The battle is about to commence to decide who will become North of Tyne’s first elected mayor, after entrepreneur Charlie Hoult was picked over former North Tyneside Mayor Linda Arkley to become the Conservative party candidate.
Mr Hoult will be pitted against Jamie Driscoll, a staunch Corbyn supporter who was aided by the Momentum and was selected over Nick Forbes, the leader of the LGA’s Labour group and leader of Newcastle city council.
The new mayor will be a figurehead for the North of Tyne CA which was created last November, following the collapse of a devlution deal for the North East CA in 2017. The North of Tyne covers Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council and Northumberland CC and its devoution deal includes £600m of central government funding being devolved to the region, with powers over the economy, education, skills and transport. .
He will replace North Tyneside leader Norma Redfearn (Lab), who has been working as interim mayor since December.
If the former engineer Mr Driscoll is successful, he will be the only one of England’s metro mayors to be a Momentum activist.
Although the north-east of England has long been a Labour stronghold, Ben Houchen was elected the conservative mayor of the Tees Valley in 2017.
The Conservative Mr Hoult, who lives at Hadrians Wall, says he has the region “running in his veins” and has declared his priorities as jobs and business growth, turbocharging education, fixing disjointed transport, investing in homes and communities for the region and “bigging up regional pride”.
Mr Hoult, who runs a fourth-generation family business, recently called ITV’s political correspondent for the North, Joe Pike, a “bugger” on camera for continuing to press him on how much money he’s worth, to which he eventually replied “£2m to £3m”.
Mr Driscoll on the other hand is campaigning with a socialist agenda to create a community owned green energy company and an innovation hub to support the low carbon economy, turn underused public buildings into community hubs, build co-operative social housing that can’t be privatised because they will use an “asset lock”, and set up “people’s banks” to invest in local businesses.
The Liberal Democrat candidate John Appleby, formerly head of mechanical engineering at Newcastle University, is campaigning on a ticket to narrow the attainment gap for boys in the region and says he is concerned at increasing use of temporary agency workers without contracted rights.
A businessman who is president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, John McCabe, has thrown his hat in the ring as an independent candidate, claiming the area need a mayor who is “free of party politics” and answers to the people, not to a “London-based party machine”.
The first mayor will have a five-year term, which will be reduced to four years from 2024, so the next election will coincide with the mayoral elections for other regions and cities.