Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford resigns

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Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford resigns

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By David Deans
BBC Wales political reporter

Mark Drakeford has announced he will stand down as Welsh Labour leader in March, to be followed by a leadership contest for a new first minister.

A new party leader in Wales will be elected before Easter, Mr Drakeford said in a statement.

He will remain as first minister until his successor is picked by his party.

Mr Drakeford, 69, who is the Cardiff West Member of the Senedd (MS), was confirmed as first minister exactly five years and one day ago.

He had planned to stand down in 2024 but the timing of his announcement was a surprise.

Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference in the Welsh Parliament, Mr Drakeford said: "When I stood for the leadership, I said that, if elected, I would serve for five years. Exactly five years have passed since I was confirmed as first minister in 2018."

He said it had been a "huge privilege to lead both the Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh government".

Mr Drakeford received both plaudits and criticism for his handling of the Covid pandemic, and led Labour to success in the 2021 Senedd elections.

But other policies such as a default 20mph speed limit in Wales and cancellation of new road-building schemes proved more controversial.

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