ASSEMBLY ELECTION 2003: So Was It Really a Very Good Morning for Wales?

Article excerpt

Byline: Kirsty Buchanan and Martin Shipton

IT was two in the morning; Ron Davies and Dafydd Wigley sat glumly in a makeshift office at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, drinking beer and coming to terms with defeat. Half of the referendum results had come in and it seemed as if the Welsh electorate was - again - not prepared to back devolution. Mr Wigley went back out to the count and gave a television interview almost conceding defeat, but within the hour was called back into Mr Davies's office.

``I walked in, Ron gave me a big bearhug and said, `We've won'. It was as simple as that.

``It really was a roller coaster of a night. I have often said it was like being a football manager whose team is nine down at half time, pulls nine goals back in the second half then scores the winning goal in the final kick of extra time.''

As voters yesterday elected the next generation of National Assembly politicians, two of the giants of devolution found themselves watching from the sidelines with mixed feelings. Mr Wigley said, ``It is the first time since 1972 I have not been representing a post, starting with Merthyr Council, but I am 60 now, my pension kicks in and I will find something to do, although I have very little on at the moment.''

He said that until last week the 2003 election had failed to ignite the popular imagination but he did not believe this was a reflection on the institution itself. He put it down to the realities of the ``Iraq factor'' and the UK print media which had largely ignored the fledgling institution.

But ``in hindsight'' Mr Wigley believes the early days of the Assembly were tarnished by infighting and political point-scoring which could have been avoided if Mr Dav-ies's vision for a truly ``inclusive'' government had blossomed.

And, if Labour leader Rhodri Morgan is forced to consider a coalition government again this morning, Mr Wigley says it will work only if some AMs put aside the ``worst kind of Valleys Labour politics'' and enter into an agreement in good spirit.

``The very nature of a proportional voting system means you are likely to end up with a coalition, but so much depends on the right attitude of co-operation,'' he said. …