This is why Andy Burnham could one day be Labour leader

8:45 am - August 13th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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I missed this bit from Andy Burnham’s interview in the Guardian over the weekend, but it’s worth highlighting

“We’re the professional politician generation, aren’t we? I was schooled in this, kind of, how do we make a press release today that embarrasses the opposition? That’s the kind of politics that everyone was doing, and the kind of culture developed where you’re scrabbling over a bit of the centre ground with micro-policies that are designed to just create a little couple of days’ headlines and create a feeling, but not change much else.”

It was a mistake, he also admitted, for the last Labour government to allow the private sector into the NHS.

“Once the market takes a hold on the system it will destroy what’s precious about it. We had been building a policy that had been saying it doesn’t matter who provides healthcare as long as it’s free at the point of delivery. But I’m saying it does matter.”

What the two paragraphs above illustrate, in my opinion, are emotional intelligence. Burnham knows that those two are among the top five gripes of almost every Labour member in the country. And yet even the current class of Labour MPs (except those plainly on the left) are broadly unwilling to articulate these concerns. They just can’t bring themselves to do it.

Burnham spells them out so plainly, in an almost-blasé manner, that it looks like he understands those concerns well and they’re not a new revelation. Which, of course, they’re not.

I agree with Phil that Andy Burnham has grown immensely in confidence and stature since the Labour leadership election three years ago.

He has complete command of his brief and has Tories on the defensive over health like no other area*. He proposes big, bold ideas to deal with problems of the future.

Plus, as the above shows, he’s a very effective and plain-speaking communicator. Labour really lacks that right now.

I’m not saying he could be leader merely because of the above interview alone; I’ve been thinking this for a while. 2010 was too early for Burnham because he didn’t have much of an identity then (David Miliband quickly assumed the ‘Blairite heir’ identity and Ed positioned himself against that. The rest barely got a chance). At 43, he still has plenty of time (even 10 years from now if Ed Miliband is successful) to build profile and bide his time.

If I was to tip anyone as Labour leader (after Ed Miliband) right now, it would be Andy Burnham.

* The only person to come close to Burnham’s dominance on health was Ed Balls, when he had Michael Gove in his clutches over education in the early days. Nowadays, Stephen Twigg now doesn’t even come close to landing a blow.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Health ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


The article almost got it right, but ended on the sad note of making politics sound like a ring, having people on clutches and landing blows. What is actually lacking are fundamental changing ideas and communicating these clearly.

“But I’m saying it does matter.”

Yes it does. But not in the way he means.

Why does no country in Europe copy the “envy of the world”?

Sunny as A Labour Party member for 26 years, who with the exception of about 10 policies fully supported the Blair brown years,Can I ask you ,as someone who rejoined Labour in 2010 and voted green in the 2012 mayoral elections, has Andy the appeal not to make you vote elsewhere, say if the Libdems in opposition denounced there last 3 yrs,

I’m asking this in all seriousness, as Andy like Ed ,and unlike David or Balls realised how unpopular we were ,yet wouldn’t have made the mistake over Falkirk, so I hope Andy does become leader,but could you see him becoming leader make the likes of Owen jones, Medhi or laurie penny leave?

No.5 interesting article, incapacity benefit doubled under the thatchers years with 70% plus, who would have been on the Dole, but hadnt sick injuries that ,meant they were off the u employment figures,

7. gastro george

“He has complete command of his brief and has Tories on the defensive over health like no other area”


7 – Yes, that surprised me too.

I’m sure that Labour have a big lead on the NHS (they pretty much always do) but it doesn’t seem to have the Tories under pressure – to almost any criticism of the health service by Burnham, they can just say ‘Stafford’. Tough to wriggle out from under a legacy like that.

i try to vote for him and as i had an arm broke it came of in the balote box and hid e rotten o vrite a letter to ed balls and e came to see me and cut my foot with knieves!

10. Man On Clapham Omnibus

Oh dear oh dear; now all the leftie conservatives are taking up religion.

A king is born (dunno if he’s from the east but minor detail)
He will lead us from the lands of Tory majoris to the land of tory minoris (literally translated as ‘the land of no policy’)where yes, you can still own a Ferrari or a security firm and be Labour brethren.

I do however insist we confirm the location of the stable and the magnitude of the ‘Burnham star’.(Cephid variable maybe as I havent seen it yet!)

Personally I think this has a lot going for it! Who needs policy when we have faith.


Could the commenters here even *try* and make sense occasionally?

I mean, seriously?!

Could the commenters here even *try* and make sense occasionally?

You believe that illegal immigration from Australia is a problem and that the border police should go checking for Australians in Earls Court.

Chuka Umunna more likely

“He has complete command of his brief and has Tories on the defensive over health like no other area*. He proposes big, bold ideas to deal with problems of the future.”

This is possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Burnham has bene basically silent since the hospital deaths/care crisis came to light, not least because he was in charge of health when much of it happened.

If he becomes Labour leader it will be the biggest gift the Tories could ever hope for.

13 leader after the next one, he hasn’t a clue about the 80’s, a must for any potential labour leader,

16. Man On Clapham Omnibus

11. Sunny Hundal

Sense is a curious word in relation to LC.
Rather than sticking up ‘great man’ pieces that are very much evident in conservative thinking you might get sensible responses if you look at the really big issues that are shaping our society.
I think an article entitled ‘how broad can the labour party be?’, looking at the current relevance of the Blairites,that group known to like their meat raw (with a drizzle of jus in bello), would be interesting.We could mull over their role in Labour’s demise together with maybe looking how well they have done for themselves ,heading security firms or advising repressive regimes in the middle east.
Another one could be entitled ‘Where did that Chilcott report go I wonder?’
Alternatively, we could stay with the religious theme and just pray for miracles. The left could do with a few admittedly.

17. Man On Clapham Omnibus

12. damon

That’s a good idea . Alternatively throw them out because they cant speak English! Is that racist?

18. Guy Lambert

Having rejoined Labour in 2010 I was pretty open minded about leaders. Andy came across very well to me in the leadership stakes but in the end I thought he was too immature/inexperienced/lightweight and voted for Ed M.
He comes across as genuinely human and I really liked the Guardian article – credible to me as a potential leader in future.

I really like Andy Burnham and I totally agree with him about the NHS.

The privatisation of British Rail seems to have led us now to extortionate rail fares and a railway system which requires more subsidy than British Rail cost to run. The actual quality of the service is crap as well in many parts of the UK.

I can’t see privatisation as being a good thing for any public utility or the health care system.

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