Jamie Driscoll, current North of Tyne mayor, is running as an independent. Credit: NTCA

Contenders confirmed for North East mayoral race

With nominations closed, six people are in the running to be made the inaugural mayor of a Combined Authority covering seven council areas.

Part of the £4.2bn devolution deal agreed last year, the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority takes over from the existing North of Tyne and North East CAs.

Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, County Durham and North and South Tyneside are the local authority areas covered. Voting will take place across the region on 2 May to decide who the first mayor will be.

There were no late surprises among the nominations, with all candidates having declared their intent some time ago – in the case of incumbent North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, his running as an independent was declared last July, when he quit the Labour Party.

Those in contention are:

  • Jamie Driscoll, independent
  • Kim McGuinness, Labour
  • Guy Renner-Thompson, Conservative
  • Aidan King, Liberal Democrat
  • Andrew Gray, Green Party
  • Paul Donaghy, Reform UK

The split between Driscoll and Labour breaks down in simple terms as being one of Corbynite and Starmerite factions. He was surprisingly left off the shortlist of potential North East mayors last year, leading him to quit the party.

Although Driscoll has attracted support from some high profile figures – Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, metro mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region respectively, backed him in that 2023 spat – McGuinness, regarded as a close ally of Sir Keir Starmer – is clearly a strong contender, given Labour’s dominance in five of the seven council areas.

McGuinness is a former cabinet member of Newcastle City Council, and is the current police & crime commissioner for Northumbria.

Renner-Thompson, who works in property, has served as a Tory councillor in Northumberland since 2017. One of his key pledges is to introduce a mayoral development corporation, a mechanism used by others including Burnham and the Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen.

Lib Dem King is a doctor, who works at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, and served on the city council from 2018 to 2021. His pledges include the UK’s largest on-shore wind farm, and tacking housing and public transport. Gray, Newcastle-born and based in the city after being raised in Northumberland, works as an archivist in Durham

There is a current Sunderland City Council member in the running, in the shape of Reform’s Paul Donaghy, a councillor for the Washington South ward. A former Navy chef who works as a manager for a hotel chain, he is running on improving transparency, accountability and inclusivity in politics.

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