Labour's Mark Drakeford has resigned as first minister of Wales with immediate effect.

The 67-year-old, who had been in the post for exactly five years, had already signalled he would step down before the next Senedd election in 2026.

There will now be a contest to replace him as leader of Welsh Labour and first minister.

In a resignation statement posted to Twitter/X, the Cardiff West MS said: “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.”

He said he was confident the process to find his successor as Welsh Labour leader would be “concluded by the end of the spring term” in March.

He added: “That would enable the name of the winner of that contest to be put to the Senedd before the Easter recess”.

At PMQs, Rishi Sunak wished Mr Drakeford well Sir Keir Starmer described him as a "titan of Labour and Welsh politics".

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies said: “I wish Mark well as he stands down from the helm.

“While we may have different visions for Wales, I know I’m joined by colleagues in holding a huge amount of respect for his dedication to the job of first minister.

“It’s important, however, with this announcement that there is no distraction from the really important job of delivering for the people of Wales.

“Labour politicians jockeying for the role of first minister must not detract from this.”

A former probation officer and your justice worker, Mr Drakeford was elected to the Senedd in 2011 and became first minister in December 2018 after Carwyn Jones left the job.

Although he had a mild-mannered style, he was a passionate champion of devolution, frequently warning of Westminster overreach. 

Among those tipped to replace him are economy minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Jeremy Miles.

Mr Drakeford’s wife Clare died suddenly in January.

The couple had been married since 1977 and had three children.