I’ve been asked to write a piece for the DevoConnect website setting out why I’m running for North of Tyne mayor. Here it is, I hope you’ll like it.
The forthcoming mayoral election is a big moment for people living, learning and working in the North of Tyne.
I've done all three. I was born here, went to school here, learned my trade here, raised my children here, lost my job through redundancy here, and now I've built a small business employing eight people here.
I also spent the last four years as first Northumberland chairman, and then President of North East England Chamber of Commerce.
I saw close up the failure of a North East devolution deal, as party politicians failed to agree on something that should have been straightforward for the good of the region.
Eventually devolution for North of Tyne was rescued, at last giving us a shot at the kind of profile, powers and investment that Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool have grown used to.
With a £600m investment fund and scope to shape our own skills, infrastructure and economic policy, it’s a chance to grab hold of things for ourselves and truly unleash the potential of our people and our place.
But the region clearly has some catching up to do, so it needs to get off to a flying start. And the context in which to do that could hardly be worse.
Labour and Conservative politicians are collectively consumed by Brexit, and making an utter mess of it.
And as both parties shift further and further towards polarised extremes, they are preparing to make North of Tyne just another arena where they play out their tired old ideological battles.
I believe the opportunities we now have will be wasted if we get another party politician doing what they’ve always done in North of Tyne.
And that’s why I've decided to step forward. Only an Independent mayor will be free to build the kind of future our region needs and deserves.
I want us to create an economy in which employers can grow their businesses and create jobs, and where people of all ages, genders and ethnic background can use their talent to the maximum.
I want people to have the skills and support they need to reach their full potential. That includes all children learning computer coding in primary school and giving the region the best mental health services in the country.
I want us to make the most of our vibrant city, our proud local communities, and our wonderful coast and countryside, by connecting them better and preserving what makes them unique.
And I want this to just be the beginning. Every area that has struck a devolution deal has seen it develop and grow. We need to go even further and faster if we want to be competitive.
I absolutely believe we can have that kind of region. I know, because this has been home for more than 40 years. Every day I’m surrounded by talented, hard-working, passionate people in the most beautiful part of our country.
Party politicians have spent decades wasting that potential. It’s time for us to do something different.