The Tory challenger has said he is very concerned that the election of a ‘hard-left Corbyn Mayor’ will be ‘a missed opportunity’ for the North of Tyne.
Conservative candidate Charlie Hoult, who was backed by Sir John Hall, made it through to the second-preference votes run-off at the May 3 election count, but could not make any in-roads into the lead of the winner – and new Mayor – Labour’s Jamie Driscoll.
In a blog post published on Friday (May 10), Mr Hoult thanks the 60,089 who voted for him as well as the ‘many, many people who, unprompted, gave their time to join my campaign for a modern, forward-looking, positive vision for this fantastic place that we call home’.
He adds: ‘I joined the election race because I firmly believe the new North of Tyne Mayor offers a new and real opportunity for our region to make a powerful case to the outside world across business and community, as well as through Westminster.
‘I stood because I believe my breadth of experience could help our region to bigger and better things. My track record, working with partners to initiate £100million in civic projects, could contribute to delivering more.
‘It’s this kind of experience our Mayor needs, as they bid for new investment and the new jobs people want so badly. Hence my election theme: Projects Not Politics.
‘I also stood because I love the North East. I was born here and have the region running through my veins. I run a fourth-generation business that in turn provides space for 1,000 people in small businesses. I’ve helped many new ventures grow, supporting jobs and local investment along the way.’
The third-placed independent candidate, John McCabe, also wrote a piece reflecting on the campaign in which he congratulated Mr Driscoll and offered him help if he needed it.
However, Mr Hoult has no such message of support in his reflections, saying instead that he is ‘very concerned that the election of a hard-left Corbyn Mayor in Jamie Driscoll will mean a missed opportunity for us to celebrate our success’.
He continues: ‘His victory speech last Friday was heavy on negatives and socialist rhetoric like ‘rejecting chaos’.
‘This is a narrative I don’t share, because I see so much great work in the region that we must applaud rather than paint a divisive world picture.
‘Under the gaze of international media, Driscoll’s speech was a huge missed opportunity. Where was the inclusive vision? Where was the good news? Where was the call for partnership? Inward investors watching on will hardly have been inspired to come to our region.’
Mr Hoult goes on to suggest that the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s cabinet ‘has already moved effectively to block Driscoll’s pie-in-the-sky plans, by agreeing a framework for practical spending that will bring in new jobs’.
‘I’m interested to see how an uncompromising hard-left Mayor can possibly take the consensual partnership approach required for the job,’ he adds.
For his part, in an interview on his second day in the job, Mr Driscoll said that he had already had a productive meeting with the Conservative leader and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council.
“There are effectively seven of us on the cabinet, me as mayor and two each from the local authorities, and it’s about realising that we’ve all got a responsibility for delivering this, there is a democratic mandate for the policies,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“But actually everybody wants people in better housing, everybody wants people out of poverty and it’s just a question of focusing on those priorities and making them happen with, to be fair, a fraction of the amount of money we would all like to do it with.”
Also in the firing line in Mr Hoult’s article are the media and the opportunities for debate during the election campaign.
He writes: ‘I am disappointed by the quality of the media coverage of the election, with little by way of critical analysis of the proposals on offer, or the candidates’ suitability for the job.
‘Press stories all too often just re-presented the words of the candidates. With one or two honourable exceptions, our local journalists and their publishers need to up their game. I know I’m not alone in thinking this. I will continue to develop my idea for a regional media hub, which resonates with many.
‘The structure and opportunity for debate during the campaign was stiflingly limited. The hustings events on offer in particular were formulaic and unengaging, with a one-by-one answer format leaving no room for interaction between candidates or audience. The exception to this was a lively Friends of the Earth meeting in Alnwick – conducted with good humour and quite open discussion.’
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service