My first duty is to the people who elected me as their Mayor

June 4, 2023

Hannah is 32.  She’s been unemployed most of her life.  “I am autistic,” she told me.  Her last job didn’t last very long.  Her boss was supportive, but he moved on.  Her new boss had less patience.  “Why can’t you just be like everyone else?” he’d complain.  “Because I’m not like everybody else!”  Her experience of discrimination runs deep.

Hannah was referred to our Diversity NE employment programme.  We fund specialist employment coaches who have the time it takes to develop people’s confidence, and land a job.  A decent job, paying decent wages.

Hannah explains her superpower.  “I can read a screen for ages without getting bored.”  She now works at the Tyne Tunnel, deciphering the photos that the automatic number plate recognition system can’t read.  Her coach Gary, still checks in with her.  People are supported even after finding work.

“It’s the first permanent job I’ve ever had”, she said excitedly, “and it’s amazing… the team leader always makes sure I can participate in the team activities.”

Hannah is the reason I’m Mayor.  Not just Hannah, but thousands like her, whose lives have changed because of what we do at the North of Tyne.

Like Dale, a machine operator in North Shields.  We helped his employer win a £multi-million order, and Dale was hired as they grew.  “What were you doing before this?” I asked.   “Mainly working away in the Baltic.  Long shifts.”  He’d go out for weeks at a time.  He missed his family.  “Now,” he said, “I get to read my daughter a bedtime story every night.”

I’ve met hundreds of the thousands of people we’ve helped.  Hearing their stories first hand helps me design better polices.  Nothing is more expert than lived experience.

Tony Wells is MD of Merit Holdings, in Cramlington, Northumberland.  I bumped into him at an investment conference recently.  “Jamie, thanks so much for your investment,” he said, pumping my hand.  “We’ve gone from 130 to 330 jobs!” They make modular clean rooms for the biotech industry and export them around the world.  They had no room to expand.  We helped them buy a factory that had been derelict for over ten years.  Tony plans to grow again and create another thousand jobs.

In four years, from an organisation that didn’t exist, the North of Tyne is creating 5,049 direct new jobs.  We’ve increased skills training places from 22,000 a year to 33,000 a year – when does a branch of government every get a 50% increase in value for money?  We’ve persuaded a slew of international tech companies to locate here.  Last year we were the number one region in Britain for inward investment.  Every £1 I invest returns over £3 to Treasury in payroll taxes alone.

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.  If you want to know more, have a look at my website.  Shy Bairns Get Nowt.