When it comes to reshuffles there are usually three useful indicators – structure, scale, and scalps – and on two of these indicators Mark Drakeford has reshaped Welsh Government quite profoundly in light of victory in the polls.

The Structure criteria is about the shape of government departments. At the start of new Senedd you can usually expect some structural change, but on this occasion, there has been wholescale reorganisation to create a super ministry for Climate Change. Combining energy, transport, housing, planning, environment and land. Those with very long memories might remember Peter Law and Sue Essex holding similar portfolios in the first Assembly, but there has been little of recent comparable size. It brings all the drivers relating to climate change under one single portfolio – including car drivers – and is clearly a massive promotion for Julie James MS (Lab, Swansea West) who had impressed many not only with local government performance during the pandemic, but also steering through the new spatial development plan, Future Wales. Finally transport and housing, two of the major emitters of carbon, are brought firmly under the control of a single ministry, and Lee Waters MS (Lab, Llanelli) will have the opportunity to push active travel and public transport like never before. This all shows climate change is one of the three top priorities of government.

The other big ministry is of course Health and Social Services. It has not just over half of the total Welsh Government budget when social services is taken into account, but continues to have three government ministers attached to it. With the scale of work that needs to be undertaken, perhaps three is absolutely appropriate. Eluned Morgan MS (Lab, Mid & West Wales) gets the thorny top job at a time when the astronomical waiting lists are about to emerge as a main headache, and the second biggest challenge facing the Welsh Government. In delivery she is now assisted by Julie Morgan MS (Lab, Cardiff North), who continues in post as Deputy Minister for Social Services and will be expected now to deliver on a radical agenda of reform. Meanwhile Lynne Neagle MS (Lab, Torfaen) joins as Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing. She was until this reshuffle the longest serving backbencher in the Senedd, having done an incredible twenty-two years outside government, but has now been given the dream job of responsibility for two of the things she cares most passionately about.

The Scale of a reshuffle is demonstrated by the number of people involved and very few ministers have not received a new job or at least part of one. Interestingly Rebecca Evans MS (Lab, Gower) has kept hold of the purse strings as Minister for Finance and Local Government, the latter part being added since, in the absence of any planned major change to local government functions in Wales, it is just the funding that is the critical issue. Meanwhile Lesley Griffiths MS (Lab, Wrexham), who is the longest continuously serving minister in Welsh Government, takes on a job she might almost have designed for her own strengths and passions as she becomes Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd. She has handled each of these aspects before and will probably be less challenged than some other ministers. The First Minister has also brought Jane Hutt MS (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) back into Cabinet after three and half years nominally outside it, though much of her Minister for Social Justice role will encompass talking to the same people she had talked to previously and, dare it be said, many of whom will now have been in conversation with her for over two decades. Her staying power is remarkable. As her deputy Hannah Blythyn MS (Lab, Delyn) bears the title Minister for Social Partnerships and will also have responsibility for a lot of talking.

All of which might make you think that there were few or no men in government, especially when you measureScalps being taken. But this was a reshuffle with no real casualties and Mark Drakeford has now not sacked a minister since he initially took on the job in December 2018 and hasn’t needed to. There were a pair of vacancies due to ministers standing down from the Senedd, and one more deciding to leave government voluntarily. Ken Skates MS (Lab, Clwyd South) has for his own reasons decided to depart government on his own terms after eight years in ministerial office. In his place comes Vaughan Gething MS (Lab, Cardiff South and Penarth) who is unencumbered by concerns about transport and infrastructure and can focus solely on economic recovery. These ‘clean desk’ approach is about making sure the economic survival of Wales is central, since it is the third and final big issue facing the Welsh Government. His deputy is Dawn Bowden MS (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) who has been made Deputy Minister for the Arts and Sport as well as Chief Whip, a second new appointee who gets what might also be seen as a role designed for her strengths and skills.

Yet there is also a ‘new’ Counsel General, Mick Antoniw MS (Lab, Pontypridd), who returns to this post after a break of a few years, but also gets a role that will suit his appetites as Minister for the Constitution. As one of the freest thinking intellectuals in the Labour ranks, he is in this role to give it a new impetus and focus. The former minister for such matters Jeremy Miles MS (Lab, Neath) moves to take on not just Education but the Welsh Language too. He will be pleased with his first full on departmental role.

Indeed, with half the Labour group in government jobs and nobody sacked, the ministerial team will broadly be a happy one, even if a couple of people might have hoped for better promotions and a small number of backbenchers might have expected it was their turn. Two of them might even have expected a return to government, but those two weakened their own hands back in 2018 when neither could find backing within Labour for a leadership bid. Only Jane Hutt can do that, as she did in 2009, with no negative impact whatsoever.

This is the reshuffle Mark Drakeford clearly wanted to make. He has now put his mark – and his people – firmly into the government and the centre of government and has done so with as little compromise as there is bad feeling. Some will analyse it in terms of the strengths of runners and riders for the succession to succeed Mark Drakeford during this Senedd, but that is a rather fruitless pursuit. The best way to view this reshuffle is not as a staging post for a future government, but as the definitive expression of Mark Drakeford in government. And with a whopping election result, a working majority and a broadly happy Labour group, he has never been more politically happy, valued and secure.