Andy Burnham: Labour has until next spring to convince voters

The shadow health secretary voices frustration with Ed Miliband, saying: "I will give you an NHS policy that is "one nation" to its core." But will his leader listen to him?

Andy Burnham has given an interview to the Guardian about his frustration over his inability to make Ed Miliband and Ed Balls commit to his proposed reforms to the health and social care systems.

The shadow health secretary says he wants Labour to enter the next election with a promise to provide free care for the elderly, saying: "I'm talking about extending the NHS principle to social care, so everybody's in, so everybody contributes, but everybody's then covered for all their needs." In order to pay for this, he says, the party should be prepared to consider death duties, despite the inevitable cries of "death tax!" from the Tories. 

Burnham also talks about the need for the party to move on to an election footing - something it has appeared slow to do. While Lynton Crosby has been whipping Tory backbenchers into line, and Jim Messina has been enlisted to crunch the data, Labour have yet to replace Tom Watson, who resigned on 4 July. 

Burnham says that the party has only until next spring to make an offer to the electorate. "I think there's definitely a need to shout louder, and speak in a way that captures how people are feeling and thinking," he says. "There's definitely a need to put our cards on the table."

Although the interview will inevitably be spun as an attack on Miliband in some quarters, it's more accurate to represent it as an appeal to him. (Albeit it one that will make the story "Labour in trouble" again, rather than giving the party an attack line on the Tories.) Burnham speaks for many in Labour who feel that the party's leader has had quite enough time on the mountaintop; they would like the tablets of policy stone now, please. You can see a flavour of this in Tom Watson's resignation letter: "I’m proud of your Buddha-like qualities of patience, deep thought, compassion and resolve." But now get a move on and do something.

So what happens now? Labour's extremely low profile over the summer is likely to be forgotten if the party pulls something truly spectactular out of the bag in the autumn. That means, in particular, there is now even greater pressure for Miliband to impress with his set-piece speech in Brighton.

As my colleague Rafael Behr put it:

Some clarity is promised at the annual conference in September. Some, but not all of the plan for a brighter Labour future will be revealed. (“Watch this space.”) This hiatus is consistent with Miliband’s long-game strategy. His friends talk up his unflappable nature and the way that he is not distracted by the daily froth of 24-hour news, nor by the chatter of impatient commentators on New Statesman blogs.

Burnham's intervention makes it clear that it's not only commentators who are getting impatient: some of the shadow Cabinet are too. 

Andy Burnham has spoken about Labour's election prospects. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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