In the race to replace Carwyn Jones, Mark Drakeford starts as a strong candidate

The incumbent finance secretary is well-placed, regardless of the system.

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Who’ll replace Carwyn Jones as leader of the Welsh Labour Party? Mark Drakeford, the finance minister, has launched his campaign formally and others are expected to follow suit in the coming days.

There is a great deal of chatter about which electoral system the contest will use. At present, the Welsh Labour party is the only remaining part of the Labour party to still use the old electoral college, in which the votes of MPs and Assembly members count for a third, the votes of trade unionists and other affiliates count for another third, and the votes of ordinary members account for the remaining third.

As it stands, there is not a majority on the ruling executive of the Welsh Labour party to change the system unless one of the major trades unions changes  their stance on the issue, but the issue is something of a sideshow: my read is that Drakeford starts in a strong position regardless.

Drakeford has two strong assets as far as members of the Welsh and Westminster parliaments go: the first is that he is a native Welsh speaker. Many in Welsh Labour regard this as a vital part of Jones’ electoral appeal and a crucial asset in blunting Plaid Cymru’s appeal. The second is that he has said he will only serve one term, which is attractive to younger and more ambitious politicians.

Added to that, Drakeford is seen to have done well as finance secretary and has strong leftwing bona fides which appeals both within the Welsh parliamentary party and membership.

Not to say he will have it all his own way in the contest. Eluned Morgan and Vaughan Gething, the could make a strong bid – but it is to say that whether the contest takes place with or without an electoral college, the result is unlikely to change significantly.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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