Burnham wants distinctive brand of Northern Labour

Shadow Home Office Minister Andy Burnham.
Shadow Home Office Minister Andy Burnham.
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TACKLING the North-South divide has coaxed Andy Burnham away from Labour’s front-line and will form the basis of his campaign to become mayor of Greater Manchester.

The Liverpool-born MP, who stood for leadership of the party in 2015, said Westminster has “failed the North” and hopes to make Manchester a “beacon of social justice”.

His attempt to move away from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow front-bench team has been met with speculation that there is a rift with the leader.

However Mr Burnham said the northern job needs someone with Cabinet level experience that can strengthen the party regionally and also that he has discussed the plans with Mr Corbyn extensively.

In an interview with the BBC after launching his bid for leadership in Salford, Mr Burnham said: “Our own party has been too London centric and people out there feel that we are not responding properly to their concerns. That in my view can’t carry on.

“In launching this campaign, I want to develop a distinctive brand of Northern Labour. Give Labour a stronger northern voice that speaks to the people out there.”

He said Labour had once overseen a significant northern emergence, referencing the construction of the BBC’s Media City base in Salford as a an example of Labour helping to rebalance the economy.

However he denied that he is making the move because the Labour leadership is too London centric as Jeremy Corbyn represents Islington North.

“I don’t personalise it,” he added, stating that he had concerns about the party generally.

But when asked if his move demonstrated his lack of confidence in Labour winning the 2020 General Election, he said his northern role could help the party secure votes.

He said: “Labour needs to revitalise int he North of England. We do need to develop a more disctinctive Northern voice as a party if we are to connect with the voters here.

“There is a worry that we are loosing our grip with some of the voters here. That we are too London centric.

“In my view I can do more to help the party by making this statement by working now to revitalise Labour in the North.”

He said he had agreed to help Mr Corbyn when he took control of the party immediately following the leadership race, but would leave when he begins his mayoral campaign before the 2017 Manchester election.

Ex-Defra minister Huw Irranca-Davies has already turned his back on Westminster for the Welsh Assembly gainging the Ogmore seat on May 5.

In the mayoral challenge Mr Burnham faces two former Labour ministers, and former foreign affairs ministers Ivan Lewis and Tony Lloyd.

Prominent Merseyside MPs, Luciana Berger and Steve Rotheram, have revealed that they are considering seeking the Labour nomination for the new post of Liverpool City Region mayor, while the Conservatives saw Boris Johnson leave Westminster to become mayor of London in 2008.

Under Mr Burnham’s plans for Manchester he wants to oversee a “revolution in technical education” with more apprenticeships and help for young people to set up businesses.

He wants to set the goal of ensuring an affordable home for everyone to rent or own and an end to homelessness in the region. A mayoral housing fund would be used to buy out absentee private landlords.

A Greater Manchester rent-to-own scheme would build new homes and help people onto the housing ladder.

Mr Burnham told the BBC that issues such as immigration will be best dealt with locally and could help Labour strengthen its position in the north.

He said: “What we hear on the airwaves is the London take on migration - that it’s a good thing and all about driving the economy.

“I think that has left people in the north thinking people aren’t speaking to them.

“In former industrial communities, there are issues about pressure on public services, undercutting of wages and the failure of Labour to address those issues about a decade a go is that there is a feeling now we are out of touch in the north.”