Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford steps down

LONDON — Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader of Cardiff’s devolved government, has announced his intention to step down.

The first minister resigned as Welsh Labour leader Wednesday with immediate effect. He said he will then step down as first minister following a leadership election in the new year.

“Nominations for my successor as Welsh Labour leader will open shortly and I’m confident the process can be concluded by the end of the spring term,” Drakeford told a hastily arranged press conference. “That will enable the name of the winner of that contest to be put to the Senedd [Welsh parliament] before the Easter recess.”

Drakeford has served as first minister for exactly five years, winning a new term as leader of the devolved government in Welsh parliament elections in 2021. He had already signaled his intention to quit before 2024 and said he would serve only five years at the top of Welsh politics.

A figure from Labour’s left wing, Drakeford was thrust into the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic, when the first minister locked horns with then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the divide between Welsh and U.K. pandemic policy.

“Dear me, he really, really is awful,” Drakeford proclaimed following a meeting with Johnson, in footage captured by a documentary.

“The next Welsh Labour leader and first minister will, I hope, have the opportunity, which has not come my way, to work with a newly elected Labour government in London,” Drakeford said Wednesday, referencing his party’s huge lead in opinion polling for the next Westminster election.

“There will be plenty of time for political obituaries and retrospection once I cease to be first minister,” he added. “But not before.”