Andy Burnham: ‘Red Wall’ seats would have been safer under my leadership, Greater Manchester mayor says

·3 min read

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said Labour would not have lost so many seats in its traditional northern heartlands if he had defeated Jeremy Corbyn in the party’s 2015 leadership election.

The former Labour leadership candidate made the claim during an interview with The Observer, in which he admitted that he would run for the leadership again after the next election if he had enough support.

Mr Burnham unsuccessfully ran twice to be Labour leader in 2010 and 2015 before becoming the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester.

He told The Observer that he believed he would have been more successful than Mr Corbyn in stopping the Conservatives from breaking the so-called “red wall” of northern seats lost in the 2019 general election.

“I still think life would have been different if I had won,” Mr Burnham, who won a landslide victory in his second mayoral election earlier this month, said.

“I think we would be stronger in taking on the government. I don’t think we’d have lost as many northern seats had I won.”

In recent years, Labour has struggled to hold on to northern seats that it used to win easily and the party suffered a devastating defeat in this month’s Hartlepool by-election, prompting concerns about Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the party.

In his interview, Mr Burnham was also deeply critical over what he believed was Labour’s failure to take a strong stance on major policy issues, such as social care reform, and said he was unconvinced that the party was still able to implement radical change.

“The Labour Party created the NHS post-war,” he said.

“I ask myself, could the Labour Party that I’ve been associated with in the 20 years that I’ve been in elected politics … could it create the NHS?

“And no, is the only thing I could say, because it hasn’t seemingly got that wherewithal anymore to take on a big injustice.”

His comments came as an Opinium poll published by the newspaper showed Mr Burnham was widely-seen as the most likely and able successor to Sir Keir as Labour leader.

Some 47 per cent of respondents put him as their top choice, ahead of 35 per cent for London mayor Sadiq Khan and 29 per cent for Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn.

Earlier this month, the Greater Manchester mayor criticised Sir Keir for being “too cautious” in his leadership and warned that the party needed to be stronger on issues such as pay for nurses and social care staff.

However, Mr Burnham said he would not challenge for the leadership before the next election or “any time soon”, despite his concerns about the party’s failure to put forward a sufficiently bold policy platform for this year’s local and devolved elections.

“If there comes a point where it is clear to me that the Labour Party, having not thought me right twice, suddenly thinks 'well actually you probably are now, because of the way the world has changed', then as I say, I will put myself forward to lead the Labour Party,” he added.

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