OLD foes turned teary today as Mark Drakeford made his final appearance in the Senedd as first minister.

The former youth justice worker and university professor was a Labour councillor in South Glamorgan County Council before becoming an influential operator in the early days of devolution in Wales.

In 2011, he was elected as the Assembly Member for Cardiff West. He was appointed health and social services minister in 2013 and became first minister, replacing Carwyn Jones, in 2018.

He said he was excited to “play his part” on the backbenches until the next elections in 2026 and support his successor Vaughan Gething in the role.

“I’m a socialist myself, I always have been, I always will be. But the work is to see how we can continue to make relevant that tradition to the nature of Wales today,” he said.

After thanking all in the Senedd for their support, he reflected on the loss of his wife, Clare Drakeford, in January 2023.

“For me, personally, the last 12 months has been the hardest and the saddest of my life,” he said, tearing up.

“And people will not see, beyond the Chamber, those small acts of kindness that happen every day from people in every part of this Chamber that help someone to get through those very, very difficult times.”

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, reflected on the time they had shared through Covid, including a televised debate where they were trapped in “plastic cubicles”.

“That was the world we were living in at the time. Those who lost their lives, we’ll never forget. But those who came through it will want to rebuild and regroup and re-energise this great country of ours, Wales, that is such an important part of all our lives,” he said.

“One of the things that I find so disturbing in modern politics is people recall that point where you and I had that heated exchange, and they say you must really hate each other. Hate is a terrible word. It’s a really poisonous, infectious word in a negative way.

“That’s not hate - that is passion, that is conviction, and that is what politics should be about - and that is what you have brought to the role of first minister.

“I also thank you for the kindness you showed me when you personally wrote to me during my illness. That kindness was greatly appreciated and meant a lot to me at the time.”