Vaughan Gething to become first black leader of a European nation

Vaughan Gething will become Welsh First Leader next week. Picture: X.

Vaughan Gething will become Welsh First Leader next week. Picture: X.

Published Mar 16, 2024


Wales is set to appoint its first black leader after Vaughan Gething was announced as the winner of the Welsh Labour leadership election on Saturday.

Gething will succeed Mark Drakeford, 69, who announced in December that he was stepping down.

The 50-year-old said he would have "the honour of becoming the first black leader in any European country" when he becomes Welsh first minister next week.

"Today, we turn a page in the book of our nation's history. A history we write together," he told Labour party members in Cardiff.

Labour heads the devolved administration in Cardiff and Gething is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.

"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," UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a statement.

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.

UK Prime Minister Rishi 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.

Opinion polls tip Starmer to succeed Sunak, a Conservative, as UK prime minister following an election due this year.

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, and retains control over countrywide issues such as foreign policy and defence.