A vote of confidence: How the two Welsh faces of the pandemic secured their biggest ever majorities

Both men held onto their seats with a majority of more than 10,000 votes each. Credit: PA

The two main political figures that represent the handling of the pandemic in Wales have both secured their biggest majorities in the Senedd election.

Mark Drakeford, who is set to remain as the country's First Minister, and health minister Vaughan Gething, held onto their seats in Cardiff West and Cardiff South and Penarth after what can only be described as one of the most challenging years for them as politicians and leaders.

Welsh Labour are on course to win the election ahead of the final results emerging, despite the Welsh Conservatives gaining two new seats.

Welsh Labour leader Mr Drakeford, who has been the face of government decision-making since the coronavirus pandemic hit, said his party had "exceeded expectations" which ended Friday with 30 seats, just one short of a majority.

Following his victory, he tweeted thanking Wales for "going red" and told ITV News he was "very grateful indeed" to the people of his constituency who had "put their trust in Welsh Labour".

He won his biggest majority with 17,665 votes - 11,211 more than the Conservative candidate Sean Driscoll who came second. That is around ten times more than the majority he won in 2016, where he was just 1,176 votes ahead.

Throughout the pandemic, the difference in decision-making in Wales and over the border has been put under the spotlight.

Mark Drakeford leading one of the Welsh Government coronavirus press conferences

Wales has often taken its own path in terms of managing the coronavirus pandemic with devolved powers meaning decision-making has at times differed significantly to the other three nations of the UK.

Tensions between the Welsh and UK governments have also been clear at different stages with Mr Drakeford publicly criticising Boris Johnson's lack of engagement with the devolved governments.

On the final day of campaigning, Mark Drakeford said: "People say to me, 'We're so pleased we've lived in Wales during the last 15 months. We feel we've been kept safe here in Wales and because of that record... I am confident that will translate into votes for Labour candidates."

Vaughan Gething receives a hug from his son after holding onto his seat in Cardiff South and Penarth Credit: PA

Health minister Vaughan Gething has been by the First Minister's side throughout the pandemic and he held his Cardiff South and Penarth seat with almost half of the vote share at 18,153 votes.

He increased that with 4,879 votes from 2016, and said Labour's handling of the coronavirus pandemic was a "major factor" in the party's results.

He said: "We've had to make life-changing choices that affected every single family in the country.

"The pandemic has thrust the First Minister in the spotlight, and most people like what they've seen in the way he's handled the pandemic."

Mr Gething said Labour had needed to "re-earn the trust of the people of Wales", which he said saw the party lose only one of Wales' so-called red wall seats, Vale of Clwyd, to the Tories.