It’s the thinnest excuse possible and everybody knows it: Keir Starmer wants self-confessed “last Corbynite in power”, Jamie Driscoll, out of his job as a metropolitan mayor, and he’s using a joint appearance with film director Ken Loach as the reason.
Mr Loach has already been expelled from the Labour Party, although nobody seems to know the reason, and Starmer’s mob is saying that Mr Driscoll having appeared at an event that the great British director also attended is enough reason to exclude him from candidate shortlists.
Mr Driscoll – rightly – reckons that’s a crock. He doesn’t even mention it in his article commenting on his achievements and the way his party is letting the people of northeast England down:
My first duty is to the people who elected me as their mayor. The Labour Party members here, in our region, chose me to represent them last time. They should have that choice again. It’s called #democracy.
Read my article 👉 https://t.co/usXFikLEsR pic.twitter.com/aA0toPgouH
— Mayor Jamie Driscoll (@MayorJD) June 4, 2023
Labour struggles to convince the electorate it can handle the economy. You’d think I was exactly the success story the Labour Party would want to shout about. So when they barred me from standing as North East Mayor, it shocked people from across the political spectrum. I’ve had literally thousands of messages of support.
I identify as a socialist. Sometimes that puts me on a collision course with the Party leadership in London.
My first duty is to the people who elected me as their mayor. The Labour members here, in our region, chose me to represent them last time. They should have that choice again. It’s called democracy. Union leaders, MPs, and other Mayors are making my case, and asking for the decision to be reversed.
There’s a lack of trust in politics. Second homes. Second jobs. Cash for questions. Not me. £0 expenses claims. I pay for my own phone. I gave up my car and use my bike or public transport so I see what everyone else has to deal with.
Politics needs to change. We need a new direction. Power must reside in the North East, and in every region of Britain. Not in Westminster and Party HQs. I have a vision of a Britain that’s run in the interests of the people who do the work. And I believe we can get there.
Well said @MayorJD!
"It is no secret that I support the policies that Keir Starmer got elected on, but obviously as he has changed his position I haven’t changed mine. My loyalty is to people in the North East,” Mr Driscoll said.https://t.co/n7rE0j2LW7
— Oliver 🌹✊💚 #ClimateAction #Socialist (@tynewrc) June 6, 2023
Say what you like about Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham; she’s on the right side of this argument:
What is emerging from @UKLabour 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. 🧵1/3 @bbclaurak https://t.co/QSIdvmqYTm
— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) June 4, 2023
— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) June 4, 2023
“Nodding heads” are exactly the kind of people Keir Starmer wants in all positions representing the Labour Party. It seems clear that the only people he wants to have any power at all are those who are completely subservient to him.
What of Ken Loach?
Well, we’ve established that he was expelled from the Labour Party for reasons that have never been disclosed. Anti-Semitism has been alleged but no accusation has ever stuck.
Still, right-wing lickspittles like Luke Akehurst are using association with Mr Loach as their reason for wanting rid of Mr Driscoll, as you can see below.
By that token, though, Keir Starmer should also be out of a job at the next election:
Er, Luke? You sure about that?
Because this looks remarkably like Keir Starmer sharing a platform with Ken Loach…? And if memory serves, agreeing with what he said. Luke…? https://t.co/bJeXXQxNRI pic.twitter.com/JP1lrLiV3W
— The Prole Star (@TheProleStar) June 4, 2023
But when Mr Driscoll appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight, Labour sent a party drone from Sussex to undermine him with insults about David Brent (the Office idiot) and falsehoods about party rules.
And what happened? Mr Driscoll ran rings around Paul Richards, who made a fool of himself:
One of the big (cl)aims of @Keir_Starmer was to win over tradition northern Labour voters yet
here he sends out a lapdog from Sussex to tell voters in the NE they are wrong and they can’t have their current Mayor any more as London Labour says so. https://t.co/JAzm4OAV3e
— Greg Herriett (@greg_herriett) June 6, 2023
The clip has been sent around Twitter by a few commenters, and their observations speak for themselves. Here‘s Alistair Greaves: “Honestly, @MayorJD gives these ghouls far much more politeness than they deserve. Not sure why the #biasedbbc let Paul Richards have the last word though, and while they can argue “no-one is bigger or better than the party or the rules” JAMIE DRISCOLL HASN’T BROKEN ANY RULES.”
How about MsAlfieB here? “Was the BoD demand that Labour suspend anyone sharing a platform with an expelled member written into the rules? If so that’s really shocking Surely a mayor works for all in his city, not for the Labour party. Labour Party rules can’t be imposed on public servants doing their job.”
(The “BoD” would be the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which is not a Labour-affiliated organisation. But Starmer seems to have allied with it in his purge of left-wing party members.)
Also during that Newsnight appearance, Richards tried to justify the blocking of Mr Driscoll as a candidate by claiming he does not meet the criteria (again: because Mr Driscoll had appeared at an event where Ken Loach – who has not done anything quantifiably wrong – also appeared).
Here’s what happened when interviewer Victoria Derbyshire countered with a list of Mr Discoll’s actual achievements as North Tyne Mayor:
Former 'Labour special adviser' Paul Richards justifys blocking Jamie Driscoll as a candidate. The presenter then reads out some of the ways Jamie has improved peoples lives in the NE as Mayor, and all Richards can say is: "Well great, and congratulations to him" pic.twitter.com/Z89fkBmXa3
— Saul Staniforth (@SaulStaniforth) June 6, 2023
Paul Richards appears to hold a grudge against Ken Loach.
— James Foster (@JamesEFoster) June 6, 2023
Now, those are just the opinions of people who inhabit Twitter; the social media equivalent of the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus.
Perhaps you’d prefer the view of a mass media columnist?
Keir Starmer says he wants to empower local communities. The Jamie Driscoll affair suggests otherwise | Simon Jenkins https://t.co/vuhX6HuRuF
— James Foster (@JamesEFoster) June 5, 2023
The commentary is damning:
Keir Starmer said in January he wanted to “take back control” for local communities. The Labour leader wants them to have more say over jobs, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare and finance. He wants to liberate what is now recognised as the most centralised state in Europe. So why, now, has the Labour leader decided that the people of the North of Tyne area will not be permitted to reselect their current mayor, Jamie Driscoll, to stand for Labour at the next election? Why did he agree in March that his predecessor as leader, Jeremy Corbyn, should not be reselected as MP for Islington North?
Whatever the perceived misdeeds of these two politicians, surely these are matters for their respective communities to decide on. Come to that, I notice in the past few weeks that, despite his devolution speech, Starmer wants no devolution of power over council tax rises, local housing decisions or the siting of wind turbines, among other things. Nor will he tolerate any nonsense from Scottish people about “taking back control” of Scotland.
Even before he finds himself in Downing Street, Starmer cannot bring himself to respect the local diversity that has long been Labour’s strength. He cannot allow his party to let the people of the north-east choose who it is they want to lead them. It is a very bad start.
The condemnation seems universal; everyone who doesn’t have an interest in opposing Mr Driscoll seems to be supporting him.
That means two things:
Firstly, the old lies about anti-Semitism aren’t going to work any more.
Secondly, it doesn’t matter who else is on Labour’s shortlist for the new North East Mayor job; if Jamie Driscoll isn’t on it, Labour won’t have a hope of winning the election.
Will Keir Starmer learn his lesson from this?
Probably not, sadly.
In fact, he’ll probably take revenge by setting his sights on two other metropolitan mayors who have supported Mr Driscoll – Steve Rotherham and Andy Burnham.
And that would be an even worse mistake.
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