Tributes pour in following news of Mark Drakeford’s resignation as First Minister
Tributes have poured in following the announcement that Mark Drakeford will resign as First Minister this coming spring.
Mr Drakeford made the announcement on Wednesday morning on the Members’ balcony of the Senedd oriel saying: “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.”
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.
Responding to Mark Drakeford’s announcement, Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “As he announces his departure I recognise and pay tribute to the First Minister’s dedication to public life and in particular the tone of his leadership through the pandemic.
“We have been able to build a constructive relationship in delivering transformative policies through the Co-Operation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru. Be it with Mark Drakeford or his successor, our priority has been and will be to deliver for Wales. That will continue to be our guiding principle.
“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.
“The First Minister told me in the Senedd yesterday that the question of his successor was ‘nothing to do’ with me. But who can become First Minister through an internal Labour party election matters to all of us.
“However, whoever is in charge of Labour in Wales, there’s no taking away from the fact that they take their orders from Keir Starmer, who has a blind spot to Wales’ and offers nothing to address our needs and aspirations.
“Unlike other parties, Plaid Cymru will always prioritise fairness and ambition for Wales.”
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies said the announcement shouldn’t be a “distraction” from delivering for Wales.
He 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.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Jane Dodds said the First Minister had shown nothing but “kindness” to her during her time at the Senedd.
She said: “I’d like to personally thank the First Minister for his leadership and dedication to Wales throughout his five years in the role.
“Whether you disagree or not with the First Minister and his government’s decisions, it would be untrue to say that Mark has lacked any passion for his job.
“Throughout his time in office, he was provided consistent and clear leadership that has steered this country through some difficult times and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.
“On a personal level, Mark has shown nothing but kindness and support to me throughout my time in the Senedd and for that I will forever be grateful. I wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.
“My message to the new First Minister is a simple one, set a new vision for Wales. We as a nation are facing multiple crises, in our NHS, our schools, our economy and with the cost of living.
“We desperately need fresh ideas and a real drive to radically change the future of our country for the better.”
Mr Drakeford will continue to work as First Minister until March next year, but today’s announcement has triggered a contest to find his successor.
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.”
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