Mark Drakeford to leave before the end of the next Senedd term

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford. Source: CPMR (via Flickr)
If re-elected as First Minister next May, Mark Drakeford has said he will leave the role when he turns 70, leaving the role before the 2026 Welsh election.

By Dewi Morris | Political Editor

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that if re-elected as First Minister during the Welsh Parliament elections next May, he will leave the role when he turns 70.

The 65-year-old became First Minister and leader of the Welsh Labour Party in December 2018, following the departure of the former First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

Drakeford told BBC Politics Wales on Sunday morning:

“My plan is, if I’m able to do it, I will lead the Labour Party in Wales into May’s election next year.

“If we’re successful I will form a government, I will serve as head of that government well in to the next Senedd term and then my plan will be to hand it on to somebody else in advance of an election.”

A challenging time as First Minister

Drakeford’s time as First Minister has been dominated by discussions on Britain’s departure from the European Union and the Coronavirus pandemic. It has been a turbulent time, with records showing the worst polling results ever recorded for the Welsh Labour Party in July last year.

During the European Parliamentary elections in 2019, the Welsh Labour Party won the least seats in Wales. For the first time, the Welsh Labour Party won fewer seats than Plaid Cymru.

Since then, despite winning the majority in the December 2019 General Election in Wales, Labour has lost 6 of their seats to the Welsh Conservative Party, who received their best vote share in Wales since 1910.

However, in recent months, Drakeford’s popularity has been increasing amongst the public.

The YouGov Welsh Political Barometer for June 2020 indicated an increase in popularity for First Minister Drakeford. Popularity ratings for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, has decreased since the previous YouGov Welsh Political Barometer in April.

What has the response been?

Opposition parties within Wales have responded to First Minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement. Many have criticised the First Minister’s statement, claiming that he ought to remain in the role until the end of his term.

The Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd Paul Davies stated,

“The people of Wales don’t need a caretaker First Minister… We need someone who’s committed to the long term and I will give them that commitment.”

Plaid Cymru also responded to the news, expressing,

“Voters next May will have the choice between voting for another distracting internal Labour battle in a few years, or backing Adam Price who would be a relentlessly focused First Minister.”

Despite the criticism the First Minister has faced following this announcement, recent survey polls have indicated that the Welsh Labour Party is likely to lead in the May 2021 Welsh Parliament elections.

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