So Labour Party HQ has decided not to progress the application by Jamie Driscoll to be longlisted as their candidate for the forthcoming Major of the to-be-formed Combined North East Region and has declined to give an explanation other than to say they do not comment on individual applications.
This leads to conjecture and confusion and allows for all sorts of accusations and half-truths flying about and places a big question around transparency in politics.
The question I first ask myself is why Jamie Driscoll, a member of the Labour Party, a former Newcastle city councillor, and currently mayor of the North Tyne Combined Authority is deemed not good enough – or is so problematic to the image Labour is portraying – that his application cannot progress to the next stage of the selection process which would allow Labour Party Members the chance to question him about his agenda and views.
Now the conjecture bit – I have read suggestions that his application has been rejected because he shared a stage recently with film Director Ken Loach – who was kicked out of the Labour Party in 2021 for comments he made around antisemitism – and that Driscoll refused to apologise for this. It has also been suggested that Driscoll was photographed on a rail workers’ picket line offering his support.
The ‘Ken Loach’ suggestions
I’ll start with the ‘Ken Loach’ suggestions – simply because this I know a little about – because I was there.
The event took place at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne on 14 March this year. It was one of a series of similar events to celebrate the theatre’s 50th. Birthday – the likes of Sting & Jimmy Nail have spoken about their lives and times. Ken Loach and Jamie Driscoll sat on a stage and talked generally around socialism, equality, and various films Ken Loach has been involved with.
I suppose it was more of an interview with Jamie Driscoll asking the questions. It was not any sort of political rally and not in any way antisemitic. There was a table in the foyer with a few pro Palestine books and leaflets, but this was most certainly not front and centre of the event and very low-key. On what I saw I could not see any reason why anyone should have to apologise for being present.
Supporting rail workers
Support the rail workers – This seems to be a problem for some at the top of the Labour Party – I am unaware of any directive that a Labour Party Member – and in this case Jamie Driscoll – cannot show support for the actions of a trade union. The rights and wrongs of this or any other industrial action are surely for an individual’s personal opinion, In the case of Jamie Driscoll surely he should be able to speak to North East voters and offer his support?
An own goal
Finally in my opinion this situation is very much an own goal by Labour Party HQ. Not because I support Jamie Driscoll but because it undermines the entire concept of devolved government. It suggests that this type of politics is okay as long as the Central Labour Party control it and additionally, it is so unfair to the other Labour candidates because it has put Jamie Driscoll on the front of the media coverage of what could be a very important election for our region.