Vaughan Gething 'ready to serve and ready to lead' as Welsh Labour leadership race begins

Vaughan Gething MS spoke to ITV Wales journalist Sofia Lewis on Sunday

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has told ITV Wales he is "ready to serve and ready to lead" in his first interview since announcing that he will stand to be the next Welsh Labour Leader.

Mr Gething, who served as Health Minister during the covid-19 pandemic, said he has had "experience of making extraordinarily difficult leadership choices".

He told ITV Wales that it is "important" that the next First Minister is ready for the challenge of the upcoming general election and securing a UK Labour government.

He said: "I've got hope and ambition for the future, and a sense of realism of the scale of the challenge we face."

The Education Minister Jeremy Miles is expected to announce that he will join the race for the top job in the coming week.

Vaughan Gething was Wales' Health Minister for the majority of the covid-19 pandemic.

The leadership contest follows Mark Drakeford's announcement that he will stand down as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales in March 2024.

The leader of Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, has accused the leadership race of being "more of the same."

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, he said: "Both candidates to succeed Mark Drakeford will give us more of the same.

"They played key roles in a Labour Government that prioritised blanket 20mph speed limits while NHS waiting lists and education standards got worse. "Welsh Conservatives put the people’s priorities first."

In terms of getting on the ballot paper, the role of Senedd members is crucial. Any candidate for the leadership race has to be a Senedd member and also needs the support of five others – although there is a route to the ballot paper which involves nomination from fewer MSs along with support from local parties and affiliated organisations like trades unions.

Vaughan Gething has nine MS backers so along with himself can count on 10 nominations.

If successful, he would be the first black first minister, something he said would be "historically significant."

He told ITV Wales: "The first starting point is to demonstrate that you're good enough to persuade people to support you because of all the things you've already done and the offer I will make about the things we can do in the future.

He continued: "It's a matter of fact that people like me haven't led across Europe before, let alone the UK.

"You wouldn't have expected that when I was born in Zambia in 1974 that I would be stood here.... as a potential candidate to lead Wales into the future."

Eight MS backers have publicly endorsed Education Minister Jeremy Miles which, combined with his own vote, should lead to nine nominations.

With Mark Drakeford not expected to endorse a candidate, that leaves 10 Senedd members left to endorse or to stand themselves – which is unlikely but still not impossible.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething and Education Minister Jeremy Miles are the early frontrunners. Credit: PA Images

Meanwhile, it looks unlikely that there will be a female candidate in the race.

Two high-profile women in Welsh Labour who were being discussed as possible candidates have both ruled themselves out – Health Minister Eluned Morgan and Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn.

First Minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Wales' Politics Wales programme on Sunday that it is a "disappointment."

He said: "I wish there was a woman on that list because I believe in offering choice to people in the party. And we've made it easier to get people on the ballot paper during the last five years."

Vaughan Gething told ITV Wales: "It's a challenge for us to think about why we're in this position and what it will mean for the future, and all of us have to play our part."

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