A guide to the contenders to be first minister of Wales

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Wales flags (PA Archive)
13:32pm, Wed 05 May 2021
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The 2021 Welsh Parliament election will see its three largest political parties – Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru – compete to form the next Welsh government.

Here are profiles of leaders Mark Drakeford, Andrew RT Davies and Adam Price, who are vying to lead the next government as Wales’s first minister.

– Mark Drakeford

Mr Drakeford became the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales in December 2018 following the resignation of predecessor Carwyn Jones.

Mark Drakeford (PA Media)

He said in his victory speech at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff that he would govern “in the radical socialist tradition of Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot”.

The election is the 66-year-old’s first as leader of his party, and comes at a time when his public profile has been significantly boosted within Wales and across the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But he has faced criticism from Welsh businesses for his cautious easing of restrictions compared with elsewhere in the UK, and was forced to defend comments that Wales’s vaccine rollout was “not a sprint” as the country initially lagged behind the rest of the UK.

During the pandemic Mr Drakeford has opposed growing support for Welsh independence, instead arguing for “an entrenched form of devolution” which cannot be rolled back by the UK government.

In March he said the United Kingdom “is over” and a new union should be crafted to reflect a “voluntary association of four nations”.

If elected, Mr Drakeford has said he would step down as First Minister “before the next election” to hand over to a successor.

Born in Carmarthen, West Wales, he lives in Cardiff with wife Claire, 69, with whom he has three adult children, as well as her 94-year-old mother.

His son Jonathan was jailed for eight years and eight months in September 2018 for the rape and assault of a 22-year-old woman in Cardiff.

The First Minister worked as a probation officer before becoming a lecturer at Swansea University and then Cardiff University, where he became professor of social policy and applied social sciences.

His first move into government came as a special adviser to former first minister Rhodri Morgan, and wrote Mr Morgan’s “clear red water” speech which promoted the differences between Labour in Wales and New Labour in London under Tony Blair.

Mr Drakeford entered the Welsh Assembly after being elected to represent Cardiff West in 2011.

As Wales’ finance minister he was the only member of the Welsh government cabinet to vote for Jeremy Corbyn during his first national leadership bid in 2015.

– Andrew RT Davies

Mr Davies was reappointed as group leader of the Welsh Tories in January.

This is his second election as group leader having led from 2011 to 2018 before quitting following a party row over his support for Brexit.

Andrew RT Davies (PA Media)

His return followed Paul Davies’s resignation as group leader after he admitted drinking alcohol with a group of politicians on the Senedd estate days after a pub alcohol ban came into force in December.

Unlike his rivals, Andrew RT Davies’s official title only extends to leader of his party’s group in the Senedd and not of the party itself.

In January the 53-year-old was criticised for accusing Sir Keir Starmer of campaigning to “overturn democracy” in a response to the Labour leader’s condemnation of the mob invasion of the US Capitol in Washington DC, but Mr Davies refused to apologise for his comments.

In 2016 his speech at a party conference went viral after he accidentally said the Conservatives would make a success of “breakfast” instead of Brexit, which he later blamed on dyslexia.

Mr Davies has since said he considered the learning difficulty a “weakness” at first, but now sees it as a strength and hopes to be a role model for others.

He has said Wales needs an independence referendum “like it needs a hole in the head” and is satisfied with the country’s devolution settlement.

He has described himself as a “man who wears his heart on his sleeve” and says he is proud of his route into politics, having left school at 16 to work on his family farm in the village of Llantrithyd, Vale of Glamorgan.

Born in Cowbridge, Mr Davies worked at the farm before his move into politics in 2007 when he was elected on the South Wales Central regional list.

Mr Davies is still involved in the farm, and lives in the area with wife Julia, with whom he has four children.

– Adam Price

Adam Price became leader of Plaid Cymru in September 2018 after taking over from Leanne Wood.

Adam Price (PA Archive)

In his victory speech Mr Price vowed to bring “new energy and new ideas” to the party, adding: “Our message must be simple. Yes Wales can.”

Since then Mr Price, 52, has continued his party’s campaign for Welsh independence and claimed the pandemic has been a “game changer” for the movement due to the Welsh Government’s contrasting pandemic response to the UK Government.

He has also claimed the UK Government’s initial refusal to extend its furlough scheme to accommodate Wales’s firebreak lockdown – only to do so when England went into its own lockdown – would go down in history as the moment that put Wales “on the path to independence”.

In October 2019 Mr Price was criticised for claiming Wales deserved reparations from the UK government as “England’s first colony”, for which he later apologised for a “poor choice of words”.

Before entering politics Mr Price worked as managing director of UK policy and economics consultancy firm Newidiem, and as executive director of the Welsh economic development and cultural change agency Menter a Busnes.

Mr Price served as a Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr from 2001 before standing down at the 2010 election and heading to Harvard University in the US to study for a masters degree in public administration.

During his time in Westminster he campaigned to impeach Tony Blair over the Iraq War, and was ejected from the House of Common’s in March 2005 for refusing to retract a statement accusing the then-prime minister misleading Parliament.

He joined the Welsh Assembly in 2016 after winning Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and later became the first openly gay party leader in Wales’s history following his 2018 leadership victory.

Mr Price was born in Carmarthen, West Wales, and grew up in the nearby village of Tycroes. His father was a coal miner at Betws Colliery.

He and his partner – whose name Mr Price has not revealed – have a young son and also expecting a baby daughter in June.

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