MARK Drakeford has been named as the new leader of the Welsh Labour and presumptive new first minister and has promised to create a Wales which is “a beacon of hope in a darkening world”.

The Cardiff West AM won 53.9 per cent of votes following the second round of voting, after no candidate reached the 50 per cent target.

He received 46.9 per cent of the first round votes, beating competitors Vaughan Gething, who won 30.8 per cent of votes, and Eluned Morgan, who won 22.3 per cent of votes, to the role. In the second round Mr Gething won 41.4 per cent.

Mr Drakeford had been the bookies’ favourite since Carwyn Jones announced at the Welsh Labour conference in April he would stand down by the end of 2018.

Mr Jones will remain first minister until Tuesday, when he will write to the Queen to tender his resignation. The new first minister will then be officially elected the following day.

Although both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives are nominating their respective leaders Adam Price and Paul Davies, Mr Drakeford will be elected to the role, barring an extremely unlikely rebellion by Labour AMs.

In his victory speech Mr Drakeford said: “This afternoon I pledge to dedicate all the strength and the energy and commitment I can bring to the essential common task in which together we create a Welsh Labour Party and a Wales which is a beacon of hope in a darkening world, and a future which works for the many in our society, and not simply a privileged few.”

He added: “The choice that has been made today, I believe, is a choice for a Labour Party which is ambitious for a distinctive Wales in a successful United Kingdom, for a Labour Party here in Wales which will do everything we can to make sure we have a Labour Government in Westminster to work with a Labour government here in Wales.”

He also pledged to bring the party back to its socialist roots, hailing Aneurin Bevan, Michael Foot and his own political mentor and predecessor as Cardiff West AM Rhodri Morgan.

He added: “Now our thoughts must turn to taking forward the passionate commitment of this party to protecting and promoting the interests of Welsh citizens at this most perilous period in our history.”

He also thanked his supporters, and paid tribute to Mr Gething and Ms Morgan, saying the campaign had “allowed this party to come out of this contest strengthened in so many ways.”

Outgoing first minister Carwyn Jones spoke to members, supporters and the media before the result was announced by deputy leader Carolyn Harris, calling his nine years in office “the greatest honour of my life”.

Speaking to the Argus after the result was announced, Mr Drakeford said his first order of business would be Brexit.

"The new first minister will take office just as the meaningful vote on the floor of the House of Commons happens, and the stakes are so high in terms of what matters here in Wales that you're bound to be dealing with that as your first priority," he said.

He also said he planned to announce his new cabinet within the week, and wanted it to be gender balanced. He also said he hoped Ms Morgan and Mr Gething would accept offers to serve in his cabinet.

He added: "I'm very glad to see the contest over.

"I am delighted of course at the result, a clear-cut result.

"I feel we come out of the contest as a party energised at what has taken place."

Ms Morgan said she was “disappointed” by the result, but “delighted that Mark Drakeford will be taking us forwards as a nation.”

“There’s a lot of really difficult issues coming up on the agenda – we’ve got Brexit, austerity is going on, we’ve got climate change – all of these things now are going to land on Mark Drakeford’s desk," she said.

“The pressure’s off me and on Mark Drakeford, and I hope we can all come together as a team to make sure we do the best for the people of Wales.”

And Mr Gething said he felt “positive” about his campaign.

“I am genuinely very proud of the campaign we ran, the ideas we put forward and the response I had, not just from members, but the other two candidates as well,” he said. “I am really pleased about what I’ve done. 
“It’s our job now to get behind the new leadership of Welsh Labour.” 

A flood of messages of congratulations to Mark Drakeford on his election as the new leader of Welsh Labour have been received from across the political spectrum.

Chief among them was Jeremy Corbyn who said: "I am confident that Mark will demonstrate what Labour in government can achieve by building a more equal society, even in the face of the Conservatives’ callous austerity agenda and cuts to the Welsh budget.

“I know Mark will relentlessly fight for the interests of the Welsh people and stand up to the Tories’ chronic under-investment in Wales compared to other parts of the UK, particularly London.”

He also congratulated Mr Gething and Ms Morgan, paying tribute to “the passion with which they campaigned”, and thanked Mr Jones for “his unprecedented electoral success”.

Conservative Welsh secretary Alun Cairns said: “I look forward to working closely with Mark Drakeford to secure a stronger economy in communities right across Wales, particularly as the UK embarks on this significant period of change.

"I will meet with Mark after his formal appointment next week and I am sure that we can continue the positive collaboration between both governments in Wales.

“I would also like to extend my personal thanks to Carwyn Jones, whose commitment to the role and service to the country has been commendable. I wish him well for the future.”

And Newport East AM John Griffiths, who also backed Mr Drakeford, said he was “very pleased with the result.

“I am very confident Mark will do a very good job for Wales,” he said. “He’s got very good ideas – they’re achievable and practical.”

Islwyn AM Rhianon Passmore, who backed Mr Drakeford’s campaign, said she was “thrilled” by the result.

“Welsh Labour have elected a true socialist in the proud traditions of our party and our nation,” she said.

She added: “Mark is not politics as usual. Mark is not from the mould of politicians who say vacuous soundbites that do nothing to improve the lives of those most in need.

“In Islwyn during the camping I was proud to host Mark as he addressed members at the Blackwood Miners’ Institute. I saw there a passion and fire for socialist solutions to the great crisis of our day.

“The mess of the UK Tory Government’s Brexit negotiations and their ideologically driven policy of austerity threatens the present and future prosperity of Wales.”

Meanwhile, leader of the Assembly's Conservative group Paul Davies congratulated Mr Drakeford, but warned he had "a huge task ahead of him in solving the problems our nation is experiencing after decades of failure from successive Labour-led governments".

"People across the country are crying out for change but I fear that the result of this election is simply going to give us more of the same," he said.

And a Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: “We congratulate Mark Drakeford on winning the Welsh Labour leadership race and wish him well.

“The mountain of issues he faces is great and it is a mountain largely of their own making.

“They were part of a Labour administration that has left us with an economy that still bounces across the bottom of league tables and public services crying out for help. Unfortunately after 20 years of Labour-led governments we can’t expect much to change, even if the face at the top does.

“At such a crucial time, Wales needs more than a superficial change of Labour leader. Old faces, delivering old ideas for a nation that has moved on.

 “We are calling time on this tired Labour Welsh government. Now’s the time for new energy, new ideas and a new direction. Plaid Cymru is ready to lead on to a new Wales.”

And leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds called on Mr Drakeford to support a so-called ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.

“There are many important and pressing issues for Mark to immediately consider, but none are as important or as pressing as Brexit. I was disappointed that unlike his election rivals, Mark refused to back a People’s Vote during the election campaign,” she said.

“We are proud to have led the fight for a people’s vote from the beginning, but it is now truly a cross-party campaign. We urge Mark to seize this momentous opportunity to stop Brexit and join the campaign for a people’s vote with the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit.”

For everything you need to know about Mark Drakeford click here.

For a Q&A with the new leader-elect of Welsh Labour click here.