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Labour retains grip on Welsh Assembly as Ukip celebrates successes

Published 06/05/2016

Labour's Carl Sargeant was the first winner in the Welsh Assembly elections
Labour's Carl Sargeant was the first winner in the Welsh Assembly elections
Carwyn Jones is confident of remaining First Minister, but may need to form a coalition government

Labour will retain their grip on power in a very different Welsh Assembly which sees Ukip join the institution's ranks for the first time.

Carwyn Jones's party will go back into the Senedd with 29 AMs - one fewer than last time around.

Although it is two seats shy of an overall majority, Labour is likely to govern alone and call upon the support of other parties on key votes.

However, while who is in power remains the same the fifth Assembly will be a stark contrast with its previous incarnation.

As well as new borrowing powers coming on stream, there is the chance Wales may also be given the ability to vary income tax.

Labour will also be without one of its most experienced politicians after Leighton Andrews lost his seat to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in the only major scalp of the night.

The Welsh nationalists also beat the Conservatives into second place - with the Tories suffering a disappointing campaign - while the Liberal Democrats were reduced to a single seat.

However, the biggest change will perhaps be the arrival of Ukip in the Siambr - with its new AMs Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless vowing to shake up a "too cosy" Assembly.

Mark Drakeford, who claimed the last constituency seat of the night for Labour, said: "I've heard Ukip say that the Assembly won't be the same - it certainly won't be.

"Having to deal with them is not something I will look forward to."

In the run-up to the election, a YouGov poll had predicted that Labour would still be the biggest party albeit with two fewer AMs.

However, it got off to a flying start winning six out of six as well as seeing off the Conservatives' challenge in the marginal of Cardiff North.

At one stage veteran left wing AM Julie Morgan admitted she was "not confident" about keeping her seat.

Labour's arguably most prized asset and First Minister Mr Jones also retained his seat in Bridgend and newcomer Lee Waters fended off Plaid's advances in Llanelli.

However, the night did give a bloody nose to its candidate in the Rhondda - Mr Andrews.

The former health minister went head-to-head with Plaid leader Ms Wood - and the mother-of-one's gamble to switch from a regional seat to a constituency paid off as she took 50.6% of the vote.

She said: "To win here, in the Rhondda, to win where you've lived all your life and grown up is a real honour.

"A new dawn is about to break in Wales. People have voted for change."

Plaid finished the election with 12 AMs - one more than the Tories.

Ukip, which finished third with seven seats, said it was looking forward to challenging the status quo.

Nigel Farage, whose party was against the Assembly's existence until a policy U-turn in 2013, added: "Many traditional Labour voters look at Jeremy Corbyn and at a Labour party that has gone way, way, way to the left, that is very metropolitan and refuses to engage with issues like immigration - which is the number one issue."

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams will cut a lonely figure in the next Assembly as she now is her party's only AM - after it lost four seats.

However, the mid Wales based politician remained upbeat after drastically increasing her share of the vote.

"It will take a long time to rebuild the party, but I'm really proud that rebuild begins here," she added.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the result was very good for Labour, given that a number of opinion polls had predicted his party would lose more seats than it actually did.

He said: "We always said this was the toughest Assembly election we had ever faced, and in that context we can be pleased to beat the Tories in every battleground seat. The country has been spared the chaos of a Tory/Ukip coalition.

"With 29 seats, Wales will now look to us to form the next government - that's a very great honour and we will take some time over the weekend to discuss the road ahead."

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