Wales's Vaughan Gething elected Europe's first black leader

Zambian-born politician takes majority in vote for next leader of Welsh Labour party

Vaughan Gething speaks to Welsh Labour supporters after his election as party leader and the next First Minister. AP
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Welsh politician Vaughan Gething says he is honoured to become “the first black leader in any European country” after he was chosen as the country's next First Minister.

Mr Gething, 50, will take office on Wednesday after being elected leader of the ruling Labour Party in Wales.

Born in Zambia to a Welsh father, Mr Gething will become the third serving ethnic minority leader in Britain.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is of Indian descent, while Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has Pakistani heritage.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill is a Catholic republican, another first.

“Today, we turn the page in the book of our nation’s history, a history that we write together,” Mr Gething said in a victory speech.

“Not just because I had the honour of becoming the first black leader in any European country, because a generational dial has jumped too.”

Outgoing First Minister Mark Drakeford, 69, announced his retirement in December. Mr Gething won the Labour leadership race with 51.7 per cent of the vote, defeating rival Jeremy Miles.

Previously Wales's minister of economy, Mr Gething spoke to The National in 2022 about the country's plans for the space sector.

The Welsh space vision focuses on high-skilled manufacturing jobs and “isn’t just about the traditional images of a big rocket”, he said at the time.

In his leadership campaign he pledged to fight for social justice, industrial jobs and more powers for the devolved Welsh government.

Mr Gething will lead Welsh Labour into a British general election, expected this year, with the party currently holding 21 out of 40 seats in Wales.

Labour leader Keir Starmer called the result a “historic moment that speaks to the progress and values of modern-day Wales”.

Mr Yousaf called it an “incredible achievement”.

Mr Sunak said he was “committed to working together constructively” with Welsh ministers.

The devolved governments set up in 1998 handle affairs such as health, education and transport, while the British government at Westminster retains control of foreign affairs, defence and other nationwide issues.

Updated: March 16, 2024, 4:23 PM