SHADOW HOME Secretary Andy Burnham admitted Westminster has failed the North for decades as he warned Theresa May not to abandon the northern powerhouse.
Mr Burnham, a cabinet minister in Gordon Brown’s government, argued England was now “two countries” and “the Establishment” has no interest in closing the North-South divide.
He told Labour’s conference in Liverpool: “The truth is this: Westminster over decades has failed the North of England. It has created a very unequal country. Unequal access to truth and justice. An unfair distribution of wealth, health and life chances. Two countries.”
Since entering Downing Street, Mrs May’s commitment to the North has been questioned although she told The Yorkshire Post earlier this year the region was a “key part of our vision for a Northern Powerhouse”
However, the resignation last week of Lord Jim O’Neill, one of the key architects of the northern powerhouse in former chancellor George Osborne’s Treasury, has reawakened those concerns.
Mr Burnham said pulling the plug on the drive to rebalance the economy would be “as big a betrayal of the North as Margaret Thatcher’s in the 1980s”.
He added: “Surely the right answer to Brexit is to deepen the commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, not abandon it?”
Mr Burnham told the conference he is standing down from the shadow cabinet to focus on his bid to become the first elected metro-mayor of Greater Manchester.
But he promised to continue to campaign for a “Hillsborough Law” to give victims’ families better access to legal help at inquests.
And the Leigh MP urged the Prime Minister to end the Government’s dithering over calls for an inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
He said: “Today’s police officers don’t deserve these clouds of the past hanging over them.
“They’re out there right now, putting themselves at risk, keeping us safe and we thank them it. But the miners aren’t getting any younger. Don’t they deserve peace and reconciliation too?
“Prime Minister, don’t make people plead. Do the right thing. You invited the Orgreave campaign to submit a request for an inquiry. Fulfil your promise on the steps of Downing Street to heal divides and order it now. The battle for truth is still too long and too hard.”