First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced he will be stepping down as Welsh Labour leader.

A leadership contest will be held in the coming months to find a new first minister.

In a statement revealed by BBC News, Mr Drakeford said: "A new party leader will be elected before Easter."

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford resigns as Welsh Labour leader - full statement

In a resignation statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “When I stood for election as Leader of Welsh Labour, I said I would stand down during the current Senedd term.

“That time has now come.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as leader of this party.

“Together, we have achieved a huge amount over the last five years in some of the toughest times we have known.

“Despite all the chaos in Westminster, the ongoing impact of Brexit, climate change and the pandemic, by working together, we have delivered record results for Welsh Labour in the local government and Senedd elections.

“Our greatest task is still ahead of us – to return a Labour UK Government and start repairing the huge damage which has been inflicted by the Tories over the last 13 years.

“I will work tirelessly to secure that Labour victory and to continue delivering on the promises we made to people all across Wales in 2021 to deliver a stronger, fairer and greener Wales.”

Mr Drakeford insisted he still had a lot to achieve over the coming months and there would be “plenty of time for political obituaries and retrospection once I’ve ceased to be First Minister, but not before”.

But he added: “In a five-year period, which has seen Wales deal with austerity, Brexit, the Covid pandemic, the climate crisis, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and four different prime ministers – so far – there will be lots to reflect upon.”

Until he leaves office, he said he would “continue to be fully focused on delivering the promises we made to people across Wales in the last Senedd election”.

“The next Welsh leader and first minister will, I hope, have an opportunity which has not come my way and that is to work with a newly-elected Labour government in London. And I will work as hard as I can to see that Labour government elected."

Mr Drakeford was first elected to the Senedd in 2011 as the Member for Cardiff West.

He served in various ministerial roles from 2013 under the leadership of Carwyn Jones, before succeeding him as First Minister and Welsh Labour leader in 2018.

Following the news, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies said: "I wish Mark Drakeford well as he stands down.

"While we may have different visions for Wales, I know I'm joined by colleagues in holding a huge amount of respect for his dedication to the job of First Minister.  

"It’s important, however, with this announcement that there is no distraction from the really important job of delivering for the people of Wales.  

"Labour politicians jockeying for the role of First Minister must not detract from this."

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer issues statement as Mark Drakeford resigns

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, speaking after Mr Drakeford's resignation, said he was a “titan” of Welsh politics.

“Mark has set a clear standard for public service in UK politics, always putting others before himself,” Sir Keir said.

“During his five years as First Minister, against a backdrop of austerity, instability in Westminster and navigating the pandemic, he has delivered for Wales with steely determination and quiet authority.

“Above all, Mark is a kind and decent man, who lives his Labour values.

“A proud Welshman, Wales too can be proud of Mark, for his fight for working people. He’s a true titan of Welsh and Labour politics. It has been a pleasure to work alongside him and we all wish him the very best for his retirement.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wishes Mark Drakeford "all the best"

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wished Mr Drakeford “all the best as he moves on from his many years of public service”.

Mr Sunak added the Tory government would “continue to work closely” with the administration in Wales.