The “anti-democratic” decision to exclude a left-leaning Labour mayor from competing in the North East has Sir Keir Starmer under fire.
The largest union contributor to the party, Unite, issued a “serious consequences” warning due to the “major mistake” of excluding Jamie Driscoll’s candidacy.
The decision does not seem “democratic, transparent, and fair,” according to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham, his counterpart in the Liverpool City Region.
The current mayor of North of Tyne, Mr. Driscoll, who is known as the “last Corbynista in power,” was not included on the extensive list of candidates for the newly expanded authority.
According to a senior Labour source, the decision was made because Mr. Driscoll was on a panel with the anti-Semitism campaigner Ken Loach, who was expelled from the party.
However, those on the party’s left have attributed “factionalism” to Sir Keir’s leadership.
To defend his “fantastic” record, Mr. Driscoll said it was “frankly shocking” to restrict Labour members from voting on whether he should represent the North East.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday show: “In a two-party system, if you’re going to ban people who are promoting socialist views from participating in that, that is really quite anti-democratic.”
Despite Loach downplaying the subject of antisemitism in the party, the mayor defended discussing his films, some of which were made in the North East.
“My understanding is he’s made all sorts of clarifications that he’s not a Holocaust denier and I think he wrote a letter to the New York Times explicitly saying that the Holocaust was a real event, which of course it was,” he said.
In 2021, after what Loach referred to as a “purge” of Jeremy Corbyn’s allies, the socially critical filmmaker was banned from Labour. Loach is the creator of films like I, Daniel Blake and other films of this nature.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham issued a warning, stating that Labour will “continue to make serious policy mistakes” if it “remains intent on only selecting nodding heads.”
“These actions by Labour are a major mistake and have serious consequences,” she added.
Mr. Burnham and Mr. Rotherham wrote a joint letter to Johanna Baxter, the head of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), expressing their “concern.”
“Whilst we appreciate the NEC’s important role in upholding standards within the party, and rooting out any form of antisemitism, racism and discrimination, it also has a responsibility to ensure decisions are democratic, transparent and fair,” they wrote.
“To exclude a sitting mayor from a selection process with no right of appeal appears to us to be none of those things.”
They said Mr Driscoll should be entitled to an appeal process and “deserves to be treated with more respect than he has so far been shown”.
Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, “strongly” disputed with suggestions that Sir Keir is attempting to cleanse the left of the party.
He told Sky: “Specifically in a case where somebody shares a platform with someone who themselves has been expelled from the Labour Party for their views on antisemitism, for opposing the tough action that needed to happen, that would preclude them from being a Labour candidate going forward.
“Because when we said we’d have zero-tolerance for antisemitism, when we said we would tear it out from its roots, we were serious about that.”
As he supported Mr. Driscoll, Loach came under fire for saying that antisemitism is being used to rid Labour of left-leaning leaders.
The mayor’s exclusion from the Friday longlist due to their similar platform, he claimed, was the “lamest justification I’ve ever heard,” according to the PA news agency.
As Mr. Corbyn battled to combat antisemitism, the UK’s equalities commission determined that Labour was accountable for illegal harassment and discrimination throughout that time.