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How will Wales’ next First Minister be chosen?

15 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford. PA Images/PA Wire

Emily Price

Next week Mark Drakeford will formally resign and a new First Minister of Wales’ will be appointed – here’s how it will all play out…

In December last year, Mark Drakeford announced on the members’ balcony of the Senedd oriel that he would be stepping down in March after five years as First Minister.

His intention to resign triggered an election to find his successor with economy minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Jeremy Miles going head to head in the Welsh Labour leadership race.

At midday on Thursday (March 14), voting for candidates closed and on Saturday (March 16) at 10am we will find out who received the most votes.

On Tuesday (March 19) Mark Drakeford will take his final Questions to the First Minister session in the Senedd starting at the usual time of 1:30pm.

It’s rumoured that the outgoing First Minister doesn’t want a fuss on his last day and FMQ’s is expected to be a more laid back friendly affair than the usual criticisms and scrutiny from opposing benches.

However, the Welsh Conservatives are rumoured to be planning one last 20mph default attack on the outgoing First Minister.

Palace

Following this, Mark Drakeford is expected to formally tender his resignation to King Charles III.

This follows the traditional practice at Westminster and ensures that a first minister is always in place in Wales.

On Wednesday morning, (March 20) the Welsh Government will inform the Llywydd, Elin Jones, as soon as the Palace confirms that Mark Drakeford’s resignation has been accepted by the King.

The Llywydd will lay a written statement to formally notify the Senedd that this has been received marking the point at which Mark Drakeford has formally resigned.

In the afternoon, the Llywydd will invite nominations for the next First Minister.

It may be the first item in Plenary at 1:30pm or it could happen after oral questions at around 3pm.

It all depends when the presiding officer receives formal notice of the resignation on Wednesday morning.

Symbolic

If only one member is nominated, that person will be declared the ‘nominee’.

This is different to how things work in Westminister when a new Prime Minister is appointed.

There, a new Prime Minister is appointed by the King under the Royal Prerogative as they lead the party which can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

In the Senedd, any member could be nominated to be First Minister.

However, because the nominee has to have a simple majority of support, this would normally be the leader of the largest political group in the Senedd.

If more than one nomination is made, every MS except for the Llywydd and deputy presiding officer will be given the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate by roll call.

However, other parties in the Senedd could put forward their leaders’ names in a symbolic gesture.

In the 2016 election, when Labour won 29 seats, Plaid Cymru nominated their leader Leanne Wood for the office of First Minister.

Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Conservatives, and UKIP successfully blocked Carwyn Jones by all voting for Leanne Wood.

Carwyn Jones also received 29 votes from Labour and Liberal Democrat MS, Kirsty Williams, creating a deadlock.

A week later, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru agreed to a minority Labour government and Carwyn Jones was appointed First Minister.

In theory, the same thing could happen again, in which case the Senedd would have to vote until one name secures a simple majority of support.

Westminister

Once one name is agreed, the Llywydd will recommend to the King the Senedd’s nominee.

A First Minister of Wales is appointed via Royal Warrant – a legal document authorised by the King.

Once the Llywydd has informed the Welsh Government of the King’s approval, the new First Minister will take the statutory Official Oath before Mr Justice Griffiths, a Presiding Judge of the Wales circuit.

During a short ceremony at the Welsh Government’s headquarters in Cardiff, the First Minister will “swear [to] well and truly serve His Majesty King Charles the Third in the office of First Minister of Wales”.

By custom, a new First Minister of Wales becomes a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, a body which advises the Monarch on their statutory and prerogative powers.

It is also likely that the First Minister will be invited to a private audience with the King.

During Easter recess (March 25) current Welsh Government ministers will all remain in post.

However, the Counsel General – currently Mick Antoniw – will cease to hold office when the new First Minister is appointed.

Once the King appoints the new First Minister, they will select Members of the Senedd to be ministers in the Cabinet

Ministers

The Welsh Government is expected to issue a written statement concerning ministerial appointments in the first week of recess and the new First Minister can appoint a temporary Counsel General.

Following new ministerial announcements, there may also need to be changes to Senedd postholders – such as new Committee Chairs.

During the first week of summer term (April 15) Wales’ new First Minister will take their first FMQs session.

It’s worth noting here after Easter the Welsh Conservatives are also expected to reshuffle their shadow cabinet in the Senedd.

Tory sources say some MSs have already made their preferences known to the leader of the party’s Senedd group, Andrew RT Davies.

Also during the first week back after Easter recess, there will be a debate on a motion to recommend a new Counsel General.

This formal appointment is also made by King Charles after the Senedd gives its recommendation and it’s rumoured that Mick Antoniw will keep his post.

The entire process of Mark Drakeford stepping down and a new First Minister being appointed can be viewed live on Senedd TV starting next week.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

How many dead in Cymru from Covid, they did not get an easy last day of it…

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
26 days ago

Maybe they could ask the King of England, while he is there, to return the Crown Estates to Wales. Any decent person would say yes, no problem.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
26 days ago

Welsh Labour First Ministers are merely anointed not elected. They are harvested like political pods in London only to be transported to Wales to be watered, conditioned and controlled. Think, invasion of the body snatchers. You just have to go back to the dawn of devolution in 1997 where stooge Blair’s broadbean Alun Michael was parachuted in by the Labour block vote and given the then patronising title of “First Secretary”, not First Minister mind like in Scotland & Northern Ireland, to be put in charge of New Labour’s sub post office in that red bricked monstrosity in the bay.… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
26 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I do not know why the South Wales Valleys (and North East Wales) continue to have faith in the labour party, a party that sells the people of Wales out to the UK regime. They also open the door to extremists from Conservative, ReformUK, UKIP and others trying to destroy Wales and or liberal democracy. It is important that Plaid Cymru should stand and campaign in every election contest that is held. Only by building up a store core of supporters across the country Plaid can defeat the Con/Lab pact at the next General Senedd Elections and take Wales to… Read more »

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
26 days ago

Is there white smoke released from the Senedd building once the new one is announced?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Pink or black surely…

Why vote
Why vote
26 days ago

Heads or tails? Stick a tail on the donkey with a labour hat on? Game of snap? Fastest to run 10m? The one that can talk BS the longest?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

So who will become the new No.1 of Welsh Labour, and due to apathy* the Captain of the good ship Cymru…

They say Mel Gibson turned down the part…

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
26 days ago

To me i can never ever forgive Drakeford for is trying to shut the A and E at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital down and we in this area would have to travel to A and E in Bridgend or Merthyr like anything he has done he does not bloody think of the consequencis if it was not for another Labour man fighting to keep it open the Rhondda M P Chris Bryant who is a very good M P who won thank God and Drakeford lost a Labour government trying to do that is a DISGRACE it is something i… Read more »

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