May 22, 2024

New Labor leadership in Wales: Vaughan Gething makes history

Only one vote in the Welsh parliament separates the 50-year-old from becoming the first black head of government in the British part of the country.

Three million Welsh people are now expected to have him as “First Minister”: Vaughan Gething Photo: Ben Birchall/dpa

London ap/afp | Vaughan Gething is the new leader of the Labor Party in Wales and is on track to become the first black leader of a government in the UK. In Saturday's election, the incumbent Welsh Business Minister defeated Education Minister Jeremy Miles. The contest was thought to decide the succession of “first minister” Mark Drakeford, 69, who has since announced his resignation.

Gething, 50, whose father is from Wales and mother from Zambia, won 51.7 percent of the votes cast by party members and representatives of affiliated unions. Miles received 48.3 percent of the vote.

“Today we open a new page in the history book of our country. The story we write together,” Gething said in his victory speech. “Not only because I have the honor of being the first black leader in a European country – because there has been a generational change,” he said. “I want us to use this moment as a starting point for a more optimistic march into the future.”

The Welsh Parliament has yet to confirm Gething as the fifth First Minister since the Welsh Assembly was introduced in 1999. This is all but certain to happen in Wednesday's vote.

Wales has about three million people. It is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The British government in London is responsible for defence, foreign policy and other matters affecting the whole of Britain. The governments of Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast have sovereignty over health and education.

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After his inauguration, three of the four heads of government in the British territories of the country would be non-white politicians: Scottish Prime Minister Hamza Yousaf, the son of Pakistani immigrants, and head of the UK and Great Britain. Britain, Rishi Sunak, is of Indian origin.

In Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Michelle O'Neill, who has been in office since early February, has made history by becoming the first Irish nationalist to hold the post.