Jamie Driscoll says some liken quitting Labour to ‘leaving abusive relationship’

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, who was blocked by Labour from running for another role in the region, has alleged that others who have also left the party have described it as like “leaving an abusive relationship”.

Mr Driscoll, who is standing as an independent in the contest for the soon-to-be-created North East mayoralty on May 2, criticised his former party as a “monoculture”.

Labour rebuked his comments as “completely unacceptable” and said they demonstrated why he was deemed unsuitable to be a candidate in Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

The mayor, who has been described as the “last Corbynista in power”, was last June barred by Labour from the longlist in the race for the expanded metro mayoralty.

In an interview with the Spectator, Mr Driscoll said: “The Labour party now is a monoculture.

“I know people who have left the Labour party who describe it as leaving an abusive relationship – councillors across the North East. There’s a steady stream of them.”

He also told the magazine: “There is definitely a move to make the Labour party just the parliamentary party.

“Cutting off all influence from constituencies and trade unions, things like that, like the American Democrats. It suits the people that are driving it, but I don’t think it suits the people of the North-East. That’s the real irony, isn’t it? It’s about devolution, taking power out of London. But London decides who people are allowed to vote for.”

Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer’s party did not allow Jamie Driscoll to be a Labour candidate for the new North East metro mayoralty (Danny Lawson/PA)

Labour’s move to block Mr Driscoll from the North East contest prompted a furious backlash from figures who viewed him as the victim of a purge of left-wingers.

A senior Labour source at the time linked the decision to the mayor sharing a panel with filmmaker Ken Loach, who was expelled from the party amid efforts to root out antisemitism from the party.

But Mr Driscoll claimed Labour HQ was intent on ousting him on any pretext.

“They’d been trying to do it for ages. The back story to this is that I won in 2019 and I wasn’t supposed to.”

He said he does not see himself “as particularly left-wing”, adding: “No one in the North East defines me as left wing and in fact it’s amazing how many Tories have voted for me, including Tory councillors voting tactically.

“What they really like is that I haven’t put up the council tax and I’ve created a load of jobs.”

Mr Driscoll, who has continued as an independent in his current job, has raised almost £150,000 in donations for his independent North East mayoralty campaign, according to the Spectator.

A Labour source said: “It’s completely unacceptable and offensive to compare political choices with domestic abuse.

“Crass comments like this demonstrate why Mr Driscoll was deemed unsuitable to be a candidate in Keir Starmer’s changed Labour Party.

“He should retract this comment, especially as a White Ribbon UK Ambassador.”

The other candidates for the mayoralty are: Paul Donaghy, Reform UK; Andrew Gray, Green Party; Aidan King, Liberal Democrats; Kim McGuinness, Labour; and Guy Renner-Thompson, Conservative.