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Time to panic?

Betsan Powys | 14:42 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

Remember this?
I hope those students who sat furiously taking notes in Cross Keys three months ago went on to use some of what they heard in their essays. If they did, they may well get a retrospective A+. At last night's count Labour supporters and officials found themselves cheering Labour wins in Blaenau Gwent and a hair's breadth victory in Cardiff West, the First Minister's patch. Conservatives mouths fell open when I suggested we'd heard they'd won Alun and Deeside.

The second Conservative candidate, Evan Price, started to consider the possiblity that he might get elected. A Brussels job on the line, how was he keeping his cool? "By remembering how I feel when I'm in front of a nasty judge" he said. "I think to myself that he can't kill me and can't get me pregnant, then I get on with it."

He came within a thousand votes of finding himself with job, if not with child.

Plaid started the night predicting Labour could well come in third. As the results came in, the realisation dawned quickly that they'd done well in the seats they're targetting at the General Election but elsewhere? Had they paid the price for being Labour's partners in Cardiff Bay? Or had they just not fought hard enough outside those target seats? When it had got cold enough to put our coats on, Plaid had long since realised the blue line was the one that told the story last night.

The Conservatives took Wrexham, Gower. "Gordon Brown - the Prime Minister who lost Wales!" muttered one of their number with a smile that said this was much, much better than they'd seen coming. Even with Ukip notching up enough votes to take the fourth seat, the Tories had enough to beat Labour.

It was a bad night for the Liberal Democrats. Is Lembit-land still Lembit-land when his party come third to the Tories and Ukip? If it isn't, with what exactly does Kirsty Williams respond?

Let's be clear. We've had an election a year in Wales and Labour has done increasingly badly at each one. Their share of the vote has fallen, their performance has been breaking records in a bad way for some time. But somehow, they haven't been seen to pay the price electorally. This election is the one where that has happened.

Last year Rhodri Morgan didn't pretend the local election results in Wales were anythign other than awful but it was, he said "important not to panic". Today the Labour party in Wales does seem to be panicking.

Fingers were being pointed at Transport House long before the votes were even counted. Now people are speaking plainly. Among them, outgoing MEP Eluned Morgan.

"There was a problem with our message. The message wasn't clear. I was part of our campaign and I can't tell you clearly what our message was ... This was a kicking and we have to rebuild the party in Wales. That won't be easy. There's a myth about a Welsh Labour machine. There isn't much of a machine and at the moment lack of money really worries us as a party".

I arrived in Millbank a few hours ago to be greeted by a taxi driver who was better at recognising languages than Tony Benn. He wondered "what the hell happened in your neck of the woods love?" before admitting (and that's what if felt like) that he'd voted Ukip for the first time ever at these elections.

Bumping into John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University I heard him telling Labour activists that there wasn't "a crumb of comfort for them" in last night's results.

Let me try: this was disastrous for Welsh Labour and yes, the Conservatives did very, very well. In fact add another 'very' in there. So if there's any comfort, it must lie in the first half of the sentence. This still looks more like a stunning Labour loss than a huge Conservative victory but then that's only a comfort if you can do something about it - and do it fast.


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