Under 30s don’t know enough about Welsh politics at a crucial time for our democracy

Two candidates are fighting it out to replace Mark Drakeford as First Minister of Wales. We took to the streets of Cardiff to test people’s knowledge of their potential new leaders.

WALES will have a new First Minister in March but the chances are you won’t have voted for either of the two candidates.

Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething are competing for the post but the contest is for party leadership and not an election in which the public gets a vote.

The only people who will get a say are the Welsh Labour Party members and trade union affiliates, which means the candidates do not need to woo the general public.

The number of Welsh Labour members is estimated to be around 18,000, and the number of trade union affiliates around 100,000. Given that the population of Wales is 3.1 million, this is just 3.8% of the population.

What that means is that some people feel they don’t have as much information as they would like about who will be the most important politician in Wales in less than a month.

I took to the streets of Cardiff to ask people if they knew who the two frontrunners in the race were to replace Mark Drakeford as Wales’ next First Minister.


Here’s what young people in Cardiff know about the Welsh Government leadership race 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🤔 . . . . . #fyp #foryou #senedd #FirstMinister #vaughangething #jeremymiles #labour #ukpolitics #welshpolitics #wales

♬ original sound – The Cardiffian

Joseph Turner, 30, from Cathays, said: “I don’t know who the two candidates are, but its worse than that, I don’t know what they stand for, I don’t know what power they would have if they were to be successful, to be completely honest with you, no information has been provided to me. And it’s something I’d be interested in so it is quite a shame.”

Joseph and the other people in our video above are representative of the many young people who feel disengaged with Welsh politics.

In 2021, the voting age for the Senedd election was lowered to 16 but research commissioned by the Welsh Government to inform these changes showed that “a lack of knowledge and general disillusionment with politics were key barriers to engagement.”

Between 2015 and 2020, the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data conducted research in schools on the ambivalence towards politics and voting. It found, in a sample of 155 Year 12 pupils, that 37.4% felt that politics didn’t affect their life at all, and 45.8% thought it affected them only “a bit”.

Graph showing how young people responded to the phrase "Politics affects my life"
Sample of 155 Year 12 pupils in 2015 who responded to this statement (WISERD, 2021)

If relevant information isn’t provided for young people to know about their leaders, then detachment from politics is likely to continue.

On paper, the two candidates appear much the same. Both are similar in age and from legal backgrounds – voters may feel the choice is slim.

So how do they differ? Here is a quick guide to where the pair stand on the big issues.

Miles wants the NHS to be “an exemplar employer for the entire workforce.”

The NHS is experiencing pressure throughout the UK. Scotland have struck a deal with junior doctors for a 12% pay rise, whereas the deal in Wales currently sits at 5%. When questioned by Nick Servini on BBC Politics Wales about adjusting this offer, Miles said that “to the maximum capacity of our budget, we will do everything we can.”

Gething has said he will keep talking with junior doctors to negotiate a pay deal. He was the health minister during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be appearing at the COVID enquiry in the coming weeks. He says he is “looking forward to being open and honest” about the decisions and behaviours of the Welsh Government during this time.

Miles is an advocate for further devolution for Wales. He assured voters that this was not backed by a constitutional argument, but instead to deliver better outcomes, citing the example of being able to more effectively administer benefits.

Vaughan Gething has announced to his Twitter followers this month that as First Minister, he would “seek more powers for Wales, and share more powers within Wales. A bold, progressive vision for the future of Welsh devolution.”

In response to the climate crisis, the Welsh Government is rolling out the Sustainable Farming Scheme in 2025. This requires farmers to plant trees on 10% of their land, which has been opposed by many due to the impact it will have on their profits.

Jeremy Miles is committed to this scheme and has said he is not prepared to relax this figure. Vaughan Gething said that during consultation with farmers he is prepared to have a ‘conversation’ on the 10% demand.

Miles has been the education minister for Mark Drakeford’s government since 2016. In 2023, the PISA (Programme for International Assessment) scores were at their lowest ever. In conversation with Nick Servini at the weekend, Miles said that he aims to address this issue with the new curriculum, which gives schools more autonomy in teaching so as to give the individual learner “something to get excited about.”

Gething also wants to focus his attention on the “attainment gap”. In his manifesto, Gething pledges Welsh schools will consistently deliver “excellence in education for our children and young people.”

Miles is openly gay and has described his feelings of being an outsider growing up in the Swansea Valley in the ’70s and ’80s. The current Minister for Education said that his childhood gives voters the context of why he has such a commitment to equality, aspiration and a sense of belonging.

Describing the type of leader he aims to be, Miles said: Leadership is about the ‘we’, not the ‘I.’”

Vaughan Gething has similarly opposed a presidential-style leadership, saying that being on top of every minister “disempowers people.” If he were to win the leadership contest, he would be the first black leader of any nation in Europe. He said that he is “the best candidate for the future, and I’m winning on merit.”