Unions blast Labour’s decision to bar Jamie Driscoll from mayoral shortlist

Labour’s biggest union donor, Unite, warns of 'serious consequences'

Unions have joined calls for the Labour Party to reverse their decision to bar Jamie Driscoll, the current North of Tyne Mayor, from standing in the next mayoral candidacy.

Labour’s biggest union donor, Unite, has criticised the action as a ‘major mistake’ which could have ‘serious consequences’, as Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham warned the Labour party against selecting only ‘nodding heads’ as a road towards making ‘serious policy mistakes’.

Mayor Driscoll announced on Friday that he had been barred by the Labour Party from standing as North East Mayor, stating no explanation had been given, whilst Labour responded that, ‘some applicants did not meet the threshold required’.

The announcement has raised concern from the Left about Keir Starmer’s candidate selection process with Sharon Graham warning of the consequences on Labour’s key manifesto pledges.

In a statement Graham said: “What is emerging from Labour is 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.

“If Labour remains intent on only selecting nodding heads then it will continue to make serious policy mistakes, as we saw last week with its lack of detail on the announcement on the North Sea, affecting literally thousands of workers.

 “These actions by Labour are a major mistake and have serious consequences.”

Another union affiliate to the Labour Party, the Fire Brigades Union, has also condemned the move by Starmer labelling it ‘an utter disgrace’ and accused the move of being anti-democratic.

In a statement by the unions senior leadership, they said it, ‘rides roughshod over Keir Starmer’s previous commitments to democracy in the Party’.

They have led calls for the decision to be reversed and urged Keir Starmer to ‘show leadership and act in accordance with his previous statements’, referring to a previous interview between Starmer and Driscoll where Starmer quoted the phrase, ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’.

Driscoll has been North of Tyne Mayor since 2019 and is a firm supported of trade unions, visiting a picket line with civil servants last week and expressing his support for striking rail workers.

Labour have not explained why the current mayor was omitted from the list but have said that, ‘some applicants did not meet the threshold required’.

Whilst a senior Labour source told Press Association that his candidacy was blocked due to Driscoll’s onstage appearance at an event in March with Ken Loach, a film director and expelled Labour member.

Loach was expelled in 2021 amid efforts to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, after Mr Loach refused to ‘disown’ other party members who had already been expelled.

A Labour party spokesperson has said: “The North East Mayoralty is a unique opportunity for the people of the North East to take more control over the way our region is governed, with powers over housing, education, skills, transport and so much more.

“The Labour Party holds its 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.

“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.”

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Sky News / YouTube screenshot)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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