Driscoll quits Labour to go it alone
Currently mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Jamie Driscoll will now serve as an independent and intends to stand as such in the expanded North East mayoral election in 2024.
Should a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority be augmented later this year, as is widely expected following the £4.2bn devolution deal negotiated by Driscoll and fellow leaders, a mayoral election will be held in May 2024.
The omission of Driscoll, the incumbent mayor for the North of Tyne Combined Authority (covering Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) from a shortlist of Labour candidates to contest the election next year, should, brought about a furious response in early June.
Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, metro mayors for Greater Manchester and Liverpool city region respectively, were among those to lend their support to Driscoll, along with Labour and Conservative politicians.
With no olive branch forthcoming from the party, Driscoll has done what many have urged him to do, and declared his intention to stand against Labour, should he be able to raise sufficient funds.
Posting on Twitter, he said £25,000 would be required before the end of August, and a total of £150,000 to run a full campaign. Within a few hours of the fundraising page being launched, more than £36,000 had been pledged.
In an open letter to Sir Keir Starmer tendering his resignation from the party, he said: “Given you have barred me from running as North East Mayor, despite being incumbent Mayor, I have no other choice. In 2020 you told me to my face that you would ‘inspire people to come together… discipling people to be united is going nowhere’. You’ve broken that promise.”
In the same letter, Driscoll outlined his achievements in the role, which he started on winning the 2019 mayoral election.
He said: “My Combined Authority has built affordable homes in rural and urban areas. I’ve worked with businesses large and small to deliver a pipeline of over 5,000 new jobs, all backed by our Good Work Pledge, implemented a new Green Deal and invested heavily in offshore renewable energy.”
Driscoll’s “constructive, non-partisan approach” had won him praise across the political spectrum, he said.
As to the timeline from here, consultation in the region is now complete, with all documentation sent to Whitehall.
Later this year, central government will be expected to rubber-stamp the devolution deal for the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority, covering the three North of Tyne councils plus Sunderland, County Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead, with the new authority coming into being in 2024 – with a mayoral race that might be more hard-fought than people would have expected a few moths ago.