Andy Burnham has won the race to be named as Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Mayoral race. The shadow home secretary’s victory was certainly convincing – he won 50 per cent of the vote amongst Labour members; interim mayor Tony Lloyd got 28 per cent, whilst former minister Ivan Lewis won 19 per cent. So what now? Burnham had made himself something of a laughing stock recently with his flip-flopping about quitting the shadow cabinet. He drew derision for staying loyal to Corbyn, so at least after today he appears to have a bonafide reason at last for leaving the shadow cabinet.
Despite the infancy of his mayoral campaign, Burnham is already no stranger to making embarrassing gaffes; he suggested, for instance, that it was grim up north – painting a picture of today’s booming, cosmopolitan Manchester which many locals didn’t recognise. Nonetheless, Burnham repeated a similar pitch in his speech this morning, pledging to stick up for the ‘abandoned parts of our country’ in the north. Interestingly, he also tried straight away to distance himself from Westminster, despite having been an MP for 15 years. Burnham vowed to ‘break the London-centric nature of politics in this country’; he also repeated the word ‘Westminster’ several times, never in a good light.
Whilst that seems mildly opportunistic of Burnham, he was at least sensible in his pitch to ‘Leave’ voters. He made a point of speaking to the 700,000 people in Greater Manchester who backed Brexit. Burnham told them: ‘I hear your call for change in the way we do politics’. Whether voters in Manchester believe him will determine whether he wins.