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Mark Drakeford to step down as First Minister in March

14 Dec 2023 7 minute read
Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Media

Emily Price

Mark Drakeford has announced he will step down as Wales’ First Minister in March.

Mr Drakeford made the announcement on Wednesday morning on the Members’ balcony of the Senedd oriel. Although journalists were invited to attend and film the statement, they were not permitted to asked any questions.

Speaking in the Senedd today in a speech delivered in Welsh and English, Mr Drakeford said: “I have today formally notified the chair of the Welsh Executive Committee of my intention to stand down as Leader of Welsh Labour in March 2024.

“Pan dechreuais fel arweinydd, dwedais baswn i wasanaethu am bum mlynedd, pe bawn I’n cael fy ethol. Mae pum mylynedd yn union wedi pasio ers i mi derbyn y Swydd yn 2018.

“When I stood for the leadership, I said that, if elected, I would serve for five years. Exactly five years have passed since I was confirmed as First Minister in 2018.

“Nominations for my successor as Welsh Labour Leader will open shortly. The process will be concluded by the end of the Spring term, to enable the name of the winner to be put to the Senedd before the Easter recess.

“Yn y cyfamser, rwy’n barhau fel eich Prif Weinidog. In the meantime, I remain your First Minister. We have a busy few months ahead of us – full of major events and challenges, which I will be fully focused on.

“A child poverty strategy, the final report of the independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, the future of steel-making in Wales, the conclusion of consultations about making council tax fairer and the reform of the school year, module 2B of the Covid-19 UK Inquiry, co-operation Agreement commitments to deliver, and a Budget to pass.

“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, 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 on.

“Am nawr, byddai’n barhau i weithio gyda fy holl nerth ar yr addewidion
wnaethon i bobl Cymru. For now, I will continue to deliver on the promises we made to people across Wales.

“The next Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister will, I hope, have the opportunity, which has not come my way, to work with a newly-elected Labour Government in London.

“I will work as hard as I can to see that Labour Government elected. Mae hi wedi bod fraint mawr i’w arwain Llafur Cymru a Llywodraeth Cymru.

“Rwyf hefyd wedi cael y fraint enfawr i chwarae rhan yng ngwleidyddiaeth Cymru yn ystod chwarter canrif gyntaf datganoli.

“It has been a huge privilege to lead both the Welsh Labour party and the Welsh Government.

“I have also had the enormous fortune to have played a part in Welsh politics during the first quarter century of devolution.

“None of that would have been possible without the consistent support and enormous hard work of my talented Cabinet colleagues and successive Labour groups.

“Now it is time to look forward to the next five years across the UK and to the next 25 years of devolution in Wales. That journey begins today.

“Nawr yw’r amser i edrych ymlaen at y bum mlynedd nesa dros y Derynas Unedig a’r pum ar hugain o blynnyddoedd nesa o ddatganoli yng Nghymru. Mae’r taith yn dechrau heddiw. Diolch o galon i chi gyd.”

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.

In a resignation statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, the First Minister said: “When I stood for election as Leader of Welsh Labour, I said I would stand down during the current Senedd term. That time has now come.

It has been a great privilege to serve as leader of this party. Together, we have achieved a huge amount over the last five years in some of the toughest times we have known.

“Despite all the chaos in Westminster, the ongoing impact of Brexit, climate change and the pandemic, by working together, we have delivered record results for Welsh Labour in the local government and Senedd elections.

“Our greatest task is still ahead of us – to return a Labour UK Government and start repairing the huge damage which has been inflicted by the Tories over the last 13 years.

“I will work tirelessly to secure that Labour victory and to continue delivering on the promises we made to people all across Wales in 2021 to deliver a stronger, fairer and greener Wales.”

Election

In July 2020, Mr Drakeford said he would not serve the whole of the Senedd term and confirmed he intended to step down at the next election.

Speaking at the Eisteddfod this year, the First Minister said it was “important to have a refresh”.

“It is difficult for those who will be doing the work in the future to have people like me sitting behind them,” he said.

“I don’t want to do that. I think of it like Tony Benn – when he decided to leave the House of Commons, he said ‘I’m going to stop being an MP in order to spend more time in politics.”

He added: “I’m not going to be a Member of the Senedd after 2026 but I am not going to step back from the debate or stop thinking about Wales’ future.”

Mr Drakeford made the comments in a question and answer session with Elin Jones, the Senedd’s presiding officer.

But he did not tell the Eisteddfod maes at what point before 2026 he would quit as first minister.

Mr Drakeford was first elected as Senedd member for Cardiff West in 2011, and became first minister after Carwyn Jones stepped down eight years later.

“Extrodinary”

In response to Mark Drakeford’s intention to step down in the spring Wales’ eduction minister Jeremy Miles said: “Mark Drakeford is an extraordinary man who has led Wales through extraordinary times.

“He has been a beacon for compassion in our politics, and an example of public service to our nation.

“When he steps down as First Minister and Welsh Labour Leader, he will be able to look back on a career dedicated to helping others  – as a probation worker, as a professor of social policy, as an adviser to Rhodri Morgan, as a Minister and as First Minister of Wales.

“Much will be said about his political life and his many accomplishments. I want to pay personal tribute to the person we have all seen bear the weight of leading a nation through the most difficult times –  with integrity, dignity and strength.

“As we consider what comes next, I hope we will resolve to build on Mark’s legacy, to meet new challenges head on, and to set our sights on an ambitious future for Wales.”

More to follow…


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Maesglas
Maesglas
2 months ago

I am not a Labour supporter, but Drakeford was at least ready to try radical ideas, unlike Starmer, who seems terrified to say or do anything different. Drakeford’s refusal to back down on the 20 mph limit, build the M4 relief road bypassing the Brynglas tunnel and change Wales’s voting system are examples of this whether you agree with them or not. I fear that Vaughan Gethin will be like Starmer, saying little or doing much. Power without a purpose. All of Starmer’s proposals to date are more of the same as the Tories are offering. Yet, we need to change because… Read more »

Neil
Neil
2 months ago
Reply to  Maesglas

Im on the fence with Labour, but i did like Drakeford. He was the best leader under covid and stuck to his guns on 20mph limits which will save lives.

Those in the running to replace him all look pretty awful. All of them are unionists

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
2 months ago
Reply to  Neil

I really hope Mick Antoniw will put himself forward.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Seconded! I was scratching my head to think of a fitting successor to Mr Drakeford, but could think of no one. The prospect of getting Messrs Gething or Miles makes me shudder, pathetic nonentities both in terms of gravitas and direction.

Wales deserves better!

Last edited 2 months ago by Padi Phillips
Karl
Karl
2 months ago

Good luck to him. Was the grown up often to the UK parliament toddlers.Glad he looked for different, shame our politics prevented him from further policies for all. I don’t vote Labour since their UK party obsession with the bigots vote and not facing reality since. Shame his legacy is not indy or at least Welsh Labour Indy. But room for a new voice to tackle the hate laid at us by Westminster

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
2 months ago

Best wishes to you Professor Drakeford. Diolch am bopeth.

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

And another Anglo puppet comes and goes. Believing foolishly in a United Kingdom that won’t ever put its nations on equal footing. The UK is fundamentally designed to put England first and then for good measure, England last. Scotland is an afterthought and Wales is treated like it’s on the other side of the moon.

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago

Decent run. Seemed a decent bloke as well even if I didn’t agree with everything he did.
How many PM’s has ARTD worshiped in Mr Drakford’s tenure? 4 is it? 6 chancellors, 4 sec state for Wales, 4 deputy PM’s, wow, the Cons run through quite a few people in that time.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
2 months ago

Good luck to Mark Drakeford, he seems like a decent bloke. Who will replace him? Who could replace him? Welsh branch of Labour full of non entities with no vision.

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