UKIP or the Tories and Plaid had indicated that they weren’t interested in a deal.

The Lib Dems had lost all but one of their seats. Only Kirsty Williams was left and it made sense to reach out to Kirsty to seek her support to take us to 30. The two of us had entered the Assembly together in 1999 and got on well personally.

She’d been the most effective opponent I’d faced and I knew how good she was. I took the view that Kirsty would make an excellent Minister and talked to her early after the election. It’s as well that I did.

On the morning when my election as First Minister we heard a rumour that Plaid were going to put forward Leanne Wood as an alternative candidate with support of the Tories and UKIP. It was an odd move given that they only had 11 seats.

Sure enough, that’s what happened but fortunately, I already had Kirsty’s support and the vote ended up 30-30 with Leanne eventually pulling out. No complaints from me, it’s politics and Leanne had every right to be put forward although how Plaid thought they could govern by relying on the Tories and Neil Hamilton still escapes me.

That day my hay fever was bad and during the vote my eyes started stinging and towards the end took out my hankie to wipe my eyes. Sure enough, the front page of the papers the following day had a photo of me looking as if I was in tears. That annoyed me more than the vote itself. I’m sure it made the photographer’s day.

There are so many possibilities that can happen over the next few days. Politicians will be trying to interpret what the voters had to say. Unfortunately, that’s not always clear.

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