Jamie Driscoll: serving Labour mayor ‘barred’ from standing for new North East role - what has he said?
Labour has been accused of “out of control factionalism” over the decision but party sources have said the move is linked to its “zero-tolerance” policy on anti-semitism
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The North of Tyne mayor on Friday (2 June) revealed on social media that he had been “barred” from running for the new role, adding that Labour had given him “no explanation” for the decision.
But sources have since linked the exclusion to Driscoll’s recent appearance at an event with Ken Loach - a former member who was expelled from the party in 2021 after he claimed Sir Keir Starmer had conducted a “witch hunt” of Jeremy Corbyn supporters as Labour looked to crack down on antisemitism.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday (4 June), Driscoll revealed that the news had been delivered over email as he argued it was “shocking” that members have “not been allowed the choice” of putting him forward as a candidate. “All I want is for Keir and the Labour Party to do nothing more than give members the choice,” he added.
The decision to block Driscoll from running for the new mayoral authority was immediately criticised by MPs towards the left of the Labour Party, who argued that Starmer had targeted Driscoll - described by the media as “the last Corbynista in power” - because of his support of the ex-party leader.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell blamed “out of control” factionalism for the exclusion, arguing that “there can be no other motive” as Driscoll is “widely credited with doing a great job”. He added: “This is staggering news.”
But Labour has said the decision is linked to its promise to stamp out anti-semitism. A party source told PA that Driscoll’s appearance at the event with Mr Loach and subsequent “refusal to apologise” is “clearly incompatible with our promise to have zero tolerance of antisemitism”.
Meanwhile, another source told Sky News: “I don't see how he [Driscoll] can have expected to be a candidate after appearing with Ken Loach. It would have made a mockery of all Keir Starmer's commitments on anti-semitism.”
Mr Loach was expelled from the party in 2021 after he claimed there had been a “purge” and “witch hunt” of Corbyn supporters under Starmer. The film director, known for films such as I, Daniel Blake, also claimed that there had been “exaggerated or false charges” of anti-semitism under the Islington North MP’s leadership.
In March 2023, Driscoll spoke with Mr Loach at Newcastle’s Live Theatre, in an event the Jewish Labour Movement called “hugely upsetting” for its community.
Addressing his links to Mr Loach on Sunday (4 June), Driscoll argued that talking to director Mr Loach about films was “entirely justified”. He added that he thought Labour were likely worried about “electoral damage”, but argued that his conversation with Mr Loach was “one hour of my last four years as mayor”.
“I’ve been mayor since 2019,” Driscoll said. “The area I cover is expanding, it will cover the wider North East. I’ve delivered thousands of jobs, affordable homes... we’re tackling child poverty.” He also said that he has a “fantastic track record” on issues the Labour Party needs to stress to win a general election.
Driscoll’s “barring” comes after Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), voted in March to block Corbyn from being endorsed as the candidate for his current seat of Islington North - part of the party’s long-running dispute over anti-semitism.
Corbyn branded the decision “an attack on party democracy, party members, and natural justice”, and since hinted he could stand as an independent in his seat.
Commenting on Driscoll, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “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.”