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Left-Wing Mayor Blocked from Labour Selection Amid Anti-Semitism Row Accuses Party of Factional Approach to Suspensions

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll is mounting an insurgent independent campaign in the North East, after being barred from the shortlist

Jamie Driscoll launched his campaign for the new North East mayor role this month. Photo: Neil Terry / Alamy

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A metro-mayor blocked from standing for Labour after appearing on a platform with filmmaker Ken Loach has accused the party of double standards over anti-Semitism. 

Jamie Driscoll, the North of Tyne mayor, quit the party last year after being barred from the Labour shortlist for the new larger North East Combined Authority. The party said it followed him refusing to condemn remarks from Loach that appeared to cast doubt on the Holocaust (Loach later clarified he believed the Holocaust was beyond any doubt). Driscoll, a former engineer, is now building a fierce campaign for the North East mayoralty as an independent. 

Now Driscoll has accused the party’s decisions on suspensions of being driven by factionalism and ideology – rather than real concerns over racism.

The comments came amid the party’s delay in suspending the party’s Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali. Ali was caught on tape appearing to endorse an anti-Israel conspiracy theory, and claiming “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” were condemning suspended Labour MP Andy McDonald. 

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Jamie Driscoll told Byline Times: “Labour was trying to get me out long before I spoke to Ken Loach. I’ve got the emails [to prove it]. I’d been asking for data to contact members, which is my right as mayor. For years and years, Labour HQ said ‘the system can’t do that for mayors.’ Andy Burnham said: Yeah, it can. 

“Then I got this email from [HQ] that said, you can have the data, but only if you promise you won’t run as North East mayor. So there you go. It was always going to happen.” 

Later in 2023 he spoke to filmmaker Loach “at a film festival about a film he’d made in my region. And [Labour HQ] said ‘you can’t do that’. This is the bloke the Pope invited to the Sistine Chapel because of his work, making films campaigning for social justice.”

Labour subsequently barred him from the shortlist to be the party’s candidate for the new North East Combined Authority, which takes in Northumbria and County Durham as well as Newcastle and its surroundings. 

Driscoll added his concern that New Labour grandee Peter Mandelson appeared to be continuing to advise Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – “despite staying over and being close friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted child sex trafficker….That goes unnoticed.” (Lord Mandelson has said he ‘very much regrets’ their association and no illegality is alleged on his party). 

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Hall previously liked a string of tweets praising ‘rivers of blood’ MP Enoch Powell and branding the capital “Londonistan” under Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan.

Labour MP Kate Osamor was also recently suspended after a comment on Holocaust Memorial Day suggesting Israel was engaged in genocide in Gaza. 

“[Osamor] said we shouldn’t have genocide in Gaza, which is what the ICJ the International Court of Justice is saying,” Driscoll claimed. Osamor is on the left of the party. 

He accused Labour HQ of wanting to “destroy the labour movement’s influence on the Labour Party. They want to make it a parliamentary party only. They’re packing it with their loyal supporters. And they want to make sure that there is no democratic route through. 

“The NEC is using their powers in selections to say, “No, you can’t be our candidate in future because you’re not one of our group.” I was part of that, and that was it.”

He believes he was blocked from selection because he has “shown that this works” – this being radical Labour policies. Driscoll plans to reverse full bus privatisation in the North East, and implement free travel for under 18s. 

The independent mayor claims quiet support from Labour backers in the region: “More people in the Labour Party are going to vote for me rather than the Labour candidate” he says. 

“There’s a big list of anonymous donations on my [election] crowdfunder. Why do you think they’re anonymous? They’re Labour. Half the Labour party refused to nominate [their candidate] in the North East,” the 53-year-old adds. 

He has also made a name for himself by committing to claim nothing in personal expenses and maintaining council tax levels at the same rate, policies he believes endear him to Conservative and Reform voters.

He also claims credit for negotiating the £6.1bn devolution deal for the North East from Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove. 

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While Driscoll believes Keir Starmer “won’t last long”, he appears content with his independent status, and done with party politics. 

Driscoll spoke to Byline Times on Tuesday as he received the backing of youth climate movement Green New Deal Rising – and he appeared bullish about his political prospects this May. After his decision to run as an independent, he received around £150,000 in crowdfunded donations for his campaign – meaning he can put up a major campaign against the big parties.

It is this that he pins his very support to: a widespread dissatisfaction with traditional party politics. That view will no doubt have gained some additional traction amid Labour’s latest debacle. 

“Nobody turns out for the Labour Party anymore. You just look at the campaign photos to get like four or five people. It’s the candidate and councillors who were whipped to be there, and a paid organiser and that’s it. I turn up somewhere and 50 people just appear, and we actually run out of leaflets before we run out of people. 

“A lot of them are secret Labour members. There’s a Labour councillor who said ‘we’ve ordered the leaflets from the official Labour candidate, and they’re going straight in the bin’”. 

He hints that even one or two North East Labour MPs have confessed to planning to voting for him – which Byline Times cannot verify. 

Nonetheless, the campaign does appear to have considerable traction. “It’s huge. It doesn’t matter what your politics are. People really don’t like unfairness. A small stone can become an avalanche very quickly.”

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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