Labour’s Purge of the Left: The Exclusion of Jamie Driscoll and the Battle for North East Mayoralty
In a stunning turn of events, the race for the North East mayoralty has encountered a dramatic twist as Jamie Driscoll, the successful left-wing mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, has been excluded from Labour’s selection contest.
Driscoll, often regarded as the “last Corbynista in power,” has been a frontrunner for the position and enthusiastically launched his campaign last month. The decision to leave him off the longlist of candidates has left his main rival, Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria Police and Commissioner (PCC), who is closely aligned to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in a commanding position.
The exclusion of Driscoll has abruptly brought the anticipated internal contest to an unexpected early end.
While a Labour Party spokesperson vaguely cited that “some applicants did not meet the threshold required,” no specific explanation was provided for Driscoll’s exclusion.
I’ve been barred from standing as North East Mayor by @UKLabour. No explanation has been given.— Mayor Jamie Driscoll (@MayorJD) June 2, 2023
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This move appears to come as part of Labour’s ongoing purge of members and candidates from the left wing of the party under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer. The decision to exclude a serving mayor, who has been widely credited with doing a great job, highlights the increasing factionalism within Labour, which some argue is spiralling out of control.
The news of Jamie Driscoll’s exclusion has garnered swift reactions, with MP John McDonnell, former shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, expressing his disbelief. McDonnell described the decision as “staggering” and emphasised that there seems to be no motive other than factionalism at play.
McDonnell said omitting Driscoll from the list despite him being “widely credited with doing a great job” was “staggering news”, adding: “To refuse to allow a serving mayor on to even a selection long list demonstrates that factionalism in the party is completely out of control.
Driscoll’s campaign launch in Sunderland last month, where he received an endorsement from RMT union chief Mick Lynch, showcased his commitment to end unemployment in the North East and create a comprehensive transport network.
The exclusion of Driscoll from the Labour selection list adds to a series of recent incidents that reflect the party’s shift away from its left-wing roots. This move follows Keir Starmer’s decision to block Jeremy Corbyn from standing for the party in Islington North at the next general election, solidifying the perception of a party moving rapidly to the right.
As Tony Benn astutely warned, the expulsion and marginalisation of left-wing voices within the Labour Party may have far-reaching consequences for British society, where the only alternative comes down to which colour Tories you prefer, Red or Blue!
Tony Benn’s prescient warning about the fate of the Labour Party, now relegated to a historical footnote, serves as a bitter irony. The exclusion of Jamie Driscoll, a popular and effective mayor, highlights the widening divide within the party and raises questions about Labour’s commitment to its progressive roots. The decision to sideline Driscoll in favour of a candidate more closely aligned with Keir Starmer’s leadership signals a significant shift in the political landscape of the North East. The consequences of this exclusion may have lasting implications for both the party and the region as a whole.