Vaughan Gething sworn in as First Minister of Wales

New Welsh Labour leader Vaughan Gething has been sworn in as the First Minister of Wales.

He succeeds Mark Drakeford, who resigned in an emotional speech on Tuesday after holding the position since 2018.

Mr Gething, 50, was elected as the Welsh government leader by Members of the Senedd on Wednesday.

He is expected to form a cabinet in the next few days.

He had the support of the Labour members present as well as Jane Dodds, the Senedd’s only Liberal Democrat member.

Conservative and Plaid Cymru members voted for their respective party leaders.

The opposition parties putting forward alternative choices was largely symbolic, with neither having enough votes to secure the role.

In total, Mr Gething received 27 out of 51 votes.

Labour’s Jenny Rathbone – who Mr Gething was caught on a live broadcast during the pandemic saying “what the f*** is the matter with her” –  did not attend.

His opponents, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth, received 13 and 11 respectively.

The Senedd is made up of 60 members, but one member of Plaid – Rhys ab Owen – is currently suspended for acting inappropriately towards two women on a work night out.

Addressing the Senedd following his nomination, Mr Gething, who is the first black leader of any European country, spoke of the historic significance of his election.

New First Minister of Wales
Vaughan Gething in the Senedd in Cardiff after becoming the new First Minister of Wales (Welsh Government/PA)

He said: “We have, of course, today voted also to ensure that Wales becomes the first nation anywhere in Europe to be led by a black person.

“It is a matter of pride for a modern Wales but also a daunting responsibility for me – and one that I do not take lightly.

“Today, we can also expect the depressingly familiar pattern to emerge: abuse on social media, racist tropes disguised with polite language.

“People questioning my motives and, yes, they will still question or deny my nationality, whilst others question why I’m ‘playing the race card’.

“To those people, I say once more – it is very easy not to care about identity when your own has never once been questioned or held you back.”

The new First Minister said he wanted to lead a Wales of “hope, ambition and unity” that “can celebrate our differences and take pride in all of those things that draw us together”.

He also used his speech to criticise the UK government, which he accused of undermining Welsh devolution.

He said: “We have seen unprecedented hostility towards democratic Welsh devolution from a UK government determined to undermine, frustrate and bypass the Welsh government and this Senedd.

“As well as leaving Wales with less say over less money, it is deeply corrosive, wasteful and undemocratic.

“As First Minister, I look forward to standing up for Wales and for devolution in the weeks and months to come.”

Mr Gething wrote to the King, who approved his position.

New First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething signs his affirmation
New First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething signs his affirmation (Ben Birchall/PA)

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak congratulated Mr Gething on his election and paid tribute to Mark Drakeford on his retirement.

The Prime Minister added: “The government I lead will always work tirelessly to benefit the lives of people across the United Kingdom and I look forward to working constructively with the new First Minister to deliver for the people of Wales.”

Sir Keir Starmer thanked Mr Sunak for welcoming the new Welsh First Minister, adding: “As the first black leader of any European government it is a historic moment that speaks to the progress and values of modern-day Wales.”

The Welsh Tory and Plaid leaders have congratulated Mr Gething on his appointment.

Mr ap Iorwerth added that the new First Minister inherited “significant challenges” and Plaid would leave “no stone unturned” in holding him to account.

He said: “We know the Labour leadership campaign was divisive, but we also saw a paucity of new ideas.

“The people of Wales will rightly be thinking that what lies ahead is likely to be more of the same.”

Mr RT Davies, the Conservative leader, said Mr Gething has an opportunity for a “fresh start”.

He said: “Our message to Vaughan is clear: If you are prepared to scrap plans for more politicians, to scrap the 20mph speed limit, and scrap the Sustainable Farming Scheme as it stands in its current form, we will work with you to deliver the people’s priorities.”

Welsh Labour members narrowly chose Mr Gething to be their next party leader on Saturday, with him receiving 51.7% of the vote compared woth rival Jeremy Miles on 48.3%.

Mark Drakeford’s replacement
Vaughan Gething (left) talks to former first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones (Ben Birchall/PA)

He is the country’s fifth leader since the National Assembly for Wales, now called the Senedd, was established in 1999, and the first black leader of any European country.

However, the BBC has reported that 14 Welsh Labour politicians met earlier this week to discuss concerns about a £200,000 donation Mr Gething received from a company that was found guilty of environmental offences in January.

Atlantic Recycling, which is part of Dauson Environmental Group and controlled by David Neal, gave the new First Minister’s campaign £100,000 on December 18 2023 and £100,000 on January 11 2024.

Atlantic Recycling was also fined £300,000 over one of its workers’ deaths in February after it pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety at work rules.

Mr Gething and his team have rejected calls to pay back the money, insisting the donation was declared in line with Senedd and Electoral Commission rules and that the minister is committed to transparency.

Mr Gething defended his decision to take the donation and said “everyone has lessons to learn”.

Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford during his final First Minister’s Questions at the Senedd in Cardiff (Welsh Government/PA)

The outgoing first minister, Mr Drakeford gave an emotional speech in the Senedd on Tuesday, thanking the people of Wales.

He said: “My aim throughout, as first minister, has been to use the mandate my party and my government secured to keep the promises we made to people across Wales.

“That has meant being prepared to do the things that are difficult today because we know that the benefits will lie in the lives of the generations to come.”

He was emotional as he spoke about the personal tragedy he had suffered in early 2023, when his wife of 46 years, Clare, died suddenly aged 71.

Mr Drakeford, who will return to the back benches, described the last 12 months as the “hardest and the saddest of my life”.