Andy Burnham, a frontrunner for the Labour leadership, has faced criticism for his voting record on LGBT rights. Photo: Getty Images
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McKeever: Burnham supports LGBT rights and has the experience to win

Andy Burnham's record on LGBT issues has come under scrutiny - but, says former Labour candidate Kevin McKeever, he has no case to answer: and the experience to win, too. 

Let’s clear something up: Andy Burnham is a lifelong supporter of LGBT rights and that’s why, as an openly gay Labour activist and Parliamentary candidate, I’m proud to support his campaign for the party’s leadership.

Five years ago, he was one of the first frontbench politicians to call for equal marriage. He has never absented himself from a vote on LGBT issues and missed a single vote on adoption in 2002 only by being at the birth of his daughter.

In Government, he voted in favour of IVF for lesbian couples while supporting an amendment on the need to name biological parents. Recently, Andy has said "Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, and no one should sit in judgement of any family. What matters is that children are loved and secure, and grow up to be confident and happy adults. I've met children with a single parent, children with many step-parents and those with two mums or two dads, who are some the most loved and happy children I've known."

Last month, I stood for election for Labour in Northampton South. That crushing feeling we all experienced in the early hours of May 8 will stay with me forever. It was an emotional reminder of what happens when we engage in a collective deception that we are at one with the electorate.

In my seat, we always faced a tough task. It’s a sad demonstration of the scale of our loss that we were the only Tory-held marginal seat in the East Midlands to experience a swing from Conservative to Labour, but nowhere near enough to win.

We had lost an emotional connection with many of our traditional voters, who turned to Ukip for answers to the questions we refused to credibly answer and failed to resonate with those middle income families, critical to electoral success, who decided to stick with the Tories.

I have a deep respect for all the leadership candidates and I genuinely hope the coming weeks will see a comradely contest that strengthens the ultimate victor. But politics is about tough choices. That’s why after careful consideration I’m backing Andy Burnham to be Labour’s next leader. He has the experience and strength of character to unite our great party and lead us to victory in 2020.

Andy will take politics out of the Westminster bubble and into the country - speaking to voters we lost to Ukip as much as those critical voters in English marginals like Northampton South who opted to vote Conservative last month.

Kevin McKeever was Labour's candidate in Northampton South. 

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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.