LABOUR’S internal battle to select a police commissioner candidate has taken an unexpected turn after the front runner withdrew from the race.
Newcastle councillor Henri Murison has pulled out of the competition to be Labour’s nominee for the £85,000-a-year Northumbria Police Commissioner job.
Voters will be asked to select their candidate for the police commissioner post in elections this November. The post brings with it the power to set force priorities, handle the budget and hire and fire chief constables.
So far Labour has been the most organised of the main political parties seeking to contest the election, with several candidates confirming their intention to seek the nomination.
Mr Murison, the councillor tasked with looking after public safety for the city, had being leading the way, with several party MPs and trade unions set to endorse him.
However, in a surprise move the councillor has withdrawn, with insiders say his move paves the way for former Teesside MP Vera Baird to be selected as Labour’s candidate.
Mr Murison said: “I have decided, having been put through to this stage of the Labour Party’s selection process, that another candidate is better placed to take forward my ideas in Northumbria and so have stepped out of the process.
“I would like to thank the many fellow party member and trade union colleagues who have supported me for their help. I believe that only a Labour commissioner will be able to best protect cops and PCSOs on the streets and tackle the causes of crime.”
He added: “I entered this contest because I care passionately about communities, like those such as in Ashington and Blyth for instance, that have levels of crime higher than the hard working families in those communities deserve.
“I still believe passionately that a commissioner should pay all their forces a living wage, and that they should work as a community organiser to strengthen local communities to help them speak up for themselves. I will continue to promote these ideas for Labour’s pledges for these elections.”
Remaining Labour party members seeking the nomination include Newcastle councilor and local Age Concern boss Sue Pearson, Sunderland councillor and deputy police authority chair Tom Foster, Gateshead housing boss Paul Tinnion and former North Tyneside elected mayor John Harrison.
Hilton Dawson, who was a Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre from 1997 until 2005, is also on the party’s “long list” of candidates.
The Liberal Democrats nationally say they are opposed to the creation of the posts and will not fund local elections.
Former Newcastle councillor Lembit Opik has said he would be prepared to stand as the party’s candidate if they do decide to contest the election.
The Conservatives are expected to announce by May who will be their candidates in the North East, with three names currently under consideration.
It is understood a former armed forces officer has approached Northumbria Police Authority seeking advice on how to stand as an independent candidate.