The result from the last few months of hustings, campaigning and policy promises came to a head this week, and as expected, Mark Drakeford secured victory as the new Leader of the Welsh Labour Party.
The Cardiff West AM took 46.9% of first preference votes, while his opposition candidates, Vaughan Gething and Baroness Morgan took 30.8% and 22.3% respectively. With no candidate reaching 50%, Baroness Morgan was eliminated and second-preference votes of her supporters were redistributed. In the final totals, Prof Drakeford beat Mr Gething by 53.9% to 41.4%.
After nine years as First Minister, Carwyn Jones will stand down following his final First Minister Questions on Tuesday, with Prof Drakeford expected to be confirmed as First Minister on Wednesday.
Prof Drakeford has represented the Cardiff West Assembly constituency since 2011, holding a number of prominent positions within Welsh Government during that period, including his current role as Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
Drawing on his experience working under former First Minister Rhodri Morgan as well as his commitment to Jeremy Corbyn, Prof Drakeford launched a comprehensive leadership manifesto last month entitled ‘21st Century Socialism’ setting out his key policy objectives.
So what does this mean for the future of Wales? Will we see the beginning of a 21st century socialism - or will it be business as usual for Welsh Labour?
From a planning, regeneration and infrastructure perspective, there are a number of key policy commitments of interest that could have significant future impacts:
· Energy: Prof Drakeford has proposed a large surge in Wales’ relationship with renewable and sustainable energy. In his manifesto he outlines that investment in renewable energy must be seen as a bid to boost the Welsh economy, adding that Wales must make use of the abundance of wind, water and waves available. His pledges include re-examining the case for a new Welsh Energy Mutual (based on the Welsh Water model), support for the Tidal Lagoon project, as well as setting up an independent commission to advise on nuclear power.
· Housing and Regeneration: Prof Drakeford has stated that he would appoint a Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for housing and allied matters, allowing housing to be represented at the top table. He adds to this that he would press ahead with plans for a vacant land tax, tackling land banking and allowing for the release of land for housing and regeneration developments. He has also committed to aligning housing and planning responsibilities, allowing councils to work together more flexibly across boundaries in a bid to provide the housing Welsh people need.
· Transport and the M4 relief road: Prof Drakeford has expressed a strong desire to tackling M4 congestion in South Wales, although he is yet to commit to the M4 relief road – although this decision will now fall to him (and not Carwyn Jones as previously anticipated). Additionally, Prof Drakeford claims that he would revise Planning Policy Wales to make provision of sustainable transport infrastructure a fundamental requirement for new development (PPW Edition 11 could be arriving sooner than expected).
There is no doubt that Prof Drakeford is a man of conviction who will be committed to following through on the pledges set out in his manifesto that has resulted in a strong election win. He has clearly convinced Labour Party members he is the man to lead Wales, but he now needs to convince the wider population of Wales also, as he looks to roll out his manifesto commitments and steer Wales down, what could be, a bolder new path.
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