New First Minister vows to stand up for Wales

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

Vaughan Gething vowed to stand up for Wales as he was formally nominated as Mark Drakeford’s successor as the next first minister.

Mr Gething won a crunch vote, which was conducted by roll call, and Elin Jones, the Senedd’s speaker or Llywydd, will now recommend his appointment to the King.

He received the backing of 26 Labour MSs plus Jane Dodds, the Lib Dems’ leader in Wales, while the Plaid Cymru and Conservative groups nominated their own leaders.

Addressing the chamber or Siambr for the first time as first minister-elect, Mr Gething began by paying tribute to Prof Drakeford’s leadership through the dark days of the pandemic.

The former economy and health minister, who was nominated by his predecessor, criticised “unprecedented hostility” towards democratic Welsh devolution in recent years.

‘Deeply corrosive’

Mr Gething accused the UK Government of being determined to “undermine, frustrate and bypass” the Welsh Government and Senedd.

“As well as leaving Wales with less say over less money, it is deeply corrosive, wasteful and undemocratic,” he said. “As first minister, I look forward to standing up for Wales and for devolution in the weeks and months to come.

“But I relish the opportunity to cooperate for Wales with a new UK Government that invests in partnership and in Wales’ future.”

Mr Gething, who beat Jeremy Miles in the leadership race with 51.7% of the vote, told MSs: “I want Wales to thrive in the sunshine that hope and social justice can offer all of us – no matter what our background, what we look like or who we love.

“Wales deserves more than just sunny spells where hope too often feels hard to find – we can embrace fresh optimism and new ambition for a fairer Wales built by all of us.”

‘Nasty populism’

Mr Gething, who will become Wales’ fifth first minister, said those who seek to amplify nasty populism are hungry for a disunited Wales.

“Our task, I believe, is to prevent the victory of division and hate by building bridges – by listening – by recreating a bond of trust between people and power,” he said.

“These are the ingredients of a kinder and more effective politics – one where we overcome the ruthless efforts to make our warm nation turn cold.

“As first minister, I will bring together a government that constantly makes the positive case for progressive politics, to remind people that only through coming together can we achieve for the many.”

‘Daunting responsibility’

Mr Gething, the first black leader of any nation in Europe, said it is a matter of pride for a modern Wales but a daunting personal responsibility that he will not take lightly.

He told the chamber: “Today we can also expect a depressingly familiar pattern to emerge with abuse on social media, racist tropes disguised with polite language, people questioning my motives and, yes, they will still question or deny my nationality.

“To those people I say once more: it is very easy not to care about identity when your own has never once been questioned or held you back.

“I believe the Wales of today and the future will be owned by all those decent people who recognise that our parliament and our government should look like our country.”

Mr Gething is expected to unveil his cabinet in the first week of recess, which starts on March 25, with Wales’ new first minister set for his first FMQs after Easter on April 16.


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