Today we need to wake up to the fact that the Labour Party is in grave crisis following May’s election defeat. We need to accept the reasons, as painful as they are. No spin can hide the facts of arrogance and taking people for granted. We need to stop fighting the May 2015 election and start fighting the May 2020 one.
More now than any time in our Party’s history we need a leader who has the ability to unite us, the vision our Country need, who inspires us to be the Government this Country desperately needs. Each of the four candidates brings something to the table in terms of the personal ability and desire for change.
Liz Kendall has reminded us that after May’s defeat, the Labour party has no God-given right to exist and that we need to fight to become relevant again.
Yvette Cooper brings calm authority to the task as an experienced minister who, among other things, brought in Sure Start.
While Jeremy Corbyn shows us that there is a deep yearning in the country for a politics that matters. His calls for a leadership of the Party to be better connected to its membership have resonated with members.
But I am backing Andy Burnham to be the next Labour Leader and Labour Prime Minister.
As I see it, we need a leader who can do three things. First, they need to bring everyone together – including those who have recently joined – and end the mood of despair that hangs over the party.
Second, it also needs to be someone credible who is committed to putting us on the road to recovery so we stand a fighting chance in 2020. And finally, it should be someone with broad appeal to the electorate at large. Authentic in style, with honesty and integrity in his heart.
For my money, Andy Burnham is the only candidate who fits the bill.
Let me clarify: I’m not voting for him out of Scouse clan loyalty. I’m not even voting for him simply because he was the minister who began the process that will hopefully lead to justice for the 96 Liverpool fans killed (and the many more who were injured) at Hillsborough in 1989. And I’m not supporting him simply because he’s a fellow Evertonian!
Andy is tried and tested and ready to become leader.
As Shadow Health Secretary, he ran the government ragged during the last parliament, exposing the folly of its costly top-down reorganisation of the NHS while at the same time rationing services and stretching the frontline ever thinner. Our massive lead among voters on health – one of the few positives about May’s campaign – was down to his tenacity and skill in voicing the threats to our beloved NHS. How much worse would out defeat have been without his efforts?
Andy knows that to ever stand a chance of winning the next general election, we need broad appeal. We must reach out and convince people to vote for us. We must be a One Nation party, not a tribal sect.
I’ve also been impressed that Andy has been able to assemble a first-rate team of supporters from right across the Labour family. They also see in him the potential to modernise the party from its core values, without losing people along the journey. This is because Andy is a genuinely nice guy and, rare in a national politician, he’s a great listener.
I know, too, that he has a core of inner steel and the experience and strength to withstand the pressures of a job that is going to be extremely tough going.
Andy has made a big thing during his campaign about moving outside the “Westminster bubble”. Some snigger and ask how a former minister can do that. But I know he is rooted in real life. That’s why he is strongly backed by so many Labour councillors and activists – because he sees the problems we’re grappling with out here in the real world. His big idea for integrating health and social care services is exactly the type of practical measure that will make a difference to the lives of millions of older and vulnerable people.
In choosing our next leader, we must always remember that Labour is a political party, not a protest group. If we now take a wrong turn and put idealism before pragmatism, we will have flying cars before we see another Labour government. You can’t feed your kids with principles. In Liverpool we have painful experience of being out of office because of false promises no matter how well intentioned, we can only deliver change if we are in Government.
We face a grave crisis as I have said, following May’s election defeat. The loss we suffered was deep but to some of us not unexpected and it’s a long and difficult road back from where we are. So we need a leader who will supply that energy and optimism and experience to get us back in the game as a potential party of government.
Andy is the candidate to do that.
All in all, he represents the best of Labour’s traditions and the best hope of successfully moving us forward from May’s crushing defeat. So I’m voting for Andy because he’s a listener. A unifier. A grafter. And a battler. And most of all, because he’s a winner.
He’s got my vote and I urge you to give him yours too.