A week is a long time in politics. I’ll say!

July 23, 2023

A week is a long time in politics.  I’ll say!

Right now I’m looking at the Sunday morning rain drenching the Lakeland landscape, reflecting that a week ago I was still a Labour Metro Mayor.

I was ostensibly on leave last week.  My wife’s a GP in Gateshead and books her leave months in advance.

Last Saturday we went to a beer festival in South Gosforth.  People kept coming up to me, “Can I shake your hand?”  “It’s terrible the way the Labour Party has treated you!”  “You should run as an independent.”

You know the story – Labour HQ blocked me for factional reasons.  The backlash has been intense – people walking out of meetings, members leaving the Party, councillors resigning the whip.  People sick of the policy U-turns.  Tackling the climate emergency.  Ending NHS privatisation.  Tuition fees.  Taxing capital gains at the same rate as income.  Taxing tech giants.

I asked my family over dinner, “Should I run as an independent?”  Nelson, my younger son, answered, “You’re still going to campaign and fight for a better world. Why not fight for something where you’ll have the power to do something about it?”  It’s hard to argue with that logic.

So I wrote to Sir Keir Starmer resigning from Labour.  You can read it on my website – JamieDriscoll.co.uk.  The news broke on Monday.  I was in London with think tanks and campaigners, discussing making politics more participatory.  Millions of people feel no one listens to them.  My phone went haywire – could I come on the BBC?  ITV.  Sky.  Channel 4.  Andrew Marr and John Pienaar.  Radio and podcasts and webcasts.

Going up against big party machines – with their slick press offices – is a David and Goliath struggle.  So I’d set up crowdfunder.  A campaign will cost over £150,000, but if I can raise £25,000 by the end of August, I said, I’ll run.  The response was overwhelming.  We smashed that target in 2 hours.

The media circuit finished with Newsnight, discussing Labour’s U-turn on the two-child benefit cap.  Keeping kids in poverty is extraordinarily expensive and morally wrong.  How on Earth did we get to a place where the Labour Party is justifying Tory policies that keep kids in poverty?

I’d hadn’t eaten, so at 3am was munching through a bag of Kettle chips, writing a Guardian op ed, laptop on my knee, sitting on the bed of a tiny basement room in a budget hotel.  Glamorous, politics isn’t.

More media on Tuesday, including Politics Live.  Wednesday showing Guardian journalist Helen Pidd our investments in Blyth bringing hundreds of renewable energy jobs.  Then NUCastle, where our £2.6 million investment helps kids and young adults get skills and confidence – and jobs paying decent money.

Thursday at St Thomas More school.  Students and Tyne & Wear Citizens thanked me and others for helping get cheaper bus fares – and for listening to them.  People sidled up – “I’ve donated to your Crowdfunder.”  “I used to leaflet for the Labour Party – can I leaflet for you now?”

Friday up in Berwick campaigning against ticket office closures.  I bought my ticket at Central station, where the staff showed me a copy of my last week’s column supporting them.  Again in Berwick, people saying they’d donated to the crowdfunder, could they join the campaign?

Saturday morning, Northern Pride.  We’ve provided £70,000 to keep the village and events free – important during a cost of living crisis.  People asking for selfies, saying they’d donated, can they campaign for me.  Then finally over to the Lakes where I’ll turn my phone off this week and actually spend some time with my family.

As I write, 5,300 people have donated to the crowdfunder – thank you all.  I’ll reply to your messages when I get back.  This comment sums it up:

“As a North East resident I’m excited by Jamie’s plans, particularly the Total Transport Network. He also understands that the climate emergency requires urgent action. He seems like a really solid lad born and raised in the NE and has good values. The factionalism displayed by Keir Starmer and the Labour Party in excluding him is deeply concerning. But we won’t let them undermine local politics in the North East. Howay Jamie!”