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Welsh Labour leadership election 2024: How did Wales choose its new first minister?

How did Welsh Labour elect its leader?

On 16 March 2024, Vaughan Gething was announced as the new leader of Welsh Labour.
On 16 March 2024, Vaughan Gething was announced as the new leader of Welsh Labour.

On 13 December 2023, first minister Mark Drakeford announced his resignation as leader of Welsh Labour, triggering a leadership election to fill the vacancy. On 16 March 2024, Welsh Labour members elected Vaughan Gething as new party leader, who was then formally appointed as first minister following a vote in the Senedd on 20 March. 

How did Welsh Labour elect its next leader?

The Welsh Labour Executive Committee met on 13 December 2023 to agree the following timeline: 55 Ruth Mosalski, ‘Who is going to replace Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader’ WalesOnline, 13 December 2023, retrieved 22 December 2023,

  • 18 December: Nominations open
  • 21 December: Member of the Senedd (MS) nominations close and candidates meeting the minimum threshold of support are announced
  • 29 January: CLP and affiliate nominations close and final candidates are announced
  • 30 January: Hustings period begins
  • 16 February: Ballot opens
  • 21 February: Hustings period ends
  • 14 March: Ballot closes
  • 16 March: New Welsh Labour leader is announced

Candidates for Welsh Labour leader needed to be Members of the Senedd (MSs) and to receive nominations from either: 20% of Labour MSs, 10% of MSs and 20% of Constituency Labour Parties, or 10% of MSs and three nominations from Welsh Labour affiliated organisations, including two affiliated trade unions.

There were 30 Labour MSs, so 20% of the Senedd Group was six MS nominations. On 21 December, it was confirmed that Jeremy Miles had secured 17 and Vaughan Gething 11 MS nominations (including their self-nominations) meaning they would be the only names on the ballot. 56 Only 28 nominations were listed as neither Mark Drakeford nor Chief Whip Jane Hutt opted to back a candidate.  By the 29 January deadline, 15 CLPs had nominated Miles and 14 Gething, with three CLPs not nominating. Gething received nine affiliate and trade union endorsements to Miles’ eight.  

The election was held on a one-member-one-vote basis, with all Welsh Labour members that joined the party before 12 December (the day before Drakeford resigned) eligible to vote. Welsh Labour does not share how many members it has, but 57.8% of party members and 9.4% of affiliates voted. 57 Gabriel McKay, ‘Vaughan Gething wins First Minister of Wales leadership battle’, The Herald, 16 March 2024, retrieved 16 March 2024,

Vaughan Gething was elected as Welsh Labour leader on 16 March. He received 51.7% of the vote.

What is the process to appoint a new first minister?

Mark Drakeford remained first minister until the conclusion of the Welsh Labour leadership contest, and submitted his resignation to the King on 19 March. The Senedd then had up to 28 days to nominate a replacement. 58 Government of Wales Act 2006 c.32 s 46.  Nominations took place on 20 March.

Any MS was entitled to stand to become first minister. In the event, in addition to Vaughan Gething, the leaders of the Welsh Conservative Party and Plaid Cymru, Andrew RT Davies and Rhun ap Iorwerth respectively, also put their names forward.

All candidates for the post set out their case to become first minister before MSs voted for their preferred candidate. Gething was successfully nominated, winning 27 votes, compared with 13 for Davies and 11 for ap Iorwerth. In addition to the 26 Labour MSs, the leader of Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds voted for Gething. 59 Sky news, ‘Vaughan Gething nominated as First Minister of Wales in Senedd’, 20 March 2024, retrieved 21 March 2024,Vaughan%20Gething%20nominated%20as%20First%20Minister%20of%20Wales%20in%20Senedd,Liberal%20Democrat%20leader%2C%20Jane%20Dodds.&text=Mr%20Gething%20will%20officially%20receive,King%20bestows%20it%20upon%20him.

Having secured the most votes Gething was declared the nominee. 60 Welsh Parliament, Standing Orders of the Welsh Parliament, Welsh Parliament, September 2023, retrieved 9 January 2024,  Had no nominations for first minister been made within 28 days, the process to hold an ‘extraordinary general election’ would have been triggered. 61 Government of Wales Act 2006 c.32 s 5.

After the Senedd’s nomination, the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) formally recommended Gething to the King for appointment as first minister. 62 ibid, s 47.  A royal warrant was then issued appointing Gething as first minister. He accepted the appointment by taking the oath of office before a senior judge on 20 March, becoming the first black leader of a government in the UK. 63 Adrian Browne and David Deans, ‘Vaughan Gething confirmed as Wales' new first minister’, BBC News, 20 March 2024, retrieved 21 March 2024,

Who stood to succeed Mark Drakeford?

There were two candidates in the race to replace Mark Drakeford.

Then minister for the economy Vaughan Gething, who announced he would be standing to be leader on 14 December 2023, 64 Vaughan Gething, Tweet, 14 December 2023,  has been an MS since 2011 and served as minister for health and social services from 2016 until 2021. He came second in the 2018 leadership election.  

Jeremy Miles, minister for education and the Welsh language, announced he would stand to replace Drakeford on 18 December 2023. 65 Jeremy Miles, Tweet, 18 December 2023,  An MS since 2016, Miles was previously minister for European transition from 2018 until 2021.  

What were the candidates' platforms?

On 8 January 2024, Miles set out ‘six pledges for Wales’ future’: to stimulate the green economy, invest in education, cut NHS waiting lists, provide more social housing, re-regulate the buses, and strengthen Welsh democracy, including by devolving power within Wales. 66 Jeremy Miles, Tweet, 8 January 2024,

On 15 January 2024, Gething launched his campaign with five priorities for Wales: to create a new ‘Welsh Health Covenant’ where health and social care funding per head will not fall below that of England, invest in infrastructure, increase green jobs, improve standards in schools, and increase devolution – including out of Cardiff and into communities. 67 Labour List, ‘Vaughan Gething campaign launch speech, ‘A first Black European leader would show we can all realise our potential’’, Labour List, 15 January 2024, retrieved 16 January 2024,

Both candidates called for a review of the 20mph speed limit policy. 68 Arron Evans, ‘Vaughan Gething 'keen' for 20mph review amid backlash’, North Wales Chronicle, 26 December 2023, retrieved 9 January 2024,

Will the change of first minister impact the Labour-Plaid Cooperation Agreement?

The Labour-Plaid Cymru Cooperation Agreement, signed on 1 December 2021, works to ensure that the two parties cooperate on defined policy commitments. Having won 30 of the 60 Senedd seats at the 2021 election, Labour lacked an overall majority, and the agreement aimed to deliver a “stable Senedd, capable of delivering radical change and reform." 69 Welsh Government, ‘The Co-operation Agreement: 2021’, Welsh Government, 22 November 2021, retrieved 9 January 2024,

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru leader when the agreement was signed, stepped down in May 2023. At that time Mark Drakeford stated that the agreement was between parties rather than individuals. 70 David Deans, ‘Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price quits after damning report’, BBC News, 11 May 2023, retrieved 9 January 2024,

The agreement expires in December 2024, and neither Welsh Labour leadership candidate has argued for ending the agreement early. However, new Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth has confirmed that he will not seek to renew the agreement once it expires. 71 Will Hayward, ‘The Rhun ap Iorwerth interview, 'I will end the cooperation agreement after Mark Drakeford stands down'’, Wales Online, 6 October 2023, retrieved 9 January 2024,

How have previous first ministers of Wales been chosen?

Gething is the fifth person to hold the post since devolution began in 1999. 

All four previous first ministers have been Welsh Labour leaders. Three of the four have taken the post midway through a Senedd session.

An Institute for Government timeline chart showing previous first ministers of Wales from May 1999 to January 2024 and their length of tenure. Rhodri Morgan is shown as the longest serving first minister.

The first Welsh first minister (then titled first secretary) was Alun Michael, who, backed by prime minister Tony Blair, became Welsh Labour leader in October 1998. Michael won the contest due to strong trade union support; his rival Rhodri Morgan won more votes amongst Welsh Labour party members.

Michael was selected as Welsh Assembly leader after the first devolved election in May 1999, but resigned less than a year later when facing defeat on a confidence motion. 

Morgan was the only candidate to replace Michael as Welsh Labour leader. His nomination to become first minister was also unopposed. 72 Geoffrey Gibbs and Lucy Ward, ‘Morgan pledges to heal Labour wounds in Wales’, The Guardian, 12 February 2000, retrieved 9 January 2024, He was reappointed first minister after the 2003 and 2007 elections, and served until December 2009.

Upon Morgan’s retirement, Carwyn Jones defeated Edwina Hart and Huw Lewis to become the new Welsh Labour leader. Jones’ initial nomination as first minister was unopposed, and he was reappointed after the 2011 election. 

After the 2016 election, Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, was also nominated. There was a tie in the Senedd first minister nomination vote, but Jones was re-elected after inter-party negotiations.

Jones served until 2018, following which Mark Drakeford, then finance secretary, beat Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan to become the new party leader.

Drakeford was then nominated alongside the leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, but received the most votes. After the 2021 election he was nominated unopposed.

United Kingdom
Political party
Labour Plaid Cymru
Devolved administration
Welsh government
Public figures
Mark Drakeford
Institute for Government

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