Andy, you're a star. Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

We've got two choices in this leadership race: unify around Andy, or fall apart under Jeremy Corbyn

Kendall backer Jonny Reynolds says that the numbers are clear: Andy Burnham is the only candidate left who can stop Jeremy Corbyn. 

The leadership contest is drawing to a close and finally all 600,000 of us who are registered will get to cast our votes and help set a new direction for the Party.

I am proud to have been an early backer of Liz Kendall and proud of the campaign she has fought. She will receive my first preference. But I also feel a responsibility to say where I will cast my second preference. Along with Toby Perkins, Gloria de Piero and many other Liz supporters I will be giving my second preference to Andy Burnham.

Andy is the public’s choice for Labour leader and with the huge task ahead to win in 2015 I believe electing the public’s choice, and the leader who most voters say will make Labour electable again,is the right thing to do.

But there is something even more important than that. This contest has become a battle for the unity of our party. United parties are strong oppositions and are better placed to win elections. Divided parties are weak and lose.

I believe this election has become a straight choice for the Labour party between unity and division. If Labour does not now unite around Andy Burnham then it will divide under Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy is a decent man and has run a principled campaign but it is clear that his leadership of the Labour party would risk leaving us with years of looking inwards, fighting each other, when the country desperately needs Labour looking outwards and fighting the Tories.

Only Andy Burnham can now beat Jeremy Corbyn. That much is clear. The polls show Jeremy ahead but many members are still making up their minds between Jeremy and Andy. If Andy is knocked out then enough of his second preferences will transfer to Jeremy that Jeremy will certainly win. But if Andy and Jeremy both make the run-off then I believe Andy has the broad appeal across the party to win this election. I urge all those who want to keep our party united and don’t believe a Corbyn victory will do this to lend Andy their support.

Andy Burnham can unite our party and draw on the best talents from right across Labour. One Labour party, taking the fight to the Tories. That is what Andy Burnham offers and it is why he will get my second preference vote.

Jonathan Reynolds is Labour/Coop MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and Chair of Christians on the Left.

Getty
Show Hide image

Labour’s best general election bet is Keir Starmer

The shadow secretary for Brexit has the heart of a Remainer - but head of a pragmatic politician in Brexit Britain. 

In a different election, the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer might have been written off as too quiet a man. Instead - as he set out his plans to scrap the Brexit white paper and offer EU citizens reassurance on “Day One” in the grand hall of the Institute of Civil Engineers - the audience burst into spontaneous applause. 

For voters now torn between their loyalty to Labour and Remain, Starmer is a reassuring figure. Although he says he respects the Brexit vote, the former director of public prosecutions is instinctively in favour of collaborating with Europe. He even wedges phrases like “regulatory alignment” into his speeches. When a journalist asked about the practicality of giving EU citizens right to remain before UK citizens abroad have received similar promises, he retorted: “The way you just described it is to use people as bargaining chips… We would not do that.”

He is also clear about the need for Parliament to vote on a Brexit deal in the autumn of 2018, for a transitional agreement to replace the cliff edge, and for membership of the single market and customs union to be back on the table. When pressed on the option of a second referendum, he said: “The whole point of trying to involve Parliament in the process is that when we get to the final vote, Parliament has had its say.” His main argument against a second referendum idea is that it doesn’t compare like with like, if a transitional deal is already in place. For Remainers, that doesn't sound like a blanket veto of #EUref2. 

Could Leave voters in the provinces warm to the London MP for Holborn and St Pancras? The answer seems to be no – The Daily Express, voice of the blue passport brigade, branded his speech “a plot”. But Starmer is at least respectful of the Brexit vote, as it stands. His speech was introduced by Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington, who berated Westminster for their attitude to Leave voters, and declared: “I would not be standing here if the Labour Party were in anyway attempting to block Brexit.” Yes, Labour supporters who voted Leave may prefer a Brexiteer like Kate Hoey to Starmer,  but he's in the shadow Cabinet and she's on a boat with Nigel Farage. 

Then there’s the fact Starmer has done his homework. His argument is coherent. His speech was peppered with references to “businesses I spoke to”. He has travelled around the country. He accepts that Brexit means changing freedom of movement rules. Unlike Clive Lewis, often talked about as another leadership contender, he did not resign but voted for the Article 50 Bill. He is one of the rare shadow cabinet members before June 2016 who rejoined the front bench. This also matters as far as Labour members are concerned – a March poll found they disapproved of the way Labour has handled Brexit, but remain loyal to Jeremy Corbyn. 

Finally, for those voters who, like Brenda, reacted to news of a general election by complaining "Not ANOTHER one", Starmer has some of the same appeal as Theresa May - he seems competent and grown-up. While EU regulation may be intensely fascinating to Brexiteers and Brussels correspondents, I suspect that by 2019 most of the British public's overwhelming reaction to Brexit will be boredom. Starmer's willingness to step up to the job matters. 

Starmer may not have the grassroots touch of the Labour leader, nor the charisma of backbench dissidents like Chuka Umunna, but the party should make him the de facto face of the campaign.  In the hysterics of a Brexit election, a quiet man may be just what Labour needs.

What did Keir Starmer say? The key points of his speech

  • An immediate guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, while seeking reciprocal measures for UK citizens in the EU. 
  • Replacing the Tories’ Great Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill which fully protects consumer, worker and environmental rights.
  • A replacement White Paper with a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union. 
  • The devolution of any new powers that are transferred back from Brussels should go straight to the relevant devolved body, whether regional government in England or the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Parliament should be fully involved in the Brexit deal, and MPs should be able to vote on the deal in autumn 2018.
  • A commitment to seek to negotiate strong transitional arrangements when leaving the EU and to ensure there is no cliff-edge for the UK economy. 
  • An acceptance that freedom of movement will end with leaving the EU, but a commitment to prioritise jobs and economy in the negotiations.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496