Drakeford triggers contest to replace him as Welsh First Minister
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced he is standing down as Labour leader, triggering the contest to find his successor.
The 69-year-old Labour politician, who has been Wales’ leader since December 2018, said he hoped his replacement could be in place before Easter 2024.
At a news conference in Cardiff, he said: “In the meantime, I will remain as First Minister in the full sense of that job.”
He has suffered a slump in poll ratings and has come under fire for policies including the widespread use of 20mph limits on Welsh roads.
A YouGov poll of 1,004 Welsh voters for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University earlier this month found his popularity is at an 18-month low, with 56% believing he is doing a bad job of being First Minister.
Mr Drakeford was first elected to the Senedd in 2011 as the Member for Cardiff West.
He served in various ministerial roles from 2013 under the leadership of Carwyn Jones, before succeeding him as First Minister and Welsh Labour leader in 2018.
Mr Drakeford insisted he still had a lot to achieve over the coming months and there would be “plenty of time for political obituaries and retrospection once I’ve ceased to be First Minister, but not before”.
But he added: “In a five-year period, which 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.”
Until he leaves office, he said he would “continue to be fully focused on delivering the promises we made to people across Wales in the last Senedd election”.
“The next Welsh leader and first minister will, I hope, have an opportunity which has not come my way and that is to work with a newly-elected Labour government in London. And I will work as hard as I can to see that Labour government elected. ”
UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Drakeford was a “titan” of Welsh politics.
“Mark has set a clear standard for public service in UK politics, always putting others before himself,” Sir Keir said.
“During his five years as First Minister, against a backdrop of austerity, instability in Westminster and navigating the pandemic, he has delivered for Wales with steely determination and quiet authority.
“Above all, Mark is a kind and decent man, who lives his Labour values.
“A proud Welshman, Wales too can be proud of Mark, for his fight for working people. He’s a true titan of Welsh and Labour politics. It has been a pleasure to work alongside him and we all wish him the very best for his retirement.”
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies 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.”
Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth paid tribute to Mr Drakeford’s “dedication to public life” and the “tone of his leadership” during the pandemic.
But he added: “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.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub