John McCabe, who will now finish his two-year stint as president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce early, announced he was considering running last week before confirming it yesterday (Monday, March 4).
The Cramlington resident now runs Blyth-based Fusion PR, but is also well-known from his time as an executive at the Rio Tinto/Alcan aluminium smelter in Lynemouth.
He joins the Labour candidate Jamie Driscoll and the Lib Dems’ John Appleby on the shortlist for the first elected mayor of the combined authority area, made up of Northumberland County Council, North Tyneside Council and Newcastle City Council.
The Greens last week said they will not be entering the race, which will see voters go to the polls on May 2, while Newcastle businessman Charlie Hoult is bidding to become the Conservative candidate.
In a statement, Mr McCabe said: “This is a big moment for all of us who live, learn or work in Newcastle, North Tyneside or Northumberland.
“We should see this as just the first stage in taking more control over the future of our region. I believe one of the mayor’s first priorities should be to start making the case for more devolved powers and more funding to deliver lasting, meaningful change for our region.”
He said that he will spend the next few weeks building his campaign, which will include ‘developing a set of impactful policies to put to the people of the North of Tyne region’, but he has revealed five key themes.
‘Our jobs. The North of Tyne Combined Authority has the budget and powers to help employers and businesses create 10,000 new jobs over the next five years.
‘Our skills. We must ensure we build a high-quality, inclusive education system which enables talent to flourish and allows all of our people to reach their full potential.
‘Our wellbeing. If we’re going to enable our people to thrive and ensure we create the best possible opportunities for them in the North of Tyne, we need a coordinated effort between the education, private, public, health and social-care sectors to ensure the best possible mental-health provision from school age, through work and into retirement.
‘Our place. The North of Tyne’s diverse landscape and culture is something to be proud of, but we need to ensure we plan properly and provide support for the future of our towns, coastal and rural communities.
‘Our future. This is just the beginning. We need to be bold and we need to be ambitious. Let’s build the skills, the jobs and the economy the North of Tyne deserves.’
In terms of running as an independent, Mr McCabe added: “Our long-established party political system is at breaking point and it’s failing the vast majority of people. I believe it’s time for something different.
“We need a mayor who is free of party politics. We need a mayor who answers to the people, not to a London-based party machine. And we need a mayor who neither craves the personal glory of success nor ducks their responsibility in the tougher times.
“I can be that mayor, but I’m going to need your help. In this campaign, I’m going to be up against more experienced and better-funded political teams. I’m going to be reliant on volunteers. If you’re with me, there’s a role for you in our campaign.”
His statement concludes with a commitment to a ‘positive, optimistic campaign in which there will be no place for negativity or personal attacks’ – “That’s the campaign the people of the North of Tyne deserve. That’s the candidate I am and it’s the mayor I hope to be.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service