July 27, 2023 - 11:50am

The Left-wing metro mayor banned from standing for reelection by the Labour Party has claimed that Sir Keir Starmer’s “authoritarian” record as leader should alarm ordinary voters. Speaking to UnHerd’s These Times podcast, Jamie Driscoll, the now independent mayor for the North of Tyne region, argued that the move was part of a wider trend in society to cancel independent-minded figures who were prepared to challenge mainstream politicians, and also criticised the decision to withdraw Nigel Farage’s bank account.

In an hour-long interview, Driscoll spoke about everything from his rise to prominence during the Jeremy Corbyn years to his decision to stand as a crowdfunded independent candidate in next year’s election for the new super North East mayoralty. He suggested that he had been made an example of by the Labour leadership, to ensure they only had to deal with “yes men and women” when in power.

Starmer’s personal intransigence, according to Driscoll, was a big reason he’d been blocked from standing. He blamed a “faction” at the top of the party for conducting a purge of their opponents, and warned that it would backfire when it came to the mayoral election because people in the North East did not like being told what to do.

“There is a faction in control of the Labour Party machinery that is doing everything it can to get people who are yes men and women, people who are easy to control,” he said. “And getting rid of me like this is a wonderful disciplinary tool for anybody else who might be independently minded.” 

In the interview, Driscoll drew parallels with Farage’s battle with NatWest boss Alison Rose over the decision to withdraw his bank account at Coutts. Driscoll added that, while he did not agree with Farage’s politics, “you should not be cancelling people’s bank accounts on the basis that you don’t like their politics if they’ve done nothing illegal.”

The mayor said that it was legitimate for private companies to want to protect their brand: 

I can see that you might block a company for dealing with Saudi arms dealers, or something like that, and I think it’s entirely legitimate for people to be withdrawing from, say, gas and oil investments. But that’s a more practical thing to do with the climate emergency. And these things are always hard to balance, and that’s why I think due process and fair mindedness is very, very important.
- Jamie Driscoll

This, he suggested, was lacking in both his case and Farage’s. Driscoll said that while he thought the Labour Party would win the next general election “by quite a margin,” this was mostly because the Tory Party has given up. “The fight’s out of them,” he said. “That is as much a reason for the prediction as anything.”

But when it came to the North East mayoralty, Driscoll professed confidence that he would give Starmer a bloody nose. “In the North East I absolutely can win,” he said, claiming that Green voters and independents would back him against Labour, as well as those who had moved away from the party in recent years to vote Tory.

You can listen to the full podcast here.