Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kim McGuinness today announced her candidacy for the new position of North East Mayor. It means she will initially be fighting her Labour colleague, North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, for nomination as the party’s candidate.
Announcing her candidacy on her campaign website, McGuinness says:
“The North East has been stuck in second gear for too long. Government has failed to inspire and it has failed to deliver on a promise to level up.
“If anything, the substance of this [devolution] deal and the recent levelling up funding announcement prove this. I want to be the mayor that champions our region and makes sure government hears our voice.”
The new North East Devolution Deal which will see the creation of a mayoralty covering all seven councils in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham, was announced by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove on 28 December.
It has been approved in principle by all the councils but must still undergo public consultation and needs parliamentary approval.
Ms McGuinness’s announcement comes as no surprise, though its early timing – before the completion of the devolution deal formalities – does. The mayoral election will be held May 2024, so a long campaign lies ahead.
McGuinness has been positioning herself for more than a year as more than just the Northumbria PCC but as part of the wider local governance hierarchy that runs the whole region (Tees Valley excluded).
She is a member of the opaque LA7 group of council leaders set up in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak to co-ordinate the region’s response to the pandemic but which has since appeared to expand its own remit to include negotiating devolution.
What other powers and responsibilities it may have assumed is not known, as it meets in private and does not publish agendas, reports or minutes.
According to Wikipedia, McGuinness was elected to Newcastle City Council in 2015 for Lemington ward, and joined the council’s cabinet a year later as executive member for culture, sport and public health. She was first elected as Northumbria PCC in 2019.
Today’s announcement on her campaign website makes much of her working class background in the West End of Newcastle:
“I grew up in the West End of Newcastle” she writes. “My dad was a scaffolder. He worked on the shipyards on the Tyne. My mam worked part time as a secretary at a small insurance broker but was made redundant when the company went under in the recession in the early 90s.
“My parents shielded us from how hard it was and made sure we had a carefree childhood, but my dad was made redundant every autumn, was out of work over Christmas, sometimes three months, sometimes as long as five. The benefits system, then as now, was paltry and my nana and granda helped us – because that’s what northern families had to do under Thatcher’s Tories.
“With the Labour Government in 1997 we felt the change. There were more opportunities, and investment came into the region. I became the first person in my extended family to go to university – just like so many other working class kids of my generation.
“Now I live in Northumberland with my Husband David, a serving RAF officer and our dogs Errol and Iris.
“For too many working-class people, those dark Tory days are back. I’m standing to be mayor because I think we have to do more to help people improve those lives, to create real opportunity and stand by those households. Right now, devolution simply doesn’t mean anything to most people in our region, it brings no benefit to them.”