Vaughan Gething is elected as Wales’ First Minister

Gething becomes Europe’s first black head of state. So who exactly is Wales’ new First Minister?

Vaughan Gething- Wales’ first Black-European first minister

Vaughan Gething has now become Wales’ first Black-European new minister after narrowly defeating Jeremy Miles in the Welsh Labour leadership election. He’ll be replacing Mark Drakeford, who has been the first new minister since 2018.

The former Welsh health minister was supported by 27 members of the Senedd in Wednesday’s vote. After becoming the fifth first new minister of Wales, he said that he’s looking forward to “standing up for Wales and for devolution, in the weeks and months to come.”

In contrast to the “forces of division,” Mr. Gething stated that he wished to advance “kinder, more effective politics.” He promised to assemble a government that consistently advances progressive politics.

Lawyer-turned politician Gething was born to a Welsh father and Zambian mother. Gething moved to the UK when he was four. He was brought up in Dorset and later moved to Wales as a law student in Aberystwyth University. He was elected as the president of the Students’ Union in Aberystwyth, and then of the National Union of Students Wales.

He began his career as a lawyer, before turning to politics. He went on to become the Butetown representative in 2004. Later on he was elected by the then National Assembly of Wales to represent Cardiff South and Penarth in 2011. Gething’s career as a role took a turn with his activism during the pandemic. As the Health minister during the first year of the pandemic, he was seen to step up like ‘no other politicians’, as said by Ken Stakes, the former Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales.

Despite being celebrated as the first black leader, he is already facing criticism due to the £200,000 donation he received for his campaign. He received the large donation from David Neal, who was previously convicted of dumping illegal waste despite being employed by the company Natural Resources Wales who are in place to maintain and protect Wales’ environment. 

Both Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives have called on Gething to return the money, but so far no action has been taken yet. While praising Mr. Gething on his new position, Rhun ap Iorwerth, the head of Plaid Cymru, cautioned that the “continuing questions around donations to Vaughan Gething’s campaign are now a serious cloud over the office of first minister.”

In the past, he was heard swearing about fellow Labour MS Jenny Rathbone over Zoom during a virtual session. July 2023 saw him getting ridiculed over using Whatsapp to communicate official news regarding COVID-19, only for the messages to disappear.

He has many challenges to face as the new first minister. From issues such as the doctor’s strikes in Wales and the NHS’s record high waiting list. He’ll also have to manage the ongoing protests by the farmers against the Welsh government’s plan to replace the EU’s single agricultural policy and the debate over Wales’s 20 mph speed limits which is still ongoing. Ultimately, he will be inheriting the issues that plagued Drakeford’s tenure.