With Mark Drakeford coming out on top in the Welsh Labour leadership
contest, we look at the next steps to him becoming First Minister…
Mark Drakeford, the assembly member for Cardiff West since 2011, has been elected to replace Carwyn Jones as leader of Welsh Labour. The 64-year-old Carmarthenshire native, who has served as the Welsh Government’s finance secretary since 2016 and was previously health minister for three years, was billed as the strong favourite in the three-person leadership contest and is now in position to become the next first minister.
While Professor Drakeford’s election as leader of the Welsh Government is not guaranteed, he looks to be in a very strong position to secure enough votes in the Senedd. Here’s our guide to the next steps following his successful campaign.
In accordance with Section 47 of the Government of Wales Act 2006, the assembly must nominate a member to be appointed as first minister within 28 days of the incumbent FM tendering their resignation to the Queen. We know that Carwyn Jones intends to resign after taking his final FMQs on Tuesday 11th December, and that the vote to replace him is planned to take place on Wednesday 12th.
This will mirror what happened in 2009, where the Labour leadership result was announced the week before Carwyn Jones took office. Rhodri Morgan took his final FMQs on the Tuesday after the leadership result, and Carwyn Jones was nominated by AMs as his successor the following day – on Wednesday 9th December. Officially, he did not become First Minister until Thursday 10th December because the Queen had to approve the nomination.
If Mark Drakeford is the only person nominated for FM, the assembly’s presiding officer will state that she will recommend his appointment to the Queen without any vote taking place at all. If somebody else is nominated the presiding officer must invite each AM (except for the presiding and deputy presiding officers) to vote for a candidate. It is expected that both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives will nominate their respective leaders, Adam Price and Paul Davies.
In the event of a tie a further vote must take place, but – as happened in 2016 with the Leanne Wood challenge – the meeting can be brought to a close and the assembly reconvened at a later date to allow time for talks. In 2016, Carwyn Jones struck a deal with Plaid Cymru to end weeks of deadlock, and appointed Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams as Education Secretary to shore up votes.
It seems unlikely that Prof Drakeford will need to make a deal this time around, because independent AM Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who was appointed culture minister last November, also votes with the government.
Carwyn Jones appointed his first cabinet almost immediately: changes were announced on the day that he officially became FM. This time around, both Thursday 13th and Friday 14th December are strong possibilities given that they would allow new ministers the weekend to get to grips with their briefs.