Updated: Friday, 18th January 2019 @ 8:09pm

Handy Andy? Greater Manchester MPs back Burnham for Labour leader

Handy Andy? Greater Manchester MPs back Burnham for Labour leader

| By Elliot Smith

With the ranting, rhetoric and ruined roast dinners heating up in the Labour leadership contest, the majority of the party’s Greater Manchester MPs are backing local lad Andy Burnham.

Candidates need to secure 35 MP nominations to go through to Labour’s first one person, one vote leadership election.

So far Andy Burnham, MP for Leigh, is leading the nominations nationwide with 24, narrowly ahead of Liz Kendall, on 20, Yvette Cooper, on 17 and Mary Creagh on five.

Of the 15 MPs across Greater Manchester to declare their support thus far, Burnham leads the way with nine backers to Kendall’s four, while Cooper and Creagh have secured one apiece.

Of the two front runners, Kendall is seen as a ‘progressive Blairite’, a more obvious deviation from the leftward shift which many deem instrumental to the party’s woes on election night.

She has recently drawn support from several high profile figures within the party, including Shadow Cabinet members Chuka Ummuna and Tristram Hunt.

Advocates are pitching Kendall as the only route back to the promised land, through which the party can win back the many votes lost to the Conservatives in this General Election.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who is backing Kendall, wrote in the New Statesman this week: “A party that seeks to win popular support and govern for the whole country must speak on issues that concern the whole country, not just those that excite its core supporters.

“To do all of this will require a leader with bravery and vision. Someone who can move on from the past and think creatively about the challenges facing modern Britain. Someone who can ignore siren voices from all sides and stick to what’s right and what resonates strongly with the British public.

“In my opinion the only leadership contender displaying these qualities is Liz Kendall and that’s why I’m backing her in the leadership contest.”

Danczuk placed heavy emphasis on re-establishing Labour as a party which exists to win elections, and claimed the party needed to appoint a leader who could beat the Tories in 2020, not one who could draw cheers from staunch left-wing voters at conferences or ‘unite the party’.

Burnham’s backers are warning against the party distancing itself too heavily from its fundamental principles and becoming somewhat of a Tory imitation in a reactive bid to win back lost votes, as opposed to focusing on re-establishing the party as offering something different, but better, than the Tories.

The common arguments in his favour suggest that his outlook is more all-encompassing, a balance between the core Labour vision of looking after society’s most vulnerable, while encouraging aspiration and appealing to the ‘John Lewis’ voter that the party feels it has alienated in 2015.

So far the contest is shaping up to be one governed by clear divides in the prescribed direction for Labour to re-establish itself as a party the British public can trust and identify with.

New versus old, modernisers versus traditionalists, party versus trade unions, business versus workers, north vs south, aspiration versus tacking inequality are all high on the agenda.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth, said: “From the start I said I was looking for a candidate who had the right values and vision to set the tone for the kind of country we want to live in.

A leader who will address the inequalities that persist across the UK, which damage society and stifle growth, and enable everyone to reach their potential.

“They must have integrity and an appeal that resonates across the UK geographically and across the socio-economic spectrum. “

Abrahams suggested that the new leader needs the ability to relate to people one-to-one, in large groups and across the airwaves. She believes Burnham possesses the sound judgement and the resilience to handle the scrutiny political leaders get, especially in the media.

Ed Miliband’s campaign has come under fire in the wake of his resignation, particularly from the ‘Blairite’ figures within the party, but Abrahams defended the former leader and encouraged party members to persevere with his vision, rather than to scrap it.

“I believe the approach Ed started was the right one. His mission to develop a fairer, more equal and inclusive society was right. We need to strengthen this approach not weaken it.

“We must continue to be the party of the many, not just a privileged few, and I know that Andy Burnham is the right person to help us develop the beating heart of Labour.”

Below is a breakdown of the allegiances of Greater Manchester MPs who have declared thus far:

Andy Burnham: Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East & Saddleworth), Andrew Gwynne (Denton & Reddish), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Barbara Keeley (Worsley & Eccles South), Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Lisa Nandy (Wigan), Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield)

Liz Kendall: Ann Coffey (Stockport), Ivan Lewis (Bury South), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge & Hyde)

Yvette Cooper: Kate Green (Stretford & Urmston)

Mary Creagh: Mike Kane (Wythenshawe & Sale East) 

Image courtesy of the BBC via YouTube, with thanks.