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by Kirsteen Paterson
13 December 2023
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford resigns

Mark Drakeford at Labour conference | Alamy

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford resigns

The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has announced his resignation, saying the "time has now come" for him to stand down.

A contest will now be held to replace him as leader of the Welsh Government and Welsh Labour.

The veteran politician had signalled his intention to leave the role during the current parliamentary term.

In a statement, he said he will remain in post as FM until a new Welsh Labour leader is elected by party members. 

That decision is expected by Easter.

Drakeford said it had been "a great privilege" to serve as the leader of Welsh Labour and vowed to "work tirelessly" to "return a Labour UK Government and start repairing the huge damage which has been inflicted by the Tories over the last 13 years".

The Cardiff West MS has been first minister for five years, having served in the Senedd since 2011.

He will turn 70 in December and his resignation statement comes on the anniversary of his election as leader of Welsh Labour.

On that election, he pledged to carry on the "radical socialist traditions" established by Labour figureheads like Aneurin Bevan.

His resignation follows the publication of opinion polling which put his popularity at an 18-month low.

The research by ITV Wales/YouGov BarnCymru found 56 per cent of those asked said he was doing a bad job as FM.

Former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sent her "very best wishes" to Drakeford, saying: "He was without doubt one of the most decent, dedicated, principled, and impressive politicians I had the privilege of working with in my time as FM. He will be the hardest of acts to follow."

In a statement, Drakeford said: "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, climate crisis, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and four different prime ministers so far, there will be lots to reflect upon.

"For now, I will continue to be fully focused on delivering the promises we made to people across Wales in the last Senedd election. The next Welsh leader and first minister will, I hope, have an opportunity which has not come my way and that is to work with a newly-elected Labour government in London, and I will work as hard as I can to see that Labour government elected."

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