Mark Drakeford wins Labour leadership contest

(Title Image: via BBC Wales)

The Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), has won the Welsh Labour leadership contest.

Labour didn’t reveal the exact number of votes, only the percentage (which would’ve led to a number of comments on membership figures and alike and, inevitably, comment on the seeming lack of interest amongst Labour members in Wales).

It was a two-stage vote, with second preferences of the candidate eliminated in the first round divided between the remaining candidates to give a winner.

Here’s the result:

Candidate First Preference Vote Second Preference Vote
Mark Drakeford AM 46.9% 53.9%
Vaughan Gething AM 30.8% 41.4%
Eluned Morgan AM 22.3% ELIMINATED

The outcome was as expected, but that’s a much closer result than many people would’ve anticipated and the fact it even went to a second round was something of a surprise.

You did get a sense that while Mark Drakeford enjoyed massive support from his colleagues in the Senedd and a seemingly unassailable lead, he perhaps didn’t enjoy this process very much and lacked a bit of verve. He was always going to be outclassed by the other two in terms of charisma and telegenics, but clearly Labour wanted a safe pair of hands, someone who knows the job of First Minister inside and out as well as being committed to securing Labour power in London– and that’s what they’re going to get.

I wouldn’t expect Labour to deviate too far from the 2016 manifesto commitments and if it’s anything you can say about Mark Drakeford, based on his record in the Senedd to date, he’s not one for taking big risks and he has a meticulous approach to policy. His ability to do the job is unquestionable, but when it comes to the theatre of politics and soft power, he’s at risk of being outclassed by the opposition (with the exception of UKIP).

It’s a strong showing for Vaughan Gething, who fought a neat, modern campaign. Based on the figures, he might’ve had the quiet backing of the party establishment and the trade unions while Mark Drakeford picked up more votes from members-at-large.

There’s nothing wrong with passion, but Vaughan did, at times, come across as aggressive in some of his criticisms of Mark Drakeford during the televised debates. I don’t think that’ll affect his chances of retaining a senior Cabinet position because he’s clearly very talented and capable (and Labour has a small talent pool as it is).

If Mark is true to his word and decides to stand down as leader sometime during the Sixth Assembly, then I would fully expect Vaughan to run again and if he learns from the mistakes made during this campaign he’ll probably be the early favourite (events permitting).

Eluned Morgan seems like a rough diamond. The elements are there, but it didn’t quite come together and her campaign seemed a bit disjointed and more like a collage compared to the simplicity of the Gething campaign and the ideological clarity of the Drakeford campaign. Portraying yourself as “the outsider” perhaps isn’t going to cut very well in Labour either – Labour being the Establishment party of Wales. It’s not exactly surprising that Eluned secured exactly the same share of the vote as Leanne Wood in Plaid’s contest – someone Eluned was clearly trying to emulate even if her campaign will perhaps never, ever admit it.

Eluned had the clearest idea of what she wanted to do with the leadership and was perhaps the only candidate to understand that Labour needs to reinvent itself to prevent a Scottish-style collapse (at some point in the future), but I don’t think her campaign was able to properly articulate it.

Her patchy performance as Minister to date wouldn’t warrant a promotion in my opinion, but I would be surprised if she didn’t receive some sort of promotion in any forthcoming reshuffle.

As for what happens next….

Carwyn Jones is due to resign as First Minister next Tuesday (11th December) immediately following First Minister’s Questions. The Queen has to formally accept his resignation before it becomes official.

AMs are then set to nominate a successor on Wednesday (12th December) – in practical terms that’ll be Mark Drakeford due to the coalition-that’s-not-a-coalition with Kirsty Williams and Dafydd Elis-Thomas, though you would expect the opposition parties to either nominate their own candidate or back one candidate as in May 2016. The nomination of the Senedd will then go to the Queen for approval.


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