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.