A left-leaning Labour mayor who has been blocked from running for another role in the North East has not ruled out taking legal action against the party.
Jamie Driscoll, the serving North of Tyne mayor, was excluded from the longlist to run in the new expanded authority.
The move has prompted a backlash against the Labour leadership, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his counterpart in the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, claiming the move does not seem “democratic, transparent and fair”.
Unite, the party’s biggest union donor, has also warned of “serious consequences” over the “major mistake” of barring Mr Driscoll’s candidacy.
Thank you to everybody for all the thousands of messages of love and support. I’ve been blown away.
There were just too many to reply individually, but I’ve read them all and I really appreciate each one.
— Mayor Jamie Driscoll (@MayorJD) June 3, 2023
Mr Driscoll has spoken publicly in recent days to express frustration and complain about the lack of an appeals process.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme on Monday if he could take legal action if unable to appeal against the decision, he said: “Obviously I’m taking advice on that. And I would absolutely prefer not to go down that route if it’s possible.”
He said there is a precedent for stopping selection processes before restarting them.
“In 2019, when we went through this process of selection last time, the party stopped the process and restarted it again a month later, because they weren’t happy that any women had applied.
“All I really want is to let the people of the North East choose who is their mayor and not let London Labour choose who is their mayor.”
A senior Labour source linked the decision to Mr Driscoll sharing a panel with film-maker Ken Loach, who was expelled from the party amid efforts to root out antisemitism from the party.
Loach, the director of socially critical films including I, Daniel Blake, was expelled from Labour in 2021 during what he called at the time a “purge” of Jeremy Corbyn’s allies.
But figures on the left of the party have blamed “factionalism” under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership.
“I take part in lots of cultural events,” Mr Driscoll said.
“This was an event organised in a local theatre as part of their 50th birthday celebrations. The last three feature films that actually are set in the North East were I, Daniel Blake, Sorry We Missed You, and currently coming out The Old Oak.
“Now Ken Loach is the director of those. So I did an event talking about films.
“And if talking to someone about films, because they may have controversial views elsewhere, is grounds for denying members the chance to make their own judgment on that, then I think we’ve gone to quite a dark place indeed when it comes to democracy.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, appearing on the same programme, said she could not comment as she did not know the details of the case.
“The Labour Party always has standards for candidates and that’s a matter for the National Executive Committee, not for the shadow cabinet,” she said.
“You wouldn’t expect me to comment on individual cases.”