Mark Drakeford
Official portrait, 2020
First Minister of Wales
Assumed office
13 December 2018
MonarchsElizabeth II
Charles III
Preceded byCarwyn Jones
Ministerial offices (2013–2018)
Cabinet Secretary for Finance
In office
19 May 2016 – 13 December 2018
First MinisterCarwyn Jones
Preceded byJane Hutt
Succeeded byRebecca Evans
Minister for Brexit
In office
3 November 2017 – 13 December 2018
First MinisterCarwyn Jones
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJeremy Miles
Minister for Health and Social Services
In office
14 March 2013 – 19 May 2016
First MinisterCarwyn Jones
DeputyVaughan Gething
Preceded byLesley Griffiths
Succeeded byVaughan Gething
Leader of Welsh Labour
Assumed office
6 December 2018
DeputyCarolyn Harris
UK party 
Jeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer
Preceded byCarwyn Jones
Member of the Senedd
for Cardiff West
Assumed office
5 May 2011
Preceded byRhodri Morgan
Majority11,211 (30.7%)[1]
Personal details
Born (1954-09-19) 19 September 1954 (age 68)
Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Political partyLabour
Clare Buckle
(m. 1977; died 2023)
Alma materUniversity of Kent
University of Exeter
CabinetSecond Drakeford government

Mark Drakeford (born 19 September 1954)[2] is a Welsh politician serving as First Minister of Wales and Leader of Welsh Labour since 2018. He previously served in the Welsh Government as Cabinet Secretary for Finance from 2016 to 2018 and Minister for Health and Social Services from 2013 to 2016. Drakeford was first elected as the Member of the Senedd (MS) for Cardiff West in 2011.

Drakeford was born in Carmarthen in West Wales. He studied Latin at the University of Kent and the University of Exeter. He was a lecturer at the University College of Swansea from 1991 to 1995 and at Cardiff University from 1995 to 1999. He was a Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences at Cardiff University from 2003 to 2013.

Drakeford was elected at the 2011 National Assembly for Wales election for Cardiff West. In 2013, First Minister Carwyn Jones appointed Drakeford to the Welsh Government as Minister for Health and Social Services. He served as Cabinet Secretary for Finance from 2016 to 2018 and as Minister for Brexit from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, he was elected to succeed Jones as Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister. He has led the Welsh Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021 Senedd election, Drakeford led Welsh Labour to win 30 seats, a working majority, and was reappointed as First Minister.

Drakeford is widely considered to belong to the left wing of the Labour Party, and is supported by some members of Welsh Labour Grassroots and Momentum.[3] His views were described as soft left in 2018, in line with the views of former Labour leader Michael Foot.[4] He was the only sitting Cabinet member in any part of the UK to support Jeremy Corbyn in his bid for the national leadership of the Labour Party in 2015, while he was Minister for Health and Social Services.[5]

Early life and education

Mark Drakeford was born and brought up in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, then an all-boys grammar school in Carmarthen.[6] He studied Latin at the University of Kent,[6] and graduated from the University of Exeter.[7]

After university, he trained both as a teacher and as a social worker. He moved to Cardiff in 1979 and worked as a probation officer and a youth justice worker, including as a Barnardo's project leader in the Ely and Caerau communities. His experiences working with young people in deprived areas inspired him to help establish the Welsh youth homelessness charity Llamau in the late 1980s.[citation needed]

Academic career

From 1991 to 1995, Drakeford was a lecturer in applied social studies at the University College of Swansea (now Swansea University).[8] He then moved to the University of Wales, Cardiff, renamed as Cardiff University in 1999, as a lecturer in its School of Social and Administrative Studies.[8] He was promoted to senior lecturer in 1999 and appointed as Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences in 2003.[8] Drakeford continued in his academic posts until his appointment as a Welsh Government minister in 2013. He has published books and journal articles on various aspects of social policy.[9]

Political career

Drakeford has always been interested in politics, which he says was part of the fabric of life in 1960s Carmarthenshire.[10] He has also stated that he was 'always Labour', believing that a person's ties to the economy are the great determining factor in their life chances.[11] In addition to his membership of the Labour Party, he is a member of Unite the Union and UNISON, and a solidarity member of LGBT+ Labour.[12] He is a staunch opponent of Britain's Trident nuclear programme[13] and has called for its decommissioning.[14]

From 1985 to 1993, Drakeford represented the Pontcanna ward on South Glamorgan County Council, with fellow future Welsh Assembly members Jane Hutt and Jane Davidson as his ward colleagues.[15] He served as Chair of the Education Committee and took a particular interest in Welsh-medium education.[16]

Having been part of the successful Yes for Wales campaign in the 1997 Welsh devolution referendum, he was selected as the Labour candidate for Cardiff Central at the first Welsh Assembly election, as part of Labour's ‘twinned seats’ policy. The seat was won by the Liberal Democrats' Jenny Randerson.

Following Rhodri Morgan’s appointment as First Minister in 2000, Drakeford became the Welsh Government’s special advisor on health and social policy, and later served as the head of Morgan’s political office. He had been close with Morgan for a number of years, having been Morgan's election agent when he was elected to the UK Parliament. In his role as a special advisor, Drakeford was one of the principal architects of the 'Clear Red Water' philosophy, which made a distinction between Labour Party policy under Morgan in Wales and under Tony Blair in Westminster.[17]

Drakeford succeeded Morgan as the Assembly Member for Cardiff West when the latter retired at the 2011 election. Soon after, he became Chair of the Assembly's Health and Social Care Committee and of the All-Wales Programme Monitoring Committee for European Funds.[16]

In 2013, he was invited by First Minister Carwyn Jones to join the Government, replacing Lesley Griffiths as Minister for Health and Social Services. His appointment was welcomed by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing. As Health Minister, he guided both the Human Transplantation Act and the Nurse Staffing Levels Act through the Senedd.

In a reshuffle after the 2016 election, he became Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government. His portfolio was later changed, as he assumed responsibility for the Welsh Government’s Brexit preparations and responsibility for local government was transferred to Alun Davies.

At the UK Labour Party's conference in September 2022, Drakeford used his speech at conference to in part hail the benefits of electoral reform. He has been a long term advocate for using proportional representation at general elections.[18]

Welsh Labour leadership

See also: 2018 Welsh Labour Party leadership election

Immediately following Carwyn Jones' announcement on 21 April 2018 that he intended to resign as party leader and First Minister, Drakeford told BBC Wales he was giving a leadership bid ‘serious consideration’.[19] Two days later, he announced that he would seek to be a candidate in the ensuing leadership contest.[20] He immediately secured the public support of seven other Labour AMs, taking him beyond the threshold of nominations needed to get onto the ballot.[21] Prior to Jones giving written notice of his resignation on 26 September, a further nine Labour AMs announced they would be nominating Drakeford, meaning a majority of the Labour Group in the Senedd would be supporting his candidacy.[22] He later received support from 10 MPs, eight trade unions and 24 Constituency Labour Parties.

At a special conference on 15 September 2018, it was decided that the voting system for Welsh Labour leadership elections would be changed to a variation of one member, one vote – a change for which Drakeford had been campaigning for over 20 years.

Early policy proposals from Drakeford's leadership campaign included a pilot for universal baby bundles and a push for the devolution of the Probation Service.[23][24] At the north Wales launch of his campaign, he set out plans for a Social Partnership Act to protect employment rights, and plans to establish a Community Bank for Wales.[25][better source needed] During an interview, Drakeford said that he was a republican, and had been since the age of 14. According to ITV Wales, were he elected, Drakeford would have a "working relationship with the Royal Family", but did not feel that his views would be "an issue."[26]

On 6 December 2018, it was announced that Drakeford had been elected as the leader of the Welsh Labour Party in succession to Carwyn Jones. He received 46.9% of the vote in the first round of the contest, and 53.9% in the second round compared to 41.4% for Vaughan Gething.[27]

First Minister

Mark Drakeford
Premiership of Mark Drakeford
13 December 2018 – present
Mark Drakeford
CabinetFirst Drakeford government
Second Drakeford government
PartyWelsh Labour
Appointed byElizabeth II
SeatTŷ Hywel

Mark Drakeford at a COVID-19 press conference in January 2021

Mark Drakeford was nominated by AMs as First Minister designate on 12 December and his nomination was approved by the Queen. He named his government the following day. He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 10 January 2019.

COVID-19 pandemic

Main article: COVID-19 pandemic in Wales

As First Minister, Drakeford has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales. Many aspects of handling COVID-19 were the responsibility of the Welsh Government, including the setting of restrictions on everyday life designed to curtail the virus.[28] According to research conducted by University College London for its COVID-19 Social Study, Drakeford's leadership led to better understanding of the rules in Wales than Boris Johnson's did in England.[29]

On 23 March 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, having the agreement of all devolved governments, announced a lockdown of the United Kingdom, with only essential services remaining open. This announcement was followed by First Minister Drakeford announcing that the measures would also cover Wales and would come into effect from that evening.[30] The measures put in place restricted people from leaving their home for non-essential travel, with outside exercise limited to once a day. The measures that controlled exercise outside the home differed from those in England, where the measures in place did not stipulate a once-a-day restriction, whereas the Welsh version specifically limited exercise outside the home to once a day, with the maximum fine being £120, compared to £960 in England.[31] On 20 May, the Government announced that the maximum fine would be increased to £1,920.[32]

On 25 March the Coronavirus Act 2020 was given Royal Assent, after passing through both Houses in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The following day the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020[33] were approved by the Senedd, giving the Welsh Government emergency powers to deal with various aspects of managing the pandemic.[34][35]

Though Drakeford was supportive of a cooperative approach between the various governments of the UK,[28] his government also at times took significantly different decisions such as introducing a two-week "firebreak" lockdown in Wales during October 2020 at a point when the UK government was still operating a system of localised restrictions in England.[36]

2021 Senedd Election

Further information: 2021 Senedd election

In the 2021 Senedd election, Labour ran on a manifesto which included various schemes to improve health and social care provision such as investing in mental health services, a new medical school in North Wales and an eventual move towards free-at-point-of-use social care ideally as part of a UK-wide reform. In education, promised policies included tutoring staff to help pupils catch up after the pandemic, funding to improve school facilities, increasing eligibility for free school meals to an unspecified number of children, expanding access to Welsh-medium education and potential reform to the school routine. Other plans included more reforestation, more social housing and possible electoral reform for Senedd elections.[37]

Graphical depiction of the 2021 Senedd Election results

Labour equalled its best ever result, falling one seat short of an overall majority, which has never been achieved in the institution.[38] The BBC reporter Adrian Browne credited the outcome to Mark Drakeford and approval of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales.[39] Pollster Ben Walker wrote in a piece for the New Statesman that one of the factors which had contributed to Labour's success at the election was that Drakeford had developed a greater profile among the public in Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic and was perceived as competent and the best potential First Minister.[40] Various commentators suggested that Welsh Labour's success at the election was part of a wider trend in the round of elections which took place across Britain at the same time of incumbents being rewarded and that there were also more long-term factors which placed Labour in a better position to succeed in Wales than elsewhere.[40][41][42]

In November 2021, Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price reached a co-operation agreement on policy in a wide range of areas.[43] Ideas they planned to implement included free-at-the-point-of-use social care, expanding services for children, and restrictions on second homes.[44] The deal was the third time Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru had agreed to work together in the era of devolution.[45]

Personal life

Drakeford was married to Clare Buckle from 1977 until her death in 2023, at the age of 71. They have three children.[46][47][10] During the COVID-19 pandemic, Drakeford had moved into a building in the couple's back garden, in order to protect Clare and her mother, who were both classed as vulnerable.[48]

Selected works


  1. ^ Lewis, Anna; Woodhead, Lauren (7 May 2021). "Mark Drakeford retains Cardiff West Senedd seat for Labour with overwhelming majority". Wales Online. Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  2. ^ Owen, Twm (19 September 2021). "Drakeford was interviewed on Radio Cymru for his 67th birthday". The National. Archived from the original on 30 November 2021. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  3. ^ Williamson, David (6 April 2018). "Mark Drakeford tipped to be next Welsh Labour leader". WalesOnline. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  4. ^ Pickard, Jim (6 December 2018). "Mark Drakeford set to become next first minister of Wales". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  5. ^ "Drakeford supports Corbyn for leader". BBC News. 14 August 2015. Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b Deans, David (6 December 2018). "Who is Mark Drakeford?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 6 December 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  7. ^ Borsay, Anne (2003). Medicine in Wales c. 1800–2000: Public Service or Private Commodity?. ISBN 9780708318249. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Drakeford, Mark. 1 December 2018. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U257820. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Archived from the original on 6 December 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  9. ^ "Mark Drakeford's research works | Cardiff University, Cardiff (CU) and other places". ResearchGate. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  10. ^ a b Waldram, Hannah (24 May 2011). "Mark Drakeford Interview". The Guardian. London. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  11. ^ acast (12 January 2018). "Mark Drakeford | Martin Shipton Meets... on acast". acast. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Register of interests for Mark Drakeford AM". 24 June 2016. Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  13. ^ Deans, David (17 October 2015). "'Stop Trident' campaign launched in Wales". WalesOnline. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Labour AM Mark Drakeford opposes Trident fleet in Wales". BBC News. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Welsh Labour leadership: Who is Mark Drakeford?". BBC News. 6 December 2018. Archived from the original on 6 December 2018. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Member Profile". National Assembly for Wales. Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  17. ^ Williamson, David (23 February 2010). "Rhodri's 'clear red water' adviser to stand in his seat". Walesonline. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  18. ^ "First Minister Mark Drakeford tells Labour to work with other parties". BBC News. 27 September 2022. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  19. ^ "Drakeford in Welsh Labour leader bid". BBC News. 24 April 2018. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  20. ^ Shipton, Martin (24 April 2018). "'I'm the unity candidate,' says Mark Drakeford". walesonline. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Drakeford in Welsh Labour leadership bid". BBC News. 24 April 2018. Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Most Labour AMs back Drakeford for leader". BBC News. 17 September 2018. Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Baby bundle plan for newborns backed". BBC News. 10 September 2018. Archived from the original on 18 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  24. ^ "@mark4leader" (Mark for Leader/ Mark ein Harweinydd) on Twitter
  25. ^ Blythyn, Hannah (14 October 2018). "Highlights on the economy include: Making Wales a world leader in renewable energy A community bank for Wales Changing the way we invest in digital infrastructure A Social Partnership Act A focus on the foundational economy". Archived from the original on 21 May 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Mark Drakeford on drugs, the monarchy and his vision for Wales, as he launches his manifesto". ITV News. 12 November 2018. Archived from the original on 8 May 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Drakeford set to be Wales' first minister". BBC News. 6 December 2018. Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Coronavirus: What decisions are made in Wales?". BBC News. 10 May 2020. Archived from the original on 28 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  29. ^ "Covid-19 rules better understood in Wales than England, says university study". Nation.Cymru. 24 February 2021. Archived from the original on 28 February 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Coronavirus in Wales: What happened on 23 March". BBC News. 23 March 2020. Archived from the original on 5 June 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  31. ^ "Coronavirus: How Wales' approach differs from England". BBC News. 31 March 2020. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  32. ^ Jones, Ciaran (20 May 2020). "Coronavirus lockdown fines in Wales will increase to maximum of £1,920". WalesOnline. Archived from the original on 4 June 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020".
  34. ^ "Coronavirus: Welsh ministers to be given 'draconian' powers". BBC News. 19 March 2020. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  35. ^ "Coronavirus: Emergency law approved by slimmed-down Welsh Assembly". BBC News. 24 March 2020. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  36. ^ "Covid: Has devolution helped or hampered coronavirus response?". BBC News. 28 October 2020. Archived from the original on 28 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  37. ^ Deans, David (8 April 2021). "Welsh election: The key points from Welsh Labour's manifesto". BBC News. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  38. ^ Clark, Alex; Riddy, Bruno; Edgington, Oliver; Butcher, Ben (11 May 2021). "May 2021 election results: the maps, charts and data of how your area voted across the UK". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 October 2021. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  39. ^ Browne, Adrian (8 May 2021). "Welsh election results 2021: What's the secret behind Labour's success?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 1 October 2021. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  40. ^ a b Walker, Ben (18 May 2021). "Why did Labour do better in Wales than in England? You might not like the answer". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  41. ^ Curtice, John (9 May 2021). "Sir John Curtice: What the 2021 election results mean for the parties". BBC News. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  42. ^ Aguilar Garcia, Carmen; Whiteside, Philip (10 May 2021). "Election results: Five takeaways from Vote 2021 data that reveal Britain's political dividing lines". Sky News. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  43. ^ Morris, Steven (22 November 2021). "Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru to cooperate on almost 50 policy areas". the Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  44. ^ "Wales: Free primary school meals and childcare pledges". BBC News. 22 November 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  45. ^ Mosalski, Ruth (22 November 2021). "Welsh Government wants to give free school meals to all primary school pupils". WalesOnline. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  46. ^ General Register Office of England and Wales, Births, September quarter 1951, Cambridge, Vol 4a, page 327
  47. ^ Dewey, Philip (28 January 2023). "First Minister's wife Clare Drakeford dies suddenly". WalesOnline.
  48. ^ "Covid: Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford says wife and mother both had the virus". BBC News. 21 October 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
Senedd Preceded byRhodri Morgan Member of the Senedd for Cardiff West 2011–present Incumbent Political offices Preceded byLesley Griffiths Minister for Health and Social Services 2013–2016 Succeeded byVaughan Gething Preceded byJane Hutt Cabinet Secretary for Finance 2016–2018 Succeeded byRebecca Evans Preceded byCarwyn Jones First Minister of Wales 2018–present Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byCarwyn Jones Leader of Welsh Labour 2018–present Incumbent