Burnham the healer casts himself as ‘someone people can relate to’

by Kevin Meagher

Andy Burnham has become the third candidate to launch a bid for the Labour leadership in a video message released this evening.

In a noticeably slicker message than the one Chuka Ummuna used to launch his campaign earlier this week, Burnham said last week’s election result had seen Labour lose “its emotional connection with millions of people.”

“The way to get it back,” he said, “can’t possibly be to choose one group of voters over another – to speak only to people on zero-hours contracts or only to shoppers at John Lewis.”

This was a dig at potential rival Tristram Hunt who earlier this week said the party needed to appeal to people who shop at the upmarket retailer.

“Our challenge,” Burnham claimed, “is not to go left or right, to focus on one part of the country above another, but to rediscover the beating heart of Labour.”

He argued that the party needed to meet “the aspirations of everyone, speaking to them like we did in 1997.”

He defined aspiration – quickly becoming the buzz phrase de jour of this nascent campaign – as “the dream of a better life.”

He added that it was about “helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow.”

Casting himself as a unifier with broad appeal, Burnham argued that Labour wins “when it speaks to everyone and for the whole country, for Middle England but also Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

In order to reach beyond its heartlands, the party needed a leader who “people can relate to, who understands their lives. I am that person”.

The immediate significance of this 90-second film is that Burnham is clearly determined not to be cast as the anti-aspiration, comfort-zone candidate.

As a former special adviser in Blair’s first term before climbing the ministerial ranks and serving in three cabinet positions, he is, in fact, a classic product of Labour’s pragmatic right-wing.

In today’s money, that should reassure many on the left of the party, who probably lack the nominations to back their own challenger, that he will not define his leadership against the party.

Crucially, though, Burnham is also making it clear he is no Son-of-Miliband by referencing the party’s 1997 victory and the need to win back Middle England.

Like one of Napoleon’s lucky generals, Burnham is fortunate the Tories have this week launched their audacious new bid to win over “blue collar” voters.

As the son of a Warrington electrician and with his famously everyman style, Burnham is better placed to meet that challenge than either the left of the party or the neo-Blairites.

The bind the party finds itself in is that it can no longer take its heartlands in Scotland and northern England for granted, despite the equally pressing electoral need to transcend them. This is the conundrum at the centre of this leadership contest and one all candidates must try to answer.

And with rumours that he already has the backing of 60 Labour MPs, Burnham’s synthesis of passion and realism is, so far, the pitch to beat.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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15 Responses to “Burnham the healer casts himself as ‘someone people can relate to’”

  1. ydoethur says:

    I’m conflicted about Burnham. On the one hand, he is clearly the sort of candidate Labour desperately need – intelligent, thoughtful, able to find any given town outside London on a map without help and with a genuine understanding about how ordinary people live their lives because he comes from a poor background.

    On the other hand, I remain convinced that Labour lost the election here in Cannock Chase so very badly because their candidate campaigned almost exclusively on the theme of ‘save the NHS’. This should have been an easier seat to win than Chester or Lancaster. However, every time a Labour supporter said ‘you can’t trust the Tories on the NHS’ or ‘vote Labour to save the NHS’ or some other such phrase, they had the words ‘Mid Staffordshire’ flung straight back at them. The Tory stewardship of the NHS round here has not been brilliant, but at least they are not accused of manslaughter and coverups.

    Burnham is indicted on that second charge, and it’s very difficult to believe that on a national level, it won’t come back to haunt him. Not necessarily because it’s going to damage people’s trust in Labour’s handling of the NHS, or even because it’s true – I don’t know enough about it either way to comment – but because it makes him look like a very shady figure, and it’s doubtful that he will be able to win votes if people don’t at least feel they can trust him.

    So while he is the right type, I have a strong feeling that he would be the wrong candidate. Problem is, there appear to be no other candidates of the right type out there – the other candidates are all millionaire London-based professional politicians of one sort or another, some of them with unedifying tax arrangements, and that won’t go down well either!

  2. Madasafish says:

    The following shows why Labour polled so badly…( which landless Peasant of course will ignore)

    “These days, 43 per cent of Britain’s voters are working class. UKIP’s initial support was already tilted that way, with 51 per cent working class. The figure for recent converts [since January 2013] is much higher: 61 per cent.’”


    Any new leader who ignores that unpalatable fact is doomed to fail.

    Labour has lots its core voters – for ever I suspect. Unless of course it does mean to do something about immigration.. and offend its London supporters.

    Either way, I think Labour is screwed- and it’s all its own fault..

  3. Tafia says:

    I am a Liverpool supporter and I gave an immense amount of respect for Burnham over the work he did to get that second Hillsboro Inquiry,

    But you aren’t going to win an election with him. Or Cooper. Or Umanna. Or Kendall. Or Hunt. Or Creagh.

    your best bet was Jarvis – who I suspect didn’t stand not for the reasons he gave, but tp allow this lot to fail bar the winner, and for that winner to ultimately fail in 2020. That then leaves it wide open for him on whatever plank he feels like running because by then you’ll be desperate and will crown him on his terms and thus he’ll be unfettered.

  4. Bob says:

    Tafia, Burnham only got involved after he was booed and barracked at a Hillsbrough service when he had been inadvertently invited to attend. His invite caused great distress to many as for years this had been an apolitical event.

    Remember it was Jack Straw who dismissed the idea of a new inquest, which was granted by Teresa May after the publication of the Hillsbrough Independent Report which was led by Bishop James Jones.

  5. Tafia says:

    Bob, I know all that. But he said he would campaign for a second Inquest and he kept his word.

  6. Bob says:

    Tafia, never heard a word from him in Liverpool about him campaigning for a reopened inquest before the date of the link below. He only acted after this event, before then NOTHING. He is a bandwagon jumper, purely for his own political gain.


    The inquests were only reopened as I said earlier, when the Inquiry under James Jones reported and Teresa May authorised the present on going inquest in Warrington due to the new evidence.

  7. Bob says:

    Tafia, read this. He only got on board after the Hillsbrough Inquiry report was published. As I say a bandwagon jumper.


  8. Tafia says:

    Bob, campaigning in Liverpool achieves the square root of f^^ all. The work is done in the corridors and tea rooms of Westminster and that’s where he was effective.

    “Together with Maria Eagle, the local [Garston] MP, we have called for full disclosure of any further documents that have not been put in the public domain and are held by any public body. Hopefully, that is a small step that might help people. My point is a simple one, that all information should now be out.

    “There is a convention, the 30-year rule for official papers to be held for that length of time. But my argument to colleagues in government is that it is inappropriate in this case. People deserve the full facts now, so I will be pursuing that with my colleagues. (bt colleagues he means other MPs from all parties)

    The work started in September 2009 while he was Culture Secretary and Brown was PM when he brought it onto the agenda at a Cabinet meeting.

    And the work started in earnest

  9. Bob says:

    Tapia, I note you use the same link to the Independent as I did. The real push came after the Independent Inquirey, anything else is band wagon jumping.

  10. Tafia says:

    Bob, it was at that Cabinet meeting that Burnham threatened to publicly resign unless Brown ordered a review and fresh Inquiry.

    And that is historical fact.

    He’s still the wrong bloke to be leader though – every PMQs he’ll have South Staffs flung at him.

  11. Bob says:

    Tafia, and Brown didn’t, Teresa May did and Burnham did not resign did he. No courage no convictions.

  12. Tafia says:

    Bob you are for some reason deliberately in denial that the ball started rolling under Brown back in 2009, despite that being a matter of historical record. It was even reported on at the time so there is no disputing that it happened because it provably did. May just picked up the reins when the Tories won the election 7 months later (less than 4 months of Parliamentary time).

  13. John P reid says:

    Burnhams making out he’s more left wing than he real,y is, Wilson tried it in the 60’s ,stuck to Gailtskells ideas, but let the hard left infiltrate, if Burnham goes back to the Blairites ideas he had in 2001 , the unions won’t forgive him, if he wins
    Harriet Harman was saying far left things to get the union vote in 2009 than remained loyal to Gotdon trying to out do Blaiir ,appealing too the Mail, until she realized via Strawm to use her old Liberty days and contact to Patricia Hewitt,for the last minute Coup on Gordon ,January 2010,
    It’s Like the Richard Nixon quote “To win the nomination for the Republicans,you get the far right to nominate you,the when you become leader, you rush back to the centre ground as quick as you can”
    But in America to win you Talk about liberalism,being dragged to the right, and get away with it , as the state has power, then when it’s re election time, you talk about regretting to much State power,

  14. John P Reid says:

    Mike Dugher, is organising Andy Burnhams campaign, thiswas the man who wanted the Tories to apologize for not admitting at the time of the miners strike, that it was likely most of the pits still open would be shut years later, as If everyone involved from Scargill, to kinnock, hadn’t publicly said it, don’t hear him calling for Kim Howells,or Scargill apologizing for saying those who threw the brick off the bridge that killed Taxi driver David Wilkie,haven’t been part of the strike, when Howells admitted he’d sent them there, but obviously didn’t know what they were going to do,
    But according to the morning star, he backed Balls for leader, wanted to oust Ed Miliband 8 months ago

  15. John P Reid says:

    What is encouraging is that labour is now accepting the hole 35% strategy, taking the working class for granted, “the country had swung to the left”, those who weren’t going to get much out of a Laobur victory had no where else to go, we didn’t spend too much money in 2010′ and that we may never win the North from Ukip again, brigade are out in force .
    It’s not just The blairites coming back, saying we sat on our hands we told you so, it’s a Tory victory.
    New ideas like a independent Scottish Labour Party who may at the most after the council elections next year have todo deals not ot stand again. The libdems, green or even Tories to keep the Union. For 2020

    Although the Blairite Candidates and Yvette, or even Andy abut ham not being too far from Ed Miliband haven’t bought into blue Labours ,Community fairness and family

    This cry to talk about getting identity politics, the unite union, refusing to accept that labour would have lost if a different leader was in charge of Scottish Labour.

    Th 35% strategy, ,saw a slight increase but not only the collapse in Scotland ,but the way the Tories targeted the boundaries, we need a 8.75% swing to win, or a10% it the Tories bring in constituency size changes ,but thats why the strategy ,if not the policy was the real longest suicide not ever,

    We need to appeal to ex Labour voting SNP who accept to win we have to have a Core value of tax cutting to appeal to socially conservative labour voters who went toUkip, witness how many young Labour voters are now in Ukip.

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