Following Carwyn Jones’s announcement that he will stand down as Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister, the race is on to succeed him. Here’s the run down on the main contenders.
The Momentum Man
Drakeford is the hot favourite to succeed Carwyn Jones. He was the architect of Rhodri Morgan’s left-wing “clear red water” policy in the early days of devolution. As an academic, he easily combines being cerebral with a down-to-earth approach that many in Welsh Labour ranks warm to.
Drakeford is close to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and was the only Welsh government cabinet minister to publicly back his leadership campaign. A darling of the Welsh Labour Grassroots / Momentum faction within the party, he is close to the UK leadership personally and politically.
As the party surveys the damage done by Jones’s handling of the Carl Sargeant affair, Drakeford is seen as a man of integrity who would give members stability and an opportunity to heal the divisions that have grown over recent months. He is likely to run, but is still to firmly make up his mind and is consulting his family this evening. An OMOV election should see him win comfortably over all other challengers.
The Continuity Candidate
Believed to have the backing of several of Carwyn Jones’s current and former aides, Gething is the first BAME Welsh Labour minister and a polished performer. A Blairite who was first tipped as a future first minister in 1999 when he played a leading role in Alun Michael’s controversial campaign against Rhodri Morgan.
The ambitious, media-savvy lawyer and former Labour Students chair has been active in Welsh political power circles since his teens. However as Health Secretary his stewardship of the Welsh NHS has attracted criticism, where waiting lists and ambulance waits have increased in comparison to England.
Gething has a reputation amongst some of his colleagues for being aloof and whilst he has had a campaign team in place for a number of years, his star has waned over recent months. Under an electoral college he could well have corralled Welsh party apparatchiks backing to boost his bid. With OMOV, the Drakeford Momentum juggernaut is likely to prevail, barring a major upset.
The Dark Horse
As a first term AM fast tracked into cabinet, Jeremy Miles’s friends and sympathisers are found mainly amongst the new intake of AMs and MPs and younger figures on the party’s modernising wing.
A self-styled reformer who is not afraid to speak his mind, he attracted attention within weeks of his election when he warned that the future of devolution could be in peril after Wales voted Leave in the EU referendum.
As Welsh Attorney General he is able and erudite but if he fails to define himself early on as an insurgent battling establishment forces, he risks being dismissed by many rank and file members as just another slick lawyer.
Ken Skates: Until recently, when people speculated about who would replace Carwyn Jones the focus was always on a straight fight between the Welsh economy secretary Ken Skates and health secretary, Vaughan Gething. Well liked and energetic. The tragic death of his close friend Carl Sargeant hit Skates hard and he is thought to be inclined to sit out the race this time.
Eluned Morgan: Morgan is the female frontrunner. An experienced MEP and Welsh speaker, she is talented but in a crowded field of left-wing candidates, it’s unlikely she would be able to mobilise the the same level of support as Drakeford. Morgan is seriously hamstrung by being a Regional Assembly Member. As a result of the vagaries of Assembly electoral process, her re-election in the election of 2021, cannot be guaranteed.
Huw Irranca Davies: As a former MP, Davies has some profile and experience as a UK government minister but it’s difficult to see a path to victory for the Ogmore AM. A loyal party servant, he has struggled to carve out his own identity, and has no real support base amongst AMs and MPs.