Andy Burnham addresses Labour party conference in 2013. Photo: Getty Images
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Andy Burnham is the man Labour needs to win back power in 2020

Andy Burnham knows that we don't win by imitating the Tories, but by being better than them, says Luciana Berger. 

The Labour leadership contest is now in full swing. And it’s clear that this is not just about selecting the next Leader of the Opposition.

We must select a Leader who can change our Party so that we can win in 2020 and change Britain.

We need a Leader who can convince voters that competence and compassion can go hand in hand.

We need to select someone whose voice will carry into every nation and region of our country.

After watching his performance on the Newsnight leadership debate last night, I am clear that Andy Burnham is that leader.

Andy gave strong, clear answers on his vision for our nation's future.

He showed he had the strength needed to meet the challenges facing Labour - such as how to rebuild trust on immigration and benefits. And on the deficit - he showed he was the only candidate who had a vision of how we grow a strong economy.

As a member of the Shadow Health Team, I have worked closely with Andy. I’ve seen first-hand his passion, intelligence and conviction which have made him such a brilliant Shadow Health Secretary. 

He brings these qualities to the leadership contest, and having joined Andy on visits across the country, I know that he can speak passionately and convincingly to the aspirations of everyone.

Last night we heard Andy's clear vision for the future of our Party. He knows that we have lost our emotional connection with millions of voters – those who turned to the SNP in Scotland, UKIP in our heartland seats and the Conservatives in Middle England. 

It's clear Andy has thought hard about what we need to do to win back trust, and is already reaching out of the ‘Westminster bubble’ to consult members and voters all over the country.

He knows that we won’t win in 2020 by imitating the Tories, but by being better than them. Not by turning our back on traditional Labour values, but by showing that we have the strength to make them a reality.

As we heard during the debate, Andy would lead a Labour Party that helps every person, every family and every business - whoever they are, wherever they come from - get on in life. That's a country I want to see.

Luciana Berger is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Liverpool Wavertree and Shadow Minister for Energy & Climate Change.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.