This election is not about Westminster, it’s about the North East

March 31, 2024

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.”

If Rishi Sunak had said that to MPs I’d be impressed. It would be a memorable way to call a General Election. But he didn’t. It was Oliver Cromwell, 371 years ago when he dissolved the Rump Parliament at the end of the English Civil War.

The deadline for a General Election on 2nd May this year has now passed.

The media focus will shift to local elections, and, because of the way the media works, the Mayoral elections. Will the Tories hold on in West Midlands and Tees Valley? Will the people of the North East reject the Westminster parties and elect Jamie Driscoll?

Only 12% of people trust political parties. That’s according to polling by the Office of National Statistics from September and October last year. Before Gaza. Before Labour dropped its £28 billion green investment pledge.

New polling from the Centre for Cities found that 51% of voters will choose their mayor based on the individual candidate, not their party.

The reality is that either I’ll win, or the Labour candidate will win. There is no second preference. Yet members are flooding out of the Labour Party. Meanwhile, thousands of people have donated to my campaign. An army of people are pushing my leaflets through letterboxes from Berwick to Barnard Castle.

This is not about Westminster, it’s about the North East. You can vote for me as Mayor and vote on party lines in the General Election. If you want the Tories out of Westminster, you can still vote Jamie for Mayor. People from all parties have told me they’re voting tactically for me.

During this campaign you’ll hear some heartfelt words from other candidates about equality. About the environment. About how the North East is left behind. How our local businesses need more support. How our public transport system barely functions in rural areas. I agree with all of that.

But warm words don’t fix things. Neither do vague statements like, “I will look at…” or “we need to convene people…” We’re less than 5 weeks from the election. If you can’t say exactly how you’ll fix a problem, you’re not ready for the job.

And if you believe everything politicians say during an election campaign, then I’ve got some magic beans I could sell you.

People want competence from their politicians. They need competence from their politicians, after seeing Boris Johnson and Liz Truss as Prime Minister.

You want honesty, of course, and integrity too. I’ve claimed £0 in expenses since I was elected. I turn down every offer of corporate hospitality. If I go to the football or the theatre, I pay for my own ticket.

As for honesty, I have a 5-year track record you can interrogate. And it stacks up.

As North of Tyne Mayor I have one main target set by Government – create 1,667 new jobs in five years. What have I achieved? 5,377 full time, permanent jobs. That’s 320% of target.

Jobs in digital security. In renewable energy. In advanced manufacturing. In culture and creating industries. Good, well-paid jobs, in small local firms, in growing local businesses, and in big firms I’ve persuaded to set up UK headquarters here, instead of London.

Get everyone a decent, well-paid job, and half our other social problems will disappear overnight. If people have money in their pockets, health will improve, and crime will fall.

In my 2019 manifesto, I said I would unite the region so we could get devolved transport powers and funding. I’ve kept that promise – and it took a lot of work. Many people in our region didn’t want to unite into a Mayoral combined Authority. Central Government didn’t want to give us anywhere near the money we now have. It is the best funded devolution deal in the country – £6.1 billion in total.

I’ll use it to create a Total Transport Network. Fully accessible publicly controlled buses. Extended Metro lines. Integrated ticketing. Safer walking and cycling routes, especially around schools. Capped fares and free travel for 18s and under and students.

Just ask yourself, if you were on the interview panel employing the CEO for the region, would you choose someone with 5 years’ experience of doing the job, with a track record of value for money, of bringing in investment, and of working cross-party to get things done? Or take a punt on someone who hasn’t?

Re-elect me, this time as North East Mayor, and I’ll deliver again.