Mark Drakeford says he will stand down as First Minister by the end of 2024
The First Minister has confirmed that he will stand down from the post by the end of 2024 at the latest – and hinted that he might only have a little over a year left in the post.
Mark Drakeford told WalesOnline that his successor would need about two years in the post before the May 2026 Senedd election.
It comes after he told an Al Jazeera journalist in Qatar last month that it was “time we elected somebody who looks ahead to the next 25 years”.
He added then that his plans were to stay in the role for five years, which would take him to the end of 2023.
“I’m in my fifth year as First Minister and I always thought that around that period of time was when it will be right to hand on to somebody else,” he told WalesOnline.
“In the middle of this term there will be a moment when the right thing to do is to make sure there is somebody who sees their political horizons not toward the end of the term but beyond that so that they can get themselves into the job, get themselves known to people, and begin to shape the way they think things could happen after that.”
Asked whether that meant stepping down in 2024 was likely, he answered: “I wouldn’t be ruling that out. I certainly don’t think I will be in the job beyond that.
“I had two years [before the election] and I think you do need that sort of period to work your way into the job, make sure people know a bit about you, and then there’s a lot of thinking that goes into any election manifesto preparation and all of that.”
The admission is likely to fire the starting gun on the race to succeed Mark Drakeford, with three in the race according to a prominent Welsh politics academic.
Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, said that Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, Education Minister Jeremy Miles and Health Minister Eluned Morgan were the three with a realistic shot at the top job.
Writing in the Barn Welsh language current-affairs magazine, Richard Wyn Jones suggested that the most likely date for his departure was the end of 2024, giving his successor 18 months to prepare for the next Senedd election.
Prof Jones said that Vaughan Gething and Jeremy Miles were the two clear front runners for the post but that Eluned Morgan “would have to be taken seriously” if she threw her hat in the ring.
Vaughan Gething would likely be the choice of the trade unions and the UK Labour party, he said, while Jeremy Miles would craft a campaign based on a continuation of the kind of autonomy that has separated Welsh and UK Labour under Rhodri Morga, Carwyn Jones and Mark Drakeford.
“In terms of substance, many of those who believe that the success of the Welsh Labour Party since the 1999 election has resulted from the willingness of Rhodri Morgan, Carwyn Jones and Mark Drakeford to plough their own Welsh furrow also consider that Miles is most likely to continue in the same tradition,” Richard Wyn Jones wrote.
“If it is true that Vaughan Gething will be the candidate of the Labour establishment, the Member for Neath will have to try to inspire the membership on the ground by presenting an alternative vision of the type of nation that Welsh Labor should be trying to build.”
Richard Wyn Jones however added that one thing that marked out all the candidates was some uncertainty about what kind of Welsh Labour they wanted to build.
“Although the three are familiar in many ways, what is striking is how little we know about the type of government they would try to lead and the type of Wales they would like to see,” he said.
“If there is only a year or two left before one of them takes the reins, it is time to learn more about the vision they have for us.”
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