A Labour party mayoral hopeful has been asked to abandon his campaign after allegations emerged that he sent his children to private school.
The chairman of the Newcastle branch of Momentum, Jamie Driscoll, is running on a left-wing platform to be the party’s candidate for the newly-created North of Tyne mayor post.
But he has been accused of hypocrisy amid claims he sent his two primary school-aged children to Newcastle School for Boys, a fee-paying institution which charges parents as much as £4,616 per term.
A senior Labour source confirmed the issue has been raised with the party.
When approached, Driscoll did not deny the matter and told HuffPost UK: “Any parent’s first duty is to their children.”
It is said that Driscoll now home-schools his children, but that they previously attended the school.
Driscoll also said in a statement: “The personal attacks have started. My opponents must be worried.”
He added that he would not respond in detail as that may compromise the privacy of his children, despite pictures of him with his family at a campaign rally appearing in the banner on his campaign website and his ‘JD4Mayor’ Facebook page.
He added: “Some people are trying to use my children as a weapon against me. This is a particularly cowardly thing to do.
“They are 10 and 12 years old. Any parent’s first duty is to their children. I will not violate their privacy.”
One Labour member, who refused to be named, told HuffPost UK that Driscoll had shown he did not trust public schools or the party’s plans for a so-called national education service.
She said: “You can tell a lot about someone when they essentially say ‘do what I say, not what I do’.
“To hear them talk about socialism, and chair a local Momentum group, it is easy to make a lazy assumption about someone. To learn that he has little faith in our public schools, and paid for his children to go to a private school, shows astonishing hypocrisy.”
The claims emerged as the Labour Party took the unusual step of re-opening applications for the race.
Labour emailed members to say they wanted “to hear particularly from female members” and denied that Driscoll’s background had played any role in the decision.
The contest for the job has so far been between four men but the process will now be extended until February 18, with the election itself due to take place in May.
A spokesman said, “The Labour Party has a proud tradition of encouraging diversity among its elected representatives, especially in the north.
“Our process to select a candidate for mayor has been extended to allow the opportunity for more candidates to put themselves forward. The chosen candidate will be announced in due course.”
Driscoll has a groundswell of support among the region’s grassroots members, most of whom strongly back Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and is seen as the greatest threat to the favourite for the candidacy, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes.
He had previously posted campaign videos about “community wealth-building” on Facebook, deriding “big corporate suppliers” that take money out of the region.
Forbes, who also leads the Labour group of the Local Government Association, surprisingly lost out on the nomination of his own CLP and there are fears in Forbes’ camp that Driscoll could snatch the nomination.
The new North of Tyne mayor job would represent an area spanning from Newcastle to Northumberland, in a similar role to that of Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Andy Street in the West Midlands.