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What should we look for in choosing a new leader?

Andy BurnhamSome of the reasons put forward in the papers for supporting leadership contenders are just plain daft: ‘he can look the part’ or ‘he’s up to the job’ – not even ranking style over substance can justify such silly comments. But it’s all part of the digital age that presentation in a 1-minute television clip rates more with the viewers than what you say. It chimes too with the collapse of political education and the loss of public meetings as a forum for detailed and participative debate on political issues. It debases politics into a popularity fanfare which has the enormous advantage for the power brokers who really rule Britain that it distracts attention away from the democratic abuses they perpetrate day in day out which hobble the ambitions and prospects of so many millions below them.

So, given that the whole purpose of the Labour Party is to transform the power structure so that all sections of society can prosper whilst at the same time dealing with the grotesque inequality and power domination at the very top, the first requirement in choosing a leader is that he or she must be a vigorous proponent of these principles.

The importance of this has just been highlighted by a survey of Labour identifiers which found that, lethally for the party’s chances, 3 millions of them didn’t vote. When one then adds in those Labour identifiers who did vote, but decided to vote at the end for UKIP, it starkly demonstrates how far Labour has lost its traditional working class vote by concentrating exclusively on middle class aspiration and ignoring the causes of the increasing polarisation of income, opportunity and power throughout British society in the last 30 years. This growing away from the party at the grassroots has been further consolidated by the perception of Labour as a metropolitan London-based elite ensconced within the Westminster bubble and enjoying far too cosy a relationship with their Tory antagonists whose values and ideology they seem to share. Sticking with austerity, unregulated banks, markets let rip, privatisation and suppression of the trade unions only causes potential Labour identifiers to wonder that Labour is now for.

This is of course the legacy of Blairism which has still not yet been convincingly discarded. It matters because it has left the Labour Party so middle-class oriented, more than any time in its history, that it behaves as though the working class no longer exists or could safely be taken for granted. As long as this profound chasm exists between the party and its central voting base, particularly its deeply discontented poor white working class on Council estates and in the (un)affordable private rented sector, it is hard to see how Labour will ever win a general election again.

So where does that leave the leadership contest? It points to one man who alone has the potential among the current contestants to heal these wounds. Step forward, Andy Burnham.


  1. John P Reid says:

    Those in doubt how much labour caused its own destruction,and how clearly the Tories won by, or the huge mammoth task we need, have to realise that after labour lost the working class vote in 2007 due to ignoring the fact the working class didn’t aspire for the equality labour were offering, as the representation,of what they wanted was to still live in A anti social , I’ll educated working class Enviroment
    to win again we need. To see by how far we lost the blue collar working class for Ukip or the aspiring over concerns about the state and what happened to change the inspirationfor the Statud Quo
    People Should read Chavs by Owen jones

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      It was into just such a political vacuum, (the collapse of German Socialism,) that Hitler and German National Socialism marched; to the resounding cheers of, first and foremost the German Middle Classes, in the 1930’s.

      1. john P reid says:

        Hitler wasn’t as popular as thought with the Germans it was they never thought they’d surrendered in the 30’s plus America bankrupting them, Hitler was defiantely not a socialist

  2. Mukkinese says:

    It is certain that Labour must broaden its appeal, both to the middle-classes, so beloved of the Blairites and back to the workers and yes, dare I say it, non-workers who we used to fight for, but just took for granted.

    Labour is the party of fairness, equal opportunity for all, not just one section of society that happens to have a high proportion of floating voters.

    Imagine if Labour could get out a majority of those who claim benefits, working, unemployed, disabled who are being punished by the Tories. Add to that workers who all feel the pressure. Ordinary men and women whose rights have slowly been eroded, but are still suspicious of Unions. People who feel their jobs and decent lives are getting ever more precarious.

    All workers, from those youngsters learning for a better job, or looking for their first job, those who are not climbers of the “greasy pole”, but just want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and those who do want to “get on”. The “Aspirational”.

    All the real wealth creators of society should be Labour’s natural constituency…

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      “Labour is the party of fairness, equal opportunity for all?”

      Ah yes; those were the days, I can still remember them well.

      Then came, The Great Charlatan, (and the financial crash and 2 anti democratic and illegal proxy wars,) and all the little charlatans and other hangers on and I’m not sure how we move forward from here.

      Maybe Labor should just call it day for all the good they do nowadays.

      1. Mukkinese says:

        Maybe you should join another party?

        1. Matty says:

          J.P has already said he voted UKIP I think but claims to be an ex-Labour voter.

  3. Robert says:

    Sadly Burnham is another of those people who will have to face the Progress mob with Mandy and Blair being on the phone.

    But each and every time Burham speaks about the NHS I know the response he will get.

    Burham can turn to the left and to the right when he wants and he has in the past, being a full blown Blair-rite and then joining Brown gang and then Ed Miliband, will he turn again.

    And it does matter a lot if your to the left or to the right, the left pretty much voted against the Iraq war, you of course voted for it and then told us you did not know the facts, well the facts are Blair lied his teeth off.

    But does it matter if your to the left to the Right any more, well depends if your middle class well off, or your poor unemployed and using a food bank.

    Can labour fight off Progress or will Progress win and take the party to the right and then perhaps into the Tories.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      Left or right is missing the point.

      We lost support from both sides, this pathetic arguing over which direction to go merely obscures the real job. that is to face what happened and deal with it rationally, not with old dogma or memories of faded victories.

      As for Iraq. Let it go. You will not purge the party of those who voted for it, that is silly.Try and be constructive or find a party for those who are more interested in self-righteous posturing than actually doing something worthwhile…

  4. Chris says:

    Burnham is hardly a left candidate, but when he talks, I think people will listen.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      It’s shame that he didn’t listen then; when as secretary for Health he was instrumental in promoting the policies that have wrecked the NHS and which killed perhaps as many as 1200 patients at Mid Staffs.

      Burnham was one of the several very senior people responsible for the NHS, during the extended period when at Mid Staffs Hospital this prevailed there;

      (Without arguing about the possible/probable number of needless and premature deaths, possibly as high as 1200 that occurred there during that period.)

      This from the Francis report.

      “Building on the report of the first inquiry, the story it tells is first and foremost of appalling suffering of many patients. This was primarily caused by a serious failure on the part of a provider Trust Board. It did not listen sufficiently to its patients and staff or ensure the correction of deficiencies brought to the Trust’s attention. Above all, it failed to tackle an insidious negative culture involving a tolerance of poor standards and a disengagement from managerial and leadership responsibilities.

      This failure was in part the consequence of allowing a focus on reaching national access targets, (set and enforced by Burham and the people around him like David Nicholson,) achieving financial balance and seeking foundation trust status to be at the cost of delivering acceptable standards of care.”

      Not really the kind of track record or endorsement that I’d be looking for in future partly leader or an aspiring PM and that without his expenses shenanigans.

      Scraping the barrel or what; the idea of Umunna, (“hey, we’re all, capitalists now,”) as party leader was just completely ridiculous, but the idea of Burnham is actually more than a bit sinister and particularly so in the context of his record as Health Secretary alone.

      I nominate Sayeeda Warsi, Ok’ she’s a Tory but that seems to be no obstacle these days.

      1. James Martin says:

        He did listen, and made some very open no holds barred public statements admitting and apologising for the errors made in creating the internal market in the NHS by the last government.

        1. Robert says:

          That’s ok then he apologised the problem is why did those errors take place, could it be he was to useless to stand up against a leader who placed pressure on him, and if that is true then Progress must be thinking great choice.

      2. Mukkinese says:

        Your post is nonsense.

        Burnham was not health secretary when the problems at Mid-Staffs were at their worst and he had been in the job for just a few months when he ordered an inquiry into what was happening there.

        Why am I not surprised that you nominate a Tory? All your arguments come from the Tory spin book…

      3. Matty says:

        Burnham only became Health Sec in 2009. The scandal at Mid-Staffs was from 2005 to 2008. The scandal exploded in 2008 and so Burnham had to deal with the fallout. It seems that the Guido Fawkes types are intent on smearing Burnham with Mid-Staffs.

  5. James Martin says:

    Andy Burnham held the shadow education post for a year in 2010 before moving to health, and yet in that time he was impressive and you felt that not since the time of Estelle Morris was there a person in that post who not only understood the main issues, but also listened to education workers.

    But the point at which I really developed a lot of respect for Burnham was in 2009 when as minister for sport he attended the 20th anniversary Hillsborough memorial for the government, a tough thing to do in any circumstances, but tougher still for a life-long Evertonian. He was famously heckled, booed and shouted down due to the anger at the continuing injustice for the victims and their families – but the way he reacted to that was instructive, and it was in a way that I think few others could manage. He took the abuse and he listened, and he went away and did something about getting the justice those people needed. So much so that when he returned last year to the 25th anniversary he was hailed a hero with a very long standing ovation and a speech that showed understanding, humility and humour – things that again few other Labour front bench members could manage (it is worth seeking out the you tube clips of both events).

    This is a person who can understand, connect and communicate to working class voters, but also someone in the posts he has held (particularly health) someone who has shown he can talk for the nation.

  6. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    Looking up from the all too familiar, (and always hugely entertaining,) if often small minded factional in-fighting about who gets to lead a now thoroughly beaten and discredited Labor party, the wider public disillusionment and skepticism about politicians and about what seems to be a complete breakdown of political process and of representational democracy is deeply worrying, even frightening.

    It was into just such a political vacuum, (the collapse of German Socialism,) that Hitler and German National Socialism marched; to the resounding cheers of, first and foremost the German Middle Classes, in the 1930’s.

    Cameron wants to repeal the Human Rights Act?


    Looked at in the context of all the other societies that have had American Neolibral economic hegemony inflicted, (In South America and the Caribbean,) upon them a certain familiar and unnerving logic seems to be driving all this.

    Where is all this really going and how far?

    That’s something else than any future Labor leader will need to think long and very hard about.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      I too dislike the silly factionalism. I dislike it almost as much as I dislike the sneering cynicism that you present.

      Cynicism is easy, try being constructive for a change or just find another party that better suits your politics instead of this incessant whining…

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        If it really was just me whining, (most of the people that I speak to feel exactly the same way about all this that I do,) you might have even a point; but after Labor’s failures in, for example, Mid Staffs, Rotherham, Rochdale, Birmingham and this from Wigan, (a particular favorite and all of it true,) cynicism is unavoidable.

        As for, constructive, well I’m still waiting?

        1. Mukkinese says:

          “most of the people that I speak to ”

          Cynicism is an easy escape from realism and facing up to facts, however hard they might be.

          Starting from such a low, if we are not constructive then we are merely getting in the way…

  7. Barry Ewart says:

    When a lovely elderly man spoke at Labour Conference on his memories (of before when the NHS was launched) he had everyone publicly in tears, including Andy Burnham.
    In the end I will vote for the most trade union friendly candidate and hopefully one who has a vision, and who gets us back to being a political party again plus one that promotes political education.
    The question is simple: do you also want other human beings to feel like you do?
    It would of course help if we reduced the membership fee from £45 (are we an exclusive club?) to say £5 and build a mass party.
    Also give Conference and policy back to the membership and get back to public meetings instead of stage managed events and blandness.
    We should also have 2 working clas democratic socialists on every Parliamentary shortlist (social classes 3-6 on occupation parent/s) then may the best democratic socialists win.
    We need passion, honesty, vision and someone who will draw upon evidence.
    We also need someone who will demonstrate that they are on the side of the oppressed – when housing association tenants in London were recently threatened with eviction by a new private owner, our leader should have been straight round there to publicly offer support to the residents!
    A new potential leader can start leading now, as Tory cruelty continues.
    Yours in solidarity!
    P. S. And throw away the bloody ties!

    1. Robert says:

      I saw today all those people who are now standing for leader, sitting at a table, and on the back wall right behind them was not Red labour, but pink Progress , all over the wall was the signs saying Progress. So we are now coming closer to the Progress party. They were all sitting at the table including the much vaulted Burnhan who is supposed to be to the left but was once a right wing Blair-rite.

      The power of the Progress party

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Yes, I received your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke
        When you asked me how I was doing, was that some kind of joke
        All these people that you mention, yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
        I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name
        Right now, I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters no
        Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row

        Bob Dylan – Desolation Row Lyrics

  8. swatantra says:

    Charisma and a personality would help.
    The first lesson in marketing is catch the punters attention; then you can sell them the product.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Like me you backed Andy as leader last time, with Ed second choice,although I know you like Diane too.
      You were backing Chuka till he dropped out.

      Andy would have been the best leader we never had last time,in the words of Iain Dale,and Rod Liddle

      I’m going for Mary,leader Bradshaw ,deputy, unless Cruddas stands, or Gloria, and Emma Reynolds, although Caroline a Flint to stop Watson maybe the other choice,

    2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Calling us, “punters,” probably doesn’t make you many friends and is indicative of the sort of mind set that that’s just lost Labor an election they should have won.

  9. David Ellis says:

    What you shouldn’t look for is a New Labour drone who will offer zero opposition and ignore the SNP for the next five years. That will guarantee Labour’s demise.

    1. David Ellis says:

      That is the question for the so-called Left MPs. Are you going to sit behind some New Labour drone for five years who offers zero opposition to the Tory government, ignores the SNP and slowly oversees the disintegration of the party as happened in Scotland? Will you form a separate bloc that can ally with the SNP to build an anti-austerity parliamentary presence that represents most parts of Britain?

      1. John P Reid says:

        Offering opposition to a Tory government is done by saying what one would do ,if you were on power differently,just opposing change while we can’t afford it,or that the perception, that Tory changes won’t have real last affects to the country is what’s needed ,
        If there’s a alternative to say HS2 or how to get extra airport runways, byextendingGatwick,or diverting freight de
        Ivories to other parts of the UK, the suggest them,

        Saying that a Balirite wouldn’t offer ideas to get back ex SNP votes, assumes that jut because ex labour went to the SNp,that if labour was more left wing they’d come back,or that people who voted SNP don’t want market ideas, or that they’d all voted Yes in the referendum,I know people who voted SNP last week who would vote to stay in the UK,

        1. David Ellis says:

          The SNP proved in opposition to the lies of the cynical realists of New Labour that there is not alternative that in fact there is.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Burnhams right that we may have not reached peak bottom, that it maybe at 10 year minimum project to get us back, but Len mcklusky, doesn’t realize he’s the one the one that ur so msn people outside of Scotland off, that he can’t buy the leadership,to act different but keep his ideas in track,to appeal to ex labour voters who went audio or Tory, or greens, or even the few remaining libdems,who’d prefer to go into coalition with us, as most that remain are orange bookers,who prefer the Tories, seeing mcklusky, calling for his choice of leader A Blairite,when he 2 years ago was calling for blairites to be expelled with progress magazine, and his campaign manager, is A Blairite too,

    1. Matty says:

      John, how many people do you think read your posts? So many of them are virtually unreadable (and not because I disagree with your points). Do you have dyslexia?

  11. Prue Plumridge says:

    Andy Burnham had no plans to renationalise the NHS, is a Blairite New Labour, cannot be described in any way as being on the left and therefore will not be getting my vote.

    1. David Ellis says:

      He has been in the forefront of the campaign to merge the NHS with social services so that charging can be smuggled in for health services.

  12. David Pavett says:

    Michael Meacher regrets

    the collapse of political education and the loss of public meetings as a forum for detailed and participative debate on political issues.

    and so, I suppose, do we all.

    But in the context of cheerleading for a Labour leadership candidate this seems to me to raise a serious issue that Michael M doesn’t mention.

    Public meeting are all very well (I attend them when I can) but in they are only likely to be attended by a small fraction of the people they are designed to interest. However, we now have modern means for making written material available via the Internet. Why would someone who has a detailed case to make not avail themselves of that opportunity? I have just looked at Andy Burnham’s poorly organised website where there are articles on health and local issues and nothing else. I turned to the Andy4Leader website which carries virtually nothing.

    So how would I learn about the Andy Burnhan’s approach to the economy, to education, to defence and a host if other issues?

    The decline in public meetings may be regrettable but talk is iften cheap. From a prospective leader we surely have the right to expect writings to be available laying out his/her views on both the pressing issues of the day and matters of underlying political philosophy. As far as I can see none of this available. Why not? All we have so far is a somewhat cringe-worthy video clip.

    If this situation doesn’t change then it means that Andy Burnham wants us to elect him on the superficial grounds that Michael Meacher rightly decries. I fear that election on this basis will be a replay of the last leadership election and that it would be likely to end equally badly.

    1. Robert says:

      You can write to him ask him a question if your a member or associate member or pay the £3 fee.

      But when you do they say they will get back to you which normally means of course sod off.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I have a lot of experience of writing to Labour politicians and apparatchiks. In the overwhelming majority of cases I have received no acknowledgement and no reply. Among the few replies I have had promises to answer my query which never materialised despite several reminders. I have met many people who complain of the same treatment. It is difficult not to conclude that most Labour politicians and apparatchiks don’t give a shit what ordinary members think. While that remains the case I do not believe that Labour can transform itself into a radical party of social change.

    2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      To be fair there is some decent and even intelligent argument and even polemic around.

      But as you say you have to hunt about for it and too often all you find is ever more vacant marketing PR for all this meaningless, “progress,” drivel, (Labor don’t do socialism anymore our sponsors wouldn’t like it,) which everyone in the Labor party, (though no one outside it,) currently treats with a seriousness it really doesn’t warrant.

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