‘Thousands of messages of support’: Driscoll lobbies for ban’s reverse

Morgan Jones
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Parliament returns from Whitsun recess today and the House of Lords will be discussing the government’s illegal migration bill (Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has said the bill is “a sham that will make the soaring costs far worse”). Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is visiting a nuclear power plant.

The big Labour story remains Friday’s revelation that North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll has been kept off the longlist for the new North East mayoralty. Driscoll reports that he was not offered a reason for this decision, but Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has since confirmed that the decision relates to Driscoll having shared a platform with the filmmaker Ken Loach in March. The NEC recently agreed new rules which would permit parliamentary candidates who failed due diligence checks to appeal. However, it now looks like a missed opportunity to grant metro mayoral candidates similar rights, as the new rules do not apply to Driscoll – despite his urging Keir Starmer to “have a look” at the decision. The latest development in this story came yesterday afternoon, when Driscoll’s fellow metro mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham revealed that they had written to national executive committee (NEC) chair Johanna Baxter saying they felt Driscoll should be permitted to appeal, praising his record in office and asserting that he “deserves to be treated with more respect than he has so far been shown”.

Challenged on his appearance alongside Loach by Sky’s Sophy Ridge yesterday, Driscoll stressed that under his leadership the North Tyne authority had adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism but refused to say his appearance with Loach was wrong, saying that the public did not want their politicians engaged with “culture wars, cancel culture”. Loach was expelled from Labour in 2021, saying: “I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge. There is indeed a witch hunt”, referencing a supposed “witch hunt” over antisemitism. Given Starmer’s statements about having “zero tolerance” for antisemitism and racism, you can see how Driscoll’s appearance may indeed fall foul of a high bar. But, given that the party re-admitted Neil Coyle after he had the whip suspended for racially abusing a journalist just a few weeks ago, it seems very difficult to make the argument that any such high bar is being evenly applied.

In a post on his website last night, Driscoll wrote that he had received “literally thousands of messages of support” from acrosss the political spectrum, though acknowledged his “socialist” politics sometimes put him on a “collision course with the party leadership in London”.

Still in the race for North East mayor is Northumbria police and crime commissioner Kim McGuinness, who launched her campaign this weekend. She notably declined to comment on the Driscoll affair.

The ongoing parliamentary selection battles between sitting MPs also continued apace this weekend, with Beth Winter – who touted having the backing of UNISON, the CWU and others –  and Neil Kinnock backed frontbencher Gerald Jones facing off at the hustings for Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon, and Alison McGovern and Mick Whitley taking part in hustings for the new Birkenhead seat. Whitley reportedly highlighted how he joined strikers on picket lines, backed public ownership and was “Birkenhead’s voice in Westminster and not the other way around”, while his rival McGovern described her ambition to be a frontbench champion for Birkenhead’s future, “relentlessly demanding the best for our people and what we can get them”.

In internal democracy news, today is the deadline for national policy forum (NPF) members to submit amendments. This is the last chance to feed into the process before the weekend at the end of July where policy to form the basis of the next manifesto will be settled.

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