Shadow health secretary and Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham speaks at the party's conference in 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Burnham confirms frontrunner status as he gains eight new MP supporters

Labour leadership candidate becomes the first to formally pass the nominations threshold of 35. 

Andy Burnham has cemented his status as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election by gaining eight new backers. The endorsements, all from MPs elected in 2015, mean that the shadow health secretary has become the first candidate to formally pass the nominations threshold of 35. His latest supporters are Peter Dowd, Louise Haigh, Harry Harpham, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Rachael Maskell, Justin Madders, Angela Rayner, Nick Thomas-Symonds. An aide to Burnham pointed to the endorsements from the newest generation of MPs as evidence that he was "the real change candidate" in the contest and emphasised their political diversity. Earlier this week, two other 2015ers, Anna Turley and Conor McGinn announced their support for him in a piece on The Staggers. 

Burnham's main opponent Liz Kendall currently has 21 public endorsements, while Yvette Cooper has 31 and Mary Creagh has five. Both Kendall and Cooper are certain to make the ballot but Creagh is unlikely to do so unless she is lent supporters by rival camps. Speaking on the race, Burnham said:  "We need to go straight to the difficult issues as to why Labour lost the election. I'm not just running a leadership campaign, I'm building a campaign for Labour to win in 2020. If we're going to do that we're going to have to face head on those difficult issues around spending, immigration, benefits and our relationship with business.

"Don't copy the Tories, we need to develop Labour answers in those areas. We've got the looming European referendum, it's time for Labour to get off the back foot on immigration and challenge David Cameron to develop a package that the British public can support, where people are free to work but not free to claim." His warning that Labour must not "copy the Tories" is a veiled attack on Kendall, who has supported free schools, backed higher defence spending and strongly defended the use of private providers by the NHS. On the Andrew Marr Show earlier today, Cooper similarly cautioned Labour against "swallowing" the Conservative manifesto. 

While it's MPs' nominations that will receive most attention until the deadline of 15 June, Labour's newly adopted one-member-one-vote system means that their support counts for much less than in the past (when they accounted for a third of the electoral college). If she wins over activists, Kendall could yet triumph with the backing of only a small minority of her colleagues.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The UK is dangerously close to breaking apart - there's one way to fix it

We must rethink our whole constitutional settlement. 

When the then-Labour leader John Smith set up a report on social justice for what would be the incoming government in 1997, he said we must stop wasting our most precious resource – "the extraordinary skills and talents of ordinary people".

It is one of our party’s greatest tragedies that he never had the chance to see that vision put into practice. 

At the time, it was clear that while our values of equality, solidarity and tolerance endured, the solutions we needed were not the same as those when Labour was last in power in the 1970s, and neither were they to be found in the policies of opposition from the 1980s. 

The Commission on Social Justice described a UK transformed by three revolutions:

  • an economic revolution brought about by increasing globalisation, innovation and a changing labour market
  • a social revolution that had seen the role of women in society transformed, the traditional family model change, inequality ingrained and relationships between people in our communities strained
  • a political revolution that challenged the centralisation of power, demanded more individual control and accepted a different role for government in society.

Two decades on, these three revolutions could equally be applied to the UK, and Scotland, today. 

Our economy, society and our politics have been transformed even further, but there is absolutely no consensus – no agreement – about the direction our country should take. 

What that has led to, in my view, is a society more dangerously divided than at any point in our recent history. 

The public reject the status quo but there is no settled will about the direction we should take. 

And instead of grappling with the complex messages that people are sending us, and trying to find the solutions in the shades of grey, politicians of all parties are attached to solutions that are black or white, dividing us further. 

Anyone in Labour, or any party, who claims that we can sit on the margins and wait for politics to “settle down” will rightly be consigned to history. 

The future shape of the UK, how we govern ourselves and how our economy and society should develop, is now the single biggest political question we face. 

Politics driven by nationalism and identity, which were for so long mostly confined to Scotland, have now taken their place firmly in the mainstream of all UK politics. 

Continuing to pull our country in these directions risks breaking the United Kingdom once and for all. 

I believe we need to reaffirm our belief in the UK for the 21st century. 

Over time, political power has become concentrated in too few hands. Power and wealth hoarded in one corner of our United Kingdom has not worked for the vast majority of people. 

That is why the time has come for the rest of the UK to follow where Scotland led in the 1980s and 1990s and establish a People’s Constitutional Convention to re-establish the UK for a new age. 

The convention should bring together groups to deliberate on the future of our country and propose a way forward that strengthens the UK and establishes a new political settlement for the whole of our country. 

After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.

This would mean a radical reshaping of our country along federal lines where every component part of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions – take more responsibility for what happens in their own communities, but where we still maintain the protection of being part of a greater whole as the UK. 

The United Kingdom provides the redistribution of wealth that defines our entire Labour movement, and it provides the protection for public finance in Scotland that comes from being part of something larger, something good, and something worth fighting for. 

Kezia Dugdale is the leader of the Scottish Labour party.