Sir Keir Starmer under fire after blocking Jamie Driscoll running for North East mayor

Sir Kier Starmer has blocked Jamie Driscoll for running in the North East mayor elections. Credit: ITV News

The Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has been criticised over the decision to block the current North of Tyne Mayor for running in the North East mayoral election.

Jamie Driscoll, the serving North of Tyne mayor, was excluded from the longlist to run in the new expanded authority.

On the decision, Mr Starmer told ITV News that: "The North East mayor is a great opportunity going forward to have a fantastic mayor working with, what I hope will be a Labour government, delivering for the North East.

"We're going through a rigorous selection exercise and I make no apologies for saying we want the highest quality of candidates."

  • Sir Keir Starmer has spoken to ITV News first about this decision.

The move has prompted a backlash against the Labour leadership, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his counterpart in the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, claiming the move does not seem "democratic, transparent and fair".

Unite, the party's biggest union donor, has also warned of "serious consequences" over the "major mistake" of barring Mr Driscoll's candidacy.

Mr Driscoll has spoken publicly in recent days to express frustration and complain about the lack of an appeals process.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's World At One programme on 5 June, he was asked about taking legal action, he said: "Obviously I'm taking advice on that. And I would absolutely prefer not to go down that route if it's possible."

He said there is a precedent for stopping selection processes before restarting them.

"In 2019, when we went through this process of selection last time, the party stopped the process and restarted it again a month later, because they weren't happy that any women had applied.

"All I really want is to let the people of the North East choose who is their mayor and not let London Labour choose who is their mayor."

A senior Labour source linked the decision to Mr Driscoll sharing a panel with film-maker Ken Loach, who was expelled from Labour in 2021 during what he called at the time a "purge" of Jeremy Corbyn's allies.

But figures on the left of the party have blamed "factionalism" under Sir Keir Starmer's leadership.

"I take part in lots of cultural events," Mr Driscoll said.

"This was an event organised in a local theatre as part of their 50th birthday celebrations. The last three feature films that actually are set in the North East were I, Daniel Blake, Sorry We Missed You, and currently coming out The Old Oak.

"Now Ken Loach is the director of those. So I did an event talking about films.

"And if talking to someone about films, because they may have controversial views elsewhere, is grounds for denying members the chance to make their own judgment on that, then I think we've gone to quite a dark place indeed when it comes to democracy."

  • Jamie Driscoll tells ITV News that he is asking "the people of the North East make this decision, and not London labour."

The North East Mayor position devolves power over transport, housing and skills across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.

Northumbria Police and Commissioner Kim McGuinness is still in consideration to stand as the party's candidate, alongside ex-MEP Paul Brannen and Newcastle City councillor Nicu Ion.

The election for the North East Mayor will take place in May 2024.

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