Serving Labour mayor blocked from running in ‘out of control factionalism’

A left-wing regional mayor has been blocked from being Labour’s candidate to contest the North East mayoralty, sparking fresh allegations of “factionalism” within the party.

Jamie Driscoll had his candidacy blocked because he appeared onstage at event with film director and expelled Labour member Ken Loach, a senior party source told the PA news agency.

The serving North of Tyne mayor said on Friday that he had been “barred” from running for the new mayoral authority without explanation.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell blamed “out of control” factionalism in Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party for the decision to exclude the supporter of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Driscoll, described as the “last Corbynista in power”, was omitted from a longlist including rival Northumbria police and crime commissioner Kim McGuinness.

Ex-MEP Paul Brannen and Newcastle city councillor Nicu Ion also feature.

The Labour source said Mr Driscoll’s appearance at the event with Mr Loach and “then refusing to apologise” is “clearly incompatible with our promise to have zero tolerance of antisemitism”.

Mr Driscoll spoke with Mr Loach at Newcastle’s Live Theatre in March in an event the Jewish Labour Movement called “hugely upsetting” for the Jewish community.

Mr Loach – celebrated for films including I, Daniel Blake – was expelled from Labour in 2021 during what he called a “purge” of Corbyn allies.

Labour has never confirmed why Mr Loach was kicked out of the party, but it came amid allegations of playing down antisemitism.

The director had claimed “exaggerated or false charges” of anti-Jewish racism had coincided with Mr Corbyn’s leadership, adding: “Discredit his supporters and you weaken his leadership.”

Mr McDonnell said omitting Mr Driscoll from the list despite him being “widely credited with doing a great job” was “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,” he said.

“There can be no other motive for excluding him.”

The decision came in the wake of Sir Keir blocking Mr Corbyn from standing for the party in Islington North at the next general election.

Labour said the party holds “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,” a statement said.

“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.”

Senior Conservatives were among those backing Mr Driscoll.

Former levelling-up secretary Simon Clarke said he feels “very sorry” for the mayor he described as “knowledgeable, passionate about the NE and refreshingly non-partisan”.

Having worked with him as vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi said Mr Driscoll “was always professional and didn’t play politics, just wanted to protect the people he represents”.

“Sorry to hear this Jamie. You are a good man. Stay strong,” the former chancellor added.