IMAGINE, if you can, a political love-in between Mark Drakeford and Adam Price. This is important, for reasons that will become clear in this column.

The couple are striding along on a hot summer’s day in front of the Senedd, as the Bay’s litter-strewn waves crash into land.

“Imagine RT’s face when he sees this,” one chuckles to the other.

They make their way through the crowds; an eclectic mix of depressed Senedd abolitionists, political anoraks and youngsters shouting at the bloke “off the telly”. Poor Adam thought they were talking about him.

Eventually they meet a soundbite-hungry crowd of journalists. Muffled questions come through a sea of masks.

Both men look rather serious (because we live in a serious time) and profess that their political and personal partnership has been formed in the most testing of periods. They have come together for Wales, we are told, not for power. It is all going surprisingly well.

Well, that’s until one clever reporter asks: “First Minister, do you regret when you said that nationalism is inherently right-wing? And Deputy First Minister, what do you think of that?”

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However this new partnership, formed with gritted teeth, is too strong for quips best left to the Westminster press pack in Downing Street (c2010). They simply shrug it off: it’s time for a socially distanced photo-op with ice cream and then back to business.

With four weeks until the Senedd election, such a sequence of events isn’t unlikely. Well, not entirely, anyway.

Sure, Mark Drakeford and Adam Price are very different personalities. They aren’t near carbon copies, like Cameron and Clegg were during their own rose garden odyssey.

However the first minister knows that if recent polls are to be believed – which put Welsh Labour on course for their worst ever Senedd performance – the most likely way to stay guaranteed in the job is through a coalition with the nationalists he sees as ideologically repugnant, almost as much as the Tories.

History looks likely to repeat itself. While Disraeli once said that England did not love coalitions, we love them in Wales.

Since no party has ever won a majority in a devolved election, leaders have had to rely on ad-hoc or formal cross-party deals to sustain their administrations. That is not something to be ashamed of either: it’s the route to power in other European countries.

The problem is that we have become so bitterly tribal. It used to be so different.

Take the events of May-June 2007 – at the time I was blessed to be a nine-year-old entirely ignorant of Welsh politics – as politicians schemed and scrambled to form a government.

What a time to be alive! All the main parties had a chance of grabbing a seat at the top table. A rainbow coalition to knock down that lingering Red Wall was so close but yet so far, as Rhodri Morgan eventually led Welsh Labour back into power with Plaid Cymru clutching at his coat-tails.

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I am drawn particularly to how that One Wales government was – in the words of their own agreement – a product of “courage… because achieving stability in government has meant finding common ground”.

It was no easy decision for Morgan, or especially Ieuan Wyn Jones; in spite of that it set a historic precedent in Wales for cross-party co-operation.

Where is that same courage today? The three incumbent leaders of the three main parties have been quick enough to rule out deals with one another, or indeed set harsh demands for possible coalitions, even though that it is only through bipartisanship that they will have a route to power.

With no room for compromise, the possibilities are surely either a minority Labour or Conservative government. Neither is an exciting prospect; they would be dysfunctional and struggle to command consistent support for votes in the parliamentary chamber. We would be, in effect, entering a five-year democratic stasis that is no good thing for Wales.

So cue that political love-in.

Adam Price has said he will not be a “junior partner” in any coalition. Fair enough. Although when the cards are dealt and the votes are counted, the only functional government that may be pragmatically possible is between his party and the one led by Mark Drakeford.

One Wales 2.0. A progressive alliance. The first minister has said before that the previous coalition worked well. Therefore Welsh Labour would (and should) be amenable to comprise on policy areas.

There are several policy areas where there is room for manoeuvre – such as protecting the environment, expanding the Senedd, language provision, tourism taxes, infrastructure investment as well as local government reform.

Let’s not get caught in the detail, though. They’ll work it out – if they want to govern.

The hard bit is that Adam Price, in his pledge not to be seen as a lesser in any political alliance, may ask for a 50-50 split in the cabinet.

Or he could demand to be made first minister for the second half of the Senedd term.

Neither are reasonable demands for a party predicted to win 14 seats. A commitment from Welsh Labour to hold an independence referendum is beyond reality too. So rather than pressure piling up on Mark Drakeford, the onus will be on the Plaid Cymru leader to give way.

He is making progress on that: indicating over the last week that a plebiscite will not be the sticking point for a deal.

But how will Adam Price appease his members, unhappy at such compromise?

He could ask for a Welsh Government inquiry into the constitution, for example, something that Welsh Labour would perhaps implement. Push on the scope and remit of this; aim for a roadmap instead of an independence vote (one which he would lose at this stage).

Price also says that he would only join a government that would set Wales “on a very different path”. That’s a reasonable point.

Although the Plaid Cymru leader mustn’t insist on taking personal responsibility for everything in Cardiff Bay. It isn’t the best vote of confidence in your shadow ministers, or indeed the incumbent party you are trying to work with.

Oh, but this is all pure speculation! Yes, but that is the joy of being a columnist.

It is, however, necessary speculation.

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While talk of a coalition – in public at least – will have to wait until after the votes are counted it is the scenario that we are most likely to face.

And as much as I would like to see fresh dynamism injected into the dusty corridors of Ty Hywel, a refresh of 2007 is the one that is most likely to best protect the interests of Wales.

For the stakes are much higher now than they were 14 years ago. We are not just electing a government to make changes to our economy, help our NHS or indeed build better transport links, but an administration that needs to secure the future of a devolved nation altogether.

I know my arguments about Westminster’s treatment of the nations across these isles are well-rehearsed, although be in no doubt that the threat to our autonomy as a devolved country is under threat from a Downing Street hell-bent on centralisation and assaulting our areas of legislation.

This doesn’t mean that Labour should not be held to account for its record in Wales – it has no doubt under-promised and under-delivered – or that Plaid Cymru’s fantasy promises on independence and post-Covid spending pledges should be ignored.

We should do that in the weeks ahead. We must, however, realise that we have become so divided in Wales that no party commands the majority of the public’s support. That is a failure of the political system and our discourse.

So keep your eye on how the seats tally up on May 7. The strategists in Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru certainly will. It’ll be clear soon enough what the result will be, and our leaders should be able to compromise to make a difficult deal if necessary; one that may mean forming a government that crosses party lines to safeguard Wales through the uncertain times ahead. In the words of the first One Wales agreement, that will require “a new maturity on both sides”. That’s certainly a Price worth paying for a strong and stable Welsh government.