Labour’s new leader in Wales played up his left-wing credentials

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New Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford has been a key member of the Welsh Government for many years and was favourite in the leadership race.

He was the only member of the cabinet to vote for Jeremy Corbyn during his first national leadership bid in 2015 and his own campaign has focused on his left-wing credentials.

The 64-year-old worked as a probation officer before becoming a lecturer at Swansea University and then Cardiff University, where he became Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences before his move into government.

Born in Carmarthen, West Wales, he lives in Cardiff with wife Claire, 67, with whom he has three adult children. His son, Jonathan Drakeford, 31, was jailed for eight years and eight months in September for the rape and assault of a 22-year-old woman in Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford was a councillor in Cardiff before serving as a special adviser under former first minister Rhodri Morgan. He became an Assembly Member (AM)  in 2011 and went on to hold key positions in the cabinet as health minister and finance secretary, as well as acting as the Welsh Government’s Brexit minister.

Professor Roger Awan-Scully, head of Politics and International Relations at Cardiff University, said appealing to supporters of Mr Corbyn during the leadership race could prove tricky once Mr Drakeford becomes the new First Minister.

He said: “Certainly in his rhetoric he’s courted the support of the Corbynites and that wing of the party.

“Partly because of that his actions may come under close scrutiny, maybe unusually close scrutiny from the media in London, and political opponents may look to do what David Cameron tried to do with Labour’s management of the NHS in Wales.

“Anything that’s going wrong will be seen as exemplifying the failures or problems with Corbynism, so I think that’s a problem.

“(And) if you look at what Mark’s actually done as a minister, he comes across as a sort of cautious moderate figure. But he’s talked up his left wing credentials and I think there’s going to be significant expectation from much of the membership that it will then lead to delivery in terms of policy outcomes.”

Mr Drakeford’s manifesto pledges included extending the smoking ban to outdoor areas of cafes and restaurants and installing drinking fountains across Wales, but nothing about the thorny issue of the a long-proposed M4 relief road.

On the issue of Brexit he has called for a general election if Prime Minister Theresa May cannot get her deal through Parliament, and said if that does not happen then there should be another referendum.

On Tuesday Mr Drakeford urged assembly members to reject Mrs May’s Brexit deal in a symbolic vote in the Senedd, saying the deal did not meet the “fundamental interests” of Wales or the UK.

He is likely to take up the position of First Minister a day after MPs vote in the House of Commons on whether to accept or reject Mrs May’s deal.

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