North Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll barred from standing for re-election as Labour candidate

A row has broken out in the Labour Party after Driscoll, one of five Labour/Co-op metro mayors, was blocked from standing again by the NEC

The Labour Party is embroiled in an internal row after it blocked Jamie Driscoll, the Labour / Co-op metro mayor for North of Tyne, for standing for re-election.

The decision, taken by Labour’s national executive committee, has sparked renewed criticism of Starmer’s team, with critics accusing the leadership of using its control of the NEC to exclude left-wing candidates.

Speculation has linked the decision to Driscoll sharing a stage with film director Ken Loach, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2021.

Loach, veteran left-winger and director of films including Kes and I, Daniel Blake, was thrown out in the aftermath of Labour’s anti-semitism row and the removal of the whip from former leader Jeremy Corbyn. The film maker claimed at the time he was kicked out of the party because he “would not disown” those who had already been expelled.

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour/Co-op MP and shadow cabinet member, told Times Radio: “Where a person has shared a platform with someone who themselves has been expelled from the Labour party because of their position on anti-semitism, for opposing the necessary and essential action the Labour party has taken under Keir Starmer to correct the shocking position we were in on anti-semitism, that would preclude them from going forward as a Labour candidate unless they could have a good account of why that significant event has taken place.”

Other unnamed sources have told reporters that ‘party factionalism’ is behind the block on Driscoll, who has been linked to the left of the party. Other Labour sources are quoted in the same piece as saying the decision was based on assessment of Driscoll’s performance, casting doubt on his ability to win re-election.

Driscoll – one of five Labour/Co-op metro mayors – hit back at the decision.

He told Sky News he appeared with Loach at an event at Newcastle’s Live Theatre in March to speak about the director’s filmmaking, adding that Sky News Loach’s films were of “big cultural significance” to the North East.

Quizzed about previous remarks Loach had made about Israel, Driscoll said he was “not a spokesman for Ken Loach”.

He has also argued that sharing a stage with someone does not mean accepting their views: “I shared a platform with [Conservative Tees Valley mayor] Ben Houchen the other week. Does that make me a Tory?” 

And speaking to i newspaper, he urged the Labour leadership to reconsider. “It is no secret that I support the policies that Keir Starmer got elected on,” he said, “but obviously as he has changed his position, I haven’t changed mine. My loyalty is to people in the North East.

“Voters are going to look at the Labour Party and think this is really antidemocratic – if the members do not want to vote for me I don’t mind that, but why aren’t they being given the choice?

“This looks like people from the central office dictating what people in the North East can vote for. Why do people in a panel in London think their judgment is better than our members? I think that is actually a bit of an indictment if you do not trust your party members to choose.”

Among those criticising Labour’s decision are metro mayors Steve Rotheram (Lab, Liverpool) and Andy Burnham (Lab/Co-op, Greater Manchester).

In a letter to NEC chief executive Johanna Baxter they said: “Whilst we appreciate the NEC’s important role in upholding standards within the party, and rooting out any form of antisemitism, 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.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “What is emerging from Labour is a pattern of behaviour to literally take out any MP or mayor who backs key manifesto demands on the re-nationalisation of energy, action on rampant profiteering and investment in UK steel.

 “If Labour remains intent on only selecting nodding heads then it will continue to make serious policy mistakes, as we saw last week with its lack of detail on the announcement on the North Sea, affecting literally thousands of workers . 

“These actions by Labour are a major mistake and have serious consequences.”

A Labour spokesperson told i: “The North East Mayoralty is a unique opportunity for the people of the North East to take more control over the way our region is governed, with powers over housing, education, skills, transport and so much more.

“The Labour Party holds its candidates to a very high standard. During this process, some applicants did not meet the threshold required to proceed to the longlist stage. We do not comment on individual applications.

“Local members now have a fantastic longlist of candidates from which they will choose the Labour Party’s candidate to be the very first North East mayor.”

The row broke out just days after another controversy for Labour, with Labour/Co-op MP Geraint Davies suspended following “incredibly serious” allegations of “completely unacceptable behaviour”. Davies, MP for Swansea West, told Politico he did not recognise the allegations, which concern sexual harassment.

“If I have inadvertently caused offence to anyone, then I am naturally sorry as it is important that we share an environment of mutual and equal respect for all,” he said.

The Co-op Party has been contacted for comment.