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Andy Burnham isn't Continuity Miliband, he's Blair Mark II

Labour needs someone with the approachability of Tony Blair who can speak to working class values. Sounds like a job for Andy Burnham, says Jamie Reed. 

Following defeat at the 2010 general election it was a catastrophic error for the Labour Party – particularly the Parliamentary Labour Party – to allow itself to be defined in contrast to the most successful political leadership team the party had ever known. The heady rush to narrow our platform and thereby narrow our appeal was always going to result in precisely the kind of election defeat seen in 2015.

New Labour, whether of a Blairite of Brownite variety, combined a precise understanding of modernity and shifting public attitudes, with a big-tent offer to a broad coalition of voters who wanted a better country and a better life but who really didn’t want to take a night school class in politics before being able to understand and connect with those politicians who shared those values, instincts and desires.

The result was that Labour won big on three occasions.

‘Blairism’ has been wrongly criticised in the intervening period but, like a retro boomerang, Labour’s travails have brought the term back just in time to help shape the debate about the party’s future and its next leader.

As someone happy to be called a Blairite, I know that the term defies precise definition. That said, every Blairite shares one unmistakable characteristic: they want to win elections. For this reason and many others, the Blairite logic of 2015 compels support for Andy Burnham as the next Labour party leader and prime minister.

The next Labour Leader will cast his or her net far and wide in seeking answers to explain our latest defeat. Time and money could be saved by listening to Will Hutton. Writing in the Observer recently, Hutton stated "It is obvious that the Labour Party will only win again around a refashioned Blairism."

Nothing could be clearer. The alternative approach has been tested to literal destruction.

And in polling published recently, when members of the general public were asked which past Labour leader, if any, the next Labour leader should most resemble to make them more likely vote for the Labour Party, Tony Blair came out as the clear favourite. 

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said:

"Tony Blair still outshines other past Labour leaders – even among supporters of other parties, and especially among the middle classes - but less among older people and working classes.”

The public wants the big-tent approach of Blairism, with someone with the approachability and appeal of Tony Blair but from a working-class background? You don’t say…
Step forward Andy Burnham.

But it was the ability of Blairism to build the big tent outside of the Westminster bubble that secured so much of its success. This meant communicating and thinking in a way that was alien to the banalities of conventional politics.

The most recent British politician to do this, in the most startling and visceral way, is Andy Burnham.

Speaking to a packed Anfield, before a baying Kop, on the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, just over a minute into Burnham’s speech, a lone cry of ‘Justice!’ went up from the crowd. The cry sparked a raw display of emotion from a people – and a city – furious with the reluctance of successive governments to grant an independent inquiry into the disaster.

Burnham didn’t ignore the protest, he acknowledged it. At Anfield that day, the real world tore through the barricades of Westminster and Whitehall and Burnham left the stadium to press the case for the  inquiry. Five years later, on his return to Anfield having  secured an independent inquiry, Burnham told the Kop that ‘I knew that you were right and they [the establishment] were wrong…’ and that the hard-won inquiry was set to ask ‘…the most profound questions about our country and how it has been run…’

Those outside of power demanded to be allowed in; Andy Burnham was the first national politician to listen to their voices. These are the winds of change that are sweeping our country; these are the winds of change that must now sweep the Labour Party and Andy Burnham is the only candidate who – in thought and by his deeds – understands this necessity.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.