The election of Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader brings to a conclusion the longest contest in Welsh political history. It was also arguably the most predictable contest. At no point did Drakeford ever look like anything other than the eventual winner. His sincerity, industriousness and decency made him not just the most appealing candidate for his fellow AMs but also the stand out choice for the party membership as a whole.
Awaiting Mark when he becomes First Minister next Wednesday are a series of fundamental but difficult challenges. On a policy level, top of the in-tray is the M4 Relief Road. Carwyn Jones had wanted to be the person to sign this one off and try and give himself some sort of legacy. He failed to achieve this after a rebellion in the Labour group. Now it will be for the new First Minister to seek to resolve this thorny issue.
Another legacy from Carwyn is the ongoing inquest into the death of Carl Sargeant. Last week in Ruthin the outgoing leader of Welsh Labour lodged a judicial review against the coroner’s decision around the admission of late evidence into proceedings. He did this with the weight of Welsh Government behind him, irrespective of how that would impact on a family desperate for some sort of closure after a horrific year. In five days time that weight of office will no longer be his, and it will be for Mark Drakeford to decide whether this matter continues to hang so prominently over Welsh Labour.
When Mark takes over next Wednesday, he will also have the opportunity to reshape the government. No, we don’t know who will get which job. Mark hasn’t phoned Positif to tell any of us, so stop asking. But there are some clues out there in respect of his manifesto pledges around a minister for north Wales and a Cabinet Secretary for housing. Ultimately he will have a delicate balancing act between rewarding loyalty and ability on the one hand, and making his administration appear fresh and renewed. Maybe that may involve more of a structural and functional change than a widespread transformation of personnel. Beyond that, it is for Mark Drakeford to decide and our intelligence is no better than yours.