North East mayoral hopeful quits Conservative Party
A would-be North East elected mayor has resigned from the Conservative Party to stand as an independent.
Jeremy Middleton said the new role should be free from "party politics", with voters expected to go to the polls in May 2017.
The position is being created as part of the government's Northern Powerhouse plan.
Labour accused him of "acting in self-interest" over fears voters would be turned off by his Tory links.
Mr Middleton, a former parliamentary candidate and ex-chairman of the Conservative National Convention, told the BBC the North East had "suffered from London Westminster politics".
The 55-year-old said: "I want to challenge the government about the deal we have for the North East. I also want to challenge our local leaders.
"The region has been let down. If you look at our situation in relation to Scotland or in the way we've come to devolution late, you see our quality of leadership is poor."
He announced his intention to stand as a Conservative in February, but now says the contest is being used "to fight party political battles".
Mr Middleton is the only candidate in the region to have so far put himself forward for the position.
Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England, said: "This is Jeremy Middleton seeing Jeremy Middleton's best interests.
"Somebody who stood eight times as a candidate for the Conservative Party and failed eight times is obviously concerned that if he stood as a Conservative candidate he might fail to become the mayor of the North East. This is self-interest really, not above party politics."