Matt Finnegan is impressed by Andy Burnham

Few expect Andy Burnham to become the next Labour Leader.

Too northern, too nice, too normal, seems to be the verdict of the metropolitan chattering classes. And maybe too Labour?

Burnham is certainly not an intellectual like the Brothers Miliband. Nor a bruiser like Balls. Nor on the margins like McDonnell and Abbott.

He is mainstream, hard-working, unspectacular. Neither left nor right, neither Blairite nor Brownite. But most certainly Labourite. And maybe these are just the qualities the party now needs to re-build and refocus?

Burnham spoke to Labour members on Saturday at a post-defeat inquest in Manchester. He said a number of important things:
  • the election campaign was awful, unfocussed and chaotic;
  • the result was very bad;
  • the ConDem coalition could last longer than some in the audience predicted. It could bring about a fundamental re-alignment in British politics;
  • Labour needs seriously to think through the implications of the coalition;
  • we need a lengthy Leadership election, where candidates are publicly examined and tested;
  • members of the Cabinet need to take some personal and political responsibility for a disastrous election defeat under Brown’s leadership.
It was perhaps this last, surprisingly humble and self-aware, admission which was most striking about Burnham’s immediate response to defeat. None of the Miliband/Balls candidates appears to ‘get’ this in quite the same way as Burnham: they are all culpable for meekly acquiescing during the three years of Brown’s doomed leadership.

Burnham admitted that he had loyally stayed schtum even when he did not like some of the tactics employed by the command and control tendency in Number 10. But now, he proclaimed, he was free to speak his mind about the mistakes made. That could make the election very interesting.

Party members are rightly worried about the restricted personal choices on offer. All the serious candidates, Burnham included, are professional politicians with little life experience outside the Westminster bubble.

But Burnham – northern, nice, normal – at least possesses some other attractive qualities for a prospective Labour leader.

He has a traditional working class upbringing; he’s a family man, and he does genuinely ‘regular’ things – like going to the match to see his beloved Everton. He is popular with party members, has the common touch and none of the embarrassing awkwardness which appears to afflict some of the other candidates.

It all gives Burnham a ring of ordinary blokeish authenticity which the public seems to yearn for, and which appears so sadly lacking in the Miliband/Balls axis.

As UNISON lines up behind Burnham, he could be one to watch.

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2 Responses to “Matt Finnegan is impressed by Andy Burnham”

  1. Far be it for me to spoil this lovein but if Burnham accepts the support of Unision before Unison members have been balloted then he joins every other candidate in being “out of touch”. Is it too much to ask that all candidates refuse the endorcement of union affiliates until those organisations have actually asked their members who to support? Particularlty a good idea if that union isn’t (like the RMT for example with it endorsement of McDonnell) run by a Labour Party member!

  2. AmberStar says:

    @ Michael Green

    There’s nothing wrong with a union recommending a candidate to their members. An endorsement isn’t a block vote. The members of Unison can vote for anybody they like, whatever Unison recommends, can’t they?

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