Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has hit out at North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll after the latter criticised Labour leader Keir Starmer as he resigned from the party.
Mr Driscoll took a swipe at Mr Starmer as he dramatically quit the party on Monday, criticising him for ‘u-turning’ on promises and of being uninterested in “hope and change”.
The mayor has resigned in order to stand as an independent candidate in the mayoral election for the new North East combined authority. The self-admitted socialist was blocked from standing for Labour earlier this year, with Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness selected as the party’s choice this week.
Mrs Reeves was asked about the criticism faced by the Labour leader on the Northern Agenda podcast. She claimed Mr Driscoll had ignored “good advice” to stand on a platform with filmmaker Ken Loach.
She said: “It’s up to Jamie Driscoll what he does, but he was ruled out of standing as the Labour candidate next year because Keir has taken an incredibly tough stance on anti Semitism. He said it was the first commitment he made as the incoming leader of the Labour Party, that it would tear anti semitism out by its roots.
“And, you know, Jamie Driscoll against good advice, shared a platform with people who had been expelled from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism. And I’m not going to make any apologies for that tough stance on anti-Semitism.
“It is a deep shame and a deep stain on the Labour Party, that when Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the party, that anti-Semitism took hold, and so that’s why Jamie Driscoll was barred from standing as a Labour candidate.
“Yesterday, we selected an amazing woman, Kim McGuinness, to be the candidate for that North East mayoralty. Next year, she will if she’s elected be the second female mayor, after Tracy Brabin, of course here in West Yorkshire and I look forward to campaigning alongside Kim to have another Labour mayor and another female mayor.”
However, Mr Loach himself has previously stated that he was not expelled from the party due to anti-semitism. Instead, he was told that his expulsion was due to his membership of the proscribed organisation, Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW).
Mr Loach said: “There is therefore no excuse for the Labour Party to suggest that it has
anything to do with anti-Semitism, particularly since many Jewish people also support LAW.
“Further, I did not have to deny accusations of anti-Semitism, since none were made by the Labour Party.”
LAW was formed in late 2017 to campaign against what it described as “politically motivated allegations of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party. It was proscribed by Labour in July 2021 along with other allegedly far-left factions Resist, the Labour in Exile Network and Socialist Appeal.
Labour’s National Executive Committee said the organisations “are not compatible with Labour’s rules or our aims and values”.
Responding to Mrs Reeves’ comments, Mr Driscoll said: “Rachel Reeves has made herself look foolish here. Labour HQ or whoever is advising her has given her a hospital pass. The NEC panel that interviewed me categorically told me that there was no allegation of anti-Semitism against me.
“Ken Loach was not kicked out of the Labour Party for anti-Semitism. He is a highly respected British filmmaker who recently received a standing ovation at Cannes.
“His latest film ‘The Old Oak’ set in the North East, was partially funded by the BBC. He recently got invited to meet the Pope in the Sistine Chapel – is Rachel Reeves saying Pope Francis is anti-Semitic? Someone should ask her.
“The whole thing stinks of double standards. Keir Starmer appeared in the Ken Loach film McLibel and even used footage from this in his leadership campaign video. Ed Miliband recently interviewed Ken Loach on his podcast and talked about – guess what? – films. Will they be forced to explain their actions and blocked from standing for public office?”
McLibel is a Ken Loach documentary film released in 1997 around the decade-long lawsuit of the same name. Mr Starmer was interviewed as part of the film after providing free legal support to the defendants for many years.
Ken Loach appeared on Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be cheerful, in October 2019 to discuss his drama Sorry We Missed You, which was filmed in Newcastle.
Mr Driscoll added: “I think Rachel Reeves and the Labour HQ need to get their own house in order, before flinging mud at others. People are sick of infighting and they just want politicians to get on with the job and not to play silly game