At the time of writing Andy Burnham is the 4/1 favourite to succeed Sir Keir Starmer as Labour leader, he clearly wants the job, last night in an interview with The Observer he said ‘Labour’s red wall seats would have been safer under me [Andy Burnham]’ and ‘he would run for the leadership again after the next general election if he had widespread support’. He’s clearly on manoeuvres but I think he’s someone you shouldn’t be backing but laying in the betting markets, here’s why.
He’s not currently a member of parliament and he cannot do a Boris Johnson and double job part of his second term as mayor by being concurrently an MP. Because the role of police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester was subsumed into the role of Mayor of Greater Manchester Burnham has to resign as mayor the moment he becomes an MP, it is the reason why Tracy Brabin resigned as an MP when she became Mayor of West Yorkshire, the law is quite clear on this.
With Starmer’s dire ratings there’s a large non zero chance that the Labour party decide to replace Starmer before the general election which would scupper Burnham’s chances of succeeding Starmer. Today’s Sunday Times report the end of Starmer’s leadership could be closer than most realise
“His authority has drained,” said one Labour figure. “It is clear to many within the party that if they lose Batley, there will be a leadership challenge.”
We live in interesting times but not so interesting as for a major political party to elect as leader someone who isn’t currently an MP. The 14th Earl of Home is likely to be the last time that happened. I suspect Starmer’s dire ratings are an explanation why so many people in the YouGov poll in the tweet below think Burnham would do better than Starmer. It more of a reflection on Starmer than Burnham.
Another reason not to back Andy Burnham is that he has run in two previous leadership elections and was frankly humiliated. In 2015 he finished in second place over 40% behind Jeremy Corbyn which is a bit of an improvement on his 2010 performance where he finished second bottom with under 9% of the vote, narrowly ahead Diane Abbott. He trailed the then very unpopular Ed Balls and Miliband brothers. The cruellest observation I’ve recently heard on Starmer was ‘Starmer is the answer to the question what would have happened if Ed Miliband had become a barrister.’
Burnham’s tenure as Health Secretary may also be a hindrance, the Tories will ruthlessly exploit his conduct over the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal whilst his opponents in the next Labour leadership contest will do similar with Burnham’s past privatisation of the NHS. The pandemic has made this country appreciate the national religion that is the National Health Service even more, in my lifetime there’s been only one politician who has been politically bullet proof when it comes to the NHS and it isn’t Andy Burnham.
Burnham’s biggest political achievement? Persuading the voters of Greater Manchester to elect a Scouser as the mayor. Although I get the feeling if he was a supporter of Liverpool’s much more massively successful team rather than an Everton supporter he would have never stood for the mayoralty and would have lost his seat of Leigh in the 2019 general election because being a Liverpool supporter in Manchester really attracts opprobrium from all Mancs. I know that because I’ve spent the last decade working in Manchester and living in Manchester for a few years as well, as a Liverpool fan in Manchester I felt like a Tory in Liverpool, something which I’ve also regularly experienced.
So who should you back? I think it has to be Rachel Reeves, the newly appointed shadow chancellor. I suspect if Boris Johnson’s error of enabling ‘at least 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with a virulent strain of coronavirus were allowed to enter Britain while Boris Johnson delayed imposing a travel ban from India’ ends up delaying the June 21st end of lockdown then Boris Johnson’s vaccine bounce is likely to dissipate, it is also likely to cause economic problems for the government, from things such as furlough support, the benefits uplift that is supposed to end in a few months, and the deficit issues.
With this current government, a nominally conservative government , enacting so many plans that were in Michael Foot’s manifesto of 1983 then it seems apt to quote Mrs Thatcher’s famous observation that “the trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” which may haunt the government and come in useful for Rachel Reeves. The economy alongside the pandemic will be front and centre for the next few months I think that gives Rachel Reeves an opportunity to exploit the trouble will find itself in, if she does well she then she will be spoken as a successor to Starmer.
She’s currently 20/1 with Ladbrokes and I think that is still value. From the outside there appears to be a desire in the Labour Party to have their first woman leader, some forty-six years after the Tories elected their first woman leader.