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13 August 2015

I’ve made my choice. It’s Andy Burnham for me

I've spent a long time thinking over who I want to lead the Labour party, and I've decided: Andy Burnham's the right choice, says Chi Onwurah MP.

By Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah

Two months ago, in response to requests by Newcastle Labour members, I nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party in order to broaden the debate. Well in that it has been singularly successful! Jeremy, Andy, Yvette and Liz have put forward ideas and policies, new and resurrected, for honest debate.  Across the country our leadership contest has attracted interest and many new members to the party.

It is unfortunate that some supporters on all sides have resorted to the sort of name calling and ‘my gangs better than yours’ tactics which to term infantile would be to insult most children of my acquaintance.  But this should not obscure the wide range of political visions on offer. I have followed the debate closely and contributed to it.  I have said I believe we need a pragmatic, progressive, positive vision for both the private sector and the State, that the next leader needs to take on Osbornomics and the party needs to be brave on welfare reform. I have read the candidates manifestos and pronouncements.

Over the course of the contest I have come to the strong conviction that it is Andy Burnham who is best able to build on real Labour values to achieve a Labour Government and a fairer, better, stronger United Kingdom. On the economy he recognises the importance of both the public and the private sectors and embraces fiscal responsibility without seeking to perpetuate Tory ideologically driven austerity.  He has the desire and drive to change the social care system in the same way Labour’s introduction of the NHS  transformed healthcare in this country and would institute a Beveridge-style commission to reform tax policy.

Andy would reverse this Government’s attacks on the young, replacing tuition fees with a graduate tax, abolishing the minimum wage youth rate and establishing a real living wage. He would also reintroduce the local accountability in schools which the Tories’ Education agenda has destroyed, and emphasises the importance of technical education and infrastructure.

I know many members in Newcastle will be currently thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn. I agree with some of his policies, like Andy he wants to bring the railways back into national ownership. But I believe, for example, that spending £185 billion renationalising the energy companies when there is an ever expanding funding gap for the NHS is the wrong choice for public spending. Nor do I think our leaving Nato now would make my constituents or the world safer. Technology and innovation seem to have little role in his vision for our future.

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Whilst Yvette and Liz have some attractive policy ideas, neither reflects as well as Andy the Britain that I, and most importantly, the electorate want to see. I do have concerns about electing a male leader and deputy leader, but Andy’s promise to have a female Deputy Prime Minister is very helpful. I agree it would be good to have a woman leader, as it would have been in 2010 or 2007 or 1994 – it is always time for a woman! But that cannot be the primary criterion. And as the leader and deputy leadership contests are all white and largely Oxbridge affairs I do not think electing a woman leader will resolve Labour’s diversity issues. We need to be doing more to get black and minority ethnic and working class people into politics, and Andy has said that Labour will look, feel and sound different under his  leadership.

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Anyone who has heard Andy speak of the National Health Service, Hillsborough or comprehensive education, to give just three examples, knows he can be a passionate, inspiring and moving speaker, essential to galvanise members and supporters over five long years of opposition. He may have spent most, though not all, of his working life in politics, but he brings a very different perspective, and can engage more easily with people from different backgrounds across the full breadth of the UK. Andy is fully fluent in ‘human’.

For all these reasons I believe Andy is the candidate who can unite the Party and the Country and bring us to Government in 2020. I will be voting for Andy and I urge you to do the same.