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  1. Politics
1 June 2015

Southern discomfort: does it matter that Andy Burnham can’t get the support of MPs in the South?

Andy Burnham is still waiting for the support of an MP south of Warrington. Does it matter?

By Stephen Bush

Andy Burnham is the first candidate in the Labour leadership race to make it onto the ballot paper. He now has the support of 37 MPs, two more than the required 35 to qualify for the leadership election proper. His main rivals, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper will certainly both qualify – the Cooper campaign has already moved into its campaign headquarters outside Parliament –  and sources close to both have already moved to belittle Burnham’s achievement in amassing 35 signatures.

“Andy still waiting for an MP from south of Warrington,” texted one. “Yvette has support from the Midlands, London, Wales and the North. Andy has support from Wales and the North. Still sure he’s the frontrunner?” An MP who has yet to declare a preference notes: “These new endorses are hardly surprising. A Merseyside MP. A Cheshire MP. A bunch of ex-union officials, and a mate of Owen Smith.” 

Does it matter? The Burnham campaign say that they will unveil their first nominations from down south in the coming days. Burnham supporters point out that what their nominations lack in geographical diversity, they more than make up for in political hetereodoxy. As one points out: “would he really be building a bigger tent if instead of having the support of Anna Turley [a new MP from the party’s right] in Redcar, he had Jeremy Corbyn [a senior figure on the party’s left] in Islington?” 

The bigger problem – if there is one – might be in having a support base that is too broad, rather than too narrow. “What is he saying to people that he can persuade Charlie [Falconer, the Blairite grandee] to run his campaign and the likes of Meacher [a left-wing MP] to endorse him?” one insider asks. That might not be a problem: Tony Blair secured the support of MPs from the party’s left, like Chris Mullin and Frank Dobson, as well as Blairite ultras like Peter Mandelson and Stephen Byers. But Blair had a simple message – he looked, unmistakably, like he could win the next general election. No candidate can say that with confidence, yet. It could be that, over the course of a long election, Burnham finds his coalition too difficult to manage.

Who’s endorsing whom? Read our complete list of endorsements here.h

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