Mark Drakeford tells Keir Starmer to be ‘bold’ in keynote speech for Humanists UK

In his first major speech since leaving office, Mark Drakeford told an audience of over 600 people at the Humanists UK Convention on Saturday that Labour leader Keir Starmer should be ‘bold’ in office, should he become Prime Minister.

Asked what advice he would give to a Labour leader entering office, he said:

‘By winning an election, you have earned the right to do the things that you have said to people that you will do. And there are only two approaches to that political capital, and I’ve seen them both at work. One is that you hoard it, that you hang on to it, that you eke it out in small bits. You act cautiously. You’re always worried about if you do something, a bit of that political capital will be expended in doing so…

Or you regard the political capital you’ve got as there to spend, to get on and use it to do the things that you think you’ve been elected to do. And my advice to anybody who’s fortunate enough to be elected and be in that position is to be bold… to use the political capital you’ve got to get on and do the things that you think are necessary in order to confront the challenges that any society will confront, and to lean as much as you can on those forces that will surround you, which will always be trying to persuade you to be more cautious, to do a little bit less, to take more time, try and push back against that if you can, you.

My advice to anybody in political office is to be bold, because you will be surrounded by advice to be the opposite. The system operates on the basis of caution. I’ve never known an issue that a civil servant wouldn’t tell you, Minister, it would be good if we took a little longer over this. I. And we probably did a little bit less, and that we were a bit more cautious in our approach. But actually, you know, in politics, you’re in the position you’re privileged to be in for a pretty finite length of time, and while you’re there, you should grasp the opportunities that you have,

On assisted dying, Drakeford has become most high profile figure in Wales to back a change to the law. Advocating for a UK-wide law on assisted dying, he said:

I think assisted dying would pass through the Senedd [were this issue devolved] and I would certainly be a supporter of it myself. But I would much rather that it was one of those things that we did on a UK-wide basis.

You know, I am a fierce believer in devolution, that in Wales, we should take control of our own domestic agenda as much as possible. But I’m also a believer in the United Kingdom, and I believe that something – some rights – in the way that I was describing earlier, should belong to you as a result of your citizenship of the United Kingdom. And you can imagine all the unintended consequences they would be if assisted dying was available in Wrexham but not available in Chester.

I believe it is one of the things that I would see as a right. I believe you have a right to take control of the way in which you leave this world.

Humanists UK is one of the leading organisations campaigning for the right to die. The audience erupted in rapturous applause following Drakeford’s call to back a change in the law.

Drakeford also called for a Labour Government to implement Gordon Brown’s blueprint for devolution and reform of politics, saying:

I hope that an incoming Labour government, if that is what it is to be, will continue the devolution tradition of the last Labour governments that we had, and help to complete that journey, using the Gordon Brown report that was commissioned by Keir Starmer as the blueprint for doing that.

Some of the Brown blueprint already features in Labour’s 2024 manifesto, including votes at 16 and a commitment to House of Lords reform.

Drakeford’s remarks came as part of a much wider speech themed around humanist values in Welsh politics. In his main remarks to Humanists UK’s 600 delegates, Drakeford said good government should be based on our ‘common humanity’ and that ‘altruism’ and ‘enlightened self-interest’ were cornerstones of success of devolution in Wales, where the model of government is based on ‘citizenship, not consumerism’.

In discussion with Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, Drakeford also discussed why so many transformational figures in Welsh history have been humanists – including most notably Nye Bevan and the late Rhodri Morgan, who was a patron of Humanists UK.

Hosted by Wales Humanists, the national charity for non-religious people in Wales, the Humanists UK UK Convention has brought over 600 people to Cardiff over 14-16 June to discuss ideas for a society based on compassionate, rational, humanist values. Speakers include geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford (Humanists UK President), physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili (Humanists UK Vice President), the writer Catherine Nixey, and former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood (Humanists UK patron). 


For further comment or information, media should contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick at or phone 07534 248 596.

Photos of Drakeford (must credit Matthew Horwood/Humanists UK) are available at this link:

Photos depict Mark Drakeford, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, and Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick.

Wales Humanists is part of Humanists UK, the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.