Vaughan Gething of Wales Is Europe’s First Black Head of Government

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Europe|Vaughan Gething of Wales Is Europe’s First Black Head of Government

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/21/world/europe/vaughan-gething-wales-parliament.html

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Mr. Gething, 50, was narrowly elected leader of Wales’s governing Labour Party this week, and then was elected first minister by the Senedd, or Welsh Parliament.

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Vaughan Gething Elected First Black Head of Government in Europe

The Zambian-born lawyer was elected as the country’s first minister by the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday making him the first Black person to lead a nation in Europe.

As first minister, I look forward to standing up for Wales and for devolution in the weeks and months to come. But I relish the opportunity to co-operate for Wales with a new U.K. government that invests in partnership and in Wales’s future. Today voted also to ensure that Wales becomes the first nation anywhere in Europe to be led by a Black person. It is a matter of pride, I believe, for a modern Wales, but also a daunting responsibility for me, and one that I do not take lightly.

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The Zambian-born lawyer was elected as the country’s first minister by the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday making him the first Black person to lead a nation in Europe.CreditCredit…Ben Birchall/Press Association, via Associated Press

Vaughan Gething on Thursday became the first Black person to lead a national government in Europe, a day after he was elected the first minister of Wales.

In a speech to the Welsh Senedd, or Parliament, Mr. Gething, who was born in Zambia, noted the historic nature of his election in a place where nearly 94 percent of the population of about three million is white, according to government data.

“It is a matter of pride, I believe, for a modern Wales, but also a daunting responsibility for me and one that I do not take lightly,” he said. “But today, we can also expect a depressingly familiar pattern to emerge with abuse on social media, racist tropes disguised with polite language, people questioning my motives. And yes, they will still question or deny my nationality, whilst others will question why I am playing the race card.”

To those critics, Mr. Gething said: “It is very easy not to care about identity when your own has never once been questioned or held you back. I believe the Wales of today and the future will be owned by all those decent people who recognize that our Parliament and our government should look like our country.”

Mr. Gething, 50, was narrowly elected leader of Wales’s governing Labour Party this week, and then was elected first minister by the Senedd. He also received approval from King Charles III, a ceremonial administrative step.

Mr. Gething’s elevation as first minister of Wales means that, for the first time, none of the four governments in the United Kingdom will be led by a white man. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain is of Indian descent, and Humza Yousaf, the first minister of Scotland, is of Pakistani descent. Michelle O’Neill became first minister of Northern Ireland last month, the first Catholic to hold that position.


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