On Tuesday, as journalists were winding down their workload for the day, shutting their laptops and heading to the pub, a series of emails landed in inboxes.

The first, titled “A statement jointly agreed by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru” dropped at 4pm.

Five minutes later, an identical email came from Plaid Cymru.

Their content was pretty much identical; three sentences that were strong on rhetoric but light on detail.

They read: “As Wales prepares for a stronger future beyond the coronavirus pandemic; responds to the climate emergency, the ongoing consequences of leaving the European Union, and threats to devolution; it is more important than ever that political parties work together wherever they have common interests on behalf of people in Wales.

“Constructive initial discussions have taken place between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh Government and exploring ways of building a more equal, just and democratic nation for all.

“These discussions are continuing to explore an ambitious co-operation agreement to be based around a number of defined policy priorities and the governance arrangements on which Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh Government and can work together to deliver for Wales.”

All of a sudden, reporters scrambled to produce breaking news reports. Television news editors rewrote their evening bulletins and correspondents read between the lines of what the words “building a more equal, just and democratic nation for all” could actually mean.

Within the hour, the Welsh Conservatives sent out their own release, calling the announcement a “stitch-up” of “desperation and lunacy”.

As commentators sought to add their take on what may be in store, many poured cold water on heightening hyperbole, reminding people that, despite the Tories’ dismay, it was hardly a revelation.

One of the great inaccurate takes of the first two decades of devolved politics in Wales is the one which says that Labour has regularly delivered majority governments.

While Labour has been the dominant party in all six Senedd elections to date, not once has the party reached the 31 seats required for a Senedd majority.

Three times they have come close, winning 30 seats in 2003, 2011 and on May 6 this year. On the first two occasions, they went on to rule with minority governments. Until now, they have done the same in this parliamentary term.

On three other occasions, they have formed some type of coalition: with the Liberal Democrats in 1999, Plaid Cymru in 2007, and with the support of the Liberal Democrats’ Kirsty Williams and independent Dafydd Elis Thomas from 2016.

Welsh assemblies and parliaments, elected by the additional member system of voting, have been built on the foundation of cooperation.

So why is the concept of forming a coalition, or some form of support agreement, still whispered in such hushed tones and snarled at by opponents?

Based on all available polling ever carried out on devolved elections in Wales, even the most optimistic Tory or Plaid supporter would find it hard to imagine themselves winning an outright majority anytime soon.

Yet, the Tories ruled out working with Labour and Plaid Cymru well before May 6. When Abolish were abolished, that left them consigned to opposition.

Plaid, whose leader talked a good game of wanting to form a Plaid Cymru government, but never quite ruled out the prospect of working with Labour.

Plaid has a history of working cooperatively and seeking to shoulder its way into government.

Five years ago, the Tory group in the Senedd voted for then Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood to become First Minister. The vote was initially tied before a deal between Plaid and Labour allowed Carwyn Jones to continue as first minister.

In 2007, after Labour fell five seats short of a majority, Plaid, the Tories and Lib Dems engaged in talks about a rainbow coalition. It eventually fell short in favour of Plaid and Labour’s ‘One Wales’ government.

Plaid becomes more malleable as the prospect of some sort of power or influence moves within reach.

It is understood that Plaid and Labour have been in talks for quite some time.

They have shared goals around defending Wales’ devolution against what they both describe as a ‘power grab’ by Westminster.

Both largely support the idea of reforming the Senedd by increasing its size and changing the way politicians here are elected.

To do so requires a two-thirds Senedd ‘supermajority’ of 40 members. Labour has 30, while Plaid has 13.

With the Tories not interested in constitutional reform, and the sole Liberal Democrat in Jane Dodds looking to rebuild her party’s identity in Wales, it was only ever going to be a Plaid-Labour agreement to push such reform through.

As Wales still eases itself into the concept that coalition building is normal, it is worth noting that no fewer than 30 countries in Europe currently have multiple parties in their ruling governments.

While Italy, with its regular government instability and short-lived administrations, is often held up as an example of how coalitions do not work, countries like Finland, Germany, Denmark, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands show coalitions are sustainable and often the norm.

Dutch governments since 1946 have always been coalitions of two to five parties. Many have lasted up to four years with ruling prime ministers often winning a second successive term.

Paavo Tapio Lipponen, prime minister of Finland between 1993 and 2003, created broad-based coalitions from across the country’s political spectrum. In doing so, he produced two of the longest-lasting cabinets in Finland’s 93-year post-independence history.

Beyond Europe’s borders, New Zealand, India, Australia and Israel are just a handful of countries that have a long history of coalition governments.

Then there is the example closest to home. In 2010, Westminster’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition broke with the norms of one-party rule in the UK.

Many predicted it would be short-lived, but it ended up enduring for a full five-year term, longer than two of its successors.

So, what next?

Well, talks will inevitably continue between Plaid and Labour. They clearly have common interests.

The Government, facing five years of rebuilding a Wales deeply damaged by the Covid pandemic, can obviously see the benefit in having a sizeable ally when it comes to big decisions.

Labour, so quick to champion themselves as the doers and protectors of Wales, have to be seen as doing. People are now aware of the power the Senedd wields; there are fewer places to hide.

Plaid, wounded by a lacklustre election result, need to be seen to be doing stuff with power. That is difficult in a country where Labour is dominant.

The Tories, already keen to paint the cooperation as a stitch-up, will keep complaining. For them, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the other major parties is a clear strategy, but they remain as far from power as ever.

Cooperation is likely to play some role in the Senedd over the course of the next five years. The evidence shows that there is no need to treat it as an alien concept.

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