Jamie Driscoll sidelined by Labour in mayoral race
The incumbent North of Tyne mayor has not been included on a list of candidates to contest the expanded North East mayoralty.
The North of Tyne combined authority led by Driscoll will be subsumed into the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, covering seven council areas, should the region’s £4.2bn devolution deal be approved, as widely expected.
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Driscoll said on social media on Friday that he had been “barred” from running as the Labour candidate, saying that no explanation had been given.
A prominent speaker at the recent UKREiiF conference in Leeds, Driscoll was elected as the first mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority in 2019.
He posted on Twitter: “I’ve been barred from standing as North East Mayor by UK Labour. No explanation has been given. I’m proud to have created thousands of jobs, fought child poverty, built affordable homes and delivered our Green New Deal.”
Seemingly, the main issue in Driscoll’s non-selection has been him sharing a stage with the film-maker Ken Loach at a Newcastle event in March, Loach having been expelled from Labour in 2021 over concerns around alleged anti-Semitism.
A statement from Labour spoke of holding candidates to “a very high standard”.
There has been a wave of support for Driscoll from prominent backers across the political spectrum. These include trade union Unite and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, while senior Conservatives in ex-chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and ex-levelling up secretary Simon Clarke also spoke in Driscoll’s favour.
Two high profile Labour metro mayors have also lent their support, in Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region’s Steve Rotheram.
In a joint letter to Labour’s National Executive Committee, the pair said they wished to express their concern over the handling of the selection process.
Burnham and Rotheram said: “Whilst we appreciate the NEC’s important role in upholding standards within the Party, and rooting out any form of anti-semitism, racism and discrimination, it also has a responsibility to ensure decisions are democratic, transparent and fair. To exclude a sitting Mayor from a selection process with no right of appeal appears to us to be none of those things.”
The North West mayors continued: “We have worked closely with Jamie and seen first hand the good work he has done as Mayor. He has taken a constructive, non-partisan approach to his work, as shown in his success in delivering a new devolution deal with government for the North East. He has also been a valuable member of our M10 group of mayors.
“We believe he deserves to be treated with more respect than he has so far been shown.”
Driscoll spoke at various events at UKREiiF, including the necessity of public transport investment in areas such as Ashington.
A series of council meetings ongoing over last week and this should secure local sign-off for the devolution consultation to go to government for approval. The local authorities covered are Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and County Durham.
Should all be cleared in Whitehall, the new NEMCA would come into operation from 2024, with the mayoral election taking place next May.