“This is staggering news. To refuse to allow a serving mayor onto even a selection long list demonstrates that factionalism in the party is completely out of control.”John McDonnell MP
By Logan Williams
Over the weekend, news has emerged that the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has kept socialist North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll off the longlist for the new North East mayoralty. Driscoll reports that he was not offered a reason for this decision from the NEC, but Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has since argued that the decision relates to Driscoll having shared a platform with the filmmaker Ken Loach in March.
These events occurring whilst the party re-admitted Neil Coyle, who had the whip suspended for racially abusing a journalist just a few weeks ago.
Following the news there has been an outbreak of public support from the across Labour party and movement in support of Driscoll and calls for his readmission to longlist and, praise for his record as a progressive and leading voice against the Tories forced austerity agenda.
These outcries of support has recently been supported by fellow Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham from Greater Manchester and, the Liverpool City region respectively. Both argued that Driscoll works in a “constructive, non-partisan approach” which has allowed for great “success in delivering a new devolution deal with the government for the North East”. Both went on to call for Driscoll to have a right of appeal against the NEC decision.
Rotherham and Burnham’s calls for support for Driscoll were joined by the General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, who argued that Labour is showing “a pattern of behaviour to literally take out any MP or mayor who backs key manifesto demands on the re-nationalisation of energy, action on rampant profiteering and investment in UK steel.”
These calls were joined by Richard Burgon, Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs who tweeted support for Driscoll by stating “ as elected Labour Mayor Jamie Driscoll has an outstanding record of delivery in office”. Burgon went on to state that “members and trade unions must be treated with respect. They should get the chance to decide whether or not Jamie is the candidate.”
The support for Driscoll was further by fellow Socialist Campaign Group member and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who stated “this is staggering news. To refuse to allow a serving mayor onto even a selection long list demonstrates that factionalism in the party is completely out of control.”
Driscoll was also supported by Clive Lewis MP who tweeted “I didn’t think it was any longer possible to be shocked by such sectarian behaviour. But here I am, jaw on the floor.” He continued to state that as Mayor Jamie Driscoll has been “one of our most dynamic, successful Labour Mayors to date.”
The North of Tyne Mayor was also supported by Andy McDonald who argued that his removal from the longlist was “truly bewildering” and went on to offer Driscoll thanks for his “outstanding service to your community & our party.”
As well as elected representatives from the left of the party, Driscoll’s right to appeal was supported by South Shields MP Emma Lewell Buck who slammed the ‘baffling’ decision from Labour’s NEC to block Jamie Driscoll’s candidacy.
The support for Jamie Driscoll was not limited to only elected representatives, his battle to appeal the NEC’s decision has been supported by grassroots organisations such as the Labour Assembly Against Austerity (LAAA). Matt Willgress, National Coordinator of the Labour Assembly argued “It is shameful to see a sitting mayor blocked from representing the Labour Party in the Northeast. Jamie Driscoll has been a strong voice against the Tories’ forced agenda of austerity and has regularly sought to form progressive alternatives in the North East which aimed to tackle both the cost of living and climate crises.”
As well as the Labour Assembly against Austerity, Driscoll has been supported by Momentum who stated “the Labour Leadership’s actions in blocking an elected, popular Labour Mayor from standing again are shocking and shameless.” They went on to argue that “the Labour machine is totally out of control. This must be a line in the sand.”
It is vital that the Left and labour movement continues to speak out against this attack on basic democracy within the Labour Party. We must continue to demand Jamie Driscoll’s reinstatement as a candidate to be Labour’s first North East Mayor, so that local members can decide who they feel best represents them.
- Logan Williams is an National Education Union (NEU) activists, an organiser for Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas and a regular contributor for Labour Outlook. You can follow him on twitter here.
- On June 14th join the Arise Festival 2023 session: “The Case for Labour Party Democracy – for Members’ Rights & the Union Link” with Jon Trickett MP; Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary; Simon Fletcher; Rachel Garnham, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD); Kathy Bole, Disability Labour and more. Register here.
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