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Schadenfreude

Betsan Powys | 17:28 UK time, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I'm sure it's good for the soul or at the very least character building: recording programmes predicting what will happen over the coming year while sitting back and listening to the bit of last year's programme where you predicted what would happen during this one. And finding you were wrong.

I was wrong, at least, about Nick Bourne. The Tory leader's days, I reckoned, were numbered. Boy, did the presenter enjoy playing that particular clip. Mind you the sports panelist thought both Cardiff and Swansea City would be promoted (from the presenter's 'got you' response I'm assuming they weren't) and the economist played it safe last year and went for 'unemployment will be a problem'. Well he wasn't wrong there.

So, said the presenter with more glee than necessary, let's tip-toe as far as the General Election. What will it look like in Wales?

Deep breath, smile, make sure you avoid predictions at all costs. Ok, what will it look like?

It will happen during a period of change in Welsh politics that no-one my age or anywhere near my age come to that, can remember. Labour have been doing worse here in Wales than in England. The party itself has - or many in it - have been arguing it's about where we're at in the political and economic cycle. Others suggest it's more basic than that, more involved with the new political canvas we have in Wales, one that has an Assembly as part of it, one where single party dominance is destined to become a thing of the past.

Labour, the dominant force in Wales for so long, has come out of the last three elections - the Assembly, local and European elections - with historically low votes. We said it with some surprise the first time, forcefully the second and shouted it out loud the third. At that point, June 2009, the Conservatives brushed Labour aside in the popular vote. There was barely any red on the final map that night outside the South East. Plaid didn't do as well as they'd predicted but weren't that far off pushing Labour into third.

When the General Election comes, how possible is it that Labour will be wiped out in the West, in fact anywhere other than the South East? It would be a bad, bad night for that to happen but they have had to get used to those recently.

It was only 1997, remember, when the Welsh Conservatives were completely wiped out in Wales. Forget the West, or hanging on in the South East. There was no blue on the map at all. I was sitting on a canal boat in Bath the day after that General Election, hanging over the side and twiddling the radio to find out whether Jonathan Evans had hung on to Brecon and Radnorshire or not. He hadn't. Pretty remarkable that twelve years on, the Tories in Wales will be thinking more in terms of 1983 and their record of 14 seats.

Plaid Cymru will want to pick up five seats at least - a record for Plaid in Westminster elections. Bear in mind too that their new Director of Elections, Helen Mary Jones, will regard this poll - as will the party - as laying the ground for the big push in the Assembly elections in 2011. Put in the ground work this time, get names known, young faces recognised, cut majorities big time and next time? You can argue with some conviction that you're in it to win it.

What's the Liberal Democrat plan? Three of their four seats are under pressure, with only Cardiff Central feeling rock solid. They could gain a couple - the bookies certainly seem to fancy their chances in Swansea but if they end up going backwards, does Kirsty Williams start feeling the pressure? Does the party she leads have a plan of action?

And what will the candidates and the voters want to talk about? Shall I take a leaf from the economist's book and suggest that 'unemployment will be an issue?' I think I'd be pretty safe, along with the state of the economy, how much funding there is - or is not - available for public services and - of course - trust in MPs.

The General Election will probably look and feel and sound a bit like that, I ventured, haltingly, before heading home and wondering which particular sentence will come back to sound-bite me in December 2010.

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