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Starmer ‘will be better PM than opposition leader’ says Mark Drakeford

05 Jul 2024 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford and Keir Starmer

Martin Shipton

Keir Starmer will make a better Prime Minister than he has been a Leader of the Opposition, according to former First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The Cardiff West MS was a supporter and friend of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom he wished well following his victory over the official Labour candidate in the London seat of Islington North, which he has represented since 1983.


When it was put to him by BBC journalist Nick Servini that Keir Starmer was not his kind of Labour leader, Mr Drakeford said: “I have voted for every Labour leader there has been throughout the whole of my adult life, and I’m very keen indeed to see Keir Starmer succeed.

“I have always thought myself that he will make a better Prime Minister than he has been the Leader of the Opposition – a terrible job, the worst job in British politics.

“I’ve known Keir a long time now and I think his strengths will come much to the fore in the sort of qualities you need to become a successful Prime Minister. I mean his forensic ability to get on top of detail. Other things – his ability to think through how a problem that you need to solve, and not just the first move and the second move, but where the third move will take you. I think that ability to get on top of the detail and to be a strategic thinker about things, which I think he’s demonstrated in his earlier career, and he certainly demonstrated when he was Labour’s Brexit spokesman.”

Lack of money

Asked about the lack of money that will be available to Sir Keir, the former First Minister said: “He could hardly have been clearer about that. I don’t think there can be anybody out there who has voted in this election who hadn’t heard him and [new Chancellor] Rachel Reeves say that there’s not going to be much extra money for the first couple of years of a Labour government. You’re right – there won’t be that much more money.

“That doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t other really important things that this Labour government can get on with that need to be done. I was very pleased to see in the manifesto a clear commitment to a two-stage reform of the House of Lords, beginning immediately with the abolition of all the hereditaries and then moving on to an elected house. These are things that don’t cost a lot of money, but they will fundamentally alter the constitutional geography of the UK.”

Asked about the end of a 14-year period in which the Welsh Government has been able to blame a Tory government in Westminster for failings, Mr Drakeford said: “I would much, much rather be in a position of having a Labour government to work with than a Conservative government that was always determined to work against what was going on in Wales.

“I spent the first decade of devolution working in the First Minister’s office [as an adviser to Rhodri Morgan] and I can just tell you the enormous difference it makes when you know that if you put in a call from a Labour First Minister to a Labour colleague in London, that call will always be answered. You always knew if Rhodri needed to speak to a senior figure – not just the Prime Minister, but people in different departments when you were dealing with issues – you’d always get a call answered, there would always be a chance to share ideas.

“I couldn’t get a call out of Rishi Sunak when Tata announced 3,000 job losses in Port Talbot. I can’t tell you the contrast between the ability to do things together and the ability never to be able to find an answer.”

Vaughan Gething

Asked what he thought his successor as First Minister Vaughan Gething would have to show from such relationship with Keir Starmer with a Senedd election getting closer, Mr Drakeford said: “I think there’s a series of things he will see in Labour’s manifesto that he will certainly be looking to have – the restoration of money and power to the Senedd over successor funds to European funding.

“The Labour manifesto says ‘restore’ – in other words go back to the way things were before. The way things were before was there was a European framework that we all operated within. There will be a UK framework – I’ve no problem with that. We are used to having a wider framework. But the operational decisions – the way that money is deployed – should be made here in Wales and should be made through the lead of the Labour government here in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford went on to say that the Tories had created a situation where there was an erosion of hope, with people either staying at home and not voting, or voting against them rather than for another party.

Presenter Nick Servini put it to the former First Minister that Mr Gething, had not helped create stability by accepting a £200k donation from a businessman convicted of pollution offences.

Mr Drakeford didn’t respond directly, but said: “Vaughan has had a very tough start to his time as First Minister. I feel hugely personally sympathetic for him, because he’s a much, much better person than he is portrayed sometimes.

He’s a thoughtful, hardworking person who takes good decisions when he’s been a minister.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 days ago

When it comes to productive working relationships and the outcomes for those effected would you say…

a. My interactions with Fat Shanks proved better or worse for the people of Cymru than

b. that of the current First Minister and Clark of Kent might promise…

Sadly a great many lives depended on your relations with Fat Shanks and the leader of the opposition but we were not allowed to go there, eh! Mr Drakeford…

9 days ago

Yeah no he won’t. He’s like a wind chime. He just makes noise going along with whichever direction the wind is blowing. He’s a tickbox moralist. An empty centrist populist husk who has convinced himself that he is pragmatist.
That’s a lot of -ists can legitimately pinned to him.
Being an -ist is rarely a good thing.

9 days ago

Wales – this is why I hate and love you. We are the most politically illiterate people on earth! Voting Labour and Not PC is why things in this country will never change. The UK state plays us for the fools we are in the gleeful understanding that we will only ever vote Labour.

9 days ago

“I couldn’t get a call out of Rishi Sunak when Tata announced 3,000 job losses in Port Talbot” . This for me shows the clear deception that Drakeford has . He did get calls but referred them elsewhere mainly his business minister. He also fails to tell the times he refused to talk to Westminster. One way when convenient

Why vote
Why vote
9 days ago

Mates, bulling each other up, from a man that says Gething is the perfect leader for Wales.

9 days ago

Maybe people like me are wrong and Labour will rescue this country from its current crash course, but it’s more likely that the electorate will now be treated to the disastrous reality of Labour’s ideologies. Untrammelled immigration, the emboldenment of political Islam, gender ideology enshrined in law, and the economic suicide of Net Zero, will all become a reality over the next few years: anyone who voted Labour had better not complain about any of it.

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
9 days ago

Mark Drakeford praising Sir Kier Starmer’s leadership, wonder why old Mark remains so quiet about Vaughan Gething!

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