Thanks to everyone who has been in touch since I announced I was considering standing for North of Tyne mayor. I’ve been overwhelmed by your kindness, messages of support and offers to provide all manner of help. I’ve considered this very carefully and discussed it at length with my family and close friends.

And I’m in. I’ll be running as an Independent candidate in the election to be held on 2 May.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be building my campaign, recruiting a team of volunteers and developing a set of impactful policies to put to the people of the North of Tyne region. That detailed work starts today but I can tell you the themes that will be at the heart of my campaign are:

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.

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. 

That’s why this election matters so much. We have to elect a Mayor who can galvanise and work with the private, public and third sectors. The Mayor will have to negotiate with the government and will have to unite and work with all of the political parties represented in the North of Tyne, especially the Labour and Conservative local authority leaders who will form the first cabinet.

And above all else, to make a success of this once in a generation opportunity the Mayor will need to be credible and accountable to the people of our region.

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. 

I was born and brought up in North Shields and I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the North of Tyne.  Having been made redundant in 2013 I started my own business, now based in Blyth, which has grown and created new jobs for great, talented people. 

In 2017 I was elected President of North East England Chamber of Commerce. It has been my privilege to lead the Chamber’s Stronger North East campaign during this period and in announcing my candidacy for Mayor, I am standing down as President but will always remain a champion of the Chamber and the amazing businesses it represents across the North East.

I live in Cramlington with my wife and we have three children. I take on this new challenge with their love and full support behind me.

And as I enter the first political campaign of my life, I make this pledge. I will campaign hard but I will do so with great respect for all those who are also asking for your vote. This will be 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.

Let’s do this.