Andy Burnham: are you having a laugh?

Shadow health secretary acts like a bloke just passing by in the Labour leadership contest.

For some time, I've had the impression that Andy Burnham, admirable politician though I am sure he is in many ways, is not running for the Labour leadership seriously to win, but merely to raise his profile and consolidate his position as a senior player in the shadow cabinet.

Certainly during the New Statesman hustings in June, he acted a little like he had been grabed off the street and thrown on to the stage. "Yeah I'll have a crack at it," you could almost imagine him saying. Undecided on electoral reform, determined to press his northerner credentials, he appeared to offer little substance.

That is probably unfair, and he has come up with some impressive ideas in the campaign, especially regarding the National Health Service. But reading this Q&A with all the candidates in the Independent made me again think that Burnham's candidacy is something of a joke. Indeed, when I first saw it, I literally thought it might be a spoof.

Asked which individual had the greatest influence on their career, the Milibands said their parents, Ed Balls said Margaret Thatcher (in a negative way) and Diane Abbott said Nelson Mandela. Burnham's answer? Chris Smith. Now, don't get me wrong: I have great respect for Chris Smith. But when you can name anyone in the whole world as an influence, his isn't necessarily the first name to come to mind.

It gets better. The candidates are asked which person -- that's "which person", so anyone on earth -- they most admire. The Milibands say their partners. Only slightly oddly, Balls names a diary secretary of 12 years. Abbott says Michelle Obama. Deeply parochial Andy Burnham says Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the outgoing chief medical inspector.

And finally, the pièce de résistance. After various other questions -- including favourite book (Burnham: The Damned United) -- the question is posed: "What was the best moment of your life?"

All of the candidates mention their children. All except, um, Burnham. He has three kids, but chooses to ignore that. Instead, the best moment of his life, he says, was: "Singing 'Dirty Old Town' in front of family and friends from every era of my life at my 40th birthday do earlier this year."

Sorry, but I rest my case.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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This is no time for a coup against a successful Labour leader

Don't blame Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Party's crisis.

"The people who are sovereign in our party are the members," said John McDonnell this morning. As the coup against Jeremy Corbyn gains pace, the Shadow Chancellor has been talking a lot of sense. "It is time for people to come together to work in the interest of the country," he told Peston on Sunday, while emphasising that people will quickly lose trust in politics altogether if this internal squabbling continues. 

The Tory party is in complete disarray. Just days ago, the first Tory leader in 23 years to win a majority for his party was forced to resign from Government after just over a year in charge. We have some form of caretaker Government. Those who led the Brexit campaign now have no idea what to do. 

It is disappointing that a handful of Labour parliamentarians have decided to join in with the disintegration of British politics.

The Labour Party had the opportunity to keep its head while all about it lost theirs. It could have positioned itself as a credible alternative to a broken Government and a Tory party in chaos. Instead we have been left with a pathetic attempt to overturn the democratic will of the membership. 

But this has been coming for some time. In my opinion it has very little to do with the ramifications of the referendum result. Jeremy Corbyn was asked to do two things throughout the campaign: first, get Labour voters to side with Remain, and second, get young people to do the same.

Nearly seven in ten Labour supporters backed Remain. Young voters supported Remain by a 4:1 margin. This is about much more than an allegedly half-hearted referendum performance.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has failed to come to terms with Jeremy Corbyn’s emphatic victory. In September of last year he was elected with 59.5 per cent of the vote, some 170,000 ahead of his closest rival. It is a fact worth repeating. If another Labour leadership election were to be called I would expect Jeremy Corbyn to win by a similar margin.

In the recent local elections Jeremy managed to increase Labour’s share of the national vote on the 2015 general election. They said he would lose every by-election. He has won them emphatically. Time and time again Jeremy has exceeded expectation while also having to deal with an embittered wing within his own party.

This is no time for a leadership coup. I am dumbfounded by the attempt to remove Jeremy. The only thing that will come out of this attempted coup is another leadership election that Jeremy will win. Those opposed to him will then find themselves back at square one. Such moves only hurt Labour’s electoral chances. Labour could be offering an ambitious plan to the country concerning our current relationship with Europe, if opponents of Jeremy Corbyn hadn't decided to drop a nuke on the party.

This is a crisis Jeremy should take no responsibility for. The "bitterites" will try and they will fail. Corbyn may face a crisis of confidence. But it's the handful of rebel Labour MPs that have forced the party into a crisis of existence.

Liam Young is a commentator for the IndependentNew Statesman, Mirror and others.