Why I should be the next First Minister — Mark Drakeford AM

The case for any person to be the leader of a party is, inevitably, a combination of the personal and the political.

My personal case is simply this — the coming period will see our country face unprecedented challenges. The deepest and most unremitting period of austerity in nearly two centuries is set to continue.

Leaving the EU will leave the UK, and Wales, poorer; our influence in the world diminished and our security less certain.

As the Finance Minister in the only Labour administration in the UK, every day I face what Aneurin Bevan called the “religion of socialism” — the struggle to ensure our ever-shrinking resources match Labour’s key priorities for our economy, our environment and our public services.

If I become Labour Leader then my determination will be to revive and reapply in today’s circumstances a set of fundamental and enduring democratic socialist principles forged here in Wales and which have shaped the whole of my political life.

The ‘sink or swim’ society holds no attraction, even among those lucky enough to be swimming. It is the responsibility of government to take on, rather than exacerbate, the inequalities which so many face at birth, reversing them wherever possible through risk-sharing and redistribution.

For our opponents “taxpayers’ money” is there to maximise the profits of those to whom the assets and services created by the public have been handed over.

If I become First Minister, taxpayers’ money will be used to maximise the benefits for taxpayers, by retaining the assets and the services for which they have paid out of their own hands.

As the person who represents Wales at the Brexit table alongside Scottish and UK Ministers, I am intimately aware of the vital agenda, which a new First Minister will have to discharge — immediately and urgently — on taking office.

And, having worked for a decade in the office of the then-First Minister Rhodri Morgan, I know firsthand what it takes to deal with the pressures of the most senior job in Welsh politics and to put that office to work for Wales. Labour in Wales needs a leader, and Wales will need a First Minister, as fully equipped as possible to discharge those responsibilities in the most testing times since devolution.

With support from across the Labour Group in the Assembly and from every part of Wales, this is what I believe I can offer.

From the moment I put my name forward to succeed Carwyn Jones, I’ve tried to give the plainest answers I can to the questions asked of me. If elected as both Labour Leader and First Minister, my offer is to take Labour through the second half of this Assembly term, to fight for every vote in the election which will follow and, if successful, to form the next administration with the radical agenda which Wales will need.

Since April, I have met many hundreds of Labour Party members and trade unionists throughout Wales. For many of them, this leadership election boils down to two tests — will the next leader of Welsh Labour be someone who gives resolute support to the UK party and will that person support the campaign to democratise the operation of the Labour party in Wales?

As the only member of the Cabinet to have been a declared supporter of Jeremy Corbyn from the time he stood for the leadership in 2015, I say plainly we must have a leadership in Wales, which is enthusiastic about the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour Government at Westminster.

Nothing is more important for Wales — and for a Labour government here — than Labour forming the next UK government at the earliest possible moment.

As far as democracy is concerned, I remain, as I have for more than 30 years, a supporter of the basic principle that major decisions in our party should be taken on the basis of each elector having one vote of equal value. The Labour Party belongs to its members. In Wales, we have the great good fortune of having many thousands of new members join our ranks since 2015.

The next leader of Welsh Labour must have the authority which comes from having won a majority of that membership — just as those members need to know that it is their voice which is decisive in the major decisions we make as a party. Nothing else will do.

Mark Drakeford is the Assembly Member for Cardiff West

The Fabian Society in Wales