Favourites to replace First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed in ITV Wales poll

ITV Cymru Wales
First Minister Mark Drakeford will stand down as the leader of Welsh Labour in March 2024. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales/ PA

The race for who will be Wales' next First Minister is already being quietly played out in the corridors of Cardiff Bay.

Mark Drakeford only announced his resignation on Wednesday 13 December but speculation has already started over who will be his replacement.

He will stand down as the leader of Welsh Labour in March.

It's anticipated the process will be concluded by the end of the spring term, with the winner's name put to the Senedd before the Easter recess.

In the coming weeks, the spotlight is likely to shine on some of Welsh Labour's most high-profile cabinet members.

So who are the favourites to replace Mr Drakeford?

A YouGov poll for ITV Wales and Cardiff University conducted days before Wednesday's announcement asked people who they want to succeed Mr Drakeford as leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of Wales.

Vaughan Gething, Eluned Morgan, and Jeremy Miles Credit: PA Images/ITV Wales
Ken Skates, Hannah Blythyn, and Mick Antoniw Credit: PA Images/Senedd TV

The poll revealed that 72% said they 'don't know' who they want to take the top job.

But of the named ministers, the man in charge of the Welsh economy, Vaughan Gething leads the poll with 11% saying they want him appointed next year. He and Education Minister Jeremy Miles are almost certainly likely contenders.

While question marks surround others including Health Minister Eluned Morgan and junior minister Hannah Blythyn, it's believed the former Economy Minister Ken Skates won't be standing.

Vaughan Gething also came top in the poll in terms of recognition as a politician in Wales with 68% of those knowing who he is.

His successor in the health brief Eluned Morgan, scored 54%.

Only 25% of people polled said that they had heard of Education Minister Jeremy Miles, a senior figure in the Welsh Government.

Wales is the only UK nation not to have had a female first minister. Alun Michael, Rhodri Morgan, Carwyn Jones and Mark Drakeford have all led the country since the role was introduced in 1999, with the establishment of the then National Assembly for Wales (now Senedd).

The poll found just 2% of people believe it's important for a woman to be the next person to have the top job. Of those polled, 46% do not think it is important at all.

Around 3.136 million live in Wales, with 95% of the population describing themselves as White and 5% as Asian, Black or as being from mixed or multiple ethnic groups or another ethnic group, according to Welsh Government figures.

So how important is it for the next first minister to be born in Wales? 38% of people surveyed said it is very important with 14% saying it was not at all important.

Just 1% thought it was very important for the first minister to be from a minority ethnic background with over half (52%) saying it is not at all important.

6% of people say it is important that the next leader is from North Wales, all previous leaders have had their political power base in South Wales.

The big debate around whether Wales should leave the UK also featured as part of the poll.

Of those asked, 11% felt it was very important for the next first minister to support independence. With 42% saying it is not at all important.

ITV Wales asked voters in Mark Drakeford's Cardiff-West constituency on Wednesday how they felt about his announcement and who they would like to see as his replacement.

A female shopper in Cardiff told ITV Wales: "It's a real shame - I think with him we've had a leader who is articulate, who has expressed what he means to say with real consequence and eloquence and has led with warmth so I'm hoping that his replacement will be an adequate one."

ITV Wales asked shoppers in Cardiff what they thought about First Minister Mark Drakeford's resignation announcement and who they want to see replace him.

One man said Vaughan Gething was his choice for the next leader. He said: "I think he's someone who's not too extravagant. He just seems to quietly get the job done."

A woman having a manicure in a nail bar told ITV Wales: "I feel like he's been in for too long - we need someone new, someone fresh and someone who's going to listen to the people."

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