THE First Minister of Wales has resigned.

Mark Drakeford had previously said he would step down as the leader of Welsh Labour during the current parliamentary term.

On Wednesday, he said in a statement: “The time has now come.”

Drakeford has served as leader of Welsh Labour and the First Minister of the nation since 2018 and he had been expected to resign in 2024.

He told journalists during a statement at the Senedd that a new Welsh Labour leader would be elected before Easter, and he would continue to serve as First Minister until then.

Drakeford said in a statement: “When I stood for election as Leader of Welsh Labour, I said I would stand down during the current Senedd term.

“That time has now come.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as leader of this party.

“Together, we have achieved a huge amount over the last five years in some of the toughest times we have known.

“Despite all the chaos in Westminster, the ongoing impact of Brexit, climate change and the pandemic, by working together, we have delivered record results for Welsh Labour in the local government and Senedd elections.

“Our greatest task is still ahead of us – to return a Labour UK Government and start repairing the huge damage which has been inflicted by the Tories over the last 13 years.

“I will work tirelessly to secure that Labour victory and to continue delivering on the promises we made to people all across Wales in 2021 to deliver a stronger, fairer and greener Wales.”

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Miles, a Labour MS and education minister, paid tribute to Drakeford.

Sturgeon said the Welsh leader "was without doubt one of the most decent, dedicated, principled, and impressive politicians I had the privilege of working with".

Miles wrote: "Mark Drakeford is an extraordinary man who has led Wales through extraordinary times.

"He has been a beacon for compassion in our politics, and an example of public service to our nation."

Drakeford forged a co-operation agreement with the pro-independence Plaid Cymru in late 2021.

The two parties agreed to work together on 46 policy areas in a deal due to run until December 2024. 

Drakeford has recently suffered a slump in poll ratings and come under fire for policies including the widespread use of 20mph limits on Welsh roads.

A YouGov poll of 1004 Welsh voters for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University earlier this month found his popularity is at an 18-month low, with 56% believing he is doing a bad job of being First Minister.

Drakeford was first elected to the Senedd in 2011 as the Member for Cardiff West.

He served in various ministerial roles from 2013 under the leadership of Carwyn Jones, before succeeding him as First Minister and Welsh Labour leader in 2018.

Drakeford insisted he still had a lot to achieve over the coming months and there would be “plenty of time for political obituaries and retrospection once I’ve ceased to be First Minister, but not before”.

He added: “In a five-year period, which has seen Wales deal with austerity, Brexit, the Covid pandemic, the climate crisis, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and four different prime ministers – so far – there will be lots to reflect upon.”