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Vaughan Gething Becomes Wales’ First Black Head of Government

Vaughan Gething makes history. A Zambian-born lawyer has made history by becoming the first Black head of government in Wales, as well as in the entire continent of Europe. Vaughan Gething officially assumed his role as Welsh first minister on Thursday, following his election by the Welsh parliament in Cardiff the previous day and approval by King Charles III.

In his inaugural address, he remarked, “Today we turn a page in the book of our nation’s history — a history we write together. Not just because I have the honor of becoming the first Black leader in any European country, but because a generational dial has jumped too.”
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At 50 years old, Gething noted that he is the first Welsh leader to come of age after the devolution of powers from the U.K.’s central government in London to national governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a process initiated with public votes in the late 1990s.

Wales, with a population of about 3 million, is one of the four countries in the U.K., alongside England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. These nations oversee local services such as health and education systems, while matters like defence and foreign relations fall under London’s purview.

Gething, born to a Zambian mother and a white Welsh father, spent his formative years in Dorset, England, before pursuing higher education in Wales.

Reflecting on his election, he shared with lawmakers on Wednesday that it is “a matter of pride” as well as a “daunting responsibility,” given his race and background. He pledged to foster a Wales where citizens “can celebrate our differences and take pride in all of those things that draw us together.

A longstanding member of the center-left Labour Party in the U.K., Gething secured leadership within the party’s Welsh faction last weekend after his predecessor, Mark Drakeford, stepped down. With Labour holding the most seats in the Welsh legislature, Gething ascended to the role of first minister.

Prior to his current position, he served as Welsh health minister for five years, including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Since 2021, he had held the post of the country’s economy minister.
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Gething’s election now means that three out of the four countries in the U.K. — England, Wales, and Scotland — are led by individuals of non-white heritage. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is of Indian descent, while Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has Pakistani heritage.

Notably, Northern Ireland is governed by two women, indicating that there are presently no white men occupying top-tier political offices in any of the four U.K. countries.