FIRST Minister Mark Drakeford has announced his intention to step down in March 2024 which means a Welsh Labour leadership contest is about to take place.

It has been exactly five years since the Senedd member for Cardiff West was confirmed as the next party leader and First Minister of Wales.

The two candidates he beat in 2018, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, are among the favourites to replace him next year.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething, who served as Mr Drakeford’s health minister during the Covid pandemic, said: “Few people will ever know the sacrifices that Mark has made to steer Wales through the toughest of times.”

He praised his party leader as “not just a First Minister, but as an election winner for Welsh Labour” and praised his “exemplary” intellect, stamina and decency.

Health minister Eluned Morgan, originally Mr Drakeford’s minister for international relations and Welsh language, praised the First Minister’s “steadfast leadership”.

“As a politician and as a friend, I respect and admire Mark immensely,” she said. “An honest and decent man whose compass has always been directed by a resolute commitment to champion the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Being front and central of the country’s Covid response and introduction of the default 20mph speed limit, Mr Drakeford has become something of a household name in a way that some of his predecessors have not.

Self-professed politics fan Angela Scourfield, 58, from Beechwood, says the only other Welsh Labour minister she knows is Vaughan Gething.

“With the people feel about Drakeford now, it’s probably for the best,” she said. “I have mixed feelings. The way he conducted himself during Covid was much more sensible than they had in England, but I have mixed feelings because of 20mph.

“I have a holiday home and if it affects tourism, it affects me. I hear people saying they are not going to take their staycation in Wales because of 20mph.

“Vaughan Gething came across well in Covid.”

Former district nurse Rosemary White, 80, from Beechwood, also dislikes the 20mph default limit, which was included in Welsh Labour’s manifesto for government in 2021.

“I don’t think I could have done my job at 20mph. I think it’s going to cause more traffic.

South Wales Argus: Former nurse Rosemary White says she couldn't have worked with 20mph

“I don’t like listening to the news because it’s all depressing, but I think they’re all the same – all out for each other.

“I think it should be a woman’s turn, so Eluned Morgan.”

Teifion Gambold, 25, from Duffryn said he was a “little bit sad” to see Mr Drakeford step down.

“I think he’s been a dependable pair of hands, but there has been so much pressure on him, so I’m not surprised.

“I hope he will be remembered for the Covid response, where, in the grand scheme of things, I think he made the right decision more than the wrong one. What I hope he’s not remembered for is 20mph – but I think that’s quite likely.

South Wales Argus: Teifion Gambold is sad but not surprised

“I would quite like to see Vaughan Gething take over. We saw him during the pandemic as health minister and he was quite cool and calm.

“The only other person I could name at the moment is Eluned Morgan, but I don’t like her as much.

“It may be unfair because of the hand she’s been dealt but I haven’t felt as reassured by her answers for health.”

Glyn Davies, 62, from Newport says he was glad to see Mr Drakeford stepping down.

“I understand certain aspects of climate change but to stick a 20mph speed limit on most of Wales is not realistic,” he said.

“I don’t follow politics in Wales so I can’t name anyone who could take over.”