Posted: Wed 13th Dec 2023

First Minister Mark Drakeford confirms he is standing down

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 13th, 2023

Mark Drakeford has announced he will step down as the first minister of Wales and the leader of Welsh Labour in March 2024.

He took office as first minister exactly five years ago to the day on December 13, 2018.

Prof Drakeford said a leadership contest to elect his successor will be concluded by Easter, with a UK general election on the horizon.

He said: “There’s been exactly five years since I’ve accepted this role.

“And when I stood for the leadership of the Labour party in Wales, I said that if I were to be elected I would aim to serve four or five years.”

Prof Drakeford stressed: “I will be fully focused until the day I cease being first minister on the job that I do on behalf of people here in Wales…

“There will be plenty of time for political obituaries and retrospection once I cease to be first minister – but not before.

“In a five-year period that has seen Wales deal with austerity, Brexit, the Covid pandemic, the climate crisis, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and four different prime ministers – so far – there will be lots to reflect upon.”

Vaughan Gething, Jeremy Miles and Eluned Morgan – Wales’ economy, education and health ministers respectively – are the frontrunners to become the next first minister.

Rebecca Evans and Julie James, who are responsible for finance and climate change respectively, have also been touted as potential candidates.

An ITV Wales/YouGov poll this week showed Prof Drakeford’s popularity with the Welsh public has dipped to an 18-month low.

Prof Drakeford equalled Labour’s best ever result in 2021 – winning half of the Senedd’s 60 seats – following bleak polling for his party in the early run-up to the election.

The turnaround in the polls has been credited to the way Prof Drakeford cautiously steered Wales through the pandemic.

Prof Drakeford has been in the Welsh Government since 2013 when he was appointed health minister by his predecessor Carwyn Jones. He served as finance minister from 2016.

He has said he will remain an MS until the end of the Senedd term.

Last month marked the halfway point between the 2021 election and the probable date for the next Senedd poll in May 2026.

Prof Drakeford, whose wife Clare died in January 2023, has been at the heart of Welsh democracy since the then-National Assembly for Wales was founded in May 1999.

A former special adviser, he was first elected to succeed Rhodri Morgan as the Cardiff West representative in May 2011.

Prof Drakeford was head of Rhodri Morgan’s political office while he was first minister.

He wrote Mr Morgan’s famous “clear red water” speech setting out a Welsh Labour strategy of distinguishing itself from the UK party which was led by Tony Blair at the time.

Prof Drakeford, who was a Labour councillor in the 1980s and 1990s, was previously a probation officer and youth justice worker.

A professor of social policy and applied social sciences, he taught at Cardiff and Swansea Universities where his students included Leanne Wood – the former Plaid Cymru leader.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “I wish Mark well as he stands down from the helm.”

“While we may have different visions for Wales, I know I’m joined by colleagues in holding a huge amount of respect for his dedication to the job of First Minister.”

“It’s important, however, with this announcement that there is no distraction from the really important job of delivering for the people of Wales.”

“Labour politicians jockeying for the role of First Minister must not detract from this.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Jo Stevens MP said: “Mark Drakeford has epitomised public service and public duty throughout his time as First Minister of Wales.”

“His remarkable stewardship of Wales through the horror of the pandemic being the most obvious example.”

“Leading our country with care, skill, and values firmly rooted in our Labour principles of social justice and progressive politics, he has dedicated so much of his life to bringing positive change to the people of Wales.”

“Mark has been there throughout our devolution journey, both as an architect and a builder. He has been instrumental in Welsh Labour’s electoral success throughout the last 25 years and has earned the respect of opponents across the political spectrum.”

“As Mark ends his term as Welsh Labour Leader, I thank him for his leadership, his friendship, and his outstanding contribution to Wales.”

Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS: “As he announces his departure, I recognise and pay tribute to the First Minister’s dedication to public life and, in particular, the tone of his leadership through the pandemic.”

“We have been able to build a constructive relationship in delivering transformative policies through the Co-Operation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.”

“Be it with Mark Drakeford or his successor, our priority has been and will be to deliver for Wales. That will continue to be our guiding principle.”

“When he took office, the First Minister spoke of the opportunities that came with the position of Leading the Welsh Government.”

“Regrettably, those opportunities have been squandered, resulting in longer waiting lists, falling educational standards, and a stagnant economy.”

“The First Minister told me in the Senedd yesterday that the question of his successor was “nothing to do” with me.”

“But who can become First Minister through an internal Labour party election matters to all of us.”

“However, whoever is in charge of Labour in Wales, there’s no taking away from the fact that they take their orders from Keir Starmer, who has a blind spot to Wales’ and offers nothing to address our needs and aspirations. Unlike other parties, Plaid Cymru will always prioritise fairness and ambition for Wales.”

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter & Deeside.com

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