Drakeford started his political profession in native politics, turning into the Labour Social gathering member for Cardiff West within the Welsh parliament (Senedd) in 2011. Although Wales voted 52-48 to go away the EU, he continued to assist the Stay camp as a staunch backer of the Corbynite Momentum faction, which was firmly pro-EU. Drakeford even served as Wales’ ‘minister for Brexit’ from 2017 to 2018. He then gained the management for Welsh Labour, turning into first minister in 2018.

The UK’s Common Election landslide of 2019 returned Conservative Boris Johnson to energy in Westminster. Labour’s Pink Wall crumbled in lots of northern strongholds throughout England. However whereas the Tories made vital inroads into Depart-voting Wales, it wasn’t sufficient to rattle Drakeford’s place. Welsh Conservatives mentioned the outcome had ‘confined Labour to being a celebration of the Valleys’. However this type of contempt might nicely have helped Drakeford. The Brexit vote was fuelled by the alienation, frustration and marginalisation of working-class communities, and Drakeford was eager to level the finger on the ‘English parliament’, relatively than the EU, as the issue.

Drakeford is an oddly dated determine to have achieved up to date political success. He studied Latin at college. He speaks Welsh (and English) with a thick Carmarthenshire accent. He’s a paid-up member of each the Unite and Unison unions. And he professes a peculiarly intense love of cheese. He’s clearly not your typical political chief by up to date requirements.

Drakeford’s socialist-inspired atheism belies the truth that he typically comes throughout as a Welsh Presbyterian vicar. This got here to the fore throughout Covid, when he rapidly grew to become a lockdown fanatic. There was no Partygate scandal for him, largely as a result of it’s laborious to think about Drakeford really having fun with himself. He doesn’t drink, however relatively than hold his personal mortification of the flesh to himself, he selected to impose abstemiousness on the nation throughout Covid, even banning the sale of alcohol in pubs and insisting they shut by 6pm.

It was his administration of the Covid-19 lockdowns that earned him the sobriquet, Kim Jong-Drakeford. He grew to become one thing of a double act with then Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon. They competed with one another to outdo Boris Johnson’s ever extra draconian measures. This culminated with the official announcement that Drakeford had really moved out of his household residence, leaving his spouse in residence, whereas he slept in his backyard shed to keep away from probably spreading the virus.

These quirkier moments shouldn’t disguise the zealotry of Drakeford. Throughout the pandemic, he issued steering banning individuals from speaking on cellphones, studying newspapers or consuming meals on public transport. He mandated that passengers journey in ‘relative silence’ – lest, presumably, the virus unfold on the sound waves. His remit even prolonged to ordering passengers ‘to not run for the bus or run in railway stations’.

He saved a lot of his despotic mischief-making for drivers. His lockdown guidelines included banning individuals from driving someplace to take their train. Having acquired away with that, after the pandemic he proceeded to cancel all main road-building schemes at a stroke and introduce 20mph pace limits on all city and residential streets all through the nation. Maybe the re-introduction of horse-drawn carriages will likely be subsequent on the agenda for the Senedd.

Then there’s Drakeford’s report on schooling and healthcare. Wales has persistently ranked lowest within the UK in studying, arithmetic and science – performing considerably worse than English kids and nicely beneath the OECD common. Within the well being sector, emergency-response charges have trended downwards throughout all of Wales. Docs now warn of a potential collapse in GP surgical procedures, whereas dental providers have already collapsed.

Mark Drakeford has been cautious to oppose Welsh independence, whereas utilizing the specter of it to argue for larger powers for Wales. Nonetheless, his personal report as first minister is hardly a shining endorsement of devolution. He has overseen the continued collapse of medical providers, and his authoritarian interventions throughout Covid and since ought to by no means be forgotten. Let’s hope that he’s leaving politics to spend extra time within the shed.

Austin Williams is director of the Future Cities Mission.

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