The Conservatives' candidate for the North East mayoral election has quit the party to run as an independent.
Jeremy Middleton CBE, a former parliamentary candidate and former chairman of the Conservative National Convention, said he did not feel the position should be linked to party politics.
His resignation from the Tory Party comes four months after he announced he was to stand as a candidate for the newly created position of North East Mayor.
Mr Middleton said he reached his decision following the London Mayoral election and the announcement of "high-profile Labour MPs seeking office in the North West, which demonstrated parties do not put people’s interests first".
Mr Middleton said: “This is not about party politics, it is about the North East. This region needs candidates focused exclusively on its interests and not people with one eye on their party careers.
“I became convinced after the London Mayoral race and the entry into the North West campaigns by big national names. It’s clear that the big Westminster parties will use these elections as platforms to fight national battles and internal arguments. Zac versus Khan had little to do with London, while Burnham in the North West could be construed as a consolation prize following the Labour leadership fight. It’s clear these new Mayoral elections are ripe for the Westminster party machines to take-over, but we need to put the peoples’ interests first.
He added: “I want to be able to speak my mind unencumbered by any other interest. The North East needs a change of direction. I will be a fair-minded mayor with solid business experience yet willing to call-out both the Conservative Government and Labour Councils in order to get people the results they expect and deserve.
“We need to end the factionalism and childish Westminster arguments that dominate our local politics. I will embrace all the talents of all the people in our region to deliver better schools, better skills, bigger businesses and more and better paid jobs.
“My time will be spent fixing the problems our region faces not arguing with other politicians. People have told me they don't believe that any party politician in the North East can or will deliver that.
“I have the experience in business to prove my actions count much more than my words. I will challenge our national leaders for a better deal and I will challenge our local leaders too. I will not stand for more of the same. We need change in the North East.”