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Vaughan Gething to be the next first minister of Wales

Vaughan Gething has been elected as the next Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales, the first black leader of any European country.

Welsh Labour members have chosen Mr Gething, 49, to be their next party leader, succeeding Mark Drakeford, who has held the position since 2018.

Mr Gething beat his only rival, the education minister Jeremy Miles.

Welsh Labour said Vaughan Gething achieved 51.7% of the vote compared to rival Jeremy Miles with 48.3%.

In total, 57.8% of members voted and 9.4% of affiliates, giving an overall turnout of 16.1%.

The current minister for the economy, Mr Gething is expected to be declared the country’s fifth leader since the National Assembly for Wales, now called the Senedd, was established in 1999.

His appointment as Welsh Labour leader was announced on Saturday morning in a lecture hall at Cardiff University.

However, he will not take over as first minister until Wednesday – when a vote will be held in the Senedd.

Addressing Labour’s membership, Mr Gething said: “Today we turn the page in the book of our nation’s history.

“A history that we write together.

“Not just because I have the honour of becoming the first black leader in any European country, but because the generational dial has jumped too.

“Devolution is not something that I have had to get used to or adapt to or apologise for.

“Devolution – Welsh solutions to Welsh problems and opportunities – is in my blood, it’s what I’ve always known through my adult political life, and that is the same for a growing number of our citizens.

“I want us to use this moment as a starting point, for a more confident march into the future.

“A march into the future on behalf of the generation that too often is being asked to pick up the pieces and the bill for those who came before them.”

Vaughan Gething is congratulated by his wife Michelle
Vaughan Gething is congratulated by his wife Michelle (Ben Birchall/PA)

He said in adversity the Welsh cannot be matched, “fighting tooth and nail” for the impossible to happen.

“Wales has every right to be confident, Yma o Hyd (still here) is no longer enough.

“Of course we’re still here, we have always been here, we always will be here.”

He also offered praise for his predecessor, Mr Drakeford and opponent, Mr Miles.

Jeremy Miles
Jeremy Miles failed in his Welsh Labour leadership bid (PA)

He described Mr Drakeford as the “right leader at the right time,” with a “forensic approach” to public policy through the pandemic.

On Mr Miles he said he hoped “once the dust settled” they would be friends.

He said: “Jeremy, the story that you have told, the example you have already set and the ideas that you have promoted in this campaign have already helped to change Wales for the better.”

The handover in power comes as Wales faces a challenging time, including farmers protesting, NHS waiting lists hitting record highs and an economy recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Only Welsh Labour members or part of an affiliated organisation, such as a trade union, were able to participate in the vote – meaning about 100,000 people were able to take part.

Mr Gething had the backing of most of the large unions, and Lord Kinnock, who led the UK party from 1983 to 1992.

While Mr Miles saw support from the majority of the Labour members of the Senedd.

The leadership race has not been without controversy, most of which has centred on Mr Gething.

Vaughan Gething arrives with his son Isaac, at Cardiff University, after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader
Vaughan Gething arrives with his son Isaac, at Cardiff University, after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader (Ben Birchall/PA)

There have been a string of concerns raised around £200,000 of donations to Mr Gething from a company which was found guilty of environmental offences in January.

Atlantic Recycling, which is part of Dauson Environmental Group and controlled by David Neal, gave Mr Gething £100,000 on December 18 2023 and £100,000 on January 11 2024.

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

Earlier this week the BBC revealed that Mr Gething had lobbied regulators in favour of the company, asking Natural Resources Wales to ease restrictions on Atlantic Recycling in 2016.

Mr Gething and his team have always insisted the donation was declared in line with Senedd and Electoral Commission rules and that the minister is committed to transparency.

Early in the campaign concerns were also raised over the Unite union’s backing of Mr Gething, after his opponent was disqualified because he has never held “elected lay office as representatives of workers”.

Mr Miles said it was “a new rule that no-one was aware of” and that members were unhappy.

But Unite insisted it had carried out the nomination process correctly and Mr Gething said it was up to the union to determine its own democratic processes.

Labour supporters clap Vaughan Gething, at Cardiff University, after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales
Labour supporters clap Vaughan Gething, at Cardiff University, after being elected as the next Welsh Labour leader (Ben BirchallPA)

Unlike previous Labour leadership elections, all the votes are equally weighted.

Selection in the past has used an “electoral college” system, giving greater weight to MPs and Members of the Senedd.

Mr Drakeford is not expected to stand down immediately, with his final first minister’s questions on March 19.

A vote will also need to take place in the Senedd at which opposition groups can put forward their own candidates.

With Labour the largest party, it is unlikely that any other group would take the role.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “I congratulate Vaughan Gething on winning the Welsh Labour leadership election.

“If elected First Minister on Wednesday as expected, his party’s own record means he inherits significant challenges.

“He has sat around the Cabinet table and held key portfolios while Wales’s economy has stagnated, NHS waiting lists have grown, and child poverty remains a national scandal. Nothing said during the leadership campaign suggests that we will now see a gear-change in addressing these huge challenges.

“But he also brings his own personal issues. It is a matter of deep concern that we now have an incoming First Minister who before even taking up the highest public office is facing serious allegations and questions about his judgment.

“At the very least, Vaughan Gething should surely return the £200,000 campaign donation which has rightly drawn so much criticism from within his own party and beyond.

“This is not as good as it gets for Wales. The people of Wales deserve a party that has a real vision for the future – one that’s based on fairness and ambition, and that is what a vote for Plaid Cymru can offer.”

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, offered his congratulations to Mr Gething, pledging to work with him on a range of issues.

He said: “I daresay it will be business as usual because he’s been cut of the same cloth as Mark Drakeford, but I offer this to Vaughan Gething.

“As he comes in as First Minister, we’re happy to work with you as First Minister to get rid of 20MPH, to change the sustainable farming scheme and make sure there’s no more politicians coming to Cardiff Bay and to invest that money in the health service.”

Mr RT Davies accused Labour of having “a lot of extreme views” on its backbenches, promising to give Mr Gething the votes to “deliver common sense” and deliver improvements in the Welsh NHS, education and the economy.

“It’s time to deliver the people’s priorities,” he added.