For the first time since the dawn of devolution, all four major parties in the Welsh Assembly are embroiled in leadership battles at the same time. IAN CRAIG looks at who is running to lead their parties into the next Assembly Election.

Welsh Labour

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Carwyn Jones shocked Welsh politics when he announced at Welsh Labour’s spring conference in April he would quit as the party’s leader in the autumn, with his replacement to be in place by the end of the year.

And the winner will have the distinction not only of leading Welsh Labour, but also being Wales’ first minister, at least until the next Assembly Election in 2021.

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And the election is notable for another reason - Welsh Labour currently operates an electoral college system, through which one third of the vote is allocated to AMs, MPs and MEPs, another third to party members and the final third to trade unions and affiliated bodies.

But, after Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris was elected as the party’s first

deputy leader in April despite winning fewer votes than her competitor, Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan, calls to introduce a one-member-one-vote (OMOV) system, which was used to elect Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s national leader, have intensified, with a special conference to decide whether or not the rules should be changed to be held in September.

Previous elections across the world - not least that of Donald Trump - have shown the real impact an electoral system can have on a result.


Mark Drakeford

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The finance minister has been a fixture in Cardiff Bay since the dawn of devolution. He worked as Rhodri Morgan’s right-hand man during his nine years as first minister, and has served as Cardiff West AM since 2011.

Already a veteran of the cabinet, he previously held the health and local government portfolios and has long been tipped as Mr Jones’ likely successor.

He was the first to announce he would stand, announcing his candidacy just days after Mr Jones announced he was leaving.

Vaughan Gething

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First elected as Cardiff South and Penarth AM in 2011, Mr Gething has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of Welsh Labour.

He currently holds the health and social services portfolio in Carwyn Jones’ cabinet, having previously served as Mr Drakeford’s deputy when he was health minister.

Also long tipped as a potential future first minister, he is seen by many as the more centrist candidate to Mr Drakeford’s more Corbyn-esque stance.

Eluned Morgan

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One of the newest faces in Cardiff Bay, having first been elected to the Assembly in 2016, but not a new face to Welsh politics, the Mid and West Wales AM was elected as an MEP in 1994 and served in Brussels for 15 years. She was only the fifth woman elected to a full-time political position in the history of Wales.

Appointed Baroness Morgan of Ely in 2011, she is one of only two AMs to also serve in the House of Lords.

She is also minister for the Welsh language and lifelong learning.

Huw Irranca-Davies

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Another of the newer faces in the Senedd, Mr Irranca Davies was Ogmore MP from 2002 to 2016, when he resigned to stand for the same seat in the Assembly, winning the seat in May that year.

During his time as an MP he served as shadow minister for energy, and later held the food, farming and rural affairs portfolio. He also chaired the Environmental Audit Committee.

He has been minister for children, older people and social care since last November.

With four candidates having already come forward, and each requiring at least five nominations to get onto the ballot, it seems unlikely anyone else will put themselves forward.

Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies has been tipped as a possible contender, but has so far not announced he will run.

He has previously said he would only consider standing if the election was held under an OMOV system.

Economy and transport secretary Ken Skates has also long been tipped as a possible future first minister, but last week announced he was backing Mr Drakeford.

Concerns have also been raised that the large number of people backing Mr Drakeford would make it difficult for other candidates to get on the ballot.

Welsh Conservatives

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Andrew RT Davies unexpectedly quit as leader of the Welsh Conservative group - a role he had held since 2011 - earlier this month.

Although his views, particularly his support of the Leave campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum, have been divisive within the party, few could deny his charisma, meaning his successor will have a hard act to follow.

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Picture: James Cunningham Photography

Notably, the two candidates to come forward so far both backed the Remain campaign, which will prove contentious among some in the party, and could leave the door open for a pro-Brexit candidate to attract a great deal of support.

In a typically Welsh twist, both candidates running to replace Mr Davies are also named Davies - meaning the contest will be Davies vs Davies to replace Davies. None are believed to be related to each other.

Whoever wins will face an uphill battle, with the Conservatives a perpetual opposition in Wales since the Assembly was founded in 1999.

Although it would be reasonable to think that, after nearly 20 years of power and Wales still languishing behind England in a number of key areas, Welsh voters may be starting to become disenchanted with Labour, recent election results have shown little evidence of this. With the next Assembly election still three years away, the new leader of the Welsh Conservatives will need to begin work as soon as possible to convince voters they’re the people to lead Wales into the 2020s.

Party members will cast their votes next month with the winner to be declared in early September.


Paul Davies

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Assumed by many to be Andrew RT Davies’ obvious successor, Paul Davies is a less fiery character who some from other parties may be more willing to work alongside.

But some have said he may not have the charisma to unite the party. Snatching the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency from Labour in 2007, he has held a number of shadow cabinet roles.

Suzy Davies

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The South Wales West AM came forward after it began to appear Paul Davies would be handed the role uncontested, saying it was important a contest was held.

First elected to the Assembly in 2011, she also serves as shadow minister for social services, culture, broadcasting, heritage and the Welsh language as well as the party’s representative on the National Assembly Commission.

She has indicated she may be willing to work alongside Plaid Cymru to force Labour from power in the Assembly.

Under party rules, each candidate needs three nominations to run meaning, as there are only 11 Conservative AMs, there can only be two official candidates.

This does not mean no one else will put themselves forward for the role - but doing so will mean a battle to win support from prospective candidates from their fellow AMs.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar stood in for Andrew RT Davies in a televised General Election debate last year, leading to many to tip him as a potential future leader. But he is yet to announce whether or not he will put himself forward.

Although Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay ran against Mr Davies for leader of the group in 2011, he has shown no sign of wanting to stand again.

Plaid Cymru

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Plaid Cymru operates a different system from the other parties, whereby the opportunity to challenge the party leader opens once every two years.

Leanne Wood was elected as party leader in 2012, and has remained unchallenged since then.

But whispers of a possible contest arose after Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Adam Price said earlier this month the party should have a joint-leadership model - a proposal Ms Wood promptly rejected.

But Anglesey AM Rhun ap Iorwerth was first to pull the trigger on a leadership contest last week - just hours before the window for challenge was due to close.

Former MP Mr Price joined the contest later the same day.

This makes Plaid the fourth party in the Assembly to face a leadership contest.


Leanne Wood

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Picture: Plaid Cymru

First elected to the Assembly in 2003 as AM for South Wales Central, she became the party’s first female leader in 2012. Among her supporters at the time was Adam Price.

In 2016 she ran for the Rhondda constituency rather than her regional seat, sensationally ousting former Labour minister Leighton Andrews in the biggest upset of election night.

She gained national attention when she took part in televised debates ahead of the 2015 General Election and is possibly the most prominent female politician in Wales.

Although she is a very popular figure among many, this will be the first real test of her position as party leader.

Adam Price

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Picture: Plaid Cymru

Although he was only elected to the Assembly for the first time in 2016, Mr Price is no stranger to the front line of Welsh politics, having served as MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, from 2001 until 2010.

A long-time ally and supporter of Leanne Wood and on the left wing of the party, he has stepped up to challenge her after she rejected his proposal for a joint leadership. During his time in Parliament he attempted to launch impeachment proceedings against then-prime minister Tony Blair for his role in the Iraq War.

He is shadow cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure and has been one of the more prominent figures in the call for answers over the scrapped Circuit of Wales. He is also one of only three openly-gay AMs in the Assembly.

Rhun ap Iorwerth

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Picture: Plaid Cymru

First elected to the Assembly in a by-election in 2013 after the party's former leader Ieuan Wyn Jones resigned, the former journalist has been widely tipped as a possible future leader of the party.

But just last month he said he had "no plans and neither does anyone else" to challenge Ms Wood for the leadership.

Launching his campaign he said: "My commitment is to Wales, and to a fairer and more prosperous future for the country.

"Plaid Cymru has to lead the way to that new, confident Wales".

A very popular figure among the north Wales and Welsh-speaking community, he is also the party’s shadow cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport.

As the window for leadership challenge has closed, a three-way race between Ms Wood, Mr ap Iorwerth and Mr Price is the final ballot members will be presented with.

For her part, Ms Wood has previously said she will quit as leader if Plaid does not win a majority in the 2021 Assembly Election - but that was before her leadership was challenged.

Plaid enjoyed a relatively successful 2016 Assembly Election, ousting former minister Leighton Andrews and gaining an additional AM, as well as gaining an extra seat in Parliament in last year's snap General Election in the shape of Ceredigion's Ben Lake - the youngest MP in Parliament.

But it hasn't all been good news, with elder statesman Dafydd Elis-Thomas leaving the party in October 2016 to sit as an Independent - since being rewarded with a seat in Carwyn Jones' cabinet.

And the ongoing row around controversial South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy, currently suspended from the party following allegations of misconduct, has overshadowed much of its work.

Ukip Wales

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Ukip has had something of a turbulent time since it won representation in the Assembly for the first time in 2016.

The seven-strong group quickly dropped to six when North Wales' Nathan Gill left to sit as an Independent after he was beaten to the role of group leader, which had been generally assumed to be his by default as then-leader of the Ukip Wales, by ex-Conservative MP Neil Hamilton.

Mr Gill quit the Assembly altogether in December last year to focus on his duties as an MEP and was replaced by Mandy Jones.

However, she too left to sit as an Independent after less than a week following a row around her staff.

South Wales East's Mark Reckless also left the party last year to join the Assembly's Conservative group, decreasing their ranks to five.

And last month South Wales West AM Caroline Jones staged a coup, ousting Mr Hamilton as group leader.

But he immediately challenged her in an attempt to regain the role, with members to be given the chance to vote.

However, the ultimate winner will only have the distinction of leading the party's Assembly group. No matter what happens, Mr Hamilton will remain leader of the Ukip Wales.


Neil Hamilton

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The former Conservative minister - who was implicated in the cash for questions scandal in the mid 1990s - made a surprise return to frontline politics when he was elected as AM for Mid and West Wales in 2016.

Immediately snatching the role of group leader from under the nose of Nathan Gill, he proved a contentious figure and was ultimately ousted from the role last month.

Caroline Jones

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Seen as more moderate than Mr Hamilton, she has attempted to draw a clear distinction between herself and the ex-MP, saying she offers "a positive approach towards politics".

She has also described herself as "a force to be reckoned with", but has said: "I don't want to be controversial for the sake of being controversial."

Gareth Bennett

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Another outspoken and controversial figure, the South Wales Central was banned from speaking in the Assembly in December last year after claiming during a debate on transgender rights that society could "completely implode" as a result of "deviation from the norm".

He was also criticised after blaming litter problems in Cardiff on migrants ahead of the 2016 Assembly Election. He has said if he wins he will campaign to abolish the Welsh Assembly and cut the amount of money used to support the Welsh language.

Three of the party's five AMs are already running, and it seems unlikely the other two - South Wales East's David Rowlands and North Wales' Michelle Brown - will also throw their hats in the ring.

But, over the two years since Ukip AMs were elected to the Assembly for the first time, the party has proven itself as anything but predictable.

The only party with representation in the Assembly which is not facing a leadership contest is the Walsh Liberal Democrats. The sole Lib Dem AM, Brecon and Radnorshire's Kirsty Williams, also currently serves in Carwyn Jones' cabinet at education secretary.