As events in Welsh politics move slowly, almost painfully so, towards a denouement of some sort, Plaid AM's and Plaid's NEC will soon find that they have no further opportunity to avoid making their tough decision.
There are lots of things that they will be considering, of course; but I think there are two really big ones. The first is this – what do the voters want?
From the outset, people have been interpreting the election results to suit their own view of events, but what can we really say, in terms of hard facts? Although everyone knew that coalition was a probable outcome, there was no way of expressing that on the ballot paper, so all we have to go on is the hard numbers of the election results and a few pre-election opinion polls.
The first point to make is that more people voted for the Labour Party than voted for any other party. I wasn't in that number, as it happens, and I don't understand why so many people did vote for them; but I cannot ignore the fact that they did. In voting the way they did, more people said that they trusted Labour to lead a government than trusted any other single party to lead a government. That is surely irrefutable.
Proponents of the Rainbow have argued that more people voted against Labour than voted for them, showing that Labour were unpopular, and therefore justifying the Rainbow. Sure there were more votes against Labour than for them – that's an unarguable fact. But taken individually, more people voted against Plaid, the Tories or the Lib Dems than voted against Labour. All that really tells us is that Labour may indeed have been unpopular; but they were still less unpopular than anyone else.
And to argue that the 70% who voted against Labour therefore all voted for the Rainbow is stretching credibility beyond breaking point. Was every Tory supporter really saying that he or she would prefer a Plaid government over a Labour one? Or was every Plaid voter expressing a preference for the Tories over Labour?
I don't see how anyone can draw such a conclusion from the election results. I suppose it's possible; it just doesn't seem terribly likely to me. Assuming that everyone who didn't vote Labour would therefore express a second choice for another non-Labour party is a complete non-sequitur; many Plaid, Lib Dem and even some Tory voters would have, if they had had the chance, made Labour their second choice. Of that I am certain.
No, I'm afraid that whether we armchair anoraks and bloggers like it or not, Labour emerged with more votes and more seats than any other party – a clear lead of 11 seats over their nearest opponents. And since every elector could vote only for his or her first choice party, the only thing we can say for certain on any coalition is that no-one actually voted for it.
For a party which won so many more votes and seats than any of its opponents to be unseated by an alliance for which no-one actually voted, and for which there is no proven public support at the ballot box, looks to me more like a coup d'état than democracy.
PS - I see that Ordovicius argues that to avoid taking so long over this in future, all the parties should simply delegate all power to their leaders to form whatever arrangements they like once elected. I think this is completely the wrong thing to do. If coalitions are to be the norm, we actually need politicians to have less say in the conclusion and give the power back to us as electors. A more open system of proportional representation would be a good start; so that we can see for real what people's second choice party actually is.