Post-Election Round Up
Welsh Labour took everyone – including its own members – by surprise when it matched its record performance and returned 30 members to the Senedd. The results also provided certainty that Mark Drakeford would continue as First Minister in the Sixth Term. So, following preparation for potentially weeks of negotiations between parties to select a First Minister and form a new Welsh Government, it seems to have been done and dusted within the space of a week.
Alongside Welsh Labour’s positive performance, the Welsh Conservatives returned a record number of seats – 16, up from 11 – although there was some disappointment that the party had not broken through in some of the ‘Red Wall’ seats that the Conservatives won from Labour in the 2019 UK General Election, such as Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths’ Wrexham seat. There was further disappointment when the Welsh Conservatives were unable to secure a Presiding Officer or Deputy Presiding Officer post.
Plaid Cymru had a disappointing election, gaining just one extra seat, failing to secure Llanelli and losing former leader Leanne Wood’s Rhondda seat to Welsh Labour. Although party leader Adam Price has insisted that the party increased its vote share, this was primarily in existing Plaid strongholds and it failed to stretch out into other constituencies. If the party is to increase its support ahead of the next Senedd Election, it will need to ask itself how it can reach into Welsh Labour seats and win over marginal constituencies – whilst maintaining its position on independence, which many voters simply do not support at this time. Plaid also faces difficulties in carving out space for itself in voters’ identities, as Welsh Labour is viewed as the Nationalist party in Wales.
On Thursday, the new Welsh Government Cabinet was announced, with some new faces, significant Ministerial moves, and a new portfolio created. Vaughan Gething MS, who held the Health Minister post throughout the pandemic, has become Minister for Economy, and former mental health lead Eluned Morgan MS has taken up the role of Minister for Health and Social Services. Lynne Neagle has been promoted to the Cabinet, as Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing – an appropriate post given her vocal position on children and young people’s mental health.
There are further changes within the area of environment and rural affairs, with Lesley Griffiths MS being shifted to Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd. Taking up the enormous portfolio of ‘Climate Change’, encompassing transport, energy, housing, planning, Natural Resources Wales, biodiversity, the National Forest, National Parks, and digital, is former Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James MS. It is unclear how environment will bridge across Griffiths’ Rural Affairs remit and James’ climate change brief, but we’ll need to wait until the full list of Ministerial responsibilities is published by Welsh Government.
Following the departure of former Education Minister Kirsty Williams at the Senedd Election, Jeremy Miles MS has become Minister for Education and Welsh Language. He was previously Counsel General and the Welsh Government’s Brexit Minister, who helped to steer Wales through the UK’s exit from the EU. Jeremy Miles will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the new Curriculum for Wales, and helping to deliver the work, education or training offer for all under-25s that was promised by Welsh Labour in its 2021 Senedd Election manifesto.
The other new faces that we’ll be seeing more of are Dawn Bowden, who is now Deputy Minister for Arts, Sports and Chief Whip, and Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution. The events of the past year, such as arguments about the Shared Prosperity and Levelling Up Funds, record performance by the SNP at the Scottish Parliament election, and increased momentum for the Welsh independence movement, means questions about the UK and its relationship with the devolved nations will continue for the foreseeable – and Mark Drakeford himself has warned against the damage an aggressively centralised UK Government could cause to the stability of the Union.
For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.
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