Andy Burnham is Labour’s best hope

I’ve been eyeing the Labour leadership contest from afar with increasing levels of alarm and despair. For a while, I thought it was all going in the right direction. So I kept shtoom. But the latest YouGov poll, giving Jeremy Corbyn a 22-point lead over his nearest rival, brought home to me the levels of arrogance and delusion that have filled the ranks of the party.

It’s clear to me that we’ve only got one chance of becoming a credible opposition again, and for the thought of another Labour government to even enter the minds of the electorate, and that’s under Andy Burnham.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve told me that they like Corbyn because he’s a bit different from the politicians we’ve become used to seeing grace our screens for the past couple of decades. He speaks his mind and doesn’t just say what he thinks people want to hear. He wears beige zip-up jackets and vests from the market stall down the road.

For the most part, he’s been saying things about austerity, welfare, rail nationalisation and education that go down well with lefties like me. But Labour can only make a difference to people’s lives when it is in government, implementing policies that make our country a fairer place. I’m not generally prone to quoting Labour’s former communications chief Alastair Campbell. But he hit the nail on the head when describing a member who, at a recent constituency meeting, said that socialism was more important to her than power. “To hear people say ‘it doesn’t matter if we win’ is to see people for whom political choice is about what makes them as individuals feel better, not what might make the country a better place.”

It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to my life whether we have a Conservative government or Labour government. The world has been kind to me and I can afford to bypass the state to fulfil most of my needs. But the first two months of this Tory government have brought home the fact that millions of Britons need a Labour government, and they need one soon. It’s not just what the Tories are doing that I’m worried about; it’s also the problems that they are letting spiral out of control.

Accident and emergency departments that will go into meltdown this winter without extra funding. A growing housing crisis with no solutions from a homeowning cabinet. A rail network where people pay ever higher prices to suffer worse delays and overcrowding. And councils that simply cannot afford to provide the support that vulnerable people need.

The membership polls that everyone’s talking about have obscured other polls that haven’t had enough coverage. They have shown repeatedly that Burnham is the most popular candidate among Labour voters, the voting public in every part of the country, and among voters from all other parties. Corbyn trails far behind in fourth place. Our bearded comrade cannot and will not deliver the Labour government that this country needs from 2020.

Someone once told me that you should never read the bottom half of the internet. I ignored them, and the comments section of every article written about this contest has been full of Corbyn fans questioning why they should vote for someone “electable” if they are only going to offer the same bland dish they’ve been served by every Labour leadership contender since our defeat five years ago.

I don’t recognise that depiction of Burnham. The vision he’s offered is a radical leftwing plan for our country: renationalised railways; a fully comprehensive education system; social care brought into the NHS; abolishing tuition fees and the youth-rate minimum wage; and a Beveridge-style commission to ensure that we have a credible and respectable plan of taxation to fund these reforms. The fact that he’s labelled daily by the army of trolls as a “red Tory” is a sad sign of how deluded some of our membership have become.

With Burnham we have the prospect of a leader who espouses true Labour values, will be a strong voice in opposition, will hold the party together and will lead a radically progressive Labour government from 2020. With Corbyn, we face a splintered party full of in-fighting with an unelectable leader who is viewed by the public and the press as a laughable oddity. That will be nothing more than a gift to the Tories, keeping them in power for the next decade.

Labour can’t help people and make this country a better place without being a legitimate party of government. Burnham will make sure the left wing of our party has a stronger voice than it’s had in the past, but he won’t do it at the cost of the next election. He will offer radical policies that the public can and will get behind, alongside the credibility we need to win back power.

Categories: Politics

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s