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Wales' election of its first Black leader means no White man runs a U.K. government for the first time ever

Vaughan Gething was elected as the new first minister of Wales on Wednesday, becoming the first Black leader of a government in the U.K. Gething was elected to lead the government by members of the Welsh parliament in Cardiff, four days after winning the contest to be leader of Wales' governing Labour Party. He secured 27 of 51 votes in the legislature, the Senedd, where Labour is the biggest party.

Gething, the son of a Welsh father and a Zambian mother, said Wales is now "the first nation anywhere in Europe to be led by a Black person."

"It is a matter of pride for a modern Wales, but also a daunting responsibility for me — and one that I do not take lightly," he told lawmakers.

Vaughan Gething is announced as the new first minister of Wales at the Cardiff University Spark building, March 16, 2024, in Cardiff, Wales.
Vaughan Gething is announced as the new first minister of Wales at the Cardiff University Spark building, March 16, 2024, in Cardiff, Wales. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

He said he wanted to lead a country that "can celebrate our differences and take pride in all of those things that draw us together."

Gething will be sworn in once his appointment is approved by King Charles III — a formality.

Three of the U.K.'s four governments now have nonwhite leaders. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has Indian heritage, while Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf was born to a Pakistani family in Britain. Northern Ireland is led jointly by Michelle O'Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly, meaning that for the first time there are no White male heads of government in the U.K.

Wales, which has a population of about 3 million, is one of four parts of the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The British government in London is responsible for defense, foreign affairs and other U.K.-wide issues, while the administrations in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, respectively, control budget items such as education and health.

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Gething was Wales' health minister during the COVID-19 pandemic, and served as the country's economy minister since 2021.

He'll take over a government that is often at odds with Sunak's Conservative administration in London. Wales has also seen a wave of protests over environmental rules by farmers, similar to those that have roiled France and other European countries.

Gething's leadership campaign was rattled by the revelation that he'd accepted 200,000 pounds ($255,000) in donations from a recycling company that was found guilty of environmental offenses and breaching health and safety regulations. Gething said the donations were properly declared under electoral rules.

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