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Wales to elect 'first black leader in any European country'


Vaughan Gething has been elected as the next Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales. /CFP
Vaughan Gething has been elected as the next Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales. /CFP

Vaughan Gething has been elected as the next Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales. /CFP

Vaughan Gething won the Welsh Labour Party leadership contest on Saturday, meaning he will become the first black leader of the semi-autonomous government in Wales.

"Today, we turn a page in the book of our nation's history .... not just because I have the honor of becoming the first black leader in any European country, but because the generational dial has jumped too," Gething, 50, said in a speech after the result was announced.

"Devolution is not something that I have had to get used to, or to adapt to, or to apologize for. Devolution, Welsh solutions to Welsh problems and opportunities is in my blood," added Gething, currently minister for economy.

Gething will replace incumbent Mark Drakeford who in December announced his departure after five years leading the Welsh government, which has responsibility for a limited number of devolved areas including health and education.

Keir Starmer, leader of Britain's Labour Party which opinion polls show as likely to win power in a national election due later this year, congratulated Gething in a statement.

"His appointment as first minister of Wales, the first black leader in the UK, will be an historic moment that speaks to the progress and values of modern-day Wales," Starmer said in a statement.

"On behalf of the entire UK Labour Party, we look forward to campaigning with Vaughan in this new chapter for Wales, to deliver Labour governments across Britain."

Drakeford will resign as first minister of Wales on March 19, the Labour Party said in a statement, with the Welsh parliament, the Senedd, formally set to elect the next leader on March 20.

Also congratulating Gething on the win, Conservative British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on social media that he was committed to working together constructively.


Political transitions

Gething was born in Zambia to a white father from Wales and a black Zambian mother. Once he takes office, the leaders of three of the UK's four governments will be non-white. Sunak is of Indian descent, while the parents of Scotland's pro-independence first minister Humza Yousaf migrated from Pakistan.

Drakeford's departure will herald the latest political transition in the UK. Yousaf took office last year while Michelle O'Neill made history last month by becoming Northern Ireland's first Irish nationalist leader.

Drakeford has been first minister since December 2018, and seen four UK prime ministers come and go.

His tenure was dominated by the effects of austerity policies of the Conservative government in London, then Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Drakeford's regular televised appearances throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and his cautious approach to lifting restrictions, boosted his prominence among the Welsh public.

But his popularity slumped after he refused to back down on a decision to impose lower speed limits in built-up areas.

In 1998, Tony Blair's Labour government devolved a number of powers, including healthcare, transport and social policies, from London to new legislatures in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The UK government sets policies for England, but also retains control over UK-wide issues such as foreign policy and defense.

Wales to elect 'first black leader in any European country'

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Source(s): AFP ,Reuters
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