I first met Mark Drakeford when I was a journalism student at Cardiff University. As part of our training we were all allocated a part of Cardiff as a “patch” and mine covered his then constituency.

He was health minister at the time and I requested an interview more in hope than expectation. He was a busy man and really I was writing this article for an audience of me and my lecturer.

To my surprise I received an email back saying that the minister is happy to give a 20 minute interview the next week. When I arrived at the constituency office on Cowbridge Road East I found a polite, understated and gracious man who was happy to give up his time. He did get pretty animated when we started to talk about how he believed that e-cigarettes were ruthlessly targeting children (it is pretty obvious that he was correct about this).

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Perhaps my overriding impression of Mark Drakeford at that time is that he didn’t really strike me as what I imagined a politician to be. His vibe was far more one of teacher, professor and youth worker than anything else - of course these were jobs he held before politics.

In a way, that impression was what made him so popular at the peak of the pandemic. Contrasted against Boris Johnson’s rambling, vague and often unserious interviews and press conferences (“I was at a hospital where there were Covid patients and I shook hands with everybody”), Mark Drakeford’s style was a welcome relief for a population who were worried for loved ones, jobs and their lives.

I interviewed Mark Drakeford dozens of times during the pandemic. In press conferences, in parks (at a social distance) and on Zoom. When you get close to him his uncomfortableness with interviews is apparent. He does not relish the back and forth of interviews and this can make him close down if challenged overtly and aggressively.

Because of this the best way to approach questioning Drakeford was never to be confrontational - it was to ask him to explain. If you really wanted to get something out of him you needed to ask him “why” he was doing it. “Can you help us to understand why” was like a red rag to a bull to the former social policy professor. You could see his advisors and press officers groan as he would, at length, explain his thoughts and musing underpinning his decision making.

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It was this that made people really warm to him in the pandemic. At a time of great uncertainty the leader of Wales appeared to genuinely want to explain to the people of Cymru what was happening to them. And the reason that he appeared genuine in this intent was because he was.

This love of detail and the desire to explore the nuance of decisions was shown in his plea to Andrew RT Davies in his last First Minister’s Questions. He said that he hoped the debate in the Senedd chamber would focus on “generating light rather than generating heat”.

It is probably fair to say because of this love of detail Mark Drakeford felt far more at home developing policy behind the scenes rather than being the man at the forefront of selling this policy to the public. You couldn’t help but feel that he always saw himself as the cleverest person in the room and this manifested in a side of Drakeford the public liked far less. A man who dismissed criticism and who often blithely scorned legitimate questions within the Senedd.

Despite sometimes presenting himself as above politics when it came to the big issues, Mark Drakeford is undoubtedly a political animal. He can be as slippery as any elected representative and there have been several occasions, such as the decision not to hold a Covid inquiry, he actively manoeuvred to avoid fair scrutiny. There has been an arrogance to him at times in how he answered questions but also in the way he assumed the merits of policies like 20mph were self-evident and failed to adequately communicate their benefits to the Welsh people .

It is impossible to judge the legacy of a political career in the immediate aftermath of it. Time has a way of making certain things stand out through history whereas others that seem to matter at the time fade into the past.

But perhaps what Mark Drakeford claimed to be one of his proudest achievements best sums up his motivations for public service - the introduction of the smacking ban. Always the youth worker.