Vaughan Gething: Europe’s first Black leader

Vaughan Gething won the Welsh Labour Party leadership contest on Saturday, meaning he will become the first black leader of Wales, and Europe.

Yesterday, outgoing First Minister Mark Drakeford chaired his final cabinet meeting, before partaking in his final First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) and tendering his resignation to the King today.

On Wednesday, it is expected that the Llywydd will invite nominees for First Minister from Senedd members, before a vote takes place in the Senedd. Following this vote, the Llywydd will write to the King to inform him of the name of the new First Minister.

Towards the end of this week and over the weekend we can expect details of Vaughan Gething’s cabinet members and Programme for Government to emerge. We can say for certain that there will a new Minister for the Economy, amongst many other expected changes to the Welsh Government’s cabinet.


What this means for energy and infrastructure

Gething will be well-known to businesses and developers in Wales, as the former Minister for Economy and a long-standing advocate for investment and projects that result in skilled, good quality, unionised jobs.

During the leadership election we also learned that Gething supports the devolution of the Crown Estate to Wales, will push the UK Government to act on the need for investment in the Grid in Wales, and is committed to introducing a new Nature Positive Bill – with 30% of Welsh land and sea to be protected by 2030.


We can expect some concrete changes to the planning system in Wales, with Gething promising developers greater speed and certainly to renewables developers in his manifesto.


Net Zero Industry Wales will also have an enhanced role in identifying where Wales has competitive advantage in the industries and technologies of a net zero economy, with Gething’s Welsh Government using targeted support to fund these green industries of the future.


Policy convergence within the Labour Party

In policy and factional terms, Gething is certainly closer aligned with Keir Starmer than his leadership rival, Jermey Miles.


Keir Starmer, congratulated the new leader of the Welsh Labour Party, saying:

“On behalf of the entire UK Labour Party, we look forward to campaigning with Vaughan in this new chapter for Wales, to deliver Labour governments across Britain,” Starmer said.


Making the UK a clean energy superpower is one of Labour’s key missions, and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens said from a Welsh perspective, a UK Labour Government would prioritise floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, tidal energy, and investing in green energy to create new jobs and industries as well as delivering cheaper energy bills. Wales is integral to the UK Labour Party’s goals in this area.


Wales is key to the success of an incoming Labour UK Government in securing flagship policies, and crucially Welsh energy projects will be pivotal if the Party is to meet its highly ambitious 2030 clean power target. We can expect aligned Labour Governments to work far more closely and cooperatively together than what we have seen under the Conservative UK Government. This coordination may be important in unlocking flagship projects, including supporting the development of crucial infrastructure around the Celtic Sea.


Whilst the UK Labour Party is committed to planning reform, one question that we hear a lot is whether there is any intention to align the DNS system with the DCO system. The UK Labour Party has not indicated that this is something being considered at present, but we do expect they will look for ways to streamline and simplify the process across the board – especially if Gething announced details of what a fast-tracking system in Wales could look like ahead of the General Election.


Industry will be cautiously optimistic about the benefits potential political alignment could bring for the infrastructure sector in Wales, if Labour were to win the next General Election. Two Labour governments with ambitious green energy targets will be welcomed, and there will be less barriers as they work towards a collective goal. However, history does provide a word of warning, and despite it being two Labour Governments, we should not expect it all to be plain sailing.   For more on this, please see our latest blog here.


How Copper can help you navigate the Labour landscape

Welsh Labour Party Conference will this year be held on the 5-7th July in Llandudno – marking just over 100 days of Vaughan Gething’s premiership. Copper’s Wales Lead – Lisa Childs – will be at the conference throughout the weekend. Do get in touch if you would like to discuss the value in attending conference, how to maximise your budget, and how Copper can support you.


On the other side of Offa’s Dyke, we are continuing our series of Labour roundtables – an opportunity for Shadow Cabinet figures to share their insight and reflections with the sector in a private, Chatham House rules, environment. Do get in touch with our Public Affairs lead – Patrick Traynor – for more information on our upcoming events.

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