Word reaches Uncut that all is not well in the Burnham camp. Despite being the bookies’ favourite, worries about Andy Burnham’s strategy and performance have started to bubble to the surface among his supporters.
Doubts are being raised about what has been dubbed the ‘inevitability strategy’.
Immediately following the general election defeat, Andy Burnham’s campaign mobilised, rolling out endorsements from across the PLP to establish him as the runaway favourite, suck away nominations from potential rivals and make his victory seem assured.
The thinking was that this would lead to a lower key race with other candidates and party members reluctant to attack the likely leader. Such a contest, with relatively little incident or conflict to generate media coverage, would suit a candidate like Andy Burnham who is already well-known within the party.
However, almost three weeks into the race and things are not going according to plan. One staffer of an MP committed to Burnham told Uncut,
“We got off to a good start with Rachel [Reeves] and Dan [Jarvis] signing up but since then the momentum has slowed. The boss is worried the names promised haven’t come through.”
A centrist MP who is backing Burnham, but is yet to be announced, echoed these concerns,
“Andy is being defined as the left-wing choice, he needs to balance out his support. Idiots on Twitter like Eoin Clarke aren’t helping.”
Eoin Clarke is a well-known hard left Twittervist and has been tweeting prolifically in support of Burnham.
The MP went on,
“The plan was to be out of sight, quickly. We’re not there; Liz and Yvette are competitive and this looks like it’s going to get messy.”
Jitters about strategy are fuelling concerns about Andy Burnham’s personal performance.
Already a debate has opened up within his inner circle about whether he should challenge Liz Kendall’s agenda more aggressively.
Those who back a more robust approach point to the toxicity that surrounds Tony Blair within the Labour party. They want Burnham to tie Liz Kendall to Blair and define her as a Tory-lite throwback to the 90s.
However, on the other side are those that worry this would confirm Burnham as the left-wing candidate before a membership that tends to be more centrist than activists and will be wary of picking another leader perceived as being too left-wing after such a crushing election defeat.
Even the members of team Burnham most eager to take on Liz Kendall concede that if the race descends into a scrap between the two, Yvette Cooper could come through the middle and win.
What unites the two camps advising Burnham though is the conviction that he needs to do something. Liz Kendall has driven media coverage of the campaign in the last fortnight and apart from announcing new backers, Burnham has been left trailing.
One shadow ministerial adviser summed up the current mood in the Burnham campaign,
“We’re not panicking, there’s a way to go, but Andy needs to get out there and stamp himself on the race.”
How he does that, will determine much of what comes next in the Labour leadership election.